2011 All-Star Rosters: Analysis in the Context of the Process
Each year casual and serious baseball fans alike enjoying critiquing the selections for the MLB All-Star game. Most often these amount to “snub lists” or selecting preferred rosters without consideration of the process that is in place for choosing the actual all-star squads. It is a separate matter to debate the pros and cons of the current process: the fact is, we have the multi-stage process we have, so I will here analyze the all-star rosters in that context. I actually chose my own rosters ahead of the announcement of the players’ vote and the managers’ selections (so only taking into consideration the likely fan vote as a given).
(Note: the stats I’ll be referencing are the common stats that most readers will be familiar with – batting average, homeruns, RBIs, stolen bases, wins, ERA, and so on. I won’t get into finer points of argument by using numbers like OPS+, WAR, and so on. I’m not against such deeper analysis, I’m just not going to do that here.)
If I understand the process correctly, it amounts to the following (summarizing what Wikipedia provides on the matter):
- Fan voting (8 NL players/9 AL players): Baseball fans vote on the starting position players.
- Player voting (16 NL players/17 AL players): Eight pitchers (five starters and three relievers) and one back-up player for each position are elected by the players, coaches, and managers. If the top vote-getter at a position has also been selected via fan voting, the second-place finisher in this category is selected.
- Manager selection (9 NL players/7 AL players): The manager of each league’s All-Star team – in consultation with the other managers in his league and the Commissioner’s Office — will fill his team’s roster up to 33 players. The NL manager will also select his team’s designated hitter. At this point, it is ensured that every team is represented by at least one player.
- Final vote (1 player): Fans vote (on the Internet) for one additional player, chosen from a list of 5 players that is compiled by the manager of each league’s team and the Commissioner’s Office.
- Replacements: After the roster is selected, the All-Star manager and the Commissioner’s Office will replace players who are injured or who decline to participate, as well as pitchers who started on the Sunday before the game.
So with that as the track I’ll run on, I’ll take each league in turn starting with the American League. The fan selections were:
- 1B: Adrian Gonzalez
- 2B: Robinson Cano
- 3B: Alex Rodriguez
- SS: Derek Jeter
- C: Alex Avila
- OF: Jose Bautista
- OF: Curtis Granderson
- OF: Josh Hamilton
- DH: David Ortiz
Yes, the list is again dominated by Yankees and Red Sox, not all of whom are deserving. Most notably, fan-favorite Derek Jeter has missed about 20 games, and is only batting .260 with 2 HR, 20 RBI, and 7 SB. Asdrubal Cabrera of the Indians on the other hand is batting .291, with 21 doubles, 14 HR, 49 RBI, and 12 SB — and so was rightly chosen by the players’ vote to be Jeter’s back-up. On the plus-side, it was good to see Detroit’s Alex Avila edge out the Yankees Russell Martin as the starting catcher, though I have no problem with the latter being selected by the players as a reserve backstop. Lastly, Josh Hamilton was a problematic pick since he has only played in a little over the half the games of the first half of the season – though he has put up good numbers during that time: .295, 10 HR, 40 RBI.
The players’ vote resulted in the following additions to the team:
- 1B: Miguel Cabrera
- 2B: Howie Kendrick
- 3B: Adrian Beltre
- SS: Asdrubal Cabrera
- C: Russell Martin
- OF: Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Joyce, Carlos Quentin
- DH: Michael Young
- SP: Josh Beckett, Felix Hernandez, James Shields, Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver
- RP: Mariano Rivera, Brandon League, Chris Perez
I think most of these are fine selections – and all of them are at least debatable. I also chose Kendrick over Pedroia as the backup 2B, and think the rest of the backup infield is solid. The real shame of the fans choosing Jeter is not just that Cabrera misses being a starter, but that in the end there really isn’t room for Jonny Peralta to make the roster at all, even though he is hitting .311 with 14 HR and 48 RBI – darn good numbers for a middle-infielder these days.
Matt Joyce is enjoying a fine season of .300, 11 HR, 40 RBI, and Quentin started out hot and at this point has posted .259, 23 doubles, 17 HR, 49 RBI. Not bad choices, but one could argue for others as I will later.
The starting pitchers are all deserving, and given the requirement for three relievers, you could make a case for these three: Rivera is obvious, and I also had Chris Perez as an All-Star.
