The National League has won more games than the American League this season in interleague play, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at our individual leaderboards. The top seven position players by WAR this season reside in the American League and 10 of the best 11 — as long as Manny Machado remains in the AL — also play in that league. The parity when it come to interleague record is more likely a function of the National League’s relative parity, while the American League is very top and bottom heavy. The best teams in the AL can only do so much, as the bulk of the NL overwhelms the bottom-feeders in the opposite league.
As for the All-Star rosters, they more closely resemble the leaderboards. The graph below shows the WAR totals for every player on the All-Star Game roster, including those on the active roster but excluding those who have been replaced due to injury or a Sunday start.
Last year, both leagues featured a collective WAR similar to the NL’s mark this season, though the AL was missing Mike Trout. This year, Trout is back and acting like himself, while Mookie Betts and Jose Ramirez seem to be acting a lot like Trout, as well. If we removed the top three players from each roster, the collective WAR totals would be pretty close. That said, the All-Star Game would be also be less entertaining.
There are three players missing due to injury, but those players wouldn’t have made too much of an impact on the chart above.
Yan Gomes, Jed Lowrie, and Yadier Molina might not quite measure up to the players they are replacing, but the two catchers are within a win of the original selections, while Lowrie has actually outperformed Torres this season. The All-Star teams are generally going to do a good job of telling you who has had a good first half, but that first half might not necessarily be a fair reflection of the talent level we see tonight. One estimate of the talent level is rest-of-season projections. Here’s how tonight’s rosters look over the course of the rest of the season.
The National League closes the gap a little bit by this measure, but that’s mostly just a function of having less of the season remaining than behind us. The American League is projected to record about 18% more wins than the National League — roughly equivalent to the rate at which they’ve outperformed their NL peers so far. We know from above that re-introducing the injured players to this graph wouldn’t alter the outcome much. Perhaps, though, there are some high-quality players who just didn’t make the team?
Here are the players with the best second-half projections in both leagues.
|Name||League||2018 WAR||Projected ROS WAR|
There are some players above who have struggled or been hurt, like A.J. Pollock, Anthony Rizzo, and maybe Kris Bryant. Matt Carpenter had an awful first month of results, which might have hurt his chances. It’s tough to be an AL shortstop, as Bogaerts, Correa, and Simmons were all omitted from the soter, but it is hard to argue against Manny Machado and Francisco Lindor, while Jean Segura won the fan vote. Perhaps most odd considering the location of tonight’s game, both Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner had plausible All-Star cases but couldn’t crack the team.
So we’ve established that, on the position-player side, the junior circuit has a huge advantage. This is how things look on the pitching side.
The AL again possesses a decent advantage. Some of that is due to having rostered eight starters and four relievers, while the NL is going with seven and five, respectively. What about the players who, for one reason or another, aren’t playing?
|Name||League||2018 WAR||ROS Projected WAR|
It actually looks like the chasm between the AL and NL could be even bigger. While Lester has a good ERA and Mikolas is having a good first season with the Cardinals, Kluber and Verlander represent two of the very best pitchers in baseball. Repeating the exercise above from the position players, here are the rest-of-season projections for the All-Star pitchers.
The NL actually comes out on top, barely. If Kluber and Verlander were up there, the total would come out the AL’s way, however, based on the expected talent level of the pitching. Even without factoring in the number of starters and relievers that provides the AL an advantage, the NL has an edge with four of the top six pitchers. There aren’t as many great pitchers who didn’t make the team. Clayton Kershaw and Noah Syndergaard are the big ones from the NL with James Paxton representing the best pitcher left off the AL roster.
When we put it all together, the totals look like this:
|Position Player WAR||56.1||65.8|
|Position Player Proj||28.7||33.8|
A season ago, the NL looked to have the slightly better team, and the game proved to be an even one, with an 2-1 win for the American League in extra innings. This season, despite the NL’s advantage in interleague play, the AL appears to have the higher-end talent. It likely means little to nothing in terms of actual results, but when it comes to the stars, the AL shines a bit brighter.
Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.