Every year. Every year, I join in a chorus of statistical slaves railing against the fan vote, this year witnessed by Derek Jeter (14th in WAR* among AL shortstops, with a paltry 0.2) getting a starting nod. Jeter is at least chasing 3,000 hits. There’s even less explanation for Josh Hamilton (1.6 WAR, 12th among AL outfielders.)
But this year, I’m not stopping there. The whole selection process is pretty silly. Bruce Bochy used his managerial picks to give Ryan Vogelsong an All-Star nod, which raised a lot of eyebrows around the league. But Vogelsong (1.9 WAR, 20th among NL starters) isn’t even the worst offender. Jose Valverde made the squad despite a 0.4 WAR (38th among AL relievers,) as did Brandon League, who is tied with him.
And then there’s Jay Bruce, whose 0.9 WAR ranks him 39th among NL outfielders.
Meanwhile, Bochy snubbed his own third baseman, Pablo Sandoval, who leads all NL third basemen with 2.0 WAR. Sandoval isn’t alone; he’s tied at the top with Chase Headley, who also wasn’t voted in. Neither were Ryan Roberts (1.9) – who wasn’t even on the printed All-Star ballot – or Aramis Ramirez (1.6). That’s right, the NL’s starting third baseman, Placido Polanco, ranks fifth. The reserve third baseman, Chipper Jones, ranks tenth.
The second base situation in the AL is almost as bad. Robinson Cano (2.4, 5th among AL 2B) was voted the starter, and Howie Kendrick (3rd with 3.1) is the backup, leaving Dustin Pedroia (1st with 3.7) as proof that even big-market players aren’t exempt. He’ll have company watching the game; the Rays’ Ben Zobrist is 2nd with 3.6 WAR, and also didn’t receive a nod.
David Robertson is tied with his bullpen mate, Mariano Rivera, to lead all AL relievers with a 1.5 WAR, but he’ll be sitting at home, also.
But it is what it is, and most of the guys who belong there end up there, one way or the other. But would it kill Major League Baseball to rectify this situation somehow? Maybe give the General Managers a vote? Maybe SABR? I don’t know; but I do know that something needs to change. The guys who earn All-Star nods must be allowed to play in the All-Star Game.
I’m all for the idea of the fan vote: Fans should be able to watch their favorite players take the field in July against one another. But if a player out-performs every other player at his position, he should be on that field.
As is my tradition, I’ve taken the liberty of creating my own All-Star team, based on statistics, while maintaining current MLB rules (i.e. at least one player from each team**).
So, without further ado, my own choices for the 68 Major League All-Stars:
C: Brian McCann (ATL)
1B: Joey Votto (CIN)
2B: Rickie Weeks (MIL)
3B: Chase Headley (SDP)
SS: Jose Reyes (NYM)
OF: Matt Kemp (LAD), Andrew McCutcheon (PIT), Ryan Braun (MIL)
SP: Roy Halladay (PHI)
Cole Hamels (PHI), Cliff Lee (PHI), Clayton Kershaw (LAD), Jair Jurrjens (ATL), Jonny Venters (ATL), Craig Kimbrel (ATL), Eric O’Flaherty (ATL), Mike Adams (SDP), Carlos Marmol (CHC), Ian Kennedy (ARI), Daniel Hudson (ARI), Matt Cain (SFG)
C Miguel Montero (ARI), 1B Prince Fielder (MIL), 2B Danny Espinosa (WSN), 3B Pablo Sandoval (SFG), SS Troy Tulowitzki (COL), OF Shane Victorino (PHI), OF Michael Bourn (HOU), OF Matt Holliday (STL), OF Carlos Beltran (HOU), 1B Gaby Sanchez (FLA), 2B Brandon Phillips (CIN), OF/1B Lance Berkman (STL), 3B Ryan Roberts (ARI)
C: Alex Avila (DET)
1B: Adrian Gonzalez (BOS)
2B: Dustin Pedroia (BOS)
3B: Alex Rodriguez (NYY)
SS: Asdrubal Cabrera (CLE)
OF: Jose Bautista (TOR), Curtis Granderson (NYY), Jacoby Ellsbury (BOS)
DH: David Ortiz (BOS)
SP: Jered Weaver (LAA)
Justin Verlander (DET), CC Sabathia (NYY), Josh Beckett (BOS), James Shields (TBR), David Robertson (NYY), Mariano Rivera (NYY), Jim Johnson (BAL), Aaron Crow (KCR), Sergio Santos (CWS), Felix Hernandez (SEA), C.J. Wilson (TEX), Gio Gonzalez (OAK)
C Matt Wieters (BAL), 1B Miguel Cabrera (DET), 2B Ben Zobrist (TBR), 3B Kevin Youkilis (BOS), SS Jhonny Peralta (DET), OF Alex Gordon (KCR), OF Denard Span (MIN), OF Brett Gardner (NYY), DH Victor Martinez (DET), OF Matthew Joyce (TBR), OF Carlos Quentin (CWS), 2B Howie Kendrick (LAA)
* I calculated WAR by averaging bWAR and fWAR.
