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May 21, 2003

Prospectus Today

AL All-Star Ballot

by Joe Sheehan

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My American League All-Star picks were easier than my NL ones, which reflects the lack of talent in the AL right now, at least relative to the NL. There are four or five AL teams who don't have any player remotely deserving of All-Star consideration.

First Base: Carlos Delgado. This was the toughest call. Jason Giambi has established himself as the better player, but Delgado has never been that far behind him. Delgado has been the best hitter in the AL this year, while Giambi has struggled. I can see the argument for either player; both fit the definition of "All-Star," and this pick is admittedly inconsistent with my thought process in filling out the ballot.

Second Base: Alfonso Soriano. Soriano beats out Bret Boone in a race with exactly two contestants. It's not easy to separate the two, who have both been among the top ten players in the AL this year. Soriano was a bit better last year, while Boone is the superior defender. While I didn't have this information in front of me at the time, both Keith Woolner's and Clay Davenport's metrics say that Soriano has been a little better this year. As at first base, I can't argue with either player.

Shortstop: Alex Rodriguez. Without comment.

Third Base: Eric Chavez. As usual, this was a tough call between Chavez and Troy Glaus. Glaus is having the better 2003 season, closing the gap that had developed between the two players in 2001 and 2002. As is my preference, I stayed with the player who had established himself as superior, weighing the last seven weeks less than the previous two seasons. Hank Blalock's case is just this year's performance, which isn't enough in my book.

Catcher: Jorge Posada. Posada is the best player in an extraordinarily weak field. Most AL catchers are within shouting distance of replacement level, with only Posada, Ramon Hernandez and Jason Varitek doing well in regular time.

Worth mentioning: the Blue Jays are getting great production and passable defense from their bargain duo of Greg Myers (.337/.418/.558) and Tom Wilson (.298/.381/.500).

Outfield:: Manny Ramirez, Bernie Williams and Magglio Ordonez. When in doubt, just vote for the guys you voted for last year. Lots of AL outfielders are having better seasons than these three, and of those, Garret Anderson, Tim Salmon, Mike Cameron and Juan Gonzalez have All-Star cases. I wouldn't move Ramirez, but with more time and data, I might have selected Cameron instead of Williams and Anderson-who may have established a new level of performance-over Ordonez.

Designated Hitter: Edgar Martinez. Best one ever, best one this season. Do you have any idea how hard it is to hit .333/.447/.620 while playing half your games at Safeco Field?

Marcus Giles

Many, many, many people wrote in to protest my exclusion of Marcus Giles from the discussion of NL second basemen yesterday, and most of them included a chart akin to this one:


Player            PA    AVG   OBP   SLG    EqA   RARP   VORP
------------------------------------------------------------
Jose Vidro       181   .331  .414  .526   .320   15.2   17.6
Jeff Kent        185   .309  .368  .533   .294   10.7   12.5
Marcus Giles     178   .336  .416  .572   .332   17.9   21.9

Yes, Giles has been about as good a player as the other two so far this season, seven weeks or so. That would make him an All-Star in a world that was born, oh, seven weeks or so ago.


Player            AB    AVG   OBP   SLG
---------------------------------------
Jose Vidro      2564   .305  .360  .473
Jeff Kent       5559   .289  .353  .503
Marcus Giles     457   .247  .327  .416

That's the career numbers of the three players coming into this season. Just in 2002:

Player            PA    AVG   OBP   SLG    EqA   RARP   VORP
------------------------------------------------------------
Jose Vidro       670   .315  .378  .490   .294   45.4   54.2
Jeff Kent        682   .313  .368  .565   .319   68.6   83.8
Marcus Giles     241   .230  .315  .399   .252    4.7    6.0

The only definition by which Marcus Giles is an All-Star is "guy having the best season," and even that is really "guy having the best quarter of a season." As I've written over and over, that's an incredibly stupid definition of All-Star. We know that seven weeks doesn't tell us much about a ballplayer, and even if it did, by that definition nothing anyone ever did after June 30 would be part of making a player an All-Star.

Here's the way I look at it: If calling a player an All-Star would have looked silly on March 30, then it doesn't look any less silly on June 30. You don't get there based on a couple months of good play. (Well, actually you do, but that's a flaw in the selection of bench players, one I see no reason to ape in choosing starters.)

If I'm wrong, then go all the way with it and make the All-Star Game the "best first halves" game, and apply that standard across the board. At the least, move the game to November so that guys can be rewarded for performing well after Independence Day.

I know this is a rant, and I know taking my frustration with this line of thought out on the fans of Marcus Giles-a player I like and whose success makes me happy-is unfair. But it's wrong-headed to think that because a player has the best seven weeks of his life, that suddenly makes him more worthy of honor than guys who have been doing it for years and are still doing it today.

Glaus over Chavez? Fine. Giambi over Delgado? Hey, the game is for stars. Anderson over Williams? I may be slow in adjusting my thought process to account for a change in the established order.

But there's no way Marcus Giles gets there ahead of Jeff Kent or Jose Vidro.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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