With the All-Star voting closing tonight at 11:59pm and the Yanks enjoying an off-day following a rain out, I though I'd share my picks.
1B - Mark Teixeira
2B - Brian Roberts
SS - Miguel Tejada
3B - Alex Rodriguez
C - Jason Varitek
OF - Vladimir Guerrero
CF - Hideki Matsui
OF - Gary Sheffield
1B - Derek Lee
2B - Jeff Kent
SS - Bill Hall
3B - Aramis Ramirez
C - Paul Lo Duca
OF - Bobby Abreu
CF - Jason Bay
OF - Miguel Cabrera
There are two sides to picking an All-Star team. One is picking the players who have performed the best over the first three months of the current season. The other is choosing the biggest stars at each position. This is similar to the peak vs. career conversation that often arises when weighing a player's Hall of Fame candidacy. Myself, I lean toward choosing the players who have performed best in the current season, the logic being that they have these things every year for a reason. Even Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez have to earn an All-Star appearance in my book. Some would argue that a three-month period is not a large enough sample, that perhaps it would be better to reward the previous years' performance, thus allowing things to even out over a full season. Me, I'd much rather see Norm Cash in 1961 than in 1962 and Brady Anderson in 1996 than 1997, thus I'll continue to vote for the players having the best season and risk the odd fluke selection.
Those who disagree will likely take one look at the above list of names and get all bent out of shape over my choosing Milwaukee's Bill Hall as the starting National League shortstop. To them I ask, would you prefer Felipe Lopez?
Things are pretty dire at shortstop in the National League this year. Just ten NL shortstops have tallied more than ten runs against replacement (RARP). The Reds' Lopez tops that list at 22.8 RARP. By comparison, the no-brainer AL choice, Miguel Tejada, is 44.7 runs above replacement. The other four men are, in order, Hall, injured Colorado rookie Clint Barmes, David Eckstein and Omar Vizquel. Based on star wattage, Vizquel is really the only legitimate All-Star on that list, but looking at EQA, he and Eckstein trail the other three by a significant amount (Vizquel .267, Eckstein .266; Lopez .298, Hall .290, Barmes .283).
By now you're probably wondering why not Felipe Lopez. My answer is defense. If I'm going to vote for a no-name shortstop, he better be able to play his position. Lopez leads all NL shortstops in EQA and RARP (as well as homers, RBIs, and OPS), but he's put up a monstrous 87 Rate, making him a primary offender in the Reds historically bad defense. I just can't vote for anyone who fits that description.
Now to digress for a moment, there are two men on my All-Star ballot who have posted a Rate in the 80s thus far this year, one of whom is helping to dragging his team's Defensive Efficiency to the bottom of his league. The difference there is that those two men, Brian Roberts (88 Rate at second base) and Alex Rodriguez (85 Rate at third for the AL-worst Yankees), have been the two best hitters in the American League this year.
So back to the NL shortstops, with Lopez eliminated, Hall becomes the best offensive shortstop in the league. He's also posted a 110 rate in his games at short this year. Of course, there comes another catch. Hall has started just 30 games at shortstop this year because the Brewers are still hoping J.J. Hardy will start to hit (thus far no luck, he's only managed a .175/.287/.253 line). To that end my vote is also a bit of a message to the Brewers management: send the 22-year-old Hardy and his .192 GPA down for another season of seasoning and give the 25-year-old Hall the job. It's not as if they'd be wasting the playing time on a declining veteran while burying a rookie who's clearly ready for the bigs. Meanwhile, they're only 7.5 games out of the Wild Card. Milwaukee fans have had nothing to root for for more than a decade, give them Bill Hall. Give us all Bill Hall! (Did I mention he's 7 for 8 on the bases? Well, he is.)
