Before MLB announce that the Kansas City Royals will take on the National League in this year’s All-Star Game, Banished to the Pen decided to get ahead of the game and publish their results first. For those who didn’t see the original post, this was a 24-hour ballot shared only with the Effectively Wild listeners in the Facebook group, with only one vote per person. All hitters included were qualified for the batting title apart from catchers, who had a 200 PA minimum. Left, center and right field were also split out, both creating a slightly more plausible alignment of players, and allowing us to gloss over the fact that it was harder to figure out how to force voters to select no more or no less than three players. Here are your 2015 MLB All-Stars, as voted for by the listeners of Effectively Wild:
Catcher: Stephen Vogt, Oakland (43.3% of the vote)
Vogt’s breakout season gives him the start over Russell Martin and Salvador Perez, who were tied for second. The 30-year-old is hitting .290/.380/.504 over the first 78 games this season and has increased his walk rate to an excellent 13%.
WAR says: certainly a defensible choice. Either Vogt or Martin is leading the way, depending on whether you ask Baseball Prospectus, Baseball-Reference or Fangraphs.
First Base: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit (66.7%)
Poor Miggy suffered a calf strain in the midst of our voting, landing him on the DL for six weeks. It didn’t stop him running away with this one, as Albert Pujols’ 24 home runs didn’t sway Effectively Wild fans into making this one even moderately close. Cabrera’s .436 wOBA comfortably leads the league and he was on course for a season to match his stellar 2011 MVP campaign.
WAR says: no doubt. Even allowing for the fact that Cabrera is hardly a wizard with the glove or a demon on the basepaths, there’s no disputing who’s the best first baseman in the AL.
Second Base: Jason Kipnis, Cleveland (56.7%)
The disaster that was Kipnis’ 2014 season is rapidly fading into the distance as he has been one of the best hitters in the league at any position, with a .400 wOBA that ranks fourth in the AL. In fact, Fangraphs WAR ranks Kipnis (4.7 wins) as the best player in the AL, and second in MLB.
WAR says: too easy. Brian Dozier is having another great season, but is a couple of wins behind what Kipnis is putting up.
Shortstop: Jose Iglesias, Detroit (41.4%)
The closest vote on the AL side resulted in a narrow victory for the Tigers shortstop, who narrowly beat out Boston’s Xander Bogaerts. While not renowned for his bat, Iglesias is once again hitting well over .300, and it’s his exceptional glove that provides the value here. There’s no doubt that this was the weakest of the positions to choose from, with the restriction to qualified hitters leading some voters to note that they would have selected Jose Reyes, had he been available. There was also some dismay at the absence of Astros super-prospect Carlos Correa.
WAR says: should have picked Xander. Fangraphs at least calls it a close contest between Bogaerts, Iglesias and Brad Miller (whose .419 slugging percentage leads all AL shortstops), but even there Bogaerts is on top, and the other two sites have around a win between the two. B-Ref is particularly down on Iglesias because Fielding Runs Above Average barely rates him as providing positive value.
Third Base: Josh Donaldson, Toronto (76.6%)
This was a landslide. Donaldson’s move north of the border has been seamless, with 19 home runs and a .379 wOBA to go along with yet more outstanding defence at third, cementing his position as one of the game’s best at the hot corner.
WAR says: surprising it wasn’t closer with Manny Machado. Fangraphs gives the edge to Donaldson, BP to Machado, and it’s a tie at B-Ref. Machado’s line is virtually identical so this one comes down to the various defensive metrics.
Left Field: Brett Gardner, New York (41.4%)
The Yankees have surprised many by still being in control of the AL East halfway through the year, and Gardner is one of the biggest reasons. With a career-best .299/.371/.485 line, the 31-year-old has clearly been the best hitter amongst left fielders this year.
WAR says: Gardner just about edges it. Alex Gordon and Yoenis Cespedes, who were a close second and third in the opinion of EW listeners, are also right behind Gardner in WAR across the sites, but they all rate Gardner as the best thus far.
Center Field: Mike Trout, Los Angeles (86.7%)
The surprising part of Trout winning is that not quite everyone voted for him, with Lorenzo Cain, Kevin Kiermaier, Mookie Betts and Adam Jones all getting votes tossed their way. Bryce Harper might be making it a conversation for best in MLB, but there’s no question who the best all-around player in the AL is.
WAR says: stop wasting my time. Trout is close to, if not a full win ahead of Cain on all three sites. Fangraphs’ defensive metrics don’t seem to credit Trout as much as the other two sites, and he’s still unquestionably number one.
Right Field: Jose Bautista, Toronto (43.3%)
The Blue Jays lineup is downright scary. Bautista is doing what he’s been doing ever since he figured things out more than 5 years ago: walking and hitting a ton of home runs. 2015 might pale in comparison to his 2010 and 2011 seasons, but he’s still a top-10 hitter in the league no matter which way you look at it, and his exceptional plate discipline has led to a walk rate four percentage points higher than his strikeout rate.
WAR says: too close to call. George Springer and J.D. Martinez can both stake a legitimate claim to this position, although Springer’s fractured wrist virtually ensures he won’t match Bautista at the end of the year. Martinez’s strikeout-walk ratio is much more alarming, but he’s proven that the power of 2014 was no fluke.
