Improving the All Star Starting Lineup

Sorry for the lack of content lately. I’ve been on vacation. I was in Los Angeles for a few days and I’m in New Zealand now, and for the next month or so. There may not be as many articles as there may normally be, but I’ll do my best to keep up.

On Sunday, the All Star rosters for each league were announced, outside of the final spot. As always, there were some notable omissions and some questionable inclusions. I figured that something fun for us to do would be to go through each starting lineup and single out the unworthy starters, explaining why they’re undeserving and who should replace them.

Let’s start with the AL.

C: Matt Wieters. Wieters has had only about 150 at bats this year and is out for the season due to injury. I can’t imagine how he’s considered an All Star. Filling in for him as a starter is Salvador Perez. Although he’s been good, how is he better than Derek Norris? Perez has 120 more at bats than Norris, but only has eight more runs (35-27) and two more homers (10-8). Norris leads 37-32 in RBIs and has big leads in average (.312-.282) and OBP (.416-.328). It’s really no contest on who’s been a better player per at bat, and Norris has huge leads in rate-based stats and isn’t behind in much in the cumulative stats. This, to me, is an egregious error.

1B: Miguel Cabrera. A solid choice as he’s clearly superior than Brandon Moss and Albert Pujols, two of the main contenders in the AL. The third best 1B in the AL is Jose Abreu, he of the 27 homers. Cabrera’s main competitor is Edwin Encarnacion. Encarnacion is equal to Cabrera in a few categories but has a huge advantage in home runs, 26 to 14. Cabrera makes up some of the difference with a big lead in average (.312-.277). Despite this, it’s pretty clear that Cabrera, at least this year, has not been as good as Encarnacion. He starts in place of him for three reasons:

1. Encarnacion is injured and, even if he was named the starter, he wouldn’t be able to play anyways.

2. Cabrera plays in a bigger baseball market than Encarnacion.

3. The biggest reason that Cabrera gets pushed above Encarnacion is because of his history of elite play. When in doubt, people always go with the established superstar over the newcomer.

2B: Robinson Cano. Cano is starting for the same big reason as Cabrera, because he’s been an All Star for the past few years, but he doesn’t have the same statistical dominance this year. Cabrera, while you could make a case that Encarnacion should be starting over him, at least has comparable stats to his. Cano hasn’t been anywhere close to as good as Jose Altuve, let alone Ian Kinsler and Brian Dozier.

SS: Derek Jeter. It’s the final year of his career, he’s the most popular player in the league, he plays in New York, and he’s one of the best players ever. That’s why he’s starting. Logically, though, he’s completely undeserving. He’s horrible defensively at shortstop, and the only reason why he stays there is to keep his streak alive of playing his entire career at one position. He’s okay offensively, but is nowhere near as good as Alexei Ramirez, Erick Aybar, or even Jose Reyes. The Captain deserves to start in the last All Star Game of his career, but it doesn’t mean that he got there by stats alone.

3B: Josh Donaldson. This is a pretty good pick. Donaldson was elite last year and is still above average this year. He hits for power, with 18 homers and 63 RBIs on the year. His average has slipped a bit to .247, but a lot of that is due to bad luck, as shown by his low BABIP. Another factor helping him out is the overall weakness of third baseman in the AL. There’s only Kyle Seager and Adrian Beltre that compare to him, but Donaldson is easily better all around than Seager and is better than Beltre, although by a slimmer margin than one might think.

OF: Jose Bautista, Mike Trout, Adam Jones. All are good choices. They’re all clearly a cut above the reserves, Michael Brantley, Yoenis Cespedes, and Alex Gordon, along with the rest of the outfield candidates in the AL. There’s not much to say about these picks.

DH: Nelson Cruz. Another good pick, although I’d have chosen Victor Martinez over him, due to his higher average and OBP with comparable numbers in cumulative stats.

Let’s move on to the NL.

C: Yadier Molina. He’s a perennial All Star, but there’s no world in which you could tell me that Molina has been better than Jonathan Lucroy this year, or at least actually be correct about it. Lucroy has been better than Molina in every single category this season. The real question is whether Lucroy or Devin Mesoraco starts. Mesoraco, with 130 less at bats than Lucroy, has outperformed Lucroy in most counting stats, especially in home runs, where Mesoraco has a 16-9 lead. However, Lucroy’s large lead in AVG and OBP along with his status as an established veteran gives him the edge over Mesoraco. Both should be starting over Molina, though.

1B: Paul Goldschmidt. This is a slam dunk pick. No one in the NL can compare to Goldschmidt’s all around superiority. Anthony Rizzo, Freddie Freeman, and Justin Morneau all have good stats, but, outside of Rizzo’s 20-16 advantage in homers, all are outclassed in every stat by Goldschmidt.

2B: Chase Utley. Second base is reasonably weak in the National League this year; that’s the only reason Utley’s starting. Assuming that Anthony Rendon is considered more of a third baseman, it all comes down to how much you value stolen bases. If you think that they’re an integral part of the game, you go with Dee Gordon. Otherwise, due to a lack of better candidates, Utley’s the starter.

SS: Troy Tulowitzki. There’s no other choice. He outshines every other NL shortstop considerably at every statistic.

3B: Aramis Ramirez. Neither Ramirez nor David Wright have been on par with their usual standards this year, but Ramirez somehow managed to get the job. Wright has probably been slightly better than Ramirez this year, but both have certainly not been deserving of an All Star spot, let alone being a starter. Both Todd Frazier and Anthony Rendon have been far better than Ramirez so the real question is whether Frazier or Rendon should be starting. They’re almost identical players, each with stats much alike to the other’s. In the end, I’d have to choose Rendon as the more valuable player between the two because of the additional value he creates by being able to play second base. However, one could easily make the case that positional flexibility has no place in All Star voting for a specific position, but I have to find an edge for one of the players somewhere, and that’s the best option I’ve got.

OF: Carlos Gomez, Andrew McCutchen, Yasiel Puig. One of these three players has to make room for Giancarlo Stanton, the question is: Which one? McCutchen is easily in, with his impressive stats filling up the box score. That leaves Gomez and Puig. Overall, Puig has been better than Gomez, with a far better AVG and OPS, giving us the final member of our outfielder trio. No matter what, Stanton has easily been the best outfielder in the NL this year and it’s a bad choice, no matter how you paint it.

Well, that about sums it up. All in all, the roster decisions weren’t all too bad, although some were blatantly wrong.

Unfortunately, oftentimes making fun of the roster selections is a lot more entertaining than actually watching the All Star Game. It’s too bad, especially as there could be some really good baseball played if all the best players in the league were motivated to do their best.

In World Cup news, Germany and Argentina are set to face each other in the World Cup Final. I actually may have built up some credibility with my predictions:

1. I correctly predicted 12 of the 14 knockout round matches to date (only missing Netherlands-Argentina and USA-Belgium)

2. I correctly predicted at the start of the tournament that Brazil would crack under the pressure in the semifinals and lose to Germany (although I didn’t expect the 7-1 smackdown that actually occurred)

3. I correctly predicted that Spain would not be part of the Final Four (although I didn’t predict that they’d lose in the Group Stage)

Of course, I also predicted that Uruguay would make it to the championship game, but let’s try and gloss over that a little, shall we?

I also predicted at the start of the tournament that Germany would win it all. Go me!

Anyways, it should be a great matchup between the team (Germany) and the player (Messi) and I can’t wait to watch it at 8AM on Monday morning during New Zealand time.

Go Germany!


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