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A Baseball Blog - Scientific and Speculative Thoughts from Third Base

Monday, July 4, 2011

Don't Worry MLB, I Fixed the All-Star Rosters (Again)

So, we meet again, MLB All-Star rosters.

Just like last year: two enter, one a person with a red sharpie, the other an abstract list of baseball players; one leaves covered in red mark-ups (that would be the roster, in this case).

I tried this last year, and I think it really helped. Maybe not the roster, since MLB didn’t actually listen to me, but it made me feel a little better, so there’s that. And the rosters didn’t make me beat my head against the wall, so I’ll take the credit for that. Therefore, it can only help if I fix the All-Star rosters again.




Let’s start with the AL Starters. I try not to make changes for the sake of making changes, so if a player would have made my reserves list anyway, I kept them. That being said, the American League this year needs drastic help at shortstop. Now, the choice of Derek Jeter didn’t send me into a frothing rage like some of last year’s choices. Some fans think the name needs to be for the biggest names or whatever, and I can (kind of) see that. I think that it should be the players with the best first half, because that will reward those players and (in theory) give their league a better chance of winning. I realize my way has issues, but I’m sticking by it, and I don’t think too many people will care if I bump Jeter from the roster and make Asdrubal Cabrera the starter. Yes, I realize that they use All-Star selections for things like Hall of Fame cases (which is stupid enough in and off itself), but I don’t think 11 All-Star selections instead of 12 will really kill Jeter’s Hall case.

Josh Hamilton isn’t a bad choice per se, but he doesn’t even have enough plate appearances to qualify for a batting title. Or, to put it another way, 80-some games into the season, and Josh Hamilton has not quite appeared in 50, and there are quite a few deserving players this year. I would promote either Jacoby Ellsbury (based on performance) of Matt Joyce (to replace him with another corner outfielder) to take his spot.

The rest of the starting line-up (Alex Avila, Adrian Gonzalez, Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, Jose Bautista, Curtis Granderson, and David Ortiz) looks solid.




On the AL Reserves, the first thing we’re going to have to do is pick a replacement shortstop. Thankfully, Jhonny Peralta makes for an easy choice; he’s done almost exactly as well as Asdrubal Cabrera. They both have 14 home runs, and Peralta has a .311/.359/.538 batting line (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) to Cabrera’s .294/.344/.502.

Second base is a tough call, as there are a handful of deserving candidates. Robinson Cano and Howie Kendrick both made the team, so we’ll leave them. That leaves Ben Zobrist, Dustin Pedroia, and Ian Kinsler to battle it out. Ben Zobrist can play multiple positions, which would make him a useful team member, and he’s hitting .261/.347/.463 with 9 homers. So who’s roster spot will he take? I would personally go with removing Michael Young. I find the notion of carrying two designated hitters fairly idiotic, in most cases. Young isn’t standing out particularly as a hitter this season; his OPS+ (which compares a players OPS to league average) is only 118, meaning he’s hit 18% better than an average player. That ranks him 31st in the league, behind players like Kevin Youkilis (137), Mark Reynolds (130), and Bobby Abreu (124), to name just a few. Besides, carrying two DHs limits the team’s flexibility by having two players who can only hit (and that’s even before mentioning that this is the All-Star Game; everyone can already hit). Even in Young’s case, while he can play several positions, Zobrist can play even more. But enough about that.

I have one extra spot, which is being saved for the Final Vote. I’ll use it on Dustin Pedroia; he’s hitting .261/.347/.406 to Kinsler’s .238/.356/.432 while playing in slightly less of a hitter’s park (as is reflected in their OPS+s, 119 for Pedroia, 113 for Kinsler) and playing slightly better defense. We’ll make Kinsler our go-to choice if any of the infielders get hurt or opt out.

The rest of the infield back-ups (Russell Martin, Matt Wieters, Miguel Cabrera, and Adrian Beltre) look solid

Lastly, we have the AL outfield. We have a whole from our earlier promotion, so there’s one open slot. I’ll take Final Vote candidate Alex Gordon, partly because he has a .301/.368/.491 line with 10 home runs and a 141 OPS+(which makes him one of the better outfielders in the AL anyway), but also partly because I hate it when a team’s only All-Star representative is a middle reliever (currently, Aaron Crow is the only Royal on the roster). Taking middle relievers is already questionable territory enough; making a middle reliever a team’s only representative seems to defeat the purpose of the “one player from every team” rule. I don’t know how many people tune in just to see their team’s one guy, but when that one guy is the set up man, I would guarantee that number is virtually zero.

Carlos Quentin is the only player from the White Sox, and he’s a good choice, so we’ll leave him. Michael Cuddyer is the only Twin, but is he the best choice? Well, for this, we can use a stat called WAR, or Wins Above Replacement. WAR accounts for a player’s offense, defense, position, and playing time and determines how many wins they are worth. According to Fangraphs, Denard Span has been the most valuable player on his team, with 2.6 WAR to Cuddyer’s 1.6. Their hitting has been similar enough (Span is hitting .294/.361/.385 to Cuddyer’s .286/.356/.459). Cuddyer’s played in more games, but Span has played the harder position, and been a better fielder in general, which makes up almost entirely for the difference. I’ll go with Denard Span, since this roster spot will probably only get one at-bat, but spend several innings on the field, but I wouldn’t blame you for going the other way.

Just as I recommended Ian Kinsler as first alternate for the infield, I’d also recommend Brett Gardner (.267/.349/.400, 20 steals, 4 home runs) as the first alternate in case of injury.




