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June 21, 2019 / Nat Anacostia

Rendon, Scherzer, and Doolittle deserve to be on the 2019 NL All-Star team

It’s time to release my 2019 National League All-Star team.

My goal is to figure out which Nationals players deserve to make the All-Star team. But answering that question requires me to actually construct a team—I can’t say which Nats should be on the team unless they’re compared against all of the other candidate players in the league, which in essence means naming an entire team. I don’t want my selections to be biased, so I’ve made my selections following a numerical method based on measures of wins above replacement, or WAR. My method is essentially unchanged from year to year so that I can’t be guilty of tweaking the formula to get the result I want. I’ll show the point totals used for ranking each player (indicating which races were close) and at the end of the article will give my formula for calculating these points.

A few other comments on my method:

  • While my method gives quite a bit of weight to 2019 performance, it also considers 2018 performance and, to a lesser extent, career performance. While I think it’s important to recognize players who’ve had truly break-out seasons in 2019, some of the silliest All-Star selections have been of mediocre players who happen to have had a hot month or two early in the season.
  • Unlike the official selection process, I treat the DH as a position on the NL team when I make my selections, and fill it with the best available hitter in each round (evaluated just on the offense part of WAR) who hasn’t already been picked based on his positional WAR. After all, the game is played with a DH, so I figure it makes sense to approach it the same way any NL skipper would in interleague play and fill the slot with the best available hitter who isn’t already on the starting roster.
  • For the outfield, I make sure there’s a true center fielder as a starter and a reserve but treat the remaining outfield positions as interchangeable to be filled by the best available outfielder.
  • Otherwise, selections are based on the player’s primary position played during 2019 (measured by defensive innings played), which in some cases is different from the position for which they’re listed on the official ballot.
  • Like the official method, each team has to be represented by at least one player. I made this assessment after selecting the starters and substitutes at each position for position players (including DH), five starting pitchers, and three relief pitchers. At that point, three teams still lacked representation (the Giants, Marlins, and Reds), so I picked the best available player/pitcher from each team, then filled the last three slots with the best available players/pitchers who hadn’t yet been picked.

Here’s my 2019 NL All-Star team (with point totals in parentheses):

Starters

C – Yasmani Grandal – Brewers (26.5)

1B – Freddie Freeman – Braves (27.8)

2B – Mike Moustakas – Brewers (19.0)

3B – Nolan Arenado – Rockies (29.9)

SS – Trevor Story – Rockies (25.1)

LF – Christian Yelich – Brewers (38.7)

CF – Ketel Marte – Diamondbacks (22.6)

RF – Cody Bellinger – Dodgers (35.4)

DH – Anthony Rendon – Nationals (29.8). Arenado’s defensive skills enabled him to edge out Rendon for the starting third base selection by the narrowest of margins. I don’t think Rendon’s talents as a pure hitter are as widely recognized as they should be. According to my calculations, he ranks fourth among all NL players in hitting, behind only Yelich, Bellinger, and Freeman.

SP – Max Scherzer – Nationals (38.7). Scherzer ties with Yelich for the most overall points in my system. Looking at the three components to his point total, he ranks second in 2019 WAR (behind Ryu), second in 2018 WAR (behind DeGrom), and fourth in career WAR (behind Kershaw, Greinke, and Hamels), but easily ranks first in the point total that aggregates these components.

Reserves 

C – J.T. Realmuto – Phillies (23.8)

1B – Max Muncy – Dodgers (24.7)

2B – Ozzie Albies – Braves (16.3). In filling this year’s team, second base is clearly the weakest position (and third base is the strongest).

3B – Manny Machado – Padres (24.9)

3B – Brian Anderson – Marlins (12.9)*

SS – Javier Baez – Cubs (24.5). Third base and shortstop were the two positions with the closest contests for the starting selection.

SS – Paul DeJong – Cardinals (22.5)

OF – Ronald Acuna Jr. – Braves (21.1)

OF – Lorenzo Cain – Brewers (19.5)

OF – Bryce Harper – Phillies (19.1)

DH – Josh Bell – Pirates (16.3). Again, my DH selections are based just on the offensive portion of WAR; several other players had higher total points.

SP – Jacob DeGrom – Mets (33.5)

SP – Hyun-Jin Ryu – Dodgers (28.4)

SP – Zack Greinke – Diamondbacks (26.7)

SP – Clayton Kershaw – Dodgers (24.0)

SP – Cole Hamels – Cubs (23.8)

SP – Luis Castillo – Reds (18.6)*

RP – Josh Hader – Brewers (14.7)

RP – Kirby Yates – Padres (14.1)

RP – Edwin Diaz – Mets (11.1)

RP – Sean Doolittle – Nationals (11.0)

RP – Will Smith – Giants (10.1)*

*The selection of Brian Anderson (12.9) to represent the Marlins took the place of Kris Bryant (21.9), who otherwise would have been selected. The selection of Luis Castillo (18.6) to represent the Reds displaced Patrick Corbin (21.5). And the selection of Will Smith (10.1) to represent the Giants displaced Felipe Vazquez (10.6).

My method for calculating the points used in ranking the players:

My method is simple but manages to combine the elements I’d like to see reflected in my All-Star selections. The points are calculated as the sum of three components:

  1. I multiply the player’s WAR for the 2019 season times 4. I use the Fangraphs version of WAR and the data represent games played through June 19.
  2. I multiply the player’s WAR for the 2018 season times 2. If the player’s 2019 WAR is higher than his 2018 WAR, I substitute 2 times the 2019 WAR. (This substitution helps the system recognize outstanding rookies and players like Bellinger and Marte who’ve had breakout seasons in 2019, while still giving credit for consistent performance to players who had All-Star worthy performances in 2018.)
  3. I take the square root of the player’s career WAR (using zero in the rare cases where the career WAR is negative).

That’s it. Written as an equation, it’s just:

Points = 4 * 2019_WAR + 2 * MAX(2018_WAR, 2019_WAR) + Squareroot(Career_WAR)

For pitchers, my measure of WAR is the average of two versions of WAR calculated on the Fangraphs site. The site’s regular WAR is based on fielding-independent pitching (that is, just strikeouts, walks, and home runs allowed), while their “RA9WAR” is based on runs allowed (and is similar to the version of pitchers’ WAR used on the Baseball-Reference site). Because both measures have merit, I use their average as my measure of WAR in the calculations. However, I do not include the batting WAR of pitchers because pitchers don’t bat in the All-Star game.

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