Fans, numbers don’t always agree when it comes to All-Star voting
BY JOHN GROCHOWSKI For Sun-Times Media June 24, 2013 9:17PM
CHICAGO, IL - MAY 05: Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds hits a double in the 5th inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on May 5, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
With the All-Star Game just three weeks away and fan balloting well under way, there’s only partial agreement between fans and numbers as to which National Leaguers belong and which don’t. Of the eight positions up for election, fans and the Wins Above Replacement listings at Baseball-Reference.com agree on only three: the Cardinals’ Yadier Molina at catcher, the Mets’ David Wright at third base and the Rockies’ Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop.
That’s not surprising. WAR takes into account defense and baserunning along with offense. Fans focus on big years at bat, the star power of familiar names and more than a sprinkling of votes for hometown favorites. There’s nothing wrong with that in a game designed primarily as entertainment for the fans.
A ballot cast by the numbers would part with the fans at five positions:
First base: The fans’ leader so far is the Reds’ Joey Votto, and why not? He does it all at the plate, with a .326 batting average and 56 walks adding up to an NL-leading .440 on-base percentage and 13 home runs fueling a .517 slugging percentage. At 3.5 WAR, he’s seventh in the NL.
But the Diamondbacks’ Paul Goldschmidt has been a match for him. His .956 OPS is just a point behind Votto’s, and his defense has been better (0.7 dWAR to 0.0). The bottom line is 3.9 WAR for Goldschmidt and 3.5 for Votto, but there’s no faulting the fans for voting for the established star.
Second base: In a two-man race among the fans, the Reds’ Brandon Phillips leads the Giants’ Marco Scutaro. By the numbers, the Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter is an easy pick.
At .323/.403/.472 for an .875 OPS, Carpenter has the 10th-best offensive WAR in the NL at 2.9. Add in his defense, and his overall WAR also is 10th at 3.4. Scutaro is second at 2.3, fueled mainly by a .323 batting average, but his defensive WAR is subpar at minus-0.2. Phillips is stronger in the field with a 0.6 dWAR, plus he has a .743 OPS and 1.6 WAR overall.
Outfield: The runaway leader in fan balloting is the Cardinals’ Carlos Beltran, with the next two spots going to the Braves’ Justin Upton and the Nationals’ Bryce Harper. None of the three is in the top 15 in WAR among NL outfielders, with Harper at 1.7, Beltran at 1.6 and Upton at 1.1.
The major leagues’ WAR leader at 4.9 has been the Brewers’ Carlos Gomez. His offensive output is strong at .313/.355/.570 for a .925 OPS and a 2.8 oWAR, and his center-field defense has been worth a 2.2 dWAR. The Rockies’ Carlos Gonzalez (.991 OPS, 3.2 oWAR, 0.6 dWAR, 4.1 WAR) is next, followed by the Diamondbacks’ Gerardo Parra (.858 OPS, 2.3 oWAR, 1.4 dWAR, 3.9 WAR).
The all-WAR team would feature an outfield of Gomez, Parra and Gonzalez. But that’s a ballot built at least partly on defense, and that’s not how the fan vote rolls.