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July 6, 2009

Prospectus Today

The All-Star Selections

by Joe Sheehan

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I'm pretty critical of MLB's practices, so I should mention how much I like that they've turned the announcement of the All-Star teams into an event. Becoming an All-Star is actually more significant than anything a player might do in the game-it's an honor being selected, whether by the fans, the players, or the managers, and the highlight is that moment. If anything, I'd take this off Sunday and TBS and try to get ESPN to run it before a Monday night game in prime time.

MLB is definitely making a push for the balloting to become an event in itself as well, with near-constant updates on it down the stretch. That I think we can live without, if for no other reason than the balloting doesn't reflect changes in the thinking of voters so much as which teams had a homestand last week. The idea that it's a horse race along the lines of a presidential election or the like is wrong; there are macro-level reasons why players get their votes, and when they get their votes. I was asked about the in-process voting a couple of times last week, and I had to punt; I wasn't tracking who was in the lead, who was making a run, and who was in danger of losing their spot. It didn't seem to matter.

The voters did a respectable job, with some notable exceptions. I don't think Raul Ibañez is necessarily an All-Star-caliber outfielder, but he was having a great season before he got hurt, and he plays for a team that is selling out its ballpark in the wake of a championship. That's a recipe for votes. The National League outfield pool, so incredibly deep just a few years ago, has been thinned by age, by position changes, and by league switches. Manny Ramirez is the obvious third choice, but it appears that some combination of his absence and the reasons for his absence dampened his vote totals, both among the fans and the players. It's not easy to determine how much weight to give those factors, given that time and again current-season performance seems to carry so much weight with the voters. After Ramirez, you get to Adam Dunn, who actually isn't matching Ibañez's numbers, then a pool of players who would be just as much single-season phenomenons as All-Stars as Ibañez is. Yadier Molina isn't better than Brian McCann by any stretch of the imagination, and his election seems simply to be a case of more votes coming from one precinct than another. It's not right, but it's OK.

Over in the AL it's a bit softer, as Josh Hamilton finds his way onto the roster despite combining Ramirez's playing time with Clete Thomas' performance. Ichiro Suzuki's slot is permanent, and Jason Bay benefits from the popularity of the Red Sox while certainly being a qualified candidate. Hamilton, however, is a clear mistake; his status as an All-Star essentially being carried by a strong first half in 2008 and one memorable night at Yankee Stadium. He remains a great story; he also remains a player who seems incapable of staying in the lineup and playing effectively over a full season. Any number of AL outfielders-I'd go with Torii Hunter or Jermaine Dye-were more qualified based on their bodies of work. Also, the fans ignored the guy who has been the best or second-best player in baseball since 1998 or so-Alex Rodriguez-in favor of Evan Longoria. Nothing against Longoria, who is having a strong season and is off to an excellent start to his career. At some point, though, you have to get the best players in baseball to the All-Star Game.

The player selections were once again hampered by the rule that requires their second choice be elected when they and the fans agree, so their selections always look a bit weaker. The players don't seem to bring any specialized knowledge to their picks; they seem to be, by and large, to be voting on batting averages and RBI totals in the current season, and if there's a defensive component or anything else being considered, it's certainly not apparent from the results. In some cases, this means you land on the right answer-McCann, Adrian Gonzalez-and in some cases it means you get Hunter Pence and Ryan Zimmerman. Pence was probably the sixth outfielder in the player voting, and the three bench outfielders (with Pence joined by Justin Upton and Brad Hawpe) were all alternate player picks after they and the fans agreed on the starters. Zimmerman instead of Chipper Jones is just a mistake. In these cases, the All-Star process would be better served by turning the roster slots back to the managers. You'd get the same answers in many cases, but better ones in some.

The AL player picks were also all about 2009 performance, with the most egregious miss being Rodriguez's absence from the team. Longoria won the fan vote and Michael Young the player vote, so the inner-circle Hall of Famer with the .412 OBP and .523 SLG stays home. Again, if the players are just going to emphasize eight weeks of stats in such a way that leaves an all-time great player out of the All-Star Game when he's not having a bad year-look past batting average, for heaven's sake!-then it's not clear why they need to be part of the process. We're not getting anything from them we wouldn't get by giving Sully from Brookline all the power. Other than Young over Rodriguez, though, the players' picks were all mostly defensible. Aaron Hill versus Ian Kinsler is the closest call, especially once you look back further than Opening Day. Again, though, the players didn't do this, and don't. For the players, apparently nothing you do outside of April 1 to June 15 of the current season gets you onto the All-Star team.

Because they get first choice, the player picks for the pitching staff tend to look solid. Nevertheless, the NL players managed to leave Dan Haren off of their own roster, even though he's been the best pitcher in the league and has a three-year track record of All-Star performance. Again, I ask: What are these guys bringing to the table if they can't see past win-loss records? In the AL, the players put Josh Beckett on the team ahead of Kevin Millwood, which is a rare case of them looking past current-season performance to a body of work. I suspect Beckett was helped by having a strong run during the player balloting period. Other than those hiccups, though, the players got the pitchers correct.

An actual conversation I had this morning:

Friend: Am I taking crazy pills or did Jason Marquis make the All-Star team?
Me: And Alex Rodriguez didn't."

Carrying 13 pitchers for a single game is stupid. There's no other word for it. Bud Selig is the all-time master of solving the last problem and doing it poorly. So we get an All-Star roster that encourages managers to handle their personnel in a silly manner, as opposed to one that encourages them to run a real ballgame. We also get one where the last couple of pitchers are going to be head-scratchers. Charlie Manuel put Marquis and his run support on the team. I get that there's some room for disagreement, but can we all get behind the idea that if you have more runs allowed than strikeouts, you're not an All-Star? Please? The Rockies already had Hawpe, so they were represented, and the list of pitchers more qualified than Marquis includes Yovani Gallardo, Johnny Cueto, Adam Wainwright, and 40 percent of the Braves rotation. Maybe 60 percent. Two of his teammates had better cases, three if you include Huston Street.

Charlie Manuel took Ryan Howard over at least four other worthy first basemen, including the overqualified Lance Berkman, and he took a bunch of saves (Ryan Franklin) instead of good relievers (Mike Gonzalez, Rafael Soriano). Simply taking Joey Votto and Yovani Gallardo instead of Prince Fielder and Francisco Cordero would have made this a better team, although Fielder does deserve his slot. (Confession: I had no idea how big a year he was having.)

None of those rate as the dumbest decision of the year, however. No, that goes to Joe Maddon, who ignored everything we know about Ben Zobrist and put him on the All-Star team because he timed his career peak exceptionally well. Maddon took Zobrist ahead of A-Rod, only one of the best baseball players alive. He took him over Jermaine Dye, having about as valuable a season and, you know, somebody with something on his resumé prior to May 1. He took Zobrist over Carlos Peña, who isn't having quite as good a year with the bat, but is a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman and, you know, someone who had something on his resumé prior to May 1. This was a homer decision, one of the worst I've ever seen, and I lived through the Joe Torre Era in New York. Ben Zobrist has no business being placed on the All-Star team, and Maddon putting him there is an embarrassment to the process.

Maddon's pitching selections were less than inspired, too. I'm not sure how you can weight current-season performance in a way that gets Ben Zobrist onto the team while leaving Kevin Millwood off of it, but he did. Brian Fuentes is on instead of Jeff Weaver, which seems to be a tactical choice; Cliff Lee missed the team, as did a whole bunch of guys so that Maddon could take Tim Wakefield. Wakefield is having a nice season, and it makes a good story, but the list of AL pitchers more qualified for the honor is very, very long. Maddon's failure to select Jermaine Dye also led to Mark Buehrle's selection. Lee and Dye, rather than Zobrist and Buehrle, would make more sense and give the White Sox their representative. Actually, leaving Wakefield off for Buehrle in that case would be optimal. As with Marquis in the NL, Wakefield in the AL is a curious choice that invites the question: How many pitcher slots would you need to actually get the job done correctly?

The fans did a passable job, the players made a couple of bad misses, and the managers pretty much failed. The fans get one more shot, of course. If I were voting-and I'm not-I would add Carlos Peña in the AL. I might leave the NL ballot blank in protest of Joey Votto's absence, and I'm still wondering where the hell Chipper Jones fits in all of this. Gun at my head, give me Pablo Sandoval, who's just kind of fun to watch.

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

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

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KerryFam4

S/b Jered Weaver not Jeff in the next to last paragraph.

Jul 06, 2009 10:26 AM
rating: 0
 
shamah

You mean Jered Weaver, not Jeff Weaver

Jul 06, 2009 10:29 AM
rating: 0
 
straightoutofhxc

this is the second time that I saw somebody reference Jeff Weaver in an AL all star discussion.

