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My All-Star Pick Rebuttal
by Richard Van Zandt,
June 29, 2006

So Keith takes exception to my All-Star picks huh

So, Keith takes exception to my All-Star picks, huh?I come off like the Queen of England, huh?Well then, let me take a moment to further explain and defend my choices in a little greater detail.


Iíll start with Bobby Abreu.Roster constraints hold us back with both excluded Phillies, though with Abreu I also count both his poor batting average for the month of May (.247) and his steadily decreasing SLG (.550 in Apr, .471 in May, .425 in June) among other considerations I simply did not have space for.Known as I am to be occasionally long winded, I do try to be as concise as possible whenever possible, so remember, those charts are meat and potatoes stats and it should not be presumed by any means that they are everything I take into consideration.And though I do remember Abreuís spectacular performance in last yearís home run derby, I give no more consideration to that feat than I do to the fact that his pre-All-Star break numbers this year have noticeably declined from where they were the last few years.I only consider what he has done this year.


Certainly I appreciate Abreuís ability to get on base and even steal a base, not to mention his steady (if a bit overrated) OF play and clutch hitting.But I cannot escape the fact that Soriano is the only clear choice for the Nationals (no, I would not take Nick Johnson), which means one less roster spot automatically.At the same time though, with his better slugging percentage and HR numbers, and the fact that while driving in as many as Abreu, Soriano has also scored four more runs and stolen more bases, I am not ashamed of my choice even if I am ashamed of his defensive play.


Lee certainly is hurt by his lower OBP; as is Soriano, but his better power numbers (23 HR at the time with a higher SLG) grab my attention.However I also see that, while that at .310/.620 he hasnít hit quite as well in the clutch as Abreu, itís not a terribly significant difference as their HR and RBI totals (6/39 for Lee, 4/42 for Abreu) are actually quite similar.I further see that Lee, not unlike Soriano, had driven in 11 more runs than Abreu had while scoring just 1 fewer run.Heck, Lee even has 10 stolen bases in 11 attempts.Again, while I appreciate Abreuís on-base ability and would likely choose him were this a series of games, it is not an end all argument and in this one-game, all or nothing format, Iíll take the potential of Leeís big bat.


I do apologize for Howardís exclusion (and he certainly seems to have noticed it himself and is doing his best to make me look bad with 2 more home runs on Wednesday night). But with three other first basemen already on the roster, I just canít find room for him unless I cut yet another OF.I suppose you could make do with just 5 OF and Cabrera (who Iíll get to later) but to do that and at the same time carry 4 first basemen, even on a 32-man roster (and I even took one extra position player than the NL did last season) seems absurd.No, Howard is hurt by the tremendous depth at the position.I mean, Carlos Delgado isnít even mentioned and no one even notices.I wonder who Keith would exclude, or would he simply try to find a way to take all four?


Certainly it wouldnít be Pujols.Berkman (whoís numbers are clearly deserving anyway) as I noted, is the only Astro Iíve selected, leaving just Howard and Garciaparra.And as impressive as Howard has been, without him the Phillies would still be languishing far behind the Mets while without Nomar and his league leading batting average, the Dodgers likely would not be anywhere near 1st place.Howard has the lowest BA and OBP of the four and is the only one of the 4 hitting lower than .397 w/RISP (.250 actually).Combine that with his poor defensive play (which at 1B wouldnít normally merit much consideration, but 10 errors?!?), and I just canít find any room for the big slugger.If it were a DH year though, Iím sure weíd find a spot for him.


You know, Keith derides me for leaving out HR leaders, walk leaders, RBI leaders and so on. Yet if I take Abreu instead of Soriano or Lee, I get OBP and walks but I lose more HR and RBI.If I take Howard instead of Garciaparra, I get the HR and RBI but I lose the leagueís leading hitter.Seems to me that no matter which direction I go with, heís going to criticize it. Iím curious to see just how he fits them all in.


Now as for Cabrera not having played an inning in the OF this season, I canít imagine heíd do too much worse defensively out there than he has this season at 3B.As far as Iím concerned, though heís masquerading as a 3B, his bat is the reason heís on this squad. However, Iíll look at the whole player and take his versatility into consideration.I mean, I know September 18, 2005 was a long time ago (the last time he played the OF), but I think he can still manage it at least as poorly as he does at 3B.


With such contempt for Cabreraís defense, would I consider taking Sanchez instead of Cabrera?Well, as with Howard and Nomar, I look at where Florida and Pittsburgh are and consider how each would be without Cabrera and Sanchez respectively.Doing that I determine that without Sanchez, Pittsburgh would still suck, while without Cabrera (higher OBP, SLG, HR and RBI than Sanchez), the Fish would be nowhere near approaching .500 as they most surprisingly are (another area we disagree on but letís leave that one for another time eh?).Sanchez, of course, is better defensively than Cabrera, but then thatís not hard, is it?But heís not so outstanding in that regard that defense would merit taking him over Cabrera, especially when youíve already got a great defensive 3B in Rolen.Cabrera is a more deserving player than Sanchez, plain and simple.


