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There are three inevitabilities in life: death, taxes, and an unsatisfactory roster of MLB All-Stars. Sure, it may be trite to even bother blogging about such a clichéd topic. But this year, there seems to be a new reason to be unhappy – Closers. 

Tony likes his kitties and puppies. He also likes booze.NL Manager Tony LaRussa has decided to carry six Closers out of the eleven slots he made available to pitchers, having tabbed Trevor Hoffman, Billy Wagner, Brian Fuentes, Francisco Cordero, Jose Valverde and Takashi Saito. In previous years, the majority of pitchers named to be All-Stars have been Starters and generally speaking, each team would carry four or five relievers.  

Has this been a banner year for Closers in the NL?  Did these six pitchers really warrant increasing the number of relief pitchers from 4 in 2006 to 6 this year? Or have the NL Starting Pitchers been so terrible that only five among them could be considered All-Stars?  

He's no star.Out of the six Closers on the NL roster, you could at least try to make a case (with varying degrees of success) for five of them – and none of their last names end in “uentes”. In an ironic twist, Brian Fuentes of  Colorado was deposed of his Closer role the very same day he was named an All Star for the third time in his career. To be fair, you could easily make the case that this is simply poor timing. Fuentes has allowed eight earned runs over his last four outings (during which he only managed to record a total of 7 outs). Not only is this true, he was tagged with a blown save AND a loss in each of these four outings. Brutal.

On the Starting Pitchers front, the easy call for inclusion is Brad Penny. The criminally underappreciated Jake Peavy is certainly worthy, and you figure that Smoltzie’s resume and worthy numbers thus far in 2007 made him all but a lock.   

Dude is nasty.But there are some notable snubs among the NL pitching corps this year, starting with Brandon Webb. The Diamondback with the devastating sinker is a curious omission given that he is on pace to record over 200 Ks and sports a sparkling 3.05 ERA pitching in the bandbox that is Chase Field (aka the B.O.B.). Other missing notables are Derek Lowe, Chris Young, Ian Snell, and – dare I say it – John Maine of the New York Mets.

Compare these four snubs with say, Cole Hamels, who was selected.  While it’s true that Hamels has won 9 already, so has Maine – and Maine’s ERA is over a full run lower than Hamels. It’s incredibly peculiar. In fact, among NL pitchers who have thrown at least 80 innings this year, Hamels’ 3.87 ERA doesn’t even crack the top 20. While it’s true that Hamels has put up these numbers in a hitter’s park while Maine’s blemishes are covered by the expanses of Shea Stadium, but if we’re rewarding Hamels for this, what about Webb? 

It simply is not the case that NL starting pitchers were undeserving. In fact, I feel that this has been a very strong year for the top arms, as 22 starters are currently sporting an ERA under 4.  

Clearly, LaRussa has constructed a pitching staff that more closely mirrors a real National League team – eleven pitchers, five starters. He chose six relievers so he could manage as if this were a real game. Deserving pitchers be damned. LaRussa wants to win and he wants home field advantage. Then it’s a shame his Cardinals are 8 games under .500. 

Other Notable Snubs: 

Jimmy Rollins (PHI), Hanley Ramirez (FLA), Edgar Renteria (ATL) 

Sorry, Jimmy.Shortstop in the National League is a hotbed of talent. Starting SS Jose Reyes is on pace to steal over 80 bases, rack up over 200 hits, and is currently getting on base at a .399 clip, a feat unfathomable for Reyes only two years ago. The Brewers’ J.J. Hardy has been in the early discussions for NL MVP, coming out of virtually nowhere to enter the top-5 in homeruns to go along with 51 RBIs. But his numbers in June were certainly unimpressive, hitting a mere .233 AVG with a .327 OBP and .384 SLG. Not quite All Star status. Rollins, Ramirez, and Renteria were all better candidates if you wanted to select guys who you knew were the best. Besides, LaRussa could find spots for Freddy Sanchez and Aaron Rowand but couldn’t put in one of these SS? That’s downright criminal (NOTE: Yes, I know Sanchez is Pittsburgh’s lone rep. Which is another reason why I find Ian Snell’s omission puzzling). 

Snub.Orlando Cabrera (ANA) 

What’s up with omitting deserving shortstops? As of this writing, Cabrera and Jeter are neck-and-neck in terms of numbers, having hit the same number of extra-base-hits (29 a piece), same number of runs scored (53) and are a mere .001 apart on batting average (Jeter has the edge with .338). But Cabrera has nine more RBIs, more steals (at a much better success rate), and thirteen fewer strikeouts in more at-bats. How does Michael Young get the nod over Cabrera?  