Jul 06, 2009 14:44 PM
rating: 0
 
hammersla

In a modest defense of Zobrist here, I think his positional flexibility should count for something. There should be room on the roster for a good utility guy, like Zobrist or Mark DeRosa or Chone Figgins, even at the expense of a third first baseman or something.

Jul 06, 2009 10:31 AM
rating: 3
 
One Flap Down

The only reason (tongue-in-cheek) that makes sense for Maddon selecting Wakefield is to have someone to go multiple innings in case the game goes to extras. We just better not see him come on in the 6th.

Jul 06, 2009 10:32 AM
rating: 0
 
BillJohnson

Why the condescension toward Ryan Franklin? By any measures I can find (VORP, WXRL, WHIP, ERA, you name it), he's having a better year than the two guys that you suggest replacing him with, and he's not a complete flash in the pan; his other two years in St. Louis have been strong as well. What's the complaint about him? Just the fact that he has a bunch of saves certainly does not mean he's NOT a strong candidate for the team.

Jul 06, 2009 10:37 AM
rating: 0
 
Bill N

Take a look at his BABIP and strand rates. He's been insanely lucky.

Jul 06, 2009 10:53 AM
rating: 3
 
Aaron/YYZ

Sure, but the 0.84 ERA and the fact that St. Louis is hosting the All Star game mean it isn't exactly crazy for him to be selected. It's not like he has a 4.50 FIP or something...

Jul 06, 2009 12:25 PM
rating: 0
 
BrianGunn
(439)

I agree, Falco, that Franklin has been lucky, although strand rates are reflected in WXRL, and Franklin is still 4th in the league in that category. I think Bill's point still holds -- Joe can't claim that Franklin's selection to the ASG is merely a matter of piling up saves when, in fact, Franklin does as well by more sophisticated methods.

Jul 06, 2009 13:26 PM
rating: 0
 
David Coonce

I think the argument wasn't with his performance thus far, just the flukiness of it. He's never pitched remotely as well as this before, and it is just 32 innings.

I think it's an argument over philosophy - do you pick the best players in the game or just the ones having the best half-season? (I'm not arguing for either, just saying that there's two ways to look at the voting process.)

Jul 06, 2009 13:40 PM
rating: 1
 
BillJohnson

I would claim that when it comes to pitchers, particularly relief pitchers, good is as good does, not as good did. Sudden and dramatic changes (usually declines, but not always) in level of performance happen all the time with pitchers, even very good ones. Even guys as great -- and as consistent -- as Maddux, M. Rivera, Clemens, Johnson, etc., have factor-of-2 variations in ERA+ over the course of three or four seasons. Compare that to Manny, A-Rod, Jeter, and the awesome consistency that is Albert Pujols; the variations in OPS+ aren't nearly that great.

THIS YEAR, I would rather see Franklin on the all-star team than Gonzalez or Soriano, even accepting that he almost certainly won't sustain the performance that he's had so far this year. (How can he?) It's not like either of those guys have a Mo-esque track record that justifies their inclusion on the basis of a long and consistently great career.

Jul 06, 2009 15:45 PM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

Soriano has crazy outpitched Franklin. The differences between the two are usage patterns and defense behind them. It's not all that close unless you make save situations the whole ball of wax.

(Note: I'm not a huge fan of context-sensitive reliever evaluations like WXRL. I understand what they do; I just think the underlying assumption that the context matters that much in grading performance is questionable. Your mileage may vary.)

Jul 06, 2009 19:50 PM
 
BrianGunn
(439)

Soriano has crazy outpitched Franklin, although Gonzalez has not. Their FIP ERA's are almost identical.

I'm no big fan of Franklin's -- I just think it's difficult to argue that Franklin was merely a "saves" pick, ala Brian Wilson in '08, considering he has so many other things going for him beyond saves.

Jul 07, 2009 13:41 PM
rating: 0
 
statefan21
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

Arod, one of the best baseball players alive, you got to be kidding me????

Jul 06, 2009 10:37 AM
rating: -65
 
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

You would prefer maybe Willie Bloomquist?

Jul 06, 2009 11:04 AM
 
Steve D.

I say this as a complete stathead apologist, but the Zobrist argument is a waste of words and clearly one where Joe needs to come out from behind the spreadsheet.

OF COURSE Joe Maddon was going to take him, and I'll argue that he should have. You can't have the #3 guy in the AL in OPS in your own clubhouse and not take him to the All-Star game. This isn't Strat. He's not a career All-Star clearly, but the game has always had room for guys like these, and if the object is to win so the Rays can host Game 7 of the World Series, then Maddon is obviously going to trust his own hottest hitter more than the other guy.

I find the Howard inclusion much more egregious, and THAT I say as someone who took a day off work to go to the parade last fall.

Jul 06, 2009 10:37 AM
rating: 16
 
Ameer

I actually don't mind seeing guys like Zobrist maket the all-star team. The guy caught lightning in a bottle this year and went nuts for a month. He'll probably never have half-season numbers that look like this again and never have a chance to make another all start team. Let the guy get some glory for his hot streak - I have no problem with that.

Jul 06, 2009 11:21 AM
rating: 11
 
Aaron/YYZ

Keep in mind that most of Zobrist's success is not wild BABIP luck driven, the BB%/K% this season is in line with his minor league career (going back 5 years), and it's not like the power spike is crazy after his power last season AND the magical age-27-season. This is less fluky than a lot of seasons people have had...

Jul 06, 2009 12:29 PM
rating: 3
 
mikebuetow

This one comes down to, as Bill James said, whether you think the All-Star game is for the fans, or for the players.

If the latter, the argument can be made that a 28-year-old guy who coming into the season had all of 478 at-bats -- in other words, just 75 fewer at-bats than A-Rod had homers at that point) -- and who after the best 200-odd AB of his life now has a career line of .241/.320/.443 belongs with the best 30 or so players in the league.

If the former, however, then grab some bench, Zobrist.

Jul 06, 2009 13:07 PM
rating: 0
 
wonkothesane1

If arguing against Zobrist's inclusion is a waste of words, then the whole article is a waste of words. Every year Joe Sheehan writes about what the ideal All Star team should be like and it's pretty obvious that ideal team does not include Zobrist. It would be a dereliction of duty not to "waste" words on it.

Jul 06, 2009 14:24 PM
rating: 0
 
jetson
(660)

well and therefore those of who think his standards are ludicrous should continue to weigh in. After all, it is a game set in the middle of the *current* season, and it is held every year. When I was in junior league baseball, we had an all star game every year and our coaches sent the kid they thought played the best...that year.

The fans can certainly vote in who they want, and I'm fine with that, but I don't even remotely get why a guy's career year shouldn't be rewarded. Guess what, it's true in all sports - diminishing it as "a good eight weeks" is petty. So if you kick a guy like Zobrist out and he rakes the rest of the year, what, do you send him a box of candy and an apology? It's not his fault baseball sets the game 52% of the way into the year.

Don't get me wrong - personally I like seeing the big bright light players in the game too, but at the same time, I really don't think it makes a hill of beans' difference to the game's ratings if A-Rod's out and Zobrist's in.

Jul 06, 2009 15:02 PM
rating: 6
 
Hokieball

So who plays CF for the NL if Beltran doesn't make the trip? Everyone else is a corner outfielder, and it's no sure think that either Kemp or Victorino makes it through the final ballot nonsense.

Jul 06, 2009 10:40 AM
rating: 1
 
Aaron/YYZ

Kemp could be added as an injury substitute once Beltran withdraws (although it's possible he'd still make the trip for PR purposes, Bud likes that).

Jul 06, 2009 16:48 PM
rating: 0
 
strupp

Joe, just putting it out there... Prince Fielder is one of the 4 1B reps in the NL... and there's a case that he'd be the 4th or 5th best 1Bman in the NL Central?

I agree with you in the most part, how ARod can be left off in particular, but I don't have a problem with the managers focusing on this season over the whole body of work for those last few spots (Especially if/when it gets down to team reps).

You know what, the game itself is run so poorly, that I only ever root for a tie again anyway.

Jul 06, 2009 10:40 AM
rating: 0
 
EnderCN

"Joe, just putting it out there... Prince Fielder is one of the 4 1B reps in the NL... and there's a case that he'd be the 4th or 5th best 1Bman in the NL Central?
"

There is also a case that he is the 2nd best. He is pretty much crushing all the others except Pujols in WARP this year(granted Votto was hurt but that should count against him). He crushed everyone but Pujols in WARP in 2007 as well so not like this is a one year thing.

