At some point, possibly within the last 365 days, I’ve explained exactly how to fill out an all-star ballot correctly. I’ve detailed my methodology and made sound arguments. But because this is the internet, and our tiny goldfish brains can’t remember anything before last year, I’m just going to pretend like I’ve never shared my dogmatic beliefs on how to fill out an all-star ballot.
Do you want to know how to fill out an all-star ballot correctly? Here you go:
Step 2: Do not use a pencil or pen to poke a hole through your all-star selections.
Step 3: Use your mouse or touchscreen to make your selection, for the love of all that is holy, use your mouse or touchscreen!
Step 4: Good job, idiot. You poked a hole in yet another phone. How are you going to explain this one? Why can’t you just let go of the paper ballots?
And there you have it. But if we’re talking about how to make the best choices for your ballot, here you go:
I love the idea of making the all-star teams a reward for extraordinary careers, with only some recognition of first-half stats mixed in. It gives us more Hanks Aaron and fewer Bryans LaHair.
Careers matter. First halves matter less. This is a battle I have chosen to fight, and I will get extremely loud online about it. If the choice is between Pudge Rodriguez having an okay first half and Dioner Navarro having a great first half, I want to watch Rodriguez. This is especially true when it comes to starters. Give me the true greats over the players who may or may not be building something sustainable.
If you use first-half WAR, and only first-half WAR for your picks, for example, you’re a complete weenie.
Build some history, dang it. And if a really good player is having an exceptionally great first half, by all means, reward him. But err on the side of the greats.
With that in mind, here is the only correct National League ballot for the 2018 MLB All-Star Game.
C - Buster Posey
It just so happens that we have a perfect test case for our first selection. Francisco Cervelli is having a tremendous season so far, hitting .277/.396/.527 with eight home runs. The 32-year-old has already set a career high in home runs, and his defensive reputation has always been sterling. If there were any year that he’s deserved to start, this would be it.
But Buster Posey is building a strong case for the Hall of Fame, and he’s having another fantastic season. That’s it. That’s the only tiebreaker you need. If you use Baseball-Reference’s WAR, the catching position looks like this:
1. (t) Francisco Cervelli, 1.9
1. (t) J.T. Realmuto, 1.9
3. (t) Buster Posey, 1.8
3. (t) Willson Contreras, 1.8
5. Tucker Barnhart, 1.6
That’s essentially a five-way tie, and that’s before you get into the idea that WAR is probably missing a whole lot when it comes to catchers. If you ever find yourself parsing the difference between .3 WAR, close your laptop, grab a tent, toss it in a car with some cans of beans and some warm clothes, drive to the closest National Park, and just camp for a few days. Clear your head, friend. Then come back and ignore the difference between 1.6 WAR and 1.9 WAR, like a normal person.
If it’s a tie, I’ll go with Posey. Realmuto makes it really, really close, and I’m definitely receptive to the idea that his star is rising and Posey’s is falling. But not yet. Not while Posey is still one of the best two-way catchers of his, or any other, generation.
1B — Freddie Freeman
It is, uh, okay to ignore the stars having absolutely miserable seasons, though. Anthony Rizzo is kinda sorta back on track, and Paul Goldschmidt will be fine, but it’s been a rough go for them in the early part of the season.
The good news is that there is still a star first baseman going strong. Freeman was in the middle of that scrum, along with Joey Votto, but he’s separated himself early in the season. I wouldn’t be a good and proper homer if I didn’t point out how amazing it is that Brandon Belt is leading all NL first baseman in home runs, despite being a left-handed hitter at AT&T Park, but his appendix had too many footnotes, and he’ll miss some time. Please appreciate a lefty with a 950 OPS at AT&T Park.
Freeman would have had the advantage anyway, though.
He’s good and he knows it.
2B — Scooter Gennett
We are now about 700 plate appearances into the idea that a dude named “Scooter” is one of the best power-hitting second basemen of his generation. I’m not entirely sure if I’m buying it. But what are the other options?
