AL All-Star starter? Is there any choice besides Rays’ Shane McClanahan?

BOSTON — Shane McClanahan has absolutely earned a spot on the American League All-Star pitching team to be announced Sunday afternoon.

The more interesting question is whether the Rays left-hander will be named the starter for the July 19 game at Dodger Stadium.

His bosses and teammates think he’s the obvious choice given his dominant performance so far this season — a 9-3 record, 1.74 ERA and 133 strikeouts in 98-1/3 innings leading the major leagues.

But there are other options based on factors besides success and stats.

For example, the AL team is managed by Houston’s Dusty Baker, and he could be loyal to his own ace, Justin Verlander.

Verlander, the 39-year-old two-time Cy Young Award winner, was great on his return from Tommy John surgery, going 10-3 with a 2.03 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 97-1/3 innings.

Rays pitching coach Kyle Snyder understands the argument, but he doesn’t let it sway him.

“I understand Justin Verlander has come back and had a wonderful season; He’s arguably as good as any pitcher ever pitched in the game,” Snyder said.

“But if you look at who did what in the first half of this year – if that’s the criteria I think should be – I think Shane was the best pitcher. And I think he deserves to start the game.

The White Sox’s Dylan Cease (7-3, 2.51, 125 Ks in 86 innings), the Mariners’ Logan Gilbert (9-3, 2.66) and the Blue Jays’ Alek Manoah (9-3, 2, 33) were mentioned among others as possible options.

Snyder said McClanahan “served better” than anyone else.

Major League Baseball officials (which may mean Fox TV executives on such matters) will also have their say.

Which means there could be a boost – like last year when the Rays’ Kevin Cash was the AL manager – to pull the odds and draw global attention to the fact that the Japanese-born two-way star is on the way Shohei Ohtani recaptured the hill.

Already a finalist for the designated hitter slot, Ohtani deserves starter consideration with his 7-4, 2.68 record and 101 strikeouts in 74 innings.

But McClanahan, who starts next Friday in Cincinnati, has really had the best season so far.

In addition to strikeouts, he leads the majors in WHIP (least walks and hits per nine innings, .814), opponent OPS (.510), and strikeout percentage (35.9).

He also leads the AL in ERA, opponent average (.179), fewest hits per nine innings (5.766), strikeout-to-walk ratio (7.824), swing-and-miss rate (36.2), and baseball reference .com WAR (3.2).

He is second in the AL in strikeouts per nine innings (12.17) and walks per nine (1.56) and fifth in batting average for balls in play (.251).

McClanahan was remarkably consistent, working six or more innings in 12 of his 16 starts and allowing four or fewer hits in 13 and two or fewer earned runs in 14.

Want more than just the box score?

Subscribe to our free Rays Report newsletter

Columnist John Romano will be bringing you the latest insights and analysis from Rays weekly throughout the season to keep you informed.

You are all registered!

Want more of our free weekly newsletters delivered to your inbox? Let’s start.

Discover all your possibilities

The USF left-hander goes into Friday’s game after making 10 straight starts of six or more innings with at least seven strikeouts and two or fewer earned runs, the longest such streak in a single season in American League history and the longest in the majors since Randy Johnson was 14 for Arizona in 1999.

So who should start for the AL?

“Next question?” said Rays midfielder Kevin Kiermaier. “I’m not biased because I’m his teammate. He deserves it. Everyone in baseball knows that. Who in the AL was better than him from day one? No one.”

There are a few other factors that might support McClanahan’s case.

His final start before the break is scheduled for July 13, leaving him full rest-plus for the All-Star Game. Some of the other candidates present themselves on the Saturday or Sunday before and are not available.

Verlander could be in that group, which could be a handy way out.

While Verlander would certainly enjoy the All-Star honors, especially with the Hollywood twist, he might not want to face the harsh backlash — and loud boos — of the pro-Dodgers crowd still cheating on the cheating scandal and World Series… Carrying victory in 2017 against anyone in a Houston jersey. That was evident when the Astros went to LA last year.

Cash said he respects the other candidates, particularly Verlander for his long career, and knows from last year’s experience that All-Star decisions can be complicated and convoluted. The starters may only be announced the day before the game.

But Cash said that particular decision seems clear and – admittedly biased – he would be happy to give his opinion if Baker or anyone else asked.

“I think Shane McClanahan was the best starting pitcher in baseball,” Cash said. “All baseball to date.”

For starters

Shane McClanahan has good reasons to become the American League’s All-Star starter. Here are some of the likely candidates:

jug team WL EPOCH G IP K bb OOPS*
Shane McClanahan rays 9-3 1.74 16 98.1 133 17 .510
Dylan stops White socks 7-3 2.51 16 86.0 125 40 .624
Logan Gilbert MS 9-3 2.66 16 94.2 92 26 .636
Alex Manoah jay 9-3 2.33 16 100.1 90 21 .597
Shhei Ohtani Angel 7-4 2.68 13 74.0 101 17 .596
Justin Verlander Astros 10-3 2.03 fifteen 97.1 90 17 .527

*OOPS – Opponents on base plus slugging percentage

• • •

Sign up for Rays Report’s weekly newsletter for fresh perspectives on the Tampa Bay Rays and the rest of the majors from sports columnist John Romano.

Never miss the latest with the Bucs, Rays, Lightning, Florida College Sports and more. Follow our sports team on the Tampa Bay Times Twitter and Facebook.

Leave a Comment