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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Re-Run: Don't Worry, MLB: I Fixed the All-Star Game Rosters

I wanted to start getting a semi-regular schedule, but I got back late last night after watching the Orioles get shellacked twice by the Rangers. So, I'm reposting my All-Star game column from last year. I would also like this time to mention that Omar Infante's nickname should be "Freaking".

Really, MLB?
You’re going to make me take time out of my Future Hall of Fame series to fix your All-Star Rosters?
You guys obviously need help this year. There’s bad, and then there’s not even trying. I mean, really.
No Joey Votto? No Jered Weaver? OMAR FREAKING INFANTE?
Thankfully, I’m giving you a mulligan this year. In fact, I’ll even fix your rosters for you, starting right now.
AL Starters: No Changes

Let’s Start with the AL.

The fans actually got the starters right, for the most part.

Every AL starter is in the top 2 for their position in WAR (Wins Above Replacement, a stat which combines most aspects of offense and defense; this allows for a good quick look at deserving players). You can’t blame the fans for the problem this year. In fact, in what must be a first, the reserves presented more of a challenge than the starters.

AL Reserves: 9 Changes

Unfortunately, the problems start right away.

John Buck and Victor Martinez were picked as back-ups; Martinez is on the DL, though.

Fortunately, Mike Napoli of the Angels has been just as good; he has a line of .255/.333/.494 (batting averge/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) with 14 home runs and 35 RBIs. Even in advanced metrics, he’s still good; a 120 OPS+ (meaning he’s about 20% better than a league average hitter) and 1.8 WAR both put him second among AL catchers.

First Base is stacked this year; after Justin Morneau, though, only Miguel Cabrera made it. Paul Konerko (.297/.386/.564, 20 HR, 150 OPS+) and Kevin Youkilis (.299/.415/.576, 16 HR, 159 OPS+, 3.2 WAR) are both playing well enough to make the team. Four first basemen seems a little much; thankfully, all of them have been better than back-up DH David Ortiz.

Speaking of the DH, think about this for a minute: For some reason, the AL team decided they needed a BACK-UP DH, a position which gives them all of TWO options (pinch hit or replace Vlad Guerrero).

Also, consider that IT’S THE ALL-STAR GAME. EVERYBODY on the roster can hit well-YOU DON’T NEED TWO PLAYERS WHO ARE LIMITED SPECIFICALLY TO HITTING.

Now that the caps lock is out of my system, we’ll move on to second base. Dustin Pedroia is doing well, but he is injured. Ian Kinsler was picked to replace him. Thankfully, we can leave that untouched.

Elvis Andrus makes a good back-up shortstop. However, Alex Gonzalez should go with him. The 33-year-old is having a career year to the tune of .262/.303/.492 with 15 HR, and he leads all AL shortstops in WAR (2.3, narrowly better than Jeter’s 2.0 and Andrus 1.8).

At third base, Adrian Beltre has earned a claim to the reserve list (3.6 WAR), but A-Rod has not quite done well enough to warrant a spot (2.1 WAR), especially seeing as we still need to fill outfield spots.

In the outfield, both Shin-Soo Choo (.286/.390/.475, 13 HR, 2.9 WAR) and David DeJesus (2.5 WAR, .325/.392/.467) fill team requirements while providing good hitting.

Detroit Tiger Brennan Boesch also deserves a spot, with a .342/.388/.603 line, 12 home runs, and a 161 OPS+. This leaves us one batter’s spot we we will keep for emergency.


AL Pitching Staff: 4 Changes
The team needs a minimum of three relievers, but I’ll go with five to match the actual team. Neftali Feliz, Mariano Rivera, Jose Valverde, and Matt Thornton are all very solid picks.

However, I would have to give the last spot to Rafael Soriano instead of Joakim Soria. At 20 Saves, a 5.20 Strikeout to Walk Ratio, a 1.52 ERA, and a 283 ERA+ (meaning he’s about 183% better than league average), Soriano seems to be a solid choice. Soria has more saves at 22, but he has a higher ERA at 2.56, a higher WHIP at 1.105, a lower K/BB ratio at 4.75, and a lower ERA+ at 164.

To keep the pitching staff the same size, I would need eight starters. Clay Buchholz, Cliff Lee, Jon Lester, David Price, and Trevor Cahill all match the actual roster.

However, I would also add Jered Weaver, who is 8-3 with a 2.82 ERA, 124 K, 26 BB and a 3.2 WAR, all while pitching for the host Angels.

I would also add Felix Hernandez (6-5, but with 116 K, a 3.03 ERA, and 2.9 WAR) and Francisco Liriano (6-6, but with a 3.32 ERA, 116 K, 28 BB, and a league-leading 4.2 WAR for a pitcher).

The only still-unrepresented team is the Orioles, and, as a fan, I feel it’s safe to say that their player should not be a pitcher. Nick Markakis is the best option, with a .302/.394/.430 line and 25 doubles, most in the AL.


NL Starters: 1 Addition (and 2 Promotions)

The NL Starters need a little more work than the AL starters did.

First base (Albert Pujols), second base (Chase Utley, injured and replaced with Martin Prado), Shortstop (Hanley Ramirez), and Third base (David Wright) are all solid choices for starters.

