Monday, July 14, 2008

My All Stars

Well, every year the fans, players and managers combine to create a roster of NL and AL all-stars, many of which are deserving, a few of which are not. Since I clearly know more than all of them, it would be a disservice if I did not create my own all-star team, following the rules of having every team represented in the 32-man roster.

We'll start with the NL, and go by position.

First Baseman:

Starting will be Lance Berkman, having a career season, but who has been criminally underrated for years - having the third highest OPS out of anybody over the past five years, behind just Albert Pujols (who we'll see shortly) and David Ortiz. Plus he's the less common switch hitter who throws lefty, and gets extra props for that. Oh yeah, and he's sporting a .443 OBP, a .653 SLG all while stealing a career high 15 bags, and getting caught only twice.

Backing him up will be Albert Pujols, who has a fine chance of residing in the inner circle of Hall of Famers by the time his career is over, likely in at the very least the top 3 1Bs of all time, along with the Iron Horse and Jimmie Foxx. This season, although briefly on the DL, has been par for the course, racking up a career high .466 OBP.

Adrian Gonzalez will represent San Diego in the game, even though he's tried to get out of it with a .519 OPS in July, his first three months were excellent enough to warrant a trip, and Jake Peavy was injured just too much to make him the pick.

Second Base:

Well, for most of the year this would have been Chase Utley, and he's certainly still having a fine season (see shortly below). But the man taking over for him is none other than former Rule V draft pick, Dan Uggla. Uggla, if he keeps up his insane .605 SLG, will have the highest SLG for a second baseman since Rogers Hornsby did it a million times in the 1920s. Just for kicks, Uggla has had a career high .374 OBP going into the break as well.

The aforementioned Utley is a more than adequate backup - in fact his .582 SLG would be the 5th highest for a second baseman since 1900, if we leave out greatest-hitting-2nd-baseman of all time Rogers Hornsby. Yeah, I think even with a slowdown to a .296 OBP in July, that still earns you an all-star berth.


Dan Uggla teams up with his double play partner, Hanley Ramirez, who if he continues his combination of high average/some walks/lots of power/lots of speed could be the best shortstop well, since A-Rod was a shortstop, but that essentially means the best player in the game. He dwarfs any other shortstop this year with an 153 OPS+ - the next highest is Jose Reyes and his 123.

Oh, well, yes, the backup in a very weak year for shortstops across the league is Jose Reyes, who has really put himself together since the end of April and is on pace to have the best year of his career, starting to validate the hype he came into the majors with - though for some reason the same people who were infatuated with his talent a few years ago when he underachieved, and now knocking him now that he's achieving, perhaps leading to his bizarre exclusion from the actual all-star team. In the arbitrary statitistics department, he's the first person to go into the all-star break with at least 20 2Bs, 10 3Bs, 10 HRs, and 30 SBs.

Third Baseman:

Another position we have a little bit of depth at. The first choice is clear as much as it pains me as a Met fan to say - Larry Wayne Chipper Jones. I still think his quest for .400 is over, but his .376 BA is nothing to shake a stick at - it would be the fifth highest since 1970. Partnering this with 56 walks for a sick .472 OBP is pretty impressive as well along with an over .600 SLG. One doesn't see many career years at age 36.

Backing him up is David Wright (the backups could be in any order as their worthiness seems to switch off literally day to day). The Mets star is having another strong year with 17 HRs so far and a .380 OBP - the major difference between this year and last is simply the forty points of batting average he's missing. In more arbitrary stats department, David is having the fifth best first five years, by OPS+ of third baseman in the last 50 years behind such Hall of Famers as Mike Schmidt and Wade Boggs, possible future Hallers as Miguel Cabrera and should-be Haller Dick Allen (who didn't play much third after his first five years anyway)

Second backup is Aramis Ramirez, clocking in with a strong .386 OBP and .515 SLG in the slightly more hitter friendly friendly confines of Wrigley.


Well, I'll take two corner OFs and a center in my starters.

I'll start with the biggest snub on the real all star team, the Phillies' Pat Burrell. Burrell, the first overall pick in the 1998 amateur draft has spent most of his career being a poor man's Adam Dunn (and that's not a bad thing) and this year has surpassed the master with a .404 OBP and 23 dingers. I'm not really sure what else he has to do to get invited to the game.

In the other corner is last year's MVP runner up Matt Holliday. Although his .421 OBP and .553 SLG are clearly Coors inflated, those numbers will play at any field; he has become one of the premier outfielders in the game, and will command a huge contract when he becomes a free agent after the 2009 season. One concern for any team that signs him is that he won't be playing in Coors (assuming he doesn't resign with the Rockies, of course), where his home OBP is almost 90 points higher than on the road for his career, and his SLG is over 200 points higher.

