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Donaldson leads All-Star voting at third base

There's still time to vote for Daric Barton at first base. - Hunter Martin

The first round of ballot results are in! Let's talk about who's going to make the cut, rightly or wrongly.

Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson leads fan voting for the 2014 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, with MLB releasing the first list of All-Star voting leaders. With 464,367 votes, Donaldson holds a 56,643 vote lead over Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Donaldson leads the American League in bWAR (3.9) and is behind only Mike Trout in AL position-player fWAR (2.9, Trout 3.1). Also appearing on the leaderboards are (1) Derek Norris in a distant third at catching behind the injured Orioles backstop Matt Wieters and Brian McCann of the Yankees, (2) Jed Lowrie in fifth at shortstop (Derek Jeter leads), (3) Brandon Moss in fifth at designated hitter (David Ortiz), (4) and Yoenis Cespedes is ninth in the outfield (Trout, Jose Bautista, and Jacoby Ellsbury).

Starting position players are elected by the fans. A vote of players, coaches, and managers selects five starting pitchers, three relief pitchers, and backups at each position. The managers of last year's World Series clubs selects eight or nine more players. Finally, after 33 players are selected, fans are asked to elect a final 34th player. Every team is assured at least one player on the All-Star team.

Looking at the American League roster, let's throw out manager's discretion and player voting and ignore injuries (Matt Weiters) and just assume that beyond the fan vote, players are selected based solely on fWAR.

Fan vote + fWAR fWAR alone
Pos Player Team fWAR Reps Pos Player Team fWAR Reps
C-1 Matt Wieters BAL 0.7 BAL 2 C-1 Derek Norris OAK 1.5 BAL 2
C-2 Derek Norris OAK 1.5 BOS 3 C-2 Yan Gomes CLE 1.3 BOS 2
C-3 Yan Gomes CLE 1.3 CLE 3 C-3 Chris Ianneta LAA 1.3 CLE 3
1B-1 Miguel Cabrera DET 1.8 CWS 1 1B-1 Brandon Moss OAK 2.1 CWS 1
1B-2 Brandon Moss OAK 2.1 DET 3 1B-2 Miguel Cabrera DET 1.8 DET 3
2B-1 Ian Kinsler DET 2.1 HOU 1 2B-1 Ian Kinsler DET 2.1 HOU 1
2B-2 Brian Dozier MIN 1.9 KC 2 2B-2 Brian Dozier MIN 1.9 KC 1
SS-1 Derek Jeter NYY 0.3 LAA 4 SS-1 Alexei Ramirez CWS 1.7 LAA 5
SS-2 Alexei Ramirez CWS 1.7 MIN 2 SS-2 Erick Aybar LAA 1.4 MIN 1
3B-1 Josh Donaldson OAK 2.9 NYY 3 3B-1 Josh Donaldson OAK 2.9 NYY 3
3B-2 Evan Longoria TBR 1.5 OAK 4 3B-2 Evan Longoria TBR 1.5 OAK 4
OF-1 Mike Trout LAA 3.1 SEA 1 OF-1 Mike Trout LAA 3.1 SEA 1
OF-2 Jose Bautista TOR 2.3 TBR 1 OF-2 Jose Bautista TOR 2.3 TBR 1
OF-3 Jacoby Ellsbury NYY 0.4 TEX 2 OF-3 Michael Brantley CLE 2.1 TEX 2
OF-4 Michael Brantley CLE 2.1 TOR 2 OF-4 Adam Jones BAL 1.7 TOR 2
OF-5 Adam Jones BAL 1.7 OF-5 Alex Gordon KC 1.7
OF-6 Alex Gordon KC 1.7 OF-6 Brett Gardner NYY 1.5
DH-1 David Ortiz BOS 0.9 DH-1 Victor Martinez DET 1.6
DH-2 Victor Martinez DET 1.6 DH-2 Nelson Cruz BAL 1.4
Extra Howie Kendrick LAA 1.8 2B Extra Howie Kendrick LAA 1.8 2B
Extra Edwin Encarnacion TOR 1.8 1B Extra Edwin Encarnacion TOR 1.8 1B
SP-1 Corey Kluber CLE 2.6 SP-1 Corey Kluber CLE 2.6
SP-2 Felix Hernandez SEA 2.5 SP-2 Felix Hernandez SEA 2.5
SP-3 Yu Darvish TEX 2.2 SP-3 Yu Darvish TEX 2.2
SP-4 Jon Lester BOS 2.2 SP-4 Jon Lester BOS 2.2
SP-5 Masahiro Tanaka NYY 2.1 SP-5 Masahiro Tanaka NYY 2.1
SP-6 Dallas Keuchel HOU 1.9 SP-6 Dallas Keuchel HOU 1.9
SP-7 Garrett Richards LAA 1.9 SP-7 Garrett Richards LAA 1.9
RP-1 Glen Perkins MIN 1.2 RP-1 Glen Perkins MIN 1.2
RP-2 Sean Doolittle OAK 1 RP-2 Sean Doolittle OAK 1
RP-3 Koji Uehara BOS 0.9 RP-3 Koji Uehara BOS 0.9
RP-4 Joakim Soria TEX 0.8 RP-4 Joakim Soria TEX 0.8
RP-5 Greg Holland KC 0.7 RP-5 Greg Holland KC 0.7
RP-6 Joe Smith LAA 0.4 RP-6 Joe Smith LAA 0.4

