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Analyzing the NL All-Star Roster

As we all argue over who should and should not be an all-star, there is one Cardinal who sticks out among the snubs.

It’s time for everyone’s favorite mid-July tradition: critiquing the All-Star selections. I will be giving my take on each of the National League’s All-Stars in this space and will include those I think should be going to San Diego but aren’t.

Starters

Position Actual Team My Picks
C Buster Posey Buster Posey
1B Anthony Rizzo Anthony Rizzo
2B Ben Zobrist Daniel Murphy
3B Kris Bryant Nolan Arenado
SS Addison Russell Brandon Crawford
OF Bryce Harper Starling Marte
OF Yoenis Cespedes Marcell Ozuna
OF Dexter Fowler Gregory Polanco

The fans did pretty well with the exception of one position. Corey Seager and Brandon Crawford have been two of the best players in the National League, but Addison Russell is a Cub. While people may have been inclined to vote for Cubs, Russell should have been an obvious one to leave off. The second year player is having a fine season, but not a great one.

On the other hand, Crawford is having a historic defensive season. Crawford currently leads the majors with 17 defensive runs saved this year. The record for a single season is currently 42, and that was just set in 2015 by Kevin Kiermaier.

In Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), Crawford is having the best defensive season ever for a shortstop … by nearly three full points. His 2.2 Defensive Wins Above Replacement beats Russell’s 2.0 total WAR. If you chose Seager, that is a fine choice as well, but realize this: Crawford is sixth in WAR in the NL among position players and didn’t even make the All-Star team.

With those two leagues ahead of Russell, I can’t make the case for the Cubs shortstop as a defensible selection. Crawford and Seager both need to be there, with Aledmys Diaz and Zack Cozart both having deserving seasons as well.

I’m obviously fine with the rest of the infield and the starting catcher this year. I picked Murphy over Zobrist, but I had Zobrist as a close second, so no complaints there. The same goes for Arenado and Bryant at third. In the outfield, I actually don’t have a huge problem with the three chosen; they just aren’t the three I would have picked. There weren’t any outrageous selections there, though, as all three are having fine years.

I chose the three that I did because I think they are the top all-around outfielders in the NL. Marte leads all National League outfielders in WAR and has been a demon on the bases. He has earned the Pirates almost a full win just on the bases. Polanco and Ozuna have both been enjoying breakout seasons at the plate with good defense, too. Polanco has significantly increased his walk rate while adding the power many thought he possessed while Ozuna has been covering a lot of ground in center to go with 17 home runs and five triples.

You’ll note that three of my starters are not even in the game yet (Crawford, Marte, and Polanco). However, I think the fans did a good job. For the most part, my issues were with who was left off and not with who made the team.

Player Picks

Position Actual Mine
C Wilson Ramos Jonathon Lucroy
1B Paul Goldschmidt Paul Goldschmidt
2B Daniel Murphy Ben Zobrist
3B Nolan Arenado Kris Bryant
SS Corey Seager Corey Seager
OF Carlos Gonzalez Christian Yelich
OF Marcell Ozuna Bryce Harper
OF Adam Duvall Dexter Fowler
SP Clayton Kershaw Clayton Kershaw
SP Jake Arrieta Jake Arrieta
SP Madison Bumgarner Madison Bumgarner
SP Johnny Cueto Johnny Cueto
SP Noah Syndergaard Noah Syndergaard
RP Jeurys Familia Seung-hwan Oh
RP Kenley Jansen Kenley Jansen
RP Fernando Rodney David Phelps

For the hitters, the players did a pretty good job of picking the backups. Adam Duvall is a strange pick since the National League outfield is loaded, but he deserves consideration for a spot on the team.

In the infield, I either took the starter or the guy the players took, with Lucroy serving as my second catcher. If you take three catchers, Ramos is a good choice, but Lucroy is clearly better. Ramos has the better average and power numbers, but Lucroy is a far superior fielder. Lucroy has a higher DWAR and has saved eight more runs than Ramos in pitch framing. I would have taken Ramos as a third catcher if I had included one, but I would rather use that spot on another position.

In the outfield, I took two of the starters plus Yelich. Again, I am fine with the actual picks but would have gone a different way. I chose the high on-base guys here as Yelich has the lowest of my three with a .397 OBP. You can’t go wrong with CarGo, Ozuna (my starter), or Duvall, but I think Yelich does deserve strong consideration. He wasn’t a lock to make the team, but I hope he was at least close.