Kevin Youkilis (BOS) 

This is Youk.Sorry. I’m dry heaving as I write this. But did you know that Youk is currently in the top-10 in the AL in OPS? Did you know that he’s tied for 10th in AL Win Shares – more than any other Red Sox? While it’s true that his power numbers don’t jump out at you, who would you say is having the better year – Youk or Manny Ramirez? With Mark Teixeira injured, Justin Morneau’s the only true first baseman on the roster. Youk could have been the second.

And of course, let us know who you think got the screw treatment in the comments page!

11 Responses to “What is the value of relief pitchers in an All-Star game?”

  1. Wait a minute…what\’s the evidence that Sosa used steroids again? He got bigger as he got older? He hit a lot of home runs? I know he was called in front of Congress, but that was because he was one of the biggest names in the sport, not because they actually had any proof that he did steroids. How can you keep him out of the Hall?

  2. …mediocre slugger before the steroid era, hit an ungodly amount of homeruns during the steroid era, production drastically dropped at the end of the steroid era, body subsequently broke down, all but admitted guilt at the congressional hearings…Kevin, would you like to see the vial? Good grief.

  3. Actually, 1987 ( When McGwire hit his 49) WAS considered an unusual year of high homeruns, the “‘juiced ball”, etc.

    That was the year when many rookies and singles hitters hit 20-30 or more homeruns ( before this was common). I think even Wade Boggs hit 24 and Ricky was in the high 20s. Matt Nokes, Larry Sheets, anyone? Kevin Seitzer and Wally Joyner as sluggers? MCGwire, George Bell and Dawson in the 40s,etc.

    AND, Sosa’s career ( peak anyway) was a lot better than McGwire if you look at more all-around stats like RBI, AVG, MVP performances, etc. Mcgwire’s career numbers look like Dave Kingman in the steroid era. Sosa’s performance was a lot broader.

    McGwire had all his huge HR years in the same years when lots of people were hitting HRs. He was no Babe Ruth.

  4. McGwire was also plagued by back problems. He might have put up better career numbers than Sosa if he had been able to stay healthy.

    Regardless, the point is that Sosa and McGwire both used steroids. There’s simply no doubt. And as such neither belongs in the Hall.

  5. Okay then…do you put Bagwell in the Hall? He could have just as easily used steroids – he fell apart in the last couple years too – but since he wasn’t such a big name, he wasn’t called in front of Congress, so he doesn’t get ripped the way Sosa and McGwire do.

    I do think Sosa used steroids, as did most other players from the era. But because we don’t have proof of who did and didn’t use, we really can’t keep someone out of the Hall just because their name happened to be one of the ones that came up as guilty.

  6. I would have no problem keeping Bagwell out. He was a power hitter in the steroid era, and 450 HRs is good, but not Hall of Fame good.

    But more to the point, Bagwell has never done anything to disgrace himself the way Sosa did lying to Congress. Frankly, I have less of a problem with Sosa’s steroid use — or even his corked bat, for that matter — than I do with the fact that he told Congress he COULDN’T SPEAK ENGLISH! I’m sorry, but on that day he flushed his credibility straight down the toilet. And his claim to a spot in the Hall, as far as I’m concerned.

  7. that looks like bill mueller – not Youk…

  8. Paul Moro says:

    So it is. Thanks for catching it!

  9. Danny O says:

    With all due respect to my Georgia-born hometown hero Brian McCann, how do you put him on the roster while leaving Bengie Molina off? Yes, I know, McCann is one of the smartest young hitters in the game, but he’s been hurt this year and his average is way off. Molina is at or above most of McCann’s numbers. Head scratcher, especially since Molina would be playing in front of his hometown fans.

    Another one that I thought should make it is Tim Hudson. He’s got great numbers, and he turns in a good start almost every time out.

    Renteria and Hanley Ramirez being left off is ridiculous. However, where are you gonna put them? The slots are being taken up by the rule of every team getting representation. There are four first basemen because two of them are the only all star-worthy members of their teams. And the two backup second basemen are also the sole representatives of their teams. Happens every year.

    Kudos to LaRussa for not giving free rides to some of the underachievers on the Cardinals.

  10. Paul Moro says:

    Good call, Danny. I was looking at the NL catching corps and I probably should’ve mentioned Molina over McCann.

    As for Hanley and Renteria, I don’t think that even in an ideal situation could you have four shortstops. But again, Freddy Sanchez does not belong. Ian Snell, and maybe even Tom Gorzelanny deserved the Pirates spot, knocking either Hamels or Fuentes out.

  11. yeah Youk got snubbed because of ortiz. we didnt even have a cahnce to vote for him because ortiz was on the balloting for 1b. i think they both would of made it if both were listed.

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