Which All-Stars Should You Vote for in the American League?
You're a fan of an American League team, and want home field advantage in the World Series. Unfortunately, you don't know who to vote for - you're not sure which players would give your team the best chance to obtain the advantage. Don't worry, we can help you fill out the optimal ballot, giving you the ability to cast votes for the players who actually should be representing your league in Minnesota this summer.
How can we do this? Well, by using our nifty stat, nERD, of course. In short, nERD is a metric that tells us how many runs above or below average a batter contributes per game. This assumes that the same batter hits for the entire game, so it essentially tells us how many runs above or below average a team of only Miguel Cabreras would be expected to produce per contest.
Without further ado, here's the ideal 2014 AL All-Stars
Catcher: Salvador Perez
Biggest Competition: Yan Gomes
The team begins with the worst position, where only six players qualified. Salvador Perez is the best of those six, although his 0.50 nERD is nothing spectacular. Nevertheless, his .270/.322/.422 slash line and .327 wOBA help him edge Indians backstop Yan Gomes for the starting spot.
First Base: Edwin Encarnacion
Biggest Competition: Miguel Cabrera
After making the entire country of Canada worry about his performance in April, Edwin Encarnacion proved in May that he's among the elite sluggers in the game. His slash line of .265/.355/.592 is solid, but his 20 home runs carry most of the load in propelling him to the top spot.
Second Base: Brian Dozier
Biggest Competition: Jose Altuve
Your 2014 AL starting second baseman is…a guy from the Twins hitting a robust .245. No, the state of the position in the AL isn't that bad, rather Brian Dozier is just that good.
His 14 home runs, .458 slugging percentage, .213 isolated power, .359 wOBA, and 129 wRC+ all lead qualified second basemen, while his 14 steals rank second to Altuve. Project those power and speed numbers over a full season and Dozier will be an easy 30-30 guy. Not too shabby for a second baseman from Minnesota hitting .245.
Third Base: Josh Donaldson
Biggest Competition: Adrian Beltre
The ever underrated Josh Donaldson runs away from a tough field at third base. His 17 home runs lead the position by far, as does his .512 slugging percentage and his 142 wRC+. If you’re into WAR, you can stand in awe of his 3.3 WAR, leading a position where no other player has broken two.
Shortstop: Xander Bogaerts
Biggest Competition: Alexei Ramirez
So much for his slow start. Xander Bogaerts has not only justified his everyday role in Boston, he has earned a starting spot on the All-Star team. His numbers are not spectacular. He only has five home runs and two steals amidst a .283/.372/.429 slash line, so this says a lot about the state of offense at this position in the American League.
Nevertheless, his .357 wOBA and 124 wRC+ are both well above average and lead the position, showing that while it is not a flashy profile, the sum of the parts exceed all other qualifiers.
Outfield: Jose Bautista, Mike Trout, Michael Brantley
Bautista’s nERD: 4.55
Trout’s nERD: 3.67
Brantley’s nERD: 3.23
Biggest Competition: Moss
Encarnacion isn't the only Blue Jays slugger enjoying an elite campaign. Teammate Jose Bautista has slashed .308/.433/.544 and smacked 15 home runs, earning him the top spot in the AL outfield. Bautista also has a .423 wOBA and a 171 wRC+. Mercy.
This wouldn’t be a statistically based All-Star team without Mike Trout on the team, and the five-tool center fielder earns the second spot in the All Star outfield. This is not just a result of stat geeks loving Trout, his numbers, especially his position-leading 3.9 WAR, more than justify the selection.
Most of Trout’s stats are as one would expect, but his increased power numbers stand out. He has already smacked 12 home runs, helping him to a .557 slugging percentage, which ranks third among AL outfielders. If Trout’s power continues to develop, his grip on the title of best player in Major League Baseball will continue to tighten.
Michael Brantley may seem like a surprise as a starter, but he has the numbers to justify this selection. He is slashing .300/.377/.500, has hit 10 home runs and swiped 8 bags. None of his numbers lead the league, but like Trout, Brantley is a player who provides value across all categories.
Designated Hitter: Nelson Cruz
Biggest Competition: Victor Martinez
I know what you’re thinking: Nelson Cruz is back on the juice. There is no way that he could just randomly starting hitting the ball with such authority, and it makes perfect sense considering he will be hitting the free agent market again next winter. You can speculate all you want, but mere speculation about drug use doesn't change the fact that this dude has been on fire this year.
Cruz not only leads all designated hitters with 21 home runs, but that figure leads all of Major League Baseball. Likewise, his .631 slugging percentage is over .020 points ahead of the next best qualifier, Jose Abreu. If you prefer sabermetric data, you can ooh and ahh over his Major League-leading .424 wOBA. It will be interesting to see whether he can continue his torrid pace, but even if not, his hot start could keep him in the starting lineup.