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All-Stars Then And Now
2008-07-07 12:42
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Last week, as the voting drew to a close, I posted my preferred All-Star rosters for this year's mid-summer classic at Yankee Stadium. Yesterday, the actual rosters were announced. My preferences are hardly the final word on the subject, but I thought that by comparing the two we might be able to glean some insight into the current selection process.

American League
MLB but not MeMe but not MLB
NamePosNamePos
Justin Morneau1BJason Giambi1B
Dustin Pedroia2BBrian Roberts2B
Derek JeterSSJohnny DamonOF
Joe Crede3BMike Lowell3B
Ichiro SuzukiOFJermaine DyeOF
Dioner NavarroCJorge PosadaC
Jason VaritekCScott DownsRP
David OrtizDHRich HardenSP
Ervin SantanaSPJohn LackeySP
Joe SaundersSPShawn MarcumSP
Jonathan PapelbonRPJohn DanksSP
George SherrillRPFelix HernandezSP

David Ortiz, who was voted in as the starting DH by the fans, is on the DL and will be replaced by the winner of the Final Vote contest. The five Final Vote candidates include Giambi, Roberts, and Dye from my list, the Rays' rookie third baseman Evan Longoria, who just missed my cut and has surpassed Mike Lowell in VORP since I posted my list less than a week ago, and the utterly undeserving Jose Guillen. The player I took the most heat in the comments section for omitting was Derek Jeter, the fans' choice for starting shortstop. Since Johnny Damon is also on the DL, I'll slip Jeter, a future Hall of Famer who is captain of the host team and has hit .300/.377/.415 since June 1, into my ballot and thus leave him out of this analysis.

Assuming the Final Vote results reinstate one of my preferred All-Stars, that would leave my AL All-Star team and the actual AL All-Star team differing in 10 different spots on a 32-man roster. Of those, two (Dustin Pedroia and Ichiro Suzuki) are the result of the fan vote. Of those two, Pedroia is somewhat excusable. He's a slick fielding second baseman for the defending World Champions who is hitting .312/.355/.458 with nine steals in as many tries. That doesn't measure up to Ian Kinsler's dominant .332/.391/.545 and 23 steals in 24 tries or Roberts' .295/.373/.493 and 24 steals at a 77 percent clip, but it's not embarrassing. Pedroia is a close third among AL second baseman in VORP.

Suzuki is a bigger problem. He's been having his worst year and his team has been awful, in part as a result of his own weak performance. He's barely above league average (102 OPS+), and he's ninth among AL outfielders in VORP, and would be tenth if you included designated hitter Milton Bradley, who was listed as an outfielder on the All-Star ballots.

Though those two selections are the only fan picks that I don't believe deserve to be on the roster, the fan's starting lineup differed from mine in five places in the AL (Ortiz, Jeter, and Manny Ramirez being the other three I either had on the bench or not at all). That's a .444 winning percentage for the fans, with 22 percent of their picks being major issues.

You see, with Pedroia in the starting lineup, Kinsler was forced to the bench and Roberts was forced out of the top 31 spots. That forced Terry Francona to pick a Baltimore Oriole, and with two second basemen already in place, he went with closer George Sherrill, another bad pick which was likely forced in part by the presence of the undeserving Suzuki in the outfield where the second-best choice from the Orioles Nick Markakis (who along with Baltimore DH Aubrey Huff ranks ahead of Suzuki in VORP). Sherrill we'll blame on Francona, but the fans get an assist.

Because the player vote now fills out most of the bench, Francona is only directly responsible for six players on the roster. Beyond Sherrill they are Carlos Guillen, Dioner Navarro, Justin Duchscherer, Joakim Soria, and Joe Nathan. Nathan, Soria, Duchscherer, and Guillen were all on my team. That gives Francona a .667 winning percentage. Sherrill we've discussed. Navarro isn't the worst pick. He's third among AL catchers in VORP behind All-Star starter A.J. Pierzynski and Joe Mauer. I took Jorge Posada (seventh in VORP due to his DL stay) on my team over Navarro and Pierzynski, but I can't begrudge Francona taking Navarro's .318/.370/.435 over A.J.'s .296/.333/.442, especially as Pierzynski's slight lead in VORP is also due to playing time. Heck, give Francona a 5-for-6 on his picks, or .833.