I have very few qualms with the AL Pitching Staff. AL pitching in general is very strong this year. I would stick with the eight starters that were actually picked (Josh Beckett, Felix Hernandez, David Price, James Shields, Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, and Gio Gonzalez), as they mostly are the best starters in their league. The rosters also require three relief pitchers, and Aaron Crow, Mariano Rivera, and Chris Perez look to be the best three, so we’ll keep them. However, since most relievers are failed starters, it seems odd to keep them at such a balanced ratio (the actual rosters have 8 starters and 5 relievers). When filling out an All-Star roster, there are about ten or so starters I’d pick before I even think about a closer. In general, the starting pitchers are just better. So, I’d replace Brandon League and Jose Valverde with Dan Haren (2.85 ERA, 98 strikeouts to only 18 walks, 1.02 WHIP) and CC Sabathia (3.05 ERA, 106 strikeouts to 32 Walks, 1.21 ERA). Assuming that one of the pitchers will drop out (as at least one always seems to), impressive rookie Michael Pineda (2.65 ERA, 99 Ks, 1.03 WHIP) and Philip Humber (2.69 ERA, .99 WHIP) can serve as alternates. Should I need an extra reliever because one of my three went down, Sergio Santos (18 saves, 1.05 WHIP, 11.93 K/9 innings) would be my choice.




Now onto the NL Starters. Really, for the most part, I would keep everything but third base, so Brian McCann, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Jose Reyes, Lance Berkman, Matt Kemp, and Ryan Braun can all stay. Third base is kind of weak this year (thanks in part to injuries), particularly in the NL. However, I would replace starter Placido Polanco with hometown third basemen Ryan Roberts, who’s hitting .251/.338/.430 with 10 home runs (compared to Polanco’s .280/.335/.354 line with only 4 home runs).




That was quick; onto the NL Reserves. Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero (.270/.344/.457, 9 home runs) is far outhitting back-up Yadier Molina (.283/.332/.406, 4 homers). I hate to take a Cardinal off the list, but I have to stay unbiased.

First base is, as usual, stacked this year. Albert Pujols (were he not injured) and Todd Helton would make fine All-Stars most other years. But Joey Votto and Gaby Sanchez are both deserving choices this year, and carrying four/five first basemen would be rather useless. Shortstop is also fine; Troy Tulowitzki and Starlin Castro make fine back-ups (although Castro is helped somewhat by the one per team rule).

Like Jeter, Chipper Jones makes a fine legacy choice, but going just by this season, I’m more inclined to take Padre Chase Headley. He’s kept solid stats (.308/.399/.409) in a park that eats power hitting (as shown by his 133 OPS+, which accounts for home park). Lastly, actual reserve Brandon Phillips (8 homers, .296/.346/.427, 111 OPS+) is a good player, and makes for a fine first alternate, but I’m taking Danny Espinosa (15 homers, .243/.329/.466, 119 OPS+) instead.

The NL outfield is absolutely loaded with good choices, which led me to include six alternate outfielders. I’m a little concerned at the sheer volume of outfielders, but I think it will work. Matt Holliday, Hunter Pence, Justin Upton, and Carlos Beltran can all stay. This year’s Ryan Zimmerman Award (as in, “this player is doing incredible, but got passed over because most people aren’t aware his team actually exists”) goes to Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who has a 148 OPS+ and leads all NL outfielders (for the moment) with 4.6 WAR, as per Fangraphs. That leaves one position player slot. Jay Bruce (124 OPS+, .267/.335/.495, 1.5 WAR) is having a good season, but, like at first base, it’s a strong year, and someone is going to be left behind. In this case, Shane Victorino (141 OPS+, .299/.371/.515, 4.2 WAR) and Andre Ethier (143 OPS+, .319/.388/.461, 2.4 WAR) are both having stronger years. I’d go with Shane Victorino, as I’m a little short on center fielders, leaving Ethier as my first alternate.




And lastly, we have the NL Pitching Staff. Like the AL, there is a strong group of starters this season, and most of them made the team. Therefore, I’m keeping Matt Cain, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Jair Jurrjens, Clayton Kershaw, Cliff Lee, and Tim Lincecum. Also, like with the AL roster, I’m cutting relievers down to the bare essentials, which, in this case, would be Joel Hanrahan, Jonny Venters, and Brian Wilson (with fellow real life All-Star Heath Bell as their first replacement).

Ryan Vogelsong has had a good first half, but like with Josh Hamilton, it’s a tough field, and he’s lacking the playing time to measure up-his 77.2 IP place him 65th in the NL. I would rather go with equally strong candidates who have the extra games played. In this case, I’m going with a trio of young starters for the last three starts. Jordan Zimermann has a 2.63 ERA, a 1.07 WHIP, 71:20 K:BB ratio, and a 145 ERA+. Ian Kennedy becomes the fourth Arizona player on my roster, with his 3.01 ERA, 132 ERA+, 97:30 K:BB ratio, and a 1.09 WHIP. And, in a close one, Tommy Hanson nudges out first alternate Anibal Sanchez (3.30 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 111:33 K:BB ratio), on strength of a 2.62 ERA, 146 ERA+, 1.06 WHIP, and 97:33 K:BB ratio. Hanson has fewer innings than many other starters, with only 89.1, but I feel like I can defend him over Ryan Vogelsong because Hanson still has nearly two more starts worth of innings on him. Furthermore, Hanson has stronger peripheral stats, and is even scheduled to pitch again before Vogelsong, meaning he’ll only build up a bigger cushion (in theory).




So, there you have it. Every team is represented, and both leagues have 34 players. Our national crisis has been averted, thanks to me and my red sharpie.

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