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Using True Talent to Select the 2010 All-Stars: NL Position Players

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6/11/10 11:57am----I've done a fairly significant update of this post.  In response to legitimate concern about the quality of the fielding statistic, I've revised this post by incorporating Steve Sommer's UZR projections.  I also corrected a significant omission: somehow, Adrian Gonzalez was excluded from this post among NL 1B's.  He is now rightfully included.  All that said, only one selection changed: Jayson Werth in RF over Andre Ethier and Jason Heyward.

One of the things that I've always disliked about the All Star Game is that it essentially has become a way of recognizing great first half performances, rather than the best overall players in the game.  If we agree that it is supposed to be about finding the best players in baseball, though, how should we go about doing this?  

This season, we have a number of in-season projection systems available that can give us current true talent estimates for every player in baseball.  In-season ZiPS and Oliver are updated (at least) weekly, while CHONE is updated monthly.  So now we can include the stunning first-half performances we all are talking about (hello Justin Morneau!), but we can weight it appropriately with other information about past performance.  

What I've done here is take an average of the three above projection systems' true talent estimates (ZiPS, Oliver, CHONE) and use that to rank all players in baseball.  Batting RAA, but not wOBA, is park adjusted.  Updated: Fielding is now provided by Oliver and CHONE projections, as well as Steve Sommer's pre-season UZR projections (which do include Fan Scouting Report data).  Weighting is 50% UZR, 25% Oliver, 25% CHONE (TZ).  UZR is the better stat, but CHONE and Oliver include minor league data and therefore have a longer track record for young players.  I opted to include all of them.  Finally, I'm not considering differences in playing time at all.  There is a lot of value in durability, but my preference in this case was to just reward those players who are the best of the best, when healthy and in the lineup.

Without further adieu, here are your National League All Stars (plus four alternates):

Catcher: Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves

Name wOBA Bat Field RAA/700
Brian McCann 0.366 22 -2 21
Geovany Soto 0.352 13 -1 12
Buster Posey 0.344 9 2 11
Russell Martin 0.341 6 1 7
Chris Iannetta 0.343 8 -1 7

No real surprise here at the top of the list.  The fact that Buster Posey and Chris Iannetta rank 3rd and 5th in the league, but aren't the starting catchers on their own teams, however, is surprising.  FWIW, though, Miguel Olivo comes out at -3 RAA/700, which is probably within the margin of error here.

First Base: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals

Name wOBA Bat Field RAA/700
Albert Pujols 0.446 71 5 76
Prince Fielder 0.404 45 -3 42
Adrian Gonzalez 0.393 38 1 39
Lance Berkman 0.385 34 1 34
Joey Votto 0.384 33 1 34

Depending on how rapidly you think Berkman is aging and how bad his knee problems are, you might bump him down (or off) the list.  The #6 NL 1B is Ryan Howard at +28 runs.

Second Base: Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies

Name wOBA Bat Field RAA/700
Chase Utley 0.391 37 7 45
Dan Uggla 0.360 18 -5 13
Kelly Johnson 0.350 12 0 12
Martin Prado 0.351 13 -2 11
Rickie Weeks 0.347 10 -4 6

I was surprised to see Kelly Johnson at #3, but some of these fielding systems like his defense a lot more than is in keeping with his reputation.  On related note, though, I sort of heart Martin Prado.

Third Base: David Wright, New York Mets

Name wOBA Bat Field RAA/700
David Wright 0.392 38 -2 36
Ryan Zimmerman 0.372 25 5 30
Chipper Jones 0.383 32 -2 30
Pablo Sandoval 0.374 27 -2 25
Scott Rolen 0.347 10 7 17

His power was down last year, and his batting average is down this year...but David Wright is probably still the best 3B in the National League.  If you think the fielding systems are low on Zimmerman (his UZR projection is +10 runs), then he might yet leap frog over Wright for #1 at the hot corner.  Chipper seems to be getting old--I think he's probably aging faster that the projection systems think.  And he's never healthy.

Shortstop: Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins

Name wOBA Bat Field RAA/700
Hanley Ramirez 0.402 44 -2 41
Troy Tulowitzki 0.361 19 7 26
Yunel Escobar 0.342 7 5 12
Jose Reyes 0.345 9 2 11
Jimmy Rollins 0.340 6 4 10

It's Hanley, then Tulo, then everyone else.  That goes for the AL as well, as we'll see in a later post.

Left Field: Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals

Name wOBA Bat Field RAA/700
Matt Holliday 0.394 39 5 44
Ryan Braun 0.396 40 -4 36
Manny Ramirez 0.393 39 -7 32
Josh Willingham 0.371 25 -2 22
Jason Bay 0.377 29 -7 22

I'm breaking down outfield by position, 'cause that's how I roll.  If you think corner outfield slots are interchangeable, Braun would win the starting RF option.

Center Field: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers

Name wOBA Bat Field RAA/700
Matt Kemp 0.367 23 1 24
Colby Rasmus 0.344 8 6 14
Andrew McCutchen 0.352 13 1 14
Andres Torres 0.331 1 13 14
Marlon Byrd 0.348 11 -1 11

Carlos Beltran deserves mention here, but I don't have a projection for him from all of the systems because he hasn't played yet.  Even so, I'd take Matt Kemp over him...but I'd probably put Beltran over the other four guys on the list, assuming he'll be able to run enough to not be a liability in CF.  His "backup," Angel Pagan, rates right with Marlon Byrd as the #5 CF in the league (+11 runs).  I have a hard time seeing how he can sit and Frenchy can play if/when Beltran returns, but we'll see what happens.

Right Field: Jayson Werth, Philedelphia Phillies

Name wOBA Bat Field RAA/700
Jayson Werth 0.373 26 7 33
Jason Heyward 0.367 23 9 31
Andre Ethier 0.388 35 -4 31
Justin Upton 0.368 23 4 27
Ryan Ludwick 0.365 21 0 22

When I updated this post to incorporate UZR fielding data, this is the one position that changed.  Thanks to an amazing +11 UZR fielding projection, Werth leap frogged over Heyward and Ethier to take the starting job.  He was who I expected to see here anyway, so this made me think I was on the right track.

I ran this last week when putting together the numbers for this article, and at that time Jason Heyward barely eduged out Ethier for #1.  That was pretty exciting...but apparently his recent struggles bumped him down the list.  Even so, it's pretty impressive for a kid with Heyward's age and limited track record to rate as the #2 RF in the league based on projection systems.  And if Ethier isn't healthy by the time the All-Star game rolls around, Heyward would still get the start!

Next up: NL Pitchers!