As a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA), Marlin Maniac is taking part in the voting for the BBA All-Star balloting. Every year, All-Star votes are cast, snubs are made, and fans are irrationally angry about things that are not all that important. After all, how important can the All-Star results really be when the eventual National League MVP ends up being left off the team until the very end of the process? Nevertheless, it’s a point of bonding for fans at midseason, and Marlin Maniac doesn’t plan on missing out.
My process is going to be a slightly more subjective one. I’ll be looking at Wins Above Replacement (WAR) from FanGraphs (fWAR), Baseball-Reference (rWAR), and Baseball Prospectus’s Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP) at each position. From there, if there are any major discrepancies, I’ll attempt to make some judgment calls, with a heavy tilt towards regressing defense given the nature of defensive statistics. All the stats will be shown in reference next to the chosen names. The BBA ballot requires eight starters from each position, with any outfielders taking the three outfield positions, and one starting pitcher. Let’s get right into it.
Catcher: Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves (2.8 fWAR, 1.9 rWAR, 2.8 WARP)
McCann ranks first in fWAR, second in rWAR, and first in WARP, giving him the lead according to the advanced total contribution metrics. McCann’s defense was a point of contention between the three defensive metrics, ranging from -6 runs via TotalZone’s methodology to +3 runs via BP’s FRAA. We’re fairly certain that McCann is something of a below average catcher, but only two catchers could come close to matching his .300/.379/.512 (.380 wOBA) line, and neither of them have gathered the playing time necessary to make up for McCann’s lead.
First Base: Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers (3.9 fWAR, 3.1 rWAR, 2.7 WARP)
The battle between Fielder and clear runner-up Joey Votto was extremely close. They were essentially tied for rWAR and both had similar leads on the other in one of the two metrics. Even though Fielder is a known bad defender, I gave him more of a benefit of the doubt in terms of his -4 run defense in two of the systems, giving him the slightest of edges. Both players have been superb offensively; Fielder is hitting an amazing .305/.426/.611 line (.439 wOBA) with a tiny strikeout rate for a big power hitter, while Votto has among the best walk rates in the majors and is gaining back his power stroke. Truthfully, neither name would have been a problem.
Second Base: Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewers (3.4 fWAR, 2.7 rWAR, 3.0 WARP)
The second base competition, on the other hand, was a cake walk, as Weeks ran away from the competition with relative ease. Only one second baseman in the National League outside of Weeks has a wOBA above .340, so Weeks’s .290/.360/.498 slash line (.375 wOBA) towers over all of them. In addition, he has not been awful on the field and in fact has been one of the best players since 2010.
Honorable Mentions: Danny Espinosa (Washington)
Third Base: Chase Headley, San Diego Padres (2.1 fWAR, 1.7 rWAR, 1.5 WARP)
Boy, the picking were slim at third base, which would be my NL All-Stars’ weakest position this season. Nothing against Headley, whose .296/.393/.401 slash line (.358 wOBA) represents a career high for him and is especially impressive given his home stadium of PECTO Park, but those WAR(P) totals just are not impressive in anyone’s eyes. Headley was brought down by a supposedly poor defensive performance, but he is thought of as at least a decent defender at third and possibly a great one if you trust last season’s defensive stastitics (+16-25 runs on the season, depending on whether you ask TotalZone or UZR). He gets the slight nod over Ryan Roberts, who also has had a nice season but is also no one’s definition of an All-Star. For a league with Ryan Zimmerman and David Wright, nothing good is coming from the hot corner.
Honorable Mentions: Ryan Roberts (Arizona)
Shortstop: Jose Reyes, New York Mets (4.6 fWAR, 3.6 rWAR, 3.8 WARP)
Sadly, this was an extremely easy decision. Reyes has clearly been the best player at the shortstop position in baseball this season. Even in his .341/.385/.514 slash line has been very luck-driven, he has played exceptionally and contributed in other areas as well. It seems his game is kicking into high gear just as his contract is running out, and he could be in line for a payday akin to that of Carl Crawford from last season. Right now, he is one of the leading MVP candidates and WAR frontrunners in the NL no matter which metric you use.
Honorable Mentions: Troy Tulowitzki (Colorado)
Outfield: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers (4.3 fWAR, 4.7 rWAR, 4.2 WARP)
Kemp is having a season for the ages, silencing all the critics who questioned his ability coming off of a disappointing 2010 campaign. Kemp’s .327/.416/.619 line has a few interesting tidbits to it. Beyond the jump in BABIP, his walk rate has risen dramatically, up 12.8 percent (10.0 percent if you take away the intentional walks) and his power has returned in spades. His .296 ISO this season is among the best in baseball, and the overall .450 wOBA would be the story of the season if not for an even greater American League tale in Jose Bautista. Kemp has to be considered the leader for MVP in the clubhouse right now, even with his continued struggles on defense.
Outfield: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates (4.0 fWAR, 4.4 rWAR, 3.1 WARP)
McCutchen may play for the lowly Pirates (who have not been all that lowly this season anyway), but he has been excellent in his role as face of the franchise. You already know how I felt about him being snubbed for another award before, but this season there is no way Cutch misses the All-Star team, though he certainly will not start in real life. His .285/.388/.463 slash line (.383 wOBA) appears very unassuming and not particularly gaudy like Kemp’s line, but the reason why McCutchen is even in his radar is due to an apparently improved defensive game. Even when knocking a few runs off of the supposed defensive success of Cutch, he still ends up ahead of most of the other NL outfielders. He is already one of the better outfielders in the game, and he deserves a starting spot on the All-Star team.
Outfield: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers (3.5 fWAR, 3.8 rWAR, 3.3 WARP)
Braun’s defense, despite what the eyes apparently see, has been its usual bad self; two of the three defensive metrics have him rated as negative right now, and he has a long history of awful defensive play. However, a good deal of that can be forgotten and erased when you are hitting .308/.390/.514 with a career high 11.5 percent walk rate and an ISO that has rebounded to 2008 levels. After dropping to just 25 homers in 2010, Braun’s HR/FB rate is back up near career norms and he is on pace for a 30-plus homer season once again. At this point, his game actually looks very sustainable at the moment.
Starting Pitcher: Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies (4.5 fWAR, 4.7 rWAR, 2.6 WARP)
The discrepancy with WARP aside (he ranks 14th in baseball and 12th in the National League in WARP), Roy Halladay’s season has been absolutely absurd. It is extremely difficult to argue with the results of a 2.40 ERA and 2.16 FIP, and if you are fans of ERA retrodictors that use batted balls like xFIP and SIERA, he hasn’t done badly there either (2.40 and 2.68 respectively). Halladay is supplementing his best strikeout rate of his career with the typical Halladay control (3.2 percent walk rate) and ground ball rate (53.6 percent). He is the best the game has to offer right now in terms of pitching, and it is difficult to argue against that.
Honorable Mentions: Cole Hamels (Philadelphia), Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles), Cliff Lee (Philadelphia), Daniel Hudson (Arizona), Jordan Zimmermann (Washington), Anibal Sanchez (Florida), Jair Jurrjens (Atlanta)