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Is Matt Holliday the most deserving National League All-Star?

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The St. Louis Cardinals enter play on Friday with a 36-18 record. Their .667 winning percentage is the best in baseball. The Cardinals are 2.5 games ahead of Houston, the club with Major League Baseball's second-best record.

Of course, the Cardinals are good because they have good players. Given the club's hot start, it's no surprise that they dominated the early All-Star voting, as Scooter shared in a recent Hunt and Peck. Yadier Molina has since fallen behind Buster Posey in the catcher vote. Nonetheless, as of June 2 (the last day upon which MLB shared the vote tally, as of this writing), five Cardinals in the top two of the voting at their positions:

  1. Matt Carpenter is in first place among NL third baseman with 1,974,503 votes. Kris Bryant is in second; he has 1,079,693 votes. Carpenter's lead is just under 895,000 votes.
  2. Jhonny Peralta is tops at shortstop, leading San Franciscan Brandon Crawford by a little over 170,000 votes.
  3. Matt Holliday has received the second-highest vote total among NL outfielders, behind only MVP frontrunner Bryce Harper and ahead of Giancarlo Stanton.
  4. Molina trails Posey by over 130,000 votes.
  5. Kolten Wong is in second place among second basemen, behind Dee Gordon by about 345,000 votes.
The voting is all done online nowadays. If you wish to participate, you may do so here.

The All-Star fan vote has always been interesting to me. I like seeing how fans respond to a red-hot start to the season by a player. I also find the way in which fans respond to aging (and often declining) name-brand All-Star veterans is intriguing. Most recently, Derek Jeter fits into this category—a player undeserving of being an All-Star based on the first few months of his final season, but a veteran with a long and distinguished career who I want to be an All-Star (even if this time it counts toward which league's World Series entrant will have the home-field advantage). It's the merit of years gone by against the merit of stats over the first half of the current season. There is often a conflict between a player's history of production and current seasonal stats when deciding who to vote for and what to reward.

If we look at the likely Cardinals All-Stars through the prism of the All-Star eligibility criteria of legacy and merit, we see a mix. On the one hand, there are no-doubt producers like Matt Carpenter, Jhonny Peralta, and Kolten Wong. If one goes by 2015 production, each of these Cardinals is a deserving All-Star (if not starter). On the other is the legacy vote for name-brand All-Star Molina despite his punchless hitting line of .280/.325/.330 (.288 wOBA, 81 wRC+). Then there's Holliday, who is in a league of his own—an All-Star based on years of production as well as his 2015 production to date.

Holliday broke into the big leagues in 2004 with the Rockies. He notched 439 plate appearances that season in 121 games. That was the last year in which Holliday took less than 500 PAs. The brawny left fielder has totaled less than 600 PAs just twice from 2005 through 2014.

Holliday has been ever-present in NL outfields, ever-producing. Here are where his numbers rank among NL outfielders from 2004 through 2015:

PAs:

  1. Holliday, 6,152
  2. Hunter Pence, 5,258
  3. Andre Ethier, 5,087
  4. Carlos Beltran, 5,038
  5. Ryan Braun, 4,893
  6. Carlos Lee, 4,880
  7. Jayson Werth, 4,782
  8. Matt Kemp, 4,724
  9. Justin Upton, 4,535
  10. Alfonso Soriano, 4,424

HR:

  1. Holliday, 249
  2. Braun, 242
  3. Adam Dunn, 236
  4. Soriano, 227
  5. Beltran, 212
  6. Lance Berkman, 203
  7. Lee, 197
  8. Jay Bruce, 189
  9. Pence, 187
  10. Kemp, 183

R:

  1. Holliday, 935
  2. Braun, 742
  3. Beltran, 730
  4. Pence, 685
  5. Kemp, 679
  6. Werth, 663
  7. J. Upton, 644
  8. Shane Victorino, 608
  9. Ethier, 605
  10. Berkman, 594

RBI:

