Which All-Stars Should You Vote for in the National League?
You're a fan of a National 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 are the ideal 2014 NL All-Stars
Catcher: Jonathan Lucroy
Biggest Competition: None
The underappreciated Jonathan Lucroy grabs the first spot on our team, and it is not close. He leads all qualified NL backstops in almost every offensive category, especially his elite .336 batting average and .513 slugging percentage.
Lucroy may not have the name recognition of some other candidates, but he has been an essential part of the Brewers hot start and is enjoying the best season at his position. Pencil his name in the starting lineup now, as this is no contest.
First Base: Paul Goldshmidt
Biggest Competition: Anthony Rizzo
Paul Goldschmidt's presence in the lineup should come as no surprise, as arguably the best slugger in the National League continues to make the case to be deserving of that title. One of the few bright spots on an underperforming Diamondbacks team, Goldschmidt has hit .311 with 13 home runs and 48 RBIs.
He edges Cubs slugger Anthony Rizzo in wOBA and wRC+ to lead the position, while also compiling an isolated power of .247. He's a true superstar and gives the D-Backs someone to keep the franchise relevant in the short term and build around in the long term.
Second Base: Chase Utley
Biggest Competition: Daniel Murphy
After convincing many of fans that his best days were behind him, Chase Utley has been healthy and productive again this season. His .314 batting average, .373 on base percentage, and .490 slugging percentage lead the position, and though he has only hit four home runs, he has contributed 24 doubles and 3 triples.
His .348 BABIP is above his career average and is unlikely to continue, but we ought to still appreciate how Utley is on pace to have his best season since 2009, when he hit 31 home runs and stole 23 bags in the heart of the Phillies window of contention. Even though that window has likely closed, Utley has reclaimed the title of the league’s best at the keystone.
Third Base: Todd Frazier
Biggest Competition: Matt Carpenter
No, that’s not a typo. Todd Frazier is the class of National League third baseman. In a position filled with three true-result power bats, Frazier has proven to be the most powerful of them all.
Frazier leads in home runs, slugging percentage, and isolated power. Furthermore and unlike his counterparts, he is not just empty power. A .272 batting average and .348 on base percentage are not elite, but when coupled with elite power, Frazier runs away with the starting spot.
Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki
Biggest Competition: None
This does not require an explanation, but in case you haven’t heard, Troy Tulowitzki is really good at baseball. He can hit for average, as demonstrated by his .356 batting average. He can hit for power, as demonstrated by his 17 home runs. He can get on base, as demonstrated by his .448 on base percentage.
Tulowitzki's .472 wOBA is just silly, and his 192 wRC+ is very good as well. This is an elite talent enjoying a career year, and it should be fun to continue to see the league’s best hitter destroy opposing pitching in the league’s most hitter-friendly park.
Outfield: Andrew McCutchen, Yasiel Puig, Carlos Gomez
McCutchen's nERD: 4.99
Puig's nERD: 4.08
Gomez's nERD: 3.73
Biggest Competition: Justin Upton
While some of the players in the lineup may be surprises, the outfield is full of established superstars. Andrew McCutchen earns the first spot, as a five-tool talent producing solid to elite numbers across all categories. He isn't the reason for the struggles of his club this year, as his .321 batting average, .435 on base percentage, .550 slugging percentage, .427 wOBA and 177 wRC+ all rank near the top of the position.
McCutchen doesn't dominate any single aspect of the game, but he provides value in all facets for his team. If not for Tulowitzki’s career year, McCutchen would likely be the favorite to win the NL MVP Award.
There’s much to love about Yasiel Puig performance, including his elite bat flips, but even more impressive is his ability to be more patient this year. He has lowered his swing percentage 9.1% this season, which has boosted his walk rate and surprisingly not increased his strikeout rate. Taking more pitches, walking more, and striking out less are all signs of increased selectivity and a more mature approach at the plate.
The increased selectivity has helped Puig continue to improve in his second full season and takes his stat line from very good to great. McCutchen is the top outfielder on this list, but Puig’s numbers, namely his .328/.420/.569 slash line, .428 wOBA and 180 wRC+, are very comparable. That’s a stat line almost as good as his bat flips.
The final outfielder in the starting lineup, Carlos Gomez, is another five tool talent that can impact a game in just about every way. Gomez strikes out more and walks less than the other players in this outfield, but his total stat line is not far behind that of McCutchen and Puig.
Through 274 plate appearances, Gomez has tallied 12 home runs and 11 steals, a .310/.377/.547 slash line, and a .402 wOBA. His 2013 campaign may have surprised us, but his continued dominance and appearance on this team should have us expecting more of the same moving forward. He isn't going away.
Designated Hitter: Giancarlo Stanton
Biggest Competition: Rizzo
Beaten out by three five tool talents in the starting outfield, Giancarlo Stanton nabs the designated hitter spot in the starting lineup. A power hitter in the traditional sense, Stanton has 17 home runs this year, three more than any NL non-starter.
Stanton has a fair amount of swing and miss in his game with a 25.2 K rate and takes a fair amount of walks with a 13.1% BB rate, but when he does swing the bat and make contact he destroys baseballs. His .582 slugging percentage is second to only Tulowitzki, as is his .283 isolated power, while his 53 RBIs lead the league. Apart from Tulowitzki and Goldschmidt, Stanton is the premier slugger in the National League and a welcome addition to a loaded National League lineup.