Wednesday

6-16-10: 2010 MLB All-Star Ballot

Hello again everybody...

I'm baaaaaack...

Sorry about leaving you all hanging on Monday. I wish I had a fantastic excuse for you. You know, like I contracted a short-lived version of Ebola. Or, I live a secret double-life as a masked crime-fighter and my presence was required at the time I'm usually writing. Or even that I was mixed up with a South American drug cartel and had to spend a brief stint in the witness protection program after returning to the side of right and virtue and turning on the drug lords.

Alas, the truth is nowhere near that entertaining.

The fact is that I found myself thoroughly drained at the end of the weekend, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't force myself to focus long enough to write anything worth reading. What can I say? These things happen.

Hopefully, you'll all forgive me and we can move on.

Ah, but what we'll we be moving on to, you ask? Excellent question! And I'll be happy to answer it!

Right after the quote...

”The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”
- F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896 - 1940), American author
(quote courtesy of Renee in Minnetonka)


Two opposed ideas?! Half the time I'm lucky to be able to hold a single coherent idea in my mind!

«Read More...»


And then there are the times where I bury myself in a project and perhaps over-focus on it a tad... like when I worked out the system for my...

2010 MLB All-Star Ballot

Two years ago I wrote a column about my All-Star ballot in which I tried to develop a statistical system which would unbiasedly produce the best candidates for the All-Star teams. It worked out okay.

Then last year I scrapped the system and created my ballot by instinct and opinion alone. That worked out okay as well.

But in 2010, I wanted to revisit the idea of a system that used statistical rankings to determine All-Star worthiness. In my ever-expanding quest to become more sabermetrically-correct, I decided to take my 2008 system to the next level. In my original system, I was using silly things like batting average, home runs, RBI and stolen bases to rank players. As I've learned, however, batting average is not the best arbiter of offensive prowess; RBI are dramatically affected by the success of other hitters; and stolen bases vary wildly from position to position - you can't really rank catchers in terms of steals, can you?!

Now, before we go any further, I'm going to issue a warning. To those of you whose eyes glaze over at the appearance of an abundance of statistics, hang with me. The column is going to appear to be numbers-heavy for a short while, but I'm not going to bury you with an avalanche of actuarial science, I promise!

I decided to use three “next-level” statistics to rank players at each position: OPS (On-base Plus Slugging percentage) for offense, UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) for defense, and WAR (Wins Above Replacement) as an overall ranking.

I'll try to be brief with the explaining.

OPS is exactly what it sounds like. You add a player's On-Base Percentage (his ability to get on-base via hit or walk) to his Slugging Percentage (a measure of the power/total bases his hits produce) and you come up with his OPS. This is a far better measure of a player's offensive performance than his batting average.

UZR measures the number of runs above or below average a player's worth defensively. I won't bore you to death with the exact mathematics of it... mostly because I don't understand them myself. But it's a solid statistic that fairly accurately predicts a fielder's worth. Except for catchers. They haven't quite worked that part out yet, so for my catcher votes, I relied solely on OPS and...

WAR. Wins Above Replacement incorporates both offensive and defensive stats to determine how many wins a player adds, or subtracts from his team versus say a AAA-level substitute player. This is another mathematically complex statistic, the formula of which I don't entirely understand. But I do understand the results, and for the purposes of my ballot, that's good enough!

Still with me? Good. After the complexity of those stats, actually formulating the ballot was fairly easy. I created a spreadsheet with all of the names on the AL and NL ballots grouped by position. I eliminated any player who had played less than 40 games, since if you've played less than 2/3 of the season to date, I don't feel like you belong on an All-Star team. Then I entered all the stats and ranked the players in each category. After that, I simply added the three rankings together, and whoever ended up with the lowest total got the vote.

Makes sense right? I won't reprint the spreadsheet here, but for my math-geek friends, if you want to see it, let me know and I'll email it to you.

For the most part, I think it worked out pretty well. There are a few votes that I'm sure will raise some eyebrows, but the numbers fairly well back them up.

