Hello again everybody...
I promised you I'd have the NL-half of my ballot coming your way, and I'm finally coming through.
But before we get to that, allow me a quick aside.
If you haven't been watching the Stanley Cup Finals - and judging by the ratings, many of you haven't been - do yourself a favor, tune in to NBC tonight at 7pm central time.
Game 7's are one of the rarest of treats in sports. For six games two teams have been beating the holy hell out of each other and have wound up in a situation where one game... three periods... 60 minutes... will determine a champion.
Everything that makes hockey great - the heart, the skill, the determination, the passion - gets dialed up another notch in a Game 7. And probably an extra notch after that, given the fact that it's Game 7 of the Finals.
I know I'm fascinated to see if this series plays to form - Vancouver's won close games late at home, while Boston's blown the doors off of the Canucks when the games have been out east - or if someone can finally win a road game.
Will Roberto Luongo be as brilliant in net as he has been in the other games in Vancouver, or will Boston get an early goal and break him as they've done in all three games in Boston?
Will Daniel Sedin step up his game and score a critical goal after guaranteeing a win a'la Mark Messier in '94? Or will Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg keep he and twin brother Henrik clamped down and off the scoring sheet like they have for most of the series?
Will we get the rare feat of the losing team's goaltender winning the Conn Smythe Award as series MVP? (If Boston wins the series, Tim Thomas is a mortal lock to win the award... if Vancouver wins, he's merely the favorite)
I'm certainly no NBA guy, but even I'll admit that the NBA Finals were pretty damned compelling. But they didn't have a Game 7... and Game 7's change everything.
Trust me. Watch the game. You won't be disappointed.
I'll step off the soap box now.
But only for a moment! Because I'll be happy to step right back up to tell you who I think should be starting for the National League in the 2011 All-Star Game.
That ballot comes your way...
Right after the quote!
“Consistency requires you to be as ignorant as you were a year ago.”
- Bernard Berenson (1865 - 1959), American historian
In other words, while some consider consistency to be a virtue, it can also be viewed as a lack of growth.
Need an example? How about fan voting in the All-Star Game?
No matter how much I rant and rave, no matter how much I strive to provide a process that could lead to a much more sensible outcome, the people insist on ignorantly making the starting line-ups a popularity contest.
If Derek Jeter - hitting .260/.324/.324, having a -1.2 UZR and a 0.5 WAR, oh and by the way he just went on the DL - is a starter at the All-Star Game, the fans should be embarrassed. I know he's “the Captain”, I know he's closing in on 3,000 hits, and I know that playing next to A-Roid makes him look like a prince, but he's not having an All-Star season, and he's certainly not having a “starting the All-Star Game” season!
Jhonny Peralta, Alexi Ramirez, Eric Aybar or Asdrubal Cabrera. You can make a case for any of them before you can legitimately make a case for Derek Jeter.
Come on, fans! Wise up a little!
Okay, okay... I'm going to take a few deep breaths and prepare to offer my assistance once again, as I present my...
2011 MLB All-Star Ballot: National League
If you missed the American League half of my 2011 All-Star Ballot, or if you need to refresh your memory, you can catch up by clicking here.
I'll offer only a brief summary of how I arrived at the following selections. I ranked all eligible player (40+ GP) at their position by OPS, UZR and WAR, then divided the UZR and WAR rankings by two to decrease the variance, and add those adjusted rankings together to arrive at a final total. The player with the lowest total received my vote.
Simple enough, right? For those of you so inclined, shoot me an email and I'll send you the spreadsheet so you can see it for yourself.
So who do I believe should be the NL starters in this year's summer classic? Glad you asked!
Here we go...
First Base: Joey Votto - Cincinnati Reds (2.0)
Honorable Mentions: Prince Fielder - Milwaukee Brewers (7.0), Todd Helton - Colorado Rockies (7.0) and Gabby Sanchez - Florida Marlins (7.0)
As you can see, Votto walks away with my vote here. I know there are going to be a lot of folks who decry my not voting for Prince Fielder here, but at the time of my tabulation, Votto had a better OPS (though Prince's recent tear has him in the lead), a better WAR (still the case) and absolutely crushed Fielder in terms of defense (very much still the case).
