Don’t get me wrong, I love baseball. I also happen to think that the MLB All-Star game is the best of the 4 major North American sports. That is unless you enjoy watching the light-hitting 75% effort that is the Pro Bowl. Despite my love for the MLB All-Star game, I hate the way that the foundation of the roster is chosen. It shouldn’t be called the MLB All-Star game; it should be called “1/2 of the Yankees lineup plus a few other guys who actually deserve to be here.”
Let’s use the catcher position as an example. As of June 17th, we have Yankee Russell Martin leading the way with 1,712,156 over Tiger Alex Avila with 1,093,070. That’s a pretty sizeable lead, so Russell Martin must be a better player right? No, not by most metrics. Let’s compare. Martin is batting .238 in 172 at bats. No, that’s not a typo. Looking further he has an on base percentage (OBP) of .345, slugging percentage (SLG) of .430, 24 runs scored, 28 RBI’s, and 24 walks. What about Avila? He’s batting .304 in 194 at bats, OBP of .369, SLG of .546, 24 runs scored, 38 RBI’s, and 22 walks. Looks like a clear advantage to Avila there, especially considering that Martin most likely gets more opportunities for runs and RBI’s on a team that gets on base 34.4% of the time as opposed to the 33.2% of the time that the Tigers do. A small difference yes, but when it’s over a few thousand at bats, it starts to add up to quite a few more opportunities.
What about other metrics of value? Well let’s use Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Martin weighs in at 1.0 while Avila gives us 3.0. Hmm, how about defense? Martin has a fielding percentage of .992 vs .993 for Avila. Pretty close, but when you factor in that Avila throws out 40% of base stealers compared to 29% for Martin, I give the defensive edge to Avila as well.
Ok, that’s just one example and probably biased due to my being a Tigers fan, so let’s look at another. How about “The Captain” Derek Jeter leading the SS position with 1,931,670 votes over 2nd place Asdrubal Cabrera with 1,647,802? A closer margin than the catcher position, but yet another example of the iniquity of the fan voting system. Jeter, in an off year displaying his age is batting .260, with an OBP of .324, SLG .324, 39 runs scored, and 20 RBI’s. Cabrera is weighing in at a .295 average, .341 OBP, .507 SLG, 43 runs scored, and 43 RBI’s. Also, the Indians team OBP is only 31.9%. If we want to use WAR again, we see that Jeter is actually of negative value at -0.1 while Cabrera is 2.0.
So, what can we do? Most likely we will just endure it because it’s the way it always has been and Is not likely to change anytime soon in a sport that stubbornly holds onto tradition. But in an ideal world we’d see something like the following. All-star rosters would be decided based on votes from multiple sources. Fan voting would constitute 20% of the decision. MLB players would constitute another 20% of the voting with 30% going to sports writers and league coaches each. You could run a system where rank order constitutes a share of points in standings (e.g., 5 points for 1st place, 3 points for 2nd in standings, etc) and then calculating weights based on percentages. Something like this would still give fans a say in the All-star rosters, yet partially correct for the undue influence of having a team in a big market. Thoughts?