As for the starting pitchers, the players nailed it. These five plus Jose Fernandez and Stephen Strasburg were the obvious choices and any five of the seven would do. I’ll put the other two in my managers’ selections, as Collins did, but the order is really irrelevant.

The relievers are problematic, however. Seung-hwan Oh and Kenley Jansen have clearly been the NL’s top two relievers and Oh was left off. The fact that he isn’t a closer hurts, but that should have been overlooked. Oh has been dominant, striking out over 12 per nine and posting a 1.69 FIP. His omission from the game should bother Cardinals fans a lot.

I know that Fernando Rodney has only given up three earned runs, but with four walks per nine innings, some of it has to be attributed to the San Diego environment. I would have gone with his new teammate, David Phelps, instead. Phelps has been great, posting a K/BB ratio of nearly 4. He has also pitched an impressive 45 innings, so no sample size worries here.

The final one is Familia, who is incredibly overrated. The guy has a 3.18 xFIP and can thank Citi Field’s pitcher friendly confines for his low home run total. He doesn’t have a great strikeout or walk ratio, and has been getting hit pretty hard. He works in and out of trouble and it’s only a matter of time before his peripherals catch up to him.

I can’t fault the players too much for not knowing who the best relievers are since it really is hard to know the entire league. However, Terry Collins’ omission of Oh in the bullpen is inexcusable.

Managers’ Selections

Position Actual Mine
ANY Jonathon Lucroy Matt Carpenter
ANY Wil Myers Jake Lamb
ANY Matt Carpenter Odubel Herrera
ANY Odubel Herrera Wil Myers
ANY Jose Fernandez Zack Cozart
ANY Julio Teheran Stephen Piscotty
ANY Jon Lester Julio Teheran
ANY Stephen Strasburg Jose Fernandez
ANY Mark Melancon Stephen Strasburg
ANY AJ Ramos Max Scherzer

I agreed with Collins on a lot of these, but I didn’t care about tripling up on positions. If four third basemen and eight outfielders are among the NL’s best, then why shouldn’t they all be All-Stars? Herrera, Myers, and Teheran are the obvious picks to fill the team requirement. I have no problems with those, and I went with Cozart over Duvall because I don’t think people are giving him enough credit for what he has been doing both at the plate and in the field this year. He’s on pace to add close to two wins at both the plate and in the field this year.

Carpenter, Fernandez, and Strasburg were the other obvious choices, so let’s get into the other three. Lamb has been fantastic this year, and is on pace for a quiet 35 homers and 35 doubles season. UZR also rates his defense as slightly above average. He made the final vote, but I would have put him in outright.

Piscotty is having a very deserving year, but didn’t make it because the outfield is loaded. I included extra OF’ers, so there will be another Red Bird on my All-Star squad. His defensive improvement has already been worth about two wins this year, and he has been hitting the ball very well, too.

Lastly, Scherzer didn’t make the team due to a higher than usual ERA, but he is better than Jon Lester. Scherzer strikes out nearly three more batters per nine innings than the Cub and has a lower FIP despite the home runs. Scherzer has a very high HR/fly ball rate right now, but when that comes down his ERA will, too. Scherzer has been the better pitcher even if his numbers don’t show it.

There were no other relievers who definitely deserved a spot, so I left them off. When there are so many good starters, I am not leaving them off for guys who have had a good 40 innings.

Final Vote

Position Actual Mine
FINAL Brandon Belt Ryan Braun
FINAL Ryan Braun Carlos Gonzalez
FINAL Jake Lamb Carlos Martinez
FINAL Starling Marte Aledmys Diaz
FINAL Trevor Story Brandon Belt

I like the final vote candidates from Collins, but I really am disappointed that Crawford and Polanco are missing. Both of those guys should have been shoo-ins but may not even make the All-Star roster. I have two Cardinals in my final vote, but would probably go with either Braun or Belt here. I find that choice too difficult to make. Belt’s .401 OBP usually would put him in but he sometimes sits so Posey can play first. If he played every single game like Braun does, then the choice would be easy.

Ultimately, this roster is pretty good. I still wish we had Crawford’s historic fielding season, Polanco’s breakout, and Oh’s bullpen dominance, but not bad in all. I usually have more complaints on the fan vote, but Russell was the only huge problem. I know you probably wanted to see more Cardinals, and they had more deserving candidates, but it’s hard to pick those to substitute out of this roster.

Photo captured by: Jeff Curry – USA TODAY Sports

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