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The Baseball Notebook


May 23, 2010 12:39 PM

An Early All-Star Ballot

To cap off the first seminal weekend of the baseball season, as the first round of interleague play concludes, it’s time to check in on how the race for All-Star spots is going.

The Notebook relies on three stats for position players—OBP and slugging percentage at the plate and zone rating on defense, a stat that gives more credence to range. I tend to have a bias towards players with more at-bats (significantly anyway) based on the obvious reason that you can’t help your team win if you’re not on the field. And I’m heavily biased towards defense up the middle. Finally, in choosing outfielders, I don’t generically pick the best three, but instead focus specifically on the best in left, center and right so it’s a true outfield. For pitchers, the numbers are more traditional. ERA is the starting point, with W-L record and innings pitched being what can move you up or down the ladder. For the bullpen, I choose two setup men in addition to a closer.

It’s not the most orthodox way to pick an All-Star team, but I am convinced it results in more of a true team and gives a true sense of whose best in the areas that matter over the course of a long season. In the weeks between now and the All-Star game all of these spots are going to get specific focus in the midweek updates. For today’s overview, there’s just a brief remark after the player I currently have leading the pack. Nothing is final until the end of play on the last Sunday before the mid-summer Classic in Anaheim.

AMERICAN LEAGUE
C--Joe Mauer (Min): The gold standard at the position. Maybe the gold standard in all of baseball.
1B--Justin Morneau (Min): Jaw-dropping numbers give him a big edge at a position filled with quality candidates.
2B--Dustin Pedroia (Bos): A vastly superior defender to Robinson Cano gives him the edge at an important defensive spot.
3B--Evan Longoria (TB): The rivalry between him and A-Rod mirrors that of their teams and right now it’s the Rays with the early edge.
SS--Derek Jeter (NYY): A slow start with the bat, but his defense has done a complete 180-degree turn under Girardi and keeps him atop the weakest All-Star field in baseball.
LF--Carl Crawford (TB): Having a great year, but a dark-horse could be Cleveland’s Austin Kearns before it’s over.
CF—Vernon Wells (Tor): Back with a vengeance.
RF--Ichiro Suzuki (Sea): No one really having a big year yet, with Baltimore’s Nick Markakis in hot pursuit
DH--Vlad Guerrero (Tex): Being able to focus exclusively on his offense, the DH has been therapeutic for a star once in decline.
AL Rotation
Matt Garza (Tampa)
David Price (Tampa)
Jeff Niemann (Tampa)
Doug Fister (Seattle)
Shaun Marcum (Toronto)

--And we wonder why Tampa has the best record in baseball.
AL Bullpen
Matt Guerrier (Minnesota)
Will Ohman (Baltimore)
Rafael Soriano (Tampa
)
--Soriano’s closed out a dozen saves without a miss while Ohman’s yet to give up an earned run.

NATIONAL LEAGUE
C—Brian McCann (Atl): Ivan Rodriguez has a case, but McCann’s is more selective at the plate.
1B--Joey Votto (Cin): The one who’s carried the Cincy offense, he merits the early edge on traditional standard-bearer Albert Pujols.
2B--Kelly Johnson (Ariz): Similar to the American League, the best offensive player is one of the poorest defenders, so I go with Johnson over Chase Utley.
3B--Casey McGahee (Mil): A complete offensive player and a top defender.
SS--Hanley Ramirez (Fla): Whatever his personal issues might be, he has no weaknesses as a player.
LF--Ryan Braun (Mil): The clear leader, but keep an eye 90 miles south where Alfonso Soriano is in striking distance.
CF--Matt Kemp (LAD): Kemp could be challenged by St. Louis’ Colby Rasmus, but the latter needs more at-bats.
RF--Jayson Werth (Phil): Becoming the most potent bat in a lineup filled with them.
NL Rotation
Ubaldo Jiminez (Colorado)
Roy Halladay (Philadelphia)
Adam Wainwright (St. Louis)
Livan Hernandez (Washington)
Tim Hudson (Atlanta)

--Jaime Garcia just doesn’t have the innings in St. Louis, and Tim Lincecum is just a hair off the early pace.
NL Bullpen
Luke Gregerson (San Diego)
Tyler Clippard (Washington)
Matt Capps (Washington)
--Clippard already has seven wins and Capps is a perfect 16-for-16 on save opportunities.

There’s an early ballot. With that we move into the second phase of the season, as defined by the Notebook, running from now until the All-Star break that’s seven weeks away. One part of the weekly format will remain unchanged, and that’s the Monday preview of what’s ahead and the Sunday recap of the week. The three midweek posts will each focus on one team, taking them up in greater detail than was the case in the first six weeks and one All-Star spot. See you tomorrow afternoon for a look at Week Eight.

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