Choosing Up Sides for MLB’s All-Star Game

Welcome to the 2011 MLB All-Star draft! Here at FanGraphs, we were so impressed by the cool format of the NHL All-Stars selection that we’ve decided to appoint two captains and choose sides in the same way. Dave Cameron and I will be the captains, with Dave going first, and each captain picking two at a time thereafter, until each team has 25 players (we refuse to pick a bloated 90-man roster, or whatever roster size they’re using this year).

The requirements are that you fill out a 25-man roster. You draft your starters the way you would a typical ballot – every position is specific except outfield, where you can take any combination of outfielders you like. Each team must also select at least 11 pitchers, to mimic real life. We’re using Chase Field as the game’s venue, since that’s where the 2011 All-Star Game is being held. Finally, the idea is that every player (or darn close) should play, same as the real All-Star Game.

Dave, you have the honors, who’s your #1 pick, and why? (We’ll each give a one-line reason for every pick.)

CAMERON: Albert Pujols. Because he’s Albert Freaking Pujols.

KERI: Tough to argue with that one. With my first pick, I take Troy Tulowitzki. The injury caveat I noted in my “Who Is the Most Valuable Player in Baseball” post doesn’t apply, and there’s no big comedown on park effects either; Tulo will feel right at home swinging for the downs (and snaring grounders up the middle) at Chase Field.

For my second pick, I take Josh Hamilton. Again, no injury concerns here, and unlike in the infield, it’s tough to find truly dominant players.

CAMERON: Because there’s a big gap between him and the next best second baseman, I’ll take Chase Utley.

And for my third pick, I’ll happily take the best catcher in baseball, Joe Mauer.

KERI: I’m already angry (Mauer was mine!) and we’re five picks in.

I’ll take Carl Crawford, just to spite Mauer and run all day, and also so that I won’t really need a third outfielder to cover any more ground.

Then I’ll take Joey Votto, because Canadians are awesome.

CAMERON: Since you’re creating a run on outfielders, and I want another RH bat for my line-up, I’ll take Matt Holliday.

And, because it feels wrong to let him go any further, Roy Halladay please.

KERI: In our first upset of the draft, I’m channeling my inner Mike Rizzo and taking Jayson Werth for some lineup balance.

With my 6th pick I take…Mariano Rivera. Because he’s Mariano Rivera.

CAMERON: It’s on like Donkey Kong. With Rivera off the board, I’m going with Matt Thornton as the toughest lefty to hit in baseball.

Then, because I want an equally nasty arm from the right side, I’ll also take Rafael Soriano.

KERI: AAAANNNND we’ve officially seized on the same strategy. How did I know this would happen?

CAMERON: Because we’re two wild and crazy guys?

KERI: Indeed.

Joakim Soria, come on down – unlike Soriano, whose flyball-heavy ways are going to be nom-nom-nom’d by my beastly hitters, Soria will flourish.

CAMERON: I didn’t realize your hitters could hit a strikeout in the air.

KERI: Hey, I have to hate on at least a few past or present Rays, if only to convince FanGraphs readers you didn’t hire me solely to write about that.

Hong-Chih Kuo, come on down as my lefty bullpen anchor.

CAMERON: I considered Kuo for my next pick, but then realized I could have the same thing in a starting pitcher package, so give me Clayton Kershaw.

And, just to finalize the misery of your three left-handed star hitters, I’ll take Francisco Liriano. Good luck, Hamilton!

KERI: I see your Kershaw and Liriano and raise you a Cliff Lee!

And to counter your barrage of lefties, I’ll take Dustin Pedroia, who smacks left-handers, and will feel right at home back in Arizona.

CAMERON: Well, I could use another RHP to keep the match-up game alive, so I think I’ll take some guy named Tim Lincecum.

Then, with all these flyball guys, I need a guy who can play center and hit a little bit, so give me Ichiro Suzuki.

KERI: I will take Felix Hernandez, because whenever you’re competing against the guy who actually coined the term King Felix, you have to stab him in the heart.

CAMERON: You suck.

KERI: And I’ll add to my pitching strength with the bizarrely underrated, but battle-tested, Jon Lester.

CAMERON: Well, I should probably take Hanley Ramirez now before you make him your backup shortstop just to spite me.

