Saturday, July 11, 2015

American League All Star Post

The All Star rosters have been announced for both teams.  As always, there is much debate about who is on the team, who isn’t on the team and the voting process.  There was a lot of focus this year about the fans in Kansas City taking over the vote and putting every single Royals starter into the starting lineup for the AL All Star Team.  They came close, but clearer heads prevailed from around the country as voters did a nice job stopping the most egregious parties from winning starting spots. 

Here’s the issue with baseball’s All Star Game:  this game is an exhibition by its very nature.  It’s an opportunity for everyone across the U.S. to watch players they don’t usually see play each other.  But now we are saddled with this asinine idea that an exhibition game played between two teams of All Stars representing less than 10% of the players in the game (less than 1% of from any particular team) should decide which of the 2 best teams in the game should have the advantage of home field in the World Series.  The correlation is weak and nonsensical.  The teams potentially involved in the World Series have little to no say in what happens in the All Star Game. What if Washington sees Harper get hurt before Sunday and Scherzer pitch on the Sunday before the game?  Then they would have no one involved in a game that could be very important to them if they make it to the World Series, which is a real possibility.

What’s the big deal?  So the game counts for something.  Is that the worst thing in the world?  Not in and of itself.  But it creates complications.  The focus becomes on winning, instead of rewarding players who have had a great first half.  Most people agree that the rosters should be made up of the best position players, starting pitchers and perhaps some closers.  If it’s a celebration of the best baseball has to offer, it only makes sense that players with the most impact on the game should be the focus.  While relievers are valuable and underappreciated, the fact is that they mathematically have less impact than any other position in the game.

Ned Yost has 13 roster spots for pitchers.  He used 7 on relievers.  And 3 of those are full-time middle relievers.  The All Star Game should be about excitement and novelty.  It shouldn’t be about watching a middle reliever (albeit a good one) be brought in for one hitter, even though that is what generally happens in these games.  It should be about Clayton Keshaw facing Mike Trout in the 6th inning. 

In short, making this game count for something changes the way it is played and chosen.  And if it is really so important, then MLB has no business letting fans (who are largely uninformed and ruled by passion) choose the starters.  This game should be an exhibition.  It should be fun.  All the changes MLB has made to it now make it neither.

Ok, rant over.  Let’s take a look at the rosters, talk about who did get chosen and who should have been chosen.

American League Starters

C          Salvador Perez          262/13 HR/34 RBI/26 R/1 SB

Not a bad choice to be on the team, but the wrong choice to start.  Perez is second among qualified catchers in AVG and fourth in RBI and R.  He is tied for first in HR and hasn’t had a bad year.  But he rode the Royals wave into the starting lineup when he should have been the second or third choice.

1B       Miguel Cabrera         350/15 HR/54 RBI/43 R/1 SB

Anytime anyone is hitting 350, then it’s hard not to have them in the All Star game.  Cabrera leads all AL first basemen in AVG, as he is the leading hitter in baseball.  That being said, he’s only 5th in HR and R and 4th in RBI.  He also doesn’t have a special distinction about him to set him apart as his defense is subpar and he doesn’t steal bases.  But 350 is impressive.  However, with his injury he’ll miss the game and the start will go to someone as deserving, but having a completely different kind of year.

2B       Jose Altuve                 299/7 HR/36 RBI/43 R/24 SB      

He’s not a bad choice.  He leads the AL in stolen bases and is coming off a year in which he won the batting title.  His AVG is tied for third among AL second basemen and he’s fourth in R.  I like Altuve and think he is worthy of a spot on the roster.  But he shouldn’t be the starter.

SS        Alcides Escobar         282/2 HR/31 RBI/41 R/5 SB

Escobar is hitting 291, third among qualified leaders at short in the AL.  He doesn’t have a lot of power but is third in RBI and second in R.  This is just a weak position with only two players hitting double digit HRs (both of which have spent most of their time playing other positions), two with double digit stolen base totals and two hitting over 300. Escobar may have gotten in due to the Royals get out the vote campaign, but he’s not a bad choice to start and may even be the best choice.