Javier Baez is an electric talent, one of the most watchable players in baseball. He’s so good, you want to watch him tag people. That’s not normal. But his OBP is under .300, and that’s an unwritten rule of voting. Can’t pull the trigger on that.
Ozzie Albies is the light and the truth and the future, but he’s been in a huge slump for over a year now. I’m just as eager as you are to glom onto the next big thing, but it would be premature and unfair to anoint him just yet. He has time.
César Hernández is worth discussing, but he’s not going absolutely bonkers like Gennett. If there’s anyone with a legacy argument to make against Gennett, it would be D.J. LeMahieu, but it’s not like he’s been much better than Hernández (or around for much longer).
SS — Brandon Crawford
Unlike Posey, Crawford isn’t on a Hall of Fame path. However, he has been one of the better shortstops in the National League for years, and he’s hitting .322/.371/.500, all while playing his usual superlative defense. He’s a co-leader in WAR with [squints] Dansby Swanson, but I’ll give the advantage to the dude with an OPS nearly 100 points higher.
The most amazing part of Crawford’s season is that he hit .189/.227/.300 in April, which is one of the slowest starts of the last three seasons. Hey, check it out, five of the 15 slowest starts in the last three seasons were from players who were on my fantasy team that year. Boy, that sure is intere ... wait, come back.
Trea Turner is close, but his season has been pretty-good-not-great, which is the same description you can use for his entire 2017 season. Like Albies, let’s wait for proof of absolute majesty before assuming it.
3B — Pablo Sandoval
Just seeing if you were paying attention.
3B — Nolan Arenado
It’s possible that I have divisional bias when it comes to the great Arenado/Bryant debate, but Arenado is one of the most complete players I’ve ever watched, and he’s extremely underrated. After taking ballparks into account, Bryant’s 914 OPS is roughly the same as Arenado’s 1001 OPS, but the defensive difference is substantial, and that’s with Bryant being a tremendous defender.
Bryant will win, but your vote for Arenado will be on the right side of history.
Or, hell, I don’t know, just flip a coin. But I watch Arenado more, and I can guarantee you that he’s one of the most electric players in baseball.
OF — Nick Markakis, Lorenzo Cain, Bryce Harper
Markakis is the sentimental choice, a member of the Tim Salmon Club, a membership that requires a remarkable, 10th-percentile career to be unappreciated and not honored with an All-Star Game appearance.
He’s ... great ... now?
Look, I’m not saying that I buy it, either. I laughed out loud when my buddy drafted him in our NL-only league, and that’s not hyperbole. I literally chortled. Like, what is Nick Markakis possibly going to give a fantasy baseball team in the Year of Our Trout, 2018?
He is a 180-hit season in human form, though, and let’s use this unsustainably fast start to honor that.
Cain is a WARrior right now, leading the NL because of his superior defense, but don’t let that sway you. Let the fact that the Brewers are dominating the National League sway you. He’s a walking, base-swiping, ground-covering machine, and other teams should be ashamed of themselves for not spending the clams to get him in the offseason.
Harper might seem like the most controversial choice, considering he’s hitting .227, but he has 18 dingers, and he’s actually a baseball player that I go out of my way to watch. That should be the point of the all-stars, no? It’s not like he’s having a miserable season, considering his on-base percentage is .365 and his slugging percentage is .517, and he’s still very much a star. If you’re going to ask for all stars to be present, why, by definition, that includes Harper.
The shift is killing Harper right now — that .212 batting average on balls in play isn’t normal, but it’s not exactly inexplicable — but he’s still one of the best outfielders in the National League if not the best. A vote for him is a vote against sample-size gremlins.
SP — I’ve never understood this, why can’t we vote for starting pitchers, c’mon, just let us vote
why can’t we vote for starting pitchers, you weirdos
This is the only correct ballot. Your job is to go forth, friends, and make your opinions known. The 2018 All-Star Game ballot is serious stuff, and I implore you to take this very, very seriously.