Who should be playing in tonight’s All-Star Game

Last year, I brought out my proposal for “fixing” the All-Star game player selection process.  Of course, it’s yearly fodder for baseball writers, bloggers, and hacks (I’ll let you decide which one I am), to rip the All-Star selection process and to carp about the guys who got snubbed, but I think that baseball can do a better job.  Why should the people listen to me?  Because, unlike some other Robin Hoods, I can speak with an English accent.  My new system makes a few changes and I think delivers a more star-packed game.  The basics:

  1. Starters will be picked based on some sort of logical rational criteria.  In other words, the fans won’t vote for the starters (but they will get some say… don’t worry…)  I’ll be using VORP and WPA/LI.  For the uninitiated, VORP is a measure of how much a player contributes over a bench/AAA/free agent player who plays the same position.  WPA/LI is a stat that shows how much a player contributed to his team’s chances to win (with the bat) after you take into account that some situations (tie game, bottom of the ninth) give more of a chance to affect the outcome than others (15-2 game, bottom of the sixth).
  2. The one-guy-per-every-team rule is out.  One guaranteed spot is given to teams who are above .500 as of a certain date (I’ll use July 8th) and a second spot is given to those teams who would be in the playoffs if the season ended there.  The manager picks the positional reserves and pitchers – up to a roster of 29 players — with the caveat that there have to be at least 12 pitchers and a reserve at each position (I’d allow there just to be 3 “outfielders”).   Since it’s my column, I’m going to play the role of the managers, and I’ll go heavy on the stats in my selections.  The actual managers would have full discretion.
  3. Four players per team maximum.
  4. The home team always gets at least one All-Star.
  5. The fans get to pick the last three All-Stars (one pitcher, one infielder, one outfielder) per league, and the ballot is completely and totally open.  You can vote for anyone on an MLB roster.  So, I’ll be picking 9 starters, 11 pitchers, and 9 reserves (29 players), with the assumption that the other three players would be picked by the fans.

First, my starters, picked as of their stats late last week (as were all my selections throughout):
(* – indicates that my selection agrees with the fans’)
American League
c: Joe Mauer* (leads in VORP and WPA/LI)
1b: Kevin Youklis* (leads in VORP, 2nd in WPA/LI)
2b: Ian Kinsler (leads VORP and WPA/LI)
3b: Alex Rodriguez* (leads VORP and WPA/LI)
ss: Michael Young (leads VORP and WPA/LI)
of: Grady Sizemore (leads CF VORP and OF WPA/LI)
of: Josh Hamilton* (2nd in CF VORP and OF WPA/LI)
of: J.D. Drew (1st in RF VORP and 3rd in OF WPA/LI)
dh: Milton Bradley (1st in DH VORP and DH WPA/LI)

  • Youklis’s spot at 1st could have gone to Jason Giambi (1st in WPA/LI, but 3rd in VORP after Justin Morneau), but Youk is having a better year OPS wise. 
  • J.D. Drew could have been Manny Ramirez (1st in LF VORP, 4th in WPA/LI), but Drew won the OPS tie-breaker. 
  • Hamilton or Sizemore would have to shift to left.  Bradley will probably be the DH in the real game anyway because the fan’s pick (David Ortiz) is still hurt.
  • That’s four Texas Rangers in the starting lineup.
  • All of the above players at least made the real team.  That’s a good sign.

National League
c: Brian McCann (1st in VORP, 3rd in WPA/LI)
1b: Lance Berkman* (1st in VORP and WPA/LI)
2b: Dan Uggla (2nd in VORP, 1st in WPA/LI)
3b: Chipper Jones* (1st in VORP and WPA/LI)
ss: Hanley Ramirez* (1st in VORP and WPA/LI)
of: Pat Burrell (1st in LF VORP and OF WPA/LI)
of: Matt Holliday (2nd in LF VORP and OF WPA/LI)
of: Jason Bay (3rd in LF VORP and OF WPA/LI)
dh: Albert Pujols (4th in VORP among all NL players, 3rd among all NL players in WPA/LI)

  • At second base, Chase Utley is first in VORP and 2nd in WPA/LI.  Tie went to Uggla on OPS, barely.
  • Jason Bay barely bests teammate Nate McLouth.  McLouth led all NL CFs in VORP but was fifth among NL OFs in WPA/LI.  Bay also has a higher OPS.
  • The fans went 3 for 8.  Chase Utley isn’t a bad selection though, so I’ll call it 50%.  That’s still embarassing.
  • It’s a shame that neither Jason Bay nor Pat Burrell will be at this game.  Eric Seidman told me privately that he’s considering boycotting the game over the Burrell snub.  He’s right.  I think Burrell is actually the most deserving outfielder in the NL this year, statistically speaking.
  • The NL does have the small problem that all three outfielders generally ply their trade in left field.  Thankfully, no one watches the All-Star Game to see defense.  And with a middle infield of Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla, there won’t be any defense to speak of.