So we blame the fans and Francona for just three of what I'll now call nine mistakes (allowing Navarro for Posada). That leaves six blown calls by the players. The most egregious being the inclusion of Jason Varitek, who has been so bad this year he's actually 35th in the 14-team league in VORP among catchers, trailing his own backup, the abysmal Kevin Cash, among others. Varitek is in the red at -2.4 VORP. Only three catchers in the American League (yes, Jose Molina is one of them) have done more damage to their team's offenses. Varitek is far and away the least deserving All-Star in either league. Second to him is Joe Crede, who is eighth in the league in VORP among third baseman behind such luminaries as Casey Blake and Ramon Vazquez.

The players will take a lot of heat for those picks here and elsewhere, but of their 17 picks, 11 were on the money, giving them a .647 winning percentage, and "incorrect" picks like Justin Morneau, who is third in VORP at first base behind Final Vote candidate Giambi, Jonathan Papelbon, undeniably one of the game's dominant closers (last night's loss notwithstanding), or even Angel starters Joe Saunders (12-4, 3.04) and Ervin Santana (9-3, 3.28, 3.53 K/9, 1.09 WHIP), are hardly ludicrous suggestions. The problem is that ludicrous selections such as Varitek and Crede make those near misses a lot harder to swallow.

Here's the breakdown for the NL:

National League
MLB but not MeMe but not MLB
NamePosNamePos
Ryan BraunOFPat BurrellOF
Kosuke FukudomeOFJason BayOF
Alfonso SorianoOFCarlos BeltranOF
Ryan LudwickOFBrian GilesOF
Miguel TejadaSSJose ReyesSS
Cristian GuzmanSSDavid Wright3B
Ryan DempsterSPCole HamelsSP
Aaron CookSPJohan SantanaSP
Billy WagnerRPJohn RauchRP
Kerry WoodRPCarlos MarmolRP
(Final Vote)TBAHeath BellRP

David Wright and Pat Burrell are the only members of my team on the Final Vote ballot, which also includes outfielders Corey Hart, Carlos Lee, and Aaron Rowand. The Final Vote ballots are compiled by the manager, so already Clint Hurdle is looking worse off compared to Terry Francona. Adding another debit on Hurdle's chart is his "incorrect" selection of Aaron Cook from his own team whereas Francona added no Red Sox to the AL roster. That said, beyond Cook and Carlos Zambrano, I'm not sure exactly which picks were Hurdle's, but I assume that Cristian Guzman was one, as he's the lone Nationals' representative. He's a borderline choice over my pick of Nats Rep, John Rauch (N-DC), but one I won't complain about too much.

The fans did a good job in the infield, slipping only at catcher, though not so badly that they elected a player undeserving of the roster. The outfield is a different story. None of the three NL outfield starters elected by the fans made my ballot, and just one of my preferred outfield starters even made the All-Star team, with Jason Bay not even making the Final Vote ballot.

This is where we run into a problem. Overall the NL roster is stronger, though it differs from mine just as much as the AL roster. Nearly all of the "incorrect" players above were considered for my team. The biggest exceptions are fan-elected starters Fukudome and Soriano, both outfielders. Soriano has been limited by injuries, but otherwise his usual productive self (.283/.332/.547 with 15 homers and 7 steals in eight tries in just 51 games), so even there an argument can be made. Fukudome is another matter, however. The most problematic selection in the NL, Japanese import Fukudome, the Cubs' rookie right fielder, is 22nd among NL outfielders in VORP, which means he wouldn't even make the seventh string outfield on a All-VORP NL outfield team.

It seems clear that Fukudome and Suzuki are being helped by on-line voting from their home country. I realize the importance of these players to both their countrymen and to MLB's attempts to expand the game's international reach, but I don't think it helps their popularity on this side of the Pacific to be inserted in the All-Star lineups when they're so clearly undeserving. Heck, they haven't even been the best Japanese players in the majors this season. Hideki Matsui would have earned a spot as the starting DH if not for his recent knee injury, and should have been voted in over the similarly injured Ortiz anyway, and Dodgers closer Takashi Saito, who is dominating for a third season and has been every bit as good as Wagner and Wood thus far. Of course, fans can't vote for pitchers, which was my very first complaint about the All-Star balloting when I first picked up a ballot in the mid-80s and realized I couldn't punch a hole for Dwight Gooden.