3B       Josh Donaldson         300/21 HR/58 RBI/64 R/3 SB

This was the right choice.  Donaldson is hitting 302 at this point, tops among all true first basemen in baseball (Miguel Cabrera, Jose Iglesias and Xander Bogaerts aren’t real third basemen).  He also leads all third basemen in HR, RBI and R and has swiped 3 bags while playing great defense and getting on base at a 361 clip.  His HR total is 5th among all AL players, his RBI total is second and he leads the junior circuit in runs scored.  He is having a great season and definitely deserves to start the All Star game. 

OF       Lorenzo Cain              305/6 HR/36 RBI/48 R/16 SB

Cain rode the Royal wave into the game.  His AVG is third among AL outfielders and his stolen base total is second.  He doesn’t rank near the top in HR or RBI but appears 5th in R and 6th in OBP.  He also plays an excellent center field and can play right field as well.   Perhaps deserving of a roster spot, he shouldn’t be starting.

OF       Alex Gordon               280/11 HR/39 RBI/31 R/1 SB

This is the outfield selection I have an issue with.  Gordon has the 14th best AVG, he’s only gone 1 for 4 on the bases and he’s tied for 11th in HR and 14th in RBI.  He’s 29th in R.  The only important stat where he ranks in the top 10 is on-base percentage, where he’s second.  I like Gordon and think he may be the best defensive left fielder in the game.  But left field is one of the easiest positions to play defensively.  I have doubts as to whether Gordon should be on this team at all, much less starting.  However, this may be moot as a recent injury will keep him out of the game.

OF       Mike Trout                 302/22 HR/48 RBI/62 R/9 SB

Trout is the clear choice to start in the outfield.  If there were only room for one outfielder for some reason, it would be Mike Trout.  He is the best player in baseball. Trout ranks third among AL outfielders in AVG.  He’s tied for the lead in HR (now with 24) and is tied for fourth in RBI.  He’s 15th in SB and tied for second in the league in runs scored.  He also leads all AL outfielders in OBP and plays a Gold Glove caliber center field.  Everyone got this right. 

American League Reserves

C          Russell Martin           250/12 HR/39 RBI/48 R/4 SB

Marin is deserving of a nod.  His AVG is only fourth among qualified starters at catcher in the league.  But he’s second in HR among backstops, third in RBI and first in R and SB. He’s also may be having the best defensive season behind the plate this year.

C          Stephen Vogt             293/13 HR/54 RBI/40 R

Behold:  the man who should be starting the American League All Star game at catcher.  Vogt is the leading hitter among AL catchers, leads them in RBI, is tied for first in HR and is second in R.  Playing in Oakland can get you overlooked and that is unfortunately what happened in this case.  While many of these decisions can go any number of ways, I think this is one of the few times where there is a clear choice for who should start the game at a position, and the public missed it.

1B       Prince Fielder                        344/13 HR/50 RBI/41 R

Prince Fielder is second in the league and at his position with a 345 AVG.  Fielder is tied for 10th in HR and 7th in RBI in what has turned out to be a very strong group of AL first basemen.  His other totals don’t warrant this spot, but you understand Yost carrying four first basemen in an attempt to reward a guy hitting 345.  I may have selected a different player (though not necessarily a first baseman) but don’t think this is a bad choice.

1B       Albert Pujols              264/26 HR/56 RBI/51 R/1 SB

Pujols leads all AL first baseman in HR and R.  He’s second in RBI, but his AVG is not anywhere near as strong as others at the position as he ranks 9th out of the 19 qualified first basemen in the league.  Batting average is often overrated nowadays and Pujols has great value as a slugger and guy who can work a walk.  He’s also a better defender than Cabrera.  With the injury to Cabrera, Pujols will start and I think he is the right choice to take the job.   

1B       Mark Teixeira                        239/20 HR/59 RBI/39 R/1 SB

Mark Teixeira is having a comeback year.  Like Pujols, his AVG isn’t great (in fact it’s not good at all).  But he’s second in HR and first in RBI.  In fact, he leads the entire AL with his 59 RBI (61 now).  While I put less stock in RBI than others, I am impressed by his ability to drive in runs and his power is legit.  And his defense is excellent so that’s a bonus.  Not a bad choice, even if there are better ones. 

