“That’s Amore!” 2016 Sabermetric All-Stars
It’s that time of the year. The Midsummer Classic is upon us and the 2016 MLB season is halfway through. We’ve seen some great baseball through nearly 90 games, and there have been many notable stories. Daniel Murphy has been on a tear and looks primed for a career year in his first season with the Washington Nationals. He’s obliterated every pitcher he’s faced and currently sits 6th, with a .985 OPS, in Major League Baseball. I have to give credit where credit is due and Corey Roberts predicted Mark Trumbo to have an all-star season as a member of the Orioles. He currently sits first in MLB with 28 HR, fourth with 68 RBI, and seventh in SLG. He’s well on his way to setting a career-high in HR, and has been one of the best steals in fantasy drafts. Of course, I don’t want to leave out the Chicago Cubs. They are leading the way sending a total of seven players to San Diego. While there is some debate as to whether all seven deserved the nod, but it’s an impressive feat no matter how you look at it. In the American League, the Red Sox lead the way sending six players of their own. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but could this be a miniature preview of the 2016 World Series?
Last, but not least, there is the pitching aspect of baseball. Chris Sale, the AL All-Star starting pitcher, and Johnny Cueto, the NL All-Star staring pitcher, both lead their leagues in wins. Sale leads all of MLB with 14, and Cueto is one win behind with 13. Both pitchers have been dominant, and we will be in for a treat come Tuesday night. From a relief standpoint, Jeury Familia is on pace to break Francisco Rodriguez’s record of 62 saves in a season set in 2008 as a member of the Angels.
While there’s no questioning that each league’s roster features some of the best talent in MLB, it remains to be seen how each player ranks in terms of sabermetrics. No matter how you feel about such a measuring tool, it’s become vital in all major sports. I’ve admitted over and over that I was never a big fan of sabermetrics. Considering myself a baseball guy, I’ve always relied on my eyes. However, this season I’ve written directly on sabermetrics and I’ll be the first to admit that it’s given me a more concrete way of solidifying my arguments towards certain players. This week, let’s focus on 2016 Sabermetric All-Stars.
In case you’ve forgotten, I have added the glossary of the metrics we will be focusing on this week. While WAR is a metric that tells the full story by summarizing a player’s full contribution to a team, for this article we will concentrate on the following nine measurements in this chart. While each player is more than deserving to be an All-Star, there is still the qualification that each team gets to send at least one player to the game. Along with the fan vote, this is the second major issue I have with the All-Star game. If you’re going to send the best players then send the best players. If the game will count for home field advantage I’m not certain it’s a good idea for fans to vote for the starters. While most of the time they get the vote correct, there are numerous times where it becomes a popularity contest and an undeserving player gets selected over a more deserving player. If you’re scratching your head compare Addison Russell and Trevor Story.
If we look at the top-ten leaders in three separate contact percentages we see an interesting tend. Of the pitchers that give up the lowest Hard% (i.e. the hardest to make solid contact off of) four of the top-ten were selected for the 2016 All-Star team. There’s no questioning that Arrieta, Strasburg, Cueto, and Scherzer have been four of the best pitchers in baseball. However, I found it interesting that none of the four are American League pitchers. Are there better hitters in the American League? I’m not sure if this is the case as the top-ten MLB home run leaders are equally spread across the National League and American League. Another possible argument could be the fact that there is a designated hitter in the American League. While there are many reasonable explanations, there is no definitive answer.
Another interesting find was the fact that the players that gave up the lowest Med% tend to have higher BABIP. Soft% leaders were extremely interesting to me. While three of the ten are All-Stars, the other seven are solid pitchers in their own right. Only Aaron Nola, Scott Kazmir, and Drew Smyly have an ERA over 4.50. All three have given up 10+ HR to opposing hitters. I believe their inflated ERAs could be due to the fact that their HR occurred with players on base and giving up timely hits when runners were in scoring position.
It’s easy to see why six of the highlighted pitchers are All-Stars. Of course, this only a small tool to measure pitching success. Naturally, there are strikeouts, ERA, wins, WHIP, etc. Regardless, I think it’s safe to say the National League pitchers are more dominating than those of the American League.
On the opposite side of the ball we have some of the best hitters in baseball. While not all of these hitters were named to the All-Star team, they’ve been the most consistent in terms of plate discipline. There’s no questioning how valuable Jose Ramirez has been to the division-leading Cleveland Indians and he takes the top spot as the best hitter in terms of contact percentage at pitches outside of the zone. Of the top-ten in O-Contact% only Jose Altuve was named to the 2016 All-Star team. If we look at hitting within the strike zone, four players (Brandon Belt, Corey Seager, Mookie Betts, and Daniel Murphy) were selected to the 2016 All-Star teams. These four players have absolutely feasted on pitches inside the hitting zone and their numbers speak for themselves. Naturally, with the season Daniel Murphy is having I’m not shocked he’s in the top-ten in overall Contact%. Murphy sits first in average, top-ten in OBP, top-five in SLG, and top-ten in OPS. It’s hard to argue anyone has had a better first half than Daniel Murphy.
While these two metric charts are a small sample in terms of measuring top hitters and pitchers, it shows how valuable certain players are that are your prototypical All-Stars. They may not be the Mike Trouts, Kris Bryants, Giancarlo Stantons, or Bryce Harpers of the world, but they are extremely valuable to their Major League clubs and fantasy teams. The purpose of this article is to give everyone another look at players that are valuable All-Stars in terms of alternative measuring tools.
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