The month of June brings an increased amount of attention to MLB All-Star Game voting. In case you are unfamiliar with the system, the MLB All-Star Game allows for fans to vote for the starting lineups. Both an American League and National League ballot is completed when voting. One player is selected for each infield position, and three outfielders are selected, regardless of outfield position. Pitchers are selected by the coaching staff come time for the game.
Whether the All-Star Game is a popularity contest or not, many fans try to the best of their ability to select who deserves to be there. With new-age statistics becoming a larger part of the game, it is time they translate to All-Star Game voting as well. Below, I try my best to create the perfect ballot. I probably failed at that, and plenty will disagree. Nonetheless, my ballots and explanations for my choices are below.
C: Gary Sanchez (New York Yankees)
1B: Jose Abreu (Chicago White Sox)
2B: Jose Altuve (Houston Astros)
3B: Jose Ramirez (Cleveland Indians)
SS: Francisco Lindor (Cleveland Indians)
DH: J.D. Martinez (Boston Red Sox)
1-OF: Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim)
2-OF: Mookie Betts (Boston Red Sox)
3-OF: Aaron Judge (New York Yankees)
C: Wilson Contreras (Chicago Cubs)
1B: Freddie Freeman (Atlanta Braves)
2B: Scooter Gennett (Cincinnati Reds)
3B: Nolan Arenado (Colorado Rockies)
SS: Trea Turner (Washington Nationals)
1-OF: Lorenzo Cain (Milwaukee Brewers)
2-OF: Nick Markakis (Atlanta Braves)
3-OF: Brandon Nimmo (New York Mets)
Explaining the difficult choices
Gary Sanchez vs. Wilson Ramos
fWAR puts Sanchez and Ramos fairly close at 1.3 and 1.0, respectively. When making these decisions, Wins Above Replacement is the first statistic I look at. Of course, as with any statistic, it is not the end all—be all. If the separation between players’ WARs are significant, that makes the decision easier. With WARs that are closer, it requires a more in-depth look. Wilson Ramos is batting over .100 points higher than Sanchez on the season. However, Sanchez’s high walk rate and wOBA have led to a good batting profile despite his average. The decision came down to the fielding. Catcher is where fielding tends to matter the most; thus, fielding carried more weight with these two than other position battles. Of qualified American League catchers, Ramos is last in defensive rating.
Wilson Contreras vs. Yasmani Grandal
Again, we have two catchers that are fairly close in WAR. Contreras comes in at 1.5, and Grandal at 1.3. With wRC+ and slash lines so similar, it again came down to fielding at the catcher position. Like Ramos, Grandal is last in the NL in defensive rating among qualified catchers.
Scooter Gennett vs. Ozzie Albies
There is not a debate that Ozzie Albies is the better fielding second baseman of these two. However, Gennett’s hitting has been so superb this year that it is hard to pass him up. Albies does have a 0.2 higher WAR than Gennett. Still, Gennett leads NL second basemen in batting average, wOBA, wRC+ and offensive rating. He is second in OBP and slugging percentage.
Nolan Arenado vs. Kris Bryant
Third base for the National League was probably the most difficult decision to make. Both Arenado and Bryant are elite players at their positions. Arenado and Bryant are tied at 2.3 WAR and are only three points off in wRC+. What pushes Arenado over the edge is his slightly higher walk percentage (14.5%) and on-base percentage (.416).
Matt Kemp is a trendy pick
Kemp leads National League outfielders in wRC+, batting average and slugging percentage. However, Kemp is 11th in WAR and has a dangerously low walk percentage at 5.0%. With a walk percentage that low, having a >20% strikeout rate is worrisome. His BABIP (batting average on balls in play) also looks to be inflated at unrepresentative at .405.
No Bryce Harper?
Through May, Harper stands at sixth among NL outfielders in WAR and third in wRC+. A 19.6% walk rate is impressive, but Markakis, Cain and Nimmo are all close. Those three are also all higher than Harper in WAR and most offensive statistics.