And now the reserves.  First things first, we have to figure out which teams are guaranteed a player.  The standings as of July 8th show that in the American League: Tampa Bay, Chicago, the Los Angeles California Angels of Anaheim California which is near Los Angeles, and Boston would be the playoff teams.  They each are guaranteed two spots.  In the NL, it’s Philadelphia, the Cubbies, and Arizona, leading their divisions, and by half a game, the Cardinals in the Wild Card.  (Sorry Brewers fans!)  Each of them get two players.
Teams guaranteed one spot: The Yankees (both for their record and that they are the home team), Twins, Tigers, A’s, and Rangers in the AL.  (Sorry Orioles fans.   Your team was 44-44 on the designated day.)  In the NL, Florida, the Mets, and Milwaukee each have a captured spot.
So far, Boston has their allotment filled (Youklis and Drew), as do the Yankees (A-Rod), Twins (Mauer), and Rangers, who will not be able to send anyone else because they’ve reached their four-player max.  In the NL, Philadelphia gets at least one more, as do the Cards.  The Cubs and D’Backs will need two more each.  Florida has been taken care of (Ramirez and Uggla), but the Mets and Brewers will have a representative to be named.
Let’s fill in a few obvious candidates and see if any of our guaranteed spots disappear:
A few pitchers who should be there, first for the AL.  Cliff Lee is my pick for the AL’s starting pitcher over Justin Duke… Duch… Doos… ah, you know who I’m talking about, but both should be (and are) on the team.  Lee is first in VORP in the AL and 2nd in WPA/LI (Duchscherer is the reverse), but Lee has a BABIP of .293 to Justin’s .213 and a better K/BB ratio.  Lee’s not faking it.  Roy Halladay (going) and John Danks (not going) are 3/4 in VORP and WPA/LI, so they can both go.  Shaun Marcum and his .228 BABIP is 5th in VORP and WPA/LI, so he lucks into a spot in my selection scheme (though did not get picked for the real team.)  In the bullpen, Mariano Rivera is still the standard by which all relievers are measured.  Joakim Soria (T-4 in reliever VORP, 2nd in WPA/LI) and Joe Nathan (T-4 in reliever VORP, 5th in WPA/LI) should go.  Scott Downs may not be a closer, but he’s 3rd in VORP and 4th in WPA/LI.  Sadly though, Scott Downs is not going in real life.  Then there’s the case of Jim Johnson from Baltimore.  He’s first in WPA/LI and second in VORP, so I suppose he should be in, but he has a BABIP of .207, HR/FB of 0%, and an awful K/BB rate.  Therefore, we politely excuse him to play golf based on the fact that he’s a mirage.  So, we have nine pitchers selected for the AL.  We’ve taken care of the Twins and A’s spots and one White Sock is in.
On the NL side, among starters, the list of the top 10 in both of our critereon categories have the following names repeating: Ben Sheets, Tim Lincecum, Cole Hamels, Carlos Zambrano, Edinson Volquez, Johan Santana, Tim Hudson, Dan Haren, and Ryan Dempster.  I can’t really afford to be taking all nine, so Dempster and Hudson get kicked.  Dempster walks too many guys; Hudson doesn’t strike enough out.  In the bullpen, Chad Durbin and Heath Bell are 1/2 in VORP among NL relievers and 3/4 in WPA/LI.   Since there has to be a “closer”, it should be noted that Brad Lidge leads NL relievers in raw WPA, and Brian Wilson (whom I have a small thing for) is second.  I say take them both.  That’s 11 NL pitchers.  The Phillies and Mets have been taken care of, as have one of the Cub and Diamondback spots.  Lincecum and Sheets can flip for the starters gig.
And yes, I know Brandon Webb has won 4589 games so far this year.  I don’t care.
Flipping over to position players, in the AL, the list of guys who haven’t been called yet, but are high up on the list of players, we see Jason Giambi (1b), Brian Roberts (2b), Nick Markakis (of), Carlos Quentin (of), Aubrey Huff (3b?), Justin Morneau (1b), and Manny Ramirez (of).  We don’t yet have a backup shortstop and this gets tricky.  After Michael Young, 2nd place in VORP goes to Derek Jeter, but he’s a net WPA loss to the Yankees this year.  In WPA/LI, the second place winner is Ramon Santiago.  In VORP, he’s listed as a 2B, and is behind Joe Inglett.  The only other shortstops who have contributed positively to their teams chances of winning are Mike Aviles, Ben Zobrist, and Nick Punto!  Third place VORPer Jhonny Peralta has a higher OPS, but I’ll give the nod to Jeter, because MLB would kill me if he wasn’t there as an All-Star with the game in Yankee Stadium.  We also need a backup catcher, and there’s no catcher who jumps out as a great candidate.  Second place VORP winner Dioner Navarro makes sense, although he has a negative WPA.  Jorge Posada has been hurt, Gerald Laird can’t go because that would make too many Rangers, and Kelly Shoppach is not really an All-Star.  Plus, I need to have someone on the team from Tampa Bay.  In fact, I need two someones.  Navarro it is.  So, Navarro, Morneau, Giambi, Roberts, Jeter, Huff, Markakis, Quentin, Ramirez.  Nine guys for the bench.