Votto was a legit MVP last year in the NL and he's been every bit as good this season. I think he deserves the nod, and honestly, I don't think it's all that close.
Don't get me wrong, I'd put Prince on the team, but he'd start the game on the pine.
Conspicuous by his absence here is perennial All-Star, Albert Pujols. Though he's been his usual, terrific self of late, he had a rough start to his year, and that left him to finish sixth in my rankings behind the four guys I mentioned and Ryan Howard who finished fifth.
That being said, the “popularity contest” that I'm so fond of, will likely find Albert in the starting line-up.
*sigh* Really, people? You have no sense of subtlety at all?!
Extra bonus points (not really, it's just a phrase) go to Florida's Gabby Sanchez. His teammate, Logan Morrison, has waged a unique Twitter campaign (@LoMoMarlins - if you're on Twitter, follow him, thank me later) to try and get Sanchez elected to the NL club. It's not going to work, but he gets a gold star for originality!
Second Base: Rickie Weeks - Milwaukee Brewers (4.5)
Honorable Mentions: Brandon Phillips - Cincinnati Reds (4.5), Danny Espinosa - Washington Nationals (7.0), Freddy Sanchez - San Francisco Giants (9.5)
My only tie in the 2011 ranking occurred at this position. So how did I decide it? I tried to keep it simple. Weeks was tops in OPS and WAR, while Phillips didn't rank first in any. Two categories to zero, so Weeks gets the nod.
Really, you can't go wrong either way here. Phillips is a fantastic talent and having a great season. Weeks has been just as good if not a touch better. So flip a coin and vote for whichever you like. Personally, I'm going with Weeks.
Espinosa was something of a surprise to me. Anything but a household name, and stuck on a club that's going to have yet another losing season, Espinosa doesn't get your attention with his bat, but oh boy can he flash the leather. I don't think he makes the club, unless he gets the nod as the “token Nationals” representative.
Freddy Sanchez definitely isn't going to make the club. Not because he's undeserving, but because he just separated his shoulder and may be out for the rest of the year. Sad news for a guy having a solid year.
Shortstop: Jose Reyes - New York Mets (4.0)
Honorable Mentions: Troy Tulowitzki - Colorado Rockies (4.5), Stephen Drew - Arizona Diamondbacks (8.0) and Starlin Castro - Chicago Cubs (9.0)
A close one here as well with Reyes just barely edging past Tulowitzki. Tulo's got the better defensive numbers, and very solid offensive stats to go along with it. But Reyes edges him in OPS and WAR to the point that he gets my vote.
He also gets my invitation to ask for a trade to the Minnesota Twins. All due respect to the soon-to-return Tsuyoshi Nishioka, if Bill Smith could somehow swing a deal for Reyes (dangle Liriano plus a prospect perhaps?) it would certainly help a depleted Twins line-up and shore up their less-than-stellar defense.
But I've digressed. My point is that Reyes is a leading candidate to get dealt to a contender this summer. And while it's difficult to label a team with a .400 winning percentage a “contender”, I'd sure love to see him in a Twins uniform at some point!
Tulo will definitely make the club and might even get the start. Given how close my rankings are, I can't get too upset about that.
Stephen Drew's having another solid, if unspectacular season for the surprisingly-competitive Diamondbacks. I won't be surprised if he gets to play in front of his home crowd.
Starlin Castro's an up-and-coming talent in Chicago. He's not quite “there” yet, but I think he's got a string of All-Star appearances coming in the near future.
Third Base: Ryan Roberts - Arizona Diamondbacks (3.0)
Honorable Mentions: Placido Polanco - Philadelphia Phillies (4.0), Chipper Jones - Atlanta Braves (6.5) and Chase Headley - San Diego Padres (8.5)
This is the one spot where I'm going off the ballot. I rarely - and here “rarely” means “never” - go off the ballot when I vote for All-Stars. The odds of a guy not being listed and yet having the numbers to justify his election are normally infinitesimal.
