If It Really Counted: NL Edition

Note: As several readers pointed out, I only had 24 players on my roster when the post went live earlier today. Yes, I was confident my team could beat Dave Cameron’s but why cheat myself by having one less player. So I’m adding Zack Greinke. There, now you have another thing to comment on.

As Dave laid out this morning, we’re tackling the question of what the rosters for next week’s All-Star Game might look like if the game actually counted. If we got rid of the one-rep-per-team rule, got rid of the extra roster spots, and focused on winning the prize rather than making sure everyone got a chance to play. One game, winner-take-all, AL vs NL. Dave’s AL squad looks pretty good, but I think I put together an NL squad that could take the crown for the senior circuit.

The only thing I knew about Dave’s plans for the American League was that Justin Verlander would be his starting pitcher. The only thing Dave knew about my roster was that Stephen Strasburg would be my starting pitcher.

Here’s the “If It Really Counted” National League All-Star Roster:

Starting Pitcher:

Stephen Strasburg, RHP

Strasburg is my starting pitcher for several reasons — he throws strikes and he throws hard, essentially pitching like a top shelf reliever but capable of going multiple innings. We know he can air it out, and since I’m only asking him to get through the batting order one time, he can sit near 100 and just blow people away.

Next Up: R.A. Dickey, RHP

Dickey is a perfect contrast to Strasburg. After Strasburg’s 96+ mph fastball, batters will face Dickey’s knuckleball, which ranges in speed from 60 mph to 80 mph. Very few of Dave’s likely American League hitters have faced Dickey this season, so the element of surprise is in Dickey’s favor. I’d expect Dickey to pitch one time through the lineup, at least, and wouldn’t be against keeping him for longer if the knuckleball was really dancing.

High Leverage Lefty #1:

Aroldis Chapman, LHP

Speed, speed, and more speed. Chapman’s fastball has topped 100 mph regularly this season, he’s averaging 97.4. Of the 48 left-handed batters he’s faced this season, Chapman has struck out 26 and given up only six hits. Only one left-handed batter has hit for extra bases off Chapman and it was a double. Going from flame-throwing righty to knuckleballer to flame-throwing lefty will ensure that the AL never gets comfortable.

High Leverage Righty #1:

Sergio Romo, RHP

Romo has a devastating slider that locals call a “frisbee slider” for the way it floats, ever so gently, near home plate, and then dives down before the batter can do anything about it. He’s faced 64 right-handed batters this season, recording 26 strikeouts. Righties are batting .119 against Romo. He can be susceptible to the long ball, but Kauffman Stadium, where the All-Star Game is being played, has a home run park factor for right-handed batters of 85, so I’m not too worried about him giving up a long ball there.

Situational Experts

Craig Kimbrel, RHP

Tyler Clippard, RHP

Jonathan Papelbon, RHP

Sean Burnett, LHP

Gio Gonzalez, LHP

Clayton Kershaw, LHP

Kimbrel, Clippard and Papelbon have all been excellent out of the pen this season against right-handed batters. All have pitched well in high leverage situations and can be counted on to get a tough out in the later innings. After Chapman, Burnett’s been the most effective reliever against left-handed batters. I prefer Gonzalez and Kershaw over any other lefty specialist in the bullpen, and having two starters down there gives me the ability to get multiple innings from them if necessary.

Starting Lineup

1. Carlos Beltran, Switch hitter — Right Field

2. David Wright, RHB — Third Base

3. Joey Votto, LHB — First Base

4. Ryan Braun, RHB — Left Field

5. Carlos Gonzalez, LHB — Designated Hitter

6. Andrew McCutchen, RHB — Center Field

7. Carlos Ruiz, RHB — Catcher

8. Jed Lowrie, Switch Hitter — Shortstop

9. Aaron Hill, RHB — Second Base

The toughest calls were catcher and second base. I wanted Yadier Molina in there to catch Dickey, but didn’t want to give up Ruiz’s superior offense. I have Molina on my bench. I picked Aaron Hill over Brandon Phillips given Hill’s higher OBP and power numbers, recognizing I’d be sacrificing some defense.

The top of the order is filled with on-base and power guys. I like Beltran leading off because he’s a switch hitter. The rest of the lineup from 2 through 6 alternates between LHB and RHB to to keep Dave off balance with his match-ups in the later innings.


