August 22, 2017

2012 All-Star Rosters: Analysis in the Context of the Process

July 2, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

As I did last year, in this article I will again analyze this year’s All-Star team roster selections — but do so in the context of the complicated process involved.

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 selection 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: Prince Fielder, DET
2B: Robinson Cano, NYY
3B: Adrian Beltre, TEX
SS: Derek Jeter, NYY
C: Mike Napoli, TEX
OF: Josh Hamilton, TEX
OF: Curtis Granderson, NYY
OF: Jose Bautista, TOR
DH: David Ortiz, BOS

Throughout the fan balloting process it seemed like the Rangers were over-represented, perhaps a case of fans there stuffing the ballot box in favor of their home town players (just a speculation, and one I’ve heard from other commenters, but one I admit I have not investigated). Hamilton is obviously deserving of a starting spot. Beltre is having a good year, so while I would have selected Miguel Cabrera as the starter, I can let it go. The Ranger who doesn’t deserve to be going to the All-Star game at all — let alone as a starter — is Mike Napoli (12 HR, 30 RBI, .235). The major snub here is A.J. Pierzynski (14 HR, 45 RBI, .285) who doesn’t even make the team via the Players’ Vote or a manager selection — he should arguably be the starting catcher for this squad, but unless there is an injury won’t be at the game at all.

One could debate Jeter or Granderson as starters, but I won’t do that here — I think they both deserve to make the All-Star team roster as starter or reserve. Speaking of which, the A.L. All-Stars chosen by the Players’ Vote are:

C: Matt Wieters, BAL
1B: Paul Konerko, CWS
2B: Ian Kinsler, TEX
3B: Miguel Cabrera, DET
SS: Asdrubal Cabrera, CLE
OF: Adam Jones, BAL
OF: Mike Trout, LAA
OF: Mark Trumbo, LAA
DH: Adam Dunn, CWS
LHP: David Price, TB
LHP: CC Sabathia, NYY
LHP: Chris Sale, CWS
RHP: Justin Verlander, DET
RHP: Jered Weaver, LAA
RHP: Jim Johnson, BAL
RHP: Chris Perez, CLE
RHP: Fernando Rodney, TB

Again, I think Pierzynski is having a better season than Wieters (11 HR, 38 RBI, .249) — and one could even say that Joe Mauer (4 HR, 36 RBI, .324) is more deserving, though at least Ron Washington selected him with one of his seven Manager’s picks. The rest of the infield selections are solid, and I like the three outfielders too. It is especially interesting to see how quickly Mike Trout has become productive at the major league level — a .339 average, 9 HR, 15 doubles, and 22 SB in only 236 at-bats is impressive.

I’ll note that some might argue that this snubs 2B Jason Kipnis (11 HR, 47 RBI, 20 SB, .275) but it is hard to choose him over Kinsler who has significant advantages in runs (61 to 47) and doubles (a whopping 26 to 7.)

Choosing a .210 hitter as an All-Star is a tough call to make, but Dunn is second in the league in HR and that .210 is actually a big improvement on his disastrous 2011 campaign. Even so, I think Edwin Encarnacion who has 22 HR (only two less than Dunn) and a .291 average as a DH/1B is more deserving.

The five starting pitchers are all deserving, as are the three closers chosen who happen to be the three Saves leaders in the A.L. at present.

The A.L. All-Star team manager Ron Washington of the Texas Rangers then had seven selections to fill out the roster. He also needed to take one additional starting pitcher as an injury replacement for C.C. Sabathia.

SS: Elvis Andrus, TEX
C: Joe Mauer, MIN
DH: Billy Butler, KC
LHP: Matt Harrison, TEX
RHP: Felix Hernandez, SEA
RHP: Ryan Cook, OAK
RHP: Joe Nathan, TEX
LHP: C.J. Wilson, LAA

With four Rangers already on the roster, one could argue that he is showing favoritism by using three of these seven picks on additional Rangers players. However, at least Andrus, Harrison, and Nathan are each having good seasons. For instance, it is hard to argue for Rafael Soriano or Jonathan Broxton over Joe Nathan. And ditto for Jake Peavy over Matt Harrison — yes, Peavy has better ERA, WHIP, and K numbers, but admittedly Harrison’s 11-3 record for the powerful Rangers looks better than Peavy’s 6-5 record for the White Sox. I would have gone with Peavy, but I can understand Washington favoring his guy.

