2014 BCB NL All-Star Roster Vote: Relief Pitchers

Mike McGinnis

Could a Brewers reliever end up on the All-Star team?

This is part eight of a nine-part series where we look at each position in the National League for the All-Star roster. We will see how different contributors constructed their All-Star rosters, as well as which players deserve to make the team. Check the storystream in the right bar for previous entries in the series.

Relief pitchers can be one of the toughest to evaluate for the All-Star team. How do you evaluate who's been good and who hasn't? It's a tough situation to say the least. How did our voters choose to pick their teams? Could a Brewer manage to make the team?

The Candidates

Here are the top 25 candidates by fWAR (FanGraphs qualified leaders only):

Name Team G IP W L SV K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP WAR
Craig Kimbrel Braves 30 28.1 0 1 21 16.52 3.81 1.91 0.90 1.6
Steve Cishek Marlins 31 30.2 4 2 16 11.74 2.64 2.05 1.78 1.2
Zach Duke Brewers 33 28.2 4 0 0 12.24 1.57 1.26 1.34 0.9
Joaquin Benoit Padres 31 31.2 3 0 1 10.52 1.99 1.42 1.82 0.9
Tony Watson Pirates 33 33.0 5 0 0 11.18 2.73 0.82 2.09 0.9
Pat Neshek Cardinals 33 29.1 1 0 2 8.90 1.23 0.92 2.17 0.8
Hector Rondon Cubs 26 26.2 1 1 7 10.80 3.04 2.36 1.70 0.8
Will Smith Brewers 38 34.0 1 0 1 11.38 3.71 1.06 2.35 0.8
Jonathan Papelbon Phillies 30 29.1 2 1 17 7.67 2.76 1.53 2.61 0.7
Mark Melancon Pirates 35 33.1 1 2 10 7.83 1.62 1.89 2.46 0.7
Kenley Jansen Dodgers 32 29.0 0 2 20 15.21 3.41 3.72 2.19 0.7
Trevor Rosenthal Cardinals 32 33.0 0 3 20 11.73 5.18 3.55 2.78 0.7
Tyler Clippard Nationals 34 31.0 4 2 0 11.61 4.35 2.32 2.80 0.6
Jean Machi Giants 32 31.0 5 0 2 6.68 1.74 0.29 2.18 0.6
Adam Ottavino Rockies 35 31.2 0 2 0 9.09 1.71 3.98 3.05 0.5
Huston Street Padres 28 28.0 1 0 20 9.64 2.25 0.96 2.62 0.5
Rafael Soriano Nationals 28 28.0 1 0 15 8.04 3.21 1.29 2.84 0.5
Craig Stammen Nationals 20 34.2 0 2 0 7.27 1.30 2.86 2.36 0.5
J.P. Howell Dodgers 35 26.0 1 3 0 10.04 4.50 1.73 2.47 0.5
David Carpenter Braves 34 27.2 4 1 2 11.39 2.60 4.23 2.69 0.4
Aaron Barrett Nationals 27 24.2 3 0 0 10.58 4.74 1.82 2.44 0.4
Francisco Rodriguez Brewers 36 36.1 2 2 23 9.91 2.23 2.23 3.14 0.4
Drew Storen Nationals 27 22.1 2 1 0 8.46 1.61 1.21 2.59 0.4
Justin Wilson Pirates 31 27.1 2 0 0 9.55 4.94 5.27 2.72 0.4
Jeremy Affeldt Giants 27 23.1 2 1 0 8.10 2.70 1.54 2.31 0.4

The Contributors Vote

Voter RP #1 RP #2 RP #3 RP #4
Cheeseandcorn Craig Kimbrel Huston Street Rafael Soriano Francisco Rodriguez
Derek Harvey Craig Kimbrel Steve Cishek Will Smith Kenley Jansen
Fred Hofstetter Craig Kimbrel Will Smith Kenley Jansen Pat Neshek
Hangwithem Rach Craig Kimbrel Jean Machi Will Smith Huston Street
-JP- Craig Kimbrel Steve Cishek Pat Neshek Zach Duke
Jordan Mader Tony Watson Steve Cishek Will Smith Huston Street
Noah Jarosh Craig Kimbrel Jean Machi Zach Duke Kenley Jansen
NPetrashek Kenley Jansen Francisco Rodriguez Pat Neshek Will Smith

Voter RP #5 Alt. #1 Alt. #2 Alt. #3
Cheeseandcorn Tony Watson Jean Machi - -
Derek Harvey - - - -
Fred Hofstetter - - - -
Hangwithem Rach Sergio Romo Trevor Rosenthal Steve Cishek Kenley Jansen
-JP- - - - -
Jordan Mader Craig Kimbrel - - -
Noah Jarosh - Steve Cishek Tony Watson -
NPetrashek Craig Kimbrel - - -

Craig Kimbrel was the only unanimous choice among the voters. After that, it got fragmented. Huston Street, Steve Cishek, and Kenley Jansen are three names that came up the most, but they weren't on every ballot. Some other names came up as well, and all of the players brought up have reasonable cases to make for why they should be on the team.