Yadier Molina — Backup Catcher

Michael Bourn — Pinch Runner/Defensive Replacement

Giancarlo Stanton — Pinch Hitter/Defensive Replacement

Martin Prado — Super Utility Player

Jason Heyward — Pinch Hitter/Defensive Replacement

Molina will backup Ruiz, and if Carlos can’t handle Dickey’s knuckleball, then Molina will sub in, without losing too much on offense. Prado is having a superb season at the plate and has logged significant time in his career at first, second, third and left field, making him the perfect guy off the bench. Bourn can be used as a pinch runner and to spell Braun in left field in the later innings for better defense. Heyward and Stanton are both power threats off the bench, one from the left side, one from the right. Either one of them could also take over for Beltran in right field for late-inning defense if need be.

That’s my National League All-Star roster. The NL is blessed with outstanding starting pitching this season, and it seems odd to leave Matt Cain, Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong off the roster. But I like the contrast of Strasburg and Dickey to start the game, and went with the best lefty and right specialists to deal with match-ups in the later innings.

The National League offense is balanced and I didn’t have to sacrifice defense too much. I would have liked to have found a spot for Melky Cabrera, but much preferred a Braun, McCutchen, Beltran starting outfield, and didn’t think Melky would be all that helpful off the bench. Votto and Wright are about as solid on the corners as you could ask for, both offensively and defensively. I surprised myself a bit in selecting Hill over Brandon Phillips and Jose Altuve, but I wanted his offense, especially at the bottom of the order. Lowrie’s simply been the best all-around shortstop in the National League this year with Troy Tulowitzki hurt for most of the season.

If Strasburg and Dickey are on their game, and the lineup hits as they have all year, I like my chances in a “this time it counts” game against Dave’s American League roster.

Print This Post

Wendy writes about sports and the business of sports. She's been published most recently by Vice Sports, Deadspin and NewYorker.com. You can find her work at wendythurm.pressfolios.com and follow her on Twitter @hangingsliders.

42 Responses to “If It Really Counted: NL Edition”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. Aaron Murray says:

    I’d take this team over Dave’s in a 3-1 ballgame. The offense may not be as mighty but I just don’t see how those poor AL guys are going to score off Strasburg, Dickey, and then relievers like Pap and Aroldis.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. JT says:

    That team is certainly a lot better than the one that the fans voted for, except that Greinke should have made the team. In fact I really thought he would be the starter for the NL this year.

    It’s a darn shame that none of the Braves outfielders made the “real” all-star team. Bourn especially deserved it.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • kp says:

      All 3 of the Braves OF deserved to go. Ranking 7, 8, and 13 in Batter WAR apparently isn’t good enough, though.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. Oliver says:

    I think you’re underestimating Ruiz’ blocking ability. According to this article,


    Chooch is a very good pitch-blocker too. Perhaps not as good but still above average.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. stretch says:

    Vogelsong? Give me a break. You are such a homer. Cueto is more deserving. Bonus: he sleeps with Tony LaRussa’s gfs.

    -11 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • vivalajeter says:

      To be fair, Wendy seems to be the only Giants fan who doesn’t think Sandoval should be the starting 3B.

      +11 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Joe says:

        No, many, many Giants fans agree that Pablo should not be starting. The only reason he is starting because of the push to get Melky back in the top 3 for OFs, his starting and Posey’s record breaking votes were a side-effect of that.

        And to stretch, how the hell does Vogey NOT deserve to be in the all star game?

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • stretch says:


        Cueto is more deserving. As is James McDonald.