** Yankees 6, Red Sox 6, Braves 5, Tigers 5, Diamondbacks 4, Phillies 4, Brewers 3, Rays 3, Reds 2, Dodgers 2, Mets 2, Padres 2, Giants 2, Cardinals 2, Angels 2, Royals 2, Cubs 1, Rockies 1, Marlins 1, Astros 1, Pirates 1, Nationals 1, Blue Jays 1, Rangers 1, Mariners 1, Athletics 1, Twins 1, Indians 1
For all intents and purposes, the Astros have always had an ace. A dominant pitcher who could be given the ball every fifth game and be expected to shut down the opposing team as often as not. In 2001, a skinny, unseemly right-hander from Weir, Mississippi was called up in May and asked to do just that. Less than a month later, he was entered into the starting rotation, and the team won the next eight games he started, with him collecting the W in six of the eight games.
He went 12-2 as a starter that year, with three complete games including a shutout. He threw 127.2 innings as a starter, with 130 strikeouts, 17 walks, a 2.82 ERA, and a 1.03 WHIP. He was second in Rookie of the Year voting, fifth in Cy Young voting, and 22nd in MVP voting.
Eight seasons later, Roy Oswalt is the undisputed ace of the Houston rotation, but in 2001 – despite the tremendous year by Wade Miller – the ace was Shane Reynolds, who went 14-11 with a 4.34 ERA. Not ace-type numbers, but Reynolds had been the de facto ace since his 16-win campaign in 1996. Though Darryl Kile and a young Mike Hampton also pitched well for that team, Reynolds was clearly the leader.
Before Reynolds’ emergence, most people would probably have pointed at veteran Doug Drabek. Before that, Pete Harnisch. Mike Scott. Nolan Ryan.
Other teams, on the other hand, have trouble defining an ace. Specifically, the Pittsburgh Pirates – an intradivisional foe – have had a string of seriously bad luck with their aces.
In 2006, after a 14-win campaign, Ian Snell was annointed with the “ace” title. Entering the 2009 season, he has only managed 16 wins in the two years since then. In 2007, Tom Gorzelanny was the 14-game winner on the roster, and now he finds himself in minor league camp.
It seems that, as an organization, the top of the Pirates’ rotation has been befuddling at least since Oliver Perez’s Dr. Jekyll-and-Mr. Hyde act from 2004-2006. This year, their hope lies in the left arm of Paul Maholm.
Maholm is a sinkerball pitcher who has gone 19-24 over the past two seasons with 244 K and 112 BB in 384 IP. Over that time, he has an ERA of 4.31 and a WHIP of 1.35. His DIPS was 4.26 and his DICE was 4.18. By almost any metric, saber or otherwise, he’s at best an above-average pitcher.
And last month, they awarded him with a three-year, $14.5m contract to avoid arbitration.
That’s a lot of money for a guy who had 2.7 Value Wins a year ago. So does Maholm have ace-type stuff, or is he merely benefitting from being part of a weak pitching staff?
Maholm’s VORP in 2008 was 40.8 – 30th in the majors among pitchers with a minimum 100 IP. Roy Oswalt’s 43.3 was just five spots ahead at 25th. It was almost double the next-highest VORP on the team, reliever John Grabow with 22.3, and far away above Zach Duke, who had the second-highest VORP among Pirates starters in 2008 with 5.3.
