Let’s Pick Some All-Stars

If you’ve been around these parts before, you know I’m not a fan of picking all-stars based on a 50-game sample at the beginning of a season, and that I don’t like giving lifetime-achievement awards to aging players in July either.  So as I have in the past two years, I’m going to suggest an all-star roster for each league based on results over the past calendar year.

Fangraphs makes this exercise easy with their “Past Calendar Year” filter. After each player, I’ll put his fWAR from 6/5/15 to 6/4/16 in parenthesis.

First, the starters:

American League

C- Salvador Perez, Royals (2.6) – It’s kind of amazing that Salvy has become something of a household name.  He plays in the middle of the country and is an average hitter at best, but thanks to outstanding defense and appearances in consecutive World Series, he’s likely to start his third straight All-Star Game in 2016.  His 22 homers since last June don’t hurt his case.

1B- Chris Davis, Orioles (5.6) – Davis doesn’t have much going for him except power, but 46 homers go a long way.

2B- Jose Altuve, Astros (6.3) – The quartet of star second basemen that’s ruled the AL for a decade finally gives way to a new star keystone sacker, one who’s hit .325 with 38 steals and 19 homers, more than half of which have come in 2016.  Aside from Dustin Pedroia, you’ll see the rest of the quartet below.

SS- Francisco Lindor, Indians (6.9) – It’s been two days since I pulled the WAR figures and Lindor’s Past Calendar Year WAR is up to 7.2.  There’s really nothing he can’t do- he hits for average (.311) and power (18 HR), runs (22 SB), and plays stellar defense (22.4 FRAA, best among shortstops).

3B- Manny Machado, Orioles (8.5) – If Machado had come up at almost any other time in baseball history, he would have been in the best-player-in-baseball conversation by this point in his career.  Playing with Trout and Harper, he’ll have to settle for 2016 MVP candidate.  We all knew about his glove (which he’s now trying out at shortstop), but he’s hit .300 with 42 home runs and 12 stolen bases in the last year.

LF- Mike Trout, Angels (9.9) – We’ll move the best player in baseball off his position because Cain’s a better fielder, but Trout’s been ok this past year- .307/.415/.585.

CF- Lorenzo Cain, Royals (6.3) – .309, 20 homers, 25 steals, excellent defense, and a wild playoff run in the middle.  He’s for real.

RF- Mookie Betts, Red Sox (6.7) – Would you have guessed that Betts leads all non-Trout/Harper outfielders in WAR since last June?  He’s hitting .308 with 25 homers, 21 steals, and right field defense that would play in center.

DH- David Ortiz, Red Sox (6.3) – Look at that WAR number again.  This is a designated hitter, a guy who gets knocked 15.2 runs for not fielding and 6.2 more for not running the bases well.  The best hitter in baseball over the past year is a 40-year-old on his retirement tour.  He’s bashed 47 home runs and 51 doubles, slugging a crazy .680.

SP- Chris Sale, White Sox (6.7) – It’s amazing that Chris Sale, probably the best pitcher in the AL over the past half decade, hasn’t won a Cy Young Award yet.  This may very well be his year.  Since last June, he’s got a 3.12 ERA, a 2.87 FIP, and 273 strikeouts in 227 2/3 innings.

National League

C- Buster Posey, Giants (5.3) – There’s no competition here.  Posey is the game’s best catcher by a fair margin.  He’s hitting .308/.362/.472 over the past twelve months and plays strong defense for a strong team.

1B- Joey Votto, Reds (6.4) – Paul Goldschmidt seems to be in the process of eclipsing Votto and Miguel Cabrera as the game’s best first baseman, but over the past year, Votto has gone off, hitting .292/.445/.512.  That middle number is not a typo.

2B- Ben Zobrist, Cubs (4.9) – Zobrist left the AL for the senior circuit in 2016 after helping lead the Royals to a World Series, and he’s leading the prohibitive favorites to a huge division lead this year. His totals across two leagues and three teams? .302/.394/.478.

SS- Brandon Crawford, Giants (4.5) – The one-year view eliminates rookies Corey Seager, Aldemys Diaz, and Trevor Story, each of whom is having a monster 2016, at least with the bat.  Crawford gets this nod with his brilliant glove, though his 19 homers help offset the .249 batting average.

