Thursday, June 6, 2013

50 Ways to Pick an All-Star Team

Major League Baseball released the All Star Ballots obscenely early this year, about 3 weeks into the season.

Below is a link from April 24th.

At a Yankee game a week later, I grabbed a few ballots.

Filling out a ballpark at the ballgame is fun, but most fans don't check stats while making choices. The nuances of their mindset is fascinating. Fans voting at a ballpark will select players they think should start the All Star Game or players they like the most. If they choose to vote on merit over affinity, they still may be overrating the performance of their selections.

Sitting at home, we have a chance to fill out a ballot with more information. 9 1/2 weeks of baseball is too small of a sample size to attribute much value to aggregate stats, such as WAR and various defensive metrics. The title to this post is an exagerration, but we're going to look at All Star teams from various perspectives. How would the construction of one-dimensional teams look?

Note: the official ballot only allows for one write-in vote in each league. We will affix a "(W)" to write-in's.

On Base Percentage (min. 150 PA)
First Base
AL: Chris Davis, Orioles .438 OBP
NL: Joey Votto, Reds .444

Second Base
AL: Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox .412
NL: Matt Carpenter, Cardinals .410

AL: Jed Lowrie, Athletics .398
NL: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies .412

Third Base
AL: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers .446
NL: David Wright, Mets .373

AL: Joe Mauer, Twins .406
NL: Yadier Molina, Cardinals .386

Designated Hitter
AL: David Ortiz, Red Sox .399

It was almost Adam Lind of the Blue Jays, who has a .411 On Base Percentage. Unfortunately, he would be a write-in at DH, and we are using our American League write-in for an outfielder this time around...

AL: Daniel Nava, Red Sox .395 (W)
AL: Coco Crisp, Athletics .388
AL: Nate McLouth, Orioles .370
NL: Shin-Soo Choo, Reds .431
NL: Michael Cuddyer, Rockies .399
NL: Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies .393

OBP is a stat that doesn't stabilize until 500 plate appearances. To reiterate, these are unique ways of looking at the All-Star ballot, not a statistical exercise to measure player value.

Let's get weird and look at defensive runs saved, as provided by Baseball Info Solutions, for less than half a season...


Defensive Runs Saved (per Baseball-Reference)
First Base
AL: Mike Napoli, Red Sox 6 Rdrs
NL: Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks 9

Second Base
AL: Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox 9
NL: Matt Carpenter, Cardinals 5

AL: Andrelton Simmons, Braves 13
NL: Stephen Drew, Red Sox 7

Third Base
AL: Manny Machado, Orioles 11
NL: Nolan Arenado, Rockies 9 (W)

AL: Salvador Perez, Royals 5
NL: Russell Martin, Pirates 8

AL: Shane Victorino, Red Sox 10
AL: Brandon Barnes, Astros 8 (W)
AL: Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox 7
NL: Norichika Aoki, Brewers 11
NL: Carlos Gomez, Brewers 11
NL: Starling Marte, Pirates 10

Looking at Defensive Runs Saved calls for FIVE right-in votes, but the aforementioned limit made us exclude Diamondback teammates, Gerardo Parra and A.J. Pollock, as well as Craig Gentry of the Rangers.

Highlighting an Astros player is bittersweet. We enjoy rooting for the Astros, and Brandon Barnes has looked like a really good defensive Center Fielder. Suddenly, it's clear to me that we may not see a Cubs player make it to the top of any of these groups. We aren't looking at lefty/righty platoon splits, althought the Cubs have some nice platoons at work. Speaking of platoon splits and Cubs, former Cub Jeff Baker leads all of Major League Baseball with an .889 slugging percentage versus lefties.

Count me among those excited for when Andrelton Simmons will have played enough innings to make his defensive statistics significant. He is a world class defender and makes Gold Glove caliber shortstop look easy. Andrelton Simmons throws with an effortless fluidity that accentuates the reliability of his arm.

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images


Baserunning Runs Above Replacement (per Fangraphs)
First Base
AL: Nick Swisher, Indians 0.9 BsR
NL: Joey Votto, Reds 2.0

Second Base
AL: Dustin Ackley*, Mariners**, 2.3
NL: Josh Rutledge, Rockies 1.5

*Ackley is in Triple-A
**Slashing .378/.477/.514 for the Tacoma Raniers

AL: Alcides Escobar, Royals 2.9
NL: Everth Cabrera, Padres 4.1

Third Base
AL: Brett Lawrie, Blue Jays 0.8
NL: David Wright, Mets 4.3

AL: Derek Norris, Athletics 0.8 (W)
NL: Erik Kratz, Phillies 0.8 (W)

Designated Hitter
AL: Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays 1.4

AL: Austin Jackson, Tigers 4.5
AL: Mike Trout, Angels 3.8
AL: Nate McLouth, Orioles 3.3
NL: Starling Marte, Pirates 3.3
NL: Justin Upton, Braves 3.3
NL: Hunter Pence, Giants 3.1


Weighted Runs Created Plus (per Fangraphs)
First Base
AL: Chris Davis, Orioles 207 wRC+
NL: Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks 176

Second Base
AL: Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox 135
NL: Marco Scutaro, Giants 129

AL: Jed Lowrie, Athletics 137
NL: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies 178

Third Base
AL: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers 194
NL: David Wright, Mets 138

The best hitter in baseball, Miguel Cabrera, overshadows a breakout by Josh Donaldson, who places second in the American League with a 155 wRC+.

