In a word, absolutely. Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Ian Desmond were all selected this week to play in the All-Star Game, and they deserve to go just as much as all the other players who got the nod.
Ian Desmond: The Budding Star
Along with fellow shortstops Rafael Furcal (St. Louis Cardinals) and Starlin Castro (Chicago Cubs), Desmond was selected to play for former manager of the St. Louis Cardinals Tony La Russa for the National League in the All-Star Game. Gaining the respect of such a decorated manager is definitely an honor, and Desmond’s stats prove that he deserves to be on that roster.
Of the three National League shortstops, as well as the three slated to play for the American League - Derek Jeter (New York Yankees), Elvis Andrus (Texas Rangers) and Asdrubal Cabrera (Cleveland Indians) - Desmond has the best slugging percentage (.494), the most doubles (24), the most home runs (14) and the most RBIs (45). His Wins Above Replacement is the highest of the three National Leaguers (2.8), and the second highest of all major league shortstops. His number of home runs, slugging percentage, and RBIs also happen to be the most of all major league short stops.
Desmond has been a key player the Nationals all year, due to his production on the field as well as his ability to be a team leader. His slash line of .279/.310/.494 is second only to Adam LaRoche on the team, and Desmond’s defense has improved drastically in the last two years. Desmond has come a long way from a struggling shortstop who made 34 errors two seasons ago, to a major league All Star who has consistently been making highlight-reel worthy plays.
Gio and Stras: The Dynamic Duo
All throughout the season so far, it has seemed as if Gio and Strasburg have been chasing each other to see whose stats could be better. Strasburg would strike out eight batters one day, and Gio would one-up him the next. Because of how similar their production has been this season, it seems fitting that they would be making the trek to Kansas City together. Even their number of votes to get them there was close, with Strasburg coming in third and Gio in fourth after the final tally of National League ballots.
The National League starting pitchers are Matt Cain (San Francisco Giants), R.A. Dickey (New York Mets), Cole Hamels (Philadelphia Phillies), Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers), Lance Lynn (St. Louis Cardinals), Wade Miley (Arizona Diamondbacks), Gonzalez and Strasburg.
Of those eight pitchers, Strasburg has the highest K/9 percentage (strikeouts per nine innings, 11.81), the highest WAR (3.2) and the highest number of strikeouts (122). Although his 2.81 ERA ranks fifth, his FIP is the lowest, meaning that if it weren't for bad plays in the field behind him, his ERA would actually be 2.28. Strasburg also has the overall second highest WAR of all National League starting pitchers.
As the number two guy in the Nats’ rotation, many of Gio’s stats come in just behind Strasburg’s. Behind Strasburg, Gio has the second best K/9 percentage (10.54), the second best FIP (2.52) and is tied for the second best WAR (2.9). Gio has the second lowest opponent bating average of the eight All-Star pitchers (.192), as well as the second best record (11-3) behind only R.A. Dickey's seriously impressive 12-1 record.
Last year, Strasburg could barely throw a baseball at all, due to his recovery from Tommy John surgery, yet he has come back stronger than ever and is blowing unhittable heat by helpless batters. Last year Gio went to his first All-Star Game wearing the wrong uniform, seeing as coming to Washington has only helped his numbers. Since last year, Gio is striking out more batters, giving up fewer home runs and issuing less walks.
It is undeniable that these two pitchers have been indispensable to the Nationals since joining the staff in full force this season. In games they have started, the Nats are 25-7. Based on all the above information and more, the Nationals have come to be very, very happy that these two particular All-Stars wear curly W’s on their caps.
All-Stars By Merit
A final indication of the Nationals' All-Stars' worthiness is that none of them made the team due to the popularity vote. Players, managers and coaches voted them onto the team. Now that's not to say the starting position players are any less worthy, - fans wouldn't vote for them if they weren't good - but the Nationals' players have gained the respect of baseball professionals, and that is something to be proud of.
The votes have been counted, and the results are official: the Washington Nationals are now capable of playing with the big dogs. You can rest assured that this team will be well represented in Kansas City in the mid-season showcase.