Jul 06, 2009 15:57 PM
rating: 0
 
scottlong

I'm still waiting for the story by BP of how Buehrle manages to outperform his projections almost every season. This year, the White Sox have won almost every game that he's started. He actually should have at least 10 wins. His ERA is 3.09, his WHIP is 1.12. The guy has been the most consistent pitcher in baseball during the decade, while pitching in an offensive park. Sure he doesn't strikeout enough batters to get PECOTA wet, but this doesn't mean his consistency shouldn't be recognized. He was an automatic selection, not one where Maddon should have kept him off, instead of Dye.

Jul 06, 2009 10:52 AM
rating: 5
 
mkapellas

Joe, you wrote this back in May: "The 2009 National League All-Star voting is going to be the best information we yet have about how fans really feel about players suspected of using steroids. The potential for Ramirez to be voted onto the All-Star team while serving a PED suspension is easily the most interesting thing about his suspension today."
Then, you write this today: "but it appears that some combination of his absence and the reasons for his absence dampened his vote totals, both among the fans and the players. It’s not easy to determine how much weight to give those factors, given that time and again current-season performance seems to carry so much weight with the voters."
Today's description of what happened with the voting is a bit mealy-mouthed. By your May standards, doesn't Manny's All-Star team absence mean we can deduce that the public is also fed up with the PED usage and that it's not merely the media-driven story that you've suggested?

Jul 06, 2009 10:55 AM
rating: 20
 
Nathan J. Miller

That factor could contribute to the omission of A-Rod as well.

Jul 07, 2009 09:28 AM
rating: 0
 
mattgioia

Not defending the pick, but the fact that Howard is from STL and could have a hand in making the HR Derby a fun story might have something to do with his selection.

Jul 06, 2009 11:13 AM
rating: 2
 
ashitaka

Interesting take....but haven't there been HR Derby participants who weren't All Stars?

Jul 06, 2009 16:40 PM
rating: 0
 
ashitaka

or am I thinking of the year they were pimping the WBC and wanted an international feel?

Jul 06, 2009 16:43 PM
rating: 0
 
Kinanik

They had a 500-HR club year where they included Rafael Palmeiro even though he wasn't an all-star

Jul 08, 2009 14:36 PM
rating: 0
 
bflaff

Howard has a career 1.282 OPS at Busch. Clearly the home cooking goes down well. I don't have a problem with Manuel doing the home town heroes (I think Franklin benefits here as well) a solid, even if the selections themselves are a bit iffy.

Jul 06, 2009 17:30 PM
rating: 0
 
ZeusIsLoose

"" Yadier Molina isn’t better than Brian McCann by any stretch of the imagination, and his election seems simply to be a case of more votes coming from one precinct than another. It’s not right, but it's OK""


If it's not right, why is it ok?

McCann should be starting, and if the NL were serious about winning, would catch all 9. The dropoff to second best is pretty steep.

Jul 06, 2009 11:19 AM
rating: 3
 
BrianGunn
(439)

I think "it's not right, but it's OK" translates to "it's not ideal, but no big deal." But you hit the nail on the head, cam -- the NL is NOT serious about winning, and neither is the AL. You simply cannot have a system that asks you to routinely substitute players, or that asks you to have a rep from every team, and also say that you're primarily interested in scoring and preventing runs.

Jul 06, 2009 13:36 PM
rating: 1
 
sandriola

I think he's saying that the fact the St. Louis fans voted their hometown catcher to their hometown All Star Game is OK, even though Molina's nowhere near as good (or deserving) as McCann.

Jul 06, 2009 18:41 PM
rating: 1
 
PopTarts

Molina's WARP is 3.0 and McCann's is 2.1. Molina has 9 more games, but maybe worth thinking about.

Perhaps it'd be more of an injustice if they were hitting at their usual levels.

Jul 07, 2009 08:35 AM
rating: 0
 
ZeusIsLoose

Brian McCann has 14 BRAA, Yadier Molina has 1.The reason that WARP has it 3.0 to 2.1 is entirely based on Molina's amazing 22 FRAA to this point, and while I may be a neanderthal about these things, I have a hard time believing that a catcher's defense can have that kind of impact. Molina is certainly the superior defender. I agree in the direction of that measure, I'm just really skeptical about the magnitude.

I have a lot more faith in our ability to measure their offensive performance. And it is really not close. And I'm much more certain of the magnitude of difference in their offensive performances.

Jul 08, 2009 07:30 AM
rating: 1
 
kerrigrr

I have to join the chorus who think Zobrist and others of his breakout ilk *are* deserving of All Star selections. After all, its the 2009 All Star Game, not the Lifetime Achievement All Star Game. In 2009, Zobrist has been fantastic and if this is his only big year, so be it.

Jul 06, 2009 11:23 AM
rating: 2
 
Joe D.

A similar argument in the opposite direction would look like this: It's the 2009 All-STAR Game, not the 2009 All-Really-Nifty-Three-Months Game.

I can understand both sides of the issue, and it's not a huge deal to me simply because the game itself isn't. I do tend to side with Joe, though. I've always thought of the game's purpose as allowing us to see the best players in baseball all on one field. I adore what Zobrist has done, but I'm a long ways off from calling him more deserving of that moniker than, say, A-Rod.


Jul 06, 2009 15:47 PM
rating: 0
 
Matt Kory

"The AL player picks were also all about 2009 performance..."

For whatever reason many people vote for the all-stars based on that year's performance only and I think that's a completely legitimate way to vote. It may not be how you vote or how you think others should vote, but I've never heard anything official about the 'correct' way to vote.

Jul 06, 2009 11:27 AM
rating: 4
 
BigSteve

I don't understand your infatuation with Joey Votto. He's missed a lot of time and doesn't have much of a track record except in the minor leagues. He's hit well this year while he's been on the field... but he's not an all star by your criteria.

Jul 06, 2009 11:29 AM
rating: 4
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

He's outplayed Ryan Howard since Opening Day 2008. That's pretty much his whole case.

Jul 06, 2009 19:52 PM
 
phuturephillies

Ryan Howard, WARP3, 2008: 5.0
Joey Votto, WARP3, 2008: 2.6

Ryan Howard, WARP3, 2009: 3.7
Joey Votto, WARP3, 2009: 5.2

By my calculations, that's 8.7 to 7.8, Votto had fewer AB's, for various reasons. Ryan Howard isn't as bad as you want him to be. In fact, he's outperformed Votto defensively this season by a WIDE margin

Votto: -7 enhanced +/-
Howard: +4 enhanced +/-

11 runs. That's like 1 whole win better on defense. Last year Votto was +18, Howard was at 0. Did Votto fall apart defensively that fast?

Jul 06, 2009 23:06 PM
rating: 4
 
Wharton93

Sheehan hates Ryan Howard.

Jul 07, 2009 08:14 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

It's on me for not checking the defensive stats, because while I knew Howard was having his best year, I didn't realize Votto was playing so poorly.

I definitely would be skeptical about small-sample defensive numbers, but clearly the line about Votto outplaying Howard doesn't stand up to scrutiny. I really have no idea how Votto could have that large a decline. Any Reds fans reading?

Jul 07, 2009 09:47 AM
 
danteswitness

If you spend a portion of the season suffering from dizziness and anxiety attacks, it is possible that your defense would be most notably affected.

Jul 07, 2009 10:37 AM
rating: 1
 
irichmon

Not to get overly social science-y, but the players' decision (conscious or not) to vote for the All-Star team based on the first half of the season makes perfect sense. If All-Star teams were made up of the best players (as defined by some combination of career and current value), the same players would make the All-Star teams over and over again. There would be some wild cards, but most of the changes would occur when a star either established himself or became unproductive.

As you rightly point out, voting based on one half season will get players into the game who don't "deserve" to be there. From the players' point of view, that's a good thing, because most players don't "deserve" to be there. For the vast majority of players, it is in their self-interest to vote based on short-term performance, because there is no other way that they themselves could ever hope to make the team. If I were an economist, I would say that the players have chosen a rational valuation system.

Jul 06, 2009 11:33 AM
rating: 18
 
elm
(41)

This is a phenomenal point, though it does not explain why the managers often do the same thing. Maybe because they're largely former players and still have something of a player's view of things?

Jul 06, 2009 11:47 AM
rating: 1
 
krissbeth

Because it's in their self interest to have players BELIEVE that they could make the All-Star team if they work really hard and things break right for a few months?

Jul 06, 2009 13:15 PM
rating: 1
 
irichmon

I think those are both good suggestions. Another guess would be that they want the players to trust them, so they make decisions the same way the players do.