AL: Joe Mauer, Twins 144
NL: Buster Posey, Giants 147

Evan Gattis has a 155 wRC+ and is slugging like Paul Goldschmidt. Unfortunately for our decision, he's been too much of a part-time catcher to merit selection over superstar Buster Posey.

Designated Hitter
AL: David Ortiz, Red Sox 165

AL: Mike Trout, Angels 146
AL: Coco Crisp, Athletics 140
AL: Jose Bautista, Blue Jays 135
NL: Bryce Harper, Nationals 166
NL: Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies 166
NL: Michael Cuddyer, Rockies 163

Good on Coco Crisp. He's known for his defense and baserunning, yet he shows up in this small sample wRC+ query.
Mark Trumbo, of the Angels, suffers the same as Evan Gattis above. He has a 136 wRC+, but he has a couple of issues that hold him behind Jose Buatista. First, Trumbo is on the ballot as a DH. Second, he's spent a good amount of time at first base.

CarGo and Cuddyer also made the NL team with OBP. Using wRC+, Bryce Harper replaces Shin-Soo Choo. Where's Domonic Brown? His 145 wRC+ falls short, mainly due to his .320 OBP. It's also surprising to see the AL outfield's wRC+'s dwarfed by their NL counterparts.


True Average (per Baseball Prospectus)
First Base
AL: Chris Davis, Orioles .399 TAv
NL: Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks .357

Second Base
AL: Ian Kinsler, Rangers .308
NL: Matt Carpenter, Cardinals .313

AL: Jed Lowrie, Athletics .317
NL: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies .317

Third Base
AL: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers .371
NL: David Wright, Mets .300

Donaldson is overshadowed again by Cabrera. This time, his .334 TAv is the second highest by a third baseman in Major League Baseball. The top six third basemen in TAv are in the American League. Collectively, as we saw above, AL third basement are terrible baserunners.

AL: Carlos Santana, Indians .330
NL: Buster Posey, Giants .330

Carlos Santana, Goldschmidt, and Kinsler make their first appearances here, but TAv is a very well respected statistic, when it comes to True Talent. It'll be interesting to see if the players highlighted by TAv have better second and third acts to the season than players who stood out in less meaningful metrics.

Designated Hitter
AL: David Ortiz, Red Sox .333

No surprise to see Ortiz shining once again. Remember when he was completely "done"? It was exactly four years ago today that Big Papi hit his nadir. On the morning of June 6, 2009, David Ortiz was batting .188/.281/.288 with 1 home run and 52 strikouts. Writers, fans, and talking heads wondered if the Red Sox could just ask Big Papi to go home. In the four calendar years since his low point, David Ortiz has hit an additional 121 home runs. Since the start of the 2010 season, David Ortiz is batting .300/.393/.565. It's talent and hard work, not scientists, that are responsible for Ortiz's fabulous production in his late-30's. Right?

AL: Mike Trout, Angels .337
AL: Coco Crisp, Athletics .330
AL: Daniel Nava, Red Sox .326 (W)
NL: Bryce Harper, Nationals .336
NL: Shin-Soo Choo, Reds .327
NL: Michael Cuddyer, Rockies .324


Others Batted In Percentage (per Baseball Prospectus)
First Base
AL: Freddie Freeman, Braves 28.0 OBI%
NL: Chris Davis, Orioles 21.9%

Second Base
AL: Ben Zobrist, Rays 20.5%
NL: Matt Carpenter, Cardinals .313

Zobrist is a super utility player, but he is listed at second base on the ballot, has played most of this season at second base, and has a sizeable enough lead against the next closest second baseman (Robinson Cano 15.5 OBI%).

AL: Jed Lowrie, Athletics .317
NL: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies .317

Third Base
AL: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers 24.5%
NL: Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals 23.4%

This Ryan Zimmerman stat points out that timely hitting is one of the reasons why the Nationals are near .500 in spite of their lousy offense.

AL: Matt Wieters, Orioles 16.9%
NL: John Buck, Mets 20.7%

Designated Hitter
AL: David Ortiz, Red Sox 21.6%

More Big Papi! He'll cruise to his ninth All-Star Game, as he surpassed a million votes before any other DH cracked 700,000.

