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Picking an NL All-Star Team Based On Merit

Aaron Hill's impression of a seal made him the life of any party.
Aaron Hill's impression of a seal made him the life of any party.

The All-Star rosters get announced tomorrow at 11am Arizona time, and there will be the usual mix of sensible selections and derisory picks, apparently made by throwing darts at a ballot. The fan vote, where people seem to vote based on almost any criteria except performance, is the obvious, frequent target of derision, but the players' vote and managerial selections have had their fare share of headscratchers over the years. It got me thinking: what would the National League All-Star roster look like, if it was picked based on an entirely objective set of criteria?

After the jump, you'll find out. Feel free to print it out, and play All-Star bingo as the actual selections are announced.

I've opted to use fWAR as the metric here. bWAR, as we've noted earlier, seems to have some issues at this point, over-compensating players for defense. The poster-child being the Cubs' Darwin Barney, who is according to bWAR, the most valuable player in the league at 2B, almost entirely based on defense. Sorry, but that doesn't pass the smell test. All stats are based on the numbers excluding last night's games - in which Aaron Hill solidified his lock on the second-base position, of course. Let's start off with the eight starters, the players with the current highest fWAR at each position:

That's not too bad. Seven different teams represented there, but a nice mix of obvious candidates and surprise picks. I mean, did you have Lowrie as the best short-stop in the National League this year? On seeing that chart, I had to reach out and wipe my screen, to make sure it wasn't simply a Lowrie-shaped smudge. I'd heard he was good, but still... Ruiz likely falls into that category as well: WAR currently has him as the third most-valuable player in the entire league, trailing only Votto and Wright. Next, we turn to the mound, and do the same for five starting pitchers and three relievers:

  • SP1: Zack Greinke (Brewers)
  • SP2: Stephen Strasburg (Nationals)
  • SP3: Gio Gonzalez (Nationals)
  • SP4: Matt Cain (Giants)
  • SP5: Johnny Cueto (Reds)
  • RP1: Aroldis Chapman (Reds)
  • RP2: Craig Kimbrel (Braves)
  • RP3: Matt Belisle (Rockies)

Not much to argue with on the starters: before rampaging Mets fans attack, should mention Dickey cracked the top five after last night, but we'll get to him later. The "problem" with an objective, WAR-based approach is that it doesn't give a damn about saves. And, as far as getting into the All-Star Game, saves definitely matter for relief pitchers. If you look at the bullpen guys who played for the NL at Chase last year, the majority ended up with 30 or more saves in 2011. Are they the "best" relievers? Hard to say for sure, but WAR doesn't seem to think so: if you look at the top 16 relievers by WAR - so one for each team - only five can be considered the current closers for their sides.

Now, we move on to the backups at each position

  • C. Yadier Molina (Cardinals)
  • 1B. Paul Goldschmidt (D-backs)
  • 2B. Dan Uggla (Braves)
  • SS. Ian Desmond (Nationals)
  • 3B. Chase Headley (Padres)
  • LF: Martin Prado (Braves)
  • CF: Andrew McCutchen (Pirates)
  • RF: Carlos Beltran (Cardinals)

Man, the Braves have quite a good outfield, don't they?

That leaves us with nine managerial selections and the 34th man. However, we need to have at least one player from each team: who have we missed out on so far? We need a Marlin, a Cub, and to my surprise, a Dodger - the latter were leading the NL West until earlier this week, but don't have anyone in the top two at their position, among the top five starters or top three relievers. We'll take the player or pitcher with the highest WAR for each team. For the remaining seven spots, we'll give them to the three highest ranked position players not already selected (but I'll insist they're not all outfielders), two top starters, and one more reliever.

  • Pity Dodger: Andre Ethier, RF
  • Pity Marlin: Josh Johnson, SP
  • Pity Cub: Starlin Castro, SS
  • Melky Cabrera (Giants), LF
  • Carlos Gonzalez (Rockies), LF
  • Jimmy Rollins (Philliies), SS
  • R.A. Dickey (Mets), SP
  • Wade Miley (D-backs), SP
  • Tyler Clippard (Nationals), RP

For the 'Final Man' vote, let's go with the best unselected outfielder, best infielder, best catcher (we've only got two so far, and so should give another one a shot), best starting pitcher, and best reliever. Or, at least, best reliever not named David Hernandez. He should be next in line, but I'm thinking his inclusion would probably skew the voting just slightly, this being a Diamondbacks site 'n' all. Sorry, David... And, to keep things fair, best reliever not playing on a team which has already got someone in the final five.

So, who do you think should go in? And any glaring omissions from this fWAR-based selection?