Too Many All-Stars (Or Maybe Not Enough)

Dustin Pedroia #15 of the Boston Red Sox connects for a home run in the sixth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park. Pedroia will not be at this year's All-Star game, but should he be? (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Substitution after substitution has people feeling like there are too many All-Stars, but is that really the case?

"Embarrassing" and "ridiculous" are the two words that appear again and again in reference to the number of 2011 All-Stars. Thanks to injuries and pitchers who are unavailable due to pitching too close to the mid-summer classic itself, the rosters have been revamped. The number of All-Stars has jumped from 68, the normal amount once the fan's Final Vote ends, to 85, an all-time high.

Two questions arise from that total. The first is what that "all-time high" means when you throw some context behind it - is it actually "embarrassing" that there are this many All-Stars? The second is whether or not, despite having the most players ever nominated for the game, we are still missing players who are, in fact, All-Star worthy. If we take a trip back to the past, we can answer both of those questions simultaneously.

Until 2009, All-Star rosters were composed of 32 players on each side. That number increased to 33 for the 2009 season, in order to add an extra pitcher to the roster, and in 2010, we got yet another player added, giving us 68 required All-Stars. Those 68 players make up 9.1 percent of the league's players -- 30 teams multiplied by 25 (the roster size) is 750 total players in the league at any time. Thanks to the flurry of substitutions, 11.3 percent of the league's players are 2011 All-Stars.

Those are the numbers you get with today's teams, anyway. Hop in a time machine back to 1962, and you'll find that there were just 16 teams back then -- and similar All-Star rosters. The American League squad had 31 players, while the National League fielded 30. (Teams were not required to use all 32 slots, as evidenced by fluctuating All-Star roster sizes of the day. For instance, the 1961 NL squad had just 28 players.) With the rule of 32-man rosters in place, 16 percent of the league was an All-Star until more teams were added. The jump from 68 to 85 seems like a huge amount, but it would take another 35 All-Stars to reach 16 percent of the league like they had back in the day. That is an entire extra All-Star roster, plus another player, worth of nominations.

All of a sudden, that "all-time high" doesn't seem as ridiculous. Sure, it's more players than maybe we want to see, given 85 is a larger number than we are used to and has the "all-time high" label slapped on it, but given the way history and the All-Star game has worked in the past, it's not as big of a deal as it seems at first blush.

Who would be an All-Star were we to add those "missing" players, based on 1960s percentages? Since we can't split 35 down the middle evenly, let's add another 17 players to each league's squad. Using Baseball Reference's wins above replacement, we can see who the next 17 most worthy players who haven't already been named to the All-Star rosters are.

In the American League, there are a number of legitimately great position players players who have been left off of the roster. The leftmost column, "Rk", is that player's rank among position players (or pitchers, as we will see) in their respective league. Meaning two of the top 10 position players in the AL were left off of the roster entirely:

Rk Player WAR/pos Tm PA H 2B 3B HR BB SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS Pos
3 Dustin Pedroia 4.4 BOS 409 97 19 1 11 63 16 3 .284 .395 .442 .836 *4
8 Ben Zobrist 3.5 TBR 381 89 28 5 10 46 10 2 .269 .355 .474 .830 *49
11 Denard Span 3.2 MIN 255 68 9 3 2 24 4 1 .294 .361 .385 .746 *8/D
13 Ian Kinsler 3.1 TEX 401 84 21 3 13 57 19 2 .251 .367 .448 .815 *4/D
14 Alex Gordon 3.0 KCR 395 106 24 4 11 34 6 5 .299 .367 .483 .850 *7/3
15 Erick Aybar 2.9 LAA 333 87 17 5 6 12 18 2 .282 .315 .429 .743 *6
17 Yunel Escobar 2.9 TOR 368 93 14 3 9 38 3 1 .291 .365 .438 .803 *6/D
20 Brett Gardner 2.8 NYY 306 70 12 5 4 32 23 10 .265 .348 .394 .742 *7/8
22 Peter Bourjos 2.7 LAA 313 78 15 6 3 18 11 4 .272 .323 .397 .720 *8
25 Nick Swisher 2.5 NYY 346 70 17 0 10 54 2 2 .249 .367 .416 .783 *9/3
27 B. J. Upton 2.5 TBR 352 74 13 0 15 39 21 7 .239 .325 .427 .752 *8
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/11/2011.

