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With July 13 quickly approaching, members of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance are filling out their All-Star ballots. Here are my picks.
Catcher: Miguel Olivo, Colorado Rockies
Going into 2010, Olivo’s career-high in on-base percentage was .263, set in ’06 with the Florida Marlins. His OBP currently sits at .368 and his SLG is also at a career-high .529. His BABIP is about 75 points above his career average but his success isn’t simply luck. He has somehow learned plate discipline as his walk rate of 9.3 percent is more than double his career average of 4.1 percent. Additionally, his ISO is actually lower than it was last year thanks to a 21.8 percent line drive rate, his highest since ’03.
Olivo has also been a defensive stalwart, nailing a whopping 53 percent of base-stealers. The only catcher in Olivo’s statosphere in this area is Yadier Molina, who has caught 51.5 percent.
First Base: Adrian Gonzalez, San Diego Padres
Both Gonzalez and Albert Pujols have an incredible .404 wOBA, but I am going with Gonzalez because he needs some publicity and he has meant more to the Padres than Pujols has to his St. Louis Cardinals. Gonzalez’s 3.2 WAR makes up 29 percent of the Padres’ 11.0 WAR while Pujols’ 2.4 WAR makes up 20.7 percent of the Cardinals’ 11.6 WAR. Gonzalez has more WAR than Pujols due to better defense, but 600 defensive innings isn’t a big sample size for UZR.
Second Base: Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies
Despite his prolonged slump, Utley still sits atop the WAR leaderboard for second basemen thanks to defense that rarely if ever slumps. FanGraphs credits him with 7.2 defensive runs. Only two other fielders come close to him: David Eckstein and Jeff Baker, and both have hurt their teams offensively. Utley’s .378 wOBA is second only to Kelly Johnson of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Few players not only at second base but at any position can combine elite offense with elite defense. Utley is one of those rare players.
Third Base: Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals
Zim is a lot like Utley at third base: he is an elite offensive threat and he can absolutely pick it at the hot corner. He is far and away the best defender at third base this year according to UZR (small sample size caveat). That is not a fluke as he led qualified third basemen in UZR last year, and come in second in 2008 and ’07 (trailing Pedro Feliz both years). His .383 wOBA is second-best among third basemen behind Scott Rolen‘s .392.
Before getting hit with a pitch that broke his wrist, Tulowitzki had rebounded well from a rough start to the 2010 season. Through his first 38 games, he had hit only one home run and compiled a meager .766 OPS. Between May 20 and June 17, Tulo hit eight homers and his OPS was a sky-high 1.059. He had even swiped four bases in four attempts. Along with his offense, Tulo played above-average defense which helped him climb to the top of the WAR leaderboard for shortstops, even ahead of Hanley Ramirez.
Due to the wrist injury, Tulowitzki will not be able to participate in the All-Star Game festivities, so Han-Ram will take his place.
Holliday has been part of a very productive Cardinal outfield that includes Ryan Ludwick and Colby Rasmus. He is second among qualified National League outfielders in WAR and his .382 wOBA is excellent. Along with his bat, he brings a hint of speed (six stolen bases in seven attempts) and above-average defense.
Marlon Byrd is having by far the best season of his career. Through 69 games, he is on pace for a 6 WAR season and he may have hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo to thank. Byrd worked with Jaramillo when he was with the Texas Rangers from 2007-09 and they reunited in Chicago this season. Between 2002 and ’06, Byrd compiled only one good offensive season thanks in large part to a .360 BABIP. In his three years with the Rangers, Byrd hit 40 home runs and his isolated power jumped to career highs. And, like Holliday, Byrd plays great defense to add to his offensive potency.
Andres Torres may have figured this baseball thing out. Between 1998-2009, Torres racked up nearly 4,400 plate appearances in the Minor Leagues, spending time with affiliates of the Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins, the Tigers again, the Chicago Cubs and finally the San Francisco Giants. He was called up several times between ’02-05 but was never able to accomplish much. The Giants gave him a shot last year and he made the most of it, hitting for a .379 wOBA and playing great defense in the outfield. He has repeated that in ’10 with the same exact wOBA and similarly great defense.