Jul 07, 2009 11:54 AM
rating: 0
 
joheimburger

Marquis and Wakefield are far and away the most offensive selections.

Color me confused on the Zobrist outrage as well. He's been a 4-win player in the first half and a plus defender at every position he's played since moving off SS.

Jul 06, 2009 11:47 AM
rating: 5
 
krissbeth

Let me try to defend it. There ought to be a place or two on these enormous rosters for extraordinary work in specialized fields. You ought to have a player who can play multiple positions and you ought to have a slot for an exceptional innings muncher, especially given last year's extra-innings affair. If you're going to select a half a dozen closers, the case for an innings-muncher extraordinaire becomes that much better. It's sound roster construction, given the economic mandate to take closers.

Jul 06, 2009 13:20 PM
rating: 1
 
OonBoon

Why isn't the fact that the NL has 4 1B-man getting more attention? How is it that you select three subs for Pujols? Tell me they're playing in an AL park this year and at least can rotate these guys into the DH slot.

Jul 06, 2009 11:49 AM
rating: 2
 
kerrigrr

Nope ... St. Louis.

Jul 06, 2009 11:59 AM
rating: 0
 
Aaron/YYZ

So Pujols is going to play 2 innings and get yanked in his home park? When he's having a crazy awesome year and remains the best player in the game? Yeah.......

Jul 06, 2009 12:31 PM
rating: 0
 
LouisArighi

I'm going to go out on a wild limb, and guess that some of the NL 1Bmen are going to be used as pinch-hitters for pitchers, given that there are 13 pitchers on the roster in an NL park where the pitchers have to bat.

Jul 06, 2009 15:01 PM
rating: 4
 
sandriola

Manuel could move him over to third base. LOL!

Jul 06, 2009 18:37 PM
rating: 0
 
bozarowski

Joe,

Generally love your work but I'm a bit confused as to why you're so dead set on looking at career worth when determining the all stars.

None of the other major honors bestowed on a player - MVP, Cy Young, Silver Slugger, Reliever Award, Gold Glove (oh wait, not so much with this one...) - are based on the career body of work, but rather each season's success. Why should the All Star game be any different?

I think it's entirely legitimate to take players based on their performance in this season. There is certainly no rule requiring that All Star selections be based on a career body of work. Perhaps the I fail to see how Ben Zobrist is one of the worst selection of all time - the man is having a hell of a good year. Sure Rodriguez is an all time great player (wrongly or rightly, I wouldn't be too sure about him being an inner-circle hall of famer but let's leave the steroid conversation for another day) but his .523 slugging is hardly Pujols-ian and well below his career .577 - Zobrist's is currently at .598.

I also don't quite understand the outrage over Raul Ibanez, he's a well established player with a successful career who hasn't had an OPS lower than .792 in 9 years and only two of those seasons were below .825 (or if you prefer OPS+ he is over 115 in all but one of the last 9 seasons). His OPS this year is a spectacular 1.027 and despite the injury he's still near the league leaders in home runs and most other counting stats.

That said I still would have left Marquis and Wakefield are particularly rough selections.

I'd also note that irichmon raised a great point about why players prefer the short term evaluation for the All Star team - what players don't want to someday make an All Star team?

Jul 06, 2009 12:10 PM
rating: 13
 
Matt

Career worth and the awards you mention include the second halves of seasons.

Jul 06, 2009 12:51 PM
rating: 0
 
Matthew Avery

So that was, what, 6 or 7 Braves players you mentioned as being legitimate All-Star picks?

Really underlines how bad the rest of the team is given that they're 3 under .500.

Jul 06, 2009 12:13 PM
rating: 0
 
gching
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A-rod is a inner-circle hall of famer, and the second best player since 1998.....on roids. I'm pretty sure the suspension played a factor in Rodriguez not getting selected

Jul 06, 2009 12:16 PM
rating: -6
 
gching

oh wait....Manny got suspended, A-rod was only found on the 2003 list.

Jul 06, 2009 12:18 PM
rating: -2
 
daiheide

I really can't agree with Sheehan's views about who should make the All Star team. He thinks that the "best" players in the game should make it, but defines "best" in terms of established performance. By that standard, the teams should include Chipper Jones, Alex Rodriguez, Vlad Guerrero and Jake Peavy. But none of those guys are playing particularly well right now (though Rodriguez's disappointing performance seems to be mostly due to bad luck).

If they were to make the team, then we'd miss out on seeing emerging stars - like, for example, Justin Upton - and players who are neither established nor projected for stardom, but who are absolutely tearing the cover off the ball - like, for example, Ben Zobrist.

Baseball should recognize and reward not only the established stars, but also the guys who substantially outperform their peers for a season or two. By Sheehan's lights, we shouldn't do that. We should recognize consistently excellent players, even when they're playing poorly. If we do that, though, then we miss the opportunity to officially emphasize something special about baseball: the undervalued player. If we can do that in the All Star game, then we're getting something right.

Ben Zobrist deserves his spot: he has been one of the best hitters in baseball for most of the season. And his flexibility in the field makes him incredibly valuable to his team. And he's a single example of the same storyline, one that gets repeated every year. I'm glad baseball realizes that extraordinary performances sometimes come out of nowhere. And I'm glad they sometimes get it right by making it a part of their most visible means of recognizing players.

(Though they often screw it up. But that's a different argument.)

Jul 06, 2009 12:18 PM
rating: 8
 
BP staff member Dan Malkiel
BP staff

The lesson here is obvious: Hunter and Dye should become drug addicts, causing great suffering to their families and costing their organizations millions. Then, once they sober up, they'll be raking in the votes regardless of their performance or playing time.

Jul 06, 2009 12:20 PM
 
ashitaka

Yay tact!

Jul 06, 2009 16:51 PM
rating: -1
 
BrianGunn
(439)

I think that was Dan's clumsy attempt to be "provocative." Yeesh...

Jul 06, 2009 17:27 PM
rating: -2
 
Matt

Hamilton may deserve a second chance, but I don't think he deserves tact.

Jul 06, 2009 22:10 PM
rating: 3
 
redsfan1470

Don't forget Jesus; it's important for them to have Jesus on their side as well.

Jul 06, 2009 21:49 PM
rating: 4
 
Kevin Wilson

Holy mixed arguments Batman. Jered Weaver was a snub because he's been good this year (and really this year only) but Ben Zobrist is on there unjustly because he's. been good. this. year. and this. year only...

Same argument for Howard. You want to use career body of work but his is ignored?

Jul 06, 2009 12:22 PM
rating: 7
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

The pitchers have pretty much always been picked based on first-half performance. I wish it weren't so. It is. By that criteria, which I generally don't fight, Weaver belongs, as do about 12 other guys instead of Wakefield. (As would they if you stretch the standard back. That's a brutal pick.)

As far as Howard goes...he's 12th among NL 1Bs in EqA, and while some of those guys aren't All-Stars, do you really want to make a case for him ahead of Derrek Lee or Lance Berkman once you consider anything BUT batting?

Ryan Howard has been in decline from 2006 onward. He's a first baseman with a .326 OBP *in a hitters' park* with minimal defensive value and no baserunning value. He wasn't that good last year. At this point, he's pretty much the most overrated player in baseball.

Jul 06, 2009 19:46 PM
 
Mountainhawk

Citizens' Bank Park is a run-neutral park, please join us in 2009 instead of hanging out back in 2005.

Jul 07, 2009 05:59 AM
rating: 2
 
lurgee21

thank you! It's bad enough that the SI.com writers till peddle this stupid CBP = "bandbox" argument.

Jul 10, 2009 17:07 PM
rating: 0
 
sroney

Though I haven't seen mention of it any where, I suspect that Jered Weaver being left off may have something to do with the fact that he is scheduled to start next weekend and would not have full rest, not that they need to use all the pitchers that make the team....

Jul 06, 2009 12:32 PM
rating: 0
 
MikeJordan23

McCann has been 6 runs better than Molina this year. Hardly something to make a fuss over.

Jul 06, 2009 12:34 PM
rating: -2
 
ClubberLang

You're forgetting the several weeks that McCann missed with his eye issue. The fact that he's still 6 runs better despite the missed time is a significant difference between the two.

Jul 06, 2009 12:43 PM
rating: 4
 
skepstein

Can't blame Cholly for picking Marquis. He may be a Phillie at the end of the month, afterall.

