This is going to come as quite a shock to some of you, especially if you’ve already filled in a lot of 2016 American League All-Star ballots, but I’ve figured out the only correct ballot. This is terribly awkward, but all of that time you spent forming opinions was wasted. I would apologize, but there’s still time for you to make the correct votes. Which are explicitly detailed in this, the only correct ballot.
Please, we don’t have much time, though, so we shan’t have any disagreements. This is the only correct ballot, and it uses a time-honored system that breaks the vote down into three components:
- The player's entire career
- What the player is doing in the current season
- How much you enjoy watching that player play baseball
There’s some overlap between the first and the third categories — Miguel Cabrera has had a brilliant career and I enjoy watching him play baseball — but that’s by design. The goal is to look back in three decades and say things like, "Wow, Mike Trout was a 20-time All-Star," not, "Oh, man, Bryan LaHair, now there’s a blast from the past." Give me a superstar having a decent first half over a decent player having a superstar first half every single time.
The other note is that if you’re using first-half WAR as a simple tool, we can be friends. If you’re using it as a cudgel to beat people into submission, we cannot be friends. First-half WAR ranks somewhere between career résumé and anagrams as the proper way to fill out a ballot.
We’ll start with the American League today and move on to the National League later in the week. Which players should you vote for? Glad we could answer.
|AL catchers||Career value||2016 performance||How much I want to watch them||Total|
Suppose a definition of "career value" is in order. Everyone starts at a five, and they have to play their way below that. Heralded prospects get an immediate bump. Regular starters (and young, potential superstars) are usually a seven, All-Stars and established young superstars are an eight, perennial All-Stars and MVP candidates are a nine, and possible Hall of Famers a 10. Also, I make everything up as I go along. Glad that’s cleared up.
This one is clearly Salvador Perez’s category to lose. He’s having the best season. He was already very well respected. And as a sound defensive player who would swing at the dot above the "i" in the word "hacking," I desperately want to watch him against Clayton Kershaw.
AL First Baseman
|AL first basemen||Career value||2016 performance||How much I want to watch them||Total|
Maybe you can ding Miguel Cabrera’s 2016 performance for his defense, but I’m more interested in him as one of the greatest hitters of the last 50 years. You put hitters like him in the All-Star Game when they’re doing just okay. When they’re having typically fantastic seasons? They’re the easiest kind of vote.
AL Second Baseman
|AL second basemen||Career value||2016 performance||How much I want to watch them||Total|
There needs to be a tiebreaker, he realizes, shortly before it’s time to publish. We’ll let that last column do, then. While I respect Robinson Cano’s body of work, and he should be a Hall of Famer, if he isn’t already, if I have a choice between one of his at-bats and one from Jose Altuve, I’ll change the channel to watch Altuve. That’s just my personal bias, so your mileage may vary.
Just don’t forget that this is The Only Correct Ballot™, though.
|AL shortstops||Career value||2016 performance||How much I want to watch them||Total|
This should be Manny Machado’s chance to help me out and break up an impossible decision. Can’t Xander Bogaerts and Francisco Lindor just hang out on the field together, swapping in and out between batters? What a mess.
The tiebreaker from the last section is already useless, so we’ll move on to the next tiebreaker: Performance over the last 365 days:
Bogaerts: .342/.385/.464, 13 HR, 16 SB
Lindor: .315/.364/.488, 21 HR, 23 SB
Add in the defensive edge for Lindor, divide by park factors, and ... ugh, you guys are killing me.
The third tiebreaker is "Does the player’s name start with an ‘X’," and ... no, Wait, who put that in there? We’ll just move on to the fourth tiebreaker, then, which is if one player’s team is better represented on the rest of the ballot than the other player’s team.
Lindor takes it, then. Bogaerts shouldn’t have such talented teammates if he wants to be a true All-Star, IMO.
AL Third Base
|AL third basemen||Career value||2016 performance||How much I want to watch them||Total|
In which Manny Machado is hosed because he’s put at a position with the reigning MVP, who is also having another tremendous season. I love Machado and think he deserves to start the next 12 All-Star Games, but there might be exactly one or two positions in baseball where there’s someone who is just a tick better. American League third base is one of them, at least for now.
|AL outfielders||Career value||2016 performance||How much I want to watch them||Total|
At first I wondered if I had Carlos Beltran too high and if the algorithm needed tweaking. Then I remembered that Carlos Beltran is freaking awesome and has been for well over a decade. I don’t know if he’ll make the Hall of Fame, but he would get my vote.
Yes, I’m aware that he currently fields like he’s wearing hats on his hands and gloves on his feet. That hurts his WAR substantially, but I’m more interested in watching great hitter-vs.-pitcher matchups in my All-Star Games. And right now Beltran, one of the greatest players of his generation, is having an outstanding offensive season. I want to watch and honor that.
As for Betts or Bradley? One of them will be snubbed, but if they’re as successful over their respective careers as Beltran has been, they’ll eventually snatch away a younger player’s vote under this system. And if they’re not that successful, well then, it’s a good thing we didn’t snub Beltran back in 2016.
Do you see the elegance of the Only Correct All-Star Ballot? Well, I do, at least. And now we realize the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth tiebreakers are all useless here, so we’re basically in coin-flip territory.
I guess Bradley has been a little better this year. Mookie’s time can wait.
AL Designated Hitter
|AL Designated Hitter||Career value||2016 performance||How much I want to watch them||Total|
Yeah, not going to bother with that table. There are a lot of deserving candidates who combine career success with first-half success, like Nelson Cruz, Edwin Encarnacion, and Victor Martinez, but let’s not pretend to be the thinking-face emoji, here. We have a legend in his final season, having one of his most dominant performances ever.
That finalizes the only correct ballot, which is indisputable and ready to share:
C - Salvador Perez
1B - Miguel Cabrera
2B - Jose Altuve
SS - Francisco Lindor
3B - Josh Donaldson
OF - Mike Trout
OF - Jackie Bradley, Jr.
OF - Carlos Beltran
DH - David Ortiz
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