All-Star misters… and misses?

16
Jul

Tim Stride

This blog post is written in association with Fantasy Baseball UK, the online fantasy baseball game aimed at UK-based MLB fans. For those not familiar with the game format, fantasy teams earn points each day based on the real-life hitting or pitching achievements of the MLB players on their rosters. It uses a simple sliding points system, e.g. 5 points for hitting a home run, down to 1 point for a hit or walk.

 

The American League triumphed over the National League, 4-2, to win its fourth straight MLB All-Star Game on 12 July at San Diego's Petco Park. With the fantasy league taking a few days' short break as well, we've put together Fantasy Baseball UK's own All-Star Team of the first half of the season and looked at how it compares to the official All-Star selections that took to the field in the annual Mid-Summer Classic on Tuesday.

Below are the starting line-ups for the All-Star Game, followed by the Fantasy Baseball UK All-Star Team of the First Half. The starting position players in the All-Star Game are decided by voting fans: the spot goes to the player with the most votes in each position in each of the American League and National League. So while the best performing players are likely to generally attract a high number of votes from baseball fans, in some cases it also comes down to a popularity contest, a desire to honour big names in their final season before retiring (see Derek Jeter in 2014) and perhaps also to which teams' fans are mobilised most effectively to vote for their own players... at one point in June last year, the Kansas City Royals were on course to have eight of the starting nine players in the AL team for the 2015 All-Star Game.

The pitchers and reserve players for both leagues are determined through a combination of player voting and the selection of the All-Star Teams' managers. As the tendency in the All-Star Game is for each team to carry a large cohort of starting and relief pitchers and introduce at least one new pitcher each inning, the comparison with the FBUK All-Star Team gets a bit messy. Below, only the pitcher who started on the mound for each side is listed, assuming they were among the most favoured of the 17 ace starters and relievers that each league brought to the game!

The FBUK All-Star Team of the First Half consists of the players with the highest number of fantasy points in each position, accumulated during the entire period from the start of the season up to the All-Star Break. For reference, in the official All-Star Game line-ups, each player's equivalent FBUK ranking and points scored is included, e.g. Salvador Perez is ranked fourth among all catchers in the fantasy league up to the All-Star Break, with 381 points.

American League

C Salvador Perez Royals (4th - 381pts)
1B Eric Hosmer Royals (7th - 467pts)
2B Jose Altuve Astros (1st - 637pts)
3B Manny Machado Orioles (5th - 546pts)*
SS Xander Bogaerts Red Sox (1st - 565pts)
DH David Ortiz Red Sox (2nd - 599pts)
OF Mike Trout Angels (2nd - 647pts)
OF Jackie Bradley Jr. Red Sox (9th - 523pts)
OF Mookie Betts Red Sox (1st - 649pts)
SP Chris Sale White Sox (2nd - 651pts)

 

* Machado is listed as a shortstop in the fantasy league but is eligible to be put in the third base slot. Here, he’s listed where he would rank among other third baseman in FBUK who could have been chosen to start in San Diego.

National League

C Buster Posey Giants (1st - 445pts)      
1B Anthony Rizzo Cubs (3rd - 579pts)      
2B Ben Zobrist Cubs (5th - 495pts)      
3B Kris Bryant Cubs (2nd - 637pts)      
SS Addison Russell Cubs (15th - 409pts)      
DH Wil Myers Padres (1st - 613pts)^      
OF Bryce Harper Nationals (5th - 558pts)      
OF Yoenis Cespedes Mets (injured) (12th - 499pts) / Carlos Gonzalez Rockies (7th - 537pts)
OF Dexter Fowler Cubs (injured) (46th - 354pts) / Marcel Ozuna Marlins (16th - 478pts)
SP Johnny Cueto Giants (5th - 621pts)      

 

^ Myers is normally a first baseman (obviously, DH doesn't usually exist in the NL but since 2010 the DH features in every All-Star Game), although first base and DH are interchangeable positions in the fantasy league anyway. His ranking among first basemen is listed here.

