Perhaps the most important part of establishing a tradition is remembering to do it every year. Nothing quite takes the anticipation out of an event like not doing it. Witness the Divisional All-Stars; I introduced the concept three years ago in one of my first BP columns, and then failed to follow up in 2005 and 2006. Result? A tradition nipped in the bud.
So, here I am in 2007, exhuming it. The Divisional All-Stars are just what the name suggests: all-star teams plucked from the best and brightest of each division. By selecting such teams, fans can argue over who deserves bragging rights as to which division has the most talent. Based on the accumulated VORP of the 20 players on each team, this is the result:
AL Central: 557 AL East: 540 NL East: 511 NL West: 488 AL West: 476 NL Central: 475
Remember that the AL West is only drawing from four teams, although if that’s their excuse, what reason can the N.L. Central give for its showing? These are the guidelines I used in selecting the teams:
- The rosters are capped at 20 players. Figure that if a full 25-man roster were assembled, that means one in five men around the league would be on the team, which would go a long way to undercutting the honor. As it is, 20 percent of the American League West players made the team. Overall, 16 percent of all players are on the squads.
- Not every team is required to have a representative, although every team does if only because I want this column to have the broadest appeal possible.
- Outfield positions are strictly assigned. Unlike in the real All-Star Game, only left fielders can qualify for left field, center fielders for center field, and right fielders for right field.
- The 20-man rosters are as follows: eight starting position players, a DH for the three American League teams, four starting pitchers, two middle relievers, a closer, a backup catcher, backup outfielder, backup middle infielder and backup corner infielder.
- So that each team would have the same number of players, each NL divisional squad was also assigned a utility player. What this turned out to be was the best-available player not previously selected.
- VORP is heavily relied upon, except in the case of the relief pitchers, where WXRL was a main factor in determination. Close calls were often settled by EqA, WARP, number of players represented from each team and playing time. A player with 300 plate appearances should get the nod over the player with 100-but not always.
- Injured players are eligible for the teams.
Several real-life All-Stars did not make their Divisional All-Star teams. From the American League their numbers include Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, Bobby Jenks, C.C. Sabathia, Torii Hunter, Gil Meche, Ivan Rodriguez, and Francisco Rodriguez. In the National League, the spurned real-world honorees comprise Brian Fuentes, Trevor Hoffman, Carlos Lee, Freddy Sanchez, Jose Valverde, and Brandon Webb. There’s no shame-in some ways, it’s harder to be a Divisional All-Star than a real one.
On to the teams…
American League East C Jorge Posada, Yankees 34.1 1B Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox 29.4 2B Brian Roberts, Orioles 35.6 3B Alex Rodriguez, Yankees 54.5 SS Derek Jeter, Yankees 33.4 LF Manny Ramirez, Red Sox 19.3 CF Vernon Wells, Blue Jays 9.0 RF Alex Rios, Blue Jays 26.9 DH David Ortiz, Red Sox 38.5 SP Jeremy Guthrie, Orioles 32.5 SP Erik Bedard, Orioles 31.3 SP Chien-ming Wang, Yankees 29.1 SP James Shields, Devil Rays 28.2 RP Hideki Okajima, Red Sox 24.4 RP Casey Janssen, Blue Jays 16.5 CL Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox 14.4 1B Carlos Pena, Devil Rays 28.6 2B Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox 22.7 OF Carl Crawford, Devil Rays 14.8 C Jason Varitek, Red Sox 16.9
Weak Link: Outfield. Center is a non-starter, and once you get past Manny Ramirez, there isn’t much happening in left, either.
Strength: Starting pitching; excluding Daisuke Matsuzaka and Beckett was a close shave.
American League Central C Victor Martinez, Indians 38.7 1B Justin Morneau, Twins 31.7 2B Placido Polanco, Tigers 22.7 3B Casey Blake, Indians 20.0 SS Carlos Guillen, Tigers 36.3 LF Jason Michaels, Indians 5.9 CF Grady Sizemore, Indians 35.8 DH Gary Sheffield, Tigers 38.2 RF Magglio Ordonez, Tigers 52.6 SP Johan Santana, Twins 38.0 SP Mark Buehrle, White Sox 34.7 SP Javier Vazquez, White Sox 29.8 SP Justin Verlander, Tigers 29.3 RP Joakim Soria, Royals 14.1 RP Rafael Betancourt, Indians 20.9 CL Joe Nathan, Twins 15.4 1B Paul Konerko, White Sox 18.1 SS Jhonny Peralta, Indians 21.0 OF Curtis Granderson, Tigers 30.7 C Joe Mauer, Twins 22.7
Weak Link: Left field. The most-active left fielder in the division is Craig Monroe of the Tigers, but he’s got a negative WARP1 and an EqA of .236. Jason Kubel of the Twins is the only left fielder with significant playing time who has an OPS over 700. David Dellucci, Emil Brown, and Rob Mackowiak haven’t done much, so it was left to Michaels and his 118 at-bats to take on left.
Strength: Center field. It was a close call between Torii Hunter and Granderson for the fourth outfielder’s slot; using WARP3 gives Granderson a big advantage. On a real team, you’d take them both and slide one of them over to left. This division is also loaded at catcher.
Note: I fudged a bit to get a Royal on the team. There a couple of Twins relievers who could be placed ahead of Soria (who earned a lot of his value while closing), but it just seems rude to have 60 players taken from the American League and have none of them be Royals.
