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The Real All-Stars: Using FUBAR to Determine American League All-Star Roster

Felipe Melecio looks at what the AL All-Star roster would be in an ideal world where players are rewarded for merit and substance and not for their popularity.

Jose Altuve
Jose Altuve

Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

As mentioned in our last rankings update, voting for the 2014 Major League Baseball All-Star Game is fast approaching (deadline is July 3, 2014). We all know by now that the All-Star game does not always feature the best players in 2014, but rather the most popular players of the last five or ten years. It’s good that the fans get to see their favorite players in one of the game’s biggest stages and take part in the ultimate fantasy baseball roster.

But one can’t help but notice the title of the event in question: it’s called the 2014 All-Star Game. It’s not called the “Best Players of the Last Decade Game” or the “Most Popular Player Contest.” It’s supposed to be a showcase of the best players of the 2014 season. Players that get voted and selected for this game should represent the game’s very best of this particular year. This is where a player’s hard work and perseverance and succeeding in the best and toughest professional baseball league in the world gets rewarded for his efforts. Players should not have to take a backseat for the sake of nostalgia and people wanting to see the most outrageous and asinine retirement party for certain players that have not played up to an All-Star level in years.

Simply put, adding non-deserving players to the All-Star game ends up costing a more worthy, but unknown player. A good player should not be penalized for not having the marketing campaign of certain, over-the-hill ball players.

That is why we will use Felipe’s Ultimate Baseball Advanced Rankings (or FUBAR for short) to create an ideal world where players are rewarded for merit and substance and not for their popularity. The players that were selected were judged by hitting prowess, plate discipline, base running, and defense. It is universally acknowledged that all of these aspects are vital to an individual player’s game, but when voting is done by the fans, it’s usually the hitting prowess that makes up most of the player’s evaluation among fans and writers (see MVP voting in the last two years). FUBAR is here to reward those players that have earned high marks in the other three areas of the game.

Methodology

Without going too much into the tedious details, the following stats were used to evaluate players’ overall worth:

  • wOBA–Weighted On-Base Average, a stat used to determine hitting prowess in FUBAR. Please check out our more detailed explanation of this stat.
  • BsR–Metric used to measure base running, from a player’s ability to steal bases to taking the extra base. Here’s our more detailed look at base running.
  • BB:K–Walks per Strikeouts is the stat that is used in FUBAR to determine a player’s plate discipline.
  • Defensive metrics like UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) and DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) were averaged to determined a player’s overall worth on defense.
  • The top 10 players at each position (except catcher where only the top five were rewarded points) in each category were awarded points: 230 points for leading the league in a category; five points for finishing in 10th.
  • All stats are good through June 21, 2014.

We’ll first take a look at the American League roster.

Catchers

The Fans Vote

  1. Matt Wieters
  2. Derek Norris

FUBAR Says

  1. Kurt Suzuki
  2. Salvador Perez

Wieters being the top vote-getter at the position is no surprise as fans have a history of stuffing the ballots for injured players. Nevertheless, it is very surprising to see Norris supplant the more popular Brian McCann for the second spot. However, Norris did not appear in enough games and plate appearances to be considered a qualifying hitter. Norris is no doubt getting votes because the Oakland Athletics are considered the best team in baseball and fans are rewarding the A’s players for their success. In this instance, this is a baseball miracle of sorts as earlier in the year, it was concluded that the A’s have a very tiny fraction of the marketshare in Northern California.

Meanwhile, Suzuki is second among all qualifying catchers in wOBA and has the best plate discipline at the position. Perez is the best base running catcher and has displayed solid defense for the surprising Kansas City Royals.

First Base

The Fans Vote

  1. Miguel Cabrera
  2. Jose Abreu

FUBAR Says

  1. Edwin Encarnacion
  2. Miguel Cabrera

Abreu has become a great story in Chicago in only his rookie season, but Abreu is ranked 11th overall among all first basemen. Having Cabrera as the top vote-getter at the position is a product of having back-to-back MVP seasons. But it is Encarnacion that truly deserves to be starting in this All-Star Game. Playing for the surprising Toronto Blue Jays, Encarnacion edges Cabrera in our rankings based on having a better wOBA, plate discipline, and being a much better base runner.