2B       Jason Kipnis               336/6 HR/36 RBI/56 R/10 SB

This is one of the bigger snubs in the AL.  He is on the team, which is good.  But he should be starting over Altuve.  He leads all AL second basemen in batting average (and is third in the AL in the batting race).  He is also second in R (ahead of Altuve), third in RBI (ahead of Altuve) and second in SB (behind Altuve).  He has one fewer HR, leads Altuve in AVG by 36 points and in OBP by 70 points.  Kipnis is having the best season at second base by far with only one other person coming close to dethroning him….and that person is not Jose Altuve.  Perhaps all three should be on the team.  But Kipnis is clearly the one who deserves to start.

SS        Jose Iglesias               319/1 HR/14 RBI/ 19 R/9 SB

Iglesias is leading all AL shortstops with a 324 batting average.  As I mentioned earlier, this is a weak group of hitters.  He’s tied for third in SB and has a good glove, but most shortstops do.  I guess having the top AVG (and 324 is good for any position…though a lot of people think he’s very lucky) is enough to get you a spot as a reserve with no better options.

3B       Manny Machado       302/18 HR/47 RBI/54 R/13 SB

Machado is second among true AL third basemen in AVG, behind only Josh Donaldson.  He is tied for second in HR and second in RBI (again, among true second basemen…Chris Davis and Miguel Cabrera don’t play third often).  He’s second in R and first in stolen bases.  And he’s an even better defender than Donaldson.  He’s a great player who deserves to be in the game.  He just has the unfortunate luck to be ranked behind one other player in almost every category, and that player (Donaldson) got the starting nod. 

UTIL    Brock Holt                  294/2 HR/21 RBI/30 R/5 SB

Brock Holt is an interesting case.  He has played very well hitting 294 and has enough RBI and R to rank in the top 20 of both third basemen and second basemen.  But Brock Holt doesn’t play any position exclusively.  So it’s hard to rank him among his positional peers.  He is having a good year, but has only played in 68 games.  I like him.  But think the game would be better served with another strong infielder like Brian Dozier or Luis Valbuena or Carlos Correa in the game. Yost elevated Holt to All Star status purely to have a backup sitting on his bench to play any position that he needs him for.  If this game was treated like the exhibition it should be, he wouldn’t be playing in this game.

OF       Jose Bautista              239/17 HR/58 RBI/54 R/3 SB

If it weren’t for his batting average, Jose Bautista would be starting this game.  He leads all AL outfielders in RBI, is third in runs scored and is fifth in HR.  He’s also third in OBP and plays a phenomenal right field with one of the best arms in the game.  He is the poster boy of why batting average is often overrated.  It’s a good starting point, but not the most important stat.  Bautista is one of the best outfielders in the game, even hitting under 240.  I love his selection on the team and would have him start over Gordon and Cain.

OF       Adam Jones                288/11 HR/ 40 RBI/40 R/3 SB

This was tough for me.  Adam Jones is an underrated player, even at this stage in his career, because he doesn’t excel at anything.  Instead, he’s really good at everything. The one thing that sets him apart is his defense, as many people think he may be the best defensive center fielder in the American League.  But so far, this isn’t his year.  He’s 11th in AVG and HR, 13th in RBI and 15th in R.  As much as I like Jones, I don’t support this pick.  There are a number of other players, some outfielders and some not, that I would put in his place.

OF       J.D. Martinez              289/24 HR/58 RBI/53 R/2 SB

Here is a player that I might have put in the starting lineup.  He’s 8th in AVG among AL outfielders.  He is tied with Mike Trout for the AL outfielder lead in HR (second in the league).  He is second among AL outfielders in RBI (4th in the league).  He’s tied for third in R and is second in both slugging percentage and OPS.  He also plays a very good defensive right field.  For me, I think Martinez and Jose Bautista should join Mike Trout in the starting AL outfield, certainly ahead of Gordon and marginally ahead of Lorenzo Cain.  At least he’s on the team, but he deserves a starting nod in my opinion.