But this season, Roberts proves the exception to the rule. Though his UZR is slightly below-average, his OPS is far and away the best at his position and he's tied for first with Polanco in WAR. Translation? He's good enough to get my vote.
Polanco is deserving of a spot, no doubt. And I'd like to see Chipper Jones get selected as a reserve, both because he's deserving and because he's just about to close the book on a fantastic career. I'm guessing that reliever Heath Bell gets San Diego's token selection, which means Headly's doubtful to get picked.
Catcher: Chris Ianetta - Colorado Rockies (1.5)
Honorable Mentions: Brian McCann - Atlanta Braves (4.5), Yadier Molina - St. Louis Cardinals (4.5), Miguel Montero - Arizona Diamondbacks (5.5)
Again, when it comes to catchers, UZR doesn't exist, so it's purely OPS and WAR determining the rankings here.
Ianetta leads both categories, hence he's the guy. I still carry a little residual distrust for Rockies players since I confidently picked them to win their division last year, and they blatantly let me down. But the numbers are the numbers and he's by far the best at this position, so I'll give him the vote.
McCann's come in second in my rankings for about the 573rd time (that number may be slightly exaggerated). Seriously, this guy's as good as it gets at the position, but I can never find a way to vote for him. It's kind of sad.
Given that there are three Molina brothers catching in the big leagues, one of them has to make the team, right? I'll be fine with Yadier getting the nod.
Montero's a long-shot, although the fact that the game's being played in Arizona (and the game being in your home park usually benefits borderline guys), may squeak Montero onto the roster.
Outfield: Matt Holiday - St. Louis Cardinals (8.0), Shane Victorino - Philadelphia Phillies (15.0), Lance Berkman - St. Louis Cardinals (17.5)
Honorable Mentions: Ryan Braun - Milwaukee Brewers (18.0), Matt Kemp - Los Angeles Dodgers (19.0), Colby Rasmus - St. Louis Cardinals (20.0)
Brewer fans are going to be pissed at me again.
Honest folks, I really thought Braun was going to make it this year. But just like last year, his defensive numbers held him back. If he figures that part of the game out next year, he'll be a lock... I promise!
Holiday is quietly having a monster season. He's got a sky-high OPS, a well-above-average UZR and trails only Braun in terms of WAR.
He's joined on my ballot by Lance Berkman who apparently was reborn by moving back to the National League. His trade to the Yankees last year was an abject failure and many pundits thought he was basically cooked. More than a few eyebrows were raised when the Cardinals signed him and announced he'd be playing in their outfield. And for good reason - his UZR is pretty terrible. But he leads his position in OPS and his WAR is high enough that he squeaked in on my ballot ahead of Braun.
Victorino was something of a surprise. After a down year last season, he's reverted to the form that made him an All-Star in 2009. The Phillies are once again the class of the National League, so they deserve at least one starter, and I've got no trouble putting Victorino in that spot!
Matt Kemp is having a huge offensive year, but like Braun, his defensive ranking was poor enough to keep him off my ballot.
And do you want to know why the Cardinals are leading the NL Central? How about the fact that all three of their outfielders are good enough for All-Star consideration? That's mind boggling considering the number of eligible players. Kudos to the folks in St. Louis!
So there you have them folks, my NL All-Stars.
Your comments, and opinions are always welcome. Tack a comment onto the post, or feel free to email me your thoughts.
And if you're interested in helping me fight the good fight against “popularity” votes, go to: MLB.com and cast your 25 ballots for guys you think legitimately deserve to be there!
That will wrap things up for today. Not sure when the next post is coming, but I've got a few ideas rattling around my skull [insert “plenty of room for that” joke here], so hopefully it'll be soon!
Until next time, thanks for reading!