Assumptions

My process for each roster is that fWAR rules for every position not controlled by fan voting. After filling out the position players and one backup, I assume that three extra position players, a catcher and then the two fWAR non-catcher leaders not already selected, will be added. I also assumed seven starting pitchers and six relief pitchers, the same as last year's American League final roster.

Except for catcher, all position players had to qualify for the batting title to be eligible (only six catchers qualify for the AL batting title currently).

For relievers to be eligible, they had to earn at least four saves. Why four? Because this is Athletics Nation, and Sean Doolittle has four saves. Ryan Cook was a special case in 2012 because he was the only representative for the Athletics, but had been named closer.

The starter who would be an fWAR reserve

Miguel Cabrera leads the first baseman vote despite Brandon Moss leading fWAR amongst qualified first basemen. Moss is not printed on the ballot as a first baseman (he's at DH), but the reigning triple crown champion Cabrera would likely lead anyway.

Starters who would not be fWAR All-Stars

At catcher, Matt Wieters leads the fan balloting, though obviously his injury puts his All-Star place in considerable doubt. By fWAR, Derek Norris should start at catcher, and Chris Ianneta should make the team instead of Wieters.

At shortstop, Derek Jeter (fWAR: 0.3) is soundly leading the balloting over Alexei Ramirez (1.7). The Captain's spot on this roster displaces Erick Aybar (1.4).

Jacoby Ellsbury's votes mystify me when the Yankees themselves have Brett Gardner strongly outperforming Ellsbury. Gardner is printed on the ballot, but Ellsbury pushes Michael Brantley out of a starting role and Gardner off of the all-star team. Perhaps it is some strange confluence of Yankees and Boston Red Sox fan votes pushing Ellsbury (fWAR: 0.4) into third place overall. If you include Ichiro Suzuki's 0.6 fWAR from his 86 plate appearances and defense in 39 games, Ellsbury's performance only makes him the third-best outfielder on the Yankees.

Finally, David Ortiz starts at designated hitter, knocking Nelson Cruz off the team, though the voting is very close (501K to 484K). Fangraphs lists Victor Martinez as a designated hitter, and he would be given the start under an fWAR-only rule. He becomes the backup DH under voting + fWAR.

Overriding considerations

Of course, managers and players are not looking at fWAR much, if at all, in choosing reserve all-stars. Here are some names where, based on gut instinct, a manager might consider a second look based on the name alone.