Second Base

The Fans Vote

  1. Robinson Cano
  2. Ian Kinsler

FUBAR Says

  1. Jose Altuve
  2. Robinson Cano

The fans went with two household names at the top spot at second. Cano will probably get the nod based solely on his success with the New York Yankees while Kinsler has been a mainstay at the position for years. However, by far, the best second basemen in baseball is Altuve. He’s clearly a better base runner and has shown better discipline at the plate over Cano, but he’s also matched Cano in wOBA. That is no small feat and the baseball world should be celebrating this fact. Instead, Altuve will have to hope that the managers realize just how good he’s been this season to earn a roster spot.

Shortstop

The Fans Vote

  1. Derek Jeter
  2. Alexei Ramirez

FUBAR Says

  1. Elvis Andrus
  2. Jose Reyes

Players that hit .267, with one home run and 16 RBI usually do not get considered for All-Star considerations. We’re not talking about Michael Bourn or Adam Eaton. We’re talking about Derek Jeter who should not be a part of this All-Star Game, much less be in the starting lineup. Make him an honorary captain or head cheerleader, but do not have him take up a valuable roster spot from a more deserving player. Unfortunately, this is part of the novelty of the All-Star; a game that decides home-field advantage in the World Series having to take in a washed-up player just so people can get one more chance to see Derek Jeter play on national television–because appearing regularly in the MLB playoffs just isn’t enough camera time for the legions of Jeter worshipers.

Ramirez got off to a sizzling start, but has cooled off lately. He is 20th in the shortstop rankings. Meanwhile, Andrus and Reyes provide lots of speed while Reyes has impressed with his plate discipline.

Third Base

The Fans Vote

  1. Josh Donaldson
  2. Adrian Beltre

FUBAR Says

  1. Josh Donaldson
  2. Yangervis Solarte

Third base is one instance where the fans and FUBAR agree on something. Donaldson is the best third basemen in the AL and should definitely be rewarded for it. We’ve mentioned before that Solarte has been the Yankees’ best hitter this season. Evidently, Yankee fans are too busy mindlessly voting for Jeter to notice Solarte’s performance this season. But FUBAR picks Solarte over Beltre by the narrowest of margins so both players are virtually interchangeable at this point.

Left Field

The Fans Vote

  1. Melky Cabrera
  2. Yoenis Cespedes

FUBAR Says

  1. Alex Gordon
  2. Michael Brantley

Funny how it only seemed like yesterday that baseball fans felt betrayed by Cabrera being found guilty of PED use after “earning” a spot for the All-Star game in 2012 and winning the game’s MVP. Looks like baseball fans have forgotten all about that and just like a desperate man trying to win back an old love interest, baseball fans want to see more of Cabrera. Of course, Cespedes is at the top of the voting list because he’s constantly making the late-night highlights.

Gordon and Brantley have been the models of consistency in 2014. Brantley has gone above and beyond in all of the offensive aspects of the game, while Gordon has turned into the best defensive left fielder in baseball and his bat is finally living up to his seemingly, unlimited potential as a top prospect. Both players deserve a lot more pub than what they are currently getting.

Center Field

The Fans Vote

  1. Mike Trout
  2. Adam Jones

FUBAR Says

  1. Mike Trout
  2. Coco Crisp

This is an easy one for the fans. One would have to be completely oblivious to the current events and trends of baseball to not vote for Trout. Jones is ranked 16th in the center field rankings. Crisp, on the other hand, has a better wOBA and absolutely schools Jones in the plate discipline category.

Right Field

The Fans Vote

  1. Jose Bautista
  2. Nick Markakis

FUBAR Says

  1. Jose Bautista
  2. Norichika Aoki

Another no-brainer for the fans as Bautista has been crushing the ball this year and once again is displaying superb plate discipline. Markakis gets the nod as the backup by the fans, but Aoki edges him out because Aoki is the better defender and base runner. But the rankings are so close between the two, Markakis would be equally deserving to make this squad.

FUBAR has shown what a real All-Star Game roster would look like if logical and educational means were used to vote for the more deserving players. Based on the difference between the fans and FUBAR, clearly the fans are voting based on ludicrous sentimentalism and mindless hype campaigns. But in the end, the All-Star Game is the fans’ game. It’s just surprising that the fans would go out of their way to soil their very own game.

All Stats courtesy of fangraphs.com.

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