Jul 06, 2009 12:39 PM
rating: 0
 
Aaron/YYZ

As I see it, there are two really wonky selections:

Michael Young, 3B, TEX - Ian Kinsler is a more valuable player (both offensively and defensively) on the same team, Texas was already represented by Hamilton, and Scott Rolen is a more valuable player (again, both offensively and defensively) at the same position. What purpose does Young serve on this roster other than to allow them to roll clips of his All Star heroics from season when he deserved to be there?

Hunter Pence, OF, HOU - Houston is already represented by Miguel Tejada, Matt Kemp has been the most valuable outfielder (by WAR) in the entire NL this year, and is both a better hitter and a better defensive OF than Pence. Again, why is he there? What did Matt Kemp do to Joe Torre's dog to be stuck batting 7th, 8th, or 9th in the LA lineup?

Jul 06, 2009 12:39 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

Both player picks, and at that, both player second selections after the fans picked off the player starters.

Jul 06, 2009 19:40 PM
 
Aaron/YYZ

As I pointed out, neither is more deserving than a player at his own position that is quite possibly not going. It's still a bad pick.

This is the same argument as "it's ok that Ryan Howard finished second in the MVP while Chase Utley was down at 15th, because the writers got it right and gave the award to Pujols". When the down ballot votes still have a measurable effect (pass-down selections in this case, or "high MVP finishes" being used as coin for Hall of Fame voting down the road), the voters have a duty to get it all right rather than give up after the first spot.

Jul 06, 2009 19:47 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

You're holding the players to a higher standard than even I would.

First of all, the second place finish could be meaningless. If everyone likes Longoria, then you're basically asking who the Rays would pick (you can't vote for guys on your own team), and that could be something like...

Young 9
Rodriguez 8
Rolen 6
Inge 2

So without vote totals, we can't draw conclusions. I assume some of the weirder players picks in some years are exactly this, where the league voted for one guy and the second-place guy was an afterthought. Shea Hillenbrand.

The second issue...well, we agree on this. The players might be taking it seriously, but they're voting BA and RBI. That's it. So we're not getting anything from them we wouldn't be getting from the fans, probably less than we'd get from the managers, AND we're stuck with all their second choices as All-Stars.

It's a bad process, and has yielded bad results.

Jul 06, 2009 19:58 PM
 
Aaron/YYZ

Fair enough. It sounds like I am sufficiently unfamiliar with the voting process that I am making the mistake that it's a coherent attempt to actually send the best players. I'm astonished that a voting system that involves "pass-down" slots, does not allow the voters to indicate at least their top two selections.

I really find the Michael Young over Scott Rolen one weird, since the latter has a significantly longer track record of being a good player, a sterling defensive reputation, a higher AVG this year, and about the same RBI's. Is the fact that Texas is in the mix in the weak AL West really outweighing Toronto's strong play in the AL East?

Jul 06, 2009 20:16 PM
rating: 0
 
phuturephillies

I can never quite figure out what's more egregious, the outrageous picks made, or the outrage directed toward the picks that are made. To me, it comes down to 3 simple things;

1. Prior to "the incident" no one really cared about the All Star game in terms of wins and losses, it was a fun game. People voted for their favorite players, players essentially became legacy selections, and the game had a sense of familiarity. But who really cared? Prior to "the incident", the home run derby (on mute, of course) was the most entertaining part of the whole thing.

2. If the point now, when the game "means something", is to win so your league has home field advantage in the World Series, why wouldn't you want to take the best performers in 2009? Who cares what Ben Zobrist did two years ago? Who cares if the fans neglected to vote Ibanez into previous games when he was one of the more consistent hitters in the game? John Smoltz is one of the better pitchers in the last 15 years. He saved 145 games in a 3 year span, and was a staff ace for many years. So shouldn't he be in there instead of, say, Andrew Bailey? I mean sure, Bailey has been much better this year, but his resume is certainly nothing like that of Smoltz.

The bottom line on this point is, it sounds like you (and others like you) are too sentimental when talking about the present day All Star game. Its not a lifetime achievement award, or a members only club where the dues are a 2 inch thick baseball resume. Since the onus has been placed on "winning", the managers feel the need to take who they feel is playing the best now, whether those players are Hall of Fame bound or only catching lightning in a bottle.

3. The game still doesn't really matter. For a guy like A-Rod, how important is making a 13th All Star game? He missed the game in 1999 and it didn't kill his career. But how much do you think it means to a guy like Wakefield or Zobrist? Wakefield isn't an elite pitcher, but he clearly cares about the game, and I bet that he was really happy when he found out. And I bet it means a bunch to his family and his friends too. I don't see ASG snubs as some sort of travesty, I see it as a chance to give guys who might fly under the radar their due, and I bet it means a lot more to them than it does to the guy who is looking at his 12th or 13th ASG appearance. At the end of the day, this game really doesn't matter. Home field advantage doesn't guarantee you anything, but for these guys who will make their first game, I'm sure it will be a huge highlight for them.

Lots of people complain about the Mainstream Media's fascination with 3 or 4 teams at the cost of the rest of the sport. Now is the chance to spotlight more guys in smaller markets and give them some exposure.

Jul 06, 2009 12:45 PM
rating: 12
 
FlyingPolack

This is a great response and I'd be curious to hear Joe's response. I certainly have grown tired of reading the same column year after year.

In the grand scheme of things, I've got no problem with someone like Ben Zobrist playing in an All-Star.

Jul 07, 2009 12:18 PM
rating: 2
 
offbase99

Joe Sheehan's Yankee homerism usually ranges from "quaint" to "mildly annoying," but here we see it interfering with basic logic and judgment. Joe claims that picking Ben Zobrist over A-Rod is "one of the worst [selections] I’ve ever seen."

Really? By what criteria, Joe?

Zobrist hit .264/.362/.568 (a .930 OPS) over the second half of 2008. He's hitting .281/.400/.598 so far this year. That's 439 PA as the best hitting middle infielder in the American League over the past year -- not just some lucky stiff who (in Joe's words) "timed his career peak exceptionally well." It took me 8 seconds to look up Zobrist's second-half 2008 numbers online; Joe couldn't do that before manufacturing more fake outrage than a Sarah Palin press conference?

I also think Joe misses the larger picture of the All-Star game in today's 24-hour ESPN-driven sports world. Is there anyone in the universe who intends to watch the 2009 All-Star Game -- that is, someone who is at least a mild fan of this game we call "baseball" -- who has not seen Alex Rodriguez play? (And even assuming such a hypothetical "fan" exists, is the current iteration of A-Rod *really* the first exposure you want that hypothetical fan to experience?!?)

As far as being the worst selection Joe's ever seen, I can only conclude that he's never actually seen an All-Star game. Just skimming through the past few years' worth of All-Star selections, we see such luminaries as Joe Crede, David Eckstein (!), Mark Loretta, Shea Hillenbrand, Cesar Izturis... and hell, I'm only back to 2005. I remember Scott Cooper. I remember Greg Olson. I remember when Jose Offerman was an All-Star, along with Ron Coomer, John Jaha, and Brad Ausmus. Brad Ausmus! Does Joe Sheehan really think a guy who can play seven positions while posting a .950 OPS is a worse selection than these guys?

Look, I *like* A-Rod. I'm on board with the view that outrage over steroids is overblown. But the notion that it's "just not an All-Star Game" without the 2009 version of Alex Rodriguez -- currently batting .244 and doing his best Mickey Tettleton impersonation at the plate and in the field -- is either Yankee homerism gone insane or the BP equivalent of shock jockery. Either way, I can do without it.

Jul 06, 2009 12:54 PM
rating: 23
 
ashitaka

Over the last calendar year:
Rodriguez - .270/.395/.539/.934
Zobrist - .266/.372/.550/.923

Recall that Rodriguez had his PED use surface at the beginning of the season, brought "loosey-goosey" back into modern lexicon, and then missed the first month of the season recovering from hip surgery.

Meanwhile, Zobrist has already taken a big step forward with his game over the last year, and adds versatility to his team as a switch hitter who can play six positions.

I'm really not seeing a problem here.

Jul 06, 2009 14:00 PM
rating: 4
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

No one can post a 950 OPS while playing seven positions. If you can post a 950 OPS, they give you a position.

Zobrist is a bench player having the greatest run of his life. It's OK if you want the All-Star Game to be about guys like that--clearly, many people do--but it's also OK to note that you can trace the Game's decline in popularity pretty much to the decreased playing time the best players in baseball get in it.

It's not an All-Star Game after about the fifth inning. It's an All-Hot-Starts Game.

Jul 06, 2009 19:39 PM
 
straightoutofhxc

The greatest stretch of his life has now reached basically a full season of playing time. He altered his mechanics last year and took off following that. He's not THIS good, but he's good, and he's certainly not the worst All Star selection ever. That's some hyperbole on your part.