Then, just because Mauer can’t catch the whole game, I’m going to take Brian McCann. Have fun drafting a catcher now!

KERI: Oh you mean Buster Posey, who has much more power than Mauer and isn’t completely neutered by platoons like McCann? Don’t mind if I do!

And I’ll follow that by taking Kevin Youkilis, for versatility and OBP goodness.

CAMERON: Are you trying to win the game or a beard contest with him and Werth?

KERI: I’m taking James Harden too, in case a game of pickup hoops breaks out.

CAMERON: Judges – I believe Jonah has just reserved Rich Harden for his next selection. Please inform Mr. Harden to report to the green room for selection.

Since I want a right-handed pitcher who isn’t broken and occasionally throws strikes, I select Josh Johnson.

And then, one last starting pitcher, because he’s used to shutting games down in short stints – Adam Wainwright, please.

KERI: I love how we’re both not drafting a third baseman until the very last pick, knowing that whoever drafts Evan Longoria, the other guy can have Ryan Zimmerman, and vice versa. You know all my tricks, Cameron!

To mess with your batters’ heads, give me Luke Gregerson and his slider of death.

And to ensure 9th inning drama, Carlos Marmol please.

CAMERON: Yes, it will be quite dramatic to watch him walk in a run with your team down 15-3.

I want a pinch-runner who can also serve as Hanley’s defensive caddy, so I’m taking Jimmy Rollins.

Then, because I could still use another outfielder, I’ll take Shin-Soo Choo.

KERI: All right, time to draft the best high-leverage pinch-hitter money can buy. Welcome, Miguel Cabrera.

Then because I want yet ANOTHER crazy beard on my team…Brian Wilson, of course.

CAMERON: For flexibility and switch-hittingness, Ben Zobrist.

And then, I’ll take Ryan Zimmerman so you can have the inferior third baseman.

KERI: We’re going to test Jose Bautista‘s Brady Andersonness by making him my 54-HR rover.

And Brett Gardner can be the late-inning pest, defensive replacement, how-the-heck-did-he-get-here guy.

CAMERON: Because he’s inferior to the same version I’m taking one pick later – Michael Bourn.

And then, because your bench is so RH heavy, I’m going with Andrew Bailey to mow those guys down.

KERI: Well then I’ll have to go Robinson Cano on you (and make Pedroia my bizarro fallback SS option).

Then I’ll take Evan Longoria, just to declare him the best 22nd-round pick ever.

CAMERON: Give me one more LOOGY to combat your LH sluggers – Brian Fuentes and your crazy sidearm action, come on down.

And, to round out my pitching staff, I want Ryan Madson‘s change-up.

KERI: My pledge to not load up on past and present Rays has failed…Joaquin Benoit, please join Jose Bautista on my flash-in-the-pan-plus-one-big-game squad.

And Geovany Soto can be the three true outcomes backup catcher.

CAMERON: Well, then, I guess my team is just missing a pinch-hitter or two. And so, I’ll choose the most overqualified player in the history of the game for that spot… Mark Teixeira. Bonus points for being a switch hitter, giving me three guys who can hit from both sides of the plate coming off the bench.

And then, just because every All-Star Game needs some crazy, I’ll take Manny Ramirez. Having him face Marmol should be hilarious.

KERI: I love it!

We need one last lefty to round out the pitching staff, and a guy who could pitch seven extra innings if our epic battle goes long. Cole Hamels, you’re Mr. Relevant.

Thanks Dave. Look forward to seeing you kick dirt at the umps when they inevitably blow a key call for your team, and we both wish for robot umpires. See you in July!

CAMERON: I’ll start ordering champagne for my victory celebration now.


