When the starters take the field for baseball’s 2018 All-Star Game on Tuesday night at Nationals Park, it will be difficult to argue with the fans’ selections. Sure, there were some players with all-star credentials who will be absent, but the voting bloc left little to quibble with.
Among American League players, seven starters voted in by fans rank in the top 10 for FanGraphs’ wins above replacement. All-in-one metrics like that won’t encapsulate everything a player does, but WAR is a good barometer of talent. One of the outliers, Rays catcher Wilson Ramos, ranked first at his position for fWAR, and the other, White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, ranked seventh among first basemen and 75th overall. Still, not a bad turnout when looked at through the lens of an advanced metric. The National League selections don’t have as strong of a correlation — only three of the top 10 players in fWAR were voted in — but that doesn’t mean the public was out of touch with what the advanced metrics suggest.
For example, Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford was voted in despite having the third-highest fWAR at the position. But the difference between his fWAR and that of the Rockies’ Trevor Story at No. 1 or the Nationals’ Trea Turner at No. 2 is negligible. In addition, after adjusting for league and park effects, Crawford creates runs at a rate that is 21 percent higher than average, giving him the second-highest wRC+ (121) among NL shortstops.
The reserves are mostly on the mark, too. All of the NL reserve hitters rank in the top 25 in fWAR, while all but the Indians’ Michael Brantley and the Royals’ Salvador Perez rank in the top 35 in the AL — a decent rate considering each roster has 34 players.
The pitchers selected by the players — five starters and three relievers for each team — were also on the mark. Of the 28 pitchers nominated, including injury replacements, almost two-thirds (18) rank in the top 25 for fWAR.
There was some backlash over the initial snub of Rays ace Blake Snell, who ranks second in the AL in ERA (2.09) and wins (12), but his original omission could be excused. A low BABIP (.234) no doubt contributes to the former, and a higher than average run support per 9 innings (5.4) inflates the latter, making Snell’s performance look better than it is. If he had experienced league average results on balls in play and league average timing, his ERA would be 3.36, still good but just the 11th-best FIP in the AL.
Overall, there’s little to suggest as far as fine-tuning the rosters so that they contain the most deserving players. The only starting position player I would have changed is going with Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, a reserve, over Cubs catcher Willson Contreras; I’d also replace Contreras on the roster with the Pirates’ Francisco Cervelli. Other changes I would have made include the Blue Jays’ Justin Smoak over Boston’s Mitch Moreland, Boston’s Andrew Benintendi over the Astros’ George Springer, and the Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber over the Brewers’ Christian Yelich.
|National League catchers||Team||PA||AVG||OPS||wRC+|
And thanks to Ramone Russell, community manager and game designer for PlayStation’s MLB The Show 18, we got to see how much better or worse my roster changes made the all-star teams.
Russell used the video game to simulate the 2018 all-star rosters as selected by the fans, managers and players — starting pitchers threw two innings, and starting position players played five before substitutions were made — and the results weren’t close: The AL won, 10-3, with a five-run fourth inning. Then he swapped in my all-star selections, and the AL won, 14-2, this time with the AL breaking it open with five runs in the second and four more in the sixth.
As for how the results looked with Tuesday’s rosters, here’s a glimpse at how “The Show” thinks the All-Star Game could go. (The folks at Sony had to use Washington and Baltimore to represent the All-Star rosters, with Washington representing the AL and Baltimore the NL.)
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