June 26, 2007

All-Star Voting: American League

Just three days left until the All-Star voting closes...you can still vote on MLB.com. But don't do that just yet - take a minute to read through the following analysis of who you should vote for...(just the AL in this post)

Catcher: One of the easiest choices on the ballot...you pretty much have to go with Jorge Posada. He's second in OBP, to Joe Mauer, but he's first in BA, SLG, and OPS. And Mauer was hurt for pretty much the whole month of May. Victor Martinez does have a huge edge in homers and RBI, but Posada's still slugging better and RBI is a pretty meaningless statistic. Plus, Martinez is a terrible defensive catcher, and Posada is probably about average. Here's something kind of interesting - KC catcher John Buck has 13 homers, but only 26 RBI - obviously a function of the KC lineup. (He's actually second among catchers in HR despite having almost 100 less at-bats than V-Mart and the other top candidates.) Posada has won in the past just because he's a Yankee (like last year, when he somehow beat out the infinitely more deserving Joe Mauer), but this year he actually does deserve it.

How the voters are doing: For once, they actually haven't elected the Yankee...and they've gotten it wrong in doing so. Pudge Rodriguez holds more than a 200,000 vote edge on Posada, with both Varitek and Mauer close behind Jorge. Pudge isn't having a terrible year, but there isn't a single meaningful or even semi-meaningful category in which he leads Posada. Martinez is fifth, way behind the top four.

Who I'm voting for: Jorge Posada.

Acceptable to vote for: Victor Martinez, I guess - his offensive numbers are just about as good as Posada's. I can't really see voting for anybody else, given that Mauer got injured.

First Base: This one gets sort of tricky, because the game's in an NL park, so DHs like David Ortiz and Travis Hafner are on the ballot as first basemen. Carlos Pena's 1.026 OPS is very enticing, but he hasn't had as many plate appearances as some of the other guys, and besides, do you really want Carlos Pena starting in the All-Star game? Casey Kotchman's quietly putting up a great year, as he's third in OPS among true first baseman. Mark Teixeira was doing well, but he's hurt now. For a while, it looked like Kevin Youkilis was the right choice, but he's fallen off over the past couple weeks, and now has "only" a .920 OPS. That's good, because he's just a write-in candidate now that Ortiz is on the ballot, so it's not like there was any chance of him starting anyways. I'm not really sure I see any standouts here...Justin Morneau was having a pretty good year; he got hurt last Friday in a collision at home plate but it looks like he'll be back pretty soon. David Ortiz probably has the best numbers, including a 1.016 OPS, but you could really go with a lot of people here. Travis Hafner is having a surprisingly average year, OPSing just .838.

How the voters are doing: Pretty good. Ortiz leads, by a pretty large margin. Morneau is second, and he's done pretty well also. The Tigers must be pushing their guys pretty hard, because there's no way in hell Sean Casey belongs anywhere near the #3 spot - he's hitting just .289 with one homer, and his .730 OPS is 12th among starting first basemen. Typical Yankee bias shows up with Giambi in the top four despite not really doing all that well.

Who I'm voting for: David Ortiz. Plus, you get the comedy of him trying to play first base for the first three innings.

Acceptable to vote for: A long list here...Youkilis, Pena, Teixeira, Morneau, and Kotchman are all solid choices.

Second Base: This one's tough. There's nobody on this list I really want starting for me if I'm Jim Leyland. B.J. Upton has a huge lead in OPS, with an 80 point edge over anybody else at the position, but he's missed most of June with an injury. Plus, he's been pretty lucky to get the stats he has; he has struck out a ton, and he doesn't have enough power and doesn't walk enough to balance that out. He'll probably start a couple all-star games in the future if he stays at second base, as this is his first full season in the big leagues, but I have a hard time voting for him this year. The problem is that there isn't really another deserving candidate. Nobody at the position has good counting stats - Ian Kinsler leads the group with 14 homers, and he's the only one in double digits. Brian Roberts is second in OPS, and he's swiped 24 bases, which is an overrated statistic but it's still kind of notable. Dustin Pedroia's having a good year (3rd in OPS).

