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Picking an NL West All-Star Roster

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Has Kelly Johnson been the best second-baseman in the division over the first-half of the year?
Has Kelly Johnson been the best second-baseman in the division over the first-half of the year?

Purely for a bit of fun, I thought I'd put together an All-Star roster, based purely on players in the NL West. It's partly a reaction to some of the more embarrassing selections made for the actual National League roster. This is what happens when a) you let fans vote, and b) have a manager in Charlie Manuel who is apparently sound asleep for any games played in the Mountain or Pacific time-zones.

The basic rules. 1) Players must be currently active and playing for a team in the NL West. 2)  Teams' nominees are the player who qualifies under 1) with the most starts at that position. The former rule prevents Troy Tulowitzki from being considered, and the latter means Buster Posey is not eligible for consideration as a first-baseman, or a catcher. Though I wouldn't have included him at either position, for much the same reasons I don't think Stephen Strasburg should be in the All-Star Game.

Join me after the jump for the NL West All-Stars, who I think would give the actual NL All-Stars a run for their money.

POSITION PLAYERS
Catcher
. Chris Snyder (D-backs); Russell Martin (Dodgers); Eli Whiteside (Giants); Nick Hundley (Padres); Miguel Olive (Rockies). Winner: Miguel Olivo. Olivo has always had power - he hit 23 homers for the Royals last season - but previously, it has been accompanied by a sub-.250 average and a K:BB ratio close to 7:1. This season, all that has changed: he's hitting .325 for the Rockies, and is close to achieving a career-high for walks. His offensive production has been improving steadily since 2007, but given only one season with an OPS+ better than 90, this year's figure of 136 is unexpected, especially from a player who'll be 32 next week.

First-base. Nominees: Adam LaRoche (D-backs); James Loney (Dodgers); Aubrey Huff (Giants); Adrian Gonzalez (Padres); Jason Giambi (Rockies). Winner: Adrian Gonzalez. This might have been a bit closer in some previous years, but Todd Helton is a) having a wretched season, and b) on the DL. That leaves this one of the easiest choices of all. Gonzalez is having another monstrous year. Initially expected to be dealt away, he's now driving the Padres offense - just not at Petco. On the road, his line is .350/.412/.644, an OPS more than 250 points better than in San Diego.

Second-base. Nominees: Kelly Johnson (D-backs); Blake DeWitt (Dodgers); Freddie Sanchez (Giants); David Eckstein (Padres); Clint Barmes (Rockies). Winner: Kelly Johnson. While you can understand why the Braves preferred Martin Prado, Johnson has been a great pick-up for Arizona, and is producing at the best rate of his career. Only Rickie Weeks has more home-runs in the lead-off spot than Johnson, and Kelly is also walking and stealing bases at a career-high pace. An OBP of .374 is exactly what you want from your lead-off man, though he has lately lost that spot to Chris Young

Third-base. Nominees: Mark Reynolds (D-backs); Casey Blake (Dodgers); Pablo Sandoval (Giants); Chase Headley (Padres); Ian Stewart (Rockies). Winner: Chase Headley. Offensively, very little to choose between these five, with only Sandoval (down at 85) having an OPS+ number outside the 95-109 range. Headley has the best Fielding % of the four offensive candidates and easily the highest UZR rating. The margin there is just so large that his Headley's defensive prowess would seem to more than counterbalance the OPS points by which he trails Blake and Reynolds.

Short-stop. Nominees: Stephen Drew (D-backs); Rafael Furcal (Dodgers); Juan Uribe (Giants); Jerry Hairston (Padres); Clint Barmes (Rockies). Winner: Rafael Furcal. Do you know how hard it is to have a .900 OPS, while hitting a dozen or less homers? In the past forty years, only four NL players have managed it, but Furcal is almost on pace to become the fifth, with an .898 OPS. His OPS+ is fifteen points better than the next-highest short-stop in the majors (Hanley Ramirez), and he is continuing to play Gold Glove quality defense. Worth 3.3 Wins Above Replacement already, so is already worth more than his $8.5 million salary.

Left-field. Nominees: Gerardo Parra (D-backs); Garret Anderson (Dodgers); Pat Burrell (Giants); Scott Hairston (Padres);  Seth Smith (Rockies). Winner: Seth Smith. A trio of credible contenders didn't qualify: Mandy is on the DL, Conor Jackson is with the A's, and Andres Torres, who has been playing very well for the Giants, has most outfield starts for them, but didn't have most at any of the three positions. Ok. I was lying about Jackson. However, Seth Smith has been solid for Colorado, hitting .287 with a dozen home-runs. At a position that may right now be the weakest in the division, he is the best of the bunch.

