Friday, June 20, 2008

Calendar Year All-Stars, AL (Part 1)

Every year, the Mid-Summer classic rolls along and writers/bloggers everywhere try to convince the world that the game is irrelevant. Still, the event gets decent ratings for a week-night exhibition game, and the voting methods are arbitrary enough that they always cause debate. This is particularly true in an age where online voting exists, as fans from extremely popular teams don't need to pick up ballots at the ballpark. The result, most recently, is that the starting players are usually dominated by Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, and Mets; additionally the occasional popular foreign import, such as Ichiro, galvanizes support from his home country.

While it is definitely true that the All-Star game needs to be mid-season in order to avoid irrelevance (i.e. The Pro Bowl), this has some unfortunate disadvantages. One of these problems is that players are typically judged on two criteria:

(1) Perrenial All-Stars, who continue make the team long after they are truly the best at their position, or;
(2) Small Sample All-Stars, who have an amazing first half of the season only to return to average.

So while there is some prestige behind post-season awards such as the Silver Slugger and Rolaids Relief-Man, far more performance bonuses are tied to having hot starts and making the All-Star team. Still, I wonder what we would find if we searched the past year's worth of stats (spanning the second half of 2007 and the first half of 2008) for each player. Who would be the most deserving all-stars then? I will be consulting the current votes leaders from this article, as well as the leaders in THT's Runs Created statistics. will be the source of stats from the last 365 days for each player.

Current Vote Leader- Jason Varitek (2008- .240/.320/.408, 7 HR in 196 AB; 20 RC)
Base Runs Leader- Joe Mauer (42; 2008- .335/.420/.441, 2 HR in 236 AB)

Varitek is obviously a Perennial All-Star choice, spurred on by the rabid Boston fanbase intent on having as many Red Sox as possible start the game in Yankee Stadium. Being the tenth best catcher in Runs Created, in the AL, is tantamount to saying he's the least productive regular player in baseball. The past 365 days he's had a .244/.353/.408 line, just as bad as his season to date. Mauer, unsurprisingly, leads AL catchers in runs created, but his full 365-day line is (.307/.394/.429). Still good, but I think we may be able to find some better catchers.

Mauer (.307/.394/.429, 580 PA)
J. Posada (.329/.435/.521, 444 PA)
A.J. Pierzynski (.288/.332/.417)
G. Laird (.247/.297/.381)
V. Martinez (.283/.357/.426)

Martinez and Posada were 1 and 2 in Runs Created among catchers last year. Posada has missed a bunch of games this season, which explains his lagging in the voting, but he has hit like a monster since his return on June 5. Martinez, meanwhile, has struggled this season, with an OPS+ of 79. Posada's numbers are clearly better than Mauer's, but Mauer has had 136 more plate appearances. It's a tossup here, but I'll have to give it to Mauer since his contribution is likely more valuable.

First Base
Current Vote Leader: Kevin Youkilis (2008: .305/.376/.530; RC 49)
Runs Created Leader: Justin Morneau (54; 2008: .306/.366/.489)

This is a deep position full of solid hitters. Youkilis and Morneau are certainly deserving candidates, but let's take a look at the past 365 days:

K. Youkilis: .273/.371/.461, 606 PA
J. Morneau: .284/.349/.461, 680 PA
J. Giambi: .238/.370/.523, 370 PA
P. Konerko: .248/.345/.471, 629 PA
C. Pena: .251/.384/.538, 646 PA

Here's a great example of why the 365-day approach awards players who would not normally be recognized. Sure, Carlos Pena isn't having a good season this year, made worse by his broken index finger that will keep him on the DL for a while. However, he was not selected to the 2007 All-Star game despite a .287/.395/.609 line at the break. He was even better in the second half of 2007. His OBP and SLG are better than both Youkilis and Morneau over a similar number of at bats. He also has more HR and RBI than either of them over that stretch. Voting an injured player into the All-Star game already happens regularly, so this would be no different.

Second Base:
Current Vote Leader: Dusty Pedroia (.274/.322/.398; 34 RC)
Runs Created Leader: Ian Kinsler (58; .308/.361/.490)

Another Red Sox player leading the popular vote, another terrible choice. Just going on this years' stats, Pedroia is seventh among AL second basemen. There are actually a lot of good choices, and so voting in Pedroia is going to mean a snub for one of the actually productive AL keystoners. The last 365 days:

D. Pedroia: .296/.347/.420 (705 PA)
I. Kinsler: .298/.373/.465 (634 PA)
B. Roberts: .280/.364/.458 (718 PA)
P. Polanco: .332/.385/.455 (623 PA)
R. Cano: .288/.337/.451 (677 PA)

As you can see, it's not hard to find an AL second baseman more valuable than Pedroia. Roberts has been either the first or second man in Runs Created at 2B for several years now. If Robinson Cano played for any other team, his Perennial All-Star possibility would be nil, and if he continued his terrible first half/amazing second half routine, he might never play in another All-Star game. Obviously at Immaculate Inning we have sort of a soft spot for Ian Kinsler. I mentioned last year in a similar post that if I were voting in May the clear choice would have been Kinsler, so I pick Kinsler in the toss-up this time around.

Third Base:
Vote Leader: Alex Rodriguez (.335/.414/.629; 42 RC)
Runs Created Leader: Casey Blake (44; .263/.339/.433)

I have no idea how Blake leads the AL third baseman, but A-Rod is not far behind despite missing a month with a quad strain. That demonstrates how feeble the position is after A-Rod, and so this is really an easy exercise. Miguel Cabrera makes things interesting with his .297/.380/.503 line the past 365 days, but A-Rod blows it away with .321/.423/.616. Cabrera would be more competitive among first basemen (the position he's been playing this year), but he's listed at third on the ballot.


Vote Leader: Derek Jeter (.276/.333/.381, 37 RC)
Runs Created Leader: Jeter and Michael Young (.281/.337/.407)

The vote has Perennial All-Star written all over it, especially for someone who's been watching Jeter ground out feebly all season. Still, this is a contest where you perform well by out-doing your peers, and Jeter and Young are neck and neck in terms of offensive production this season. Orlando Caberera is on their heels with 36 RC, followed by Bobby Crosby at 32. Using the past 365 days:

D. Jeter (.295/.353/.412, 697 PA)
M. Young (.314/.369/.418, 708 PA)
O. Cabera (.271/.321/.364, 715 PA)
B. Crosby (.242/.294/.358, 415 PA)

Remember when the decision was three, four, or sometimes five players deep all with great stats? Well now it's down to Jeter and Young, who both have slightly-above-average stats. Young is the better defender, Jeter is the better baserunner. They've both hit 11 homers over the past 365 days. Well, since I went with Mauer over Posada, I have some homer-karma available, so I'll go with Jeter over Young.

Next time, I'll go through the outfielders and the surprising pitching staff. Until then, go to to cast your ballot, but please... only one Red Sox infielder (Youk). Please.

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