So without further ado, here are my selections for the 2010 MLB All-Star game:


American League

First Base: Justin Morneau - Minnesota Twins

Honorable Mentions: Kevin Youklis - Red Sox (whom I hate); Kendry Morales - Angels

This one was pretty straight-forward. Morneau leads all first basemen in OPS (1.095), UZR (6.4), and WAR (4.1). Career-wise, Youklis is the better defender, but so far this season his UZR is only 0.1, pretty darned average. Morales has some sentiment attached to his honorable mention, since he's out til near the end of the season after fracturing his leg while celebrating a walk-off grand slam.


Second Base: Robinson Cano - New York Yankees

Honorable Mentions: Orlando Hudson - Twins, Ben Zobrist - Rays

Another pretty easy selection. Cano leads all second basemen in OPS (1.030) and WAR (3.8), and is in the top five in UZR (2.3). He's long been one of those players who have a ton of talent but haven't really “figured it out”. Well this appears to be the year where he's “figured it out”. A second baseman with a +1.000 OPS is a serious rarity, and a fortunate bonus for the Yankees since their power-hitting first baseman, Mark Teixeira, has struggled to a .738 OPS (barely above average) so far this season.

Hudson has been on the DL as of late, but prior to that has been a boon for the Twins offense (just look at the bottomless pit the second spot in their line-up has been since he's been out) and a solid defender (5.1 UZR, best amongst AL 2nd basemen). Zobrist has once again alternated between second base and outfield, but he's a terrific overall player who deserves as shot as a reserve player.


Shortstop: Derek Jeter - New York Yankees

Honorable Mentions: Marco Scutaro - Red Sox (whom I hate); Elvis Andrus - Rangers

This is the only time where my system failed to produce a clear winner. Jeter and Scutaro both tied for my vote, each with a first, second and third-place ranking in the three categories. I'd love to say that I had a unbiased tie-breaker, but as regular readers know, when it comes to the Red Sox (whom I hate), I'm anything but unbiased. Ergo, Jeter gets my vote.

Scutaro's been a marked defensive upgrade for Boston (whom I hate) at shortstop, and fairly solid at the plate. Andrus is still a little light in the bat, but is poised to grow into a star shortstop for years to come. With the expanded rosters this year, it won't surprise me at all if Andrus gets his first nod.


Third Base: Adrian Beltre - Boston Red Sox (whom I hate)

Honorable Mentions: Evan Longoria - Rays; Alex Rodriguez - Yankees

Well I couldn't hope to keep the Red Sox (whom I hate) out of the game entirely, could I? What's especially galling about this result is that last year, I was very vocal about how much I didn't want the Twins to pursue Beltre in a trade. So when the Red Sox signed him prior to the 2010 season, I was all set to watch him fall flat on his face in a major market. Instead, he landed in the top two of each of the three categories I used. Woops.

Longoria is likely to get the fans vote as the starter. It's hard for me to argue that they're wrong since he leads AL third basemen in OPS (.951) and WAR (3.1), but his UZR (1.0) hurt him in my system and gave the nod to Beltre. As for A-Roid? Sadly his pedestrian 0.5 UZR wasn't enough to knock him out of the top three. Oh well, nothing's perfect.


Catcher: Joe Mauer - Minnesota Twins

Honorable Mention: Victor Martinez - Red Sox (whom I hate); Mike Napoli - Angels

You didn't think I'd go in any other direction here do you? No, Mauer's not on the pace that earned him the AL MVP award last year, but he's still the best catcher in baseball, and it's not terribly close.

Martinez leads AL catchers in OPS (.861), but that's where most of his value is. Mauer's a full win more valuable than V-Mart in terms of WAR. Napoli ought to be a pretty good catcher considering who his manager is. If you want to catch for Mike Scioscia's team, you'd better be pretty fundamentally sound.


Designated Hitter: Vladimir Guerrero - Texas Rangers

Honorable Mention: Luke Scott - Orioles; David Ortiz - Red Sox (whom I hate)

I've always liked Guerrero. Any guy who refuses to wear batting gloves and swings at anything from his eyeballs to his ankles, and makes regular contact is all right by me. But I have to admit, when I saw that he'd signed with the Rangers, I thought they were reaching a bit. Guerrero had struggled in recent years with injuries, and I just didn't figure he had much left. Wrong again! His .940 OPS is impressive and so far he's worth a full two wins over a replacement. He's more than earned this vote.