Just like the Hall of Fame selection process, the All-Star balloting is a confused mess that results in far too many mistakes and snubs. Of course, if it worked better, guys like me would be out of a (non-paying) job.

Speaking of pay, check out my take on the CC Sabathia trade over at SI.com.

Also, be sure to check out the 1977 All-Star game on the YES Network tonight at 7:00 pm. The last All-Star game to be played at Yankee Stadium prior to this year's, the 1977 game featured home town heroes Willie Randolph and Reggie Jackson in the starting lineup, Graig Nettles, Thurman Munson, and Sparky Lyle on the bench, Billy Martin managing the AL squad, and a host of future Yankees wearing other uniforms including Dave Winfield as a Padre, Goose Gossage as a Pirate (!), and Butch Wynegar as a sophomore catcher for the Twins, as well as current YES broadcaster and New York native Kenny Singleton during his glory days as a Baltimore Oriole.

All-Star games are rarely exciting, and this one fits that bill, but they give you the most bang for your buck in terms of seeing the stars of yesterday in action. Carew, Brett, Yaz, Reggie, Munson, Nettles, Fisk, Lynn, Rice, Palmer, Eck (as an Indian starter), and Sparky for the AL (with Nolan Ryan, Vida Blue, and Bird Fidrych among the unused pitchers) and Schmidt, Rose, Bench, Morgan, Foster, Concepcion, Garvey, Cey, Parker, Winfield, Simmons, Bull Luzinski, Seaver, Sutton, and Goose for the NL (with Griffey Sr., Lefty Carlton, Bruce Sutter and Joaquin Andujar as a sophomore with Houston among those unused by Sparky Anderson). For those keeping track, that's 17 Hall of Famers in the house, 14 of whom got in the game. In this particular case, it's also an opportunity to get a look at the remodeled Stadium in it's sophomore season for those who don't already own the 1977 World Series box set (in which this game would have made a nifty, if excessive, eighth disc).

Comments
2008-07-07 15:16:26
1.   monkeypants
Speaking of Derek Jeter, who took heat for an error last night, whom OYF accuses of playing terrible defense and not being able to pull the ball or hit the other way with authority, who "worries" Weeping, who is declining before the very eyes of William...

Check out RLYW.

Yes, that's right...according to their analysis he's the third most productive SS in the AL. He has the second highest batting runs above average for position (I told you all that even 95 OPS+ Jeter outhits his position), AND he is playing slightly above average defense this season according to zone rating.

Just some food for thought.

2008-07-07 15:19:14
2.   Cliff Corcoran
1 Yeah, but AL shortstops as a group have been terrible this season. Being third best of a bad lot is not something to brag about.
2008-07-07 15:28:06
3.   monkeypants
2 Oh agreed. But it makes his selection to the AS team more defensible. Also, it is more grist for my mill, since I have been arguing all along that even diminished Jeter is still an asset at SS. Calls to move him to LF or 1B don't take into account that he is still playing above average for his position in the AL despite having his worst year.

Overall, I think that Yankees fans have gone from overrating "Mr. November" to greatly failing to appreciate how good of a player at his position he was and continues to be.

2008-07-07 16:05:20
4.   YankeeInMichigan
MLB demands that a manager put 12 pitchers on the All-Start roster. That leaves room for 19 position players (besides the final man). In a DH year, the AL manager can then choose only two position players, since the fans pick 9 and the players pick 8 (in previous DH years, the players chose a DH as well, so the manager could choose only one position player). Francona needed to select both a Tiger and an Oriole, and neither team had a deserving pitcher. He selected Guillen for one position-player spot (over Polanco and Granderson because of his versatility). He then chose Navarro for other spot because (a) he wanted a 3rd catcher and (b) the team with the best record in baseball (!) deserves two representatives. As a result, we was forced to bypass Roberts, Markakis and Huff in favor of the undeserving Sherril.

You or I may have done otherwise, but Francona's decision is certainly defensible. (As long has the AL doesn't lose WS home-field advantage as a result of George Sherril giving up the winning run in the 16th inning.)

