Monday, July 11, 2011

All-Star Game and Home Run Derby

The 2011 All-star game festivities begin tonight in Phoenix, Arizona.  Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, will be buzzing with excitement in anticipation of seeing 8 of the best home run hitters in Major League baseball display their power in the Home Run Derby.  Tomorrow the break will culminate with the All-Star game in which the National League will compete against the American League with the winner collecting home field advantage in the World Series.  For the last few weeks much of the baseball buzz has centered around the selection or election of the now 84 All-Stars.  Although the All-Star break is just that, a break, the select few (11%) players who are honored to call themselves 2011 All-Stars will arrive in Arizona to represent their respective squads as well as add more credentials to their already packed resumes.

Since all MLB teams are comprised of 25 players, one might wonder why 84 players were named All-Stars.  25 + 25 is 50 isn't it? For those of you who don't find yourselves familiar with the rules for choosing All-Stars let's go through them.

The way it is done: For starters (no pun intended), each team compiles a roster of 34 players.  The starting position players, not the pitcher, are chosen by the fans.  The fans vote for more than a month before the game for the most deserving players as well as the most popular players.  The top vote getter at each position starts for their respective league.  The players/coaches/managers get to vote for the next 16 roster spots.  They vote on backup position players for each team as well as 8 pitcher spots.  If the top vote getter in the player poll was already chosen by the fans, the second place winner takes that spot.  The last 9 spots are chosen by the manager of AL for his squad, and the NL manager for his team.  They have no restrictions on who they choose, except they must choose the DH.  The managers choose these last players in consultation with the commissioners office and other managers in their league.  Finally, the fans get to another chance to vote on the final 34th player (non-pitcher) added to the roster.  The only other way to make the team is to replace an already chosen All-Star who is injured or a starting pitcher who pitched the day before the break begins (this season that would be this past sunday).

Now, these rules may satisfy MLB and the majority of baseball fans, but I am neither impressed nor

The way I would do it:  I have no issues with the number of players on each roster because fans want to see as many All-Stars as possible play in the game and doing so implies having pitchers throw 1 to 2 innings and position players get 1 to 2 at-bats.  I am a notorious hater of fans voting for the starting position players because 50% or more of the players are chosen due to popularity or past success as opposed to the purpose of the game, which is to reward and honor this (half) season's best players.  The players/coaches/managers/general managers should vote on all of the starting players as well as one backup for each position.  Then, similar to the method already used, the manager of the team, in consultation with his coaching staff, fills in the rest of the roster.  I am a big fan of the fan final vote because it allows the fans to have some affect on the game as well as provides them a chance to possibly get another of their team's players in the All-Star game.  MLB requires that every team, regardless of deservingness, send at least one representative to the All-Star game.  This rule should remain because all fans should have the chance to cheer for someone they know in the game, as well as be proud of their team.  I would also let the fans choose the starting pitcher.  The manager of the respective team chooses 4 pitchers already named to the team and the fans vote on one of the four to start the game.  This allows for fan involvement that does not negatively affect who is and is not an All-Star but still minutely affects the game.

In a perfect "Ben Horrow" world:  This situation is what I would love to see happen to the All-star break but has a 0% chance of ever coming to fruition.  I would get rid of the All-Star game all together.  I would give every player a, much needed, 3 day break in the middle of the season while keeping the home run derby and nothing else.  All-Stars would be chosen by the players/managers/coaches/GM's at the end of the season so as to choose these honors based off of a whole season's effort as opposed to just the first 90 or so games.  For Phillies fans, think Raul Ibanez in 2009.  Ibanez posted 22 home runs, 60 rbi, a .303 batting average, and 1.015 on base + slugging in 64 games played before the All-Star break.  Following the break, he compiled 12 home runs, 33 rbi, .232 batting average, and .774 on base + slugging in 70 games.  Although his final numbers are good, they may not have been All-Star caliber.  The opposite situation occurs as well.  Many times a player has a rough first 90 games but finds the throttle following the short mid-season break, finishing with great "All-Star" like numbers.  Why should this type of player be excluded from the coveted All-Star status while 2009 Raul Ibanez garners All-Star status for playing excetionally in 64 specific games.  In my book, the actual playing of the All-Star game is meaningless.  MLB attempted to insert meaning into the game by ruling that the winning team's league receives home field advantage in the world series.  This is arbitrary enough that I would just have the winner of the home run derby's league receive this honor, or better yet revert back to the previously implemented method of determining home field advantage, the team with the better record.