        Vogelsong was a homer choice and you know it.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • claybaybay says:

      Yo it’s fine though, you don’t have to give any justification for your remark that Cueto is more deserving that Vogelsong

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. Choo says:

    Since you already have CarGo and Beltran in the starting lineup, I am wondering why you chose Beltran’s glove over CarGo’s for RF?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Anon says:

      This is exactly what I was thinking.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Wendy Thurm says:

      CarGo plays LF and CF. I suppose I could have used CarGo in left and had Braun as the DH. That might have made more sense.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Choo says:

        Braun is a better LF than Beltran is a RF, and CarGo has played a pretty mean RF in the past. Also, keeping your switch-hitter at DH ensures he give you that automatic platoon advantage all game long – you would lose that if/when it was time to replace Betran defensively.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • whatever says:

        If the game is not gonna be at Coors I do not think you want Cargo in the lineup. Checked his splits out, this year, last year or the year before? I know you want the lefthanded bat to break up the lineup but this guy is not your answer.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • radicalhenri says:

        @whatever, good point.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. Baltar says:

    Why not start Dickey and Molina, then replace them (Dickey for the limit; pinch hit for Molina the next time he’s due up after that). You wouldn’t have to take a chance on your other catcher being able to handle Dickey.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • nik says:

      For all we know Ruiz might catch Dickey better than Molina. Neither has ever caught a knuckler in the bigs.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • PMac says:

      better to have Dickey as a changeup between Stras’ high velocity and the presumably high velocity reliver.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Baltar says:

        I see the merit of Wendy’s argument, as you have restated it. I still think the value of having the best defensive catcher in baseball catch the knuckler out weighs the value of the one additional transition from non-knuckler to knuckler.
        Neither of us can prove our position, and I respect Wendy’s choice, but I think my idea is worth thinking about, so I have given it to all of you as a gift. No thanks are necessary.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. Eminor3rd says:

    Would you really rather have Tyler Clippard than Greinke?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. chiefglockandhummer says:

    you picked a guy with a career wRC+ of 96 for his offense? over dan uggla? and ruiz is starting? this roster is bizarre

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Scott says:

      What’s wrong with Ruiz starting? He’s been one of the best hitters in baseball this year, with solid-to-good defense. Makes sense to me.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • chiefglockandhummer says:

        remember this isn’t a reward for the best start of the season, wendy’s actually trying to win this game. do you really think ruiz’s power surge at the tender age of 33 and his suddenly super-elite babip are for real? i mean, mccann, posey, and molina all still play in the national league

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. Tyler says:

    Am I going crazy or is there only 24 players on this team?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. game6ers says:

    I don’t like Beltran leading off, and he should be DH’ing at this point in his career and CarGo or Bourn should be starting in the outfield playing defense. I checked the fielding stats for LF to see if Braun was a good enough defender, then my brain broke when I tried to figure out how to decipher those things. I’m a bit biased toward Bourn because he’s so awesome. I think he should be in there, either over Braun or CarGo. Homeruns aren’t everything in this game. Bourn’s speed, defense and base running would help this team.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. TKDC says:

    Should switch Votto and Wright. Most studies say the better hitter should bat 2nd and that would also put more distance between Votto and CarGo, so it would be harder to have the same lefty pitch to both.

    Also, one of your pitchers should be replaced with Jose Reyes. That gives you a backup SS. In reality, I’d probably go with Reyes as the starter. He’s probably better than Jeb Lowrie. But he could at least add value as a pinch runner. You don’t need 11 pitchers for one game, especially if you plan on having the first two pitch to 9 batters each. The advantage you’d get from having more elite hitters able to pinch hit for your non-offensive positions would be much greater than trying to play matchups with the 11th best pitcher in the NL instead of just having the best few pitchers (I’d say Strasburg, Dickey, Grienke, and Cain, in that order) just go through the lineup once, and have a few other top relievers in case one of those guys gets in trouble and you could use a platoon advantage in a high leverage situation.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. Gerry says:

    I would take the AL team only if Dave managed it.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. Ajay says:

    Jed Lowrie goes down with an injury in the 2nd inning, who is playing SS the rest of the game? I think you need to add Jose Reyes at the expense of one of your pitchers. Lowrie is also a guy I wouldn’t mind having a defensive sub for.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Dan says:

      I agree you need a backup SS. However, for a late inning defensive replacement I would consider Andrelton Simmons. If you have to have 11 pitchers I would replace Prado with Simmons, because he can’t play SS or CF.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  14. BurleighGrimes says:

    When are the actual all-star game starters announced? I’m curious.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. Julian says:

    Good thing you didn’t put Lee, he can’t beat anybody, he he.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  16. bstar says:

    Carlos friggin Gonzalez over Michael Bourn? The game is in Kansas City, not Coors Field. Come on.

    Vote -1 Vote +1