Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I Want To Vote For Pitchers

Why is it that Major League Baseball doesn't allow fans to vote for pitchers for the All-Star Game? I've asked myself this question for years, and I finally decided to look into the matter. I should preface this by saying that there's no amount of information I could find, no angle of reasoning I could uncover that would make me think that fans shouldn't be able to vote for pitchers. So this was just an exercise in discovering why other people suggest that only hitters are selected by fans.

But guess what? After looking around for a few days, running various web searches, asking fellow fans and students of the game of baseball, and just thinking about it myself, I haven't found one reason that fans should be allowed to vote for hitters but not pitchers. A couple of the ideas that went through my head before I dismissed them:
  • People wouldn't have enough information to know enough about pitchers. The very notion of that is ridiculous; when you start allowing All-Star ballots to be cast in April, you lose any right to claim that anyone, pitcher or hitter, hasn't played enough to prove their merit. And things wouldn't have changed much in that time anyways; Zack Greinke and Johan Santana are still your starters.
  • Pitchers are harder to evaluate than hitters. There might be a bit of truth to this, in that pitchers seem to rely a little more on luck than hitters do. But with the success of fantasy baseball, the general baseball-watching public is starting to understand the value of WHIP, and how it's a pretty solid representation of pitching quality. Wins and strikeouts should still matter, of course, but as long as you integrate WHIP, you should have a good representation of the best pitchers. And again, you'll get mostly the same pitchers, regardless of WHIP integration.
  • With each team having one representative, you need as many roster spots left up to the manager as possible. Gobbledygook. While certainly the option of grabbing the closer from a last place team has become a somewhat standard method for ensuring full representation, it's by no means the only way to involve every team. Furthermore, you'd still have a plethora of bench spots (both hitters and pitchers) available to sprinkle members of each team. I imagine you'd vote for 2-3 starting pitchers and 1-2 relievers. That's hardly enough to ruin roster flexibility.
I haven't heard a single reason from anyone to suggest why pitchers ought not be voted for when it comes to the All-Star game, and so I'm going to do just that. I'm casting my ballot today for the three starters and two relievers from each league that I believe to be All-Stars. Selig and his friends can stick it.

AL Starting Pitchers
  • Zack Greinke, Royals - Even with his recent underwhelming performance against the Blue Jays, his season numbers are astounding. He's 8-2 with a 1.55 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP, with 91 strikeouts in 87 innings. Moreover, on Kansas City, he's got to be that good to have any shot at a 15-win season. A well-deserved vote for the All-Star Game.
  • Roy Halladay, Blue Jays - While the Blue Jays have slowed quite a bit since screaming out of the gate, Halladay continues to throw gem after gem. He's the majors' first ten game winner of the season, and another twenty win season seems very much within reach.
  • Justin Verlander, Tigers - While his teammate Edwin Jackson has been similarly tremendous, Verlander has an absurd 97 Ks in 77 innings. That he's bounced back so nicely after giving up 17 runs over his first three starts is an even greater testament to how well he's pitching right now.
AL Relief Pitchers
  • Frank Francisco, Rangers - Francisco didn't give up a run until his 18th game of the season, at which point he was 11/11 in save opportunities. A shoulder injury puts his status into question going forward, but for right now, he's one of my two RP picks for the All-Star Game.
  • Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox - While I really do think Joe Nathan has pitched like an All-Star, he hasn't had the same opportunities he's had in the past. Papelbon, meanwhile, has been racking up saves like always, and although he's not as dominant as he's been historically, I don't have any trouble saying he's an All-Star.
NL Starting Pitchers
  • Johan Santana, Mets - This is the Santana we all expected when he was traded to the National League. He's got 8 wins, sparkling averages, and over a strikeout an inning. Additionally, you know he's never going to look like a mistake after the fact.
  • Johnny Cueto, Reds - A year after some of us invested our #1 waiver priority in him, Cueto is showing that he's able to transition from thrower to pitcher. His strikeout numbers have dropped, but he's become miles better at getting guys out, putting him in the top 5 in ERA and WHIP in the National League.
  • Chad Billingsley, Dodgers - Eight wins and better than a strikeout per inning have made the Hundred Dollar Man (C-Bills, get it?) a valuable fantasy commodity. He also happens to be the best starter on the best team in baseball right now.
NL Relief Pitchers
  • Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers - Even if you take out his SIX (!) wins, he's still crushing opponents and pitching like the closer we all figured he'd be. I guarantee you nobody in Los Angeles misses Takashi Saito.
  • Francisco Rodriguez, Mets - Sometimes there are guys from whom the world is expected, and they end up actually meeting expectations. His ERA is bested by only Francisco and Hoffman, but he's got more saves and strikeouts than either of them. The Mets desperately needed to solidify their bullpen, and K-Rod is up to the challenge.
So there you have it, your pitching All-Stars. I'd be surprised if any of those ten guys didn't make the All-Star game (though Papelbon probably could get nudged out with a bad week). Agree? Disagree? Got a reason why we shouldn't vote for pitchers? Say so.

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