Monday, July 07, 2008

One for Pedroia, Two for Pedroia: Would you like another recount?

Halfway through completing an outline of this post, I realized Neate had already touched on the subject a few back. But considering that's been the case for the last 5-10 posts I've considered writing, we're going full speed ahead this time.

There's no denying that the fan voting basis of the MLB All-Star game makes it a popularity contest and the farthest thing from a true showcase of baseball's best players. But this year might contain some of the most blatant, bizarre, and baffling examples of the game's folly, and by extension the folly of having it actually matter in the eventual World Series.

While Neate seemed to take the biggest issue with Derek Jeter's selection as a starter, I'm less concerned with that one. Yes, it should be Michael Young. But no AL shortstop has been particularly impressive this year, and Jeter's selection is just a symptom of a much, much larger problem.

Take, for example, the much more ridiculous selection of Dustin Pedroia (pictured, right) over Texas' Ian Kinsler. A simple statistical comparison makes it pretty clear:

Average: Kinsler over Pedroia, .332 to .312.
OBP: .391 to .355 Kinsler.
SLG: Kinsler wins .545 to .458.
Stolen Bases: 23 to 9 for Kinsler.
HR: 14 to 9 for Kinsler.
Doubles: 28 to 25 Kinsler.
Hits: 121 to 115 Kinsler.

Even into statistics that shouldn't matter but do:

RBI: 53 to 41 Kinsler.
Runs: 79 to 60 Kinsler.

There is no significant category in which Pedroia is in any sense better than Ian Kinsler. The best Jon Miller of ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball could come up with last night was that Pedroia "is considered a better defender." I'm sure that's what swayed voters.

It's not an AL phenomenon either. Anyone know why Pat Burrell's (pictured, right, with his reaction) .994 OPS wasn't all-star worthy? Yet Kosuke Fukudome will start.

Also, the fans who elect these undeserving stars can't seem to even reward the proper players. Red Sox fans were somehow able to combine their efforts to force Manny Ramirez onto the starting lineup, yet couldn't do the same or better for J.D. Drew, who exceeds Manny in every category except raw hits.

The sad thing is that the alternative is apparently no better than this current system of fan voting. The system of coach and player voting used for pitchers and reserves, which should be credited for saving should-be starters Kinsler, Ryan Ludwick, and Carlos Quentin from total omission, didn't get Burrell on the team either, yet gave a reserve position to above-average but sub-Burrell Nate McLouth. They passed on Shaun Marcum who surely deserved a nod despite injury, and gave George Sherrill a spot over B.J. Ryan despite nearly-identical WHIPs and an ERA nearly a full run higher (3.72 to 2.79) apparently based on save totals alone.

But the most damning choice of the supposedly superior player/coach voters came in the AL catcher department. Somehow, Jason Varitek, he of the .218 average, .300 OBP, and .358 slugging, gets a spot on the team over White Sox backstop A.J. Pierzynski (pictured, left, only because the pictures of him trying to spray whipped cream on women at a bar would probably push Neate's tastelessness limits... so google it), conversely hitting .296/.333/.442. Now, it's obvious that this is due to politics, Pierzynski being not the most friendly player of all time, rather than some sort of widespread idiocy, but it does demonstrate that the players and coaches are just as susceptible to voting on popularity as the fans are.

So what's the solution? As much as it pains me to give a nod to the idiots who pick the Hall of Fame, the BBWAA might be a good source to turn to if we want some semblance of sanity to return to these teams. Maybe a 1/3 share of the vote for all three aspects of the baseball world, the fans, players, and media, would work for the All-Star game as well as it does for the British Labour Party.

The only clear conclusion is that something's got to change if the midsummer contest is going to have actual implications. This game isn't the only thing that should "matter" - the quality of the players participating in it should too.

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