There were three selections made in part to fulfill the requirement that each franchise was represented on the roster. Catcher Joe Mauer of the Twins was one, and the other two are DH Billy Butler of the Royals, and relief pitcher Ryan Cook of the Athletics. From the Twins you could make the case for Josh Willingham and his 17 HR and 55 RBI. But I’m fine with the selection of Mauer here because I think it is better to have a third catcher on the team versus yet another outfielder. To me the selections from the Royals and Athletics come down to whether you want one hitter and one pitcher, two hitters, or two pitchers. Because in addition to Butler and Cook, other candidates here included outfielder Josh Reddick (18 HR) and Jonathan Broxton (20 SV, 2.05 ERA). Cook has certainly stepped up to claim what had been a dubious closer situation in Oakland, and his 37 K in 35 IP, and 1.54 ERA are impressive (with 7 saves so far). But you could make the case for Reddick instead, alongside either Butler or Broxton from KC.

The final fan selection will come from a group of five players (all pitchers). Two are guys I’ve already mentioned as being deserving, namely Broxton and Peavy. The other three are solid options too: starters Yu Darvish (yet another Ranger!) and Jason Hammel, and reliever Ernesto Frieri. My vote would go to Peavy.

Moving on now to the National League, the starters selected by fans were:

1B: Joey Votto, CIN
2B: Dan Uggla, ATL
SS: Rafael Furcal, STL
3B: Pablo Sandoval, SF
C: Buster Posey, SF
OF: Melky Cabrera, SF
OF: Carlos Beltran, STL
OF: Matt Kemp, LAD

Votto is an obvious selection. Uggla (11 HR, 43 RBI, .233) could be debated given other options that include Brandon Phillips (10 HR, 46 RBI, .285), Aaron Hill (11 HR, 38 RBI, .300), and Jose Altuve (12 SB, .308). Altuve was chosen by the players as the reserve 2B, and at least Hill is amongst the five the fans can choose from for the final roster spot.

Similarly, I don’t like the fans’ pick of Rafael Furcal (5 HR, 52 R, 9 SB, .280) as the starting SS. I would have taken Starlin Castro (6 HR, 7 T, 16 SB, .296) or Ian Desmond (13 HR, 43 RBI, .276). At least Castro made it as the Players’ choice, and Desmond was one of manager Tony LaRussa’s nine additional roster picks.

Even worse though is 3B, where the fans supported Pablo Sandoval (6 HR, 25 RBI, .300 in only 170 ABs) over David Wright who is second in the NL in batting with a .354 average to go with 9 HR, 50 RBI, 26 D, and 8 SB. I think he should clearly be the starter over Kung Fu Panda.

The NL is loaded with good-hitting catchers this year. You could argue who should be the starter, but I’m just glad that Posey, Molina, and Ruiz all made the squad.

The NL is loaded with strong OF candidates. Both Beltran and Cabrera are having strong seasons and deserve to be All-Stars, though one could argue for others to be starters. Certainly that is true for Kemp, who was dominant early on with 12 HR, 28 RBI, and a .355 average in only 121 ABs. Carlos Gonzalez, Ryan Braun, and Andrew McCutchen have certainly done more than Kemp overall, but at least they were chosen by the players as the three OF reserves.

