When the latest round of National League fan voting for the All-Star Game was released Monday, the team with the best record in the majors had no players leading at their respective positions.
The Giants’ Buster Posey was second in catcher voting, nearly 500,000 behind St. Louis’ Yadier Molina, while Brandon Crawford was second at shortstop, but with less than half the votes garnered by Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki, the leading vote-getter in the N.L. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval was the closest Giant to the top in terms of votes, at less than 150,000 behind David Wright, but trailed Colorado’s Nolan Arenado as well.
This for a team that, before dropping Monday’s series opener against the Nationals 9-2, had won two-thirds of its first 63 games.
“You would assumethat we would have at least one guy in the lead,” Crawford said Tuesday when asked about the vote totals.
Granted, using fan voting to determine who starts the All-Star Game can have interesting results. The Giants know this better than most. In 2012, they had three players voted into the N.L. lineup, including Sandoval over the clear favorite Wright, while second baseman Freddy Sanchez finished fourth in voting – despite not having played a game all season.
Still, this season’s early returns may also say something about how the Giants have built their first-half record, which as of Tuesday was the majors’ best for the 17th consecutive day.
“We have guys that deserve to go for sure, but I do think (the voting) has a lot to do with kind of the depth we have,” Crawford said. “We’ve been winning games because every night it’s somebody different. It’s not just one guy that’s driving in all the runs or hitting the ball over the fence or anything like that.”
Entering Tuesday, Michael Morse, the Giants’ leader in homers (13) and RBIs (42), was tied for fourth and third in the N.L. in those categories. Angel Pagan ranked fifth in batting average at .321, and Hunter Pence was third in runs scored at 46. Pagan, Morse and Pence ranked seventh, ninth and 10th in outfield voting.
(Madison Bumgarner, meanwhile, entered his start Tuesday tied for the league lead with eight wins, while Tim Hudson ranked second among qualified starters with a 1.97 ERA and Sergio Romo had a majors-best 20 saves. The All-Star pitching staffs, though, are not determined by fan balloting.)
“It says a lot about who we are as a club, when you look at the voting for the All-Star Game, that it hasn’t been one or two guys carrying this team,” Bochy said. “So I think it’s a good thing. These guys as a group, as a whole, should feel good about where we are at, because it hasn’t been a couple guys carrying the load.”
Bochy recently cited that depth as the biggest difference between this year’s Giants team and that of 2013, which started strong but had trouble coping with an injury to Pagan and finished 10 games under .500. This year, the Giants lost first baseman Brandon Belt to a broken left thumb in early May but were able to plug in Morse at first and get by with a platoon in left field. As of Tuesday, they were 19-9 since Belt’s injury.
A resurgent first half from newcomer Morse has lengthened the Giants’ lineup, while the bottom third of that lineup usually includes the second-leading RBI man in Crawford and a legitimate home-run threat in Brandon Hicks, who was batting just .185 entering Tuesday but with eight homers and 21 RBIs.
Crawford and Posey said Tuesday if they had to make a case for one Giant to start the All-Star Game, it would likely be Morse. Posey, who also mentioned Pence as a possibility, said Morse has “just been a big lift for us. It seems like he’s gotten a lot of clutch hits, driven in a lot of runs.”
Crawford agreed, saying, “Driving in runs is pretty important, so if I was to pick one guy, it’d probably be him.”
While hypothetical, it underscored how quickly Morse has become a central figure for the Giants – and not just in the lineup. Before Tuesday’s game, several Giants wore custom-made, Star Wars-themed “May the Morse be with you” T-shirts showing Morse wielding a lightsaber. In a handful of lockers sat gladiator-style helmets courtesy of Morse and Pence, who have acquired the various helmets to match players’ personalities.
Morse said this week the Giants “have a lot of quirky stuff going over here. And winning teams, you do that. You do quirky stuff and have fun.”
And part of the fun is that everybody can get involved.
“This is a team that’s just not led by one person,” Morse said. “Everybody’s doing their part to chip in to win games. So that kind of stuff (All-Star voting), I don’t think anyone is really looking at it. I think we look at the bigger picture.”