When the All-Star Game selections were announced this weekend, the largest outcry on Twitter was that Paul Konerko had seemingly been "snubbed." I mean, how could he not make the All-Star team? Konerko has a .319 batting average this season, and he's mashed 21 homeruns and driven in 62 runs (fourth best in the AL). In a year when offense is down around the majors, Konerko is on pace to hit 35+ homeruns at 35-years-old. That's crazy impressive, so it should be no surprise that Konerko is currently leading the MLB Final Vote for the final AL All-Star roster spot.
And yet, there's another player eligible for the MLB Final Vote that has arguably been even better this season than Konerko. Who could this wunderboy be? Take a look over a stealth MVP candidate, Ben Zobrist.
While Konerko surpasses Zobrist in all the traditional offensive stats -- homeruns, RBIs, batting average -- if you look closer, you'll see that Zobrist has still be a very valuable offensive player. He's hitting .256/.342/.455 and on the strength of his 27 doubles (second best in the majors), he has 40 extra base hits -- outpacing Konerko and his 34 extra base hits. While Konerko has obviously been the more valuable offensive player, it's not like Zobrist has been a slouch at the plate.
And then, you have to consider that Zobrist far outpaces Konerko in two other important areas: defense and baserunning. Zobrist is consistently ranked by all the defensive metrics as an elite defender (9.5 UZR), both in right field and at second base, and his baserunning is solidly above average (3.0 UBR). Meanwhile, Konerko has been the worst baserunner in the majors this season, getting thrown out on the paths and not advancing extra bases, and he plays below-average defense at first base (ranging from -1 runs to -7 runs, depending which stat you prefer).
As a result of the defensive and baserunning differences, Zobrist is ranked by FanGraphs as the better all-around player -- he's credited with 3.9 wins this season, while Konerko has only accumulated 2.3 wins. While I doubt fans give Zobrist the credit he's due, you can certainly make the case that he deserves to go to the All-Star Game more than Konerko. At the very least, the two of them are a lot closer in value than most people assume.
Don't get me wrong -- both Konerko and Zobrist are great players and are having amazing years, and I'm not trying to downplay Konerko's wild offensive season. I'm just saying that if I had to pick one out of the two of them, I'd go with Zobrist.