 

Dustin Pedroia and Ben Zobrist are both having better seasons than the starting second baseman, Robinson Cano, according to wins above replacement. Denard Span's combination of solid hitting -- in a pitcher's park, no less -- and excellent defense has put him on pace for quite the season, as well. In fact, there is a whole lot of defense here, part of the reason these players didn't receive the same kind of love from fans or Ron Washington. Erick Aybar may look like the weak link on the surface, but you have to remember he is a shortstop, and is a fine one at that.

Jered Weaver is starting the All-Star game for the AL, but his teammate Dan Haren, who is having a dominant campaign himself, isn't even on the roster, along with a few other quality hurlers:

Rk Player WAR Tm GS W-L% IP BB SO ERA+ OPS OPS+
6 Dan Haren 3.3 LAA 19 .667 134.1 20 115 142 .584 64
8 Trevor Cahill 3.2 OAK 20 .533 127.0 51 91 125 .666 85
10 Justin Masterson 3.1 CLE 18 .538 122.2 39 87 144 .637 81
11 Scott Baker 2.9 MIN 17 .583 110.2 30 104 132 .678 86
15 Doug Fister 2.7 SEA 18 .231 125.1 26 79 121 .673 92
18 Philip Humber 2.5 CHW 16 .615 107.1 27 65 129 .596 64
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/11/2011.

 

The NL has their own obvious snubs at the top, with Michael Bourn and Chris Young both looking like they are on pace for six-win seasons, and Danny Espinosa's 16 homers at second base were also ignored:

Rk Player WAR/pos Tm PA H 2B 3B HR BB SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS Pos
7 Michael Bourn 3.5 HOU 401 104 22 7 1 33 35 4 .287 .351 .395 .746 *8
13 Chris Young 3.1 ARI 401 93 25 3 16 37 12 6 .262 .333 .485 .817 *8
17 Danny Espinosa 2.6 WSN 378 79 15 4 16 31 12 2 .242 .332 .460 .793 *4
18 Albert Pujols 2.5 STL 342 84 12 0 18 35 5 0 .280 .357 .500 .857 *3/5
20 Jimmy Rollins 2.3 PHI 397 95 15 1 8 38 19 2 .268 .340 .383 .723 *6/D
22 Todd Helton 2.3 COL 315 87 17 0 10 38 0 1 .321 .400 .494 .894 *3
24 Ramon Hernandez 2.2 CIN 199 58 9 0 10 14 0 0 .322 .377 .539 .916 *2/3
26 Mike Stanton 2.2 FLA 341 77 17 4 18 30 3 2 .255 .326 .517 .842 *9/D
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/11/2011.

 

Three of the top 10 pitchers in the NL via WAR were left off of the roster, but would be in under 1960s rules, at least:

Rk Player WAR Tm GS W-L% IP BB SO ERA+ OPS OPS+
6 Jhoulys Chacin 3.2 COL 18 .533 116.2 50 101 143 .652 72
7 Johnny Cueto 2.9 CIN 12 .625 82.2 26 50 200 .563 57
9 Tommy Hanson 2.8 ATL 17 .714 103.1 35 109 157 .581 64
11 Ian Kennedy 2.8 ARI 19 .750 128.1 34 106 115 .685 90
12 Kyle Lohse 2.6 STL 18 .571 122.0 22 63 108 .652 87
14 Jordan Zimmermann 2.6 WSN 18 .462 115.0 21 82 145 .603 71
15 Josh Johnson 2.5 FLA 9 .750 60.1 20 56 239 .509 45
16 Tim Stauffer 2.5 SDP 19 .455 118.0 31 90 120 .698 102
17 Shaun Marcum 2.5 MIL 19 .700 111.2 33 101 117 .645 80
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/11/2011.

 

All 34 players listed here are having wonderful 2011 seasons, some of them even better ones than those who made the All-Star teams themselves. Because of this, saying there are too many All-Stars, or that the game is now a joke due to the sheer number of players who are involved (and the assumption that the substitutes are all inherently inferior to the players they are replacing) means little, unless you mean to say it was also a joke prior to the substitutions.

Rosters, while larger than they used to be, showcase less of the league's talent than they used to. If anything, there is room for more All-Stars, but with just the one nine-inning contest each summer, it just isn't possible to squeeze them all in.

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