American League Pitchers

SP        Chris Archer              9-6 2.74 ERA, 147 Ks, 121.2 IP, 1.02 WHIP

Great choice.  His ERA is 7th in the AL, he’s tied for second in Ks and is third in IP.  Both his WHIP and BAA are miniscule and he’s tied for third in Wins.

SP        Sonny Gray                9-3, 2.20 ERA, 102 Ks, 114.2 IP, 1.01 WHIP

Another great choice.  Gray has the second best ERA in the league.  He may only be 12th in Ks and 7th in IP, but he’s also got 9 Wins (tied for third), a phenomenal WHIP and the third best batting average against in the league. 

SP        Felix Hernandez        10-5, 3.02 ERA, 106 K, 110.1 IP, 1.07 WHIP, 2 CG, 2 SHO

This one is, surprisingly, not the best choice.  While he’s had a great career and is a big star, I just think there were better options.  Yost had to have a Mariner, though I would argue there was a better choice in Seattle who could have taken King Felix’s spot.  His numbers aren’t bad.  His ERA is 11th and he is tied for second in Wins.  He’s 11th in IP and 9th in Ks.  The only stats where he jumps off the page are WHIP (5th) and BAA (6th).  I like Hernandez a lot, but think there were better options for his roster spot this year.

SP        Dallas Keuchel           11-3, 2.14 ERA, 110 Ks, 130 IP, 0.99 WHIP, 3 CG, 2 SHO

This one was easy.  Keuchel may be having the best season among AL pitchers.  He leads the league in ERA, Wins and IP.  His WHIP and BAA are second best. And he’s 5th in Ks this year.  He was the obvious choice for me this year and I think he should get the nod to start the whole game.

SP        David Price                8-2, 2.54 ERA, 107 Ks, 117 IP, 1.13 WHIP, 3 CG, 1 SHO

Price is one of those tricky guys.  I think he’s played well enough to be an All Star.  But there are others more deserving than him that aren’t on the team.  However, I think he should still be on the team, perhaps in place of some of the middle relievers Yost selected.  Price is 5th in ERA and IP, 7th in Ks and tied for 9th in Wins.  His WHIP is better than average, but not elite.  His BAA is decidedly average.  I like him, but think there are others more deserving.

SP        Chris Sale                   7-4, 2.80 ERA, 147 Ks, 112.1 IP, 0.94 WHIP, 1 CG

Chris Sale is one of the guys I would consider to start the game.  Sale is 8th in ERA, despite having a fantastic one.  However he is second in Ks and leads the league in WHIP and BAA.  He’s only got 7 Wins, but he’s made 2 fewer starts due to injury and plays for a bad team.  He is filthy and has put himself into the conversation for best pitcher in baseball.  I think Keuchel is still my pick to start the game, but Sale is number 2.

RP       Darren O’Day                        2/4 Save, 1.10 ERA, 43 K, 32.2 IP, 0.80 WHIP, 7 HLD

Darren O’Day is a very good pitcher.  But he doesn’t belong in this game.  He’s a great middle reliever, but this game shouldn’t carry middle relievers.  He’s not a closer and doesn’t even rank near the top of the league in Holds.  He’s not more worthy than a couple of the starters that were left off this list.

RP       Glen Perkins              28/28 Saves, 1.24 ERA, 35 K, 36.1 IP, 0.85 WHIP

Perkins leads the AL in Saves.  If you have to carry a closer (and I’ll say you should), then he’s not a bad choice.  His ERA, WHIP and BAA are all excellent; he has a perfect Save record and a little better than one strikeout per inning.  He’s not elite, but in a weak group of AL closers has had the best season.  I’m okay with this selection.

RP       Dellin Betances          7/9 Saves, 1.61 ERA, 73 K, 44.2 IP, 0.83 WHIP, 12 HLD

Betances is downright filthy.  He started the year as a middle reliever and notched 12 Holds, tied for 8th in the league.  His WHIP, ERA and BAA are incredibly good.  He has more Ks among relievers than anyone. He is incredible and has become the closer.  He’s played well there (don’t let that 7 for 9 fool you…as a middle reliever you can blow a Save but don’t have opportunities to get one).  He is maybe the best middle reliever in baseball and now one of the better closers.  Because he is a closer now, I would give him the nod. 

