Today we look at the American League All-Star Voting and select a team. Once again, I’m basing my votes on Wins Above Replacement (WAR). The WAR calculation takes into account player contributions both on offense and defense, which is why I like it. So how are the voters doing? Are they picking the best players, or are the most popular/well-known players ruling the day? WAR leaders are based on Fangraphs data.
First Base. Vote Leader: Justin Morneau. WAR Leader: Morneau. Our Pick: Justin Morneau. Score one for the voting public.
Second Base. Vote Leader: Robinson Cano. WAR Leader: Cano. Our Pick: Robinson Cano. Two for Two.
Third Base. Vote Leader: Evan Longoria. WAR Leader: Adrian Beltre. Our Pick: Adrian Beltre. I know, Longoria is having a good year, ultimately the All-Star game is about offense, and Beltre is only 0.2 WAR better than Longoria right now. I have nothing against Longoria, I just like Beltre a little better.
Shortstop. Vote Leader: Derek Jeter. WAR Leader: Marco Scutaro. Our Pick: Alex Gonzalez. There’s 0.7 WAR points between the top 6 shortstops in the AL. Scutaro is all glove, Jeter is mostly bat, Gonzalez has a slightly better bat than Jeter does. Really there’s no wrong answer here; Gonzalez, Scutaro, Jeter, Cliff Pennington are all deserving in my opinion.
Catcher. Vote Leader: Joe Mauer. WAR Leader: Mauer. Our Pick: Joe Mauer. It’s close here between Mauer and Victor Martinez. Both have suspect gloves; in fact, Mike Napoli may be the best all-around catcher in the AL (not as potent a stick, but a much better glove). That said it’s very difficult to pick against the reigning AL MVP.
Outfield: Vote Leaders: Ichiro! (RF), Carl Crawford (LF), Josh Hamilton (LF). WAR Leaders: Crawford (LF), Alex Rios (CF), Shin-Soo Choo (RF). Our Picks: Carl Crawford (LF), Alex Rios (CF), Ben Zobrist (RF). To me Crawford and Rios are slam dunks – both are far and away the best players at their respective positions in the AL. Right field is a toss-up. Choo has posted a 2.8 WAR campaign so far, Ichiro and Zobrist 2.7. I’ve picked Zobrist simply because he had a great year last year, and is playing very well again this season. His exclusion last year was a travesty.
Starting Pitcher: WAR Leader: Cliff Lee. Our Pick: Cliff Lee. Think about this – Lee missed the first month of the season, and yet he’s been the most valuable starter in the AL anyway. Wow.
I will not be picking a DH on general principle. Take whichever overpaid-no-glove hitter you like.
How’s the voting public doing? Four of the 8 vote leaders are the best players at their position based on WAR. In two other instances (3B and SS), the player leading the votes is the second-best by WAR. Looks like the fans are doing quite well picking the AL.