Deserving Yet Unheralded

Following the hour-long roster announcements yesterday all but two players–who will have to wait for the final vote–learned of their plans to venture to New York for the festivities. The rosters, which can be found here, comprise 32 of the best players in each league relative to the requirement that each team in that league be represented. Additionally, the starters are chosen by the fans and, quite simply, are not too often fully indicative of those deserving to start.

With that in mind it is almost impossible for a perfect 32-man squad to be assembled. Once past the fan voting a manager then has to make sure each team is represented, which usually means someone more deserving at that position will be left out; occasionally this more deserving player will be doubly left out after failing to secure a starting spot.

I used to get upset and take it personally when players of interest were snubbed, but as I began to mount the years on it has become too difficult to truly feel bad for people who make fifty times (sadly, I don’t even know if that’s an exaggeration anymore) what my entire family makes in a given year. Still, there are certain players sure to be snubbed because it is human nature to disagree with what has been established. Even if the all star roster choosing was automated by some specified criteria there would be hordes of fans and analysts arguing that some players had “intangibles” or “were better than the numbers.” And even if we somehow tweaked that system to take these intangibles and gritty play factors into account, some would argue how those aspects could be properly quantified.

Essentially, there is no way to pick a right all-star team other than to either brainwash a multitude of fans, take away fan voting, or take away the all-teams-represented criteria. None of these three are going to happen so it just is not worth getting upset over. Even thus, I decided to spend today looking at both leagues and trying to find the one to three most egregious snubs. For now we will look at the NL while the AL will post later tonight.

Looking at offensive WPA, 7 of the top 10 made the team, with the other three coming in the forms of Pat Burrell (2nd), Jason Bay (4th), and Carlos Lee (10th). Now, Burrell and Lee are also included on that final ballot, but for my money David Wright is going to win that in a landslide. Looking at offensive WPA/LI, Burrell ranks 4th and did not make the team, Bay ranks 8th, and the aforementioned Wright ranks 9th. When probing the WPA/LI of NL pitchers we find that Cole Hamels, at 2.42, ranks 2nd in the entire league to just Dan Haren. Tim Hudson ranks 5th and Johan Santana ranks 6th; neither of them made the squad either.

It is too tough to gauge pitchers because if I were a manager my staff would house a few starters and then a bunch of really reliable relievers. With that in mind I will say I think Hamels is more deserving than Ryan Dempster, especially given how many players the Cubs have in the game, but I’m not going to lose hypothetical sleep over his exclusion. After all, Dempster has been surprisingly good and my friends used to joke it should be called the All-Surprise Game; based on how often players surprisingly good for just one half of a season will make the team.

Some could argue Kyle Lohse is very deserving but I’ll then play devil’s advocate and ask which starting pitcher would you remove for him? He may be posting very good numbers but I’d personally feel much more comfortable with Tim Lincecum, Edinson Volquez, Carlos Zambrano, Ben Sheets, both Diamondbacks; and then a guy like Aaron Cook is all too similar, plus his manager is the skipper of the whole team. Then again, I’ve also seen arguments against Lohse saying that he shouldn’t make it just because of his W-L. I agree, except he wouldn’t be making the team based solely on that. He has a 3.61 ERA, 3.73 FIP, 2.00 K/BB, and 72% strand rate; he has had a very good first half, but there really just is no room for him.

This leaves us realistically with Pat Burrell and Jason Bay. Between these two it’s an easy choice for the NL’s most egregious snub. Burrell ranks 2nd in WPA in the entire sport and 4th in WPA/LI in the NL, but these are overall ranks. Amongst outfielders, none in the NL can stake claim as having been better in the first half than Burrell. When discussing Bay, it’s easier to understand why he was left off: because Nate McLouth made the team. Bay and Xavier Nady were arguably more deserving than McLouth, but Nasty Nate has had a surprising first half. Therefore, Alfonso Soriano should rest during the festivities in order to begin a domino effect of Ryan Braun or Matt Holliday starting and Burrell claiming one of their bench spots.

Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

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Truman Murton

I was reading something else about this on another blog. Interesting. Your perspective on it is diametrically opposed to what I read earlier. I am still reflecting over the diverse points of view, but I’m inclined to a great extent toward yours. And regardless, that’s what is so super about advanced democracy and the marketplace of thoughts on-line.