All-Star Selection Is All Screwed Up

  • Tuesday, July 6, 2010 6:59 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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The All-Star Game selection process is broken.

This has been true for a while, but if there was any doubt about it, that was put to rest with NL Manager Charlie Manuel's mind-boggling selection of Braves backup infielder Omar Infante while the Reds' Joey Votto -- arguably the best hitter in the NL this season -- is left to try to make the roster through the fans' vote for the final spot.

The issue at the heart of the ASG's problem is that MLB has no idea what it is even trying to do. The selection process is like a movie that attempts to be an action-packed romantic comedy for the whole family and winds up being not particularly action-packed, funny or romantic and just disappoints Mom, Dad and the kids. You can't try to have it all ways. In the case of the ASG, it can't be an exhibition for the fans, a meaningful game with playoff implications and a reward/showcase for the game's best players at the same time.

When you aim for all of those things, you just wind up with a jumbled mess.

MLB needs to pick one course of action and stick with it. Either ...

-- the game belongs to the fans, in which case just give them total control of the rosters. If it's their game, why limit them to picking eight or nine players per squad? Of course, this will lead to some bad snubs, but at least there will be no confusion about why certain players were selected. The whole thing will be a transparent popularity contest.

OR

-- the game is a reward to the guys having the best seasons, in which case, take the power out of the hands of the fans, players and managers, none of whom have shown any ability to get this right. The fans vote on popularity, track record and based on team affiliation. The managers are caught in the unenviable position of having to decide whether their own players should make the team and cannot be unbiased (some of them with names rhyming with 'Marlee Granule' might also be making selections with the assistance of a bottle of moonshine). The players, being inside the game, have a lot of factors to consider beyond objective analysis. If you want to reward the guys having the best seasons, then get it right. Form some sort of panel of experts -- hopefully including plenty of sabermetric types -- and have them select the team based on a set of clearly defined criteria. This will make things much less fun but a lot more fair.

OR

-- the game should be as close to a real game as possible, considering it decides home field advantage in the World Series. In that case, use the same sort of objective analysis as in Option No. 2 to pick a roster not of the players having the best seasons but one that will give the league the best chance to win. This would have to balance how a guy is playing recently with his true talent level while doing away with the rule requiring at least one player from each team. There would probably have to be a bit more emphasis placed on positional versatility and specialists such as left-handed relief pitchers. Personally, I don't care for the idea of the All-Star game "counting," but if it's going to "count," at least make it fair to the teams who eventually will be involved in the World Series by making the team representing them in the ASG as likely to win as possible.

I'd prefer any of these options to what we have now, which is a system with so many moving parts and conflicting motivations that nobody knows what defines an "All-Star" (If Omar Infante is an All-Star and Joey Votto isn't, that's one screwed up definition) or what the purpose of the game is other than being anti-climactic and providing a thrilling opportunity to watch Jose Bautista pinch-hit against Evan Meek in the seventh inning of a 90-percent exhibition game.

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2010 Preview: Cincinnati Reds

  • Thursday, March 18, 2010 6:28 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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2009: 78-84, 4th in NL Central. Pythagorean record of 76-86.
Key Additions: SP Aroldis Chapman, SS Orlando Cabrera, IF Aaron Miles
Key Losses: IF Adam Rosales, CF Willy Taveras
2010 Projections: PECOTA – 76-86, 5th in NL Central. CHONE – 81-81, 3rd. CAIRO – 85.5-76.5, 2nd (Wildcard).

Pitching: 2009 – 4.63 FIP (26th in MLB), 4.91 for starters, 4.09 for relievers
2010 – Edinson Volquez won't return until late in the season from Tommy John surgery, leaving room for Chapman to make his mark. The Reds need Homer Bailey to step up behind Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo.
Hitting: 2009 – .313 wOBA (27th in MLB)
2010 – The infield, led by the highly underrated Votto, should be solid, but the Reds' fortunes rest with the outfield. Willy Taveras and his .275 OBP are gone, which helps. Still, Jay Bruce and Co. have to make some serious strides if the Reds are going to be legitimate playoff contenders.
Fielding: 2009 – UZR of 52.6 (3rd in MLB)
2010 – With back-to-back UZR's of 14 and -15.3, Orlando Cabrera underscores the lack of dependability in one-season UZR totals. He's probably somewhere in between those numbers. His double-play partner Brandon Phillips, however, has put up good numbers three straight years.

