One of the benefits (and the only real responsibility) of being a member of the Baseball Bloggers’ Alliance, as we are, is that you occasionally get to submit votes in the BBA’s various awards and such. Which is fun, because it makes you feel important — almost like a real baseball writer — and because it leads to a really, really easy post to write.
So what follows are my own votes. I have not consulted TCM or Mark on this, because I’m our POC for the BBA, and because I’m an evil little power-mad badger.
In light of Mark’s excellent piece from yesterday on All-Star voting standards, here are mine:
- Generally, pick the player who’s having a great half-season. (Usually just the best, but not always, for the reasons below.)
- As between two (or more) players who are having similar seasons to date, take the one with the longer track record of success, or just the more famous player. It’s an exhibition game (or should be) for the fans, after all. In fact, I think there are some situations — very rare ones — in which a player is just so universally beloved that this factor should override the first. Cal Ripken, for example, had earned the right to keep starting the All-Star Game for as long as he remained an active big-league regular.
- As between two (or more) players who are having similar seasons to date, if there’s no established superstar among them, take the one who’s having the best full season, from last All-Star break to this one. I’d prefer this to replace the first criterion — those second-half games count, too, just as much as the first-half ones do — but there’s just no easy way to find it, so until some genius (probably Sean Forman at Baseball-Reference) starts tracking All-Star-break-to-All-Star-break stats, it’s just not very practical.
It’s a pretty loose set of requirements, as you can tell. And I think it has to be. The only thing that makes me angry about All-Star selections — and I hate to admit it, but I do get angry — is when, whatever criteria people are applying, they just do it incorrectly. Manager Charlie Manuel selecting his guy Ryan Howard over Joey Votto last year, for instance; there’s just no possible justification for that. Votto had been a better player since the moment he stepped into the league, and Howard is certainly popular, but isn’t nearly that kind of transcendent player that justifies an annual selection, and their performances weren’t nearly close enough to each other to justify simply giving the nod to the more popular player. The only reason to pick Howard there is the belief that Howard is, and has been, a much better player than he actually is. That sort of thing drives me nuts.
So here are my (and, as far as the BBA is concerned, TPA’s) selections:
Catcher: AL, Alex Avila; NL, Brian McCannAvila is both a surprise and a no-brainer; with the perennial choice having been limited to nine games to date (and the other one serving mostly as the DH on Avila’s team), Avila, coming off a .228/.316/.380 season in 2010, has probably been the AL’s best offensive and defensive catcher, hitting .296/.355/.545 and throwing out 40% of potential basestealers.McCann hasn’t been markedly better than Miguel Montero or Ramon Hernandez this year, but he’s been just as good (at least offensively), has been the best catcher in the NL for the preceding five years, and significantly outperformed those other two in the second half of 2010. By all my criteria, McCann is the right choice.
First Base: AL, Adrian Gonzalez; NL, Joey VottoMiguel Cabrera has been the best offensive 1B in the game this year, but Gonzalez has been almost as good, while being worlds better on defense. (Also, Cabrera does have 13 intentional walks padding his lofty OBP). Couldn’t go wrong with either of them. The NL is a tough call. Prince Fielder has been amazing with the bat, and you can certainly justify putting him in based on performance, and Albert Pujols is getting very close to being one of those players whose greatness and fame I feel justify an annual selection even if his performance doesn’t. Votto’s league-leading OBP and his huge second half of 2010 put him over the top for me.
Second Base: AL, Robinson Cano; NL, Rickie WeeksI pick Cano with some hesitancy, and not just because he’s a Yankee. Ben Zobrist has been much, much better this year, and you could argue that Dustin Pedroia has too, once you factor in defense. But Zobrist batted .177 in the second half last year and Pedroia only played two games in the second half, while Cano was playing like an MVP. Cano’s full-season performance deserves the nod, I think.Weeks has become one of the more underappreciated players in the game, with the same great offense as, and much less disastrous defense than, he provided in 2010. There’s really nobody close at second base in the NL right now.
Third Base: AL, Kevin Youkilis; NL, Chipper JonesYoukilis and Alex Rodriguez have had eerily similar years so far, but Youk gets the nod for his superior OBP. Chipper gets the legacy nod here, partly because there just aren’t a lot of good 3Bs in the NL right now. 30 year old mostly-minor-leaguer Ryan Roberts would be a fun story, but his .256/.352/.467 (121 OPS+) doesn’t stick out too much over Chipper’s .261/.356/.434 (118 OPS+). I’d rather give it to the future Hall of Famer.
Shortstop: AL, Asdrubal Cabrera; NL, Troy TulowitzkiLots of people would argue that if I thought Ripken deserved to start at the end of his career, Jeter should too. And it’s a fair point, and I wouldn’t argue if you went that way. I just don’t think his performance has ever quite been up to that sort of untouchable level. And Cabrera’s been excellent this year, while Jeter, of course, has been very, very poor. At first, Jose Reyes seems like a no-brainer for the NL, based on his huge offensive first half. Tulowitzki, after an enormous start, has fallen off quite a bit. But his defense is better (at least according to Total Zone, along with reputation and past performance), and much more importantly, Tulo’s second half of 2010 was even huger than Reyes’ 2011 to date: .323/.386/.634 (179 OPS+), with 18 homers. Meanwhile, Reyes hit just .293/.325/.448 for last second half. I think Tulo’s great stretch performance should be rewarded here. They both deserve spots on the team anyway, of course.
Outfield: AL, Jose Bautista, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Curtis Granderson; NL, Matt Kemp, Andrew McCutchen, and Ryan BraunAnother thing I believe: starting All-Star lineups should have to feature at least one true center fielder, to avoid the embarrassment of putting a poor-fielding corner outfielder in center, as the NL did last year. Not a problem this season (or it shouldn’t be). Bautista has slugged just .373 since hitting his 20th homer back on May 28, but still has a phenomenal OBP during that time (.463) and, overall, has still been easily the best player in the league. Ellsbury has been awesome, hitting .318 with a 133 OPS+ and leading the league in steals. By WAR, Denard Span would be the right third choice thanks to his stellar defense, but it just feels wrong to pass up Granderson’s 21 homers in 65 games in favor of an injured guy with a 108 OPS+. Kemp has been one of the best offensive players in the game, and certainly the most exciting to watch, in 2011, and has probably been the best player in the NL even if he doesn’t play the same defense he was playing two years ago. McCutchen and Braun are what they are, two of the best players in the league. It’s hard to leave Lance Berkman and his league-leading 197 OPS+ off the team, but then, his defense as an “outfielder” is really, really horrible (both by the numbers and, you know, to watch). He can come off the bench.
Update: I forgot, and was reminded below, that we select DHes now, even in NL parks. So my pick there is David Ortiz, obviously.