However, Keithís point that Sanchez would be worthy as a potential utility player isnít a bad one at all, although it seems odd to me to take four 3B and two 2B since Sanchez has played just six games at 2B compared to just three at 3B for Jamey Carroll .I take Carroll since he could play 3B ďin a pinch,Ē not because Iíd expect him to actually see duty there.Taking Sanchez with only 2 other second basemen means a greater likelihood that heíd actually play there, and if you expect to send the player out there, then Iíd rather have the errorless Carroll out there.No, Sanchez to me, like Howard, is simply squeezed out at third by more worthy talent.


Onto the catcher dispute, no Keith, I have not ignored Estradaís 7 passed balls, but I also see that with 0 errors in 408 chances, he has played better defense than any of the players I have left off (LoDuca 5 E, 5 PB Ė 425 TC, Barrett 5 E, 6 PB Ė 412 TC, Olivo 4 E, 2 PB Ė 312 TC and Paulino 7 E, 5 PB Ė 380 TC).His CERA (4.32) is solid and he leads all catchers in both leagues in double plays with 7.On top of that, he leads all NL catchers with 41 RBI and is batting .426 w/RISP.Upon reflection, I have no problem with this choice.


As for Pierzynski, my third stringer behind Mauer and Rodriguez, I suppose that a case could be made for Posada instead as they are both fairly even defensively:


Combined E/PB Ė A.J. 7, Posada 8

CERA Ė A.J. 4.12, Posada 4.21

CS % - A.J. 26%, Posada 27%

DP Ė A.J. 3, Posada 2

TC Ė A.J. 379, Posada 366


While offensively Posada has better power numbers and a better OBP, A.J. hasnít exactly been a slouch at the plate with his .321 BA. I would be open to considering that I made an error on this one though it is still debatable, which hardly makes it a ďbafflingly obtuseĒ choice. I would not, however, consider any of the other candidates over Pierzynski.


Now my issue at first base was that Ortiz and Hafner were included so as to keep their (read Ortizí) popularity involved in the voting process, and not necessarily because they were first basemen.But at the same time, Thome was not included, even though he has played extensively in the past at first.They were also included to the exclusion of Youkilis, who is possibly more deserving based on his actual playing time at the position.


In the end, yes, I grudgingly decided to consider all three (as all three do actually have varying degrees of experience there) and yes that is a contradiction, but I much more open to taking them as backup role players/pinch hitters than I am to allow them to start.Therefore I decided on Konerko as my starter because he actually plays the position and is the best choice of anyone who has, Giambi included.At the time, with the numbers I was looking at, Konerko had one less HR, but 4 more RBI.Giambi had a decided edge in OBP, but Konerko was hitting almost 50 points higher (and not that a .388 OBP is anything to be embarrassed by).Giambi had a bit of an edge in SLG but was hitting nearly 100 points lower than Thomeís .391 w/RISP.A bit of a seesaw, give and take situation there, but again, though I donít usually feel that defense would be a deal breaker at first base, in this case Giambi is so defensively challenged (even more so than Howard) that many wonder why heís ever even sent out there in the first place.


(Statistics as of 6/25)















































Willing to accept therefore, one of the three as a backup, I chose Hafner because his combined offensive numbers are just superior to everyone else at the position.But Iíd take him with an eye towards him being what he his, a hitter.In this case most likely a pinch hitter.I mean, itís not their fault itís a non-DH year and I agree that they do deserve some sort of recognition (even though I do wish every year in both leagues would be a non-DH year all season long), so I will consider them for backup roles.I canít imagine though ever choosing someone in a similar situation to start the game.


Anyway, taking Hafner as a hitter, you then must have another backup, most preferably one who actually plays the position.I am comfortable with choosing Youkilis, as he has done a fantastic job both at the top of the Sox lineup and at first base all season long.Heís not a starter, but I do feel heís a worthy All-Star.




































































Finally Keith, do you really presume to say that you think that Omar Vizquelís clutch hitting is the only reason I selected him?Especially when I made it clear that it was his hitting on top of his clearly superior defense in the first half of the season at a position where defense is so vital?Címon Keith.Iím keenly aware that Omar doesnít have the range he once had, but I see him on a daily basis and have a great appreciation for exactly what he does with a glove.In fact, if you could see the play he just made a moment agoÖ


But I also see what he has done consistently this year with the Giants at the plate.Sure, like everyone, heís had his forgivable mini-slumps, but itís not like he hit .250 in each of the first two months like Reyes.I wonít say that itís not possible that Iím exhibiting a bit of home town bias, though if I am itís surely unintentional.But based on the position being one where defense is of great importance, when you judge the best choices side by side, Iím taking Omar because in my opinion, heís the best combination of defense and offense.I do look forward to seeing your picks, especially this one.

Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Richard lives in San Francisco and can be reached at

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