Projecting the All-Stars
Do the following scenarios look somewhat familiar?
• An undeserving player receives enough votes to earn a starting spot in the All-Star Game.
• A deserving player finishes about 10th in the balloting and practically needs a lobbying firm to help him gain All-Star admittance.
• An All-Star manager picks his own player over a more logical choice from another team.
At least one of these scenarios plays out every year around All-Star time. And talk shows and blogs heat up with discussion over the most controversial snubs and slights, exploiting the obvious weaknesses in the All-Star selection process.
So we'd like to help. One unique function of the ESPN Player Ratings is that it can be used to pinpoint which players should comprise each of the 34-man rosters in this year's All-Star Game. Click here for our current American League and National League All-Star rosters based on Wins Above Replacement.
Looking back at the past few All-Star Games, we decided that the 34-man All-Star rosters would consist of the following: eight starting position players; 12 reserve position players; and 12 pitchers (eight starters and four relief pitchers).
Then, using the Player Ratings, we constructed the rosters in the following order:
1. Filled out the starting nine players for each team.
We took the top-ranked players at catcher, first base, second base, shortstop and third base, plus the top three outfielders. The outfielders are any combination of left, center and right fielders. In addition, we've added a DH for each team. The designated hitter in each league is the highest-ranking position player who is not among the starters.
2. Added the top-ranked player on each team.
Because each team must be represented in the All-Star Game, it was important for us to satisfy this requirement immediately.
3. Filled out the remaining spots on the pitching staff.
Again, we ended up with 13 pitchers, eight starters and five relievers. We then designated the top-ranked starting pitcher as the team's starting pitcher for the game.
4. Filled in the 12 position-player reserve spots
We started with the No. 2-ranked players at C, 1B, 2B, SS and 3B, and the next three highest-ranked outfielders.
That leaves five open reserve spots, and we filled those with the next four highest-ranked position players, under the following conditions:
• No more than one should be either a catcher, second baseman, shortstop, third baseman or outfielder.
• Only DHs or a first basemen can fill as many as two of the five remaining spots, but not both at the same time. Why? DHs and first basemen account for some of the most productive offensive players, perfectly suited for at least a pinch-hitting role at some point in the game.
We don't pretend to think our method of selecting the All-Star rosters will immediately correct the selection process. Each year's All-Star Game will still include poor choices, while a few snubbed All-Stars are subjected to three days of rest and relaxation with family and friends. If anything, we hope to fuel the All-Star debate, and to perhaps better educate the fans filling out the ballots.