RP       Brad Boxberger         20/22 Saves, 3.55 ERA, 45 K, 33 IP, 1.39 WHIP, 1 HLD

No.  Not even close.  This may be the most egregious of all of AL picks.  Boxberger has gotten himself 20 Saves thus far.  That’s impressive.  But his 3.55 ERA is monstrously high for a middle reliever, specifically a closer.  He has a good K rate, but his WHIP is terrible.  Those two numbers alone should disqualify him from being on the All Star team.  It makes no sense and is the worst pick I’ve seen yet.

RP       Zach Britton               23/24 Saves, 1.77 ERA, 41 K, 35.2 IP, 1.04 WHIP

Britton has had a good year.  Third in Saves.  Among closers, his ERA is good, but not great.  His WHIP is very good and his BAA is solid.  He has better than 1 K per inning..  But Perkins is having a better year in all but one category and Betances is far more dominant.  You don’t need more than 2 relievers.  Britton isn’t in the top 2.

RP       Wade Davis                9 /9 Saves, 0.24 ERA, 41 K, 37 IP, 0.84 WHIP, 11 HLD

This is the one problem with my system.  Wade Davis is probably the second most dominant reliever in the AL (right up there with Dellin Betances).  But he’s clearly a middle reliever.  He’s gotten Save opportunities with Greg Holland missing time and has been perfect in them.  Davis is tied for 12th in Holds, but has the best ERA in baseball.  He also has one of the best WHIPs and BAAs.  He is great, but, in my book, he is a middle reliever and has too little effect on the game to get an All Star spot.  His 9 Saves are actually more than Betances, but Betances is now the closer.  The fact that Betances is a closer and Davis is not even though Davis has more Saves than Betances is what makes this tricky.  Since he’s not a starter or closer, I normally would not consider him at all.  I’m okay with his selection, but don’t like the idea of giving middle relievers roster spots, even if they are the best ones in their league.

RP       Kelvin Hererra          0/2 Saves, 2.14 ERA, 36 K, 33.2 IP, 0.98 WHIP, 12 HLD

Hererra is having a great season as a set up man.  But his ERA is not as good as others, his K rate isn’t either and he’s only tied for 8th in Holds.  He’s good, but I think he is the second easiest to remove from this list.  Davis is incredible, even as a set up man with 9 Saves.  Betances is the most dominant reliever in the league.  Perkins is having a good year with the most Saves (though I now think that he’s third on my list).  I wouldn’t take Hererra, who is very good.  Middle relievers don’t have enough of an impact to be in this game.

AL Final Vote

3B       Mike Moustakas        301/7 HR/31 RBI/39 R/1 SB (Winner of Final Vote)
2B       Brian Dozier               260/18 HR/45 RBI/64 R/9 SB
OF       Yoenis Cespedes       291/12 HR/46 RBI/50 R/3 SB
OF       Brett Gardner                        298/9 HR/39 RBI/61 R/15 SB
SS        Xander Bgaerts         304/3 HR/41 RBI/38 R/4 SB

Brett Gardner has already been tabbed to replace the injured Alex Gordon.  That’s good because my vote was between him and another guy.  Also, while no injury is good, it does take Alex Gordon, the weakest All Star selection at outfield, off the roster. 

So with him in, I focused my vote on Brian Dozier. Dozier is easily in the top three second basemen in the AL this year.  Dozier’s 260 AVG is fine, but not All Star worthy ranking 8th out of AL second basemen.  But the rest of his numbers are excellent.  He leads all second basemen in HR, RBI and R.  He’s also third in SB.  So while his AVG isn’t great, looking beyond that we can see that every other counting stat from him is elite.  This is why batting average is overrated.  Dozier, despite his batting average (which is better than the MLB average btw), is one of the best second basemen in the AL this year, worthy of a roster spot and I’d say even more worthy than Altuve.

