The Case For and Against Stephen Strasburg In the All-Star Game

Well, it was fun while it lasted. Stephen Strasburg got his first loss in the major leagues, and it was a terrible loss, really. He… checks box score…pitched six innings of…double-checks box score…nine-hit one run baseball with…rubs eyes in disbelief…another nine strikeouts, and took the loss. Come on Nats' bats, score one run at some point in the game to give the kid a no decision. It's the least you could have done. Literally.
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↵After four starts for the Nationals, Strasburg is 2-1 with a 1.78 ERA. His WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) is 0.95 and hitters are batting just .167 against him. And, with 41 strikeouts in just over 25 innings pitched, he's has a ridiculous 14.57 K/9 ratio. He's faced exactly 100 batters, too, giving up five earned runs with a K/BB ratio of 41 to 5. He is living up to the hype. ↵

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↵Since Strasburg was called up June 8, he's been the biggest story in the sport and the most buzz-worthy player by a mile. Of course, with the All-Star game looming, the hot talk in baseball circles is whether or not Strasburg should be on the list. Of course, based on fan interest and excitement, he should. Of course, Joe Morgan disagrees. Morgan told Fanhouse this week that he knows Strasburg has been great, but he hasn't done it long enough. In other words, small sample size: ↵

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↵⇥"There are too many players who have been here all year, pitchers who have done well," Morgan told FanHouse on Monday. "They should be given first shot." ↵
↵This is a typical player mentality and it was echoed in the Fanhouse story by Dusty Baker who suggested, "How 'bout let's go with who deserves it? Isn't that what the All-Star team is supposed to be about?" ↵

↵In a word, no. All-Star games are supposed to be a celebration of the sport, featuring the top players in the game, and a thank you to the fans. ↵

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↵MLB.com's Hal Bodley echoes both of those "let him earn it" sentiments with this, in his counterpoint to colleague Mike Bauman's point that Strasburg should be named to the team. You know, it almost reads like Bodley doesn't actually believe what he's writing, but had to write that Strasburg shouldn't be an All-Star after drawing the short straw: ↵

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↵⇥My conservatism is showing, but it's a matter of too much too soon. I would like to see him earn a few more stripes before we anoint him a full-fledged All-Star, one of baseball's most prestigious honors. Pay some dues, if you will. ↵
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↵This isn't the Hall of Fame, where legacies are on the line, this is an All-Star game. Sure, rewarding players who are top performers is the right thing to do, but it's not like Strasburg hasn't been dynamic on the mound so far. And again, would fans rather see Billy Wagner on the All-Star team or a guy like Strasburg? I'm pretty sure Braves fans would even rather watch the kid. ↵

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↵That all said, the decision comes down to Phillies manager Charlie Manuel and, undoubtedly, sign off from higher ups at MLB. While the buzz for Strasburg would be incredible at All-Star weekend, don't expect Uncle Cholly to pick him. There are simply too many other options for him this year. ↵

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↵By my count, there are more than 20 pitchers who can legitimately make the case that they deserve to be on the NL All-Star squad ahead of Strasburg. Since the teams are forced to go through the charade of actually trying to win the game, Manuel will likely pick some relief pitchers for his staff of 13 arms. Here's a look at his choices. ↵

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↵Starters
↵Locks: Ubaldo Jimenez, Roy Halladay, Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Josh Johnson, Tim Lincecum. ↵

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↵Jimenez should be the obvious choice to start the game. Halladay's next start was moved up a day so he won't be pitching on the Sunday before the break, as MLB has a new rule this year that any starter throwing on Sunday will automatically be replaced on the All-Star roster. Carpenter and Wainwright have combined for a 19-5 record so far with each having an ERA under 2.65 (Wainwright boasting a 2.23 ERA). Lincecum is 8-2 with a 2.86 ERA and Johnson not only has the same record as Lincecum with an ERA more than a run better, he's also decimated the Phillies this year. Halladay's perfect game came against a gem by Johnson where he gave up no earned runs in the 1-0 loss. No way Manuel leaves Johnson off the roster.
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↵The Rest: Jaime Garcia, Carlos Silva, Mike Pelfrey, Mat Latos, Matt Cain, Barry Zito, Mike Leake. ↵

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↵All those names – including two rookies – have as good a case as Strasburg to be selected. Think about how good Carpenter and Wainwright have been for the Cardinals, and Garcia may actually be the most deserving of a trip. ↵

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↵Relievers
↵Closers: Jonathan Broxton, Brian Wilson, Heath Bell, Matt Capps, Billy Wagner, Carlos Marmol. ↵

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↵You're splitting hairs with a lot of these pitchers. Let's just say this about Capps: he leads the league in saves, playing for the Nationals. If we were picking locks here, Broxton would be the first, with an ERA of 0.89, three wins and saves in 16 of 18 chances. I would suspect as many as three or four of these names to get selected.
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↵Non-Closers: Arthur Rhodes, Joe Beimel, Evan Meek. ↵

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↵Meek has given up three earned runs all season and boasts a 0.66 ERA in 34 appearances for Pittsburgh. Hitters are batting .167 against him and his inherited runners scored percentage is 38%. Rhodes actually has better numbers in as many games, with a 0.24 ERA, giving up just one run in as many appearances as Meek (though just 31 innings pitched to Meek's 41). He also boasts an inherited run percentage of 10% stranding all but two of his 20 inherited runners. Beimel has stranded all but two of his 18 inherited runners (11%) and boasts a 0.76 ERA in 23 innings for Colorado. ↵

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↵It won't be easy for Manuel to pick his staff, but with so many deserving pitchers based on numbers, will he be able to pick Strasburg after 10-12 fewer starts just because he's who fans would want to see? ↵

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↵This is why pitchers should get voted in too. It is a popularity contest, so let the fans pick three pitchers and let the rest of the staff get selected by the manager. That way, if we want to see the phenom pitch, we can make that decision on our own. Not the coaches. Not the media. Not Joe Morgan. ↵

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↵That, or get Adam Dunn to sign up for the Home Run Derby and let him pick Strasburg to throw him pitches. Even just for one swing, that would be amazing. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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