By Chris Emma-
(CBS) Longtime historian and statistician Bill James, known as the pioneer of sabermetrics, defined his innovation as “the search for objective knowledge about baseball.”
Sabermetrics offer authentic value in baseball, breaking the mold of arbitrary statistics like batting average, earned run average and false identifiers. Smart baseball executives cherish them like California gold in the mid-1800s. They’re supposed to make fans smarter, too.
Then voting for the MLB All-Star game comes along and serves as an annual reminder of how poorly the public — including the “informed” writers — identifies talent and production in the game of baseball.
“Wins Above Replacement” (WAR) is the greatest attempt to account for a player’s complete contributions in one statistic. It identifies production compared to a replacement-level player, factoring in all parts of the game. Get to know it, baseball fans.
The greatest crime against baseball sensibilities with the midsummer classic approaching on July 15 is none other than Derek Jeter. To no surprise, the Yankees’ storied shortstop will be an All-Star for the 14th time in his career, which is in its final year. Voting for the All-Star Game is a popularity contest more than a prize for baseball’s best.
In his swan song season, Jeter has been worth 0.7 wins above replacement, putting him 20th among shortstops in all of baseball. WAR, being the most telling indicator of value, suggests there are 10 shortstops in the American League better than Jeter. By comparison, the Rockies’ Troy Tulowitzki, the National League leader in votes among shortstops, is worth 4.8 wins above replacement, nearly double that of second-place holder, Jhonny Peralta.
Even by old-school statistics —“The Will To Win” not included — Jeter doesn’t deserve to be an All-Star. He has two home runs, 20 RBIs and a meager .276 average. The Angels’ Erick Aybar, worth 2.4 wins above replacement, is the most deserving AL shortstop, much in part to his steady bat and Gold Glove-caliber fielding.
The most appalling corruption within the All-Star voting is the lack of Alex Gordon, the Royals’ left fielder who’s putting together a career year. He’s worth 4.6 wins above replacement, good for third in all of baseball, yet isn’t even in the top 15 in votes among AL outfielders.
By the most telling metric, only Mike Trout and Tulowitzki are more valuable to their teams than Gordon.
There’s a case for Jose Altuve, too. The Astros’ second baseman has posted a .365 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), which ranks ninth in all of baseball, just two percentage points behind Tulowitzki. His WAR of 3.0 is one of the tops in the AL. Yet, he’s fourth among second baseman in AL voting.
Baseball’s consumers must do better than this. Sabermetrics are here to educate, offering a true indicator of value.
Go down on the line on Fangraphs and appreciate the great first half so many have constructed. Learn, the embrace what these advanced statistics provide the baseball public.
The All-Star Game has been a joke for years. The numbers back that fact.
Here’s what an all-MLB team based on sabermetrics should look like.
C: Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers (WAR: 3.0) – Lucroy’s .911 OPS is well beyond second place.
1B: Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks (WAR: 3.0) – In a toss-up with Miguel Cabrera, go with the more complete first baseman.
2B: Jose Altuve, Astros (WAR: 3.0) – A low strikeout rate (6.3 percent) and sky-high BABIP has Altuve as one of the game’s best bats.
3B: Todd Frazier, Reds (WAR: 3.5) – Frazier is having a career year at the plate, adding to his solid fielding and baserunning abilities.
SS: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies (WAR: 4.8) – Undisputed on any All-Star team, Tulowitzki is dominating at the plate.
LF: Alex Gordon, Royals (WAR: 4.6) – The next closest WAR for a left fielder is 2.6. It’s a crime Gordon isn’t a top vote-getter.
CF: Mike Trout, Angels (WAR: 5.4) – No matter what metric you look at, Trout is the best player in baseball.
RF: Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins (WAR: 4.2) – Stanton has a ridiculous OPS of 1.005 and a BABIP of .388.
P: Felix Hernandez, Mariners (WAR: 4.8) – All hail King Felix — the Mariners’ ace has a league leading xFIP of 2.37.
Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.