Jul 06, 2009 20:10 PM
rating: 3
 
daiheide

Is there any empirical evidence at all to suggest that All-Star selections are a causal determinant of the overall popularity of baseball? This seems like a classic correlation/causation fallacy.

I was under the impression that baseball's declining popularity had a lot to do with a) canceling the World Series and b) the simultaneous rise in popularity and visibility of other sports. That certainly seems to be a better explanation, but I admittedly don't have anything other than explanatory value and conventional wisdom to back up my case.

Jul 06, 2009 21:20 PM
rating: 0
 
Matt

I think he is referring to the All-Star Game itself, not the game as a whole. Ratings for the ASG are lower than they were in the 70's.

Jul 06, 2009 22:17 PM
rating: 0
 
irichmon

But he brings up a good point. TV ratings for baseball in general (and, actually, everything except the Super Bowl) are down from what they were in the 70's. Have the ratings for the All-Star Game declined more than the ratings for the World Series?

Jul 07, 2009 12:46 PM
rating: 0
 
bravejason

[Quoting Joe S.] "Carrying 13 pitchers for a single game is stupid. There’s no other word for it. Bud Selig is the all-time master of solving the last problem and doing it poorly. So we get an All-Star roster that encourages managers to handle their personnel in a silly manner, as opposed to one that encourages them to run a real ballgame" [End quote]

They wouldn't be carrying 13 pitchers if Torre and Brenly had properly managed the 2002 All Star game instead of burning through their pitchers like they had a quota to fill (they had nine apiece).

Jul 06, 2009 12:59 PM
rating: 1
 
chipsystems

"As with Marquis in the NL, Wakefield in the AL is a curious choice that invites the question: How many pitcher slots would you need to actually get the job done correctly?"

Thank you for saying this correctly! Where others might have been tempted to say it "begs the question", you realized that that meant something else entirely, and so instead you said what you meant to say. Thanks!

Jul 06, 2009 13:02 PM
rating: 2
 
mglick0718

Not germane to the excellent dialogue in the comments, but I went to summer camp (with very limited TV watching) for far longer than anyone should admit. As a lifelong baseball fan, you can imagine how excited I was to finally get to watch my first All-Star game at age 23, heightened by having to wait yet another year because of a long rain delay at the start of the 1990 game. Took about two innings of watching my inaugural ASG in 1991 to realize "Wow, I really couldn't give a rat's ass about this game." Since then I've been lucky to check in for about 5 minutes each year.

Jul 06, 2009 13:11 PM
rating: 0
 
mikebuetow

Good point. Frankly, I think the zeal for the game itself places a far second to the energy over the picks.

And I'm not so sure there's anything wrong with that.

Jul 07, 2009 05:48 AM
rating: 0
 
sblonder

Joe: after Manny got suspended you wrote this: "We are about to find out how much the fans truly care about this issue. Remember, fans have voted players onto the All-Star team who were having lousy seasons, who were injured and missing large parts of the current season, or who had been in decline for years... The 2009 National League All-Star voting is going to be the best information we yet have about how fans really feel about players suspected of using steroids. The potential for Ramirez to be voted onto the All-Star team while serving a PED suspension is easily the most interesting thing about his suspension today."

Considering the way you hyped up the significance of the Manny All-Star vote, it's pretty disappointing for you to downplay it ("we don't really know why they voted this way, etc") after the results came out contrary to your preference. It seems pretty clear based on your prior writing on this issue and the quote from May that if Manny had been voted onto the team by the fans, the headline of your article would have been "fans don't care about steroids, suck it media." It is unfortunate that you are such a strong logical thinker on other topics, but show such inconsistency when it comes to your crusade against media coverage of steroids.

Jul 06, 2009 13:35 PM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

It was pointed out in the comments of that article that Manny Ramirez *not* being voted an All-Star could just mean "out of sight, out of mind," where an absence from highlights, leaderboards, etc. is the reason he slipped in the voting. In other words, while Ramirez making the team would have been significant, his not making it has less clear meaning.

I think it's a data point in the discussion, just as the raucous cheers for Ryan Franklin next Tuesday will be a data point in the discussion.

Jul 06, 2009 14:45 PM
 
sblonder

Well, it's always nice to have a "heads I win, we don't really know what tails means" situation. I also would be willing to bet that the vast, vast majority of people cheering Ryan Franklin don't have a clue that he was suspended 10 days for steroids four years ago as a member of the Mariners. Feel free to ignore the elephant in the room as A-Rod and Manny both fail to make the All-Star team for the first time in a long, long time.

Jul 07, 2009 07:49 AM
rating: 3
 
straightoutofhxc

Which could easily be because it's the first time in a long, long time that they missed significant time pre-all star game.

Jul 07, 2009 08:46 AM
rating: 2
 
sblonder

I'm not buying that as the answer. A-Rod has played in 52 games this year and his injury came at the beginning of the season so fans have had plenty of time to see his highlights, etc. Plus, as Joe noted in his original post, it is very common for superstars who have missed part of the first half to still get voted into the game. For instance, Raul Ibanez hasn't played a game in nearly a month, has played only 10 more games on the season than A-Rod this year, is much, much less of a star, plays in a smaller media market, yet he still got voted in as a starter. Same thing for Josh Hamilton, who has played 16 LESS games than A-Rod and only two more than Manny.

Jul 07, 2009 09:26 AM
rating: 0
 
mkapellas

Exactly.
It's not as if the All-Star ballot is a write-in exercise. To suggest that Manny is out-of-sight and therefore out-of-mind overlooks the fact that he was very much in sight in the online ballot and on the paper ballots.
This isn't a matter of people mysteriously forgetting about Manny's 500+ career homers, incredible second half from last year and general strange behavior that fans have long embraced and explained as "Manny being Manny," but rather of them remembering that he tested positive for a banned substance.
This attempt at having it both ways is comical.

Jul 07, 2009 10:32 AM
rating: 0
 
Matt

I buy into Joe's reasoning because I want to see the better hitter/pitcher period. Give me A-Rod over Zobrist. Bet-ter hit-ter.

What drives me mad are the times like in 2007, when Albert "Best Hitter Period" Pujols doesn't even play, because we over think about short term performance.

I want to see A-Rod v. Santana. When Ben Zobrist comes up against Ryan Franklin, I'll probably just change the channel.

Jul 06, 2009 13:52 PM
rating: -1
 
OonBoon

Wasn't 2007 the year when Pujols hurt himself? He was on pace for 70 jacks, then missed some time. Point being, his short term performance was phenomenal, but his health was given priority over Gymfest.

Jul 07, 2009 13:57 PM
rating: 0
 
sterbencje

Joe, by your analysis it seems like there is almost nothing that Zobrist could have done since last All-Star game to merit a spot on the AL team. So far this year he is in the AL top five in both OBP and slugging. He's played competent middle infield defense for a contender that lost its entire starting middle infield for significant stretches of this season.

Other than raising the dead, what more could Zobrist have done to earn his way onto the squad?

Jul 06, 2009 14:34 PM
rating: 3
 
JohnHCh

Zobrist could have played in the 2009 All-Star Game if he had hit in the majors when he first got there the way he has this year (and if he continued to do so for the intervening years).

I know Joe is taking a lot of flak for the Zobrist critique, but here's how I see it: Ben Zobrist has an OPS+ of 97 in 4 partial seasons in the bigs (220 games). If that is what anyone here thinks of when he or she thinks of All-Stars, then I will take my team of players with 2-inch thick resumes over your team of "All-Stars" any time.

Jul 06, 2009 16:47 PM
rating: -1
 
offbase99

This is a reasonable argument. (I don't agree with it, but it at least makes sense.) The problem is that it isn't Joe's argument.

If you want to argue that the ASG should use the criterion of "who has been the best player at their position over the past 4+ years," you should recognize that a) that's a radical change in how All-Stars have been selected since the game's inception, and b) Ben Zobrist is hardly the worst offender even under that criterion. I get the sense that *you* -- JohnHCh -- would concede those two pretty basic points.

But Joe hasn't done either of those things. He dismisses Ryan Howard as a bad selection despite the fact that Howard obviously qualifies under the "body of work" criterion. In almost the same paragraph, he bemoans the omission of Johnny Cueto, whose pre-2009 ERA is 4.81. Huh? That's a hodgepodge of nonsense, culminating with the rash and hyperbolic dismissal of Zobrist as "one of the worst decisions I've ever seen."

