CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: A Rocky... (02/21)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article In A Pickle: Not All S... (02/14)
Next Column >>
Premium Article In A Pickle: Enamorin'... (02/28)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Skewed Left: Arizona's... (02/21)

February 21, 2013

In A Pickle

All-Stars Are Not All Stars

by Jason Wojciechowski

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

Last week, we looked at players who racked up large career WARP figures but for one reason or another (underappreciation, the league being incredibly stocked at their position, steady goodness rather than flashes of greatness) didn't make very many All-Star teams. This week, having sufficiently buried the lede, it's time to look at the players who inspired this investigation in the first place: the very worst players to make multiple All-Star Games. Caveats and notes:

  1. Thanks again to Ryan Lind and Tim Collins answering my data queries.
  2. The basic metric here is the ratio of total All-Star appearances to career WARP. I'm not trying to find the least deserving All-Stars in the sense of players who, in that season, didn't play well enough to deserve the honor. I'm interested in players who had mediocre or even bad careers overall (by WARP's lights, anyway) but who by hook or by crook managed to appear not once but multiple times on All-Star rosters. (As I said in the last piece, any schmuck can make it once. Take a last-minute scratch by a pitcher and be a solid reliever from the host city who happens not to have left for vacation yet, and you've got yourself an All-Star appearance. But do it twice and odds are people really thought you were good. (Or you really were good!))
  3. This list deals only with players who played their entire careers in 1950 or later. Our WARP statistic only goes back that far at present, and obviously career totals would be skewed for players who straddled 1950, to say nothing of players who played entirely before 1950.
Without additional ado, let's count it down from 10, with actual commentary on the top five worst:
 
10. Clem Labine, 2.5 WARP, two All-Star Games
 
Labine was a Dodgers reliever, for the most part. This is a bit unfair to him, though, because he's actually at 4.7 pitcher WARP and -2.1 (rounding) batter WARP. Mark Fidrych (2.6 PWARP, two All-Star Games), Bruce Sutter (8.4 PWARP, six All-Star games), and Mel Stottlemyre (-2.2 PWARP, five All-Star Games) all fare worse.
 
9. Damaso Garcia, 2.0 WARP, two All-Star Games
 
Blue Jays second baseman who survived brain cancer and ... well:
While recovering, he began working with children who had suffered from traumatic medical conditions in his native country, and has since organized a number of baseball camps for them, using the game to help them with social skills and reintegration, in addition to being provided with medicines and proper care. The camps also serve to increase the community's awareness of the needs - and capabilities - of handicapped children and help to break down some of the stigma still associated with handicaps. He has received support for his work from a number of fellow Dominican ballplayers, such as Tony Fernandez and Pedro Martinez.
So we can go to hell with our judgments.
 
8. Hal Smith, 1.8 WARP, two All-Star Games
 
Cardinals catcher. One of three Hal Smiths:
He physically resembled and is easily confused with another Hal Smith, who was also a catcher and an exact contemporary, both playing 10 years at the same time.
(Note: not actually exact, but close enough.)
 
7. Luis Arroyo, 1.7 WARP, two All-Star Games
 
Yankees reliever, mostly, though one of the two All-Star appearances came as a rookie Cardinals starter.
 
6. Chris Perez, 1.6 WARP, two All-Star Games
 
Current Indians closer. He's on my AL-only dynasty league team. (What?)
 
5. Cookie Rojas, 3.8 WARP, five All-Star Games
 
Rojas was a second baseman from 1962 to 1977, who split his career weirdly evenly between the Royals and Phillies (exactly 880 games for each team, though he did have five more in the postseason for Kansas City) and who somehow managed to make four straight All-Star teams from 1971 to '74 while posting an OPS+ of 95 and not winning any Gold Gloves. (He was about 18 runs below average for that period in FRAA.) Rojas didn't start any of those Games, as those were the Rod Carew years, but he was the only backup second sacker in '71 and '72, and shared the team with Dave Nelson and Bobby Grich, respectively, in the other two seasons.
 