Next we come to manager Ron Washington’s final selections, where he is in part constrained by needing to make sure all the teams in the league are represented:
- C: Matt Weiters
- OF: Michael Cuddyer
- SP: Gio Gonzalez, David Price, C.J. Wilson
- RP: Jose Valverde, Aaron Crow
A case can be made from a manager’s perspective that having a third catcher on the roster is a good thing. And if that was his thinking, then Washington’s selection of Weiters makes sense, because there are not many other reasonable candidates, and with this selection he also makes sure the Orioles have a representative. Personally, with Weiters only hitting .262 with 7 HR and 33 RBI, I would have chosen Adam Jones to represent Baltimore as an extra outfielder, since he is batting .283 with 13 HR and 46 RBI. But I do understand the preference of a third catcher.
Sometimes I think the All-Star managers like to choose a middle-reliever just to help shed some spotlight on that under-recognized role. So I get that – I really do. And Aaron Crow – no doubt the player on either roster that most people know the least about – is having a fine rookie campaign: 1.36 ERA, 39.2 IP, 39 K, and only 26 hits allowed. And again, by choosing him that takes care of the requirement that someone from the Royals make the team. But I went a different route and you can see this by considering the selections from the Royals and Twins together. For the Twins, Washington went with Michael Cuddyer, who has played mostly OF but also some 2B and 1B this year, while batting .289 with 11 HR and 34 RBI. My preference would have been to choose one of the Royals three solid outfielders, with Alex Gordon being my preferred choice as he is batting .298, with 24 doubles, 10 HR, and 46 RBI. He’d replace Cuddyer on the roster, and then to replace Crow I’d have gone with Scott Baker who is 6-5 for the lowly Twins with a 3.15 ERA and 101 K in 105 IP. If you really wanted a middle reliever, Glen Perkins is also having a fine season with a 1.80 ERA and 32 K in 30 IP.
I definitely like Gio Gonzalez as the lone Oakland A’s representative, and I also had David Price making the All-Star roster too. CJ Wilson was on my list of near-misses, as his 8-3 record and 3.02 ERA are a fine first-half. But I definitely would have preferred C.C. Sabathia’s 11-4 record and 3.05 ERA or Dan Haren’s 8-5 and 2.85 or rookie Michael Pineda’s 7-5 and 2.65. I’d also have chosen any of them, and perhaps a few other starters, over adding another reliever in Valverde who doesn’t blow me away with his 20 SV and 3.00 ERA.
As for the final fan vote, they get to choose between Alex Gordon of the Royals, Adam Jones of the Orioles, Paul Konerko of the White Sox, Victor Martinez of the Tigers, and Ben Zobrist of the Rays. I think Zobrist is the weakest of the bunch, and while I’m glad to see Gordon, Jones, and Martinez on this list, I think the most deserving here is Konerko. His .317, 21 HR, and 62 RBI earned him a spot on my All-Star roster over Quentin as the lone representative from Chicago. Absent from this list are Mark Teixera’s 25 HR and 65 RBI, though his .245 average fails to impress. Also, I’m a fan of Adam Lind’s first half numbers of .310, 16 HR, and 49 RBI in only 60 games – though I recognize there is a limit to how many 1B/DH kind of guys you can select.
Moving on now to the National League, the starters selected by the fans were:
- 1B: Prince Fielder
- 2B: Rickie Weeks
- 3B: Placido Polanco
- SS: Jose Reyes
- C: Brian McCann
- OF: Ryan Braun
- OF: Lance Berkman
- OF: Matt Kemp
The choice of Polanco, who is batting .277 with 4 HR and 39 RBI, shows how week the 3B field is in the NL this year. I’m glad that Fielder and Kemp surged in the final weeks to rightly take the top spots at their respective positions, and I like the other choices here (how many were predicting Lance Berkman would be an All-Star at the beginning of the year?)
The reserves that the players voted in are:
- 1B: Joey Votto
- 2B: Brandon Phillips
- 3B: Chipper Jones
- SS: Troy Tulowitzki
- C: Yadier Molina
- OF: Matt Holliday, Hunter Pence, Jay Bruce
- SP: Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Clayton Kershaw, Jair Jurrjens
- RP: Joel Hanrahan, Brian Wilson, Jonny Venters
Not bad selections overall really. I’m a fan of Chipper Jones, but I question choosing his .256, 7 HR, 44 RBI over Aramis Ramirez’s .293, 12 HR, 44 RBI. At catcher I don’t have a strong objection to Molina as the backup, though I’ll note he hasn’t been as effective this year at gunning down runners as in the past, so for me this really is a close call between Molina and Miguel Montero of the Diamondbacks.