The full list of players’ selections is as follows:

1B: Bryan LaHair, CHC
2B: Jose Altuve, HOU
SS: Starlin Castro, CHC
3B: David Wright, NYM
C: Yadier Molina, STL
OF: Ryan Braun, MIL
OF: Carlos Gonzalez, COL
OF: Andrew McCutchen, PIT
RHP: Matt Cain, SF
RHP: R.A. Dickey, NYM
RHP: Lance Lynn, STL
LHP: Gio Gonzalez, WAS
RHP: Stephen Strasburg, WAS
LHP: Aroldis Chapman, CIN
RHP: Joel Hanrahan, PIT
RHP: Craig Kimbrel, ATL

After Votto there aren’t many strong 1B candidates in the NL this year. LaHair seems to have stuck in the big leagues at age 29, so it is nice to give him the All-Star nod. Other candidates like Adam LaRoche (15 HR, 50 RBI, .251), Freddie Freeman (10 HR, 47 RBI, .266), and Paul Goldschmidt (11 HR, 35 RBI, .292) don’t really have significantly superior numbers.

As noted above, I like all of the other position players they chose. But as this is a strong year for pitching, there simply won’t be enough spots for all of the starting pitchers who are having strong seasons. I definitely like Cain, Dickey, Gonzalez, and Strasburg, but I might have selected someone other than Lynn to be in the first five SPs chosen. But his 10-4 record and 98 Ks in 97 IP make a good case for All-Star status nonetheless.

For relievers, Kimbrel has again been dominant posting 23 saves with 50 K in 30 IP, a 1.50 ERA, and a 0.77 WHIP. Chapman was even more dominant when he was a setup man early in the year, but has been less consistent since becoming the Reds’ closer. Still, 64 Ks in only 36.3 IP, with a 1.98 ERA and 0.77 WHIP are hard to argue with. And Hanrahan’s solid 20 saves and 2.10 ERA have been a key part of the Pirates surprising people with a .500 record during the first half.

Manager Tony LaRussa had nine additional roster spots to fill (two more than his AL counterpart since they get two DH selections by the fans and players).

SS: Ian Desmond, WAS
C: Carlos Ruiz, PHI
OF: Jay Bruce, CIN
OF: Giancarlo Stanton, MIA
LHP: Cole Hamels, PHI
LHP: Clayton Kershaw, LAD
LHP: Wade Miley, ARI
RHP: Jonathan Papelbon, PHI
RHP: Huston Street, SD

As already noted, I like the choices of Desmond and Ruiz. For some extra outfielders, I like the selection of Stanton and his 19 HR, 50 RBI, and .282 average (plus he is the lone rep for the disappointing Marlins.) Jay Bruce is less obvious to me: he has 17 HR and 54 RBI, but has only hit .257 so far. Cases could be made for Hunter Pence (16 HR, 49 RBI, .285), Matt Holliday (12 HR, 49 RBI, .307), Michael Bourn (22 SB, .302), Andre Ethier (10 HR, 55 RBI, .291), or even Martin Prado (9 SB, .321). But it would be a close call no matter who from this group you took.

As for the additional pitchers selected, I can’t argue much with Hamels, Kershaw, and Miley (the last being needed as a representative from the Diamondbacks). As noted earlier it is hard because it means many others having fine seasons are left off the team, such as James McDonald, Zack Greinke, Ryan Vogelsong, Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Chris Capuano, and Johan Santana. For the last two relievers, someone from the Padres was needed so going with Huston Street here makes sense (due to injury he has pitched only 21 IP, but has 12 saves and a 1.21 ERA.) Papelbon is doing fairly well with 18 SVs and more Ks than IPs, but he has a 3.03 ERA so I might have gone with Santiago Casilla from the Giants who has 21 SVs and a 2.61 ERA. Or even better, how about an additional starting pitcher instead?

The final fan selection will come from this group of five: Michael Bourn, Chipper Jones, David Freese, Bryce Harper, Aaron Hill. I already mentioned Bourn and Hill, but the headline decision here would seem to be between the sentimential favorite Chipper Jones in honor of his great career, versus the birth of a new star in Bryce Harper. He’s not lighting the world on fire yet as Mike Trout is in the AL, but he is off to a good start with 8 HR and 8 SB after being called up.

So overall… what do you think? Given the rules and the process for selection, who do you think were the biggest mistaken selections and All-Star snubs?

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