Designated Hitter: Alex Rodriguez, New York (57.1%)
We had to, didn’t we? A-Rod’s comeback season has been a rousing success thus far, with a .385 wOBA and more than enough home runs to force the Yankees into trying to find a way to get round those inconvenient home run bonuses. He might be making less contact than at any other point in his career, but when he does hit the ball he’s more than making up for it.
WAR says: this is a little unfair on Nelson Cruz and Prince Fielder. Both have better batting lines than A-Rod, but their teams have been foolish enough to play them in the field for more than a few games, resulting in significant negative value defensively. The Yankees have barely let Rodriguez pick up a glove, allowing him to hold the lead at FG, if not B-Ref (Cruz) or BP (Fielder).
Catcher: Buster Posey, San Francisco (64.3%)
The Giants backstop has hit an outstanding .304/.375/.504 with great defence, so this was not a difficult call for EW listeners.
WAR says: no arguments here. Second-placed Yasmani Grandal has made the Matt Kemp deal look silly, but he’s still over a win behind Posey.
First Base: Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona (85.7%)
Goldschmidt was already among the game’s elite, but this year he has been truly exceptional, with a ludicrous .453 wOBA and 1.090 OPS, not to mention some excellent glovework. This season he’s even stolen 15 bases at a 79% clip, proving that there’s nothing he can’t do.
WAR says: an even easier choice than Posey. B-Ref rates him as the best player in baseball by WAR, and he’s barely behind Bryce Harper on the other sites.
Second Base: Dee Gordon, Miami (59.3%)
Many wondered if the Marlins had given up too much this offseason for a player who derived most of his value from his speed, but Gordon might be one of the few things they’ve actually done right. The former Dodger has apparently become very valuable in the field to back up his game-changing speed, forming a killer double-play combination with Adeiny Hechavarria and rating significantly above average by all the defensive metrics. Oh, and he’s still hitting .343.
WAR says: you could be forgiven for selecting Joe Panik, who did rank a distant second in the voting. BP and B-Ref give the advantage to Gordon, but it’s a tie at FG.
Shortstop: Brandon Crawford, San Francisco (41.4%)
It could easily have been three Giants out of four at this point had it not been for Gordon’s stellar season. Crawford has got better at the plate every year he’s been in the majors but this year’s .265/.340/.466 line and 11 homers have been a pleasant surprise to even the most hardcore San Francisco supporters. His performance in the field has continued to be exceptional too.
WAR says: not too tricky here in the NL, is it? Crawford is first on all three sites and it’s only at BP, where FRAA is not that complimentary about his defence, that anyone is even close to him – in this case, Jhonny Peralta. Voters couldn’t decide who else to pick anyway, with Troy Tulowitzki garnering the most support of the other contenders.
Third Base: Nolan Arenado , Colorado (51.9%)
A serious contest at last, with Arenado just edging Cincinnati’s Todd Frazier. Arenado is slugging almost .600 and possesses some of the most ridiculous defensive skills at any position in the league. Only Kris Bryant was able to get any votes outside of these two candidates.
WAR says: the various WAR calculations can’t agree on a winner either. FRAA thinks Arenado is the most valuable non-catching defensive player in the league but considers Frazier to be slightly below average, so Arenado is first at BP. FG metrics consider Frazier to be comfortably above average and so he runs away with it there, while B-Ref doesn’t help at all as it’s essentially a wash in their system. In the absence of any clear winner, at least we can say Arenado is much more likely to do something impossible in the field.
Left Field: Justin Upton, San Diego (61.5%)
Although A.J. Preller’s spectacular offseason may not have paid off, Upton has endeared himself to fantasy owners by hitting 14 homers and stealing 16 bases with his new team. This was deemed the best performance of a relatively weak group, as none of the eligible left fielders were worth much more than a couple of wins in the first half.
WAR says: take your pick of that rather underwhelming group in Upton, Starling Marte, Nori Aoki, Ben Revere, or David Peralta. Peralta is actually first in BWARP, while Aoki ties Upton at 1.9 fWAR, and Upton leads Marte over at B-Ref. Even Chris Coghlan’s not that far off here.
Center Field: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh (50%)
A top-three MVP candidate in each of the last three years, McCutchen has battled through some injury concerns to his worst line since 2011, which sits at .297/.390/.491. The defence seems to have suffered somewhat but McCutchen is still one of the best hitters in the league even with the decline.
WAR says: Joc Pederson and A.J. Pollock might have something to say about this. Both are ahead of McCutchen at both FG and B-Ref, and McCutchen barely edges the duo at BP. Pollock in particular was underappreciated, with barely 10% of the vote.
Right Field: Bryce Harper, Washington (73.1%)
A decision that you could have pretended to ponder a little if Giancarlo Stanton hadn’t landed on the DL with a fractured hamate bone. It’s become impossible to argue that Harper isn’t the best hitter in baseball this year – and it may end up being the best offensive season since Barry Bonds in 2004 – but Stanton was having an awfully good year himself, with more defensive value by all three systems. This is one area where it was a shame to limit outfielders to their actual position, since either would have been a huge upgrade over Upton in left.
WAR says: it’s Harper. He has a 1.189 OPS, a .493 wOBA and well over five wins on all three sites.
Many thanks to Mark Wolven for his hard work putting together the surveys.Next post: BttP Podcast: Ep 26 – Mike Carlucci & Ross Bukouricz
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