On May 31, Humber was pulled with two outs and two on in the eighth. Ohman came in to face David Ortiz and promptly gave up a three-run homer. Two of those runs were tagged to Humber, putting four on his line. That ruined the quality start he was in line for (and deserved, because he shut them down over the first six innings), and now Humber's backers have to make their statements of support a little more complicated.
He's thrown 12 quality starts in his last 13 outings. Or he's essentially thrown 13 quality starts in a row. Bah.
Despite the irrelevant blemish, Humber has built a helluva case for himself as one of the first half's biggest surprises. He's all over the American League leaderboard:
- Wins: 8 (8th)
- ERA: 2.69 (7th)
- WHIP: 0.98 (5th)
- BAA: .201 (5th)
- OPSA: .567 (4th)
The only thing he's lacking is reputation. Unfortunately, the All-Star Game is a popularity contest, so that's kind of important -- especially when you look at the crowd of pitchers in his neighborhood.
Humber is fighting for one of about five (initial) spots among a group of similarly successful pitchers, once you get the locks out of the way. I think we can say that Justin Verlander, C.C. Sabathia and Jered Weaver are in (and more on the first two in a bit).
So here's the group vying for spots behind the troika:
- Humber (8-4, 2.69 ERA, 103 2/3 IP)
- Jon Lester (10-4, 3.43 ERA, 110 1/3 IP)
- Josh Beckett (6-3, 2.20 ERA, 98 IP)
- James Shields (8-5, 2.45 ERA, 128 2/3 IP)
- Dan Haren (8-5, 2.85 ERA, 116 2/3 IP)
- Gio Gonzalez (7-5, 2.32 ERA, 102 IP)
- Michael Pineda (7-5, 2.65 ERA, 102 IP)
- C.J. Wilson (8-3, 3.14 ERA, 117 2/3 IP)
- Ricky Romero (7-7, 2.82 ERA, 118 IP)
- Justin Masterson (6-6, 2.85 ERA, 113 2/3 IP)
- Felix Hernandez (8-7, 3.30 ERA, 129 IP)
Out of this group, I think it's safe to say that Humber is the most faceless of the group. Pineda also had no track record coming in, but he's created a ton of rookie buzz -- and he's also outshining last year's Cy Young winner on Seattle's pitching staff. Humber is also penalized by a late start to his season, as only Beckett, Gonzalez and Pineda have thrown fewer innings.
Adding up the tangible and intangible factors, and I'd probably rank Humber at least ninth on the list All-Starry pitchers -- definitely ahead of Masterson and Romero, and probably with Gonzalez and Wilson. Hernandez is the wild card, because while he's 22nd in the AL in ERA, he's fourth in innings and was named the league's top pitcher last year. If a manager is filling out the roster, I think he'd want Hernandez on his staff over Humber, and it would be hard to argue with any real conviction.
That would normally cloud the picture -- until you look at the number of unavailable pitchers, which makes Humber's path to Phoenix considerably clearer.
Sabathia and Verlander are definitely out, as they're scheduled to start on the Sunday before the break. If the schedules hold, they'll be joined by Hernandez, Haren and Lester.
That's nearly half the list, and better yet for Humber, all those pitchers possess greater celebrity. Cross them off the list, and that makes Humber the fourth- or fifth-most compelling case of guys who can actually participate in the festivities.
So unless the All-Star game is a bigger name game than I'm accounting for -- a very real possibility -- it seems like Humber is a near-lock for the roster. His name might have an asterisk next to it to denote his replacement status, but considering he was a three-time cast-off who barely made the 25-man roster out of spring training, I think that's an indignity everybody's willing to accept.