By the way, Hall won't win. He's not even in the top five vote getters right now. The tally as of Monday was:
Cesar Izturis - 940,944
Eckstein - 896,531
Nomar Garciaparra - 712,410
Barmes - 569,605
Jose Reyes - 472,310
Izturis has a .237 EQA and a sub-Hall 104 Rate. If you want someone deserving to go, vote for Eckstein. Besides, it sure would stick it to the Red Sox and Angels to see Eckstein, the man non-tendered to make room for Orlando Cabrera in Los Anaheim, who was passed over to make room for Edgar Renteria in Boston, be the only one of the three to not only make, but start the All-Star Game, especially as he's making just $2.3 million to Cabrera's six and Renteria's eight this year.
Elsewhere, a lot of these choices were obvious. In the American League, Teixeira, Roberts, Tejada, Rodriguez, Guerrero, Varitek and Ortiz were such clear-cut choices that even the voting agrees. Of course, it took a while for Teixeira to overtake the overenthusiastic Yankee fans who voted for Tino Martinez (still second in the voting), Roberts could use some help fending off Alfonso Soriano (who has a 78 Rate), and Guerrero actually trails Manny Ramirez in the overall outfield vote, but still, good work by the fans there.
My second and third choices for the AL outfield might require some explanation. Again there are two methods commonly applied here. One is to vote for the three best outfielders regardless of which field they play. The other is to vote for the best left, center and right fielders as if they were separate categories. I prefer to vote for a center fielder and the two best corner outfielders without distinguishing between right and left field, thus Matsui. Johnny Damon (creeping up on the massively undeserving Ichiro Suzuki, who currently holds the third AL spot) and Torii Hunter are both having excellent seasons and are purer centerfielders than Matsui, who has started fewer games in center than Bill Hall has at short (with a poor 91 Rate to boot), but Matsui has flat out-hit both of them despite his nearly month-and-a-half swoon. Given a choice between Damon and Hunter, I'd choose Hunter (who's the better defender, has stolen 18 bases to Damon's 8--both at solid rates--and out-homered Damon 14 to 3). But with Matsui as an option, I've got to go with Godzilla's monster bat.
The final spot then comes down to Gary Sheffield vs. Manny Ramirez. Ramirez has some remarkable counting stats (19 homers, a league-leading 68 RBIs) which account for his top vote total, but he's been inconsistent and typically poor in the field. Sheffield, meanwhile, has been a rock, besting Manny's EQA .322 to .307 by hitting .300/.401/.502 as a righty in Yankee Stadium to Manny's .272/.365/.545 as a righty in Fenway. Sheff adds a 6 for 7 on the bases and a surprisingly solid 99 Rate in the field, thus he's my choice.
In the NL, the no-brainers are fewer. Derek Lee has been the best player in baseball this year, adding a 10 for 12 on the bases and a 110 Rate to an almost Bondsian performance at the plate. Beyond Lee, only Kent, Abreu and maybe Lo Duca come without a challenge. We've discussed shortstop. Third base was a dead heat between David Wright, Morgan Ensberg and my eventual choice Aramis Ramirez. Wright lost out due to his glove (89 Rate). Ensberg almost won because of his (111), but ultimately, I allowed the "star" factor to come into play here, choosing Ramirez because he's both younger (by nearly three years) and has a stronger track record.
Which leaves the outfield. Again, searching for a centerfielder I discovered that Jason Bay has started 23 games there this year, just two fewer than Matsui, giving him the nod over Jim Edmonds, who trails him by ten points in EQA, and major league home run leader Andrew Jones, who trails hm by fifteen. The second corner spot then came down to Cabrera against Brian Giles. Looking at Giles numbers it's staggering how much Petco suppresses offense. Both Giles and Ryan Klesko are having excellent seasons for the Padres, but you wouldn't know it by looking at traditional leaderboards. Even so, Cabrera has him beat by the park-adjusted EQA (.335 to .326) and, frankly, I'm much more interested in seeing the 22-year-old Cabrera play than I am the 34-year-old Giles.
So there you have it. Now off to submit my 25 ballots, with the odd Eckstein vote worked in there to have some bearing on reality (did I mention that Derrek Lee was 59,912 votes behind Albert Pujols at first as of Monday? Outrage!).