3B- Kris Bryant, Cubs (7.7) – It’s kind of hard to believe this spot doesn’t go to Nolan Arenado, but Bryant gets on base more (.364 to .342) and is a far better baserunner (6.3 BRAA to -1.1), while hitting 32 homers of his own.

LF- Yoenis Cespedes, Mets (6.7) – 43 home runs and a suite of stunning throws from the outfield make Cespedes an easy pick.

CF- Dexter Fowler, Cubs (5.7) – Perhaps the leading NL MVP candidate this year, Fowler has been solid for the full year, hitting .273/.381/.456 while stealing 15 bases and playing great centerfield defense.

RF- Bryce Harper, Nationals (8.1) – 36 homers and a .440 OBP. Only Ortiz has been a better hitter since last June.

DH- Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks (5.5) – Turn 22 outs into walks and Goldschmidt’s been a Votto clone this past year.  And the D’backs score a bunch more runs.  By virtue the best wRC+ (142) of any NL hitter not named above, he gets the start at DH.

SP- Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers (11.0) – For most of the current decade, the story of baseball has been one about Mike Trout, who’s doing things with his bat, legs, and glove that we haven’t seen since Bonds, and at an age when no one’s even been this good. It’s about time we ask ourselves whether the game’s most dominant player is Trout or Kershaw, who’s had a strong case as baseball’s best pitcher each of the past five seasons and seems to have reached another level in 2016.  He’s started 34 games over the last calendar year, going 20-5 with a 1.42 ERA, a 1.64 FIP, and an absurd 320 strikeouts in 253 innings.

Now, some reserves.  We’ll put 32 players on each team.  It’s probably too many, but it’s somehow smaller than each league’s actual all-star roster.

American League

Brian McCann, C, Yankees (2.6) – It’s a shallow crop of star catchers in the American League (the #3 guy in WAR over the past year, Blake Swihart, seems to be done playing catcher), and McCann’s batted just .224, but his 25 homers and 59 walks make him worthy of a spot.

Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/DH, Blue Jays (4.6) – The imaginary parrot on Edwing’s arm has accompanied him around the bases 38 times since last June, excluding the one he hit in the playoffs.

Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers (3.9) – Cabrera was hurt for much of last fall, so he’s only played in 120 games this past calendar year, but he continues to rake when on the field, hitting .316/.426/.520.

Robinson Cano, 2B, Mariners (5.2) – He’s ba-ack.  Since getting off to a slow start in Seattle, Cano’s hit .301 with 35 homers and even led them into contention.

Ian Kinsler, 2B, Tigers (5.2) – The brand-name star who plays to his left seems to be losing power and health with age, but Kinsler refuses to follow him.  Within a month of his 34th birthday , he’s hit .312 with 21 homers and 11 steals since last June, and still plays stellar defense.

Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox (6.3) – Offensively, Bogaerts is in a dead heat with Lindor, and his defense has been excellent, if not at Lindor’s level.

Carlos Correa, SS, Astros (4.5) – Just last year, I wrote about the dearth of star shortstops in the AL after the previous decade’s shortstop revolution.  Now Lindor, Bogaerts, and Correa are three of the game’s best players and none of them is old enough to rent a car.  Correa has hit 30 homers and stolen 22 bases since last June.

Josh Donaldson, 3B, Blue Jays (7.7) – The reigning AL MVP is having another great year, yet he somehow pales in comparison to another AL third baseman.  Donaldson’s hitting .276/.368/.539 with 39 homers, 6 steals, and 7.3 FRAA.  Machado beats him in all six of those categories.

Adrian Beltre, 3B, Rangers (5.4) – In this golden age for third basemen, the elder statesman keeps chugging along, with 22 homers to complement the best hot-corner defense (17.8 FRAA) in the league.

Adam Eaton, OF, White Sox (5.4) – After the three starters named above, the best AL outfielders by WAR are all glove-first guys: Eaton, Kevin Kiermaier, Jackie Bradley, Jr., and Kevin Pillar.  Eaton also happens to be a .300 hitter with wheels (20 stolen bases, 2.8 BRAA).