1. Ichiro, CF
2. Ramirez, SS
3. Mauer, C
4. Pujols, 1B
5. Utley, 2B
6. Holliday, LF
7. Choo, RF
8. Zimmerman, 3B
9. Halladay, SP

1. Crawford, LF
2. Tulowitzki, SS
3. Hamilton, CF
4. Longoria, 3B
5. Votto, 1B
6. Werth, RF
7. Cano, 2B
8. Posey, C
9. Lee, SP


Catchers Joe Mauer, Brian McCann
Infielders Albert Pujols, Mark Teixeira, Chase Utley, Hanley Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Zimmerman
Outfielders: Matt Holliday, Ichiro Suzuki, Shin-Soo Choo, Michael Bourn
Utility: Ben Zobrist
Mascot: Manny Ramirez
Pitchers: Roy Halladay, Francisco Liriano, Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum, Josh Johnson, Adam Wainwright, Rafael Soriano, Matt Thornton, Andrew Bailey, Ryan Madson, Brian Fuentes

Catchers: Buster Posey, Geovany Soto
Infielders: Joey Votto, Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia, Troy Tulowitzki, Evan Longoria, Kevin Youkilis
Outfielders: Carl Crawford, Josh Hamilton, Jayson Werth, Jose Bautista, Brett Gardner
Pitchers: Cliff Lee, Felix Hernandez (HA-HA!), Jon Lester, Cole Hamels, Mariano Rivera, Joakim Soria, Hong-Chih Kuo, Brian Wilson, Carlos Marmol, Luke Gregerson, Joaquin Benoit

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Jonah Keri is the author of The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First -- now a National Bestseller! Follow Jonah on Twitter @JonahKeri, and check out his awesome podcast.

66 Responses to “Choosing Up Sides for MLB’s All-Star Game”

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  1. Telo says:

    Hahaha. Great stuff. I really liked what the NHL did this year.

    Relievers off the board… a bit earlier than expected, maybe Cameron forced the issue… but a fun read.

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    • Brad Johnson says:

      That’s a function of the process. They’re trying to draft the best team for one game which gives shutdown relievers a disproportionate increase in value while also increasing the importance of playing matchups.

      I’m actually surprised by the number of starters out there. Also wondering how Adams and Wuertz missed the reliever train as ROOGYs of DOOM.

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  2. aweb says:

    I know you were going for the best teams you could put together for one game, but I think it would be more fun to make every second pick a player for the opposite team. That is, after Pujols and Tulo, the next pick goes on the other team , and you get to stick them with anyone you want. The “All-Star-or-Black-Hole team”, as it were.

    Also, XXX player was not picked, I am outraged!

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    • Telo says:

      Yea, I thought the same team. The double picks all the way through was weird. I was waiting for someone to pick Longo and Zimm in the same round just to bone the other guy….

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      • John says:

        Double picks were to make up for the disadvantage of picking second. Kind of like in a fantasy draft where the 12th team gets pick 12 and 13.

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      • Brad Johnson says:

        That would have been more effective with shortstops (as DC sort of noted). At 3b, there’s plenty of pretty good players like Youkilis, A-Rod, Bautista, and Beltre. And only two of them were drafted.

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    • Mark says:

      Adrian Gonzalez was not picked! Epic Fail!

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      • Telo says:

        Yea, I’d have picked him over Tex all day.

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      • Dave Cameron says:

        In a game like this, match-ups are a big deal. Gonzalez would have been a pinch-hitter for either of us. Given his career .789 OPS against LHPs, it would have been a no-brainer for the opposing manager to go get a LOOGY to counter his pinch-hitting appearance.

        Being a switch-hitter, Teixeira can’t be matched up against so easily. His career OPS is over .900 against both LH and RH pitchers. Whether Gonzalez is better or not, for a single at-bat where the opposing team has a plethora of nasty LH relievers, Teixeira is a better fit.

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      • Mark says:

        I’m aware of why you chose Tex over Gonzalez. I was joking based on what the OP had said about people getting mad about their favourite players getting left out.

        Correct me if I’m wrong though, but if someone puts in a RP, they can’t switch pitchers until they’ve faced the batter, correct? Because if that’s the case you can wait till he tosses in a RHP, and then bring in Adrian. At that point he’s forced to pitch to him, and won’t be able to bring in a LHP. Which would be really nice, because then you’ll have the better hitter in Gonzalez, and he won’t be hitting in Petco.

        Course, that depends on if I’m remembering the rule correctly. If I’m wrong, then you can just switch RP whenever you want, in which case you’d be right to take Tex for match up purposes.

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  3. elpikiman says:

    Cameron’s team looks badass

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  4. John says:

    Simulate it!

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  5. Jonah Keri says:

    We’re working on running a simulation. Stay tuned!

