A Few Musings on the All-Star Game
I’ll be blunt: I strongly dislike the All-Star game. It didn’t use to always be that way, of course- but over the years, I’ve grown to actually detest it. The biggest reason why I don’t care for the game? Because Bud Selig gave it meaning. The game should be nothing more than an exhibition in my opinion- giving the winning league home field advantage in the World Series is ludicrous. One game means absolutely nothing and isn’t indicative of one league being superior to the other. Why not give home field advantage to the team with the better overall record? Or to the team belonging to the league with the better record in Interleague play?
The bigger reason why I dislike the All-Star game is because the participants are largely determined by the fans. In other words, if you’re a player having a good year with a huge, active fan base- you have a pretty good chance of making it. If you have a reputation for being a good player, too, then you’re going to have an increased chance of making it. If you’ve been an All-Star before…you have a good chance of being an All-Star again, regardless of whether or not you’ve deserved it over another lesser-known player.
Like most people, I have some qualms with a few of the selections. Rather than ramble on and on, I figure I’ll just explain why I disagree with a few of the choices. The first is the decision to start Albert Pujols over Joey Votto. This vote belonged to the fans; and while Pujols is undoubtedly the best player in the game in my mind, I firmly believe that fellow NL Central player Votto deserves the starting role over him.
Hitting: I have Pujols as being +30 runs above the average hitter. Votto? +34. After applying a park adjustment based on batter handedness, Pujols remains a +30 and Votto’s adjustment makes him a +32 hitter (Cincinnati is a severe hitter’s park for left-handed hitters). So, despite the park adjustment, Votto has thus far been more valuable than Pujols. Edge: Votto, +32 to +30.
Situational Hitting: incorporates “productive outs,” i.e. moving the runner over by making an out, and avoiding the double play. These are often overlooked in total value profiles. I have Pujols as a -1 (he’s hit into quite a few double plays) and Votto as a +2. Edge: Votto, +2 to -1. This changes their values to being +29 runs for Pujols and +34 for Votto; five runs’ difference. That’s half a win, and rather large. I think Votto is being severely underrated here.
Baserunning: as measured by Baseball Prospectus’ Equivalent Baserunning Runs, which takes into account all baserunning events (not just SB/CS, but taking the extra base, etc.). Pujols is a +2; Votto a -2. Albert is surprisingly nimble for a first baseman, and has been the best baserunner on the Cardinals this year so far. Edge: Pujols, by four runs. Values change to +31 for Pujols and +32 for Votto. The gap narrows by quite a bit!
Defense: easily the most controversial statistical measurement here. I’ve averaged both the Plus/Minus system and Ultimate Zone Rating. Scoops are not involved, and it is worth noting that Albert is often regarded as one of the best at scooping balls in the dirt and preventing errant throws. But given that we’re looking at such a small sample size, we’re probably not looking at more than a run or two saved extra for Prince Albert. In any case, the averaged metrics have Pujols as -1 and Votto as +4. Their positional adjustments (-12.5 runs for a full season) makes Pujols a -8 position neutral defender and Votto a -2 defender. As it stands, Pujols is a +23 player and Votto a +30- 7 runs’ difference.
Playing Time: Incorporating a replacement level (20 runs per 600 PA) gives Pujols +12.7 runs; Votto +12.2.
Putting it All Together: Adding the sum of the components, we get +44 runs above replacement for Votto and +38 runs above replacement for Pujols. That’s 6 runs’ difference, or a little over half a win of value. While it is defensible to have Pujols as a starter, Votto has performed at the same level- if not better, as my estimates suggest. For him to be on the All-Star team as the last player to be voted in is simply ridiculous.
There’s one more thing that bothers me, but for the AL:
PAUL KONERKO VS. MYSTERY PLAYER
Hitting: I have Konerko as +21 runs, park adjusted. Mystery Player is +28 runs.
Situational Hitting: Konerko is a -1; Mystery Player +1. MP is 9 runs better; nearly one win. Let’s see how this continues.
Baserunning: Konerko is again, -1. MP is +1. Now we’re looking at 11 runs’ difference.
Defense: Konerko -4, MP is +2. Positional adjustments make them -10 and -4, respectively.
Playing Time: +11 Konerko, +12 MP.
Putting it All Together: Paul Konerko is +20 runs above replacement. The Mystery Player? +37; one run below the NL starter Albert Pujols. Who is this Mystery Player?
Why, it’s none other than Kevin Youkilis of the Boston Red Sox. Youk, or “The Greek God of Walks,” is absolutely destroying American League pitching this year. I just cannot understand for the life of me why Paul Konerko is an All-Star and Youkilis was ignored. This goes against the grain, as players with larger, more active fan bases- as I mentioned before- seem to have an advantage in All-Star selection.
Of course, I’m sure there are a number of other missed selections and the like that I haven’t noticed- and to be quite honest, Pujols/Votto and Konerko/Youkilis were just two things off the top of my head. I’m sure I’d find a number of other disagreements if I looked at it a bit closer. Off the top of my head, I would’ve liked to see Aubrey Huff in the game- he is, after all, raking. But we can’t always get what we want, can we?
Well, maybe you do if you’re a Yankees fan.
So, which picks do you disagree with? Which players do you think should be starting over others, and why?