In the NL, names that jump out include Chase Utley (2b), David Wright (3b), Aramis Ramirez (3b), Carlos Lee (of), Ryan Ludwick (of), and Nate McLouth (of).  Jose Reyes and Geovany Soto are the second place VORPers at their respective positions, although Rafael Furcal has Reyes beat in WPA/LI and Ryan Doumit and Chris Ianetta rank in front of Soto in WPA/LI.  Doumit has the best OPS of all of the catcher candidates.  Furcal wins for OPS among the shortstops.  As backup at first base, Conor Jackson is the next best available for WPA/LI.  Derrek Lee leads the VORPstakes.  Lee wins on OBP.  Again, nine guys for our bench.  Doumit, D. Lee, Utley, Wright, Ramirez, Furcal, C. Lee, Ludwick, McLouth.
A look at how we’re doing.  In the AL, I’ve named 9 pitchers, 9 starters, and 9 bench players.  I need to have 11 pitchers (a 12th will be nominated by the fans) and 9 bench players (two more will come from the fans), so I have two spots, both pitchers up.  The problem is that I still owe Tampa Bay an All-Star (so far they’ve only placed Navarro), the Angels get two, and the Tigers still need one.  Uh oh…  In the NL, I’ve named 11 pitchers, 9 starters, and 9 bench players, which means that my roster is full and the D’Backs are short one of their promised players.  So much for my perfect system.
In the real All-Star game, the Angels are sending K-Rod (35 saves!), Ervin Santana, and Joe Saunders.  Santana and Saunders are ranked 10th and 11th in VORP among starters, so it’s not a bad deal.  K-Rod is 12th among relievers in VORP.  Santana and Saunders have the better cases.  There’s nobody on the Angels offense worth mentioning, so the Angels get those two pitching slots.  Anyone else that I add from here on out will have to come on at the expense of someone else being kicked off the team. 
The Rays’ top hitter VORP wise has been Evan Longoria.  Their top pitcher has been Scott Kazmir.  Longoria can bump Aubrey Huff who really isn’t a third baseman, even though Huff is having a good year.  The Orioles have Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis to feel good about.  Should Kazmir bump one of the pitchers?  Shaun Marcum really is getting by on luck.  Scott Downs isn’t a closer and that means that he’s a bad pitcher.  Do the Blue Jays really need three pitchers?  Kazmir is probably deep down the better pitcher, but Marcum’s numbers are better.  The tie-breaker?  The Rays really are the feel-good story of the summer and it seems a shame to keep Kazmir off the team. 
The Tigers have Miguel Cabrera and Magglio Ordonez to brag about, with Cabrera being the better of the two.  Justin Morneau looks like the undeserving odd man out.  Oh well, he at least sorta won the Home Run Derby.
The Diamondbacks would make sense to either send Conor Jackson (replacing Aramis Ramirez, since there are two backup 3bs right now?) or Brandon Webb (replacing Durbin, as it occurs to me that the Phillies have Durbin, Hamels, Lidge, Utley, and Burrell, and the maximum allowable is four.)  Looks like Brandon Webb and his wins just squeeze on to my team.
Wow.  Remind me never to become a World Series winning manager.  Or a World Series losing manager.
The final rosters (*-indicates a real life All-Star):
American League
c: Mauer*, Navarro*
1b: Youklis*, Giambi, Cabrera
2b: Kinsler*, Roberts
3b: Rodriguez*, Longoria*
ss: Young*, Jeter*
of: Sizemore*, Hamilton*, Drew*, Markakis, Quentin*, M. Ramirez*
dh: Bradley*
p: Cl. Lee*, Duchscherer*, Halladay*, Danks, Kazmir*, E. Santana*, Saunders*, Downs, Nathan*, Soria*, Rivera*
Plus three fan ballots (infielder, outfielder, pitcher)
Actual All-Stars who didn’t make it: Pedroia, Ortiz, Papelbon, Varitek (oh great, the Red Sox fans will filet me for kicking out four Bostonians), Sherrill, Morneau, Crede, Guillen
National League
c: McCann*, Doumit
1b: Berkman*, D. Lee
2b: Uggla*, Utley*
3b: Jones*, A. Ramirez*, Wright
ss: H. Ramirez*, Furcal
of: Burrell, Holliday*, Bay, Ca. Lee, Ludwick*, McLouth*
dh: Pujols*
p: Sheets*, Lincecum*, Hamels, Zambrano*, Volquez*, J. Santana, D. Haren*, Webb*, Bell, Lidge*, Wilson*
Plus three fan ballots (infielder, outfielder, pitcher) 
Actual All-Stars who didn’t make it: Soto, Braun, Fukudome, Soriano, Cook, Dempster, Wagner, Wood, Martin, Gonzalez, Guzman, Tejada, Hart