In other words, Rojas was in the right place at the right time. The only player better than him over that period who also played second was Carew. (There's Davey Johnson, too, but he left the AL after '72, and Grich didn't fully debut until '72 and wasn't a second baseman until '73.)
 
Rojas, by the way, along with Dick Allen and Tim McCarver and others, was part of the Curt Flood trade.
 
4. Ken McBride, -0.3 WARP, three All-Star Games
 
McBride was a starting pitcher for the Angels, mostly, and only lasted four ... no, more like three ... no, really more like two full seasons in the game, yet he made three All-Star teams. You'll be surprised to learn that his career ended at 30 after arm troubles.
 
His first All-Star year, 1961, was legitimately solid. He was about seven percent above average in run suppression by FRA+ and he tossed 241 2/3 innings. He struck out 17.3 percent of batters in a league that only whiffed 13.7 percent of the time (though he also walked more than average, as he did each year of his career). From there, though, it was all downhill. In 1962, his nearly one-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio is not looked on kindly by WARP, and he managed just 149 1/3 innings, though from the All-Star perspective, he arranged them the right way: 111 2/3 in the first half, 37 2/3 in the second.
 
Despite that mediocre showing, McBride came back to put up a 2.76 ERA in 153 1/3 innings in the first half the next year and earned not only an All-Star nod but the starting role. However, WARP does not bless the season: a below-average strikeout rate, above-average walk rate, league-leading hit-by-pitch total, what looks an awful lot like a fortunate/defense-aided .232 BABIP, and good help from his parks (a 93 personal park factor) added up to significantly below-average quality times a very large amount of quantity (15th in the league in innings, five slots behind Bill Monbouquette).
 
Had McBride hung up his cleats at that point, he'd have finished his career at about 2.0 WARP. And, actually, not changed his position on this last at all: his 0.6-repeating WARP/ASG would still have been worse than Cookie Rojas'. But his Happiness Rate would likely have been higher, because he got the snot beat out of him in 1964, giving up homers and walks and hit batsmen and all sorts of silliness.
 
Behind the scenes tidbit: I typed McBride's name as "McBridge" literally every single time. This sentence included.
 
3. Blue Moon Odom, -0.5 WARP, two All-Star Games
 
I'm terribly sad to have to include Odom on this list, because nobody with that glorious nickname (beyond nickname, really—;do you know his real name?) should be denigrated in any medium, but WARP can't countenance his omission. His 4.63 career FRA doesn't look that bad at first glance, but note first that his parks over his career suppressed scoring by about five percent and note second Odom's batting line from his hitting prime of 1967-70: .247/.289/.397. Yuck, right? That's an OPS+ of 100. Those leagues he pitched in simply could not hit. Odom's best season, 1969, came in a year when the league scored 4.09 runs per game. Even our current low-offense era has the AL at 4.45.
 
Of course, that's all now, and Odom was an All-Star then, and he was an All-Star while sharing a team with Sal Bando and Reggie Jackson and Bert Campaneris and Rick Monday, so he wasn't a pro forma All-Star. Odom did, for what it's worth, split his 1969 advantageously (14-3 with a 2.41 ERA in the first half, tossing three shutouts in 21 games), but 1968 is hard to explain. Sure, the nutty-low offense is difficult to wrap your mind around, but isn't it difficult to understand for all players? The American League was busy putting up a 2.99 ERA in the first half, so how impressive, really, was Odom's 2.38? His teammate Jim Nash had a 2.01 mark and did not make the All-Star team. (Nash finished his career well ahead of Odom in career WARP, too.)
 
