All-Better-Than-Average Game

Omar Infante
Evan Meek
Jason Heyward
Hong-Chih Kuo
Michael Bourn
Marlon Byrd
Chris Young
Ty Wigginton
Matt Thornton
Trevor Cahill
John Buck

This isn’t a “these guys are All-Stars and Kevin Youkilis and Felix Hernandez aren’t” post. I promise.

If this was your fantasy team, how soon would you be on the waiver wire looking to upgrade with AAA prospects and guys who may earn starting jobs as injury replacements?

These are 11 of the 77 players chosen by the fans, players, and last year’s World Series managers to play in tomorrow’s All-Star game. Heyward aside (he’ll be a legitimate star someday), have you ever dropped what you were doing to go to the ballpark because one of these guys was playing?

This could be a complaint about the voting process. The fans dropped the ball with Heyward and Yadier Molina. The players left Hernandez and Jered Weaver off the AL pitching staff (Weaver was later named as an injury replacement). Charlie Manuel unconscionably picked Ryan Howard over Joey Votto, and Joe Girardi just absurdly picked Paul Konerko over Youkilis.

This could be a complaint about the rule indicating that every team needs a representative. Do you think Pirates fans are really that excited about Meek, or that Indians fans will tune in just to see Fausto Carmona (possibly) pitch to a batter or two?

My real complaint is about the number of players on these rosters. If you crashed a ballfield hoping to get in a pickup baseball game and saw 76 other guys standing on the field while captains chose sides, would you get in line or look for a basketball court where a team may need a sub? Of course, some of these guys are injury replacements, or even replacements for starting pitchers who threw on Sunday and are not allowed to pitch an inning in the All-Stat game on short rest. But even with some of these all stars on the Red Sox disabled list, this game will be played with 34 players to a side, many hoping for a pinch-hit opportunity, a lefty-on-lefty matchup against one batter, or a late inning defensive assignment.

Yadier Molina has a .301 on base percentage and an abysmal .294 slugging percentage. Michael Bourn (.661 OPS) hasn’t been much better. Evan Meek has added 1 win to what the Pirates could expect from a replacement player. Arthur Rhodes has added 0.6, a tenth of a point better than Matt Capps and two tenths better than Ty Wigginton, the fifth-worst every day second baseman in the AL this year. Are we supposed to keep our kids up late to see Wigginton against Capps in the 8th inning?

What’s my point? At any given point in the season, there are 750 players on an active major league roster. Even if a perfect system picked only the best players, 77 All-Stars would include players outside the top 10% of all performers. With all the flaws, we’re honoring guys who aren’t even on the top half. I’m sure Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera are honored every time they make an All-Star game, but wouldn’t that honor be a little greater on a 25-man team?

I’ll take this a little bit further. I’d love to see a 14-man All-Star roster. 9 starters including a DH, 4 pitchers, and one utility guy. If managers are worried about overusing their players, cut the game to six innings and break ties with a home run derby.

Based on midseason WAR, this year’s teams would be:

AL
Carl Crawford, lf
Robinson Cano, 2b
Josh Hamilton, cf
Miguel Cabrera, dh
Justin Morneau, 1b
Evan Longoria, 3b
Joe Mauer, c
Alex Rios, rf
Alex Gonzalez, ss

Francisco Liriano, p
Cliff Lee, p
Jon Lester, p
Felix Hernandez, p

Adrian Beltre, utility

NL
Hanley Ramirez, ss
Chase Utley, 2b
David Wright, 3b
Albert Pujols, dh
Joey Votto, 1b
Matt Holliday, lf
Brian McCann, c
Marlon Byrd, cf
Andres Torres, rf

Roy Halladay, p
Josh Johnson, p
Ubaldo Jimenez, p
Adam Wainwright, p

Ryan Zimmerman, utility

I’d watch that game.

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6 Responses to All-Better-Than-Average Game

  1. Nick says:

    “Charlie Manuel unconscionably picked Ryan Howard over Joey Votto.” You threw that in there just to get under my skin, didn’t you.

    Jolly Cholly just wanted a friend in the game. Chase is hurt and not playing, and Roy might be in the bullpen, so he just wanted someone that he knows to talk to. Or, it’s the game of get-me-to-the-World-Series-and-I’ll-put-you-on-next-year’s-all-star-team. Also, it might help if there was more going on in Cincinnati than Chad Ochocinco. Even the Cincinnati Airport is in Kentucky. Joey Votto is doomed by being on the Reds, that’s all.

  2. Nick says:

    I would have accepted “with obvious nepotism, chose Ryan Howard” but not unconscionably. That’s a bit harsh.

    • Bryan says:

      A bit harsh, maybe, and I might have had your reaction in mind, but you have to admit that Manuel and Amaro and the award voters and just about everyone else tends to overrate Ryan Howard, right? He brings one incredibly valuable skill (power) to his teams, and he seems like a great guy, but he doesn’t get on base enough, struggles to hit lefties, is an average fielder at best. I don’t know anything about Votto’s fielding, except that fangraphs rates it as slightly below average last year and very good this year (I imagine the truth is probably in between), but he’s been a better hitter than Howard the last two years (Votto created 16 more runs last year and is on pace to create 44 more this year). If Votto didn’t end up making the team, “unconscionable” wouldn’t be too far off.

      The amazing thing about the general perception of Ryan Howard is that one of the best players in Phillies history, a guy who might justify a $25MM/year contract, stands right next to him nine innings a game and goes practically unnoticed.

  3. Nick says:

    A legitimate theory this time. Manuel DH’ed the Big Piece because he’s not going to play the field at all. Joey Votto is a much better-fielding first baseman than Howard, so Votto will replace Pujols at some point. This from the guy whose baseball viewership doesn’t often involve a DH! (Ok, so it happens to also be a ruled used in slow-pitch softball leagues that I’ve played in, but try to ignore that so that I seem more aware of these rules. Thank you.)

  4. Nick says:

    Yeah, the part about Howard justifying the contract, it really comes from the rate of which runs are produced when he puts bat to ball. His biggest weakness is his strikeouts, but he worked this preseason with Barry Bonds (insert joke here, go ahead, it seemed crazy to us too) on making contact more consistently. He’s hitting .294 at the break, but his power seems to be lacking as a result. The runs-produced thing, where you show this great disparity between he and Votto, is flawed as well. Cincy has a better offense, so I think for the whole season, Howard will be right there with Votto when it comes to all of your fancy metrics. BUT you’re talking about the here and now, so I’m going to stick with the point that Manuel wants howard in the game, but not in the field, so he’ll DH him and let Votto take Pujols spot later in the game.

    • Bryan says:

      Runs Created+ is a context-neutral stat, so opportunity has nothing to do with it. Besides, you watch the Phillies all the time, right? You’ve got to know that Howard has led the majors in RBI opportunities over the last three years, right? That’s not to say he doesn’t earn his RBI, just that they’d be cut in half if he hit 8th for the Pirates.

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