Now that I've solved the All-Star game problem let's move on to the home run derby.  The other major event during the All-Star break proves fun to watch and from what players have said, fun to participate  in.  In the recent past MLB has asked the most prolific home run hitters in each league to participate in the derby and the best/first four to agree participate in the event.  The 2011 derby participants found their way into the contest by being selected by the predetermined "captain" of their league's derby "team".  There are no teams in the Home Run derby, each player competes against each other, thus having a captain who arbitrarily selects the other contestants leads to Rickie Weeks, Robinson Cano, Matt Kemp, and Matt Holliday participating.  Weeks, Cano, Kemp, and Holliday are all players who hit primarily for average but have hit a decent number of home runs this up to this point in the season.  Although they may very well make their captains proud, I would rather see players who swing for the fences often and think later.  Players like Ryan Howard, Mike Stanton, Adam Dunn, Carlos Pena, and Justin Upton might have been better selections.  These players strike out an obscene amount of time, and do not have the best batting averages, but they have one thing that cannot be taught, raw power.  Choosing these players would be more fun for the fans as well as the players.  In addition, of the 5 players named above, only Upton has All-Star caliber numbers.  Let the big boys show off their muscles.

So, in the end, non of the changes proposed in this article will ever see their way into the All-Star game or home run derby, but it is always important to constantly consider improvements.  If I surveyed 100 baseball fans asking, "How would you improve the All-Star game?" I might get 25-50 different responses.  All-Star games, no matter the sport, will always have flaws and will always disappoint some, but ultimately the All-Star game's purpose is to entertain the fans.  If MLB entertains at least 67% (2/3) of fans who watch the game and its subsidiary events than more power to the league for making more people happy than vote for a presidential candidate.  Roy Halladay will start the 2011 All-Star game for the NL while Jared Weaver will start for the AL.  I can only hope that Halladay, Weaver, and the rest of the All-Stars enjoy themselves and entertain the fans to the maximum.  Happy All-Star break to all.


  1. It seems like every year in the Home Run Derby they have one or two players that are not traditional home run hitters come in and give it a shot and usually end up with somewhere between 0 and 2 homers in the first round, Brandon Inge a few years ago is a good example. I think they do it on purpose to make the first round go quicker. Robinson Cano, cmon he's like the 5th best home run hitter on his own team. Rickie Weeks? Also as much as I love him, Adrian Gonzalez is not a traditional home run hitter either, but I'm interested to see how he will do tonight.

  2. I regretfully retract my previous comment about Robinson Cano, damnit

  3. Yeah, he basically threw that comment back in your face. I mean he has power but maybe partially why he doesn't hit as many in the season is because he isn't supposed to, plus he has a tough slot in the order for getting fastballs. He might have more with A-rod on the DL for a while. I didn't think Weeks would do well, I would have liked to see justin Upton, home town guy and he has insane power.

  4. Ok, I really don't like the HR derby. BOR-ING. Here are my suggestions for revamping the All Star Game: Build into every MLB contract a clause that rewards a large bonus ($200k?) to players who make the All Star Game and PLAY. Double the bonus to the winning team. Money talks. As far as who gets elected--the fans are stupid, and the players and coaches aren't much smarter. I'd use some statistical criteria to drive who makes the team. The top three at each position in WARP, for example. And for G-d's sake, the All Star Game should have absolutely no bearing on home field advantage in the World Series.