Reasons to Watch
1. Aroldis Chapman: .The left-handed Cuban fireballer has been wowing observers so far in Spring Training with his 100-mph heat, his movement and his command. There are two big questions, however. First, where will Chapman begin the season? Second, how will Dusty Baker handle him? The Reds' manager doesn't have the best track record preservingyoung flamethrowers.
2. Joey Votto: He didn't get a lot of attention outside Cincinnati (except when he missed time to deal with depression issues), but Votto put up the fourth-highest wOBA of any player last season, trailing only guys named Pujols, Mauer and Fielder. He might have been a little lucky with a .372 BABIP, but with his blend of power and patience, Votto figures to be an elite first baseman for a while, as long as he is able to stay on the field.
3. The outfield: The Reds have put together an interesting outfield. There's Jay Bruce, a 22-year-old with monstrous power who hasn't quite put it together at the big league level. There's Wladimir Balentien, a former top prospect with the Mariners who has struggled mightily in the majors. There's Drew Stubbs, a former first-round pick with a glowing defensive reputation and solid plate discipline. Plus, the Reds have Chris Dickerson, Jonny Gomes and prospect Chris Heisey. It's a crowded but intriguing situation out there.

Paint By Numbers: Bruce had a strange 2009. Among players with at least 300 plate appearances, he had the third-lowest BABIP (.221) but also the second-lowest line drive rate (13.0 percent). That said, his .246 isolated power was 20th, and he improved his walk and strikeout rates from the year before. It would hardly be surprising if 2010 turned out to be a breakout year for Bruce. ... Aaron Harang has compiled a record of 12-31 the last two seasons after going 32-17 in 2006-07. True, he's giving up more home runs and walks and getting fewer strikeouts, but his FIP last year was a decent 4.14. For the sake of comparison, Andy Pettite had a 4.16 FIP for the Yankees but went 14-8. ... Despite that .275 OBP, Dusty Baker started Willy Taveras in the leadoff spot 85 times. Taveras' other 14 starts came in the No. 2 spot. The good news is that most of the other starts at leadoff went to Chris Dickerson (.370 OBP) and Drew Stubbs (.364 career mark in the minors).

Blog Jog: Red Reporter's Slyde takes a look at the "butterfly effect" of baseball defense. ... Red Reporter also does a fascinating interview with Jaime Cevallos, the swing coach who worked with Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist last season and also is working with Cincinnati utility man Drew Sutton. ... The great Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News addresses an important question: Which Reds player would you want on your side in a fight? ... Cincinnati Enquirer beat writer John Fay presents three questions about Aroldis Chapman to GM Walt Jocketty.

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The Lesson Of Nomar

  • Thursday, March 11, 2010 5:26 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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My last post about Eric Chavez was an apt lead-in to yesterday's news that Nomar Garciaparra was retiring. As Rob Neyer phrased it, Nomar's career was "an excellent object lesson in the non-inevitability of immortality."

Garciaparra was on his way to becoming an absolute, no-doubt Hall of Famer until the injuries started chipping away at him.

It's amazing to look back now on the 2000 season. That year was Nomaaaaaaaah's best, as he hit .372/.434/.599, won the AL batting title and punched up a career-high 155 OPS+.

It's funny though -- immortality is certainly not inevitable, but even if Nomar isn't a Hall of Famer, he's a guy people will remember for a long time. If you look at other guys who had great seasons in 2000 (just 10 years ago!) it's stunning how quickly players of a somewhat lower quality become completely irrelevant.

For example, who were the top 10 in batting average in the majors in 2000? Nomar was one, and Todd Helton, Manny Ramirez, Vladimir Guerrero, Carlos Delgado and Derek Jeter appear on the list too.

The rest of that list inspired me to scratch my head and go, "THAT guy?"

In 2000, it's difficult to remember, Darin Erstad and Moises Alou hit .355, Jeffrey Hammonds hit .335 and David Segui hit .334, all finishing in the top 10. This same year, Richard Hidalgo finished fifth in home runs, and the top 10 in ERA included Jeff D'Amico, Chan Ho Park and Rick Ankiel.

The fact is, nothing is inevitable in baseball. If you look at last year's leaders, you can confidently predict that Albert Pujols and Joe Mauer will go down as two of the greatest players of all time, Hanley Ramirez and Miguel Cabrera will eventually cruise into the Hall and Joey Votto and Pablo Sandoval have years of All-Star games and MVP votes ahead of them.

But reality is a lot messier than that. Chances are, injuries will sap somebody's potential before it fully blooms, and someone else's career will fizzle out just as quickly as it erupted in the first place.

We'll just have to stay tuned to find out who.

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