Kyle Freeland is currently a top-5 player in the National League. That’s according to Baseball Reference WAR, which has Freeland behind Aaron Nola and ahead of Lorenzo Cain with 4.0 bWAR. That would seem to make him an obvious All-Star no matter where he played his home games, but especially so given the horror with which national media members discuss Coors Field.
Freeland should be an All-Star but he isn’t. Instead of going down the road of listing all the ways he is a snub, let’s try to figure out what might have gone against him.
Lack of a crawler stat
Max Scherzer has 177 strikeouts. Jacob deGrom has a 1.79 ERA. Jon Lester and Aaron Nola have 11 wins. Those are digestible stats that look great on the ESPN crawler as selections are announced and serve as one-line explanations of a pitcher’s greatness this season.
Those pitchers are league leaders in a bunch of other categories too, with Freeland joining them in the top 10 on most of those leader boards. The difference is, Freeland doesn’t have a thing he’s known for outside of Colorado. Maybe someday it will be his hair or his mastery of Coors Field, but for now it appears that things like his bWAR or his ERA+ just aren’t catching on.
Weird perception of the Rockies’ strengths
The 2018 Rockies have been a great offensive team for like three weeks. They have been a terrible offensive team for longer stretches than that and a below-average unit for the remaining balance of the season. Meanwhile, the starting rotation has been a strength all year with Freeland as the leader.
We know that’s true, but it seems that the “good hitting, bad pitching” assumption about the Rockies persists. Maybe that means the players and MLB official voters find it easier to think the hitters are stars than it is the pitchers, even though they wouldn’t have to look that hard to know better.
Still no Coors reward to accompany the Coors punishment
Having consumed minimal All-Star coverage outside of the announcements, I can only assume that the outcry has already started about Trevor Story’s home/road splits. That penalty persists in terms of the credit given to Rockies hitters. We all know that. Larry Walker knows it. Matt Holliday knows it. Todd Helton knows it.
It’s not unfair to ask why pitchers don’t get extra credit for their success in Denver. It’s also a dead end, with Freeland’s 5-2 record and 2.89 ERA at Coors Field this season serving as the most recent evidence.
There are lots of good pitchers
The National League has a lot of pitchers posting outstanding seasons. The aforementioned National League bWAR leader board has pitchers in the top four spots. The players might have gone with familiar names first for the All-Star pitchers and then moved to the other guys. The team might have just run out of spots before they got to Freeland, knowing that these things change and an odd pitcher out might still end up on the roster later because of availability or injury or other factors.
That said, Freeland definitely should have made it instead of Patrick Corbin.
★ ★ ★
Kyle Freeland should have been selected to the All-Star game on Sunday. That he wasn’t speaks to the way in which his well-roundedness lacks flash and the odd combination of factors that goes into these selections. He was snubbed, and that is definitely frustrating. What’s more interesting, however, is what it tells us about how Rockies pitchers are perceived and how players earn considerations as All-Stars. It’s a reminder that there’s much more to it than where a player ranks in key statistical areas and the hearts of his fans.
If the young pitchers driving the current rotation have their way, the Colorado Rockies might chip away at the perception of them as helpless or without All-Stars. Unfortunately it looks like Freeland and company still have a long way to go.