AL: Kelly Johnson, Rays 24%
AL: Alex Gordon, Royals 20.7%
AL: Daniel Nava, Red Sox 20.1% (W)
NL: Angel Pagan, Giants 23.6%
NL: Michael Cuddyer, Rockies 21.1%
NL: Marlon Byrd, Mets 20.1% (W)

Marlon Byrd makes it into this post, and still there's no Cubs player to be found.

We don't condone gambling, but it's likely that someone can win a bar bet with the knowledge that Freddie Freeman has the best OBI% in all of baseball.

Our last arbitrary parspective will be with the percentage of batter's balls in play are line drives. Line Drive Rate is one of the few statistics that stabilizes with just 150 plate appearances.


Line Drive Rate (per Fangraphs)
First Base
AL: James Loney, Rays 30.3 LD%
NL: Joey Votto, Reds 28.9%

The same way Don Cooper can convert a failed starter into a 15-game winner, the Rays have a knack for finding first basemen who couldn't hit "send" and turning them into Don Mattingly clones. This year, Loney is batting .324/.390/.516. Those are better than Nomar Garciaparra's career numbers. It's only 211 plate appearances for Loney, but after what Casey Kotchman did with the 2011 Rays, Loney may have a similar run.

According the Baseball-Reference, Casey Kotchman's offensive production in the 2011 season is an outlier.

Casey Kotchman Stat Spotlight
Year Age Tm PA oWAR
2004 21 ANA 128 -0.6
2005 22 LAA 143 0.7
2006 23 LAA 88 -0.7
2007 24 LAA 508 1.9
2008 25 LAA 398 0.9
2008 25 ATL 175 -0.4
2009 26 ATL 336 0.6
2009 26 BOS 95 -0.2
2010 27 SEA 457 -1.1
2011 28 TBR 563 3.4
2012 29 CLE 500 -0.6
2013 30 MIA 13 -0.3
10 Seasons 3404 3.6
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 6/6/2013.

Over his 10-year career, Casey Kotchman generated 3.6 of Offensive Wins Above Replacement. 3.4 of those Wins were from the 2011 season alone.

Second Base
AL: Howie Kendrick, Angels 26.2%
NL: Matt Carpenter, Cardinals 28%

This exercise has brought to attention the depth of the second base position in the American League. Personally, I think that Robinson Cano is the best second baseman in the world. However, he hasn't come up once in any of the statistical perspectives we looked at today. Cano leads AL second basemen in home runs and RBI, but that's about it. For his outstanding line drive rate, Howie Kendrick becomes the fifth second basemen highlighted today, joining Pedroia, Ackley, Kinsler, and Zobrist.

AL: Jed Lowrie, Athletics 28.3%
NL: Pete Kozma, Cardinals 23.2%

Third Base
AL: Trevor Plouffe, Twins 28.7%
NL: Chris Johnson, Braves 27.3%

This probably explains one of the most likely reasons why Chris Johnson is one of the most impatient hitters in the Major Leagues. He expects to hit line drives.

AL: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Red Sox 29.5%
NL: Yadier Molina, Cardinals 25%

Designated Hitter
AL: Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays 22.4%

AL: Daniel Nava, Red Sox 26.9% (W)
AL: Andy Dirks, Tigers 26.9%
AL: Austin Jackson, Tigers 26.5%
NL: Jay Bruce, Reds 29.3%
NL: Carlos Beltran, Cardinals 24.6%
NL: Nate Schierholtz, Cubs 24.4%

How about that?! After giving up all hope in seeing a Cubs player at the top of any of these statistical categories, Nate Schierholtz, of all people, makes an apperance. Because Garrett Jones spends much more time at first base than in the outfield, his 24.6 LD% wasn't enough to vault him ahead of Schierholtz's 24.4%.


In conclusion, we're filling out 2013 All-Star Ballot as follows. How are you filling out yours?

First Base
AL: Chris Davis, Orioles
NL: Joey Votto, Reds

Second Base
AL: Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
NL: Matt Carpenter, Cardinals

AL: Jed Lowrie, Astros
NL: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies

Third Base
AL: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
NL: David Wright, Mets

AL: Joe Mauer, Twins
NL: Buster Posey, Giants

Designated Hitter
AL: Lance Berkman, Rangers

AL: Mike Trout, Angels
AL: Coco Crisp, Athletics
AL: Alex Gordon, Royals
NL: Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies
NL: Michael Cuddyer, Rockies
NL: Shin-Soo Choo, Reds


This Moment in Appreciating Adrian Beltre
GIF courtesy of Drew Sheppard
Adrian Beltre has the toughest draw of all present day stars. Make no mistake, not only is Adrian Beltre is an All Star; he's a SUPERSTAR! He's simply at the same position, and in the same league, as the best hitter in baseball.

Here is where you may vote up to 25 times online.

Voting closes at 11:59 PM on July 4, 2013. Vote now!

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