Scott has been one of the very few bright spots on an otherwise dismal and disappointing Orioles squad. And remember when Ortiz was supposedly dead and buried in April? Well don't look now, but Big Papi has a .869 OPS and doesn't look cooked by a long shot. Yes, that annoys me.


Outfielders: Alex Rios - Chicago White Sox; Magglio Ordonez - Detroit Tigers; Carl Crawford - Tampa Bay Rays

Honorable Mentions: Shin-Soo Choo - Cleveland; Nick Swisher - Yankees; David DeJesus - Royals

You ever try to keep track of ranking 28 guys in three different statistical categories?! It's not easy, I tell you! As has been the case in the past, outfield is where my picks diverge the most from the fan voting. Rios isn't in the top 15 in AL voting, and yet he ranks first amongst outfielders in OPS (.951) and WAR (3.4) and second in UZR (7.7). Like many, I thought Chicago was crazy to take on his contract last season, but so far this year, he's been one of the few consistent White Sox hitters. Ordonez isn't in the top 10 in fan voting, but ranks in the top six in each of the three categories I considered. Every time I think this guy's career is finally dead, he keeps producing. Dammit. Crawford is the only one of my three votes that's actually going to get voted in. Tampa has been the best team in baseball for most of the season, and Crawford's a big part of it. Strange that would be the case when he's in a contract year, isn't it? (Insert sarcasm here.)

Choo is a rising star on a dreadful Cleveland club. Swisher annoys the bejeezus out of anybody who's not a Yankee fan, but the numbers support his inclusion. DeJesus is the latest in a long line of Kansas City outfielders who will likely find success on another ballclub. Poor Royals fans.

That's your AL line-up. Now on to the...


National League

First Base: Joey Votto - Cincinnati Reds

Honorable Mentions: Albert Pujols - Cardinals; Adrian Gonzalez - Padres

Say what?! Isn't this spot Pujols' as long as he's in the league? It's difficult for me to argue that point. As much as I'm a fan-boy for Joe Mauer, I'm not so delusional as to argue that he's the best player in baseball. That title belongs to Pujols and to Pujols alone. That being said, Votto tied Pujols in WAR (2.5) and ranked much higher in UZR (3.1 vs. Pujols' 0.1). Combined with his excellent .959 OPS, Votto ends up getting my vote.

Like I said, I'm not delusional about this though. Pujols has more than twice as many votes as his nearest competitor and is going to win this thing going away. I really don't have a problem with that. I do have a problem with Adrian Gonzalez not being in the top five in voting given the near-miraculous record the Padres have compiled so far this year. Come on baseball fans. You're better than that!


Second Base: Brandon Phillips - Cincinnati Reds

Honorable Mention: Chase Utley - Phillies; Dan Uggla - Marlins

This one was a pretty easy call. Phillips leads NL 2nd basemen in WAR (2.4), ranks second in OPS (.859 - contrast that by the way with Cano's 1.030 and you see how well Cano's hitting) and third in UZR (3.0). A first, a second and a third will generally earn you my vote. Cincinnati is another pleasant surprise this season, and it'd be nice to see them represented appropriately at the Mid-Summer Classic.

Utley is another perennial mention for an All-Star spot, and will likely win the fans vote. Again, I can't really argue all that much with them. He's a terrific player and the numbers bear that out. Uggla is the likable part of Florida's double-play combo. And no, that's not why I don't mention Hanley Ramirez's name at...


Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki - Colorado Rockies

Honorable Mentions: Ian Desmond - Nationals; Stephen Drew - Diamondbacks

Tulo is like Robinson Cano in that he's got a ton of talent and is finally putting it together. Part of that comes from him finally staying healthy for the first half of the season. The Rockies haven't been what many of us thought they'd be so far, but they've got a bunch of talent and there's a lot of season left. If Troy can stay healthy, he'll be a big part of their push for a division title.

Desmond is the best Washington National you've never heard of. He's in the top five in each of the three categories for shortstop and forced Washington to move former Twin Cristian Guzman to second base. Drew still doesn't blow you away with his fielding, but is a solid offensive player. On a team that's loaded with problems, he's one of the few guys that doesn't give Arizona management ulcers.


