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For club and country: Simulating national all-star teams

Making AL and NL all-star teams is boring. Let's make all-star teams based on players' birthplace and simulate how they'd do against each other.

With Yoenis Cespedes in left field and Aroldis Chapman in the bullpen, the all-Cuban team would be fun to watch.
With Yoenis Cespedes in left field and Aroldis Chapman in the bullpen, the all-Cuban team would be fun to watch.

When it comes to All-Star ballots, there's two types of people: Those who treat it as a reward, and those who want to see a show. When the average sabermetrically-inclined writer thinks about the All-Star game, he asks, "Who deserves it the most?" But this year, at least, I'm more interested in who is the most fun to watch.

On my hypothetical ballot, I've moved Miguel Cabrera to third base, even though he's only logged 19 innings on the left side of the diamond. But I did it to slot Jose Abreu in at first. That's not to take anything away from Josh Donaldson, who's having a fantastic season for the second year in a row. But Abreu has been one of the game's best stories in the first half, lighting pitchers up since coming over from Cuba. The roots of the All-Star Game are an exhibition, a chance for fans to see matchups they'd otherwise miss. And who doesn't want to see how Clayton Kershaw handles the new power threat on national television?

Since I pulled the same trick to get both Yasiel Puig and Giancarlo Stanton into the National League's outfield, you might argue that I'm overly infatuated with Cuban players. To that I say, "yes, obviously," but look at this all-Cuban lineup:

Order Name Pos
1 Leonys Martin CF
2 Yasiel Puig RF
3 Jose Abreu 1B
4 Yoenis Cespedes LF
5 Kendrys Morales DH
6 Yasmani Grandal C
7 Alexei Ramirez 2B
8 Yunel Escobar 3B
9 Jose Iglesias SS
n/a Jose Fernandez SP
n/a Aroldis Chapman RP

Admittedly, I cheated a little with the infielders and I'm conveniently ignoring a few injuries, but that's a fun team.

I sent this roster around to the rest of the Beyond the Box Score staff with the following challenge: Come up with a lineup that beats this one in a 10,000-game season on Matt Hunter's using only active players from a single non-US country or a single state.

It was a dark day for workplace productivity.

Several writers answered the call. Rather than list every roster here, I've put them all in this Google spreadsheet. When I ran them through the simulator, these are the results I got:

Team vs. CAL vs. TEX vs. CUB vs. VEN vs. FL++ vs. FLA vs. DMV Average
California x .519 .542 .548 .596 .618 .614 .573
Texas .481 x .515 .536 .577 .591 .594 .549
Cuba .458 .485 x .506 .555 .568 .571 .524
Venezuela .452 .464 .494 x .543 .555 .550 .510
Florida++ .404 .423 .445 .457 x .512 .511 .459
Florida .382 .409 .432 .445 .488 x .513 .445
DMV .386 .406 .429 .450 .489 .487 x .441

The best team we've found so far is that California team:

Order Name Pos
1 Adam Jones CF
2 Chase Utley 2B
3 Troy Tulowitzki SS
4 Ryan Braun DH
5 Adrian Gonzalez 1B
6 Evan Longoria 3B
7 Freddie Freeman RF
8 Giancarlo Stanton LF
9 Kurt Suzuki C
n/a Stephen Strasburg SP

Now I extend the challenge to you, dear reader(s). Post your team in the comments below, and see if we can't take down the Californians. As a tool, here's the Baseball-Reference page that lists players by birthplace. Note that the simulator doesn't take defense into account, so it's up to you to be reasonable about moving players off their natural positions. Honor system.

Honorable Mentions:

  • After the Cuban team, I tried to create a European team, but couldn't find enough Major Leaguers to make it work, even once I included the Caribbean islands that feed the Netherlands during the World Baseball Classic. That infield, though... (Warning: NSFW)
  • Name Pos.
    Jurickson Profar 2B
    Xander Bogaerts 3B
    Andrelton Simmons SS
  • Similarly, Jen Mac Ramos tried to assemble a Canadian team, but to no avail. According to Baseball-Reference, the last Canadian to play more than 30 games at shortstop is Dave McKay, who last played in 1982.
  • With all the young talent tearing up the league, Jeff Long suggested an under-25 team. I've included their roster in the spreadsheet; they won 51.7% of their games against the California team.
  • Finally, Ryan P. Morrison came up with a team of players named Jose or Joseph. Thanks to Ryan, I've since learned that neither Albert Pujols nor Miguel Cabrera go by their first names.

. . .

All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference. Simulations courtesy of Special thanks to Bryan Grosnick, Jeff Long, Ryan P. Morrison, Stuart Wallace, and everyone else who participated.

Bryan Cole is a featured writer for Beyond the Box Score. He didn't even bother trying to make a team for his home state of Rhode Island. You can follow him on Twitter at @Doctor_Bryan.