Selecting MLB's 2015 Year-End All-Star Team
While it was an easy call to place the likes of Josh Donaldson and Bryce Harper on this MLB 2015 Year-End All-Star Team, there were plenty of positions where the decision was far more challenging.
Simply put, there were a ton of spots with two or sometimes even three deserving players.
To figure out which position players would make the grade, stats like average, OBP, slugging percentage, OPS, extra-base hits, home runs and WAR were all taken into consideration. Defensive production was also considered—especially at shortstop and catcher, the premier defensive spots on the diamond.
When it came to selecting the starting pitcher and closer, stats like ERA, saves, strikeout-per-nine ratio, FIP, xFIP and WAR were all factored into the equation. And after crunching all those numbers, an unexpected ace ended up claiming the starting nod for this team.
Catcher: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
Another year. Another monster season for Buster Posey.
According to FanGraphs, the 28-year-old catcher has a WAR of 5.7, which is nearly two wins more than the next-closest backstop—Francisco Cervelli (3.9), who has turned out to be a shrewd trade addition for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Posey also leads all catchers in hits, average, OBP, slugging percentage and OPS. He's also been characteristically impressive behind the dish, as he's handled a San Francisco Giants pitching staff that ranks No. 8 in the bigs in ERA.
The winner of the 2012 National League MVP Award landed in the sixth spot on the ballot last season, and he's on track to finish in a similar position this time around.
Honorable Mention: Francisco Cervelli, Pittsburgh Pirates; Brian McCann, New York Yankees; Stephen Vogt, Oakland Athletics
1st Base: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
It's downright difficult to make a decision here as there's no wrong choice between Joey Votto and Paul Goldschmidt.
The mashers aren't just the two most dangerous first basemen in the game, but are among the two most dangerous hitters in the majors. In 2015, Votto ranks second in MLB in OPS, while Goldschmidt clocks in at No. 4.
Ultimately, what gives Votto the edge over Goldschimdt is the unreal second half that the Cincinnati Reds vet has produced. Take a look at his numbers in 70 contests since the Midsummer Classic:
- .372 AVG, .547 OBP, .641 SLG, 1.188 OPS, 14 HR and 85 BB
After collecting a couple of hits Thursday, Votto has now reached base in a staggering 47 consecutive games.
Honorable Mention: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers; Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles; Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks;Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs
2nd Base: Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians
It's not easy to stand out in this packed field, but that's exactly what Jason Kipnis has done.
The two-time All-Star ranks No. 2 among all second basemen in slugging percentage and extra-base hits, and tops the group in doubles, OBP and OPS. Kipnis also has accumulated a higher WAR (5.1) than any other player at this spot, per FanGraphs.
While Kipnis gets the nod, it's also worth mentioning the outstanding season Ian Kinsler has turned in—especially with his glove. According to the calculations of FanGraphs, the Detroit Tigers standout saved the team 19 runs, which was seven more than the second-best player in that department (Dee Gordon).
Honorable Mention: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros; Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins; Dee Gordon, Miami Marlins; Ian Kinsler, Detroit Tigers
Shortstop: Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants
This was one of the the most challenging calls to make.
Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor have been electric both in the field and at the plate since arriving in the bigs, but they've only played 96 games each.
Xander Bogaerts has been raking for the Boston Red Sox, as his .322 average and .779 OPS are the best among all qualified shortstops. But he has the least impressive glove of the four players considered at a spot where defense is of the utmost importance.
According to FanGraphs, Bogaerts hasn't cost the Red Sox any runs in the field, but he hasn't saved the team any, either. That leaves Brandon Crawford to scoop up this honor. Crawford is second only to Andrelton Simmons in defensive runs saved (22), and he's clubbed 20 bombs for the San Francisco Giants.
It's awfully uncommon to find shortstops with the combination of Crawford's pop and his defensive prowess, and for that reason, the 28-year-old gets the job as the starter on the MLB Year-End All-Star Team.
Honorable Mention: Carlos Correa, Houston Astros; Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians
3rd Base: Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays
There's no lack of compelling candidates for this spot, but there's just no way not to pick Josh Donaldson.
The 29-year-old, who is the front-runner to snag the AL MVP Award, leads all third basemen in home runs, hits, extra-base hits, RBI, slugging percentage and OPS.
The advanced numbers also indicate that Donaldson has enjoyed a remarkable season. Per FanGraphs, the Toronto Blue Jays standout has been a wizard with the glove, saving 10 runs in the field. This season, Donaldson is second in the bigs in WAR (8.6).
Last week, when he connected on his 40th home run of the year, Donaldson kept his accomplishment in perspective.
"It’s cool to have that, but I’m not finished yet," Donaldson said, per Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.
He was right, as he's since gone on to hit his 41st bomb and lead the Blue Jays to the best record in the AL as October gets underway.
Honorable Mention: Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies; Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs; Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals; Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles
Left Field: Yoenis Cespedes, New York Mets
Yoenis Cespedes was no slouch with the Detroit Tigers, but it's his awesome run with the New York Mets that earned him the start in left.