Position players

  • Brian McCann, C: McCann leads catcher voting amongst non-injured catchers, and that would probably be the only reason for John Farrell to select a Yankee catcher who ranks 24th in fWAR amongst catchers with at least 100 plate appearances.
  • Albert Pujols, 1B: I like Pujols as a candidate to because he's a potential Hall of Fame player having a bit of a comeback season after a disappointing injury-plagued 2013. I could see him being selected instead of Edwin Encarnacion or Howie Kendrick. He would be a strong candidate in the vote for the last player. 14 dingers doesn't hurt either.
  • Jose Abreu, 1B: The rookie sensation in Chicago was off to a strong start before he was placed on the disabled list. I think that alone will make it difficult to choose him, given the other strong options at first base.
  • Dustin Pedroia, 2B: It's an extraordinarily close race at second base between Kinsler, Robinson Cano, and Dustrin Pedroia. All three are within 13,000 votes of each other. With Farrell managing, Pedroia might get in under a nominal "fan favorite" justification instead of someone like Brian Dozier. That would probably leave Minnesota closer Glen Perkins as the only All-Star for the Twins.
  • Melky Cabrera, OF: Melky Cabrera is fifth in the outfield voting, but leads qualified outfielders in batting average (.322) and has eight home runs.
  • Shin-Soo Choo, OF: Choo leads qualified batters in on-base percentage, and he was a splashy signing for the Texas Rangers coming into this season. Choo has never been selected to an All-Star Game, so he may be considered due for his many years of high-level performance

Starting pitchers

I'm primarily going to pull names from ESPN's Cy Young tracker that uses the Neyer/James formula to predict the Cy Young race to pull up some other names.

  • Mark Buehrle, CWS: Obviously the league wins leader has to make this team.
  • Sonny Gray, OAK: Obviously the league ERA leader has to make this team.
  • Max Scherzer, DET: Obviously last year's Cy Young winner who is also among the leaders in strikeouts and ERA has to make this team.
Who comes off?

Corey Kluber's 3.10 ERA might not cut it despite all the love from fWAR. The Cleveland Indians starter does not appear in the top 10 Cy Young candidates, and his 2013 (11-5, 3.85) was decent, but not superlative. Garrett Richards might also struggle under traditional standards. He's tenth in ERA and eleventh in strikeouts. It also does not help that the Angels will satisfy their minimum of one player with Mike Trout. Dallas Kuechel I think will make this team simply because he's the only Astros pitcher worthy of All-Star consideration; Jose Altuve does not have much chance of breaking into second base considering the other names on Farrell's list. Incredibly, John Farrell might have to get rid of Jon Lester.

Who just misses?

The amount of quality pitching in the American League means past Sonny Gray, the rest of our "New Big 3" probably won't find their way on. Win-loss records are the unfortunate tiebreaker. Corey Kluber and David Price are out because of their ERAs, and Jesse Chavez and Scott Kazmir just lack the superlative number of strikeouts to overcome their lacks of wins.

Relief Pitchers

For relievers, I'm looking for number of saves or absent saves, ERA's near one (the Ryan Cook hypothesis). Joe Smith and Sean Doolittle are both candidates to be knocked off the reliever roster for lack of saves.

  • Fernando Rodney, SEA: I would just die if Fernando Rodney was chosen and Sean Doolittle was left off. I can't, I just, no. Rodney is third in the American League with 12 saves. There are 26 qualified relievers with better xFIPs than Rodney, Doolittle is sixth. The only reason Rodney has an ERA of 2.79 instead of at least 4.34 is Justin Smoak's incredible diving catch that turned a three-run double into an unassisted double play.

  • Tommy Hunter, BAL: Despite 11 saves, Hunter has an ERA of 6.06, so that's not happening.

Well that's enough from me. Who do you see as interesting choices to make this All-Star Team? Don't forget the poll question.

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