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  6. Cody says:

    I think Team Cameron is better overall, but Team Keri makes me swoon.

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  7. Mike Ketchen says:

    Given the pitching for team Cameron and that Pujols guy I think any sim will give him at least .600% winning clip!

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  8. John says:

    Side issue: the NHL is clearly a little desperate for viewership, and because of that, came up with something totally awesome. I don’t think that baseball will ever adapt this format because of the history of the all-star game and the league rivalry. Does history make baseball a little stodgy and undynamic?

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  9. filihok says:

    How can you pick All-Star games now? We don’t have 350 PA’s of data for the 2011 season?

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  10. Boomer says:

    In a game like this, you need every edge you can get.

    So why leadoff with Ichiro?

    Worst hitter by a fairly wide margin.

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  11. matt1101 says:

    Great stuff!

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  12. Big Boy says:

    Jayson Werth before Carlos Gonzalez?

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  13. CircleChange11 says:

    Looking at the final rosters …

    If my 9yo son and his buddy were to do the same thing, the final rosters would look the same … except neither of them would have picked Jayson Werth.

    That’s not an insult, but commentary on how ASG’s tend to “pick themsleves”, and there’s really not too many ways to “screw it up”.

    Choo seemed like a good pick initially, but he becomes a liability against a LOOGY, and he’s likely not a starter. So, he gets his name announced, then there’s a pitching change, and then another batter is sent ot the dish.

    I could see managers stocking up on the best relievers, guys that are used to going one inning at a time, for both effectiveness and not using another team’s great starters for a “non-standings game”. It’s just a matter of time before teams start scheduling their ace to pitch the day or two before the ASB, just so they can say “He just pitched” and cannot pitch in the ASG.

    Pretty much both leagues have similar versions at each posiiton. The interesting discussion is the guys that do not have a comparable, and in that regard there might just be 2 players (Utley and Pujols), although I suppose Cano has made a great lunge forward. Not sure the AL has shortstops to match either Hanley or Tulo.

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  14. Resolution says:

    wait, you mean Omar Infante and Mark Redman are still available for either team to take?

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  15. CircleChange11 says:

    No more “every team must have a player rep”?

    Gee, I wonder who PIT will send?

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  16. Ryan says:

    Really? No Jered Weaver?

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  17. Bill says:

    How does Adrian Gonzalez get no love?!?!

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  18. grady says:

    you have the pitchers batting?

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    • phoenix2042 says:

      it’s in an NL park

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    • TFINY says:

      Yes, because it’s in Citi Field, and I assume that they either forgot that there is a DH in all all star games now (lame) or chose to ignore that last Seligism (it’s what I like to do).

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      • Lanidrac says:

        What do you mean lame? I’ve been waiting for that excellent change for years! Nobody wants to see the pitchers bat in the All-Star game (or make a mess of the rosters with so many pinch-hitting appearances), and the AL can’t complain about having to put their terrible fielding DHs in the field or forcing a DH or 1B off the ballot for each AL team. Meanwhile, the NL isn’t at a disadvantage, as they can just plug another great hitter of their own into their starting lineup.

        It’s certainly a lot better than giving out World Series home field advantage to the winner or those stupid unbalanced schedules.

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  19. bill says:

    People are complaining about double picks? It’s called a snake draft guys, every fantasy league uses them.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Serpentine pattern.

      I like “Snake Draft” better.

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    • Telo says:

      Yes………………….. everyone knows what a snake draft is. But when there are only two players, it makes sense to go 122121… or just alternate from the start. There’s no need to pick in groups of two.

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    • phoenix2042 says:

      not every fantasy league. every league has the option, but a lot of them don’t actually use that pattern. for instance, none of the yahoo! leagues I have been in have used serpentine, but instead used one pick and then reverse the order each round.

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      • Brad says:

        Almost like … a snake?

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      • Marshall says:

        “but instead used one pick and then reverse the order each round.”

        That is exactly what a serpentine/snake draft is. It’s just coincidence that with two players this becomes a 1221122…1 pattern.

