The All-Star Starters By WAR

With last night’s announcement of the starters for the 2019 All-Star Game, baseball’s experiment with a new fan voting process officially came to its completion.

Ten of the 17 All-Star starters currently lead their respective league in WAR at their position, with two more — Gary Sanchez and Nolan Arenado — sitting in virtual ties.

Here’s the full breakdown, first for the American League:

2019 American League
Position Player WAR WAR Leader? Actual Leader
C Gary Sanchez 2.1 No James McCann (2.1)
1B Carlos Santana 2.6 Yes
2B DJ LeMahieu 3.2 Yes
3B Alex Bregman 3.5 Yes
SS Jorge Polanco 2.8 No Xander Bogaerts (3.7)
OF Mike Trout 5.3 Yes
OF George Springer 2.9 Yes
OF Michael Brantley 2.2 No Joey Gallo (3.6)
DH Hunter Pence 1.7 No Austin Meadows (2.1)
*For outfielders, players are considered the “WAR leader” if they are in the top three slots in WAR.
**James McCann leads Gary Sanchez in WAR by 0.08 wins.

And now for the National League:

2019 National League
Position Player WAR WAR Leader? Actual Leader
C Willson Contreras 2.6 No Yasmani Grandal (3.0)
1B Freddie Freeman 2.9 No Pete Alonso (3.2)
2B Ketel Marte 3.9 Yes
3B Nolan Arenado 3.1 No Anthony Rendon (3.1)
SS Javier Baez 2.9 Yes
OF Christian Yelich 4.5 Yes
OF Cody Bellinger 5.7 Yes
OF Ronald Acuña Jr. 3.1 Yes
*For outfielders, players are considered the “WAR leader” if they are in the top three slots in WAR.
**Anthony Rendon leads Nolan Arenado in WAR by 0.03 wins.

Even among the players who are not leading their position in WAR, there aren’t many significant snubs. Xander Bogaerts is the biggest miss. He didn’t even garner enough support to be named as one of the three finalists. (Neither did Anthony Rendon, for that matter.) But don’t fret. Both Bogaerts and Rendon will more than likely be among the names listed when the All-Star reserves are announced Sunday evening.

In total, 59% of the starters will be represented by their current WAR leader. At least from this observer’s point of view, the fans did pretty well.

For good measure, let’s compare this to the fans’ selections in 2018. First, here are the 2018 American League starters:

2018 American League
Position Player WAR WAR Leader? Actual Leader
C Wilson Ramos 1.1 No Max Stassi (2.4)
1B José Abreu 0.3 No Matt Olson (1.8)
2B José Altuve 4.0 Yes
3B José Ramirez 5.2 Yes
SS Manny Machado 3.2 No Francisco Lindor (5.3)
OF Mookie Betts 5.8 Yes
OF Mike Trout 6.3 Yes
OF Aaron Judge 4.4 Yes
DH J.D. Martinez 3.4 Yes
*For outfielders, players are considered the “WAR leader” if they are in the top three slots in WAR.
**Stats from Opening Day through July 7, 2018.

And here are the 2018 National League starters:

2018 National League
Position Player WAR WAR Leader? Actual Leader
C Willson Contreras 1.6 No J.T. Realmuto (3.3)
1B Freddie Freeman 3.5 Yes
2B Javier Baez 3.1 No Ozzie Albies (3.2)
3B Nolan Arenado 3.6 Yes
SS Brandon Crawford 2.4 No Trea Turner (2.9)
OF Nick Markakis 2.4 Yes
OF Matt Kemp 1.8 No Lorenzo Cain (3.1)
OF Bryce Harper 1.2 No Kyle Schwarber (2.4)
*For outfielders, players are considered the “WAR leader” if they are in the top three slots in WAR.
**Stats from Opening Day through July 7, 2018.

For those keeping track, the fans selected nine WAR leaders, again out of the 17 total spots. So while the fans did indeed pick one more WAR leader to start the All-Star Game this year as opposed to last year, the results aren’t especially different. One year’s result does not necessarily mean that this year’s process was any better or worse than last year’s. Perhaps this is a topic for another day, but we could even get into a further discussion of what “better” means. I know I would rather have Gary Sanchez starting for the AL squad than James McCann, so should we fault the fans for not picking the WAR leader in that specific case? Of course not. After all, “star” is right there in the name.

We hoped you liked reading The All-Star Starters By WAR by Devan Fink!

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Devan Fink is a Contributor at FanGraphs. You can follow him on Twitter @DevanFink.

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Matt
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Matt

Seems to be a lot fewer “misses” compared to last year. This year, Bogaerts and Gallo are the only guys leading by > 0.5 WAR that missed, whereas last year there were 6 players elected more than half a win worse than the leader. Obviously the half win is a totally arbitrary cutoff, but the whole thing is pretty arbitrary anyways.