2008-07-07 16:10:45
5.   YankeeInMichigan
4 ... which leads to two of my favorite annual rants:

a) Why use a DH in the All-Star Game? Let the managers have fun with double switches.

b) Why limit pitchers to one-inning stints? If a manager was truly managing to win, he would leave a hot pitcher in the game for 2 or 3 innings. A 9 or 10-man staff would then be able to cover an extra inning game, and there would be room for 2 or 3 more position players on the roster.

2008-07-07 16:16:49
6.   Cliff Corcoran
5 a) because it gets more Stars in the Game, and the game isn't about the manager.

b) agreed

2008-07-07 16:25:08
7.   monkeypants
5 Also, since DH is a "position" in the AL, eliminating it entirely would penalize players like David Ortiz or Edgar Martinez. As long as MLB insists on having the DL and players with specialized skills excel at the "position," it should be accounted for in the ASG.

I have a somewhat related question. Does MLB mandate how many starting pitchers (as opposed to RP) must be included on the roster. It would be very, very tempting to carry only two or three starters and fill up the rest of the staff with one inning specialists and closers. It must be hard to decide between starters and relievers, especially when elite relievers often have very gaudy ERAs.

2008-07-07 16:43:36
8.   OldYanksFan
3 I'm not THAT down on Derek, although his dropoff this year is pretty big, and he is getting paid $20 million. I also didn't say he couldn't pull a pitch, I said it appears he is not TRYING to, and I think he would be more successful if he did pull the ball (on appropriate pitches).

Of 20 qualifying MLB SSs: Jeter is
12th of 20 in OPS
8th of 20 in OBP
tied for 9th thru 13th in SB (with 5)
tied for 14th thru 15th in HR

I would rate that as just slightly above average (as there are 30 teams), as 12th in OPS is probably the most important stat. (I don't have OPS+ numbers, so it could be off a bit either way). Maybe you can post VORP and WARP, but I suspect they would place him similarly.

Now you can add his defense to his slightly above average offense and give him a total grade.

So he has gone from the top 15-20% to around/slightly above 50%. Is he a great asset? I would feel a little better about him if he was running better, stealing mores bases (even if his hand is hurt), and not hitting into so many DPs.

However, I will hope that this is just a bad year, and that he will be closer to the top 30% in the next few years. He has been hitting a bit better of late. Time will tell.

Am I being too hard on Derek? Take your shots Banterers.

2008-07-07 16:57:48
9.   ny2ca2dc
8 You can't really compare across leagues, as offense is down so much in the AL this year. The pitchers in the AL are a lot better, so an equal player in the NL will hit better. RLYW's comp just looks at the AL (if I recall).
2008-07-07 17:01:41
10.   monkeypants
8 My only critiques are:

1. "tied for 14th thru 15th in HR" -- so what? Better to look at SLG, though I suspect that his would not fare well.

2. That there are only 20 qualified SS out of 30 teams should be taken into consideration. That means the the starting SS for 10 other teams have been hurt or have been so bad that they are being platooned, sent down, etc. It's a bit unfair to say that 12th out of 30 (and really, it's more than thirty) is "slightly above 50%," it is in fact the 40th percentile. In round numbers, it's closer to top third than top half.

3. He is playing slightly better than average defense relative to the AL, but I can't speak to the MLB average. hey, I poached this from RLYW. Anyway, assuming he has been playing a tick above average on D, then we can round up his overall performance to, say top third or so.

So, he has gone from being top 20% in your estimation (which I guess would be one of the top 6 SS in the league) to one of the top 10 or so. And that is while he is having a very bad year by his own standards. Top 30% would mean top 9. In other words, you are concerned that he may not get back to a top 30% SS in the future, when he's already playing at that level in a down year.

Is he "worth" $20 million? Nope.

Is he an asset? You bet.

A couple of other notes--

4. The DPs are a problem, but he is on pace for about the same number he hit into last year.

5. The SB number is down, but the rate is very good (5 for 7). His career average is 23 SB/season; he is on pace for about 10. Last year he had 15. Most of the decline in SB can be attributed, I think, to lower OBP resulting in fewer opportunities. Most of his decline in OBP is in BA. He's hitting .280 instead of .320, and his OBP is .345 instead of .385.

My prediction: by the end of the year he will be hitting .300/.360/.410. and that's just not that bad.