And the contradictions don't stop there. Can anyone explain to me -- under ANY criteria -- how Ben Zobrist (career OPS+ of 97, 2009 OPS+ of 155) is an abomination while Aaron Hill (career OPS+ of 100 and 2009 OPS+ of 119) is a "close call?" I can't come up with one that doesn't defy basic rules of logic and common sense.

Look, we all know what's going on here: Sheehan is pissy that the ASG isn't stocked with Yankees this year. While I'll cry few crocodile tears for that position, if he'd at least *said* that, I could have just laughed and moved on. Instead, I got nearly 2,000 words at a level that would get you voted off of "Prospectus Idol." So yeah, I'm annoyed.

Jul 06, 2009 17:46 PM
rating: 6
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

Hill has a track record of playing much better defense than Zobrist, and his career OPS+ edge comes in like million more PAs.

I really don't get the defense of Ben Zobrist. We've seen a million guys go nuts for 250 PA. The vast majority aren't All-Stars. Does anyone think that had Zobrist done this for the Jays or Rangers he'd be on the team?

Jul 06, 2009 19:34 PM
 
ashitaka

If Zobrist played for the Yankees.....ahhh never mind.

Jul 06, 2009 20:35 PM
rating: 1
 
offbase99

Joe, I understand I'm taking a couple of big swings at you here, but this article was really pretty low on the content scale and pretty high on the rhetoric. If you'd just said "hey, as a Yankees fan, I'm pissed off that A-Rod isn't on the team," I don't think there would have been a problem.

Instead, in both the original article and your supplemental replies, you've really dug into a hole and made yourself impervious to facts. That's not good writing. That's not good baseball analysis. That's the kind of stuff BP was rebelling *against* way back when I ordered that white-covered book without the St. Louis Cardinals in it.

So let's revisit some of the facts:

1. It's undisputed that the ASG has, since its inception, taken tons of players who are essentially first-half wonders. It's also undisputed that many of these guys -- and I've listed a dozen or so already -- are much, much worse than Ben Zobrist.

2. Your efforts to distinguish Hill ("a close call") from Zobrist ("the worst evar!!!!") are, to put it mildly, kind of silly. After yesterday, Hill's career OPS+ is 99. Zobrist's is 97. So that's a "career OPS+ edge" of... 2. If that's not the proverbial distinction without a difference, I don't know what is.

3. Hill does indeed have 1400 more plate appearances than Zobrist -- 1400 more plate appearances proving that he's a league-average player. Again, that's an argument *against* Hill, not for him. We *know* that Hill's 116 OPS+ so far this year is a mild, not-particularly-impressive fluke. No?

4. Similarly, you continue to ignore the fact that Zobrist demonstrated significant secondary skills in 2008 as well; I've already posted his second-half numbers. So we're not talking about 250 PA; we're talking about 450 PA.

5. Now, one can certainly argue -- as JohnHCh does -- that 450 PA is not enough to build a real All-Star resume. BUT YOU DON'T DO THAT! As I pointed out earlier, you're agitated over the omission of Cueto, who's been comparatively less good than Zobrist (129 ERA+) over a comparatively *shorter* period of time (104.1 IP).

In sum, then, I don't see a coherent argument based on facts. I see an emotional reaction supported a contradictory hodgepodge of assertions. Hill's having a good half-season; he's in despite 4 years of mediocrity. Cueto's having a good half-season; he's in despite a 4.81 career ERA prior to this year. But Zobrist has 450 PAs as the best hitting middle infielder in the AL, and he's... "the worst ever"? That's just a dumb thing to say, Joe. And I think that deep down, you know it.

So it really isn't so much a "defense of Ben Zobrist." He doesn't need it. Other than you, there isn't a single sportswriter in the country who's criticized or even questioned the Zobrist selection.

Jul 07, 2009 11:43 AM
rating: 7
 
joheimburger

Perhaps we're giving Zobrist too much credit for the "mechanical change" he made in the last year, his defense at 2B and OF since moving off SS, and the belief that the above factors have made him a different player than the Ben Zobrist with whom we were familiar in June 2008.

I guess we'll know a lot more at this time next year.



Jul 07, 2009 12:12 PM
rating: 0
 
ashitaka

Sorry, that wasn't really necessary.

My defense of Zobrist comes from the fact that I believe this is more than a 250 PA fluke. If you combine his 2008-2009 numbers, he's hit .268/.372/.555/.927 in 497 PAs. Still not a ton of PAs, but it shouldn't be held against him that he was blocked by guys like Bartlett, Upton or Iwamura last season. I think he's passed the fluke stage, while you seem to be stuck on May 1 as some quasi line of demarcation.

He was sixth on the Rays in VORP last season in only 227 PAs. Combined over the last two seasons he's fourth, ahead of Upton and Crawford. If you consider his lack of PAs last season, he looks like the Rays second-most valuable offensive player over the last two seasons.

Longoria - 65.0/836 PAs
Bartlett - 51.6/742
Pena - 48.3/959
Zobrist - 45.6/497
Upton - 42.3/989
Crawford - 37.6/844

Jul 07, 2009 12:50 PM
rating: 1
 
straightoutofhxc

Joe, I love your work, and usually agree with you on a lot of things, but I think you're being a bit too intolerant of other schools of thought when it comes to who belongs on the All Star team. Your position is perfectly valid. I also happen to think that basing it purely on who is doing the best this season is also perfectly valid. There's room for more than one opinion, and neither is more right or more wrong.

Jul 06, 2009 14:45 PM
rating: 4
 
greensox

Uh, Joe, Mark Buehrle has a lower ERA and WHIP than Cliff Lee.
Buehrle also has had a far more accomplished career (lower ERA, WHIP, more wins).

Other than the fact that Lee plays for the beloved Indians,how in the world does Cliff Lee belong on the all star team?

Buehrle is 4th in WHIP and 7th in ERA and doesn't belong on the team?

Please.

Jul 06, 2009 15:08 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

No, he absolutely does. I have no problem with Buehrle's selection, think he's deserving. I was juggling names to get Dye on there.

Jul 06, 2009 19:30 PM
 
Joe D.

Joe, you missed the boat on Marquis. Marquis obviously does a wonderful job of getting his offense to score runs, so he belongs on the squad.

Jul 06, 2009 15:37 PM
rating: 1
 
jetson
(660)

Wait a second - taking Zobrist over Carlos Pena was a homer decision, eh?

Think on that one a bit, there, Joe.

Jul 06, 2009 15:59 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

Taking Zobrist, in a vacuum, was a homer decision. Taking him over Pena was simply a bad one.

If on March 15 the idea of you being an All-Star would have been silly, then no amount of performance gets you there, in my book. Aaron Hill had some kind of record of being that kind of player. Ben Zobrist, 2008 splits aside, didn't.

Jul 06, 2009 19:32 PM
 
straightoutofhxc

That's all well and fine, but that's not the only way to look at who belongs in the All Star game. Each person decides for his or herself what makes an "All Star." Personally, I do it based purely on current season performance. To me, it's the "best players of the first half." To you, it's not. That's fine. Neither view is wrong, and neither view is better than the other. They're just two different ways to look at it.

Jul 06, 2009 20:12 PM
rating: 2
 
Mountainhawk

If you want the Yankees to be able to make homer decisions to get their marginal players on the team, maybe they should try winning the AL.

Jul 07, 2009 06:02 AM
rating: -3
 
jetson
(660)

Unbelievable. Joe, Aaron Hill had no history of being that kind of player whatsoever, 2007 splits aside (and those were marginal at best).

Really unbelievable arguments coming from you, whose work I respect. You're digging your way out of a hole with predictable results.

Jul 07, 2009 12:43 PM
rating: 0
 
HonusCobb

It's sad that Chipper isn't in the game but...


Vote for Pablo!

Jul 06, 2009 17:06 PM
rating: 0
 
ashitaka

Why is no one bitching about Papi not being an All-Star?

Jul 06, 2009 17:12 PM
rating: -2
 
tooci4

Ryan Howard's career line (all of which is recent work):
.276/.373/.581. And he would look very good coming off the bench late against a right-handed AL pitcher.

Jul 06, 2009 18:32 PM
rating: 1
 
phuturephillies

Howard is also a +4 under Dewan's system this year, which ranks him tied for 4th in the majors with, of all people, Albert Pujols. Last year Howard was a -18. But this goes against the "Howard as terribly overrated platoon player meme" that is all the rage these days.

Jul 07, 2009 00:29 AM
rating: 0
 
ashitaka

Half a season's worth of fielding is too small a sample to determine to be looking at +/-

Jul 07, 2009 09:17 AM
rating: 2
 
Tuck
(667)

Joe,

If the fans, players, and managers have a different conception of the All-Star game than you do, maybe they're not the ones getting it wrong.

