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A.J. Pierzynski deserved to be an All-Star and here’s why

White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski has 16 homers 49 RBI an .865 OPS All-Star break.  |  Getty Images

White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski has 16 homers, 49 RBI and an .865 OPS at the All-Star break. | Getty Images

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Updated: August 11, 2012 6:19AM

When fans vote for All-Star position
players, it’s a given that some of the top performers won’t be elected. Fans love flashy Triple Crown numbers, established stars and, most of all, hometown players.

The idea is to get the fans involved and let them see the stars they want, then have the players and managers fill out the rosters with deserving candidates. But players and managers miss, too, and there are outcries about snubs every year.

This year, the biggest rage in Chicago has been about White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Some fans look at his traditional stats: a .285 batting average with 16 home runs and 49 RBI. Those more tuned in to sabermetrics look at his .865 OPS, which matches that of the Twins’ Joe Mauer among American League catchers. All wonder how he was left off the AL roster.

By the numbers, there are deeper methods of evaluating the whole player, including Wins Above Replacement. WAR calculates the value of contributions on both offense and defense and adjusts for ballpark effects.

Rangers catcher Mike Napoli, elected as the starter, comes up with a 0.2 WAR. He has some offensive value despite a .228 average, thanks to a .340 on-base percentage and 12 homers. His offensive WAR is 0.9, but he’s at minus-0.4 on defense. (Offensive and defensive WAR don’t add up to total WAR.)

So what about the backups? The pros picked Mauer and the Orioles’ Matt Wieters. What does WAR have to say?

Mauer: Always strong at getting on base, Mauer leads the AL with a .416 OBP. Getting on base has such an important correlation to team runs that, given two nearly equal offensive players, nearly all sabermetric calculations will favor the player with the higher OBP. Mauer and Pierzynski are tied in OPS, but Mauer leads in runs created per 27 outs (6.49 to Pierzynski’s 6.36) and in offensive WAR (2.6-2.2). Behind the plate, Mauer comes up as a slight negative (minus-0.4) for an overall WAR of 2.1.

Pierzynski: Like Mauer, he’s a slight negative behind the plate (minus-0.2). His overall WAR is 1.5, far better than Napoli but a bit behind Mauer.

Wieters: With a .758 OPS and 4.65 runs created per 27 outs, Wieters is no match for Mauer or Pierzynski offensively. That shows in his 1.5 offensive WAR. But he’s a plus with a 0.7 defensive WAR. That nudges him past Pierzynski with a 1.7 total WAR.

Pierzynski belonged as one of the three catchers on the AL roster, but there was no option to drop Napoli, the people’s choice.

GLOSSARY: WAR is the number of victories a player is worth compared to the type of player who usually is easily available as a replacement.

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