Subjectivity Objectified: The 2011 Bias-Neutral MLB All-Stars (Part II)

Three weeks ago, I tried to quantify the impact each MLB team's fans' biases (methodology) had on this year's All-Star vote by comparing the number of votes each franchise's players received (methodology for estimating unlisted players' totals) to how many they would have been expected to get in a world without bias, over- and underratedness, or popularity (methodology). As a reminder, the results were:

Bias_by_team_chart_medium

Last week, I used my Star Power framework and a slightly modified version of the above BIAS scores to estimate how many votes each of the top American League All-Star candidates would have received if team affiliation wasn't a factor. The goal of my calculations was to isolate bias from name recognition and overratedness—i.e., it (theoretically) weeded out the extraneous votes AL shortstop winner Derek Jeter got just for being a Yankee, but not those that he received from people who overestimate his declining ability.

Today, we turn out attention to the National League; how much did fans' blind loyalties affect All-Star balloting in the Senior Circuit? Here are the team-neutral balloting results for each of the candidates whose vote totals were released:

Having already analyzed the AL's bias-neutral vote totals, one of the most striking things about these results is how much more dramatic the differences are between the NL's actual and adjusted totals. While both leagues had the same number of new top vote-getters (four), the NL had 18 million-vote swings at only eight positions (the AL had 11 in nine categories), and no one in the Junior Circuit came anywhere close to Brian McCann's 3.3 million-vote discrepancy. It makes sense, looking at the numbers; of the top and bottom four teams on the BIAS score chart, seven are in the NL.

Anyway, digging into the results: there's not much turnover at first base, though Albert Pujols surpasses Joey Votto for second place and the No. 5-8 finishers are shuffled around pretty well. Across the diamond, Placido Polanco hangs onto his starting job, but there's quite a bit of turmoil after that; the rest of the third base leaderboard is what my grandfather would have called completely "verschmageled."

Meanwhile, there are three new faces in the infield. Brandon Phillips overturns Rickie Weeks' narrow lead at second base, and believe it or not Neil Walker passes Weeks too. At shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki opens up a commanding lead over Jose Reyes, while Stephen Drew gets quite a boost for himself as well. But the most interesting position of all is catcher, where McCann loses more than 3 million votes and falls all the way to seventh place. Also, for some reason I really enjoy the fact that Ivan Rodriguez sneaks in to finish second.

There's plenty of intrigue to be had on the big green, too. Ryan Braun loses 1.6 million votes and still comes out on top. Matt Kemp loses a starting spot to his teammate, Andre Ethier. Hunter Pence and Alfonso Soriano get huge boosts, while Shane Victorino and real-life near miss Matt Holliday both see their stocks plummet significantly. Sadly, the woefully underappreciated Andrew McCutchen gains almost nothing.

An interesting thing to note: as was the case with the AL, the bias-free picks don't seem as good as the actual ones. Looking at their pre-All-Star Break numbers, I'd say all four of the new team-neutral winners are actually downgrades from the real ones: Reyes, McCann, and Kemp were unambiguously better than Tulowitzki, Yadier Molina, and Ethier, respectively, and while the second base race was closer I'd still have taken Weeks over Phillips. The takeaway here is that the fans made the right picks for the wrong reasons.

As I've done in each of the analyses in this series, I strongly advise that these numbers be taken with a grain of salt. The BIAS scores in particular have a pretty significant margin of error, and while I'm hoping these numbers shed some light on what's really going on in the All-Star balloting I did not intend for them to be taken as gospel (would Alfonso Soriano really have gotten almost 3 million votes if he played for the Twins?). All in all, though, I think this paints a decently realistic picture of how fan bias skews the voting, even if we haven't accounted for individual overratedness and popularity...yet.

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