Jul 06, 2009 19:51 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

Maybe. I suppose this would explain the increased interest in the game, and its growing stature, over the last quarter-century, as the stars have played less and the non-stars more.

Jul 06, 2009 20:02 PM
 
daiheide

Wait. Baseball's declining popularity is due to flashes in the proverbial pan getting more playing time in All-Star games, which in turn has caused "the increased interest in the (All-Star) game, and its growing stature...?"

There is no contradiction here. That much is true.

Jul 06, 2009 21:24 PM
rating: -1
 
Tuck
(667)


First, you are arguing at the margins--the last couple roster spots. Buck up, Joe! There are plenty of stars to go around. And the presence of Jason Marquis is unlikely to affect how fans remember this game. We seemed to get through the Steinbach Crisis of '88 pretty well. Plus, the margins themselves are set by Selig. So take the last 3 players from each roster and just put that on his tab.

But the real reason you stew in your outrage alone gets at something fundamental in how you watch and understand baseball. Your vision of the Joe Sheehan All-Star game is remarkably stale and uninspired. Quite frankly, nobody wants to watch your game. Nobody wants to watch a game whose invites are sent out before the season, its qualifications based on aggregate stats over a period of years.

Fans turn out each season--indeed, each night--with a sense of wonder, a belief that in any given year, on any given night, anything can happen. That's why we don't get outraged when a 28 year-old erstwhile utility guy gets a spot, or why we vote for a 37 year-old enjoying the best two months of his career. It is not because we (fans, players, managers) don't understand what it means to be an All-Star, or that we think Ben Zobrist is superior to Alex Rodriguez. It is because having those players in there reminds us of why this game is so damn good. And why we keep turning out.

But "wonder" isn't part of the calculus at BP. And that's OK. Your unceasing cynicism is responsible for some real breakthroughs is how the game is understood. It just happens to be a liability here.

Jul 06, 2009 22:34 PM
rating: 13
 
DLegler21

First, let me say that I can't remember the last time I watched even a full inning of the All Star Game. I used to watch but that had more to do with fewer options - I never really cared about the game.

So Joe's clearly sarcastic comment "I suppose this would explain the increased interest in the game, and its growing stature, over the last quarter-century, as the stars have played less and the non-stars more" got me thinking - has the All-Star Game really decreased in interest relative to the interest in baseball?

So, using the ASG TV ratings as representative of the interest in the All-Star Game and World Series TV ratings as a proxy for interest in baseball in general (not perfect certainly - thanks to baseball-almanac.com for all the data), I did a simple regression of the data (since 1968, excluding the 1994 non-World Series year).

The results of the regression were statistically significant and the r-squared of .734 suggests that most of the variability in the ASG ratings can be explained by(though clearly not caused by)the variation of the WS ratings.

Comparing the predicted ASG rating with the actual does show us something more. In the more recent data (since 1989), the model much more often than not predicts a higher rating than actual. And the exceptions to this rule all seem to be in years were the World Series ratings were down relative to the surrounding years (2008, 2006, 1998, 1993 and 1989), suggesting that the overperformance in these years was really due to underprediction from the model, perhaps due to a WS that didn't fully capture the public's attention for whatever reason.

Since the recent data underperforms the model, that does suggest that something else is driving interest in the ASG lower than that of the World Series/baseball in general. Maybe Joe's right and the reason is that its no longer a game primarily populated by the elite players. Or maybe other Tuesday night programming is just SO compelling that people can't drag themselves away (doesn't seem to be the case based on my own personal tastes :) It also suggests that making the game "count" has failed in its attempt to make it more appealing.

In any event, I am happy to see the Zobrist's, Marquis' and Wakefield's of the world get their chance for the limelight, however underserving they may be. Missing the game once won't likely matter to the Manny's and ARod's of the world but it sure will mean a lot to these guys. I'm happy to see them make it but its still not enough to get me to watch this meaningless exhibition - get on with the games that count, I say.

Jul 07, 2009 23:05 PM
rating: 3
 
antoine6

Yeah, I was going to comment on the irony of propagating the theory that stars should be voted in based on their body of work because it's what the fans want to see, and then excoriating the fans for making the wrong selections.

Nothing like telling people what they should like.

Jul 06, 2009 20:39 PM
rating: 1
 
Aaron/YYZ

Joe, I just wanted to let you know that I applaud and greatly appreciate your dedication to following up discussion in the comments of your articles. It was an unexpected and pleasant surprise to find a response to my response at this late hour in the evening.

Jul 06, 2009 20:18 PM
rating: 4
 
BillJohnson

Agreed. Joe, I disagree with a lot of what you've been saying here, but it's excellent that you're willing to say it in this forum. Thought-provoking point-counterpoint is appreciated much more than following the mob.

Jul 07, 2009 06:21 AM
rating: 1
 
hippoes

Blah blah blah..again...how many times has Joe written this already? Waste of space. Instead, what's Christina's take on this year's All Stars, or Jay's analysis, or (dare I say it) Nate's? We get this same article 2/3 times every year, do we really need it again? Nothing to write about the Yankess this week?

Jul 06, 2009 23:09 PM
rating: -1
 
Mountainhawk

Joe does some amazing writing, but I think to get the best out of him, BP needs to restrict a few topics as off-limits for him, at least for a season or two:

1) All Star Game
2) Hall of Fame
3) Any team, player, or organization in the Eastern division of either league

Jul 07, 2009 06:05 AM
rating: 0
 
twinkies25

The All Star Game should be for the best players in the game. Not the best players in 2009, not the fringe players who can't stick at one position wanna-be Albert Pujols not quite Carlos Pena freaks. It seams like the voting process just cares about the stats, and I used to be like that before I started reading BP. Now, I understand that HR and RBI don't mean a thing in evaluating players, and that you should look at the player's OPS and such. But, that doesn't always work because of the Zobrist problem. Before 2009, Ben Zobrist had a triple stat line of .222/.280/.370. Now, let's compare that with Nick Punto (I'm not ribbing on utility players, I love Nicky's defense, but he couldn't hit a barrel going 50 mph)Punto's line through his ENTIRE CAREER is .249/.320/.325. If this is your definition of All Star, and if you think because A-ROD made a mistake, and doesn't have a sparkly batting average, even when his career line is .305/.390/.577, if you think he is not an All-Star, than contact Bud Selig, and tell him to eliminate the All-Star game, because it isn't worth a darn thing if the best players aren't in it.

So, basically, I'm on the same team as Joe Sheehan, and you should stop ribbing the man for telling the truth that we all know deep in our hearts to be true. Ben Zobrist isn't an All-Star by any means, he never will be again, and A-Rod, future Hall of Fame, even with the steroids (He apoligised, why can't we forgive and forget. Yeah, he cheated for a while, but don't take away what he did before and after that period) was robbed.

Jul 07, 2009 10:24 AM
rating: -2
 
straightoutofhxc

Once again, that's fine that TO YOU the ASG is for the best players, period, and not just the best players of 2009 and/or the best players with a higher emphasis on 2009 performance and/or whatever else. However, that's NOT the one and only way to view it. There's no one correct answer. There's multiple valid opinions as to what makes an "All Star." None of our opinions on this are more correct than others, and it's really arrogant of you, Joe and others like you two to keep asserting your opinion as fact.

Jul 07, 2009 12:08 PM
rating: 4
 
twinkies25

I know. I came across as a little agressive. Zobrist is not a freak, and he's had a good season, but I just think that we have the small sample syndrome going on here. Zobrist could become a good player (which I admit is possible), but he also could have had a hot start, which is what Joe was saying when he called the game the "All Hot Starts game". I like the Rays a lot, and I love Ben Zobrist working hard for the team, I just think the game is better suited for the best in the game. Of course, I realise that I have a lot of room for this opinion to change, and I appreciate the other side chiming in.

I'm sorry straightoutofhxc if I offended you, at that moment, I was a little frusterated that A-Rod didn't make it. People look a little too much at the triple stat line sometimes, and I may have committed that mistake. What I'm saying is, Zobrist could be a good player, but when you look at the body of work, it just looks like a fluke. Again, I don't know, and I should do a little more research before I chime in on hot topics.

P.S I'm still in the same boat with Joe, but I'm now willing to let other people's views in. Thank you all for knocking some since in my head.

Jul 07, 2009 21:40 PM
rating: 1
 
straightoutofhxc

You didn't offend me. I'm just saying that there's room for "flukes" in the All Star Game, for me, since I view it as a "best this season" game. Your view is just as valid as mine, though, which is all my point was.

Jul 07, 2009 22:24 PM
rating: 1
 
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