Jose Quintana, SP, White Sox (6.2) – He goes about his work quietly, not striking out a lot of players and way-too-often victimized by poor run support, but in the last twelve months, Quintana’s 2.80 ERA is the best in the American League and his 2.86 FIP is second to David Price.  Somehow, he’s 12-10 in those 33 starts.

David Price, SP, Red Sox (6.2) – Price has struggled to keep he ball in the park and to strand runners early in 2016, but the strikeouts are still there, and he limits walks enough to lead the AL with a 2.80 FIP over the past year. He’s also 21-5 with a 3.13 ERA over that span and might have a case to start the game if he can pitch well his next two or three times out.

Dallas Keuchel, SP, Astros (4.8) – Last year’s AL Cy Young, like so many great AL pitchers, is struggling in 2016, but his June-to-June numbers (3.77 ERA, 3.31 FIP, 2.97 xFIP) are still excellent.

Corey Kluber, SP, Indians (4.4) – Here’s the Cy Young from the year before, a guy who had everything working in 2014 but can’t seem to keep runs off the board as consistently since, despite comparable peripherals.  Kluber’s struck out over a batter per nine en route to a 3.28 FIP.

Justin Verlander, SP, Tigers, (4.5) – I’m as surprised as you are.  It would appear that Mr. Verlander may be back.  His 10-13 record won’t put him in the real All-Star game, and a 3.60 ERA and a 3.52 FIP don’t jump off the page, but they’re good numbers considering his home park and competition, and the AL doesn’t have much else to offer.

Aroldis Chapman, RP, Yankees (2.4) – He’s done very little of his work in the American League, but that’s where he lives now, and I’m not ignoring a guy with 93 strikeouts in 54 innings.  His 1.50 FIP matches his ERA.  Sometimes FIP works.

Andrew Miller, RP, Yankees (2.3) – More innings than Chapman.  More strikeouts.  Fewer walks.  If not for a few longballs, he might be the best reliever in baseball, but he’s not even the best on his own team.

Dellin Betances, RP, Yankees (2.2) – Ok, this is ridiculous. He’s shown signs of wear lately, but he’s struck out 135 batters in a year, all in relief.  And now he pitches in the seventh inning.

Alex Colome, RP, Rays (2.3) – The NL seems to have most of the great starting pitching in baseball right now, but the AL has a monopoly on relievers.  Raise your hand if you knew Colome had a 1.73 FIP over the past year, second only to Chapman among relievers in either league.

Wade Davis, RP, Royals (1.9) – Fangraphs isn’t quite a high on Davis because he walks more than a batter every three innings, but it hasn’t affected his 1.11 ERA much.

Zach Britton, RP, Orioles (2.1) – Britton’s 1.61 ERA is third only to Davis and Chapman over the past year.

Craig Kimbrel, RP, Red Sox (1.9) – Kimbrel isn’t the all-time great he was for years in Atlanta, but a 2.04 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 61 2/3 innings pitched are worthy of this team.  He noses out Cody Allen, Ken Giles, Justin Wilson, David Robertson, Kelvin Herrera, and Mychal Givens, each of whom has been practically unhittable in relief, for the last spot.

National League

Jonathan Lucroy, C, Brewers (3.8) – The man I thought should’ve been named NL MVP in 2014 missed much of 2015 with injuries, but since his return, he’s been reasonably close to the star he was before the injury, batting ..293/.353/.466 with 16 homers and a great framing game.

Francisco Cervelli, C, Pirates (3.3) – By WAR, Cervelli’s been better since last June than any AL catcher.  He’s walked in 11 percent of his plate appearances, something no other full-time NL catcher can claim, giving him the best OBP (.364) of any catcher in either league with 100 PA over that stretch.

Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs (4.2) – Based on this year only, Rizzo’s probably the pick.  His full-year numbers are less stellar, but still strong (.256/.368/.497 with 35 homers and 9 stolen bases).

Daniel Murphy, 2B, Nationals (4.3) – After crushing NL playoff opponents with the 2015 Mets, Murphy’s off to an explosive start in 2016.  He’s hit .320 and slugged .529 (a point behind Cano for best among all second basemen) in the last year.

