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The NL All-Star Team, according to chuck

With All-Star balloting ending in a couple of days I decided to put together my NL All-Star team today. This will be a complete 32-man All-Star team that includes at least 1 member from every team. I know that there are some who find this rule to be obsolete but I think it’s a good rule to help keep the worst teams’ fans at least somewhat involved and interested in the game and the season. There’s no doubt that sometimes a player from a terrible team doesn’t deserve to be on the team but, if a player is the 32nd best player in his league, it’s not like he’s getting a horrendously raw deal if he’s bumped in favor of the best player on a 35 win team. I paid no attention to the fans’ voting. This isn’t a list of who WILL make it. It’s a list of who SHOULD, IMO, make it. I also didn’t care about that phony "this time it counts" bullshit b/c that’s simply one of the dumbest rules baseball’s ever instituted so I don’t intend to put the league’s best LOOGY on the team just b/c he’s a lefty. Ridiculous! I also didn’t pay any attention to injuries and who could actually play. If they deserve it, they made it. In order to evaluate them, I put more emphasis wOBA and wRAA for the offensive players and UZR for defense than I did things like batting average and errors. For pitchers, I used FIP, WPA more than wins and ERA. I also used total RAA to measure value and compare players. This will help explain why Adam Dunn and Miguel Tejada didn’t make it, for example. Anyway, w/o further ado, Ladies and Gentlemen – Meet your 2009 NL All-Stars!

Catcher: Starter – Yadier Molina, Cardinals. Backups – Geovany Soto, Cubs and Bengie Molina, Giants. Yadi is 2nd in the NL in wRAA and leads the NL in fewest SBA/G. He also has caught 33% of potential base stealers. He’s first in the NL in overall value. Soto is first in the NL in wRAA and, this year, has a respectable CS%. He’s starting to come around after a very slow start. Bengie gets almost all of his value from his 10 HRs as he has walked just 3 times all year – a number that makes only Jeff Francoeur jealous.

First Base: Starter – Albert Pujols, Cardinals. Reserves – Adrian Gonzalez, Padres and Prince Fielder, Brewers. Duh! Is there any doubt? The best player in the game is having the best season of any position player in the game. There’s really not a lot of arguments to be had about the next 2 either, as both Fielder and Gonzalez have been worth more than 10 runs more than their closest competition – Todd Helton.

Second Base: Starter – Chase Utley, Phillies. Reserves – Brandon Phillips, Reds and Freddy Sanchez, Pirates. There’s a good argument for Orlando Hudson of the Dodgers here but, let’s face it, there’s gotta be a Pirate and there’s gotta be a Red. The 3 of them hover together – Phillips getting most of his value from his defense, Hudson losing some b/c of his, and Sanchez being pretty good at both. RAR has Sanchez and Hudson being nearly dead even, just slightly behind Phillips, due to Phillips’ outstanding defense, so the tie goes to the player on the team who needs a rep.

Shortstop: Starter – Hanley Ramirez, Marlins. Reserve – Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies. This is a blowout, and it almost doesn’t really matter who the reserve is but Tulowitzki gets a lot of value from his 12 homers and solid defense. Despite a .330 average, Miguel Tejada’s defense has been so bad so as not to justify his inclusion on the team. Ryan Theriot’s offense is slightly below average so Tulo gets the honor. For those who haven’t been paying attention, Ramirez is a stud!

Third base: Starter – David Wright, Mets. Reserves – Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals and Mark Reynolds, D-backs. Wright is an absolute stud; I don’t care that he just has 4 homers. He’s still sporting a .939 OPS and a .412 wOBA. He’s about 22 runs above average offensively, even w/ just the 4 homers. Zimmerman keeps it close b/c he’s played spectacular defense and Reynolds is right there b/c of his 21 dingers. I know his defense isn’t particularly good and that he strikes out about 114% of his PAs, but his wOBA is .393. He belongs…period. There are good arguments to be made for Casey Blake and Pablo Sandoval. Unfortunately, the keystone is loaded this year.

Outfield: Starters – Matt Kemp, Dodgers; Raul Ibanez, Phillies; and Justin Upton, D-backs. Reserves – Ryan Braun, Brewers; Carlos Beltran, Mets; and Hunter Pence, Astros. There’s little doubt that Ibanez and Upton deserve to start as they’ve been tremendous offensive players and above average (I know, I can’t believe it either w/ Ibanez) defensive players to this point. Kemp’s been very good offensively and an absolute Rasmus-esque stud defensively in CF and has been 35 RAR this season. He gets the nod, therefore, over Braun who, despite tremendous offensive numbers, has been slightly below average defensively this year. Pence is not just a token Astro representative. He deserves it based on being 16 RAA on offense and 3 RAA on defense. He’s been absolutely terrific and deserves to be on the team whether the Astros have 5 reps or whether he’s their lone rep.

Pitchers: Starter – Tim Lincecum, Giants; Reserves – Javier Vazquez, Braves; Josh Johnson, Marlins; Dan Haren, D-backs; Joel Pineiro, Cardinals; Chad Billingsley, Dodgers; Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies; Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers; Heath Bell, Padres; Brian Wilson, Giants; Francisco Rodriguez, Mets; and Rafael Soriano, Braves.

Among the starters, I looked at their value as determined by RAR and WAR b/c there’s a real delineation between those starters who have been great AND thrown a lot of innings and the pitchers who have either been good and thrown a lot of innings or been great and thrown fewer innings. The top 7 pitchers in terms of value have all been great and thrown at least 92.2 IP. They’ve all been worth at least 2.4 WAR whereas the next highest starters sit at 1.9 WAR. They’re all in the top 8 in the NL in terms of FIP and, again, there’s a big jump (.36 runs) to the #9 starter in the NL.

The 5 relievers were a little more difficult and many of you will doubtless note that I left Ryan Franklin, he of the 0.92 ERA off the list. That was tough to do. I again used FIP, RAR, and WAR as well as WPA to help me select this group. Franklin’s 3.20 FIP is solid, but distinctly higher than the 5 relievers who made the list. Franklin’s thrown fewer innings than the 5 who made it and, as a result, has been worth fewer RAR and WAR than the group who made it. The bottom line is that there have been a number of very good relievers in the NL during the first half but this seems to be the best of the lot.

My batting order would be as follows:

  1. Ramirez -- SS
  2. Utley -- 2B
  3. Wright -- 3B
  4. Pujols -- 1B
  5. Upton -- RF
  6. Kemp -- CF
  7. Ibanez -- LF
  8. Lincecum -- P
  9. Molina -- C
There’s certainly a lot to be critical of here, whether it’s leaving Orlando Hudson off the team b/c of his relatively poor defense or my excluding Ryan Franklin. Miguel Tejada and his .330 average didn’t make it and neither did Adam Dunn and his 18 homers or Ryan Howard and his 20. Brad Hawpe has a .417 wOBA and didn’t make it. That’s what happens when you’re probably the worst defensive OF in the majors. Whether or not this team is the best the NL could field to defeat the AL in this exhibition game is irrelevant to me. It is, IMO, the group that best reflects the best overall players in the NL over the first half of the season. Fire away!