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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.

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