Saturday, July 7, 2012

WAR Stars

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the All-Star Game meant something. You hear this all the time from Werther's-loving, fedora-wearing, chair-rocking, old-timey sportswriters, so it must be true. It's not fair to call this narrative a "dead-horse": this is like some proto-horse ancestor, found primarily in cave paintings, that died out in the last Ice Age.

Pictured: Mariano Rivera's rookie season

These days, the players treat the game as a glorified exhibition game -- which it is -- and have some fun with it -- which they should -- while trying to protect themselves from injury -- which is just smart*, considering the size of their contracts, but for some reason is treated as sacrilege.

* - Ask Ted Williams, who shattered his elbow crashing into a wall in 1950, or Pedro Martinez, who pitched his arm off in 1999.

But I don't want to talk about that. I want to talk about roster construction. Tony La Russa, everyone's favorite drunk-driver/birther is back in the headlines for ignoring division rivals when choosing the National League reserves. La Russa makes a couple of relevant points in his defense, but the one I want to look at is that other players are having better years than the Reds and Brewers players he snubbed.

If only we had a single number to measure all-around contributions, perfect for making arguments about relative value of players with differing skill sets...

...oh right. Admittedly, WAR isn't perfect, but it's a decent measure of performance that tries to incorporate hitting, fielding, running, position, etc. And don't give me the chemistry crap: we're talking about winning one game here.

So now, for your flaming pleasure, I will use Fangraphs' WAR to construct alternate AL and NL all-

star teams, and we'll see which we like better. These are our rules:
1. You have to use the starters the fans voted in, regardless of how stupid the picks are.
2. Players can only get chosen for the position they were listed in on the All-Star ballot. Joe Mauer has played games at catcher, first, and DH, but gets listed as the Twins' catcher candidate, so that's how we treat him.
2. We keep the same number of players at each position (3 C, 2 1B, etc.)
3. Every team must have at least one representative. Tell him, Peter.

"He says everybody gets one."

First, the NL:
Pos Original WAR New WAR
C B. Posey, SF 2.3 starter
C Y. Molina, STL 3.3 same
C C. Ruiz, PHI 4.0 same
1B J. Votto, CIN 4.8 starter
1B B. LaHair, CHC 1.1 P. Goldschmidt, ARI 2.1
2B D. Uggla, ATL 2.4 starter
2B J. Altuve, HOU 1.9 A. Hill, ARI 2.8
3B P. Sandoval, SF 1.0 starter
3B D. Wright, NYM 4.5 same
SS R. Furcal, STL 1.4 starter
SS S. Castro 2.0 J. Lowrie, HOU 2.4
SS I. Desmond, WAS 2.7 same
OF M. Cabrera, SF 3.1 starter
OF C. Beltran, STL 2.8 starter
OF M. Kemp, LA 2.3 starter
OF R. Braun, MIL 3.9 same
OF J. Bruce, CIN 1.5 M. Bourn, ATL 4.0
OF C. Gonzalez, COL 2.4 A. Soriano, CHC 2.1
OF A. McCutchen, PIT 3.8 same
OF G. Stanton, MIA 3.1 same
RHSP M. Cain, SF 2.8 same
RHSP R.A. Dickey, NYM 2.9 same
RHSP L. Lynn, STL 1.7 Z. Greinke, MIL 3.5
RHSP S. Strasburg, WAS 3.2 same
LHSP G. Gonzalez, WAS 2.9 same
LHSP C. Hamels, PHI 2.4 same
LHSP C. Kershaw, LA 2.4 same
LHSP W. Miley, ARI 2.2 M. Bumgarner, SF 2.3
RHRP J. Hanrahan, PIT 0.0 Belisle, COL 1.3
RHRP C. Kimbrel, ATL 1.5 same
RHRP J. Papelbon, PHI 0.5 T. Clippard, WAS 1.2
RHRP H. Street, SD 0.9 same
LHRP A. Chapman, CIN 1.6 same

Next, the AL:
Pos Original WAR New WAR
C M. Napoli, TEX 0.9 starter
C J. Mauer, MIN 2.6 same
C M. Wieters, BAL 2.0 A.J. Pierzynski, CWS 2.2
1B P. Fielder, DET 1.4 starter
1B P. Konerko, CWS 2.2 E. Encarnacion, TOR 2.5
2B R. Cano, NYY 4.1 starter
2B I. Kinsler, TEX 2.1 J. Kipnis, CLE 2.4
3B A. Beltre, TEX 2.7 starter
3B M. Cabrera, DET 2.9 same
SS D. Jeter, NYY 0.9 starter
SS E. Andrus, TEX 2.9 same 2.4
SS A. Cabrera, CLE 2.2 same
OF J. Hamilton, TEX 3.6 starter
OF C. Granderson, NYY 1.4 starter
OF J. Bautista, TOR 3.1 starter
OF A. Jones, BAL 3.3 same
OF M. Trout, LAA 4.3 same
OF M. Trumbo, LAA 2.7 A. Jackson, DET 3.5
DH D. Ortiz, BOS 2.3 same
DH B. Butler, KC 1.3 same
DH A. Dunn, CWS 1.4 S. Smith, OAK 1.3
RHSP F. Hernandez, SEA 2.6 same
RHSP J. Verlander, DET 3.6 same
RHSP J. Weaver, LAA 2.3 J. Peavy, CWS 2.8
LHSP M. Harrison, TEX 2.5 same
LHSP D. Price, TB 2.0 same
LHSP C.C. Sabathia, NYY 2.8 same
LHSP C. Sale, CWS 3.2 same
LHSP C.J. Wilson, TEX 2.0 J. Lester, BOS 2.1
RHRP R. Cook, OAK 0.7 A. Ogando, TEX 1.0
RHRP J. Johnson, BAL 0.4 T. Wilhemsen, SEA 1.0
RHRP J. Nathan, TEX 1.3 same
RHRP C. Perez, CLE 1.1 same
RHRP F. Rodney, LAA 1.3 same

You look at these teams and it's pretty clear who the "ah-crap-we-need-a-Padre" guys are. Even on the new teams, Soriano and Seth Smith stick out. You can also tell that I didn't pay attention to injuries or when pitchers' off-days are; if they decline, let them decline and then pick alternates. But these are as close as you can get to the "best" players by WAR.

Judged like this, La Russa's omissions don't seem so egregious. There are still some oddballs (Hanrahan? Bruce? LaHair?) but they don't seem calculated to irritate former division rivals.

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