It's that time of the year again. With the Major League All-Star Game nearly one month away, fan voting is well in progress as fans of all different teams are voting for their favorite players to make the team in each respective league.
Fan voting for the All-Star Game has become more of a controversial topic in baseball over the past few years. Some believe that the fans should indeed vote for position players of each team. After all, the All-Star Game is often referred to as the "fans game." Some on the other hand believe fan voting exploits too much "bad bias" from fans and that deserving players are often snubbed. Let's not forget that the All-Star Game determines home field advantage in the World Series either, so the selection of players should be taken with some seriousness.
Personally, I like to side with the former. I don't have a problem with fans voting positional players on each team. Sure, even I believe certain players are snubbed at times, but for the most part, each team is always assembled with high-quality players and that's all that matters in the end.
With all of that said, let's take a look at how the voting has shaped up for the National League team thus far:
Current Leader: Paul Lo Duca, New York Mets
My Pick: Russell Martin, Los Angeles Dodgers
Nothing against Paul Lo Doca, but Martin's VORP is nearly ten full runs higher than his while Martin also leads all National League catchers in EqA. LoDuca has been a bit more solid on the defense front (112 Rate2 compared to Martin's 107), but Martin has clearly been the better catcher. Right now, I'd even be more inclined to vote for Bengie Molina over LoDuca.
Current Leader: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
My Pick: Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers
Currently Pujols is fifth among N.L. first baseman in VORP at 17.6 runs giving you an idea just how off he was early in the season. Pujols really turned it on in May and is hitting well in June, but Prince Fielder should really be starting at first base for the N.L. All-Star Team as of right now. Fielder leads the League in home runs (by seven over teammate J.J. Hardy) and he is also first among N.L. first baseman in VORP (29.4 runs) and EqA (.322). The only downside to Fielder's play this year has been so-so first base defense (Rate2 of 91), so you could make the argument Fielder hasn't been heads and shoulders better than other first baseman in the league such as Pujols, Derrek Lee or Todd Helton. Still, my vote goes to Fielder.
Current Leader: Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies
My Pick: Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies
I'll side with the fans opinion on this one and go with Utley here. He currently leads all N.L. second baseman in VORP (25.3 runs) and EqA (.314). He's also shown career highs in Rate2 (112) and he's on his way to his most productive season in-terms of WARP3 (10.2 wins). You could also make a case for Florida's Dan Uggla (9.6 WARP3), but right now, you can't go wrong voting for Utley.
Current Leader: Jose Reyes, New York Mets
My Pick: Jose Reyes, New York Mets
J.J. Hardy of the Brew Crew leads all N.L. shortstops in home runs and slugging percentage while Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins currently leads that group in VORP at 27.9 runs, but I really think Reyes should be the starting shortstop for the N.L. All-Star team and the fans agree thus far. While all three are very close to each other in terms of production by all kinds of statistical measures, Reyes leads all three in WARP1 (5.4 wins) thanks to exceptional defense (115 Rate2). This one is REALLY close; Ramirez out-VORPs Reyes and also leads N.L. shortstops in EqA so you can't go wrong there either. Nevertheless, I still like Reyes just a bit more here.
Current Leader: David Wright, New York Mets
My Pick: Miguel Cabrera, Florida Marlins
Wright currently leads all N.L. third baseman in fan voting despite the fact he's posting career lows in batting average (.275), on-base percentage (.367), slugging percentage (.486) and WARP3 (7.0). Not that he's having a poor season by any stretch, he's third among N.L. third baseman in VORP, but Cabrera has been the better player. Cabrera's VORP of 27.6 runs is tops among third baseman in the N.L. and his EqA is second to only Chipper Jones. Jones too is having a terrific season, but given his injury history and the fact he is currently on the DL, I'm giving Cabrera the benefit of the doubt here.
My Picks: Aaron Rowand (Philadelphia Phillies), Barry Bonds (San Francisco Giants), Ken Griffey Jr. (Cincinnati Reds)
Aaron Rowand has been a very pleasant surprise this season and I'm going with him over Beltran in center field. Rowand's VORP of 21.7 runs leads all N.L. centerfielder's and, as usual, he's playing outstanding defense. In all fairness, Beltran's WARP and WARP3 are a bit higher, so there is nothing wrong with him starting at all, but I like Rowand just a bit more here.
I'm sticking with Bonds in leftfield despite the fact he hasn't been hot lately. Bonds hit .194/.449/.388 with four home runs in 67 May AB's, a bit of a cool down that has allowed Colorado's Matt Holliday to take the lead in VORP among N.L. left fielders at 27.9 runs. Still, Bonds is right behind him (24.5 VORP) and given the fact the All-Star Game will be played in San Francisco it's only fitting he starts in left field for the National League team.
I'm siding with the fans here again and going with Griffey as my starting right fielder, but that's only because the National League doesn't have a whole lot production coming from that position. Griffey's VORP of 18.2 runs is tops among N.L. right fielders, but three other right fielders from the American League (Alex Rios, Magglio Ordonez and Vladimir Guerrero) each out-VORP him. Griffey hasn't been solid on the defensive front (87 Rate2) and his bat really hasn't been spectacular from a corner position, but as I mentioned, this is as good as it gets in the N.L. right now. Its quite obvious fans would like to see Bonds and Griffey play in the same outfield together and given Griffey's relatively weak competition among right fielders in the league it looks like that's going to happen.
Overall you have to like what the fans have done so far. Many of these races could go either way, but the National League is going to field a solid team come July. I will say this however: If Prince Fielder and Russell Martin continue to play at their respective levels thus far into the year; it will be a real shame if they do not start.