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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Stars fit formula for success

The All-Star break is here, which can only mean one thing: no box scores in today's paper.

Of course, it also means that all statistics are frozen for a couple of days, so it's a good time to compile the second annual Stat Guy All-Star team - the best player at each position over the first half of the season.

Players were selected based on extrapolated runs (XR), a formula developed by the Baseball Think Factory that measures the total offensive contribution of a player. Add up XR for all players on a team, and you'll have a good approximation of the total runs for the team. The totals have been adjusted for home ballpark.

So without further ado, here are the winners:

* FIRST BASE: Derrek Lee, Cubs (40.3 extrapolated runs above average). Lee is having the mother of all career seasons. His slugging average is more than 200 points above his previous career best. His career high in home runs is 32. This season, he already has 27. Lee has been the best player in baseball over the first half and has single-handedly kept the flagging Cubs afloat. Runner-up: Albert Pujols, Cardinals (29.9).

* SECOND BASE: Brian Roberts, Orioles (25.0). Whose first half has been more of a surprise — Roberts or Lee? It's a good argument either way. Roberts has already tripled his previous career best in home runs. His 50 doubles last season might have been a precursor to the power spike. If the season ended today, Roberts would probably be the MVP in the American League. Runner-up: Jeff Kent, Dodgers (16.6).

* THIRD BASE: Alex Rodriguez, Yankees (26.6). Curses. If A-Rod hadn't had such a monster first half, the Yankees might have been buried beyond hope. Instead, they enter the break only 2 1/2 games back. The case for picking Rodriguez at the hot corner was not so clear-cut, however. He has been positively statuesque in the field. But the offensive numbers give him too great of a buffer for any other third sackers to overcome. Runner-up: Morgan Ensberg, Astros (18.8).

* SHORTSTOP: Miguel Tejada, Orioles (21.6). Remember the very recent past, when all arguments about shortstops centered on Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Nomar Garciaparra? Seems like a long time ago. Tejada takes the shortstop spot by a bigger margin than any other position. His defensive numbers are down - but not enough to threaten his perch. Runner-up: Derek Jeter, Yankees (10.6).

* CATCHER: Jason Varitek, Red Sox (8.5). Varitek is another player who takes a defensive position because of dominance with the bat. His defensive numbers are so-so, but he has a good reputation for working with his pitchers. Varitek has always been a plus with the bat, but he may be having his best season. Pudge Rodriguez takes the runner-up spot because of some terrific defensive numbers. Runner-up: Rodriguez, Tigers (0.1).

* LEFT FIELD: Miguel Cabrera, Marlins (21.1). Which young hitter would you rather have, Cabrera or Pujols? When you consider what Cabrera has done by the age of 22, it's not an easy question. Also, when you realize that the most comparable hitter to Pujols' career to date is Joe DiMaggio, Cabrera is off to an awfully good start. His defense isn't great, however. Runner-up: Jason Bay, Pirates (16.4).

* CENTER FIELD: Andruw Jones, Braves (16.5). It seems as if Jones has been around long enough to have played with Hank Aaron - but, in reality, he's still only 28 years old. This may be the monstrous season that Jones always seemed destined for. While his reputation with the glove now exceeds his actual performance, he's still a plus defender. Runner-up: Jim Edmonds, Cardinals (15.4).

* RIGHT FIELD: Brian Giles, Padres (23.0). The breadth of Giles' season is partly masked by the pitcher's park in which he plays, but Giles has been one of the five best offensive players in baseball over the first half. Park factors give Giles the edge over Bobby Abreu. Runner-up: Abreu, Phillies (20.0).

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