With the official All-Star line-ups announced, the Summer Classic is ready to go save the decision for starting pitchers. The baseball blogsphere has been inundated with opinions on the selections and the usual chorus of dissenters has surfaced. Instead of joining the throngs of writers in complaining about who got snubbed or who deserved it more, I am going to give a sabermetric view of my ballot, along with my reasoning, and compare it to reality. Alex is covered the AL side of the All-Stars, so I will do a breakdown the NL. I will go through the starters and then the reserves and the pitchers. Senior Circuit!
Catcher: Carlos Ruiz, Phillies (Actual pick: Buster Posey). From a basic WAR view, Ruiz is killing NL catchers with a very impressive 4.0 WAR. The difference between him and Yadier Molina (second) is 0.7. The most surprising part of Ruiz's dominance this season is his 0.223 ISO, which also leads all NL catchers. Considering his career ISO is a modest 0.139, he is due for some negative regression, but he is hitting for gap power-- his 19 doubles in 2012 is comparable to his career full-season high 0f 29. Say what you will about his decreased walk rate (down to 6.1% from a career average of 10.6%) but he is still holding an OBP of 0.420 and is slugging a rediculous 0.579. Translation: yes, his first half is not sustainable, but his body of work speaks for itself.
1B: Joey Votto, Reds (Actual: Votto). Explaining this pick seems like a waste of time and space. Simply put, Votto has been on a tear this season. MLB leading 4.8 WAR (next closest is David Wright at 4.5). A wRC+ of 190. A triple slash of 0.350/0.471/0.632. A gaudy ISO of 0.282. Enough said.
2B: Aaron Hill, Diamondbacks (Actual: Dan Uggla). Some of you may know that I love me some Jose Altuve, and I certainly appreciate Brandon Phillips' great glove work, but Aaron Hill has had a great half-season. His two-cycle feat helps his case- check out my article on that, self-promotion, ftw!- but his stats are still impressive. Hill has hit 11 HRs en-route to an ISO of 0.212, the only NL second-baseman to have an ISO above 0.180. He is leading his position in Slugging, wOBA, and wRC+. He has done all of that and accumulated a total WAR of 2.8.
SS: Jed Lowrie, Astros (Actual: Rafael Furcal). While Furcal is a great, feel-good pick, I believe Lowrie should get the nod due to his great season despite a horrific 0.268 BABIP. He is striking out marginally less than usual (17.1% to a career 18.4% rate) and is crushing the ball much more effectively (SLG is 0.054 above career average). He lacks the speed of a Starlin Castro and the fielding skills of an Ian Desmond, but his high wRC+ (126) definitely establishes Lowrie as a legitimate hitter. This is one of the closest picks as there are many deserving candidates and no stand-out stars, but I nominated Lowrie on the basis of his power and ability to get on base more often than the other NL shortstops.
3B: David Wright, Mets (Actual: Pablo Sandoval). Friends of mine know I love Sandoval, but he was an odd choice. Wright has put together one of the best offensive lines of any hitter in the MLB, let alone in his position in the NL. His WAR is already 4.5 and is 'wOBA-ing' 0.418 while only striking out at a 12.8% clip. In fact, one thing that really impresses me about Wright is that he has drastically cut down on strike-outs while increasing his walks; the plate discipline aspect could be a whole other blog post. My point is this: the fans picked the Panda, but I am going with the guy who is getting on base 44.7% of the time and slugging 0.560.
Outfield: Ryan Braun (Brewers), Andrew McCutchen (Pirates), Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins) (Actual: Matt Kemp, Melky Cabrera, Carlos Beltran). This was another tough decision. Beltran and Cabrera both make good picks due to their excellent play and as solid 'come-back' stories. Kemp has simply not played enough for my vote, and due to his injury will probably be replaced by either Braun of McCutchen. Braun's power numbers speak for themselves (0.294 ISO, 0.602 SLG on 22 HRs) and he continues to mix in speed (13 SBs). Any player who is on pace for a 40-30 season should be in the All-Star game. Similarly, Stanton continues to may the long-ball look easy. Moonshot after moonshot after broken scoreboard. He has improved his fielding (3.5 Fld rating, for what that is worth), has a wOBA of 0.381 and has a slash of 0.282/0.362/0.554. And besides, it may not be 'saber-friendly' to say it, but I love watching him play baseball. His power is unreal and I wish he would be able to showcase his talents in more than just the HR Derby. As for Mr. McCutchen, I maintain he is one of the most under-appreciated people in the Majors. Power? He has an ISO of 0.246 on 15 HRs while playing in a mostly pitcher-friendly park. Speed? 14 stolen bases and gets on base 40.1% of the time. On a team that gets little press, he has put together a quiet 169 wRC+ half-season.
Reserves: Beltran (Cardinals), Cabrera (Giants), Michael Bourn (Braves), Yadier Molina (Cardinals), Phillips (Reds), Ian Desmond (Nationals), Castro (Cubs), Martin Prado (Braves), Case Headley (Padres), AJ Ellis (Dodgers), Andre Ethier (Dodgers), Jason Heyward (Braves). As I said above, Beltran and Cabrera have both had great offensive seasons (162 and 149 wRC+ respectively). Bourn continues to run (22 stolen bases) and be a great fielding (incredible 12.0 Fld rating). His OBP is pretty low (0.350) but if he can reduce his strike-outs, I see no reason he will not end with a great season. Molina has been his usual dominant defensive self behind the dish, but he can hit too (145 wRC+). Phillips brings his other-worldly glove and bat while Desmond brings in an appreciated mix of power and speed (8 SBs, 0.208 ISO). Castro and Prado also bring in speed and great defense. I admire Headley's consistent play despite having to play at the Padres, but his managed to post a wRC+ of 128 so far. Ethier and Ellis would be great additions from the upstart Dodgers, who have stepped out of Kemp's shadow. Heyward has rebounded from a poor, injury-filled 2011 and has flashed his power (ISO of 0.226) and glove to help the Braves stay in the wild NL East.
Pitchers (9 Starters, 5 Relievers): Stephen Strasburg (Nationals), R.A. Dickey (Mets), Matt Cain (Giants), Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers), Zack Greinke (Brewers), Madison Bumgarner (Giants), Gio Gonzalez (Nationals), Cole Hamels (Phillies), James McDonald (Pirates), Aroldis Chapman (Reds), Craig Kimbrel (Braves), Sean Marshall (Reds), Kenley Jansen (Dodgers), Matt Belisle (Rockies). I don't want to waste your time or space here to go through each pick, especially since Strasburg, Dickey (yay!), Cain, Kershaw, Hamels, Chapman, and Kimbrel have all been obviously dominant. I chose Matt Belisle (ever heard of him?) due to his work-house mentality in the Rockies bullpen while being lights-out in high leverage situations. Sean Marshall has been in Chapman's shadow but has been equally good, albeit not with a 105 mph fastball. McDonald and Bumgarner have been low strike-out, low-walk control artists who have both outperformed their xFIPs while compiling above average inning totals. I do not understand why Greinke is not getting more love, especially with his 1.94 BB/9 and his 9.00 K/9 all in 102 innings for the struggling Brewers.
Agree? Disagree? Who did you vote for in the final NL spot voting? Tweet (@timnicodemus) your thoughts and/or put them in the comments section below!