Making a Better All-Star Team: WAR Analysis

With the Midsummer Classic tomorrow, it’s time to look at whether fan voting actually resulted in the best possible team. Of course, we all have our team loyalties and want to see our favorite players represented at Target Field on July 15. But, it’s worth asking whether voting was objective? Or were fans just voting for familiar names?

Of the 34 total players that are elected to each league’s roster, fans had the opportunity to vote in eight National League and nine American League starters (the extra one in the AL is its DH; NL managers, who now have to use the DH in All-Star Game situations, pick their own).

This is a pretty big responsibility, if you think about it. Considering that the ASG stakes were raised considerably in 2003, when home-field advantage for the World Series was first awarded to the winning league. The sheer presence of a team’s home ballpark could be a momentum-changer in championship play. It could ultimately help win the game.

The voting process has been under scrutiny in recent years, because big-market fan bases — like those from New York, Boston, and Los Angeles — have been able to trick the system into voting in more of their players. And while in the recent past, teams like the Red SoxAngels, and Yankees have basically been small All-Star teams themselves, it doesn’t make for much of a game if the AL team is largely a mix of three teams.

This year, the team looked a little different, but not that much.To create a completely un-biased team fan should have voted methodically. First, it’s best to vote for one position player per team; and second, do some basic research before plugging in your votes. This requires you to do some unbiased analysis and put your thinking caps on.

For example, let’s say you’ve reached the Outfield portion of your All-Star ballot, and you’re starting with the National League selections, of which you’re allowed three in total.

Here’s the thinking:

Of the 45 available outfielders to vote on, there are a bunch of players who have either been on the DL for most of the 2014 season, have had more than one DL stint, or have just recently gotten off the DL and have yet to really experience regular play. So it makes sense to subtract them from the list; likely, they won’t play in the All-Star Game anyway, due to these nagging injuries: Michael Cuddyer and Carlos Gonzalez of the Colorado Rockies; Mark Trumbo and A.J. Pollock of the Arizona Diamondbacks; Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals; Juan Lagares of the New York Mets; and Justin Ruggiano of the Chicago Cubs. The list is now down to 38.

Next, looking at each player’s current WAR, subtract the guys with negative WAR (i.e. they’re really not worth any games to their teams): Philadelphia Phillies’ Domonic Brown and Ben Revere; Cincinnati Reds’ Jay Bruce and Ryan Ludwick; St. Louis Cardinals’ Allen Craig; San Diego Padres’ Chris Denorfia and Carlos Quentin; Los Angeles Dodgers’ Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp; Chicago Cubs’ Nate Schierholtz and Ryan Sweeney; and the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Travis Snider. Now, we’re done to 26.

Now, do away with all the guys who have a WAR below 1.5 (i.e. they’re worth about a game or less to their teams): St. Louis Cardinals’ Peter Bourjos and Matt Holliday; Cincinnati Reds’ Billy Hamilton; Arizona Diamondbacks’ Gerardo Parra; Washington Nationals’ Denard Span and Jayson Werth; Atlanta Braves’ B.J. Upton; San Diego Padres’ Will Venable; Milwaukee Brewers’ Ryan Braun; Philadelphia Phillies’ Marlon Byrd; Pittsburgh Pirates’ Starling Marte; San Francisco Giants’ Michael Morse; and the New York Mets’ Chris Young. Down to 13.

That leaves you with the “real” National League Outfield All-Star ballot, one that includes just 13 players. If you take our advice and only vote for one guy per team, you could further pare down the list based on WAR alone: Khris Davis (Milwaukee Brewers); Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich (Miami Marlins); and Angel Pagan (San Francisco Giants). That leaves you with nine.

Now, take all the WAR totals, add them up, and take its average: 2.5. Get rid of all the guys below that: Charlie Blackmon (Colorado Rockies); Curtis Granderson (New York Mets); Hunter Pence (San Francisco Giants); and Justin Upton (Atlanta Braves). Down to five!

This is where the important decisions get made. While the Atlanta Braves’ Jason Heyward is a force to be reckoned with in the field, his power numbers have declined quite a bit in 2014. So let’s get rid of him.

That leaves you with three choices. Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins is having an MVP-caliber season and deserves one of those three votes (plus, he has the highest WAR). Also deserving of one of those spots is the reigning National League MVP, Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen.

The last vote is down to Carlos Gomez of the Milwaukee Brewers and Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers. They have virtually identical WAR, are both darn good fielders, and their stat lines are comparable as well (Puig’s average is higher and he has more RBIs, while Gomez has more runs and stolen bases). Gomez was a first-time All-Star in 2013; while Puig, the upstart rookie, was snubbed. In looking at the All-Star voting this year, Dodgers fans have come out in droves to make sure Puig plays in 2014’s game. So Gomez has our vote for the final spot.

Easy, right?

NL Outfield Ballot Breakdown

Charlie Blackmon – 1.5 WAR

Peter Bourjos – 0.7 WAR

Ryan Braun – 1.3 WAR

Domonic Brown – (-1.2) WAR

Jay Bruce – (-0.5) WAR

Marlon Byrd – 1.0 WAR

Allen Craig – (-0.2) WAR

Michael Cuddyer – DL

Khris Davis – 1.9 WAR

Chris Denorfia – (-0.4) WAR

Andre Ethier – (-0.2) WAR

Carlos Gomez – 2.9 WAR – VOTE 3 (On the team)

Carlos Gonzalez – DL

Curtis Granderson – 1.4 WAR

Billy Hamilton – 0.9 WAR

Bryce Harper – DL

Jason Heyward – 2.6 WAR

Matt Holliday – 0.6 WAR

Matt Kemp – (-1.1) WAR

Juan Lagares – 2.6 WAR – DL

Ryan Ludwick – (-0.3) WAR

Starling Marte – 1.4 WAR

Andrew McCutchen – 3.6 WAR – VOTE 2 (On the team)

Michael Morse – 1.2 WAR

Marcell Ozuna – 2.2 WAR

Angel Pagan – 1.9 WAR

Gerardo Parra – 0.5 WAR

Hunter Pence – 2.1 WAR

A.J. Pollock – DL

Yasiel Puig – 2.8 WAR

Carlos Quentin – (-0.2) WAR

Ben Revere – (-0.1) WAR

Justin Ruggiano – activated from DL May 27

Nate Schierholtz – (-0.4) WAR

Travis Snider – (-0.1) WAR

Denard Span – 0.9 WAR

Giancarlo Stanton – 4.2 WAR – VOTE 1 (On the team)

Ryan Sweeney – (-0.5) WAR

Mark Trumbo – DL

B.J. Upton – 0.5 WAR

Justin Upton – 1.8 WAR

Will Venable – 0.3 WAR

Jayson Werth – 0.9 WAR

Christian Yelich – 1.6 WAR

Chris Young – 0.1 WAR

In this case, it turns out that the NL outfield was chosen by talent, not by bias. But was the rest of the National League? Or the American League? ScoreBig challenges you to run the numbers. Apply this analysis to some other positions and show us where fan support won out over talent. We’ll reward each correct answer with a $5 ScoreBig credit (Don’t forget to show your math to get the credit!).

 And remember to get all your MLB tickets from ScoreBig where you save on every ticket, every day.

By Will Levith for the ScoreBlog

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