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  20. Ryan says:

    Wouldn’t Aroldis Chapman be a useful pick in a format like this? Bring him in the game, have someone else warming up. If Chapman is sharp, he blows through an inning or two. If he’s off, replace him quickly. Seems like a good use of one of your 11 pitchers in this game…

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    • Brad Johnson says:

      Why take the chance when there are equally dominant lefties who aren’t so hit and miss.

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      • Ryan says:

        Fair, but I think there are two answers that might work. 1: It’s likely that an “on” Chapman is actually more dominant than any other lefty (I think of Marmol from the left side). 2: The All-Star Game is at least partially about fan entertainment, and I would argue that 105 mph is entertaining even if it occurs during a 4 pitch walk.

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  21. joelq says:

    I have to take team Dave. He had Roy Hal for one. And he also has Liriano and Josh Johnson.

    I also question the true talent of Tulo, Posey, and Hamilton who doesn’t have a great career line.

    There’s a pretty clear divide in pitching talent while Batting is Neutral at best for Keri.

    Conclusion: Dave should play fantasy.

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    • Joe says:

      By Neutral at best for Keri I meant tied with Dave or worse.

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    • DL80 says:

      Hamilton’s got a .311/.371/.544 career line, even with a terrible 2009. He doesn’t hit as well against lefties, though, so maybe that’s what you meant?

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  22. Dann M. says:

    Unrepresented Teams: Pittsburgh, Arizona, Milwaukee, New York Mets, Baltimore and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

    Ronny Cedeno, Xavier Nady, Casey McGehee, Angel Pagan, Felix Pie, and Scott Downs – the best respective ex-Cubs available.

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  23. Jonah Keri says:

    Check Crawford’s numbers vs. RH, then call me in the morning.

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  24. Temo says:

    “KERI: Oh you mean Buster Posey, who has much more power than Mauer and isn’t completely neutered by platoons like McCann?”


    McCann vs. LHP: .335 wOBA; yes it’s below his .375 wOBA vs. RHP, but he’s still an above league average batter vs. LHP. That’s not quite “neutered by platoons”. Though I guess you were just exaggerating for comedic effect.

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  25. Matthias says:

    How could Dave not play fantasy?! I bet he’s in 4.7 leagues.


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  26. John says:

    Number of AL starters drafted = number of phillies starters drafted. :)

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  27. phoenix2042 says:

    would have* made it. sorry, it’s just that “would of” doesn’t mean anything. it’s the phonetic version of “would’ve.” sorry for the annoyance, but that typo (as well as “try and…”) just bother me haha.

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    • bcp33bosox says:

      Yeah, I make phonetic typos all the time, and I annoy myself…lol. Some people, seem prone to make more of them than others and it could even be a symptom of a disorder like dyslexia (or possibly a language disorder), though we are all capable of just having a brain fart now and then. (I just seem to have them semi-regularly). I am sure I have even done it with “would’ve” at some point. However, isn’t “try and…” arguably acceptable colloquial speech? Certainly “try to…” is correct, but aren’t *are* comments (just kidding…our comments), though technically written, actually script of what we want to say?

      Sorry… and now back to baseball…

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  28. austin says:

    It’s a darn shame that the Rays never got to see


    Would have been insane

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  29. Jim says:

    Dave’s team is basically just the National League All-Star Team.

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  30. Matty Brown says:

    super fun.

    i wish Fangraphs had a Fantasy League or some sort of competitive drafting games like this one

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  31. philly4 says:

    All I gotta say is Ryan Braun…. Now that the Brewers finally got some pitching the rest of the world will see how good of a team they are and maybe then Braun will get the respect he deserves!

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  32. GiantsGirl55 says:

    I guess you boys didn’t watch the 2010 playoffs when Tim Lincecum introduced himself to both of your starting pitchers, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee… then walked off with a World Series Ring and a big smile on his face.

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    • bcp33bosox says:

      Touche! And not taking anything away from Timmy (who I actually do *like* better), but last year Halladay and Lee’s WHIP and especially K/BB and BB/9 (as Paul Swydan told us the other day) were amazing.

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  33. bcp33bosox says:

    Anyhoo as for Dave and Jonah’s post…it was a fun read and I am interested to see the results of the simulations. I gotta cheer for Jonah’s team though just cause he has 3 of my Sox (and King Felix). Though I do give credit to Dave for his mascot…lol!

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