Justin Turner wasn’t the only Dodgers All-Star snub on Sunday. There was also Alex Wood, who has been sublime in 2017 but, like his third baseman, suffered from leaderboard absentia in bid for the MLB All-Star Game, among other things.
Wood began the season in the bullpen, and missed another two starts with shoulder joint inflammation on a disabled list stint, limiting him to just 73⅔ innings this season. The Dodgers through Sunday have played 84 games, and the requirement to qualify for the leaderboards is one inning per team game, so Wood is just over 10 innings shy at the moment.
Among the National League pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched this season -- there are 72 of them — Wood is tops in ERA (1.83), FIP (2.11), and xFIP (2.58). His strikeout rate (30.2%) ranks third in this group, just ahead of teammate Clayton Kershaw, who made his seventh consecutive All-Star team on Sunday.
But with a simple leaderboard search, Wood won’t show up, because he doesn’t have enough innings to qualify. Out of sight, out of mind.
Wood did get some recognition this season, winning NL Pitcher of the Month in May. He has pitched six scoreless starts this season, and has three more starts with one-run allowed.
Like Turner’s .382 batting average, Wood has a gaudy, old-school stat hammer to wield — his 9-0 record.
Wood is the first Dodgers pitcher to open a season 9-0 since Rick Rhoden in 1976. The avid golfer Rhoden was an All-Star that year, which is par for the course with a shiny first-half record (he was 8-0 before the break).
In the last 75 years, the only pitcher undefeated at the break with at least nine wins not to make an All-Star team was reliever Arthur Rhodes in 1996. The other seven pitchers all made the midsummer classic, including Dallas Keuchel of the Astros (9-0, 1.83 ERA in 75⅔ innings — just two more IP than Wood).
But Keuchel has a Cy Young Award under his belt, so it’s understandable he got the nod.
There were three other pitchers in the early years of the All-Star Game to be 9-0 or better at the break and not make the team — Atley Donald (1939), Elmer Riddle (1941), and Larry French (1942).
Wood’s tough road to Miami
Like Turner, Wood can still be added to the NL All-Star team, replacing another pitcher if needed. Unlike Turner, Wood isn’t part of the Final Vote, so getting other pitchers to drop out is Wood’s only avenue to the midsummer classic.
What complicates things even further is the construction of the roster. Each team needs 20 position players and 12 pitchers. Five starters and three relievers are voted in by the players, with MLB filling the rest of the staff.
In the American League, all the remaining pitchers were starters, giving them a nine-starter, three-reliever split. But in the NL, the 12-man staff includes a whopping six relievers. The three relievers added by MLB — Brad Hand of the Padres, Corey Knebel of the Brewers, and Pat Neshek of the Phillies — were to make sure every club was represented by at least one player.
In 2016, four NL pitchers were replaced on the All-Star roster, one (Madison Bumgarner) for starting on the Sunday before the All-Star Game. Starting pitchers who pitch Sunday are ineligible to pitch in the All-Star Game.
It sounds like Kershaw will go that route this year, slated to start both Tuesday and Sunday for the Dodgers this week. That would open up one slot, but it’s tough to see another such opportunity.
Here are the other NL All-Star starters:
- Max Scherzer: started last night; likely to start the All-Star Game
- Zack Greinke: starting Thursday at Dodger Stadium
- Carlos Martinez: started last night against Scherzer
- Robbie Ray: last pitched Friday; won’t pitch in Dodgers series
- Stephen Strasburg: scheduled Monday for Nationals; could start Sunday
We must also remember that Wood isn’t the only starting pitcher on the outside looking in who is under consideration.
Wood is tied for third in FanGraphs WAR (2.8) with Greinke, behind only Scherzer and Kershaw. But in Baseball-Reference WAR, Wood is only eighth at 2.7, with three non-All-Stars ahead of him — Gio Gonzalez (3.6), Ivan Nova (3.2), and Mike Leake (2.9).
Let’s also include Jimmy Nelson, who ranks sixth in fWAR (2.4), to see how these four outsiders compare with Wood:
- Wood: 9-0, 1.83 ERA, 75⅔ IP, 87 strikeouts, 20 walks
- Gonzalez: 7-3, 2.77 ERA, 107⅓ IP, 104 strikeouts, 47 walks
- Nova: 8-5, 3.08 ERA, 108 IP, 60 strikeouts, 13 walks
- Leake: 6-6, 2.97 ERA, 106 IP, 72 strikeouts, 23 walks
- Nelson: 6-4, 3.43 ERA, 97 IP, 104 strikeouts, 25 walks
Is Wood an obvious call here? Or will the lack of innings continue to hurt him? He has more wins than the other four pitchers, and more strikeouts than two of them. To (roughly) match their ERA and innings totals, Wood would have to...
- allow 18 earned runs in 31⅔ innings (5.12 ERA) to match Gonzalez
- allow 22 earned runs in 32⅓ innings (6.12 ERA) to match Nova
- allow 20 earned runs in 30⅓ innings (5.93 ERA) to match Leake
- allow 22 earned runs in 21⅓ innings (9.28 ERA) to match Nelson
Of these pitchers, I think Gonzalez has the best chance to be selected before Wood, though Wood does have a strong argument to be next man up for the All-Star pitchers.