There’s been an unbelievable amount of outrage recently on the part of St. Louis Cardinals fans because of an advertisement released by the Milwaukee Brewers in an attempt to get their catcher, Jonathan Lucroy, voted into the All-Star Game. In the ad, the Brewers spoof a bad political campaign ad (the type of ones we all presumably have seen way too many of), playfully attacking projected starter Yadier Molina because he’s a Cardinal, calling Lucroy the “best catcher in the National League”, and ending it with Lucroy “approving the message”, as is common political practice.
Unsurprisingly, “baseball’s best fans” immediately came forward on Twitter to attack Lucroy and the Brewers:
— Alex (@Penny_Banker) June 18, 2014
While the ad was meant in jest, and Lucroy later proclaimed his respect for Molina, it’s difficult to argue that Lucroy is not the best catcher in the National League this season. The 28-year-old has a .340/.401/.537 slash line with eight homers and 37 RBI, compared to Molina’s .284/.332/.407 with six home runs and 26 runs batted in. It’s also worth noting that Lucroy has 25 doubles, while Molina has just 12. Of course, Cardinals fans will argue that despite Lucroy’s offensive numbers being significantly superior to Molina’s, he deserves to go because of his defensive ability. Upon further examination, however, their numbers actually are not too different. Each of them have a .996 fielding percentage this year. While Molina’s 45 percent caught-stealing percentage is superior, Lucroy has a respectable mark at 29 percent (which is better than league average), and he’s been run on 13 more times than Molina has. According to advanced metrics, Lucroy is actually the better defensive player this year; his BIS defensive runs saved (a comprehensive measure of a player’s worth as a fielder) is equal to six, while Molina has one. Lucroy has a 1.1 defensive WAR compared to Molina’s 0.4. Ultimately, it’s rather ridiculous to argue that a vastly superior offensive player shouldn’t start the All-Star Game because another candidate has a superior defensive reputation. If that were the case, it would be possible to make an argument that Atlanta’s Andrelton Simmons, a 2013 Gold Glover and the player who is widely regarded as the best defensive shortstop in the majors, should start over Troy Tulowitzki (the only NL hitter with a better average than Lucroy) because of his reputation as a fielder. Just like with Lucroy and Molina, Tulowitzki’s defensive WAR is actually a bit higher than Simmons’s this year. The most frustrating argument, however, is the one coming from fans who believe that Molina should start in the Midsummer Classic just because he’s had more accolades over the course of his career, such as this one:
The irony of this situation is that last year, many of these same fans insisted that the All-Star Game was about the current year’s achievements. After Buster Posey had made a rather substantial case as the best offensive catcher in the National League in 2012, finishing with a .336 average and .957 OPS while winning the MVP and leading the Giants to the World Series, many Cardinals fans were outraged when Posey was leading Molina in the All-Star voting. While Molina’s average was up in the .350s, compared to Posey’s lower but still respectable mark which hovered in the low .300s at the time, the Molina supporters argued that Posey’s reputation should have no bearing on the voting, as Molina was the better player in that particular season.
Using that same logic, there’s no way that Molina should be leading the voting this year (which, for the record, he was at the last update by nearly 700,000 votes). The All-Star Game is about honoring the players who have performed most exceptionally in a particular year, and Lucroy has been the best catcher in the National League in 2014. That’s not to say that Molina doesn’t deserve to be in the game—he’s by far the second most-qualified NL catcher to participate in the Midsummer Classic—but the Brewers are not off-base in suggesting that he should be given the honor of starting.
Molina and Lucroy are both worthy participants in this year’s All-Star Game, but for now that’s beside the point. It’s ridiculous that so many people can be outraged over something that was so obviously intended to be humorous. Lucroy clearly did not intend to be malicious, and while the “endorsement” from the faux political ad seemed to go over some fans’ heads, it’s time that the critics relax and take the ad for what it was: a lighthearted spoof.