Who Should Start for the National League in the All-Star Game?
Let's be honest -- fans aren't always rational when it comes to selecting players to Major League Baseball's All-Star game (or any All-Star game for that matter). It's why there are eight players from the Royals who are leading vote-getters in the American League even though though most don't deserve it.
So are the fans getting it right in the National League? Probably not. Cardinals fans are emulating Royals fans, stuffing the ballot boxes, and swaying the opinion of who should start the All-Star game. But I'm a fan of numbers -- let's use metrics to set the rosters for the All-Star game, even if we are a month away from the game.
First Base - Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
The voters have it right at the first base position at least. Paul Goldschmidt is second in National League in fWAR, just .9 WAR behind wunderkind Bryce Harper. Goldschmidt is having an outstanding year with a .361/.481/.670 slash line and is even playing better than his top counterparts in the American League. Mark Teixeira may have the same number of home runs (18) as Goldschmidt, but only has half of the fWAR that Goldschmidt does and Miguel Cabrera is one full win behind Goldschmidt.
Adrian Gonzalez is second among the voters at the position, but Anthony Rizzo is proving to be just as deserving because their counting and peripheral stats are nearly identical. But Matt Adams getting more votes than Rizzo is troublesome -- even Ryan Howard is doing better than Adams (0.1 fWAR to 0 fWAR), but that's not a compliment to either player.
Second Base - Dee Gordon, Miami Marlins
Apparently, All-Star ballot selections are locked in at the beginning of the season before rosters are set. That's why we see Yunel Escobar as fifth on the voting list, not the Nationals' actual second baseman in Danny Espinosa -- in fact, even if Escobar was eligible at second, he would barely crack the top-10 in fWAR.
So despite not being on the ballot, Espinosa is having a wonderful year for the Nationals, though the fans are correctly voting Dee Gordon to the top spot. However, both guys match-up in a lot of categories, it's just a matter of preference of power or speed.
Espinosa is leading Gordon is wRC+ and has a slight edge in wOBA as well, though his slash line (.267/.356/.461) doesn't hold up as well to Gordon's (.357/.379/.420). In the end, Gordon's 22 stolen bases are proving to be more valuable than Espinosa's 8 home runs, leading to one additional win for Gordon. However, lost in all of this is youngster Joe Panik. He has a great offensive game, but is still learning his way defensively, leading to his fWAR being slightly behind Gordon's.
Third Base - Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds
Not much is going right for the Cincinnati Reds this year -- they're fourth in their division, six games below .500 and 18th in our power rankings. But one bright spot is their third baseman. Todd Frazier is having the best season of his young career with highs in wOBA and wRC+ and has surpassed his 2013 fWAR total already.
Apparently voters haven't noticed it though. Matt Carpenter is leading the way in votes despite having just the third-best fWAR of all qualified third basemen in the National League. So why Frazier over Carpenter? Mainly because Frazier is mowing down every pitcher in his path.
Frazier's 20 home runs leads all third basemen in Major League Baseball, and he ranks third-best in all of baseball as well regardless of position. His wOBA is fourth in all of baseball, his wRC+ is fifth, his fWAR is the sixth best total and his nERD (4.51) is currently tied for third among all position players. It's a shame that he doesn't have even half of the votes that Carpenter does -- that's what happens with in a popularity contest though.
Shortstop - Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants
The battle for the starter at the shortstop position in the National League could be an intriguing for the next month. Jhonny Peralta has the edge among the voters, but Brandon Crawford is ahead in fWAR, albeit by a thin margin. Crawford leads the way between these two in many of the counting categories: runs, RBI and stolen bases all in 12 fewer at-bats.
However, Peralta leads the way in other categories, including at least a 20-point advantage in each slash line category. Peralta also has a 143 to 134 advantage in wRC+. However, Crawford is still the pick here as he has a 0.4 lead in fWAR. This comes, in part, due to each other's baserunning skills (measured as BsR). Peralta's BsR is -5.4, a big difference from Crawford's 1.2, giving the spot to Crawford for now.
Outfield - Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals; Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins; Joc Pederson, L.A. Dodgers
Quite a few interesting observations with this outfield group. First is Matt Holliday, who is somehow second place in voting. Even if he was healthy, this may be one of the most egregious votes of this year.
If you look at the top-25 outfielders via fWAR (the top-15 are above and Holliday sits at 16th among outfielders), Dexter Fowler and Cameron Maybin have more home runs than Holliday (3) and Ben Revere has more RBI than Holliday (31 to 20). Something just isn't right here.
Moving on, in the "Needs More Love from the Voters" category is Joc Pederson. He's eighth in voting, putting him behind Jason Heyward (another Cardinal) and Heyward is the 21st best outfielder according to fWAR. The only knock against Pederson may be his batting average, but he's on par with the other top outfielders and deserves to be at least the fourth outfielder, though you could make a great case of him starting over A.J. Pollock.
Catcher - Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
A week ago, the top spot according to voters belonged to Yadier Molina. Glad to see fans wise up though for the latest count, but it's closer than it should be. Buster Posey has been an anchor for the Giants and is putting up numbers that rival his 2013 season in wOBA and wRC+. It's not that Molina is bad, but his numbers aren't what we've seen in years past for him. His wOBA and wRC+ are some of the lowest since 2010.
Molina has also been a detriment to the Cardinals offensively for the past two seasons now. His wRC+ was barely above average last year (102) and is below average this year. Molina also cost the Cardinals wins offensively, losing 1.1 games for them last year and 3.1 already this year. Molina still provides value defensively, but is still second in his defensive fWAR after Derek Norris. Molina is second in voting for catcher, but he may not even deserve to be the backup catcher for the National League this year.