Outfielder Andre Ethier is also a fine choice.

Corey Hart didn’t make the ballot, but he made the team; however, we will promote him to starter.

Current reserve Matt Holliday should also start; with a .301/.375/.498 line, 11 home runs, 24 doubles, and 3.5 WAR (most for NL outfielders), he has plenty to support his case.

Miguel Olivo has earned the right to start at catcher-his 3 WAR leads NL catchers, and with his .308/.365/.540 line and 11 home runs, he seems to be an easy choice.

NL Reserves: 8 Changes

Brian McCann is a solid choice at back-up catcher, as he is the second best in a rather weak field.

Molina isn’t quite strong enough this year to keep his spot, with a .229 average, a .611 OPS, and only .6 WAR (although catching WAR doesn’t include his strongpoint, defense).

Adrian Gonzalez and Joey Votto should be the reserve first basemen; those two, along with Pujols, sit atop many categories in the NL. However, while Pujols and Gonzalez made the All-Star team, Votto has, in the last day, become the new face of the snubbed All-Star. He hardly needs any defense in this area; in stark contrast, his replacement Ryan Howard has almost no defense for making the team.

Votto is second among NL first basemen in home runs (19), while Howard is sixth (15). Votto leads the NL in OPS (.988), while Howard is eight among first basemen and twentieth overall (.859). Votto leads NL first basemen in WAR and is second overall (3.6), while Howard is eighth among first basemen and forty-ninth overall (1.3). I could go on and on, but by now, it should be clear, and I’d just waste time.

Reserve Brandon Phillips is a good choice for reserve second baseman, especially since an injury to Chase Utley freed up an extra spot.

Troy Tulowitzki earned his back-up spot at shortstop, but he is too banged-up to claim it.

So, Rafael Furcal or Jose Reyes are the next best options.

Both have missed time, but while Reyes has missed less, Furcal has been better. Despite the missed time, his .338/.384/.500 line is enough to overcome the rest of the shortstop field, which excluding the four mentioned, can only be described as a laughably pathetic black hole of offense.

Scott Rolen is the third base back-up. However, I would also like to add Ryan Zimmerman to the team. His .280/.373/.490 line and 13 home runs are strong, and his defense is good enough that he ties Rolen in WAR at 3.0, despite Rolen’s stronger offense.

In any case, I would prefer to have one of them pinch hit if it means the back-up shortstop doesn’t have to hit.

Colby Rasmus, Jayson Werth, and Josh Willingham should take the back-up outfielder spots. Rasmus brings a strong .274/.367/.548 line and 16 home runs, along with a 144 OPS+. Werth is equally strong, at .283/.369/.532, 13 home runs, and a 137 OPS+ (surprisingly, both also have a WAR of 2.1).

Willingham’s 3.1 WAR is third among NL outfielders. He also brings 15 homers and a .279/.413/.512 line.

Marlon Byrd and Chris Young are both strong choices already on the team (both also represent their team’s only All-Star).

For the final position player spot, I nominate Andrew McCutchen. His .299/.379/.450 averages with 2.3 WAR is one of the few bright spots in Pittsburgh.

These players would replace Michael Bourn, Ryan Braun, and Jason Heyward. Bourn. Bourn's sole claim to the team is being an Astro, but he hasn’t been the best on his own team. Heyward has been impressive for a rookie, but 11 home runs, a .251/.366/.455 line, and a 122 OPS+ isn’t quite enough to replace anyone. Braun is better at .295/.351/.474 with 11 home runs, but the two players he is the most similar to (Byrd and McCutchen) also serve as their team’s only representative.

NL Pitching Staff: 4 Changes

And with that, we come to the final area: the NL pitching staff.

Let’s start with the relievers: Jonathan Broxton and Brian Wilson are strong enough choices. However, for the last spot, I would nominate Heath Bell, who leads the NL with 23 saves, in addition to his 1.77 ERA.

For the most part, the rest of the staff feels almost painfully obvious. Josh Johnson, Roy Halladay, Ubaldo Jimenez, Adam Wainwright, Tim Hudson, Yovani Gallardo, and Tim Lincecum are all on the team already, and deservedly so.

Even the few remaining changes I would make feel obvious. Roy Oswalt has to take the place of the lone Astros representative (and, in any case, is good enough to make it not feel like a wasted roster spot).

Rookie Jaime Garcia is second in the majors in ERA at an absurd 2.10 to go along with his 8-4 record.

Mat Latos is eighth in ERA in the NL at 2.62, with a 9-4 record, 91 K, and a .963 WHIP. After all the changes to the bench, the pitching staff almost feels like a let down.

In conclusion, I believe that is 68 All-Stars, with all 30 teams represented, which means I have done my job correctly.

So there you have it, MLB. All-Star rosters that make sense, and all you have to do is add 13 AL players and 13 NL. To save yourself embarrassment in the future, I suggest you just make me permanent All-Star czar.

Looking, I would say that there are fewer issues with this year's (actual) All-Star teams, but that's more because last year's bordered on laughably bad. One post script I made was putting Andy Pettitte in Jose Valverde's place. 

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