MLB All-Star Selections (7/7/11)

By Paul Bessire

Thursday, July 7 at 3:24 PM ET
With Sunday's announcement of the 2011 MLB All-Star Game rosters, it seems that just about everyone has an opinion about who was snubbed. Local writers realize they can get on their fans' good side by pining for the best local team player left off the list. Statistically inclined players have beef with the process. And managers try to stick up for their guys. Aaron Gleeman does a great job of covering this topic over at HardballTalk. With extended rosters, injuries (or "injuries"), pitchers pitching on Sunday and the Fan Vote, a lot of the "snubbed" players will ultimately make the roster (and even some of them will give way to others). At the risk of adding more names to HBT's list, here is my All-Star ballot (i.e. the same one that fans can complete before the announcement at games or online)...

American League All Stars (2011 stats through 7/6):
Catcher: Jeff Mathis, Los Angeles Angles (.190 avg/.234 obp/.286 slg)
1st Base: Dan Johnson, Tampa Bay Rays/Durham Bulls (.115/.179/.167)
2nd Base: Jack Wilson, Seattle Mariners (.226/.252/.250)
Shortstop: Reid Brignac, Tampa Bay Rays (.187/.233/.217)
3rd Base: Chone Figgins, Seattle Mariners (.183/.231/.244)
Outfield: Magglio Ordonez, Detroit Tigers (.204/.277/.274)
Outfield: Milton Bradley, Seattle Mariners/FA (.218/.313/.356)
Outfield: Juan Pierre, Chicago White Sox (.204/.277/.274)
DH: Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox (.166/.302/.308)

National League All Stars:
Catcher: Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves (.314 avg/.386 obp/.516 slg)
1st Base: Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers (.302/.417/.588)
2nd Base: Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewers (.271/.341/.466)
Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies (.271/.339/.495)
3rd Base: Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals (.252/.346/.506)
Outfield: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates (.291/.389/.491)
Outfield: Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals (.320/.416/.569)
Outfield: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers (.320/.402/.559)

Seriously. Did you expect the top eligible WAR or wOBA+ players at each position from the stat guy? That's not the way to look at this endeavor.

I think/hope most could agree that having the All-Star Game mean anything at all beyond the day itself, let alone allowing it to impact the World Series, is absurd. Given that, the fact fans are in charge of setting starting lineups is also absurd, especially because the ballots are set at the beginning of the season, it's just position players and there really is no hard cap to the amount that fans vote (other than the number of votes that can be cast between the publishing of the online ballots and the closing - including time to make up new email addresses for every 25 votes cast). But what that does mean is that fans can directly impact which team gets homefield advantage in the World Series. And it means that fans can have an impact on their team's payroll and injury likelihood as well.

Why fans continue to vote for (mostly) good players in both leagues, including the players on their own team is baffling to me. For the purposes of the example above, I took the stance of a Cincinnati Reds' fan (since I live in the area and enjoy when the city abuzz with baseball talk; plus, it would make it much easier for me to attend the four World Series games if the team makes it that far and "earns" homefield advantage - my true "fandom" varies daily with whichever teams the Predictalator is picking). As a fan of a team with a chance to make the playoffs and, thus, a chance to make it to the World Series, I can do my part (25 times per day per email address I can create, plus once for every ballot I can pick up off the ground or take off the hands of the ushers passing them out at games), to give "my" team the best chance to gain homefield advantage if it gets to that point (and if not my team, "my" league).

This is why I have voted for the worst eligible players at each position on the AL ballot. The worse the AL players, the better the chances of the NL winning. Now, I have no ability to influence any pitchers or backups (adding to the absurdity of allowing fans to vote at all), but if Milton Bradley is voted in as a starting outfielder for the American League, I would assume the league would have to let him play (because we all know that Bradley wouldn't back down from a chance to play in/make a mockery of that game). The same goes for Dan Johnson, who was demoted and started his AAA season 0-for-16, or any of the other players from my AL team. If they are voted in, they should play.

For the National League, I simply chose the best players right now at each position - but with no consideration given to any Reds. (Personally, I am of the opinion that, if bonuses and honor are to be attached to these teams and they mean anything at all, roster spots should go to the most deserving from this season - or at least from the time since the last All-Star break. But we have already thrown that out by giving fans the right to pick the lineup, so I'm going for the guys who construct the most likely team to be able to defeat the AL squad I assembled.) Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce would have been in the conversation at each position, yet, by rule, I ignored all Reds. By not voting for anyone on "my" team, I reduce the likelihood that these players will be named to the All-Star team, which typically triggers incentives (often even greater incentives when voted as a starter than selected as a backup) that cost teams money (which "my" team doesn't have a lot of relative to others) and ushers in the opportunity for players to be injured while playing a game that should legitimately be an exhibition.

Would it work? It should. Honestly, I don't know why anyone to whom the winner of this game matters would not vote this way. It's pretty obvious to figure out the worst players on the ballot for the "other" league and fairly straight-forward to determine the best players from "my" league not on "my" team. Assuming equal fan participation for each team (a silly assumption), the final starting lineups would look similar to above (because, for some reason we all just accept, there are two more teams in the NL as opposed the AL). Presumably, Red Sox and Yankees (and, to a lesser extent, Cardinals and Brewers) fans would essentially cannibalize the players from their teams by not voting for them and we would be left with terrible starting lineups for both leagues (which, hopefully, would result in a change for the system). Since no team or league fan base has successfully executed (or even attempted to my knowledge), this strategy, the first to do so, would likely get its way (meaning this article is probably two months late - or ten months early).

Fans are always looking for ways to help the team and/or force change. This is one of the few ways, if not only way, in which fans can directly impact team and league events. They/we should leverage that power...

Of course, there may be some people who enjoy watching a game where all the league's highest paid and "most popular" players all stand around and awkwardly kid with each other, trying not to try too hard to win, but also trying not to lose. Me? I get three days off a year and this is one of them. I'm not watching the game. I'll be deep in the mountains and coming back just in time for the real games to start.

Moral of the story, please don't bet on the All-Star Game.

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July MLB Performance:
We're essentially a week into July and have seen similar performance to what we highlighted in June. All playable picks are hovering around break-even (slightly profitable on the RL, essentially even on the ML and down a little on O/U) for the first six days, with our top picks doing well. Normal+ picks thus far are 6-2, including a 3-0 sweep yesterday with just our second ever "Upset Watch" pick that was also a normal+ pick. (Quick note: "Upset Watch" picks tend to win just slightly more than 50% of the time and are at very close to break-even odds. In yesterday's case, +110 was pretty good odds and we had the Tigers winning significantly more often than not - 53%. Instead of a 50.1% winner with +105 odds, 53% at +110 was strong enough to justify a "normal" play.) We have now hit our last ten normal+ ML picks, last losing such a pick on May 29. Building on a similarly strong June, "Upset Watch" picks, where we like a +100 or worse underdog to win outright more often than not, are 4-2 so far this month.

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