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    Tuesday, July 15, 2014

    2014 All-Star Roster Corrections, National League

    The other day, I began making my list of All-Star corrections with the American League roster. I have no idea why I always start with the American League, but what’s done is done. All that’s left now is to fix up the National League.

    The NL had a few more…interesting picks than the AL. Still, nothing mind-blowingly bad, but there was room to improve.

    NL Starters
    C-Yadier Molina (STL), replaced by Jonathan Lucroy
    2B-Chase Utley (PHI)
    3B-Aramis Ramirez (MIL)
    SS-Troy Tulowitzki (COL)
    OF-Carlos Gomez (MIL)
    OF-Yasiel Puig (LAD)

    As I’ve said before, as long as the starter would have made the team, I’m okay with them starting. Starting versus reserves isn’t that big of a difference. That said,  there’s really only one major issue I have with this group: Aramis Ramirez just isn’t the best third baseman in the league. Not even close. He’s tied for sixth among qualified NL third basemen in weighted Runs Created+ (wRC+) with 119. He’s not playing particularly great defense to make up for it. He’s tied for eleventh in WAR (Fangraphs). 

    Instead, why not promote Todd Frazier to the start? His 137 wRC+ and 3.7 WAR lead all NL third basemen. That seems like a positive switch. Everyone else can stay.

    NL Reserves
    C-Devin Mesoraco (CIN), Miguel Montero (ARI, replacement)
    2B-Dee Gordon (LAD), Daniel Murphy (NYM)
    3B-Matt Carpenter (STL), Todd Frazier (CIN)
    SS-Starlin Castro (CHC)

    Well, we already promoted Frazier when we kicked Ramirez off the team. That means that there’s an opening at third base, which means we can add Anthony Rendon to the roster. You could pretty easily argue that Rendon was better than his Final Vote competitor Anthony Rizzo, but Rizzo was still pretty deserving, and removing Ramirez just makes it easier to take both. For what it’s worth, Rendon is posting 3.5 WAR to date (second to Frazier at the position), thanks to slashing .287/.343/.490 (a 132 wRC+, behind only Frazier) while also spending a little time at second.

    As mentioned, Rizzo was pretty deserving, so we can let him stay the Final Vote selection. I had him as someone to add to the roster before the Final Vote results were announced anyway, so it doesn’t matter that much.

    Shortstop is one position where I think there’s a clear better choice. Castro hasn’t been bad, per se, but just compare him to Jhonny Peralta and Hanley Ramirez:

    Castro: .276/.326/.440 in Wrigley Field, 110 wRC+, +0.1 runs on defense, 1.8 WAR
    Peralta: .253/.326/.457 in Busch Stadium, 120 wRC+, +12.7 on defense, 3.1 WAR
    Ramirez: .275/.369/.467 in Dodger Stadium, 140 wRC+, -6.1 on defense, 2.3 WAR

    I’d lean towards Peralta in this case, but I would add Hanley as an honorable mention/last-minute injury reserve.

    Miguel Montero was a curious case for an injury reserve, once Yadier went down. I was going to argue for Evan Gattis or Russell Martin to replace him, despite both trailing him in playing time this year due to injuries. They were both hitting better, and arguably playing better defense (just based on Fangraphs’ WAR defensive component). However, I found out that Montero apparently leads all catchers in runs saved through pitch framing this season. That actually changes my mind enough to leave him on the roster. Gattis and Martin can stay on as injury reserves, I guess.

    That just leaves the outfield. Hunter Pence can stay, but I’m not really sold on Harrison or Blackmon. Blackmon in particular; he’s cooled off as of late to a 116 wRC+ with mediocre defense (-1.7 runs), explaining his WAR of 2.0. Harrison’s been a little better, posting a 120 wRC+ and posting decent defensive numbers (4.2 runs) across a variety of positions. Versatility is nice…but we don’t really need utility guys right now; we need outfielders. 

    I’d probably go with Jason Heyward and Billy Hamilton; both are younger and more exciting stars. And while neither has been as good with the bat this year (104 wRC+ each, although with potential for more from each), they’ve been absolutely killer with the leather. Heyward’s at 16.2 runs saved, while Hamtilon’s sitting at 12.7 in center. It also helps explain their leads in WAR (3.3 and 3.2, respectively).

    NL Pitching Staff
    SP-Johnny Cueto (CIN, injured)
    SP-Clayton Kershaw (LAD)
    SP-Zack Greinke (LAD)
    SP-Madison Bumgarner (SFG, injured)
    SP-Adam Wainwright (STL)
    SP-Tyson Ross (SDP, injured)
    SP-Jordan Zimmermann (WAS, injured)
    SP-Julio Teheran (ATL, injured)
    SP-Jeff Samardzija (was CHC, traded)
    RP-Craig Kimbrel (ATL)
    RP-Aroldis Chapman (CIN)
    RP-Tony Watson (PIT)
    RP-Pat Neshek (STL)
    SP-Henderson Alvarez (MIA, replacement)
    SP-Alfredo Simon (CIN, replacement)
    RP-Tyler Clippard (WAS, replacement)
    SP-Tim Hudson (SFG, replacement)
    RP-Huston Street (SDP, replacement)

    Those injuries include the guys unable to pitch due to the rule about starting on Sunday, as a heads up. That rule took quite a chunk out of this roster, too; it might end up being the difference tonight.