2008-07-07 17:05:07
11.   RIYank
9 Right. And Jeter ranks third among AL shortstops, by runs prevented + runs created. (Remember this is a counting stat, and he plays a lot and bats second, which helps him.)

RLYW just put up the LFs, and our own JD comes out on top (on the strength of his 14 runs over avg created, and one extra run prevented). Manny is close on O but lousy on D; Carl Crawford has an eye-popping 11 runs prevented but is just about average for CFs with the bat.

2008-07-07 17:06:41
12.   monkeypants
8 10 Aha. Jeter is 11th out of 20 qualified MLB SS in SLG, and 3rd out of 10 in the AL. So your reference to 14th in HRs is a bit misleading.

Again, we are so spoiled by having HOF Derek Jeter, we forget just how light hitting the position typically is. His statistics right now are just a tick below Derek Jeter 1996-1997, and as I said before, that's not too bad.

2008-07-07 17:10:17
13.   monkeypants
11 Though he has missed 7 games. But he does get lots and lots of ABs.
2008-07-07 17:17:48
14.   RIYank
Look at Julio Lugo and Alex Cora. Los Stinkos.
2008-07-07 17:33:35
15.   rbj
And there's the age old question of how you define All-Star. Is it the guy who's having a great first half, or someone who everyone knows. Griffey isn't having a great year, but I'd put him on simply because he's had a great career and has hit 600 HRs "cleanly". Longoria should be there even though he's a rookie because he's playing well and his team has the best record. I don't have an answer for which criterion is more important. And sorry Evan, but I'm voting for the 'stache.
2008-07-07 18:57:41
16.   monkeypants
Someone asked this question on another thread: MLB.com lists Ponson as pitching tomorrow and TBA starting on Wednesday.

On the one hand, given that I have tickets for Wednesday's game, I am thrilled at the prospect of not seeing Sir Sidney pitch. On the other hand, I am concerned why Pettitte is being skipped, if the Upcoming Schedule in the sidebar was accurate.

Any info?

2008-07-07 19:23:16
17.   OldYanksFan
16 I don't like it. Kazmir/Ponson is like a forfeit. Hope Andy is OK. I guess TBA is a farmhand?
2008-07-07 19:35:48
18.   monkeypants
17 Yeah, that's a grim match-up on Tuesday if MLB.com is right. But from a selfish perspective, I really prefer to see TBA on my ony trip to the stadium this season, than Ponson.

Well, unless TBA is a Japanese abbreviation for Kei Igawa.

2008-07-07 19:46:45
19.   OldYanksFan
Steve Goldman says trade Melky for an arm and put Brett in CF. I kinda would miss Melky, but considering we need help and have little trade bait, it might be a good idea. If you can stand Santana redux noise.
2008-07-07 20:00:37
20.   monkeypants
My only fear is that Melky's value is so low right now that he wouldn't fetch anything of value. Also, they are thin, thin, thin in OF: Johnny is hurt, Matsui is hurt and can't play defense, Duncanstein is hurt and can't really play the OF. That leaves Gardner in CF and Christian in LF, an ??? as the BUOF, until the walking wounded return.
2008-07-07 20:16:34
21.   Cliff Corcoran
16 As far as I know it's Pettitte tomorrow, then Ponson on Wed, as I have on the sidebar. I find MLB to be less reliable than other sources on that subject. Let's see what they have posted tomorrow afternoon.
2008-07-07 20:17:42
22.   Cliff Corcoran
21 Check that. MLB.com has already updated things to have Pettitte tomorrow and Ponson Wed. Like I said . . .
2008-07-07 20:20:41
23.   monkeypants
22 Blast! It's Sir Sidney for me on Wednesday.
.
.
I should never have doubted the sidebar!
2008-07-07 23:23:32
24.   weeping for brunnhilde
1 Thanks, mp.

Any way of assessing whether his throws are more erratic this year? He does seem to have more range to his left, but that arm just doesn't seem so reliable as it used to.

Maybe it's me.

As to what to do with him, I'm sure you're right that he's more of an asset at short than elsewhere, but really, it would be fabulous to have a great shortstop. It's one thing to put up with a decent shortstop, but there has to be a line somewhere it the team is serious about winning.