Compare that to Gorzelanny in 2007, whose 41.5 VORP was 31st in the majors and just 0.2 ahead of rotation-mate Ian Snell. In 2008, Gorzelanny’s VORP had tumbled to -13.2; in other words, worse than a replacement-level player. Snell’s was “better” at -3.9, but hardly good. There is some indication that Snell, at least, was the victim of bad luck, as his BABIP was a hefty .360, compared to Maholm’s .298.
But Pirates coaches believe Maholm has the mental makeup of an ace, which can of course be important. Pitching coach Joe Kerrigan, who used to work with the Yankees and the Red Sox, told Sporting News “If you’ve seen him throwing on the side, see his understanding of the
game, the understanding of his craft — pitching — you can tell he has
a great idea,” Kerrigan said. “He’s a coach’s dream. The effort he puts
into the side sessions, his bullpen sessions, is translated into the
That’s great, but it doesn’t exactly make him an ace.
Maholm has been coolly efficient this spring, going 2-0 with a 0.46 ERA, 12 K, and 1 BB in 19.2 IP. He’s run out of innings in games well before hitting the maximum pitch count set aside by his coaches this spring.
Considering the rapid falls from grace many of the Pirates’ other “aces” have seen in recent years, it’s definitely too early to give Maholm the title – and as of right now, he is being vastly overpaid – but there’s certainly room for hope for the Pirates, who need as much as they can get.
I’ve never done a set of preseason predictions based on statistical analyses before, at least not on any real scale. There are so many questions when you start, not the least of which being “Whose stats do I even include??” A quick look at three random teams’ statistics from 2008 shows an average of 33 batters per team, combining for an average of 5,524 at-bats. Some of those players began the season in the minor leagues. Some began the season – or ended it – on completely different teams. Or on the DL.
Because none of these things can be predicted, I realize that trying to project a Major League Baseball season in early February is a bit… er… “ambitious,” let’s say. But I wanted to do it anyway, so I felt the need to establish some ground rules.
The methodology employed was fairly simple. I predicted a 25-Man roster for each team, based on offensive performance, but bearing actuals in mind, as well. For instance, though Jason Kendall ranked #3 on my list of Brewers catchers behind Vinny Rottino and Jesus Salome, I fully realize that he will be the starting catcher in Milwaukee.
The 25-Man rosters included starters and five bench players – including a catcher, two outfielders, and two infielders who could – at the very least – combine to play all infield positions. I then calculated the Runs Created for the roster (starters, bench players, and starting pitchers), based on the players’ statistics from the past three seasons. To create a uniform number of games played, I then broke this into RC27 and multiplied by 162 to get the Projected Runs for the season.
To project Runs Allowed, I broke down the pitching staff (12 pitchers, including five starters and a closer) using statistics from the previous three seasons, and calculated BaseRuns. I then used 1458 (162 games x 9 innings) divided by IP to create a multiplier for the BaseRuns projection, which I then used to project Runs Allowed.
Then, I used the Pythagorean Theorem (with a multiplier of 1.81) to determine an expected W-L%. Simple enough, but there are some issues with my methodology:
1) Because I am multiplying all statistics for minor leaguers, rate statistics will remain largely unchanged. For instance, if a player had 100 hits in 300 at-bats at the AAA level, he was a .333 hitter. In multiplying both hits and at-bats, he becomes 75/225 – still a .333 hitter.
2) Players are not currently weighted as starters and backups. At present, I am only weighting by average number of games over the past three seasons, adjusted for level. For instance, J.R. Towles is listed as the Astros’ starting catcher, but only receives 211 AB in 65 games. Quintero, his backup on my list, is credited with 230 AB in 75 games. This is also true of starting pitchers and relievers in terms of innings pitched. This is somewhat offset by adjustments on team totals – I used RC27, multiplied by 162, to determine Runs Scored, and multiplied team runs allowed to cover 1458 IP (9*162) to determine Runs Allowed. Teams are now evaluated as a unit. In the future, I would average the number of at-bats per position in the division and do a similar adjustment for individual players.
3) The likelihood of one 25-man roster playing for an entire season is practically nil. Because roster moves are tough to predict, I’m content simply to allow this for now.