Here is what the voters had to say:

(Reminder, these comments are as of two weeks ago, so they may not be completely accurate at this point.)

Derek Harvey: "Kimbrel, Chisek, and Jansen will probably make the real all-star team. They've been great this year. Will Smith probably won't make the real all-star team but he's been great too. He's third in K/9. He's third in K%. He's third in fWAR for relievers. He is seond in ERA. He is third in FIP. He is performing like a superstar."

Fred Hofstetter: "Whiffs and velocity prioritized. Especially amongst the relievers. Except Neshek. Included as the NL's submarine-slot representative (Zach Duke is frighteningly close to making the ballot)."

Jordan Mader: "I chose to reward two lefty middle relievers, Watson and Smith, over more heralded closers."

Noah Jarosh: "There are a lot of good pitchers in this one. Wanted to include a handful of relievers, to be sure. On the Brewers side, I think most people would expect Will Smith to be the reliever in contention for an All Star nod. In reality, it's Duke who has been amazing, leading all qualified NL relievers in xFIP. There are sure to be snubs on the pitching side. There normally are, but I mean there are some legit hard decisions in this case. Same at reliever. Because, of course, even fewer relievers are taken and there is an even bigger pool of players to choose from. "

NPetrashek: "It's a crime if Will Smith doesn't get an All-Star berth ... and he's a lefty to boot.  Kimbrel and Jansen I consider locks. Pat Neshek hasn't walked really anybody this year, and I dig that."

Analysis

Relief pitchers can be one of the toughest positions to evaluate for All-Star candidates. There's generally no one statistic that can evaluate a pitcher's ability. Closers (or at least pitchers leading in saves) tend to be the best, but that's not always the case. High strikeouts are usually good, but can also belong to pitchers with high ERAs. A low ERA isn't necessarily good either, because of low sample sizes some of these pitchers will have. What it ends up coming down to is a combination of several stats.

Craig Kimbrel was the only unanimous choice in the contributor vote, and it's obvious why. Low ERA/FIP, high strikeout rate, one of the leaders in saves. He is an obvious pick. After that, it gets tougher. Some people chose to go for save leaders (Steve Cishek, Trevor Rosenthal, Francisco Rodriguez, Huston Street). Some went for low ERAs (Jean Machi, Tony Watson, Pat Neshek, Will Smith, Zach Duke). Some just went for relievers they liked. At this point, it's going to come down to personal preference, since it's mostly the manager picks at this point.

For my picks, I went for a little bit of everything. Craig Kimbrel was the obvious pick, and Steve Cishek has done well enough as well to get a pick. For the Pat Neshek pick, it was about the low ERA, but also because he is a Cardinal. If there's a choice between a few picks, I would expect to see the manager go for the player he knows better. My final pick was Zach Duke, and I'll explain that shortly.

For the Brewers, there are three legit candidates that could make the bullpen: Francisco Rodriguez, Will Smith, and Zach Duke. Francisco Rodriguez has name recognition and currently leads the NL in saves. He also has a good ERA and decent strikeout numbers. However, you can argue that he's not even the Brewers best reliever. That honor could go to either Will Smith or Zach Duke. Will Smith currently has a 1.06 ERA, and has received a lot of attention from the league. However, I would argue he's not the pick either. If I had to pick the best reliever for the Brewers this year, it would be Zach Duke. His K/9 (12.24) and BB/9 (1.57) numbers are better than Will Smith's numbers, and his ERA is only slightly worse (1.26) with a better FIP (1.34). Maybe some of that is because his situations have been more controlled, but Zach Duke has thrived in the Brewers bullpen this year. If I had to pick one Brewers reliever to make the team, it would be him. Of course, any of the three choices from the Brewers bullpen would be good for the team.

Your Vote

One final vote for the series. This time, you can name up to five relievers, though are only required to name three. Poll is open until noon tomorrow, and the results of all of the polls will be put together in a final post on Monday.

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