2. Randy Jones, -4.1 WARP, two All-Star Games
 
Jones had an odd and unfortunate career, posting great 1975 and 1976 seasons by the usual lights of ERA and wins while not denting bread or breaking crackers or any other metaphor involving violence and destruction of breadstuffs with his fastball. He won a Cy Young while striking out fewer than one batter every three innings. (Specifically, 93 batters in 315 1/3 innings. Aroldis Chapman, also a well-known finesse lefty, whiffed 122 in 71 2/3 innings last year. I'd like to say something pithy about the game changing and/or getting more fierce, but I'll just be in this corner boggling instead.) Jones only pitched until he was 32, which is not what you'd expect to hear about a guy who never relied much on his stuff in the first place, but that's what arm injuries (25 complete games in 1976?) will get you.
 
Jones is also extremely intriguing on the question of pitcher WARP. Two things to note about Jones's career line are his unearned runs (140 on 875 runs total, about 43 more than you'd expect from the league rate over that same period) and his career BABIP, which is about 11 points below the league for the time Jones was in it. Note also that, like the pitchers above, Jones's parks suppressed offense and that even his 3.42 ERA came out to just a 101 ERA+.
 
1. Bobby Richardson, -4.4 WARP, seven All-Star Games
 
Richardson is overrated by All-Star appearances no matter how you slice it (14.3 fWAR, 6.5 rWAR, for instance), which should not be a surprise: The 1955 to 1966 Yankees went to nine World Series, and solid, decent players tend to get overrated on those teams. Richardson also didn't have much competition at his position in his prime All-Star period (1959-1966), just as Rojas didn't in the early '70s. Nellie Fox was around for the beginning of that span and Joe Morgan and Pete Rose showed up at the end, but Richardson mostly had the position to himself. To illustrate, he led all second basemen in games in that period by 33 (and the AL by 77) and plate appearances by 427. Contrast, just to pick a position at random, third base in the same era, where Ken Boyer in first to Harmon Killebrew in fourth is easily contained within that same 427 plate-appearance difference between Richardson and Jerry Lumpe. (Jerry Lumpe, by the way, is no Harmon Killebrew. Or Brooks Robinson. Or Eddie Mathews. He's barely even Jerry Lumpe.)
 
I do have to note that it's not clear which of FRAA's favoritest toys Richardson stole when the two were in kindergarten together, but somebody's got to be seventh-worst of all time, so why not Richardson?
 
***
 
Themes? We don't need no stinkin' themes.
 
OK, fine. WARP spits on your suspiciously low ERAs, your relief pitchers, and your second basemen. If you want your kid to grow up to make five or six or seven All-Star teams while being no better than just okay, you stick him at second and you either put him on one of the greatest dynasties ever or you take all the other second basemen and you lock them in your basement so that there isn't any competition.
 
***
 
Deleted scenes:
 
You see up there the lowest career WARPs for players who made two, three, five, and seven All-Star teams, so:
 
4: Joaquin Andujar, 6.9 WARP
 
6: Sandy Alomar, Jr., 11.1 WARP (there he is! Man of the hour! As you'll recall from last week, this entire investigation stemmed from Sam Miller musing on the Effectively Wild podcast about how bad/mediocre Sandy Alomar, Jr. was despite making so many All-Star appearances)
 
8: Catfish Hunter, 23.4 WARP
 
9: Goose Gossage, 23.4 WARP (did you know that Catfish and Goose had the same career WARP?)
 
10: Steve Garvey, 29 WARP (as mentioned in last week's piece)
 
11: Bill Freehan, 40.9 WARP
 
12: Mariano Rivera, 31.2 WARP
 
13: Derek Jeter, 62.9 WARP (alright, fine, it's really hard to make 13 All-Star Games unless you're actually a damn good player, so I'm done)

Jason Wojciechowski is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

20 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

ScottyB

Damaso Garcia's 1984 Stratomatic card was INSANELY GOOD. He was the key to my Blue Jays championship that year.

Feb 21, 2013 04:51 AM
rating: 1
 
mblthd

I remember that - he was no 1981 Mickey Klutts, but yes, a very good card.

I also remember whenever Garcia came up, we would pronounce it "Damn Asshole" Garcia. Not that we had anything against or even knew anything about the guy, we were just 10-12 year old boys.

