Thursday, July 10, 2014

2014 All-Star Roster Corrections, American League

And now, it’s time for one of my favorite traditions: adopting a faux superior tone to criticize the All-Star Rosters!  But, it looks like I’m continuing last year’s downward trend in condescension; few of the picks this year made me sigh and shake my head in disbelief, like most of Bud Selig’s pet projects. For whatever reason, the All-Star Game rosters are just getting better and better. Maybe people take the job more seriously now that something is on the line? Maybe sites like Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs are disseminating information to voters better than ever before? Maybe Nate Silver implanted a chip into Bud Selig’s ear that whispers changes to the All-Star roster into his ear before they’re announced? Who knows!

Either way, there are still a few nits I would pick if I were setting the rosters myself, and if there’s one thing that I love, it’s discussing the minor details of a roster for a one-off exhibition game. So, let’s get down to business!

AL Starters
C-Matt Wieters (BAL), replaced by Salvador Perez (KCR)
1B-Miguel Cabrera (DET)
2B-Robinson Cano (SEA)
3B-Josh Donaldson (OAK)
SS-Derek Jeter (NYY)
OF-Mike Trout (LAA)
OF-Adam Jones (BAL)
OF-Jose Bautista (TOR)
DH-Nelson Cruz (BAL)

I have one major complaint with this starting lineup, and as you might guess, it has to do with a certain New York Yankees middle infielder:

I still instinctively write Robinson Cano’s team as “NYY”. I know we’re several months into the season, and players change teams all the time, but that is still one that I never expected having to change.

In case you were expecting me to say something about Jeter: nah, I’m fine with it. The dude’s a legend, and as a Cal Ripken, Jr. fan, I can’t really begrudge anyone for giving an over-the-hill future first-ballot Hall of Famer one last Midsummer Classic to soak up applause. He’ll get, what, one at-bat and maybe three innings in the field? What’s the worst that he can do? I understand that it “counts” this year and all, but it’s a stupid rule, and why take it out on Jeter?

Also, I find it hilarious that Matt Wieters, with all of 26 games played this year, won the starting gig. I mean, he is good, and it doesn’t really affect anyone, but it’s just a little ridiculous.

Other than that, all of those guys are deserving All-Stars, and my general rule is, if I guy would have made the All-Star team, leave them in the starting lineup unless someone on the bench is just miles better. That’s not the case this year, though.

AL Reserves
C-Derek Norris (OAK), Kurt Suzuki (MIN)
1B-Edwin Encarnacion (TOR, injured), Brandon Moss (OAK), Jose Abreu (CHW)
2B-Jose Altuve (HOU)
3B-Adrian Beltre (TEX), Kyle Seager (SEA, replacement)
SS-Alexei Ramirez (CHW)
OF-Michael Brantley (CLE), Yoenis Cespedes (OAK), Alex Gordon (KCR)
DH-Victor Martinez (DET)

Just some things that I think are silly: first of all, mandating a second designated hitter. This is the All-Star roster, everyone can hit. However, Martinez is hitting about as well as Cruz, so at least it’s not a horrible choice.

Next, carrying four first basemen seems dumb. First is the easiest position, and since we’re also required to take extra designated hitters, this only seems more limiting. Even if Encarnacion isn’t playing, having three of the least versatile position strikes me as a poor choice. However, Moss regularly plays the outfield too, so that makes it a little better.

Now then, the actual changes. First, I’d swap his teammate Coco Crisp in for Cespedes. Crisp plays the harder position (center to left), and is hitting better (.291/.387/.449, 138 weighted Runs Created+ to .257/.311/.460, 114). Crisp takes a hit on his defense, which is partly why he only has 1.7 WAR on Fangraphs. However, Baseball-Reference has him at 3.0, and he’s been much better at defense the last few years, which leads me to believe this is more of a fluke.

Next, at shortstop, I’d take Erick Aybar over Alexei Ramirez. Aybar leads all qualified shortstops in hitting this year, posting a .280/.315/.414 line and a 105 wRC+ while providing some of the best defense at the position like normal. Compare that to Ramirez, who’s playing only decent defense while hitting just .279/.314/.397 with a 94 wRC+. Also, if you feel like just using WAR, they match up 2.6 to 1.4 in Aybar’s favor.

Lastly, Ian Kinsler has been one of the best players in the majors this year. Fangraphs gives him 3.7 WAR, third among AL position players, while B-R places him sixteenth with 2.6. It comes from a 124 wRC+ (.303/.339/.477) plus strong defense up the middle. I’d probably replace Kurt Suzuki with him, as he hasn’t been much better than a number of other catchers.