Starting Pitcher: Ubaldo Jimenez, Colorado Rockies
Is there any other choice? Despite trailing Roy Halladay and others in ERA retrodictors like xFIP and SIERA, there is no denying Jimenez’s dominance over the first half of the baseball season. Even those of us who use Sabermetrics stand in awe of his 13-1 record and 1.15 ERA through 14 starts.
Back-ups: Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies; Josh Johnson, Florida Marlins; Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals; Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants; Jaime Garcia, St. Louis Cardinals; Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals
Closer: Jonathan Broxton, Los Angeles Dodgers
Broxton has a Cliff Lee-esque 14-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He is averaging one and a half strikeouts per inning and fewer than one walk per nine innings. He has a 0.92 ERA and has converted 15 consecutive saves. There are no closers in baseball that have approached Broxton’s level of dominance.
Representative count: Astros (0); Braves (3); Brewers (0); Cardinals (5); Cubs (3); Diamondbacks (1); Dodgers (2); Giants (3); Marlins (1); Mets (2); Nationals (3); Padres (2); Phillies (2); Pirates (1); Reds (3); Rockies (3)
Catcher: Jorge Posada, New York Yankees
He turns 39 in mid-August but he looks like he has at least ten more years left the way he has been hitting. Posada’s .411 wOBA is eight-best in the American League and best among catchers. He does not thwart the running game well, but none of his competitors are much better — certainly not enough to close the chasm in offense between Posada and the rest.
First Base: Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins
Not only has Morneau been by far the best hitter at first base, but he has also been the best fielder. His .452 wOBA is exquisite and his 18.4 UZR/150 is to die for. He has been as valuable as Miguel Cabrera (2.6 WAR) and Paul Konerko (1.7 WAR) combined.
Second Base: Robinson Cano, New York Yankees
Who else could it have been? 4.4 WAR, .436 wOBA, and a 10.1 UZR/150. No one else comes close to Cano.
Third Base: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
Finally, a close race. It was a toss-up between Longoria and Adrian Beltre. Beltre does not have quite the offensive numbers as Longoria (trails by .010 in wOBA) but has played better defense according to the metrics on FanGraphs (12.9 to 2.2 in UZR/150). Given the uncertainty surrounding defensive data in small sample sizes, the edge went to Longoria.
Shortstop: Alex Gonzalez, Toronto Blue Jays
Shortstop in the American League is a very shallow position. Alex Gonzalez leads the pack with a “meh” .347 wOBA.
Crawford, with free agency in sight, is having a career year. His on-base and slugging percentages (and subsequently wOBA) are at career highs and he may even shatter his career best in stolen bases set last year (60). Add in his normally excellent defense and you have a hell of a player ready to collect an eight-figure contract during the off-season.
Think the Blue Jays gave up too early on Alex Rios? Like Crawford, he is setting career highs in OBP, SLG, wOBA, and potentially stolen bases as well. He has also played above-average defense and as such will likely set a new high in WAR as well.
Welcome back, Josh Hamilton. He struggled last year with injuries but has rebounded nicely in 2010. His .600 SLG is impressive and is also on pace to set some career highs in HR, SLG, wOBA, and WAR so long as he stays healthy.
Starting Pitcher: Cliff Lee, Seattle Mariners
Lee barely edged out Francisco Liriano of the Minnesota Twins. His ERA is about a half-run better despite having a nearly identical SIERA (2.94 to 2.95). Along with three complete games and one shut-out, Lee’s strikeout-to-walk ratio is a godly 17-to-1.
Closer: Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees
Representative count: Angels (1); Athletics (1); Blue Jays (3); Indians (1); Mariners (2); Orioles (0); Rangers (4); Rays (4); Red Sox (6); Royals (0); Tigers (3); Twins (4); White Sox (1); Yankees (4)
Of the 34 All-Stars, 17 come from the AL East. No surprise, since that division is home to the top-three best teams in the league.
Feel free to comment below with your All-Star rosters or your thoughts on my rosters.