The 2021 MLB All-Star Game will be played in Colorado this year at Coors Field on July 13.
The selection process is already underway.
When it comes to relievers, there are a few names that shouldn’t be left off of the list under any circumstances.
Two of them are lockdown closers who have been performing at an elite level since the start of the season.
Here are two National League closers who just can’t miss the Midsummer Classic at this point.
2. Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers
The Milwaukee Brewers decided to use Josh Hader as a traditional closer this season, which means reserving him exclusively for the ninth inning with a save opportunity.
The move has paid off, and Hader is not only third in saves in the NL with 19, but he also returned to the level of dominance he showcased before 2020.
#Brewers closer Josh Hader now 19 for 19 in save chances. Truly has been Mr. Reliable.
— Tom (@Haudricourt) June 23, 2021
Last year, he struggled somewhat for his standards, pitching to a 3.79 ERA in 19 innings, the highest mark of his career.
But 2020 numbers, from now on and applying to all players, should be taken with a grain of salt.
This year, Hader has completely dominated the opposition in 31.2 innings.
He has a 0.57 ERA and a 0.84 Fielding Independent Pitching, or FIP, a run-prevention metric that removes defense from the equation.
The Brewers left-hander still hasn’t given up his first home run of the season and has managed to strike out 15.06 hitters per nine innings; an absolutely amazing number.
Hader leads the NL (actually, all MLB relievers) in Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, with 1.9.
If he keeps dominating like this, he is on pace to achieve a 4.0 WAR season as a reliever, which is absolutely crazy and a figure that most starters would want.
1. Craig Kimbrel, Chicago Cubs
Another pitcher who was left for dead by many after last year’s weird and short season was Craig Kimbrel, the closer of the Chicago Cubs.
He had a 5.28 ERA in 15.1 frames last season.
After he had a 6.53 ERA in 2019, people were legitimately wondering whether Kimbrel was finished or he had a little more gas left in the tank for 2021.
However, with a normal spring training and offseason routine, Kimbrel has been able to have quite the resurgence season in 2021.
This year, he has a 0.59 ERA and a 1.13 FIP, both elite figures that show just how difficult to face Kimbrel has been in 2021.
Just like Hader, Kimbrel gets most of his success thanks to his incredible ability to strike people out.
Kimbrel has fanned 15.43 hitters per nine frames.
He is second in the NL in WAR, with 1.7.
The right-hander is second in the NL in saves converted successfully, with 20, and projects 40 for the season as a whole.
He even got the last out in a no-hitter.
— MLB (@MLB) June 25, 2021
It remains to be seen if they can keep up their current form for another three months, but right now, it’s hard to argue that Hader and Kimbrel have been the two best relievers in the NL and are absolutely deserving of spots in the All-Star Game.
And their hard work and determination to bounce back and regain their place among the elite should be recognized.NEXT: 3 National League Stars Who Should Be MLB All-Star Finalists