Manning center field will be the Pirates' Nate McLouth who has been taking advantage of his first opportunity to play every day at 26. Although he cooled down after a hot start with a .214/.272/.350 line in June, he's come back strong in July with a .286/.340/.673. He's got 17 homers on the year and a .542 SLG.

Backing up these outfielders will be both of McLouth's mates, who feature strangely enough the best outfield trio, in Pittsburgh. Jason Bay is back to his old 2004-2006 self after what now appears to be simply a fluky drop off in 2007, while Xavier Nady continues to have a career season with what maybe an unsustainable .321 BA, which would be by far a career high - still, he should be rewarded for where he is now. Speaking of career seasons, former (and maybe future?) journeyman Ryan Ludwick has punched his ticket with 21 HRs and 23 doubles, leading to a fine .597 SLG.


No position features more young talent in the NL than catcher - where three young stars make the team.

Starting is Braves' backstop Brian McCann, an underlooked star, who is back at his 2006 numbers with an outstanding 27 2Bs and 18 HRs.

Backing up the backstop, are the Dodgers' Russell Martin and the Cubs' Geovany Soto (what a fun name). Martin is the OBP master of the three, taking 53 walks, which combined with his .294 average leads to a .394 OBP. Soto has a little more power with 16 homers and 24 doubles to go along with a still very solid .377 OBP.


We'll go through our starters first.

The story of most of the first half was the Reds' representative Edinson Volquez. He's cooled off a bit from his hot start, but that's pretty much inevitable when you have ERAs under 2 for April and May. He is third in the league in strikeouts as well with 126.

Next is Arizona's new acquisition Danny Haren, who has actually been better than perpetual ace (and fellow all-star) Brandon Webb, leading the NL in WHIP with a .955 along with a league 2nd ERA+ 166.

Tim Lincecum is the Giants representative and a rare spot of hope for the terrible team (Why does Brian Sabean still have a job?). Sure, he's had a season high 3.60 ERA in July, but his league-leading 136 Ks and an outstanding first three months of work are enough.

Haren's rotation-mate Webb is next, continuing to be ace-worthy (even if Haren is pitching slightly better) with a third in league 131 innings (if he keeps it up, his third stright year in the top 3), and outstanding 112/33 K/BB ratio, and a 140 ERA+.

Cole Hamels is the second phillie to be unjustly excluded from the real team. He has an outstanding 126/34 K/BB ratio, good for third in the league, a great 1.023 WHIP, good for 2nd in the league, all in a league leading 142 innings.

Ben Sheets represents the Brewers with a strong 150 ERA+ and a 1.114 WHIP, and 2nd in the league in K/BB ratio. He's excellent when he pitches - health is as always the story with Ben Sheets - he hasn't had a 200 inning season since 2004.

Two Cubs make the starting rotation. The ace of the staff Carlos Zambrano, who is having a bit of a comeback season - while he's been good for all of the past few years, if he keeps this up it would be his best ERA since 2004. His lowering strikeout rate may be a bit of concern in the future, though.

Ryan Dempster makes the team after one of the more unlikely comebacks of recent years. He hadn't started a full season since 2003 with Cincy and hasn't had a season this good, well, ever. He has been a mediocre reliever the past few years. I have to imagine his hit rate will increase, but his K/BB rate has still been solid, and he's earned his trip.

Finishing off the starters is Johan Santana. Although his record may not show it and he hasn't been the best pitcher in his league, as he was over the past few years, his ERA has been good for fourth in the league, and WHIP good for 9th, along with 7th in strikeouts.

Now for the relievers. We're not going to be like Terry Francona's AL and pick as many relievers as starters. But we'll pick a couple (we being me).

Brad Lidge has come back out of purgatory in Houston to have the best season amongst NL closers, with an outstanding 55 strikeouts in 40 innings. Although 19 walks is too much, if you're giving up only 26 hits in 40 innings, you can get away with it.

Billy Wagner has definitely blown too many saves, but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt that it was bad luck since his .949 WHIP and 45/9 K/BB ratio. Hopefuly he won't let us down by blowing a lot more saves in the second half.

Jon Rauch is our Nationals representative. Major league baseball's tallest player has turned out an outstanding 1.014 WHIP and 43/7 K/BB ratio.

Our last closer is Kerry Wood who has done a fine job of fitting into the closer's role with 1.007 WHIP and 55 Ks in 44 innings.

There it is, my 2008 NL All-star team.

No comments: