Monday, July 4, 2011

McCutchen, Karstens and the MLB All-Star Game

When TBS unveiled the 2011 Major League Baseball All-Star teams before the games on Sunday there was a pretty good sense among baseball fans that the Pittsburgh Pirtes might have more than one deserving representative. When I say deserving I mean players that actually deserve to be there and not just the token player that has to be there by MLB rules.

Typically I don't care much for All-Star games, especially in baseball because of how messed up it is and that is actually putting it nicely. The show went on and they unveiled the pitchers first and with no surprise Joel Hanrahan was selected to the team. He was more than deserving and it was great to see a closer from the Pirates that deserved to be on the team actually be on the team. Then came the starters which included no Pirates, which was no surprise. Andrew McCutchen was the only Pirates that could make the argument, but when you see the list of outfielders that made the team you can clearly see that you can't make much of an argument for him being a start.

The reserve players came out and McCutchen actually was a part of that.  OK, it happens, I can see arguments for some of the players so it is what it is. When you didn't see his name there you thought "OK well the Pirates are playing well and capture the fans and they will be able to vote Cutch in as one of the final vote players." Well if you thought that, like I did, you were stunned. McCutchen was not even a member of the final vote. Baring a drop out/injuries Andrew McCutchen will not be a part of the MLB festivities at the All-Star Game. Unreal.

What I did was I broke down all the outfielders that made the All-Star team as well as the outfielders that are part of the final five that are voted on by the fans.

I used a few sabermetric statistics in my graph and I could explain them to you in here but it will be much easier to link them to FanGraphs which gives great descriptions of every sabermetric stat there is known to man. The red lettering in the graph indicates that the stat is the best among those being compared and the green which is the lowest among all being compared. I also included a line label "lone rep" which says if the player is the only player from his team on the All-Star team. As you know every team must have a rep so this could go into why they made the team (for example Justin Upton).

fWAR - Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is an attempt by the sabermetric community to summarize a player’s total contributions to their team in one statistic. You should always use more than one metric at a time when evaluating players, but WAR is pretty darn all-inclusive and provides a handy reference point. WAR basically looks at a player and asks the question, “If this player got injured and their team had to replace them with a minor leaguer or someone from their bench, how much value would the team be losing?” This value is expressed in a wins format, so we could say that Player X is worth 6.3 wins to their team while Player Y is only worth 3.5 wins.

wOBA - Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) is based on a simple concept: not all hits are created equal. Batting average would have you believe they are, but think about it: what’s more valuable, a single or a homerun? Batting average doesn’t account for this difference and slugging percentage doesn’t do so accurately (is a double worth twice as much as a single? In short, no). OPS does a good job of combining all the different aspects of hitting (hitting for average, hitting for power, having plate discipline) into one metric, but it weighs slugging percentage the same as on-base percentage, while on-base percentage is more valuable than slugging.

wRC+ - Weighted Runs Created (wRC) is an improved version of Bill James’ old Runs Created (RC) statistic, which attempted to quantify a player’s total offensive value and measure it by runs. This way, instead of looking at a player’s line and listing out all the details (e.g. 23 2B, 15 HR, 55 BB, 110 K, 19 SB, 5 CS), you could synthesize all the information into one metric and say, “Player x was worth 24 runs to his team last year.” While the idea was sound, James’ formula has since been superseded by Tom Tango’s wRC and is based off of wOBA.

UZR - UZR is an advanced defensive metric that uses play-by-play data recorded by Baseball Info Solutions (BIS) to estimate each fielder’s defensive contribution in theoretical runs above or below an average fielder at his position in that player’s league and year. Thus, a SS with a UZR of zero is exactly average as compared to a SS in the same year and in the same league. If his UZR is plus, he is above average, and if it is minus, he is below average.

Matt Kemp *Dodgers0.3270.4100.617522264224.50.444187-8.2No
Ryan Braun *Brewers0.3200.4020.559571662194.00.424172-3.9No
Lance Berkman *Cardinals0.2970.4080.60250215902.60.420171-4.7No
Justin UptonDiamondbacks0.2970.3800.506481343143.30.3871412.5Yes
Hunter PenceAstros0.3230.3640.50038105742.20.379142-5.1Yes
Matt HollidayCardinals0.3210.4200.54539104903.20.4181693.3No
Carlos BeltranMets0.2810.3720.49243125432.70.376141-0.5No
Jay BruceReds0.2670.3350.49547185161.50.357122-4.3No
Andre Ethier &Dodgers0.3190.3880.4614174102.40.3681343.2No
Shane Victorino &Phillies0.2990.3710.51552934134.20.3951507.7No
Michael Morse &Nationals0.2990.3490.53835154621.70.379140-3.8No
Andrew McCutchen #Pirates0.2890.3900.492481248154.60.3921506.9No
* - Starter
& - Final Vote
# - No selection

Can someone honestly give me a reason that Jay Bruce is on this list, let alone on the team? I would like to think I know a little bit about baseball and the stats that are important and Bruce is the worst among all of these players, vote it and no participants included, in five categories. That is just unreal and I have no idea how this guy made the team. What a joke.

If you ask me I think it is clear that McCutchen is better than Morse, Either, Bruce, Either and Beltran without any argument, but what do I know. You can make an extremely good case against Holliday and Upton also. I mean for real that McCutchen wasn't even in the final vote process? At first I kind of wasn't surprised, but looking this over has me wondering what the hell is going on with this roster.

I like to treat WAR as probably the best stat there is on baseball players, especially position players. Andrew McCutchen is the best outfield in the National League in WAR and is third overall in all of baseball yet he can't even make the final vote. As you can see above he stacks up nicely against anyone on that list and combined with his improved defense is in a league of his own with Matt Kemp, who defense aside is the best player on that list of outfielders. Now, like I said before none of those three starters deserve to be taken off for McCutchen but he should be on the team. Without a doubt.

I also think it was important to talk about Jeff Karstens. A lot of people have talked about Joel Hanrahan this season and with Kevin Correia that Jeff Karstens have been left out to dry. I used sabermetric stats for this also but many of those you should be able to get yourselves. The only one that might be hard for people to understand is LOB%.

LOB% - Left on Base Percentage (LOB%) measures the percentage of base runners that a pitcher strands on base over the course of a season. Most pitchers have LOB%s around league average (which is approximately 70-72%, depending upon the season), and pitchers that deviate from that average tend to see their numbers regress towards league average in the future. In other words, if you see a pitcher with a 60 LOB%, they are letting lots of runners score and so their ERA will be high, but the odds are that they will strand more runners in the future and lower their ERA.

Matt CainGiants7113.13.021.0975.37.542.300.218No
Cole HamelsPhillies91162.410.9478.28.531.630.265No
Roy HalladayPhillies11136.12.441.0379.58.651.120.237No
Jair JurrjensBraves11104.21.891.06845.421.980.225No
Clayton KershawDodgeres8122.23.231.0672.610.132.420.213No
Cliff LeePhillies91222.661.0778.68.781.990.226No
Tim LincecumGiants6112.13.041.1872.79.773.200.228No
Ryan VogelsongGiants677.22.091.1583.17.32.670.221No
Ian Kennedy &Diamondbacks8116.23.011.0977.57.483.310.222No
Jeff Karstens #Pirates691.22.651.0886.75.41.770.238No
& - Final Vote
# - No selection

As i talked before Karstens is a afterthought in the rotation for a Pirates staff who has played very well. Hanrahan is on the team and from what I know Correia will also be on the team as he was supposedly the next player on the list for the players vote so he will go to the game for any of the players that pitch on Sunday since that is an MLB rule (if you pitch on the Sunday before you can't pitch in the All-Star game but you are still listed as on the team).

Karstens has been nothing short of amazing this season after filling in for Ross Ohlendorf who went down early with a shoulder injury. Karstens is defiantly in the running when you look at all these pitchers. I mean I am not trying to say that any of the guys on this list should be off the team but when I hear people saying that CC Sabathia is a huge snub in the AL then I have to ask why nobody is talking about Karstens on the NL side. He is more than deserving and if he was on the team people would complain because of name recognition and not performance as you see above.

Well there it is. Right now I am over those guys not being selected or even being talked about. I know Andrew McCutchen is one of the top 11 National League outfielders in the game and I know Jeff Karstens has been one of the best starting pitches in the NL this season. I don't need All-Star games to tell me that. The fact is that these guys deserve the recognition and in some respect they are being dragged down by being on the Pirates. It is, in some sense, a slap in the face to the franchise because for so long the Pirates have been so bad that people only expect one player. The All-Star game selection process has so many flaws in it that it isn't even funny so it shouldn't need to be said, but I feel this has to.

What do you think? Do either of these guys deserve to be on here? Do you even care if they are? Leave it in the comments.

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