In 54 games with the NL East champs, the Cuban has crushed 17 home runs and 13 doubles while posting a .946 OPS. As ESPN Stats & Info noted, Cespedes has totaled 30 extra-base hits since Aug. 1, which is the second-most in the majors during that stretch.
On the year, the 29-year-old has cracked 82 extra-base hits, which is 22 more than the next left fielder on the list (Michael Brantley). Suffice it say that Cespedes, who is set to become a free agent at season's end, has positioned himself to make a mint.
Honorable Mention: Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians; Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates; David Peralta, Arizona Diamondbacks
Center Field: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
Unfortunately for Lorenzo Cain, Andrew McCutchen and A.J. Pollock, they have to compete with Mike Trout for this spot.
And there's really no competing with Trout.
The Los Angeles Angels superstar has been a walking highlight reel in center field. On Saturday, Trout climbed the wall at Angel Stadium to steal a home run away from Jesus Montero of the Seattle Mariners, as you can see in this MLB.com video.
“It was gone. But I forgot who was in center field," Montero joked, per Greg Johns of MLB.com.
At the plate, Trout is first among all center fielders in home runs, average, OBP, slugging percentage and OPS. With a big September, the 24-year-old is making a late push to win consecutive AL MVP awards. In September, Trout cracked eight home runs and posted a 1.085 OPS.
Honorable Mention: Lorenzo Cain, Kansas City Royals; Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates; A.J. Pollock, Arizona Diamondbacks
Right Field: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
Bryce Harper was a stone-cold lock for this position.
The 22-year-old is also a stone-cold lock for the NL MVP Award and has earned some lofty praise in the process.
"It reminds you of Barry Bonds," the Atlanta Braves' Freddie Freeman said, per Eddie Matz of ESPN. "Obviously he's not hitting 70 home runs. But he's gonna take his walks and take his walks. Then he gets one pitch to hit, and he hits it. That's what he's doing this year, and he's doing it every single day. It's incredible to watch."
Incredible, indeed. Harper's 9.7 WAR is nearly four wins better than the next-closest right fielder (Jayson Heyward, 5.6), according to FanGraphs. And he leads all NL players—not just right fielders—in average OBP, slugging percentage and OPS.
Honorable Mention: Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays; Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies; Jason Heyward, St. Louis Cardinals; J.D. Martinez, Detroit Tigers
Designated Hitter: Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners
Nelson Cruz has actually spent more time in right field than at the designated hitter's slot, but Bryce Harper is occupying right, and the Dominican has put up numbers that demand inclusion on this team.
Cruz has wielded one of the most powerful bats in the game this year, ranking fifth in slugging percentage and second in home runs. In his first season with the Seattle Mariners, the 35-year-old has left the yard 44 times. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that's the highest output for a Mariners players since Ken Griffey Jr. slugged 48 homers back in 1999.
Based on preseason expectations, Alex Rodriguez is by far the most surprising inclusion on the honorable mention list. In spring training, it didn't look like A-Rod had a job on the New York Yankees. Thirty-three home runs later, Rodriguez is the MVP of an October-bound team and the leading candidate to win AL Comeback Player of the Year honors.
Honorable Mention: Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays; David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox; Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees
Starting Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
When it comes to the NL Cy Young Award discussion, all the buzz has been about Zack Greinke and Jake Arrieta.
And why not?
Greinke leads the world with a 1.68 ERA, and Arrieta has ripped off an unreal 0.80 ERA in the second half. But when you get past ERA, there's no question who the best pitcher in baseball has been, and it's not even close: Clayton Kershaw.
The lefty not only leads Greinke and Arrieta in innings, strikeouts, FIP, xFIP and WAR, but all of baseball, per FanGraphs. With 294 punchouts, Kershaw is on the verge of becoming the first big leaguer to crack the 300-K plateau since Randy Johnson hit that mark way back in 2002.
Honorable Mention: Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs; Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Pirates; Sonny Gray, Oakland Athletics; Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers; Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros; David Price, Toronto Blue Jays
Closer: Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates
For closers, it's all about getting the third out in the ninth inning. In 2015, no reliever has done a better job of accomplishing that task than Mark Melancon.
The Pittsburgh Pirates ace reliever is the only member of the 50-save club, as he's locked up 51 games in 53 tries. Admittedly, Melancon has not been his sharpest over the past week, allowing at least one earned run in back-to-back outings for just the second time in 2015.
But even after hitting that speed bump, the right-hander still has numbers that jump off the page. In 76 games, he's sporting a 2.29 ERA and has piled up more Ks (60) than hits allowed (57).
Honorable Mention: Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds; Jeurys Familia, New York Mets; Andrew Miller, New York Yankees; Trevor Rosenthal, St. Louis Cardinals
The Starting Lineup
- Mike Trout, CF, Los Angeles Angels
- Josh Donaldson, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays
- Bryce Harper, RF, Washington Nationals
- Nelson Cruz, DH, Seattle Mariners
- Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds
- Buster Posey, C, San Francisco Giants
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF, New York Mets
- Jason Kipnis, 2B, Cleveland Indians
- Brandon Crawford, SS, San Francisco Giants
- Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
- Mark Melancon, CL, Pittsburgh Pirates
If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.