Jul 10

Time to Get Out and Vote, NL Style

(This is part two of a two part series covering my All Star Fan Vote. I know you can’t wait to read this important news so here’s the link to part one.)

In a previous article I discussed the credentials for the various AL All Star Fan Vote candidates, and in this article I’d like to break down the candidacy for the NL. I won’t rehash all of my All Star game sentiments here, but rest assured, I’m not exactly enthusiastic about making home field advantage come World Series time dependent on an exhibition game. Whatever. That’s another gripe and another article.

As stated in my AL column, on Monday I voted for Anthony Rendon for the NL and Chris Sale in the AL. I’m almost 100% confident I’m going to stick with Anthony Rendon, but I reserve the right to use Twitter today to vote for the most deserving player to atone for my homer pick if I decide a change must be made. Regardless of the decision, it’s worth revisiting each of the players just to be certain.

Anthony Rizzo

Of the five candidates for the NL Fan Vote, Rizzo leads in BB%, home runs, wOBA, and wRC+, and is second in fWAR, ISO, and slugging. He has been the unquestioned offensive leader of a Cubs team that had been playing surprisingly well before the Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel trade sent them into a five game losing streak where they’ve been outscored 34-11. The Cubs have basically punted on the next few seasons, but it’s not through any fault of Rizzo’s. In terms of fWAR, he’s third for first baseman, but the two men in front of him, Paul Goldschmidt and Freddie Freeman, are already on the team, so including Rizzo might be considered a luxury item more than a necessity.

Also, he’s played a pretty good first base, currently third in the NL for Total Zone Runs with six.

Currently, Starlin Castro represents the Cubs, and Rizzo is the superior player of the two. Of course, Samardzija would have been there, and I still believe that Jake Arrieta will make the team in some form or fashion, which probably means Rizzo is the odd man out.

Justin Morneau

Morneau is the sentimental favorite simply because of all that he’s had to endure since suffering a concussion midway through 2010. Prior to his head injury, he was a four-time All Star, won the AL MVP in 2006, and won the AL Silver Slugger in 2006 and 2008. He also plays a pretty slick first base, and that still counts for winning games, which according to MLB is the goal for these All Star exhibitions. Also, the All Star game is being played at Target Field in Minnesota, and a homecoming would be a great story.

Of our five candidates, Morneau is first in slugging and RBIs, second in average, tied for third in home runs, fourth in OBP, and last in BB% and fWAR. Unlike most Rockies players, his numbers aren’t artificially inflated by Coors Field either. While he does hit better at home .321/.354/.530 to .303/.337/.487 with eight home runs at home to five on the road, the splits aren’t so extreme that it makes you think you’re seeing the second coming of Andres Galarraga. What will probably hurt Morneau, like Rizzo, is that first base is a position of strength in the NL, and while he’s a sentimental favorite, I haven’t heard all that much chatter out there about a loud Morneau campaign for making the team.

Casey McGehee

Like Rendon, McGehee plays in the East, and like Rendon, both happen to play a position of relative strength on the NL roster: third base. On the current NL roster there’s Aramis Ramirez, Todd Frazier, and Matt Carpenter. Carpenter and Frazier absolutely belong on the team, but Ramirez’s inclusion is something of a head scratcher. McGehee is fourth in the NL for third basemen in fWAR, behind Frazier, Carpenter, and Rendon. But, unlike Rendon, McGehee primarily plays third while Rendon also plays second. I don’t see how McGehee makes this team, but he merits the discussion.

Of our five, McGehee leads in batting average and OBP, but he is last in home runs, runs scored, slugging, wOBA, wRC+, and next to last in fWAR, ahead of only Morneau. He also hits into a ton of double plays, 15 on the season. I don’t know why this matters, but seeing rallies killed because of double-plays upsets me. So, this one is personal. Anyway, he has driven in 53 runs, which is second in our group, and he has stolen at least one base, which proves that his legs work and he’s not last in that category (once again, Morneau).

Right now the Marlins are represented by Giancarlo Stanton, which makes McGehee not making the team not exactly a bad thing. Jose Fernandez would be here too if the world was just, but we know that this is not the case, so why stress about it? Oh, who am I kidding? I won’t vote for McGehee. He seems like a fine player, but of the five men listed his is the weakest case for making the team.

Justin Upton

Upton has been an All Star twice (in 2009 and 2011) and was fourth in the NL for MVP voting in 2011. Sometimes I forget how talented he is since most of the time I see highlights of him striking out. He’s not as bad as his brother B.J. Upton, who strikes out in 30.1% of his at-bats, but Justin is pretty close at 28.1%. In the NL, that’s the third worst rate amongst outfielders, and for all position players he’s sixth. Striking out is ok, though, when you’re an offensive force, and Upton can be . . . sometimes. He’s currently 13th in the NL in wOBA, 14th for wRC+, and tied for fifth with 17 home runs.

Of our group, he ranks first in ISO, second in wOBA, wRC+, home runs, stolen bases, and slugging, and third in fWAR, BB%, and OBP. RBIs might be a silly counting stat, but Upton is ahead of only Rizzo in this group with 50. Upton also deserves credit for providing any kind of offense on a Braves team that is 13th in the NL in runs scored (ahead of only the Cardinals and Padres). By fWAR, Upton is fourth on his own team for position players, and the NL has some good players in the OF already.

The Braves currently have Freeman and Craig Kimbrel on the team, so Upton not being there isn’t a travesty. Still. He has a compelling case for being voted in if it wasn’t for the last player to follow, Rendon.

Anthony Rendon

Rendon has been everything the Nationals could have hoped for and more. He’s moved between second and third without complaint, and while his best position is third he’s handled second well too. That’s important because while the NL has a glut of good third basemen second is another matter. As it stands, the NL has Chase Utley, Dee Gordon, and Daniel Murphy. All three are having fine seasons, but if Rendon was playing second as his primary position his 3.3 fWAR would lead them all.

First, I’d like to offer you a few plays to watch if you’re still undecided: here, here, here, and here. Believe me, that last play was not a fluke, though it was amazing. He’s been doing that all season. Yes, consider me a fan.

But, for our group, Rendon leads in fWAR, stolen bases, doubles (yeah, I’m breaking that out) and runs, is third in batting average, wRC+, and RBIs, is fourth in both wOBA and slugging, and is last in OBP.

At the moment, the Nationals lone representative for the NL squad is Jordan Zimmermann who so thoroughly dominated in June (read here) that he went from looking like an average starter at best to one of the NL’s best in a month’s time. That the Nats aren’t better represented isn’t all that surprising since they’ve dealt with a ton of injuries this year, but Rendon’s exclusion is surprising. If he played second all year, he’d be there, and if he’d played third all season he’d be there. Since he’s juggled between the two, he’s not on the team, and I believe that after the fan vote he will be. He leads the Nats in fWAR (position and pitchers) and if he continues at his current rate he could be a dark horse MVP candidate. Will he win it? I don’t see that happening, but a top 10 finish is certainly possible.

Summary

If I had to go against Rendon, I’d select Morneau. This isn’t for stats or who leads in what category. I’m a sucker for a great story, and Morneau returning to Minnesota is a really great story. Is it Jeter in his last All Star game great? Maybe not. I don’t think Morneau being there would steal the headlines. Even so, I’m still going with #VoteRendon and fully comfortable in the decision. I might tweet one #VoteMorneau just because, but Rendon will get two or more.

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