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9 Responses to Who should be playing in tonight’s All-Star Game

  1. Shouldn’t there be a consideration towards not taking injured players? Furcal hasn’t played since the beginning of May and Marcum has been on the DL for nearly a month.

  2. Shane says:

    I’m a Sox fan and I don’t blame you for bumping four Boston players. I think if you’re injured you should be off the ballot. David Ortiz is my favorite player, but he can’t play and he’s going to win the vote anyway, blocking somebody else that can play from winning a spot outright. Nobody wants to be second favorite. Pedroia has been great, but Kinsler has been greater. Papelbon has not been an allstar lately. And Varitek has the esteem of his peers…
    All in all I like your system and your team.

  3. Pizza Cutter says:

    How on earth did I miss that… brain fart…

  4. lisa says:

    well, i look at the ASG a little differently than you do because i don’t care about buddy boy and his stupid “this time it counts” garbage, i think the ASG is an exhibition game and it should be guys the fans WANT to see. in fact, i think the entire team should be voted for by the fans. it shouldn’t matter in the least who wins/loses. so if they want to see ken griffey hobbling in right, they should get to see him.
    the ASG isn’t an awards show, it is supposed to be an EXHIBITION.
    and, by the way, dontchu think there is something a little wrong with a system where you put injured players out on the field along with healthy ones? that is kewl for an AWARD, not an actual BASEBALL GAME!!!!
    and speaking as a FAN watching an EXHIBITION game, you know, those of us who root for lousy teams would really like to see at least ONE of our guys get a chance instead of The Usual Suspects. yeah, i know my team got lucky enough to have a numbers person this year, but hey, it’s not like i can’t watch all the numbers guys bout every day of the season if i want to.
    but if i want to watch a baseball game whose criteria of choosing players is some value over an imaginary terrible player who couldn’t exist any more than a pregnant man could, then that is what diamond mind is for.
    you know, i like most stats more than most fans do except fpor the idiocy of comparing real baseball players to non-existent ones, but this is really carrying stats stuff too freaking far.

  5. DanC says:

    If WPA/LI is all about hitting, why would you use it to measure pitchers? What am I missing here?
    And where’s your boy, Adam Dunn? I thought he was so much better than Jason Bay.

  6. Sky says:

    No fielding credit? Including it probably kicks off Manny, Markakis, and Quentin in the AL in favor of some combination of Upton, Damon, Dye, and Magglio. And in the NL, Carlos Lee, Ludwick, and McLouth would be replaced with some combination of Carlos Beltran (well, definitely Beltran), Giles, and Ankiel, and well, just those three, really.

  7. Pizza Cutter says:

    Dan Uggla proved last night that no one cares about defense in the ASG.

  8. dan says:

    DanC–
    WPA/LI works for pitchers just as well.

  9. kevin says:

    I agree with Lisa’s point. All the statistical effort in the article is based on the assumption that the team should be chosen based on stats for the first 80 games of the current season. Why should this be so? You at least need to acknowledge this bias and explain why it’s better than having players chosen based on their whole careers.

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