My honorable mentions and injuries replacements (in case this team loses anyone else) would be Ben Zobrist, Brian Dozier, Yan Gomes, and Brett Gardner (EDIT: with the news of Alex Gordon dropping out for injury, I’d probably start with either Zobrist for versatility or Dozier to get another Twin on the roster; stupid injuries making me add hastily-written post-scripts to my painstakingly-deliberate roster-crafting).

AL Pitching Staff
SP-Yu Darvish (TEX)
SP-David Price (TBR)
SP-Max Scherzer (DET)
SP-Felix Hernandez (SEA)
SP-Masahiro Tanaka (NYY, injured)
SP-Jon Lester (BOS)
SP-Scott Kazmir (OAK)
SP-Mark Buehrle (TOR)
Some final vote starting pitcher
RP-Sean Doolittle (OAK)
RP-Greg Holland (KCR)
RP-Glen Perkins (MIN)
RP-Dellin Betances (NYY)
RP-Koji Uehara (BOS, replacement)

Well, first things first, I’m going to fill the final vote start with Chris Sale, since he’s leading the vote anyway (EDIT: he won) and I don’t think it needs much explanation.

Next, I do this every year, but for those not in the know: the roster rules dictate that three relievers be on the roster, so I usually remove any above the mandated three to make room for starters. Starters are disproportionately more valuable than relievers, so I like to give as many roster spaces as possible to them. I’ll keep Doolittle, Uehara, and Betances since they’re all already on the roster and have good claim to be, posting good WAR (Fangraphs) and Win Probability Added numbers. Runners-up to their spots would be Perkins and Jake McGee of Tampa.

That frees up two slots to use. There are two names I’d like to add, both up for the final vote: Garrett Richards and Corey Kluber. Kluber is fifth in the league in strikeouts, with 137. He’s also fourth among AL pitchers in Fangraphs WAR with 3.4. His 2.86 ERA and 2.65 FIP are the result of 9.81 K/9, 2.15 BB/9, and 0.64 HR/9. On top of that, he’s fifth in the league in innings pitched with 125.2. Even in B-R’s WAR (which is more based off of ERA for pitchers), he’s seventh in the league at 3.1.

Richards just follows Kluber with 3.0 bWAR. He’s also seventh in Fangraphs WAR for AL pitchers (3.0), on the strength of 116.1 innings with a 9.21 K/9 rate, a 1.32 BB/9, and 0.31 HR/9. He also has a 2.70 ERA and a 2.71 FIP (fielding independent pitching). It’s fairly easy to see why those two got a chance for the final vote.

I’m still missing a representative for the Twins (EDIT: well, not anymore I guess, given the news about Alex Gordon. Way to ruin the dramatic tension). Phil Hughes has been pitching pretty well, plus I’ve heard good things about Dallas Keuchel and want to see how they stack up against most of the roster. There are really only two places I can see them having a chance to bump someone, though: either through Scott Kazmir or Mark Buehrle. Let’s take a look:

Buehrle: 2.0 fWAR, 4.1 bWAR, 2.60 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 70 K, 121.1 IP, 5.19 K/9, 2.30 BB/9, 0.67 HR/9
Hughes: 3.5 fWAR, 1.9 bWAR, 3.70 ERA, 2.68 FIP, 102 K, 116.2 IP, 7.87 K/9, 0.85 BB/9, 0.69 HR/9
Kazmir: 2.0 fWAR, 2.5 bWAR, 2.53 ERA, 3.31 FIP, 99 K, 110.1 IP, 8.08 K/9, 2.12 BB/9, 0.82 HR/9
Keuchel: 2.5 fWAR, 3.2 bWAR, 3.20 ERA, 3.11 FIP, 87 K, 115.1 IP, 6.79 K/9, 2.18 BB/9, 0.47 HR/9

In the end, I think I’m going to go with Hughes and Buehrle and leave Kazmir and Keuchel for the injury reserves.

And that’s the roster. In the end, I only made seven changes:
Alexei Ramirez (SS, CHW) -> Erick Aybar (SS, LAA)
Kurt Suzuki (C, MIN) -> Ian Kinsler (2B, DET)
Yoenis Cespedes (OF, OAK) -> Coco Crisp (OF, OAK)
+Chris Sale (SP, CHW, final vote)
Scott Kazmir (SP, OAK) -> Phil Hughes (SP, MIN)
Glen Perkins (RP, MIN) -> Corey Kluber (SP, CLE)
Greg Holland (RP, KCR) -> Garrett Richards (SP, LAA)

Honorable mentions: Ben Zobrist (2B/UT, TBR), Brian Dozier (2B, MIN), Yan Gomes (C, CLE), Brett Gardner (OF, NYY), Kazmir, Dallas Keuchel (SP, HOU), Jake McGee (RP, TBR), Glen Perkins (RP, MIN)

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