Feb 21, 2013 09:27 AM
rating: 3
 
gdragon1977

Well there was that moment when he burned his uniform in the clubhouse. It's obviously nothing in the big picture compared to brain cancer and disabled children, but at the time he didn't make a lot of fans doing it.

Feb 21, 2013 10:19 AM
rating: 0
 
rexcoot

John Blue Moon.

And to make this article more palatable to those who call themselves 'Sandy Alomar', Sr posted some decent #s in the early 1970s when he made the All Star team, and followed that up with a 5.2 WAR season in 1971 in which he didn't, further crumbling the Cookie.

Feb 21, 2013 05:49 AM
rating: 0
 
skaron01

I sm surprised that Scott Cooper, 3B, Red Sox was too productive to make this list.

Feb 21, 2013 06:20 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Wojciechowski
BP staff

Cooper ranks a distant 38th-worst in WARP/ASG, just a tad worse than Shea Hillenbrand, amusingly.

Feb 21, 2013 09:04 AM
 
Michael
(736)

So was I. 5.3 WARP and two all-star games for Scott Cooper. b-refWAR likes him less than that.

Feb 21, 2013 09:06 AM
rating: 0
 
clete6
(577)

Mel Stottlemyre's PWARP surprised me. He has a WARP of 6.7, whereas bWAR is 37.5 and fWAR is 33.0. I see that his FRA is much higher than both his ERA and FIP in every year of his career. Can you shed some light on this? Thanks.

Feb 21, 2013 06:42 AM
rating: 0
 
BillJohnson

How many of these guys were their team's sole representative in at least one year when they were chosen? I believe McBride was the Angels' only representative to the second 1961 ASG, as teammate Ryne Duren had been the first one (where McBride was not on the team). He's the only one I can find, but my search has not been exhaustive. The requirement for each team to be represented has certainly led to some odd ducks on the team, but in general, the really doubtful ones didn't put in repeat appearances.

Feb 21, 2013 09:29 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Wojciechowski
BP staff

I didn't look exhaustively, but I did actually delete a paragraph about that very issue as to McBride. You're right that he was the sole rep to his game in '61, but in '62, he was one of four Angels in the second game (two of them starters) and in '63, he was one of three, all of whom were starters.

Which, if you'll notice, means that Ken McBride was the starting pitcher in an All-Star game. To be fair, the 1963 list of qualified starting pitchers in the AL is not a who's who -- Robin Roberts, Jim Bunning, and Whitey Ford are the only Hall of Famers I see who were active at the time, and Roberts was 36, well past his mid-'50s peak.

Feb 21, 2013 09:58 AM
 
BP staff member Geoff Young
BP staff

Subtract 1.5 WARP from Damaso Garcia for bringing Alfredo Griffin to the ASG as his guest in 1984. Griffin later subbed for an injured Alan Trammell on the AL roster, according to manager Joe Altobelli, "mostly because he was here."

Feb 21, 2013 10:33 AM
 
thsaladboy

This is only tangentially related, but why does WARP so massively penalize relievers? I understand fewer innings obviously means lower WARP, but in the case of Bruce Sutter, how does 107 innings of 2.62 FRA/1.61 FIP in 1977 only equal 2.8 WARP? He has 6.5 bWAR for that season. In 1979 he has 101 innings of 3.18 FRA/1.85 FIP and has only 1.8 WARP. That seems absurd to me (and indeed, again, his bWAR that season was 4.9). It's things like this--hell, the disparity for pretty much all relievers between WARP and either WAR--that makes me really question WARP, especially when it comes to relievers. It doesn't pass the smell test, and completely disagrees with the other advanced metrics (Mariano Rivera has been worth a full 20 wins more according to bWAR than according to WARP! That's a bit absurd).

Feb 21, 2013 12:58 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Wojciechowski
BP staff

It's not a penalty. It's a simple matter of not giving the player "credit" for leverage. Colin explained that position here.