Center-field. Nominees: Chris Young (D-backs); Matt Kemp (Dodgers); Aaron Rowand (Giants); Tony Gwynn (Padres); Carlos Gonzalez (Rockies). Winner: Matt Kemp. If only Carlos Gonzalez had started a couple of extra games in center, letting him overtake Fowler. Defensively, both are far better than Mr. Rihanna - the worst outfield glove in the NL, by UZR - but his 113 OPS+ is far enough ahead of Young's 90 to overcome the defensive gap. Had Rihanna been up against CarGon's 121 OPS+, it would have been a very different outcome. Gwynn is rated the best outfielder in the NL defensively, but again, an 81 OPS+ is too much of a gulf for that to overcome.

Right-field. Nominees: Justin Upton (D-backs); Andre Ethier (Dodgers); Nate Schierholtz (Giants); Will Venable (Padres); Brad Hawpe (Rockies). Winner: Andre Ethier. And the second-worst outfielder in the National League also makes the NL West All-Star squad - let's just hope there are no balls hit to the outfield. Still. Ethier's offensive output has been far and away the best of the nominees, with Venable a very, very distant second (OPS's of 152 and 106 respectively). It says a lot about his production early on, that this is still the case despite an OPS of only around .700 for Ethier, since coming back off the DL at the end of May.

Bench-players. We'll be filling out the 13-man position players roster, with one catcher, two infielders and two outfielders. To take the latter first, that allows me to select Carlos Gonzalez and Andres Torres of the Rockies and Giants, both of whom have proved the versatility by playing all over the outfield. Aubrey Huff has also been very solid for San Francisco, so we'll add him, and then Blade DeWitt as a back-up for the middle-infield. To round out the roster, we'll have Chris Snyder of our Diamondbacks: despite some issues, his OPS+ is still 107, which is thoroughly respectable for a catcher.

STARTING PITCHERS

  1. Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies
  2. Mat Latos, Padres
  3. Tim Lincecum, Giants
  4. Matt Cain, Giants
  5. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

Even if he has turned somewhat mortal in the past few starts, there's no-one in the West who can hold a candle to Jimenez: if it weren't for him, the Rockies would very likely be all but out of the NL West race - their record is only 33-37 when he doesn't start. Latos has exploded out of just about nowhere, to become the ace in the Padres rotation, and has just got better with time - his ERA over the last 12 starts is a minuscule 1.46. Perhaps scariest of all, Latos won't even turn 23 until well after the season is over.

Lincecum won't win a third consecutive Cy Young this year, unless something very odd happens, but he and Cain have still been extremely solid. Cain is the best active starting pitcher (126 ERA+) with 250 IP and a career losing record (50-59), which says a lot about a) the uselessness of W-L as measure, and b) the general wretchedness of the Giants offense, since his debut in. 2005. Kershaw, like Latos, will be aged 22 for all of this season, and look set to be the ace of the Dodgers rotation for a long while to come.

RELIEF PITCHERS

  • Brian Wilson, Giants
  • Heath Bell, Padres
  • Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers
  • Sergio Romo, Giants
  • Mike Adams, Padres
  • Matt Belisle, Rockies
  • Ryan Webb, Padres

What? No members of the Arizona Diamondbacks bullpen make the roster? I'm sure you are as shocked by this revelation as I was. But let me put that into perspective for you. Our best reliever, Aaron Heilman, has an ERA+ of 118. The Padres and Giants alone have eight relievers between them who have thrown thirty innings with a superior ERA+ to Heilman. Collectively, the Padres bullpen is the best in the National League, and the Giants are #2. Some of that may be park-affected, but the San Diego relief corps are also striking out close to ten batters per nine IP, so they're not just getting opposing hitters out, they're blowing them away.

Hence, three San Diego and two San Francisco relievers appear in the NL West All-Star bullpen. Wilson, Bell and Broxton have all been money in the bank, saving 25 in 28, 23 in 25 and 19 in 21 opportunities respectively. Pardon me if I pause to dream of a solid bullpen... There. Where were we? Adams has been as impeccable an eighth-inning man as you can imagine for San Diego, and with Ryan Webb vacuuming up outs prior to that, it'd be why the Padres' opponents are barely hitting the Uecker line after the 7th inning. Belisle has been the Rockies best reliever, in the absence for the most part of Huston Street, and Romo has been the Golden Gate Bridge to Wilson.