American League West C Kenji Johjima, Mariners 15.4 1B Mark Teixeira, Rangers; 24.2 2B Ian Kinsler, Rangers 13.1 3B Adrian Beltre, Mariners 16.4 SS Orlando Cabrera, Angels 29.0 LF Reggie Willits, Angels 15.8 CF Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners 44.0 RF Vladimir Guerrero, Angels 39.6 DH Jack Cust, Athletics 18.9 SP Dan Haren, Athletics 43.2 SP Joe Blanton, Athletics 34.6 SP Chad Gaudin; Athletics 32.5 SP John Lackey, Angels 32.4 RP Scot Shields, Angels 22.0 RP Joaquin Benoit, Rangers 13.3 CL J.J. Putz, Mariners 22.7 1B Casey Kotchman, Angels 17.3 MI Michael Young, Rangers 11.3 1/O Nick Swisher, Athletics 20.1 C Mike Napoli, Angels 10.4
Weak Link: The bench. As you can expect drawing from just four teams, the reserves aren’t especially strong.
Strength: Starting pitching. It was also tough to leave Francisco Rodriguez off the team, but the line had to be drawn somewhere.
National League East C Brian McCann, Braves 10.5 1B Dmitri Young, Nationals 27.0 2B Chase Utley, Phillies 42.7 3B Miguel Cabrera, Marlins 39.5 SS Hanley Ramirez, Marlins 45.1 LF Josh Willingham, Marlins 16.7 CF Aaron Rowand, Phillies 26.3 RF Shane Victorino, Phillies 17.1 SP John Maine, Mets 34.7 SP John Smoltz, Braves 28.7 SP Tim Hudson, Braves 27.7 SP Cole Hamels, Phillies 23.5 RP Kevin Gregg, Marlins 13.1 RP Rafael Soriano, Braves 11.0 CL Billy Wagner, Mets 15.7 3B Chipper Jones, Braves 36.3 MI Jose Reyes, Mets 35.2 OF Carlos Beltran, Mets 21.6 3B David Wright, Mets 31.7 C Paul Lo Duca, Mets 7.2
Weak Link: Starting pitching. Hamels has the lowest VORP of any of the 24 Divisional All-Star starters, and Hudson is near the bottom as well. The outfield is a bit thin, too.
Strength: Infield. The fact that Reyes and Wright are pushed to the bench and Jimmy Rollins doesn’t make the team illustrates what a strong unit it is. This is in spite of the fact that the go-to first basemen-Ryan Howard and Carlos Delgado-are not playing up to previous levels.
National League Central C Johnny Estrada, Brewers 12.4 1B Prince Fielder, Brewers 35.5 2B Brandon Phillips, Reds 17.0 3B Ryan Braun, Brewers 27.2 SS J.J. Hardy, Brewers 19.8 LF Alfonso Soriano, Cubs 26.6 CF Hunter Pence, Astros 30.7 RF Ken Griffey, Jr., Reds 30.8 SP Ian Snell, Pirates 33.9 SP Tom Gorzelanny, Pirates 33.2 SP Roy Oswalt, Astros 32.2 SP Ben Sheets, Brewers 27.7 RP Matt Capps, Pirates 15.8 RP Carlos Villanueva, Brewers 17.7 CL Jason Isringhausen, Cardinals 16.0 1B Albert Pujols, Cardinals 29.5 MI Mark Loretta, Astros 14.7 OF Adam Dunn, Reds 22.7 1B Derrek Lee, Cubs 24.3 C Damian Miller, Brewers 7.2
Weak Link: Catching is kind of thin, with both catchers coming from the same team; it’s not a good sign for the division when the back-up is a back-up.
Strength: First base, which stands to reason if Albert Pujols has been pushed into a supporting role.
Notes: The Brewers are tied (with the Red Sox and Angels) for most players, with seven. Coming from a six-team division, that’s pretty impressive; the Tigers, Indians, Mets, and Rockies have six. On the other end of things, the Royals and Nats have one apiece, and the Giants and Cardinals two.
National League West C Russell Martin, Dodgers 32.1 1B Todd Helton, Rockies 26.8 2B Orlando Hudson, Diamondbacks 21.5 3B Garrett Atkins, Rockies 7.9 SS Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies 14.3 LF Barry Bonds, Giants 41.6 CF Mike Cameron, Padres 14.3 RF Brad Hawpe, Rockies 26.9 SP Jake Peavy, Padres 42.7 SP Brad Penny, Dodgers 41.7 SP Chris Young, Padres 35.6 SP Jeff Francis, Rockies 26.0 RP Heath Bell, Padres 21.2 RP Tony Pena, Diamondbacks 18.4 CL Takashi Saito, Dodgers 16.8 1B Adrian Gonzalez, Padres 14.8 1/2 Jeff Kent, Dodgers 15.8 OF Matt Holliday, Rockies 35.8 OF Eric Byrnes, Diamondbacks 25.4 C Bengie Molina, Giants 7.9
Weak Link: Third base. Atkins should be romping here, given the competition, but he ends up being the starter with the lowest VORP.
Strength: Left field. Holliday gets shoved to the bench by Bonds. The one-two punch of Peavy and Penny is also the strongest of any of the Divisional All-Star teams.
Notes: I included Jeff Francis because of the novelty of having a Rockies starting pitcher on an All-Star team of any kind. Derek Lowe and Brandon Webb could have filled that slot just as well.