I like Holliday and Pence as outfield reserves, with the latter taking care of needing a player from the lowly Astros. One can certainly make a case for Jay Bruce as well, based on his .265, 18 HR, 51 RBI. But I think Andrew McCutchen, with his .294, 21 doubles, 12 HR, 45 RBI, and 15 SB, is more deserving. Likewise, I would have gone with Justin Upton over Bruce, given his similar resume of .298, 22 doubles, 13 HR, 43 RBI, and 14 SB. At least Upton was later selected (as lone Diamondbacks rep) by manager Bruce Bochy, while McCutchen was not — possibly the biggest snub of this year.
I agree with all five starting pitching choices – the big three from Philly, plus Kershaw and Jurrjens – they are at least arguably the best five in the league so far this year. I’m glad the players recognized Hanrahanâ€™s solid numbers this year, a 1.41 ERA and league-leading 24 saves. He’s actually tied with Heath Bell, Craig Kimbrel, and Brian Wilson for that Saves lead, so I can understand why the players selected Wilson – though given his higher ERA (3.03) I would prefer Bell (2.31) or Kimbrel (2.57) at this point. It is quite interesting that as a third reliever the players went with setup man Jonny Venters, who has posted a stellar 1.59 ERA in a league-leading 46 appearances, striking out 54 in 51 innings. A nice nod for him, though I probably would have gone with Bell and Kimbrel over Wilson and Venters here.
To fill out the rest of the roster, Bochy went with:
- 1B: Gaby Sanchez
- SS: Starlin Castro
- OF: Justin Upton, Carlos Beltran
- SP: Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong
- RP: Heath Bell, Tyler Clippard
I was glad to see Gaby Sanchez selected, as his .296, 13 HR, and 47 RBI make him deserving as the lone Marlins rep. I also like Starlin Castro, who seems to be in the early stages of a fine career. Someone needs to be chosen to represent the Cubs, so I guess it comes down to Castro as an extra shortshop or Ramirez as an extra third baseman – not a clear-cut decision I’ll admit.
Although it is nice to see Carlos Beltran having a healthy, productive season — .280, 12 HR, 54 RBI – I would definitely have preferred the afore-mentioned McCutchen here. I would have also at least arguably gone with an alternate “Carlos” too, namely the Rockies’ Carlos Gonzalez and his .296, 13 HR, 51 RBI, and 14 SB.
The three additional SP look a little fishy to me, since all three are from the Giants – and Bochy is their manager. I can’t really argue against Cain’s 7-4 record and 3.02 ERA, or even Lincecum’s line of 6-6, 3.04, but with 122 K in 112 IP. But I must object to including Vogelsong, even though he has far out-performed (6-1 record with a 2.13 ERA) his slot as fifth starter in their rotation. He is a great story this year, coming back on the MLB scene after last having pitched at this level in 2006. But he has pitched less than the frontline starters, and so giving him this slot over the many other candidates doesn’t seem right to me. Most notably, I think Tommy Hanson and his 9-4 record and 2.62 ERA make a good argument for having been snubbed this year.
Heath Bell is a deserving bullpen addition, but then we come to the issue of who is going to represent the Washington Nationals. Bochy decided to go with non-closer relief pitcher Tyler Clippard, who granted has had a great first half posting a 1.96 ERA with 57 K over 46 IP. But with Jonny Venters already selected as a tip of the cap to such non-closers, I would have preferred going with 1B/OF Mike Morse and his .299, 15 HR, and 46 RBI. In fact, I would have chosen Morse over Beltran, and then gone with any number of guys over Clippard, whether Kimbrel or Francisco Cordero (1.49 ERA, 17 SV) as relievers, or Hanson or a variety of other quality starting pitchers.
The five players who are up for a vote by the fans for the final NL spot are Andre Ethier of the Dodgers, Todd Helton of the Rockies, Ian Kennedy of the D-backs, Michael Morse of the Nationals, and Shane Victorino of the Phillies. Naturally I’m pleased to see Morse in this list. While I’m glad Todd Helton is having a good year (.320, 9 HR, 38 RBI), I don’t think he deserves a chance here given that his teammate Gonzalez is not listed, nor the likes of McCutchen, Hanson, and others. Ditto actually for Ethier (.321, 7 HR, 41 RBI) and Kennedy (8-3, 3.38). An interesting case is Victorino (.303, 9 HR, 9 Triples, 34 RBI, 13 SB) who is having a nice all-around season so far, but I’d rate him below both McCutchen adn C. Gonzalez.
What do you think? Given the rules and the process for selection, who do you think were the biggest snubs in the end? For me the candidates are Konerko, Sabathia, McCutchen, C. Gonzalez, and Hanson – but what about you?