  1. Holliday, 970
  2. Braun, 800
  3. Lee, 776
  4. Beltran, 758
  5. Pence, 702
  6. Kemp, 674
  7. Berkman, 656
  8. Ethier, 651
  9. Soriano, 621
  10. Werth, 608

BA:

  1. Miguel Cabrera, .327
  2. Moises Alou, .322
  3. Holliday, .311
  4. Braun, .304
  5. Yasiel Puig, .304
  6. Melky Cabrera, .301
  7. MIchael Cuddyer, .301
  8. Ben Revere, .299
  9. Andrew McCutchen, .299
  10. Carlos Gonzales, .295

OBP:

  1. Barry Bonds, .464
  2. Miguel Cabrera, .405
  3. Berkman, .404
  4. Bobby Abreu, .398
  5. Holliday, .390
  6. Puig, .386
  7. McCutchen, .385
  8. Alou, .383
  9. Pat Burrell, .381
  10. Dunn, .380

SLG:

  1. Miguel Cabrera, .564
  2. Bonds, .561
  3. Braun, .548
  4. Giancarlo Stanton, .539
  5. Berkman, .535
  6. Alou, .530
  7. Holliday, .527
  8. Dunn, .527
  9. C. Gonzalez, .527
  10. Cuddyer, .506

wOBA:

  1. Bonds, .419
  2. Miguel Cabrera, .406
  3. Berkman, .399
  4. Holliday, .394
  5. Braun, .391
  6. Alou, .390
  7. Puig, .386
  8. Dunn, .386
  9. Stanton, .383
  10. McCutchen, .382

wRC+:

  1. Bonds, 152
  2. Puig, 152
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 147
  4. Berkman, 146
  5. McCutchen, 144
  6. Braun, 143
  7. Holliday, 143
  8. Stanton, 142
  9. Harper, 136
  10. Alou, 136

fWAR:

  1. Holliday, 45.3
  2. McCutchen, 36
  3. Beltran, 35.8
  4. Braun, 33.4
  5. Werth, 31.4
  6. Berkman, 28.7
  7. Pence, 28.6
  8. Victorino, 25.3
  9. J. Upton, 24.3
  10. Soriano, 24.2
Holliday has no peer in terms of longevity among NL outfielders. As a result, his counting stats are head and shoulders above all other NL outfielders over the last decade-plus of baseball. Holliday's rate stats are elite, too, especially among active NL outfielders. (I included inactive or current American League players in the lists for fun and perspective.) Holliday's All-Star résumé is without equal in terms of length and breadth.

But Holliday's All-Star case does not rest solely on his unequalled history of production.

Holliday has taken 205 PAs so far in 2015. His counting stats are not earth-shattering. He has notched just three homers, which ties him for 22nd in the NL with the likes of Billy Hamilton and Marcell Ozuna, among others. Holliday has totaled 20 runs and 25 RBI, but these are stats as dependent on those batting ahead and behind him in manager Mike Matheny's ever-shuffled lineup so they aren't very useful in gauging a player's individual performance (especially over a couple of months). It's the rate stats that make Holliday a 2015 All-Star.

Holliday is batting .317, which ranks third in the NL among outfielders, behind Harper and A.J. Pollock. Holliday's .429 OBP (the most important offensive stat) ranks second, behind Harper. At .431, Holliday's SLG ties him for 22nd among NL outfielders. By the all-encompassing wOBA, which uses linear weights to assign a run value to each batting event from walks to homers to strikeouts, Holliday is tied for sixth at .376. wRC+ adjusts for park effects and is scaled to 100 so that each point above 100 is a percentage point better than average—Holliday's 140 wRC+ ranks sixth among NL outfielders. The left fielder's fWAR total of 1.1 places him 11th.

Holliday thus checks every All-Star box. He has a history of excellent production that is head and shoulders above his NL outfielding peers. Holliday has also hit well to start the 2015 season. Given Holliday's longevity and batting stats to open this year, he may very well be the most-qualified NL All-Star.

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