He hasn’t stepped onto the field yet this season but Ryan Howard is fifth among National League first baseman in All-Star voting. Howard has made three All-Star teams in his seven years and if he somehow manages to make it this year, it would be four in eight years despite not playing yet in 2012.
The reason Howard has managed to accrue so many votes – other than the fact that he is a household name and a home run hitter for a popular ballclub like the Philadelphia Phillies – is that the quality of first baseman in the National League is at an all-time low. Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder have since departed for American League teams and Todd Helton is showing his age (.242 with just seven home runs).
Gaby Sanchez, an All-Star last year for the Florida Marlins, has spent time in Triple-A this year and neither he nor Ike Davis has a batting average even in the .200s, while Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves has followed up a strong 2011 season with a .250 batting average and just eight home runs. The Pittsburgh Pirates’ combination of Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee is unexciting, Yonder Alonso of the San Diego Padres was supposed to be a Rookie of the Year candidate but is hitting just .254 with two home runs, and James Loney of the Los Angeles Dodgers is at only .263 with two home runs.
Joey Votto is unquestionably the best first baseman in the major leagues and he will be the starter without question. Bryan LaHair is having a terrific season for the Chicago Cubs (.299/.380/.572 with 13 home runs) and Adam LaRoche has 12 home runs and a .514 slugging percentage for the Washington Nationals. LaHair will probably be the backup behind Votto, and Howard would probably be second in the voting had he actually played. I guess people figure it’s easier to vote for Howard this year than a player like Sanchez or Davis.