Third Base: Ryan Zimmerman - Washington Nationals

Honorable Mentions: Mark Reynolds - Diamondbacks; David Wright - Mets

Zimmerman was the best-known National until that Strasburg kid showed up! Stay off Ryan's lawn, you whipper-snapper! Okay, Zimmerman's not nearly old enough to feel that way, and Strasburg's presence will only help Ryan's defensive numbers. But in a way, it's too bad that the spotlight is so focused on Strasburg, because Zimmerman's numbers are more than worthy of attention.

Reynolds is an offensive powerhouse, and surprisingly under-rated defensively (4.8 UZR - second amongst NL 3rd Basemen). If Zimmerman's numbers weren't so eye-popping, Reynolds would easily get the nod. Wright is having a nice bounce-back year after slumping a bit last season. Placido Polonco actually leads the NL voting, but finished fourth in my rankings. Again, I'm just glad the guy's in the NL so he can't kick the crap out of the Twins anymore... wait, they're going to Philly this weekend?! Why does God hate me?!


Catcher: Miguel Olivo - Colorado Rockies

Honorable Mentions: Brian McCann - Atlanta; Giovanni Soto - Cubs

Catcher in the NL was a bit odd since none of the candidates have played more than 60 games. But Olivo's the clear leader in both OPS (.935) and WAR (2.6). He's no Joe Mauer mind you, but amongst the struggles that Colorado's had, he's not on the list.

McCann is a big part of a surprisingly good Atlanta club, and Soto's a former NL Rookie of the Year, so it's no surprise that they rank highly. But NL Catcher more than any other position is where my system struggles. Yadier Molina is the leading vote-getter at the position, and deservedly so. But because UZR doesn't apply to catchers, my system doesn't factor in how good he is defensively. There's definitely room for improvement!


Outfielders: Marlon Byrd - Chicago Cubs; Ryan Ludwick - St. Louis Cardinals; Josh Willingham - Washington Nationals

Honorable Mentions: Alfonso Soriano - Cubs; Chris Young - Diamondbacks; Matt Holliday - Cardinals

No, I wouldn't have guessed that Byrd would be the #1 outfielder in my system, but he's the only NL outfielder to be in the top five in all three categories. Year after year, I vote for Ludwick. Sooner or later the fans will start listening. The guy's a plus-defender, a solid offensive player, and deserving of an All-Star start one of these years. Willingham is the third Washington National I've mentioned in this column, further proving that I was a complete dope when I said I wouldn't get off my couch to go watch the Nationals if they were playing in my kitchen. Sorry about that, Nation's Capital!

Soriano continues to vex Cubs fans with his obvious, yet inconsistent talent. But so far this year, he's been the least of Chicago's problems. Chris Young has bounced back nicely from a dreadful 2009. Unfortunately, he's doing it in a year where the rest of the club has gone completely to pot around him. After his dreadful defensive gaffe in last year's playoffs, I speculated that Matt Holliday might get off to a rough start this season. Once again, I erred. I'm sure you're used to that at this point. He's as good as ever, and given the challenge the Cardinals are getting from the Reds so far, they'll need him to stay that way.

Yes, right now I know there are a few raised eyebrows to the East. Milwaukee fans are perturbed, I'm sure, to see that neither Prince Fielder, nor Ryan Braun appear anywhere in my votes. Sorry folks. Don't blame me. Blame the folks who calculate Braun's UZR at a dreadful -9.2, and Fielder's at a less-than-stellar -2.7. I know both of those guys are getting tons of votes and both will likely make the squad, but fan voting doesn't often factor in defense, and my 2010 system does, so there you have it.

So there, ladies and gentlemen, is my 2010 MLB All-Star ballot. For those of you who've managed to stick around this long, congratulations! For those of you who got lost in the statistical morass, I apologize, but I felt the need to be detailed after not posting a column on Monday!

Remember, All-Star voting continues at MLB.com through July 1st. So head on over there and cast your 25 votes (per email address)! Use my ballot if you like, just don't sign me up to get emails from my favorite teams, thank you!

That's going to do it for today. I'll be back on Friday with the usual Update!

Until then, thanks for reading!

2 comments:

  1. There were just enough numbers to keep me reading. I was kinda hoping for a weighted system. :-D

    ReplyDelete
  2. That doesn't surprise me.

    I considered doing some weighting, but with the three categories covering offense and defense, I thought it balanced itself pretty well.

    ReplyDelete