FBUK All-Star Team of the First Half

FBUK All-Star Team line-up

Probably unsurprisingly, there is quite a lot of similarity between the FBUK and 'official' All-Star teams: six of the FBUK All-Stars were also voted to start the official All-Star Game: Altuve, Betts, Bogaerts, Myers, Posey and Trout. A few more, like Donaldson and Scherzer, were brought in from the bench part way through the game. Some other starters in San Diego, like Bryant, Rizzo and Ortiz are ranked in the top two or three for their position in the fantasy league rankings. David Ortiz won the popular vote to start as the AL team’s designated hitter - over FBUK's selection Edwin Encarnacion - but, again, that's not really a surprise. While Encarnacion has more home runs and RBI, Ortiz is having a great year with the best batting average among AL designated hitters (.332) and leads the American League in on-base percentage (.426) and slugging (.682). Plus he's a high profile veteran, a Red Sock and supposedly retiring at the end of the season so he was pretty much a shoe-in.

Picture of the David Ortiz Oyo toy
David Ortiz

When you get to the players who are ranked around fifth to tenth for their position in the fantasy league but who were voted to start the All-Star Game, some anomalies are thrown up by the slight differences between the FBUK and MLB player stats rankings. For one, the fantasy league doesn’t differentiate between the American and National Leagues; players from both are grouped together. So at catcher position, the AL team’s starter Salvador Perez is the fourth best based on fantasy points, but he’s still the highest placed catcher from the American League so that tallies with his inclusion on AL team line-up.

Perez’s Royals teammate Eric Hosmer is ranked joint seventh among first basemen on FBUK but he started for the American League ahead of Chris Davis, the AL home run leader among first basemen, and Miguel Cabrera who is not just probably a ‘bigger name’ but whose season stats are better than Hosmer’s, pretty much across the board. So was this a case of the ‘Royals effect’ carrying over from last year’s voting? Possibly, but Hosmer does have 100 hits and the best batting average of AL first basemen (.299) so his AL team spot was not unwarranted stats-wise, plus he has those intangible qualities of ‘clubhouse presence’ and ‘team spirit’. In the end, Perez and Hosmer drove in all of the AL’s runs on the night and Hosmer walked/drove away with a brand new truck after being named the game’s MVP, so it’s hard to argue with that.

Tweeted picture of Hosmer's MVP truck

Boston’s Jackie Bradley Jr. has a FBUK ranking of ninth among outfielders but won a starting position in the AL team over, say, Mark Trumbo of the Baltimore Orioles who leads the Majors with 28 home runs and leads MLB outfielders with 68 RBI and 100 hits. Perhaps Bradley Jr.’s 29-game hitting streak in April and May factored into the voting.

The National League team included some interesting voting choices and does seem to have been affected by a ‘Cubs effect’ similar to last year’s ‘Royals effect’. The entire starting infield consisted of Chicago Cubs players but the most controversial presence among them was Addison Russell at short stop. The 22-year-old is ranked down in 15th at the position in Fantasy Baseball UK and lies outside the top ten among NL shortstops in many of the official MLB hitting stats. Many fans on social media were quick to point out his less than stunning .237 batting average on the announcement of the All-Star line-ups.

Another slightly bizarre result was Dexter Fowler (yes, of the Cubs) winning a start in the outfield. While his 46th ranking in FBUK is deceptively low because he has been out injured since mid-June (so has not accumulated any points since then), his batting average (.290) and slugging percentage (.483) were medium level among NL outfielders, although his on-base percentage was top five. In the end, Fowler opted to sit out the All-Star Game in order to continue his recovery from the hamstring strain. His replacement, Miami Marlins’ Marcel Ozuna, though ranked 16th overall among outfielders in FBUK, is batting a decent .307 with 17 home runs and an on-base plus slugging percentage of .892 (fourth among NL outfielders).

So, to conclude. Is any of the above interesting? Perhaps. Does any of it matter, in the grand scheme of things? Probably not. Here’s a picture of the MLB mascots at the 2016 All-Star Game - controversially, there’s two clubs which have mascots but which aren’t represented in that photo. Can you spot the missing mascots?!!

tagged under: baseball, mlb, major league baseball, events, mascots, all-star game, fantasy baseball

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