It hasn’t been long since I posted my Quarter Season All-Stars, but (1) several players have started or stopped hot streaks since then, (2) the Baseball Bloggers Alliance is asking for my ballot, and (3) I want to base my official All-Star ballot on more than 40 games of data. With all that in mind, here’s my official 2012 All-Star Ballot.
If this feels like a blatant rip-off of Left Field‘s 2011 All-Star ballot, it’s because it is. I based my 2011 ballot on results from the first half of the season, which is a common and defensible strategy, but the more I’ve thought lately about what the All-Star Game means to me, the sillier it seems to reward players for three good months while completely ignoring what they do over the other three months. I’d rather base my choices for this year’s All-Star Game, like Charles Simone did last year, on what players have done since last year’s game. Or, more specifically, since results between the close of balloting and the actual game don’t have much impact on on a player’s All-Star status, and because voting closes tomorrow, I’ll use the calendar year between June 28, 2011 and June 27, 2012.
I’ll focus, of course, on Fangraphs WAR, with adjustments to account for postseason performance and defensive results over a longer sample period. Without further ado:
Catcher Yadier Molina, Cardinals
It’s hard to ignore what Carlos Ruiz has done in 2012, but over the past year, Molina has hit .317/.362/.512, while remaining the best defensive catcher in the game and a centerpiece on the World Series champs.
First Base Joey Votto, Reds
The best hitter in baseball right now. Just don’t make me pick a backup.
Second Base Dan Uggla, Braves
Uggla and Cincinnati’s Brandon Phillips each have exactly 5.7 fWAR since 6/28/11, and while Phillips’s defensive reputation supports his significant edge there, I’ll take Uggla’s better OBP (.370 to .346) and slugging (.501 to .483) by a hair.
Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
Jed Lowrie’s been the man this year, and Jimmy Rollins has been healthy and well-rounded, but despite playing only 114 games in the last year, Tulo has earned 5.8 fWAR, most among shortstops in either league. With Tulo on the DL, we’ll give the start to Lowrie, but Tulo deserves the recognition.
Third Base David Wright, Mets
Wright battled injuries in 2011, but has been a beast in 2012. Kung Fu Panda is sneaking up behind him, but Wright’s the only pick here.
Outfield Ryan Braun, Brewers, Matt Kemp, Dodgers, Michael Bourn, Braves
Braun has been the best player in baseball over the last year (.335/.399/.619/8.4 fWAR), Kemp was the best player in the National League in 2011, and Bourn has combined brilliant offense, defense, and baserunning to place just behind Braun with 3.9 fWAR so far this year.
Designated Hitter Carlos Beltran, Cardinals
Among NL players not already on this team, only Ruiz (5.8) can top Beltran’s 5.6 fWAR and no one can top his 166 wRC+. I prefer Ruiz in a backup catcher role and Beltran in the starting lineup.
Starting Pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
Last year, I argued that Roy Halladay was better than Kershaw, and I stand by that. This year, Zack Greinke has been the best pitcher in the NL from a true-outcomes standpoint, and R.A. Dickey has been the best from a run prevention standpoint. Over the last 12 months, though, Kershaw has a 2.19 ERA and a 2.79 FIP over 225 innings. Matt Cain is a tenth of a win ahead of him according to fangraphs, but with both guys working in pitchers parks, I’ll take the guy with more innings pitched, more strikeouts, fewer walks, and fewer runs allowed, even if he’s given up a few more home runs.
Madison Bumgarner, Giants
Matt Cain, Giants
Aroldis Chapman, Reds
Johnny Cueto, Reds
R.A. Dickey, Mets
Zack Greinke, Brewers
Craig Kimbrel, Braves
Cliff Lee, Phillies
Carlos Ruiz, Phillies
Brandon Phillips, Reds
Jed Lowrie, Astros
Pablo Sandoval, Giants
Melky Cabrera, Giants
Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies
Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
Jimmy Rollins, Phillies (for Tulowitzki)
Catcher Mike Napoli, Rangers
This year, it’s been Joe Mauer on offense and Matt Wieters on defense, but if we count Napoli’s otherworldly summer 2011, even ignoring his mammoth postseason, he’s hit .313/.404/.592 over the last year.
First Base Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
I have to cheat a little here. Fangraphs lists Cabrera and Napoli, a third baseman and a catcher, first and second among AL first baseman over the past year, with utilityman Mark Trumbo fourth. If another first baseman were close, I’d put Cabrera at third, but Adrian Beltre has been so much better than first base also-rans Albert Pujols and Edwin Encarnacion that I feel compelled to start Cabrera at first.
Second Base Robinson Cano, Yankees
This one hurts. I spent so much of last season convincing readers that Dustin Pedroia is better than Cano, and I still believe he is when healthy, but Cano has opened 2012 on a tear, and is hitting .307/.365/.564 since 6/28/11, to Pedroia’s .306/.360/.478. Even the defensive chasm between them can’t close that slugging gap. Ian Kinsler’s 6.7 fWAR are closer to Cano’s 7.0 than Pedroia’s 6.3.
Shortstop Elvis Andrus, Rangers
This is an easy choice, as Andrus has been well above average in hitting, fielding, and baserunning and was a key contributor to the Rangers’ trip to the World Series. Derek Jeter started hitting in July last year and began 2012 on a high note, but his still-atrocious defense puts him a distant fifth in this race.
Third Base Adrian Beltre, Rangers
Brett Lawrie has been a defensive wizard since his 2011 midseason debut, and Evan Longoria may be the game’s best player when active, but Beltre does it all (.338/.366/.611/5.9 fWAR)
Outfield Josh Hamilton, Rangers, Jose Bautista, Blue Jays, Alex Gordon, Royals
Fangraphs loves Gordon’s defense so much that he leads all AL players in WAR (7.1) over this stretch. Jacoby Ellsbury’s second half of 2011 was so good that he’s third in fWAR among AL outfielders despite having played just seven games in 2012 (he’s slugged .606 over the period in question). I opted instead for Bautista, who fell off after a monster first half last year, but has still hit .257/.391/.547 since 6/28/11. Mike Trout has been the AL MVP in 2012, but unless we count minor league numbers, he’ll have to settle for a reserve spot on this team.
Designated Hitter David Ortiz, Red Sox
Ortiz has a .406 wOBA over the past year. Billy Butler’s .350 is next among true DHs. Even if we try to pull somebody from the non-DH field, Josh Willingham (.388) is our next-best option.
Starting Pitcher, Justin Verlander, Tigers
I wouldn’t argue if Chris Sale started the actual game, but Verlander was the best pitcher in baseball in 2011 and has been the best in the AL, at least, in 2011.
Joaquin Benoit, Tigers
Matt Harrison, Rangers
Jim Johnson, Orioles
Jake Peavy, White Sox
C.C. Sabathia, Yankees
Chris Sale, White Sox
Jered Weaver, Angels
C.J. Wilson, Angels
Felix Hernandez, Mariners (for Sabathia)
Matt Wieters, Orioles
Ian Kinsler, Rangers
Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
Brett Lawrie, Blue Jays
Evan Longoria, Rays
Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox
Mike Trout, Angels
Mark Trumbo, Angels (for Ellsbury)