Nolan Arenado, 3B, Rockies (7.1) – Another MVP-caliber player who isn’t even the best third baseman in his league.  Arenado’s 47 homers are tied with Ortiz for tops in baseball.

Matt Carpenter, 3B, Cardinals (4.8) – 29 homers and 83 walks make Carpenter the last NL position player on the team.

Odubel Herrera, OF, Phillies (5.5) – This guy could start many future all-star games.  He’s a great fielder and runner who’s hitting .326/.401/.462 over the past year.

Jason Heyward, OF, Cubs (5.4) – His bat slumped to start 2016, but Heyward’s glove never slumps, and he’s among the game’s best baserunners.  Walks in over 10 percent of his PAs complete the underappreciated skills trifecta.

Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates (5.1) – He’s slipped a good deal from his prime, but Cutch still has a .385 OBP and 24 homers since last June.

Starling Marte, OF, Pirates (4.9) – Marte has grown into a better fielder and a better baserunner than McCutchen, and he’s hitting .311 over the last year. With some power and patience, he could headline the Bucs’ outfield soon, if Gregory Polanco doesn’t pass him.

Jake Arrieta, SP, Cubs (7.6) – It hasn’t quite been a year since the start of Arrieta’s dominant run and he pitches in the same league as Kershaw, so he can’t start this game despite an insane 1.40 ERA and a 26-3 record since last June.  Despite the same number of starts, he’s 15 innings and 72 strikeouts behind Kershaw.

Madison Bumgarner, SP, Giants (6.3) – Bumgarner’s got a 2.52 ERA and a 2.62 FIP over the past year.  Even in a pitcher’s park, that’s a tremendous achievement, and he’s added seven home runs with his bat.

Zack Greinke, SP, Diamondbacks (5.9) – Greinke hasn’t dominated in Arizona the way he did in Los Angeles, but he still has a 2.45 ERA and a 21-5 record over the past twelve months.

Jon Lester, SP, Cubs (5.9) – Lester strikes out almost four-and-a-half times as many batters as he walks, leading to a 2.74 FIP and a 2.81 ERA.

Johnny Cueto, SP, Giants (5.0) – Cueto’s worn a lot of hats over the past twelve months, and he’s been particularly successful in the two representing National League teams.  Overall, he’s got a 3.11 ERA and a 3.22 FIP over the past year.

Noah Syndergaard, SP, Mets (5.0) – Thor just came up last summer, but he’s now started 30 games and 224 batters (vs. just 36 walks) in his short career.  It’s hard to imagine anyone challenging Kershaw as the game’s best pitcher any time soon, but if someone does, it’ll probably be Syndergaard.

Gerrit Cole, SP, Pirates (4.8) – The Pirates may not have the rotation to hang with the NL’s great teams this season, but they have an erstwhile ace in Cole, who has a 2.92 ERA and a 2.86 FIP since last June.

Jacob deGrom, SP, Mets (4.6) – Two Cubs, two Giants, and now two Mets starting pitchers in this all-star game.  Syndergaard has taken some of deGrom’s spotlight, but he still has a 2.62 ERA and over a strikeout per nine in his last 28 starts.

Max Scherzer, SP, Nationals (4.6) – Scherzer’s got a bit of a home run problem in 2016, but in the past year, he’s flirted with a perfect game, completed a no-hitter, and struck out 20 batters in another game.  Only Kershaw has more strikeouts than his 287.

Hector Rondon, RP, Cubs (2.0) – How is it fair that the Cubs have had arguably the best reliever in the National League (0.97 ERA, 2.07 FIP) over the past year too?

Kenley Jansen, RP, Dodgers (2.1) – Jansen’s 92 strikeouts in 68 1/3 innings are tops among NL relievers.

Arodys Vizcaino, RP, Braves (1.5) – I don’t have a rule about including a player from every team (sorry, Twins, A’s, Marlins, and Padres), but I’m feeling charitable, so the last spot in the NL goes to a guy with a 1.57 ERA and a 2.15 FIP despite very few leads to protect.

 

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