Much like the NFL, NBA and NHL, the MLB is a star-driven league. Just take a look at the Oakland Athletics. The owner of the best record in baseball, the A's also had the most All-Stars this past week, rostering seven stars in the Mid-Summer Classic.
But is fantasy baseball star driven as well? Do the teams who roster the most All-Stars have the corresponding lofty ranking in the standings? This month I take a look at the relationship between the standings and the All-Star presence in the LABR Mixed League.
At first blush, it does appear that the teams with the most All-Stars are the ones most successful thus far in 2014. MLB's Fred Zinkie finds himself in first place at the All-Star break, and unsurprisingly leads the league in All-Stars with 11. Ray Murphy of Baseball HQ is right on Zinkie's tail in both the standings in in All-Stars, sitting just 2.5 points off the lead and rostering nine All-Stars. In last place, Razzball's Rudy Gamble has as many All-Stars as the wire waiver with two (Pat Neshek and Tony Watson are both unowned as of this writing).
The correlation between All-Stars and standings hold relatively true for teams placed third through ninth, with all of those rosters holding five or six All-Stars. Fangraphs' Mike Podhorzer seems to be out-performing his expectations based on his All-Stars, as his team features just three players, yet is ahead of three teams with four or five stars. Conversely, KFFL's Tim Heaney has five All-Stars, yet is 14th of 15 in the standings.
Hitters and Pitchers
When you break down the standings between hitting and pitching categories, there are still just a few outliers in what is a seemingly highly correlated relationship. Murphy's league-high six All-Star hitters have him in first place in hitting. However, RotoWire's Jeff Erickson finds himself in third place in batting despite having just three All-Star hitters—fewer than the teams placed fourth, sixth and eighth. Mastersball's Todd Zola is ninth in hitting, which doesn't seem overly impressive until you realize he is tied with one other club for the fewest All-Star hitters, rostering only Troy Tulowitzki.
The pitching standings leave little surprises based on the All-Star metric. Five teams roster three or more All-Star pitchers, and all five fall within the top seven spots in the standings. The only moderate surprise is that Zinkie's league-leading five All-Star pitchers have him in second place in pitching—10.5 points behind ESPN's James Quintong.
All-Stars vs. Fantasy Stars
Perhaps the discrepancies between All-Stars and place in the standings are due to the fact that the 81 All-Stars this season aren't in fact the 81 best players. With fans, players and managers making decisions for personal reasons in some cases and the requirement that each Major League team be represented in the Mid-Summer Classic, there is a real chance that the results are skewed.
Of the top 81 players according to RotoWire's Overall Player Rankings, just 47 are All-Stars. Using RotoWire's top 81 players as opposed to the 81 All-Stars, there is considerable parity in LABR Mixed. 11 of the 15 clubs employ between four and six of the top 81. In fifth place, Quintong has just four of the top 81, but is ahead of seven teams who have more such players, bucking the trend. My own ninth-place team also has four top-81 players, but is ahead of four teams with more.
It is no surprise that Zinkie and his 12 top-81 players (that's nearly 15 percent of the top talent in the league) is in first place, but the major surprise is that Baseball Prospectus' duo of Bret Sayre and Mike Gianella sit in 13th place despite having seven top-81 players—tied for second most in the league. That anomaly can be explained, however, by the lack of pitching. Six of those seven players are hitters, leaving just Alex Cobb on the pitching side. Though a fine pitcher, Cobb doesn't carry a team the way Stephen Strasburg does for Erickson or David Price does for Murphy.
All-Stars certainly help. So do top players. It doesn't take a genius to realize that a team with Evan Longoria, Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera and 11 guys who made the All-Star team would be a force to be reckoned with.
But the supporting cast is just as important. Plugging the gaps with guys like C.J. Cron, Steve Pearce and Jose Quintana has helped Zinkie achieve his post in first place. On the other side of the equation, Sayre and Gianella struggle to produce despite the seven top-81 players because of holes in their lineup in the forms of Anthony Recker, Will Venable and Jonathan Singleton.
When you can't get your hands on 15 percent of the top talent in the league like Zinkie did, a mixed approach appears to work best. As is evidenced by Erickson's success this season. Just eight points off the lead, he doesn't have the star-power the top two teams have, but with no glaring weakness in his lineup he's right there at the top of the standings.
Standings As Of July 17