I’ll admit that it’s pretty weird to think I’m writing an article explaining why Ross Stripling of all people should be an All-Star. Then again, given that it’s 2018, it feels significantly less weird than coming to grips with the fact that Kenley Jansen is (somehow) an All-Star instead.
But enough about Jansen — let’s talk about the man affectionately known as BOSS Stripling.
Heading into 2018, Ross Stripling had appeared in 71 Major League games over the 2016 and 2017 seasons — 16 starts and 55 relief appearances. And, well, the results were pretty average.
In 2016, Stripling’s rookie season, he posted an ERA of 3.96 with 74 strikeouts (6.66 K/9) and 30 walks (2.70 BB/9) in 100 innings. In 2017, Stripling improved — lowering his ERA to 3.75 (mostly in relief), while improving both his strikeout rate (8.96 K/9) and his walk rate (2.30 BB/9).
In hindsight, I suppose you could say we should have seen some version of this 2018 breakout coming given that all of his peripherals were improving, but alas, we did not. Just over halfway through this season, Stripling has once again improved just about every metric imaginable — posting an insane 2.22 ERA while once again improving his strikeout (10.38 K/9) and walk rate (1.31 BB/9).
As you process those numbers, it’s actually kind of insane to think that Stripling isn’t an All-Star upon the first round of selections. While it’s true that he is likely to be added after injuries, etc. it doesn’t change the fact that he was snubbed to begin with.
Among qualified pitchers, Ross Stripling is No. 5 in ERA (across all of MLB), No. 6 in K-BB%, and No. 8 in FIP. Let me repeat: among all qualified pitchers — as in, Ross Stripling has pitched enough innings to qualify!
The number one argument against Stripling (the only argument?) is that he hasn’t pitched enough innings — having moved to the rotation partway through the season after starting in the bullpen — but at 89.1 innings, this argument doesn’t hold much water.
The easiest comparison to Stripling is Atlanta Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz, who was selected to the All-star Game. Foltynewicz has had himself a great season — but not nearly as good as Stripling. He ranks behind Stripling in ERA, FIP and WAR and has pitched in just 5.2 more innings — so why is Foltynewicz in and Stripling out? Beats me.
Then there are the relievers — who, I get it, there needs to be a place for them and every team needs a representative, but man. Kenley Jansen, Brad Hand and Felipe Vasquez all have higher ERAs than Stripling despite pitching in just half as many innings. Heck, if Stripling doesn’t have enough innings/appearances to qualify as a starter, then make him a reliever (in 11 relief appearances, Stripling had an ERA of 0.59).
Part of what makes the All-Star Game great (and maybe I’m in the minority here) is when guys like Stripling or Max Muncy get rewarded. Sure, it’s fun to see all of the names everyone recognizes together on the same field — but not nearly as fun as seeing first-timers relish in the experience of what might be their only shot at playing in a Midsummer Classic. They just appreciate it more.
And so for all these reasons, my hope is that baseball does the right thing and gives Stripling the recognition he deserves. While it’s unclear whether this type of dominance is sustainable, that isn’t what the All-Star Game sets out to honor. The goal of the game is to acknowledge the best players in the league thus far, and there’s no way that list should exist without Ross Stripling’s name on it.
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