Feb 21, 2013 13:05 PM
 
Richard Bergstrom

Well, isn't WARP also a counting stat so relievers, because they throw less innings, generally have less WARP?

Feb 21, 2013 18:43 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Wojciechowski
BP staff

Yes, but when you compare reliever WARP to reliever rWAR or fWAR, you wind up seeing good closers and setup men often having substantially less value in our system. The innings are obviously the same across all three, but WARP not using a leverage factor is a distinction.

Feb 21, 2013 18:47 PM
 
Schlom

Randy Jones must have the biggest spread in value between BP, BR, and fangraphs:

Career WAR (or WARP):
BP: -4.1
BR: 16.8
FG: 22.2

Feb 21, 2013 13:11 PM
rating: 1
 
myshkin

I would not have expected a reliever, even in the 1950s, could accumulate that much negative batting value. Clem was talented, I guess. Or not, as the case may be.

Feb 21, 2013 15:15 PM
rating: 0
 
mikebuetow

The AL pitching was so good in 1972 that 295.3 IP of 2.64 FIP ERA was worth only 0.7 WARP? Guh.

Feb 21, 2013 16:39 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Wojciechowski
BP staff

Some of that is league context, yes, but some is park (90 PPF for Catfish that year), some is FRA not giving credit for what is probably a fair amount of luck (.207 BABIP).

Feb 21, 2013 16:53 PM
 
Richard Bergstrom

I did a double-take at "McBride came back to put up a 2.76 ERA in 153 1/3 innings in the first half" and thought it was a typo. Ah, the days if 300 IP seasons.

Feb 21, 2013 18:44 PM
rating: 0
 
You must be a Premium subscriber to post a comment.
Not a subscriber? Sign up today!
<< Previous Article
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: A Rocky... (02/21)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article In A Pickle: Not All S... (02/14)
Next Column >>
Premium Article In A Pickle: Enamorin'... (02/28)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Skewed Left: Arizona's... (02/21)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Premium Article What You Need to Know: Fiiiiiiiiiiight!
Premium Article The Call-Up: Kevin Plawecki
Premium Article The Call-Up: Carlos Rodon
Premium Article Minor League Update: Games of April 17-19, 2...
Premium Article Monday Morning Ten Pack: April 20, 2015
BP Wrigleyville
Tools of Ignorance: The San Diego Hedgehogs?

MORE FROM FEBRUARY 21, 2013
Premium Article Skewed Left: Arizona's Extreme Strikeout Mak...
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: A Rocky Rotation
Premium Article Perfect Game Presents: An Ace Showcase
Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Getting the Platoon Advan...
The BP Wayback Machine: Your Guide to Spring...

MORE BY JASON WOJCIECHOWSKI
2013-03-15 - Premium Article In A Pickle: To Communicate a Failure
2013-03-07 - In A Pickle: The Worst All-Around Teams in H...
2013-02-28 - Premium Article In A Pickle: Enamorin' Hank
2013-02-21 - Premium Article In A Pickle: All-Stars Are Not All Stars
2013-02-14 - Premium Article In A Pickle: Not All Stars Are All-Stars
2013-02-11 - Premium Article Arbitration Showdown: Mock Hearing: Martin P...
2013-02-04 - Arbitration Showdown: Mock Hearing: Chase He...
More...

MORE IN A PICKLE
2013-03-15 - Premium Article In A Pickle: To Communicate a Failure
2013-03-07 - In A Pickle: The Worst All-Around Teams in H...
2013-02-28 - Premium Article In A Pickle: Enamorin' Hank
2013-02-21 - Premium Article In A Pickle: All-Stars Are Not All Stars
2013-02-14 - Premium Article In A Pickle: Not All Stars Are All-Stars
2013-01-31 - In A Pickle: Four Sentences About Strikeouts
2013-01-25 - Premium Article In A Pickle: Average Love
More...