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Who would win a divisional All-Star Game? (NL Edition)

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Who would come out on top if each National League division created its own All-Star roster?

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The MLB All-Star Game is tonight away, which means the regular season has momentarily come to a stand still. This is a welcome break for many of the players, but it’s also an opportunity for fans to reflect back on the first-half of the season.

In the spirit of the All-Star Game, I was curious who would come out on top if each division rostered their own All-Star team instead of each league. We’ll cover the National League today, and we’ll look at the potential American League rosters later this week. Before we build the lineups, a few ground rules are in order.

For the purposes of this exercise, rosters were limited to eight position players, one starting pitcher, and two relievers. Decisions were based on several criteria. Heavy emphasis was placed on production this season. A player’s abilities at the plate and in the field were considered with an edge given to offensive production (it is an All-Star Game after all). When there wasn’t a clear starter at a position name recognition was factored in (again, All-Star Game).

What follows is a breakdown of what a roster might look like if the NL East, NL Central, and NL West all put together their own version of an All-Star team. Who would come out on top? The answer might surprise you.

Catcher J.T. Realmuto (East), Willson Contreras (Central), Buster Posey (West)

Realmuto and Contreras are having nice seasons, but they can’t compare to what Posey is doing in 2017. The 30-year-old catcher is on pace to have one of his best offensive seasons. He’s currently hitting .324/.406/.498 with 10 HR and 35 RBI. His 142 wRC+ is almost 40 points higher than the next highest NL catcher (Realmuto). Defensively, Realmuto and Contreras have been more valuable, but a) Posey has a long track record of excellence, meaning 2017 might just be a blip, and b) it’s not enough to outweigh the offensive gap.

Advantage: NL West

First Base Freddie Freeman (East), Joey Votto (Central), Paul Goldschmidt (West)

Yes, I’m aware that Freddie Freeman is playing at third for the Braves now. However, he spent the first-half of the season at first base so he qualifies for selection. The bigger question is whether Ryan Zimmerman deserved the slot based on Freeman’s injuries. Because Freeman was so good when he was healthy he gets the nod, but I understand the arguments for leaving him off the team.

You can’t go wrong with any selection at this position. All three players are having monster seasons, and luckily for us, are in different divisions and call all be featured. By fWAR, the winner is Goldschmidt. By wRC+, the edge goes to Freeman. Votto lands somewhere in between the two, and he ends up being my winner for this position. His rate stats are below Freeman’s, but he’s played in more games. Also, Votto’s BABIP isn’t unreasonably high as Freeman’s is. Votto’s HR and RBI totals also lead either of the other candidates. It’s true those numbers aren’t the best way to evaluate hitters, but this is an All-Star Game; we’re here to be entertained.

Advantage: NL Central (by the slimmest of margins)

Second Base Daniel Murphy (East), Josh Harrison (Central), Brandon Drury (West)

This position is a pretty decisive advantage for the NL East. Harrison and Drury both have better defensive metrics than Murphy, but Murphy has been so much better at the plate than either player. The Nationals second baseman is currently hitting .342/.393/.572 with 14 HR, 64 RBI, and 57 R. His wRC+ (146) is 30 points higher than Harrison’s or Drury’s. Give this one to the East.

Advantage: NL East

Shortstop - Trea Turner (East), Zack Cozart (Central), Corey Seager (West)

Turner and Seager were the names you’d expect to be at this slot. Cozart is riding a career year, and he currently leads the position in wRC+ among NL shortstops. Seager’s defensive numbers check in better than Turner or Cozart, and he’s not that far off Cozart’s offensive output. All things considered, Seager is the choice here, but that shouldn’t take anything away from Cozart’s 2017.

Advantage: NL West

Third Base — Anthony Rendon (East), Kris Bryant (Central), Justin Turner (West)

Third base is another position loaded with talent. Based on this season alone, you easily could have talked me into Travis Shaw as the NL Central’s starter, but Bryant’s 2017 stats are close enough to Shaw’s that his track record gives him the nod. It feels weird not having Arenado represent the West, but Turner has been off-the-charts good at the plate this season.

There are several reasons Rendon wins this position battle. Turner is benefiting from a near .400 BABIP that’s destined to come down, and Rendon’s results seem more sustainable. Rendon has been more valuable defensively than either player as well. The combination of solid offensive output (.304/.407/.552) with defensive prowess makes him the winner.

Advantage: NL East

Outfield — Bryce Harper, Marcell Ozuna, and Michael Conforto (East); Andrew McCutchen, Adam Duvall, and Domingo Santana (Central); Charlie Blackmon, Cody Bellinger, and Chris Taylor (West)

By wRC+, the East has the two best hitters at the position this season (Harper and Conforto). It doesn’t hurt that Ozuna also checks in at fourth by that statistic. There’s not a lot separating these players offensively, but where there is separation, it’s in the East’s favor this season. Harper and Ozuna also have two of the better defensive ratings among the players selected. Bellinger, Blackmon, McCutchen, and Santana are all having top-10 offensive seasons at the position, but it’s not enough to overcome the combined success of the East’s outfield.

Advantage: NL East

Starting pitcher Max Scherzer (East), Carlos Martinez (Central), Clayton Kershaw (West)

With all due respect to Carlos Martinez, this is a two-horse race.

Scherzer and Kershaw are putting together two incredible seasons. Kershaw is 14-2 with a 2.18 ERA (189 ERA+). He leads the NL in innings pitched, and he’s striking out more than 10 batters per nine for the fourth straight season. You could easily make a case for Kershaw as the best player in baseball (not just the NL).

But if you were going to pick against him, Scherzer is having the kind of season that could justify doing so. The Nationals starter has a 2.10 ERA, and he’s striking out an incredible 12.1 batters per nine. He’s thrown the second-most innings of any starter in the National League, and his 206 ERA+ leads the league. Kershaw is probably the pick if you were choosing a starter long-term. However, for this season, Scherzer gives the NL East the edge.

Advantage: NL East

Relievers Pat Neshek and Jim Johnson (East), Wade Davis and Felipe Rivero (Central), Archie Bradley and Kenley Jansen (West)

There were a lot of worthy relievers to consider for these spots. That is, except in the NL East, which seems to be suffering from a shortage of elite bullpen arms this season. If your favorite team's elite reliever was left off this roster, it was simply because of the limited slots available.

Jansen’s feats are well documented this season. He’s striking out 13.6 per nine while walking just 0.48 batters per nine. He has a sub-1.00 ERA, and his FIP (1.05) almost matches that absurd number. There are some nice seasons represented on this list, but Jansen’s presence alone is enough to tip the scales in favor of the West. Rivero is nonetheless deserving of a shoutout for his 0.76 ERA (and 2.32 FIP).

Advantage: NL West

Total Advantages: NL East (4), NL West (3), NL Central (1)

When thinking about this idea off the top of your head, it might be easy to conclude that the NL West would win a contest like this. The Dodgers dominance plus the presence of Goldschmidt and the Rockies is a powerful combination. However, just for this season, the NL East (well... the Nationals) can lay claim to having some of the best players as their position. These matchups aren’t going to happen on the field, but a baseball player can dream.


Eric Roseberry is a writer for Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter @ericroseberry. He also writes for Baseball Prospectus and The Sporting News.