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A Different All-Star Game

Publication Date: November 27, 2001

A Different Recruiting Angle

One of the themes that I touched on in my last column on pitcher workloads was that, besides recruiting against each other, college coaches are recruiting for the idea of college baseball as a whole, since talented high school players have a very real choice to make as to whether to go to college or to go on into minor league baseball. Now, career development isn't the only factor involved, and smart coaches know and use that -- to almost anyone, being in college is both a better living standard and a better overall personal development move than playing minor league baseball. However, career development in baseball is certainly a major factor, and it's a good question as to whether, in general, players develop better if they go to college or directly to the minors. I have some ideas about how to study that, but they're going to involve some major amounts of data collection, so I'm not ready to start on them yet.

On the other hand, that doesn't mean we can't have an appropriate amount of fun with the idea. What I want to do this week, just as a quick back of the envelope type of comparison (and, yes, I'm aware that anecdote is not the singular of data), is to look at the major leagues for 2001 and pick two all-star teams. One will be made up of players who played Division I baseball, and the other will be made up of players who went to high school in the United States and went directly to the minor leagues after that. International players and junior college or lower division players can start their own team (and might well win, but they're not part of this discussion).

There are all sorts of problems with this as a serious study -- most players aren't superstars, for example, but still need to have their development studied -- but it'll be a fun exercise (and feel free to write in with players you think I've overlooked), and I could use a little fun this week.

The College Boys (*)

(*) What, I'm the only one watching Black Sheep Squadron reruns on the History Channel?

The composition of these teams will reflect some rather idiosyncratic beliefs of mine on lineup construction (feel free to go write your own column if you want more conventional roles). Most teams are far too nervous about defense, so players tend to end up in easier positions than they could be playing. That means that outfielders are interchangeable and Jim Thome should still be a third baseman, for example. There's no magic to pitching in relief or starting, so I'm going to take the best pitchers available. One concession I'm going to make to the stardom of these players that I wouldn't make on an ordinary team is that there will be no role players here, since salary's not really a consideration.

Player           Position   Team           College              2001 OPS

Barry Bonds      OF         Giants         Arizona State        1.378
Luis Gonzalez    OF         Diamondbacks   South Alabama        1.117
Lance Berkman    OF         Astros         Rice                 1.050
J. D. Drew       OF         Cardinals      Florida State        1.022
Kevin Millar     OF         Marlins        Lamar                0.931
Jason Giambi     1B/DH      A's            Long Beach State     1.137
Todd Helton      1B         Rockies        Tennessee            1.111
Bret Boone       2B         Mariners       Southern Cal         0.950
Rich Aurilia     SS         Giants         St. John's           0.941
Derek Jeter      SS         Yankees        Michigan             0.857
Phil Nevin       3B         Padres         Cal State Fullerton  0.976
Troy Glaus       3B         Angels         UCLA                 0.898
Paul Lo Duca     C          Dodgers        Arizona State        0.917
Charles Johnson  C          Marlins        Miami, Florida       0.771

Pitcher           Team           College             2001 ERA

Randy Johnson     Diamondbacks   Southern Cal        2.49
Mike Mussina      Yankees        Stanford            3.15
Mark Mulder       A's            Michigan State      3.45
Matt Morris       Cardinals      Seton Hall          3.16
Tim Hudson        A's            Auburn              3.37
Barry Zito        A's            Southern Cal        3.49
Jamie Moyer       Mariners       St. Joseph's        3.43
Russ Ortiz        Giants         Oklahoma            3.29
Roger Clemens     Yankees        Texas               3.51
Eric Milton       Twins          Maryland            4.32
Aaron Sele        Mariners       Washington State    3.60

Blue Collar

Player             Position   Team            2001 OPS

Brian Giles        OF         Pirates         0.994
Shawn Green        OF         Dodgers         0.970
Gary Sheffield     OF         Dodgers         1.000
Cliff Floyd        OF         Marlins         0.968
Jim Edmonds        OF         Cardinals       0.974
Albert Pujols      1B/3B      Cardinals       1.013
Edgar Martinez     DH/1B      Mariners        0.966
Jim Thome          1B/3B      Indians         1.040
Ray Durham         2B         White Sox       0.803
Alex Rodriguez     SS         Rangers         1.021
Frank Catalanotto  SS/2B/OF   Rangers         0.881
Chipper Jones      3B         Braves          1.032
Damian Miller      C          Diamondbacks    0.763
Ben Davis          C          Padres          0.694

Pitcher           Team           2001 ERA

Curt Schilling    Diamondbacks   2.98
Joe Mays          Twins          3.16
Mark Buehrle      White Sox      3.29
Greg Maddux       Braves         3.05
Wade Miller       Astros         3.40
John Burkett      Braves         3.04
Tom Glavine       Braves         3.57
Brad Radke        Twins          3.94
Cory Lidle        A's            3.59
Kerry Wood        Cubs           3.36
Al Leiter         Mets           3.31

I had never noticed the paucity of American-born catchers these days before, although Piazza cuts down on that a touch. Ben Davis? Geez. I'm tempted to throw Craig Biggio on as the backup, but catcher's one position where the backup really has to play a lot, and I don't think he could do it at this point.

So, Who Wins?

It's interesting how much I found myself rooting for the college team as I constructed this, although I did my best to make the teams as objectively correct as I could. With that in mind, though, I do think the alumni all-stars win this year, at least. The pitching staffs look to be about even to me, depending on usage patterns -- they're really close in the top three or four spots, the college guys are ahead at five through seven, and the bottom looks a little better for the minor league guys. Since this is one of my major areas of concern, it's good to see it this close.

On the offensive side, though, I think the college guys have a big edge. We'd have to do this each year, of course, to see how distorted this is by Barry Bonds' Big Year, but the only positions at which the minor league guys have an advantage are at short and third, with ARod and the Jones/Pujols/Thome mix. Catcher, first, and the whole outfield appear to be big wins for the college side.

All of this, as I said earlier, proves nothing at all. If anyone wants to actually run these teams through a simulator, of course, I'd love to hear about the results.

Next week, most likely, winter will have hit here (I'm beginning to think we're not going to have one this year), and I'll take a look at the February schedule.

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