After Dozier and Gardner, the only other guy I’d consider would be Yoenis Cespedes.  Cespedes is tied for 8th in AVG, is 10th in HR, 6th in RBI and is tied for 5th in R.  He doesn’t scream snub to me, but he is more deserving than Alex Gordon and Adam Jones.

However this is now moot, as the winner of the final vote was Mike Moustakas, the man who would have been fourth on my list of the five in the final vote.  He’s having a good year, but is not the most deserving.

AL Snubs

There are several levels of snubs.  There are guys who are on the team who should be starting, but aren’t.  There are guys who should be on the team, but aren’t.  And then there are guys who should be starting, but aren’t even on the team.  We’ll roll through each position real fast and see what snubs, if any, should be brought to the public’s attention.

C          Stephen Vogt

He’s on the team, but clearly deserves to be starting.

1B       Nobody

There are 4 first basemen.  All have legitimate reasons to be there.  But if Prince Fielder wasn’t hitting 345, his argument would be weak as no other stat jumps off the page.

2B       Jason Kipnis, Brian Dozier

As we covered above, Kipnis is snubbed only in the fact that he is a reserve, when he should be starting.  I like Altuve, but Kipnis is his better in almost every statistical category so far this year.  Dozier is the bigger snub, as he’s not on the team at all. He should probably be the number 2 second baseman, above Altuve.  Altuve isn’t a bad option to be on the team, but in my book he’s the third best second baseman this season.

SS        Nobody

This is a weak group of shortstops.  It’s almost worth asking Manny Machado to play short and adding another third baseman to the mix.  It’s frustrating that Brian Dozier is not on the team when he is playing better than every AL shortstop. 

3B       Nobody

Mike Moustakas is having a good year.  But he’s not more deserving of the final vote than Gardner, Dozier or Cespedes.  Luis Valbuena and Brett Lawrie are also worthy of recognition, but aren’t snubs. 

OF       Billy Burns, Nelson Cruz

Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes are also having good years.  They are worthy of recognition but aren’t snubs. 

Nelson Cruz is really more of a DH, but he’s played some OF and that’s how I’m listing him in this post.  Cruz is hitting 300 (4th among AL OF) with 21 HR (3rd among AL OF) and 51 RBI (3rd among AL OF).  This is a clear snub, though perhaps due to the fact that he was frequently a DH.  I’d put him before Gordon, Jones and Cain. 

The other guy is someone most people haven’t heard of.  It’s because he’s a rookie with the Oakland A’s.  But Burns leads all AL OF in AVG and SB.  He’s hitting 318 with 17 SB.  His HR/RBI totals may not be overly impressive, but he’s a great defensive center fielder who has elite AVG and SB totals, gets on at a 354 clip and has scored 36 R in only 59 games.  He is the biggest AL snub this year and the fact that he was largely ignored despite his obvious worthiness for the team is a testament to the issues with the voting and selection process.  Yost had no business overlooking him.  Perhaps his hands were tied since Gordon and Cain were selected by the fans, but you’re naïve if you think he’d overlook his own guys for this rookie, who is more deserving than both.

Pitchers          Scott Kazmir, Yovani Gallardo, Hector Santiago

This is a case where Yost chose far too many relievers to win the game.  Winning the game shouldn’t matter.  It should be an exhibition with nothing tied to it.  Rather, we should just see the best players with the biggest impact.  In my opinion, there are 5 too many relievers on the team.  I’d put these starters ahead of any reliever and easily get all three on the team.

If I had to knock off other starters, I’d say these three are more deserving than Felix Hernandez and right up with David Price. 

Okay that’s it for snubs.  Alex Rodriguez has had a good year, but I don’t think he’s better than the other infield options.  Perhaps better than the shortstops, but he can’t play that position anymore.  So really, the big snubs are Dozier and Billy Burns.  Vogt and Kipnis should be starters instead of reserves.  And Kazmir, Gallardo and Santiago should be on the team ahead of a number of relievers and maybe a starter or two, but as long as this exhibition has home field attached to it, we will see decisions based more on winning than rewarding achievement, which is what an All Star game should be about.

NL roster breakdown and snubs coming soon.

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