I'm not sure if I've brought this up here or on other sites, but I don't really care. It amuses me enough to repeat until you're sick of it. Last year at this time, we were arguing about Roy Halladay starting the All-Star Game over Jair Jurrjens. And I mean "we" in the loose Internet sense. There was a Twitter war between Braves fans and Phillies fans. Talk radio in Atlanta was ablaze. That argument seems like a Marilyn Manson CD now. I guess it made sense to someone at the time, but, man, it sure seems silly today.
Halladay got the nod, as he was 11-3 last year with a 2.45 ERA at the break. The year before that, it was Ubaldo Jimenez, who was 15-1(!) with a 2.20 ERA at the break. In 2009, Tim Lincecum started (10-2, 2.33), and in 2008, it was Ben Sheets (10-3, 2.85). It's tricky to use ERA across the years, as offense is lower now than it was in 2008, but that gives you a rough idea of the recent history of National League All-Star starters
And that recent history is there to lead into a larger point. Because here are some pitchers who, in other years, would have had a decent chance to start the 2012 All-Star Game:
- Zack Greinke -- 2.82 ERA, 9-2 record, 102/22 strikeout-to-walk ratio
- Johnny Cueto -- 2.26 ERA, 9-4
- Ryan Vogelsong -- 2.26 ERA, 7-3
- Madison Bumgarner -- 2.85 ERA,10-4, 92/22 strikeout-to-walk ratio,
- Johan Santana -- 2.76 ERA, 6-4, no-hitter bonus points
If you plug any of those pitchers into another year and make them a starter, the decision wouldn't look that egregious. Heck, with Cueto, it would fit in seamlessly. But that's a short list of the pitchers who didn't even make the team. Not even invited. Cueto and Vogelsong's ERAs are tied for fourth in the NL, behind a pitcher who is out for the season, and another one who missed three starts. I know you don't care about pitcher wins, but Tony La Russa probably at least glances at them, and Bumgarner is tied for third in the league with ten wins. Greinke and Santana have name-brand recognition to go along with their excellent seasons.
So what gives? A quick rundown of the reasons these pitchers aren't on the roster.
The San Francisco Bay Area is a "hotbed" of "computer activity" (the area is affectionately known as "Computer Chip Town"), so when people around there learned that you could use computers to vote on the "Internet", which is a global system of interconnected computer networks, Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval surged ahead in voting and won the starting spot. That's one theory, anyway.
It kicked off a chain reaction, too. Because every team has to have one representative, the Padres get to have an All-Star. It was supposed to be Chase Headley, third baseman, who is having a fine season. But with Sandoval taking the starting spot, and deserving starter David Wright getting demoted to reserve, that meant Headley didn't have a spot. The Padres' lone representative was changed to Huston Street, even though he's missed a chunk of time and thrown only 21 innings this season.
With Street on the roster, that meant one less spot for another pitcher. Giants fans can't complain about Vogelsong and Bumgarner not making the team; their own player made it harder for those two to make it.
This time it counts
As in, La Russa is trying to win. And when you're trying to win, there's nothing worse than a bunch of pitchers who don't want to pitch in the All-Star game on short rest. La Russa's solution: Just don't take those guys.
La Russa said, "If Dusty had been more interested in Cueto being on the team, then he wouldn’t be pitching him on Sunday. Cueto probably would be on the team if he wasn’t pitching Sunday.
It makes sense. It's still silly. I know that MLB has cracked down on weenie players declining to attend the All-Star Game because they don't feel like it, but they should allow pitchers who would be on short rest to decline the invitation, which would free up another spot. That way Cueto would still be an All-Star, and La Russa would still have flexibility.
The other pitchers aren't shlubs
Wade Miley made the team partially because he's the Diamondbacks' lone representative. But he's also having a fantastic season. His 2.87 ERA is higher than any of the five pitchers up there, but he pitches in Arizona, and he's been important to a Diamondbacks rotation that has been bludgeoned with injuries and ineffectiveness. You can at least understand why he's on the team.
It's not like you're going to jettison R.A. Dickey, either. Same with Matt Cain and Stephen Strasburg. Lance Lynn, Gio Gonzalez, and Cole Hamels all deserve to be there, as should Clayton Kershaw. They're all good. All of them. The larger problem is that a third of the league's closers make it ever year, but that's mostly for tactical reasons, and it isn't going to change. It's not like there's a Mark Redman on the roster, clearly taking up a spot he shouldn't have.
Injuries and tweaks will happen, and some of the five pitchers up there will get to go to Kansas City. Thinking Cueto is first in line, followed by Greinke. Santana's a great story, so he'll probably be next. Vogelsong got his great-story nod last year, so he's probably an outsider this year, and Bumgarner will probably miss the game because of the you're-22-and-you'll-get-to-do-this-for-the-next-20-years clause.
It's still amazing to look at the names and numbers up there and see those are the pitchers who couldn't even crack the team. There's context, sure. But look at those numbers again. Even if it's 1968, it's pretty hard to keep two guys with 2.26 ERAs away from the All-Star Game. The NL is just rotten with good pitching this year.