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Smallworld All Stars
What would the All-Star teams look like if Smallworld Points (SWP) were the basis for selection?
I decided to find out. I used average SWP per eligible game (as of Monday, June 29) as my selection statistic. Using an average, rather than a total, normalizes for players with different numbers of games played. That could be important for players on the Yankees, who had played only 75 games while some teams (like the Giants, Blue Jays, Reds, and Rockies) had already played 83 games. It also allows for the selection of some players who have spent a bit of time on the disabled list - although I restricted my list of eligible players to those who were active for at least 50 games. I also excluded players who are currently disabled - although I'll list those that would otherwise have been included.
All-Star rosters consist of 28 players. Every major league team must be represented by at least one player. I started my selection process by picking the top two players at each hitting position (or the top six, in the case of outfielders), and the top nine pitchers. That produced 25 man rosters. Then, if necessary, I added players that were necessary to satisfy the "at least one per team" requirement. I think you'll find some of the choices a bit surprising. Let's consider them position by position.
Catcher: In the National League, the top catcher is Javy Lopez, averaging 13.7 SWP/G. (Remember that I'm using "eligible games", not actual games played; Lopez appeared in only 71 games, but was eligible to play in all 81 of Atlanta's games.) The second NL catcher already raises an issue. Mike Piazza has averaged 13.0 SWP/G, while Jason Kendall has averaged only 12.8. I knocked 2 games from Piazza's eligible total, however, to compensate for his two "travel days" - L.A. to Florida, and then Florida to New York. He really wasn't available to play on either of those days. But, if I didn't make that adjustment, his average would drop to 12.6 SWP/G, and Kendall would have gotten the nod. I'll come back to this issue later - but for the moment, I'll pencil in Piazza as the second NL catcher.
The leading AL catcher is Ivan Rodriguez, who is averaging 14.8 SWP/G. But the second best AL catcher is Sandy Alomar, who sports a relatively paltry average of only 8.6 SWP/G. Both Eddie Taubensee and Mike Lieberthal have higher averages; they're just in the wrong league.
First Base: Tops in the NL is Mark McGwire, who leads all hitters in both leagues with 22.8 SWP/G. Second, however, is Jeff Bagwell, with an average of 18.5, nosing out Galarraga, who averages just 17.8. Bagwell spent two weeks on the DL, but still played in all 66 games for which he was eligible. Galaragga has been eligible for all 82 of Atlanta's games, although he has missed 5 games due to back problems. However, since his injuries weren't severe enough to land him on the DL, he was eligible to play in all 82, and he doesn't make the cut. If there's room for one more player at the end, maybe I can squeeze him on the roster, but for now, he gets a few extra days to rest.
Jim Thome heads the AL list, averaging 19.6 SWP/G. Rafael Palmiero then noses out Carlos Delgado by only 0.2 SWP/G.
Second Base: The NL leader is no surprise - Craig Biggio, with an average of 19.4 SWP/G. Jeff Kent would be the second choice, but since he's currently on the DL, we'll have to take #3 on the NL list, Delino DeShields.
In the AL, Ray Durham gets the nod, with Chuck Knoblauch close behind.
Third Base: In spite of a recent slump, Chipper Jones leads all third baseman, with an average of 17.8 SWP/G. The second best will probably surprise you. No, it's not Vinny Castilla. It's Scott Rolen, who noses out Castilla, 17.2 to 16.9.
In the AL, Dean Palmer and Scott Brosius are neck-and-neck for 1 and 2, respectively. Cal Ripken Jr. - the fans choice - ranks #12!
Shortstop: You're probably having a tough time coming up with any deserving SS in the National League. The best average belongs to Barry Larkin, whose 13.6 SWP/G ranks him behind five AL shortstops. The second best NL shortstop is Edgar Renteria, who thankfully also takes care of the potentially troublesome Marlins slot on the roster.
In the AL, Alex Rodriguez heads the class, with his 21.0 SWP/G easily outdistancing his closest rival, Derek Jeter. Damion Easley is disadvantaged by his puzzling SW listing as a shortstop; he ranks as 4th best (also trailing Garciaparra) at short, but would have been the AL leader at 2B.
Outfield: For the NL, the list goes like this: Sosa, Vaughn (that's Greg, not Mo), Bonds, Burnitz, Sheffield, and Alou. I'm particularly happy to pick up a player from each of the Brewers and Dodgers here.
In the AL, the list is Griffey, Bernie Williams (on the DL), Gonzalez, Erstad, O'Neill, Higginson, and Grieve. Yep, that's Bobby Higginson! I'll bet you wouldn't have come up with his name on your own!
Next, let's turn to pitchers. I thought about requiring a certain number of starters and closers, but let's just let the chips fall where they may, and see how it looks.
Pitchers: For the NL, the top nine pitchers are Maddux, Nen, Schilling, Stottlemyre, Hoffman, Leiter (Al - who is on the DL), Urbina, Reed, Ashby, and Kevin Brown. Just missing the cut is Kerry Wood, at 16.8 SWP/G. There are three closers on the list, which seems reasonable.