    So, there was only one guy on the roster I would have straight-up taken off: Tyson Ross. The Padres are this year’s “early-2000s Royals”*, meaning the clearest beneficiary of the one per team rule. But all things equal, I’d take Ian Kennedy over Ross. Kennedy has a slight lead in Ks (133-126) and walks (34-43), which helps contribute to his lower Fielding Independent Pitching (2.94-3.28) and higher Fangraphs WAR (2.3-1.7). It’s a minor difference, really. It does remove the need for one replacement, though.

    I originally had Greinke as an injury replacement to help fit in another pitcher, but I I see no reason to take them off the roster given all the replacements that were needed. Alvarez was one of the pitchers I was subbing in, but he made the roster anyway, so whatever.

    I’m against seven relief pitchers on the roster for sure. I mean, heck, I usually say five is too many. With all the injuries, though, I think five can work. I’d toss K-Rod and Clippard, as the other five are all stronger.

    The two starters I’d replace them with? Stephen Strasburg and Jake Arrieta. Strasburg should have been on the roster to start with. He leads the NL with 140 strikeouts with only 24 walks to go against it. He leads the NL in K/9, is 12th in BB/9, is third in pitcher WAR after Kershaw and Wainwright (2.9), has a 3.46 ERA, a 2.72 FIP, and so on. There’s no good reason for him to not be in Minneapolis.

    Arrieta has a shorter run, but it’s been a brilliant one. While he only has 70.2 innings, he’s already shot up to sixth in the NL in WAR with 2.5. It comes from his 10.06 K/9, a 0.25 HR/9, 1.78 ERA, and 2.06 FIP.  Granted, some of that won’t continue, but he’s still been pretty dominant, and in a depleted group, he stands out.

    I was going to argue for Jason Hammel for the roster until he was shipped off to Oakland with Samardzija, so I’ll settle for just mentioning him.

    Lastly, I’m on the fence about Tim Hudson, and not totally in favor of Alfredo Simon. Simon is the product of a luck batting average on balls in play (.232) and strand rate (85.1%). It’s part of the reason he’s only been worth 0.5 WAR so far, and it gets to the question of whether we’re rewarding him for pitching in front of a good defense and getting lucky. Hudson at least has some numbers to back up his case, although I think it’s fair to question if he’s been better than players like Cole Hamels or Michael Wacha.

    Hudson: 119.0 IP, 5.9 K/9, 78 K, 1.4 BB/9, , 2.87 ERA, 3.18 FIP, 1.6 WAR
    Hamels: 100.1 IP, 9.06 K/9, 106 K, 3.14 BB/9, 2.87 ERA, 3.15 FIP, 1.9 WAR
    Wacha: 90.1 IP, 8.27 K/9, 83 K, 2.59 BB/9, 2.79 ERA, 3.03 FIP, 1.7 WAR

    Although I could also see arguing for keeping them and cutting relievers to swap in Hamels and Wacha. At this point, we’re so far down the list that arguing about it almost feels silly. I’d probably go with cutting Neshek and Simon to add Hamels and Wacha and just keeping Hudson, but that’s just me. (EDIT: I also forgot that Wacha is hurt at the time being. Whoops.)

    Whew, was that complicated. If only the NL could shift some of that offense depth over to their pitching.

    And so, the changes for the NL Roster are:

    +Anthony Rizzo (1B, CHC, Final Vote)
    Aramis Ramirez (3B, MIL)->Anthony Rendon (3B, WAS)
    Promote Todd Frazier (3B, CIN) to starter
    Starlin Castro (SS, CHC)->Jhonny Peralta (SS, STL)
    Josh Harrison (OF, PIT)->Jason Heyward (OF, ATL)
    Charlie Blackmon (OF, COL)->Billy Hamilton (OF, CIN)
    Pat Neshek (RP, STL)->Michael Wacha (SP, STL)
    Alfredo Simon (SP, CIN)->Cole Hamels (SP, PHI)
    Tyson Ross (SP, SDP)->Ian Kennedy (SP, SDP)
    Francisco Rodriguez (RP, MIL)->Jake Arrieta (SP, CHC)
    Tyler Clippard (RP, WAS)->Stephen Strasburg (SP, WAS)

    Honorable Mentions

    Evan Gattis (C, ATL), Russell Martin (C, PIT), Harrison, Hanley Ramirez (SS, LAD), Jason Hammel (SP, ex-CHC)

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