It’s almost July, so that means it’s finally time to pick some all-stars (regardless of when MLB actually opens voting). In conjunction with the Baseball Bloggers Alliance‘s All-Star vote, here are our picks for the National League, which we confess were difficult and left us with a greater sense of ambiguity than usual. A note on our method: Rather than pick individuals in a vacccuum, we selected players in the context of a real team and lineup that will give the senior circuit the best chance to beat the upstart AL. For example, none of the top-three best-hitting outfielders plays centerfield, so we included that specific position in our thinking, even though the All-Star ballot doesn’t distinguish between outfield positions.
Catcher: Brian McCann
Yes, defense matters. But, with McCann boasting a .355 wOBA and Yadier Molina only .289, it doesn’t matter that much. Yadier has been the victim of some bad luck, so factoring in some second-half regression, he could be the end-of-the-year All-Star. No, that doesn’t exist, but it’s some consolation, isn’t it?
First base: Adrian Gonzalez
One first baseman in the NL stands above the rest in an ability to reach base, power and fielding, and for the first time in several years, it’s not Albert Pujols. Gonzalez leads all senior-circuit batters in WAR and is third in wOBA. Even Cardinal fans should be able to acknowledge that he’s earned it. (Joey Votto, the league leader in wOBA, is a close second.)
Third base: David Wright
Of the NL’s big three third basemen — Wright, Ryan Zimmerman and Scott Rolen, Wright has the best overall game so far in 2010. Zimmerman, tied with him in WAR, is a defensible pick.
Outfield: Matt Holliday
Pop quiz (especially for you Cardinal fans): Who leads National League outfielders in WAR? If you guessed Holliday, you know our pick. Which leads us to wonder: Has an all-star ever been booed more by his hometown fans, not to mention the putative “best fans in baseball”?
Outfield: Andre Ethier
The Dodgers’ rightfielder leads all NL outfielders and is second in the league with a .412 wOBA. Other outfielders have better overall WAR because of their superior fielding, but because the All-Star Game features pitchers who yield relatively fewer balls in play, we value defense less than for the regular season.
Outfield: Colby Rasmus
As with Ethier, we picked Rasmus because he’s the best hitter among NL center fielders. Marlon Byrd and Andres Torres deserve consideration, too, based on their defensive talents. And Andrew McCutchen is a suitable choice, though his fielding is about as subpar as Rasmus’s.