I'm not saying we're there yet, but I do think it's time to start making some plans.

We can't just sit around and do nothing like we did with Bernie.

2008-07-07 23:27:46
25.   weeping for brunnhilde
8 His hitting is rumored to be the result of that HBP in his hand a couple months back.

I think his hitting is fine (meaning, not in decline). I count on him to get really hot at some point.

2008-07-08 04:17:50
26.   monkeypants
24 Yes, it would be great to have a great player at every position, no doubt. What you have to ask yourself is what constitutes a great SS? How many runs above average should he be?

No matter how awful you think his defense has been, and how pedestrian his offense so far, he is still giving more than he is taking. He's the third best SS in the AL. In what way are they (we?) "putting up" with him?

2008-07-08 04:50:31
27.   Sliced Bread
the inclusion of Navarro in the trade for Randy Johnson still irks me, but I'm happy for him. He deserves the All-Star nod.
2008-07-08 06:17:17
28.   OldYanksFan
26 On Runs Scored/Saved Above average.
It is easy to calculate Runs Scored. We actually see it happen. But Runs Saved?

If there is a man on 2nd, 2 out, and a fielder makes a great play to take away a double, I will guess he gets ONE defensive Run Saved. However, in real life, if he doesn't make that play, the offensive team gets ANOTHER out (as well as the Run Scored). With that extra out, do they rally and score another run? Does the next guy up hit a 2 run HR?

I don't know how the Runs Saved formula is calcuated. I will guess they use an average figure for run expectancy to account for the extra out?

SS is a prime defensive position. If you compare 2 shortstops who both have a score of 20 (Saved + Scored), I just have a gut feeling that the guy with the higher 'saved' number is a little more valuable.

By the by, I don't know if this is DeadHorse territory, but it WILL BE LIVE this winter. Steve at WW (http://waswatching.com)
"The Yankees had discussions with the Indians, but were unwilling to make a deal unless they could sign Sabathia beyond 2008."
And opines:
"I think it would be a mistake to chase Sabathia as a free agent."
We turned down Santana. Will we turn down CC also?

2008-07-08 06:47:41
29.   monkeypants
28 "We turned down Santana. Will we turn down CC also? "

Apples and oranges. Getting Santana meant trading a bundle of prospects AND signing him to a long-term deal. Chasing Sabathia now only requires signing him to a long-term deal without having to deal prospects (they would lose draft picks).

2008-07-08 06:57:08
30.   monkeypants
28 "If there is a man on 2nd, 2 out, and a fielder makes a great play to take away a double, I will guess he gets ONE defensive Run Saved. However, in real life, if he doesn't make that play, the offensive team gets ANOTHER out (as well as the Run Scored)."

That's bogus logic. If he had to make a great play to prevent a double, then failing to make the play does not give the opposing team an extra out. They still have the same three outs. Moreover, to what degree should the fielder be held accountable for the rally that he caused (???) by not making a great play, when invariably the pitcher (primarily) and other fielders will have contributed to subsequent rally as well.

I believe that runs saved is based on ZR and an estimate of how many plays a fielder makes over average. In effect, it counts the opposing outs that a fielder contributes to; each out is worth a certain number of runs on average. If you know how many outs the average fielder produces at his position, then you can estimate how many runs saved over (or under) average.

On a side note, when estimated (guestimating?) defensive contributions, you always assume a sort of worst case scenario: ie, a misplay or failed play somehow leads to "extra outs" and uncounted runs. But you never consider the other side of the coin, that often mis-/non-plays don't result in any damage. These things do tend to balance out to some degree.

2008-07-08 09:01:44
31.   YankeeInMichigan
7 I believe that the players vote for 4 starters and 4 relievers. The manager can then select any 4 pitchers.
2008-07-08 10:30:12
32.   weeping for brunnhilde
26 I get what you're saying, on paper.

It's just that having a mediocre to poor fielding shortstop is an affront to the most sacred tenets of baseball.

It's just a hard thing for me to shrug off.

2008-07-08 10:31:46
33.   weeping for brunnhilde
26 Oh, and I guess by "putting up with him" I'm referring to the fact that he's inching (INCHING) towards Knoblauch territory, where there's a little bit of doubt when he fields the ball in tight spots.

It's the anxiety.

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