How the voters are doing: It's hard to do really poorly at this positino, because you can make a case for just about everybody. Placido Polanco leads by a fairly comfortable margin, which is a combination of the pro-Tigers and pro-batting average biases that appear in the voting. Polanco leads all 2Bs in batting average (.329), but that's pretty much his only skill. Robbie Cano is second (of course) despite having a pretty poor year. Pedroia's third and Upton is fifth, sandwiching the random Luis Castillo (.336 SLG, 12 RBI).

Who I'm voting for: I'm leaning towards Brian Roberts...he's probably got the best overall numbers.

Acceptable to vote for: Pretty much anybody, frankly. Except Luis Castillo. Upton, Pedroia, Kinsler, Polanco, and Aaron Hill are all reasonable candidates.

Third Base: The easiest vote on the ballot...it's gotta be Nick Punto, of course. Seriously, if you don't vote for A-Rod and his league-leading 1.140 OPS, you're crazy. Troy Glaus and Mike Lowell have been pretty good, also, but there's no rationale for not voting A-Rod.

How the voters are doing: A-Rod leads all AL vote-getters with over 2.5 million votes, and deservingly so. Lowell is second, Tigers 3B Brandon Inge is third.

Who I'm voting for: A-Rod. He's slugging .707!

Acceptable to vote for: Sorry, A-Rod is the only answer. Well, maybe Nick Punto.

Shortstop: With apologies to Jhonny Peralta and Brendan Harris, this is a two-man race. Carlos Guillen and Derek Jeter each are having good years, with OPSes over .900. Jeter has a slight edge in batting average, but Guillen has almost a 100 point edge in slugging percentage. AL shortstop used to be a loaded position, but A-Rod's move to third combined with Tejada's relatively poor year mean that there isn't a whole lot left.

How the voters are doing: Jeter #1, Guillen #2, Jeter has a big edge. But I absolutely love the fact that Julio Lugo is fifth. Over 500,000 people voted for a guy whose batting average is .191! His OPS is .541 (third-worst of any AL regular)! You don't think there's anything wrong with the voting?

Who I'm voting for: I'm going with Guillen. He's a better defender, too.

Acceptable to vote for: Jeter. And absolutely not Julio Lugo.

Outfield: Let's see...Magglio Ordonez has to be on anyone's ballot. His 1.096 OPS is a hundred points better than any other outfielder's, and is second in the league to A-Rod. He leads all OFs in all the rate stats (BA, OBP, SLG) and is second in RBI. Vladimir Guerrero is second in OPS (.989), with a pretty significant edge over anybody else. Vlad is also third in HRs and leds all OFs in RBI. Torii Hunter is quietly having a monster year - .306/.353/.557, with 15 HRs and 11 steals - in the last year of his contract; someone (probably Texas) is going to give him a lot of money this winter. Manny started off slowly, but he's gotten back to his usual self of late. Ichiro's still doing what he does best, and Alex Rios has 17 homers, most among OFS. Gary Sheffield is listed as an OF, although he's been primarily DHing this year; his .922 OPS deserves consideration. Curtis Granderson is slugging really well (also .557), although that 24:71 K/BB percentage is awfully ugly. Here's something interesting, though: Granderson has 14 triples so far this year. That puts him on pace for about 30 for the season, if he were to keep it up. Well, 30 triples would place him fourth on the all-time single-season list (the record is 36). And almost everybody on the list playhed in the dead-ball era or shortly thereafter, when triples were much more common. The leader post-WWII is Dale Mitchell (who?), with 23 triples in 1949. Lance Johnson's 21 in '96 are the most in the past 50 years.

How the voters are doing: Vlad #1, Magglio #2, Ichiro #3, with Manny just a handful of votes behind Ichiro and Hunter also in the running. Gary Sheffield (of course, another Tiger) is sixth.

Who I'm voting for: Magglio, Vlad, and Hunter. I dock Sheffield a few points for not really playing outfield.

Acceptable to vote for: Ichiro, Sheffield, Granderson, Manny, Rios, and Grady Sizemore are all reasonable selections. Lots of good outfielders in the AL.

That's all for the AL...I'll be back with the NL pretty soon.

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