4) 25-Man rosters were chosen by me, using a few factors. First, I went with the most offensively-sound possibilities, using my own analysis, with some consideration given to actuals. For instance, despite Jason Kendall’s projections falling third of the four Brewers catchers I projected, I know he will be the Opening Day starter, and so I have slotted him into their roster. I used whatever information I had available, which is incomplete at times. Where Rule 5 draftees are concerned, I did my best to predict who would make the roster, and who would be returned. This is subjective, though a lot of attention was paid to the projections. Additionally, I included at least one left-hander for all bullpens, even if that weakened the bullpen overall.
Since the methodology is consistent from team to team, for now I am content with it. At the end of Spring Training, once rosters are set, I will do a new set of projections with some adjustments to my method.
1. Chicago Cubs (908 R, 674 RA): 103-59
Catchers: G. Soto, K. Hill
Infielders: D. Lee, M. Fontenot, R. Theriot, A. Ramirez, B. Scales, M. Hoffpauir
Outfielders: A. Soriano, K. Fukudome, M. Bradley, J. Fox, R. Johnson
Starting Pitchers: C. Zambrano, R. Harden, R. Dempster, T. Lilly, S. Marshall
Relief Pitchers: C. Marmol, K. Gregg, A. Guzman, C. Gaudin, N. Cotts, A. Heilman, L. Vizcaino
2. Cincinnati Reds (739 R, 697 RA): 87-75
Catchers: R. Hernandez, R. Hanigan
Infielders: J. Votto, B. Phillips, J. Keppinger, E. Encarnacion, A. Rosales, D. Richar
Outfielders: C. Dickerson, W. Taveras, J. Bruce, N. Hopper, D. Anderson
Starting Pitchers: A. Harang, E. Volquez, B. Arroyo, J. Cueto, M. Owings
Relief Pitchers: F. Cordero, H. Bailey, M. Lincoln, J. Burton, R. Ramirez, A. Rhodes, D. Weathers
3. Houston Astros (759 R, 723 RA): 86-76
Catchers: J. Towles, H. Quintero
Infielders: L. Berkman, K. Matsui, M. Tejada, M. Saccomanno, G. Blum, D. Newhan
Outfielders: C. Lee, H. Pence, J. Michaels, D. Erstad, M. Bourn
Starting Pitchers: R. Oswalt, W. Rodriguez, B. Moehler, M. Hampton, B. Backe
Relief Pitchers: J. Valverde, W. Wright, D. Brocail, L. Hawkins, G. De La Vara, C. Sampson, G. Geary
3. Milwaukee Brewers (750 R, 710 RA): 86-76
Catchers: J. Kendall, V. Rottino
Infielders: P. Fielder, R. Weeks, J. Hardy, B. Hall, M. Lamb, A. Escobar
Outfielders: R. Braun, M. Cameron, C. Hart, T. Gwynn, L. Cain
Starting Pitchers: S. McClung, M. Parra, Y. Gallardo, J. Suppan, D. Bush
Relief Pitchers: T. Hoffman, J. Julio, D. Riske, C. Villanueva, T. Coffey, E. Morlan, R. Swindle
5. St. Louis Cardinals (762 R, 725 RA): 85-77
Catchers: Y. Molina, J. LaRue
Infielders: A. Pujols, A. Kennedy, K. Greene, T. Glaus, J. Hoffpauir, B. Barden
Outfielders: S. Schumaker, R. Ankiel, R. Ludwick, C. Duncan, J. Mather
Starting Pitchers: C. Carpenter, A. Wainwright, J. Pineiro, T. Wellemeyer, K. Lohse
Relief Pitchers: C. Perez, T. Miller, R. Ring, B. Thompson, R. Franklin, C. Manning, J. Motte
6. Pittsburgh Pirates (726 R, 811 RA): 74-88
Catchers: R. Doumit, R. Diaz
Infielders: Adam LaRoche, F. Sanchez, J. Wilson, Andy LaRoche, B. Bixler, A. Boeve
Outfielders: B. Moss, N. McLouth, S. Pearce, E. Hinske, A. McCutchen
Starting Pitchers: P. Maholm, Z. Duke, I. Snell, J. Karstens, T. Gorzelanny
Relief Pitchers: M. Capps, T. Yates, J. Grabow, P. Dumatrait, V. Vazquez, R. Ohlendorf, E. Meek