In the AL, Orlando Hernandez has the highest average per game, but doesn't satisfy my eligibility rule of at least 50 games. So the list continues with Pedro Martinez, Tom Gordon (Red Sox at both #1 and #2!), Rivera, Colon, Wetteland, Percival, Mussina, Finley, and Arrojo. Mussina was actually eligible for only 49 games, but has enough total points that if I calculate his average using 50 in the denominator, he still makes the cut. So, it seems only fair to include him. Just missing the cut is David Wells, at 15.4 SWP/G. There are four closers, and I suppose I could drop Percival to add Wells, but Troy's SWP/G average is a full point-and-a-half better that David's, so I think I'll leave it as is.
So far, I have 25 players for each team. Now, what teams are not yet represented?
In the NL, I have no one from Pittsburgh, Colorado, or Arizona. Kevin Young is the leading Pirate, but his average of only 13.6 SWP/G is pretty meager for a first baseman. The next two are Francisco Cordova at 13.1, and Jason Kendall at 12.8. Given the possible controversy over my selection of Piazza, I think I'll go with Kendall as a third NL catcher.
The top SWP average on the Rockies belongs to Vinny Castilla, with Dante Bichette a reasonably close second. On the Diamondbacks, the best average belongs to Devon White at 14.0 SWP/G. Not very good for an outfielder, but the second best is Travis Lee, and his average of 13.4 ranks him behind Kevin Young. So, I guess I'd better choose White.
In the AL, there are only two unrepresented teams - Toronto and Minnesota. The top average on the Blue Jays belongs to Carlos Delgado, more than a full point ahead of Canseco. For the Twins, Brad Radke has the top average of 14.3 SWP/G. Second best is Matt Lawton, whose 12.8 average makes even Devon White look like a stud. Should I carry a tenth pitcher on the AL squad? I can't cut Arrojo, since he's my only player from Tampa Bay. And Chuck Finley sure seems to belong on the staff. I guess I'll carry 10 AL pitchers.
Now, before I finalize, I have one spot left on the AL squad. Seems like I should go back and add Damion Easley. Even though Garciaparra has a better average at SS, we all know Easley really plays 2B, and would rank first among true second basemen.
Now what about Galarraga? Can I really leave him off the NL team with a 17.8 SWP/G average? I don't think so. So who do I cut? The lowest point producer on the team is Renteria, but I have only two shortstops, and besides, he's my Marlin. The second lowest is Piazza. Can I really leave him off the team? Actually, he's not posting Piazza-like numbers this year. Last season - which was admittedly his career year so far - he averaged 17.4 per game. Oh well, I'll probably take some heat for this one, but Mike - take a few days off. Maybe you'll finally have time to pack.
So here's the final list:
American League National League Pos Name Team SWP/G Name Team SWP/G C Rodriguez Tex 14.8 Lopez Atl 13.7 Alomar Cle 8.6 Kendall Pit 12.8 1B Thome Cle 19.6 McGwire StL 22.8 Palmiero Bal 17.3 Bagwell Hou 18.5 Delgado Tor 17.1 Galaragga Atl 17.8 2B Durham Chi 14.9 Biggio Hou 19.4 Knoblauch NY 14.3 Deshields Stl 13.6 3B Palmer KC 13.9 Jones Atl 17.8 Brosius NYY 13.8 Rolen Phi 17.2 Castilla Col 16.9 SS Rodriguez Sea 21.0 Larkin Cin 13.6 Jeter NYY 18.5 Renteria Fla 12.4 Easley Det 15.9 OF Griffey Sea 20.8 Sosa Chi 21.3 Gonzalez Tex 19.9 Vaughn SD 18.4 Erstad Ana 18.3 Bonds SF 17.6 O'Neill NYY 17.5 Burnitz Mil 16.5 Higginson Det 16.2 Sheffield LA 16.3 Grieve Oak 16.0 Alou Hou 16.2 White Ari 14.0 P Martinez Bos 20.7 Maddux Atl 24.8 Gordon Bos 18.8 Nen SF 23.4 Rivera NYY 18.0 Schilling Phi 21.3 Colon Cle 17.9 Stottlemyre StL 19.9 Wetteland Tex 17.5 Hoffman SD 19.4 Percival Ana 16.9 Urbina Mon 18.6 Mussina Bal 16.7 Reed NYM 18.5 Finley Ana 16.2 Ashby SD 18.4 Arrojo TB 16.2 Brown SD 17.8 Radke Min 14.3 DL Williams 20.5 Leiter NYM 19.2 Kent SF 15.6 Best players not selected: Garciaparra Bos 16.8 Wood Chi 16.8 Vaughn Bos 16.6 Glavine Atl 16.4 Bell Hou 16.1
The NL squad enjoys a clear point advantage, although the hitting is a virtual dead heat between the two leagues. The Yankees lead all teams with five members (six, if you count Bernie Williams), while San Diego and Atlanta lead the NL with four selections. Sixteen teams are represented by only one player.
So what's the point in all this? I dunno. All in all, it does look like Smallworld points do a pretty good job, although I'm sure there are a lot of names you could quibble over. But maybe that's the main attraction of any All-Star team - arguing over who belongs, and who doesn't.
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