Levine: What is an All-Star pitcher?

From SABR member Zachary Levine at Baseball Prospectus on July 15, 2014:

When it became evident that David Price would be pitching on Sunday and thus would be unable to pitch in the All-Star Game, John Farrell had a menu of options from which to choose a replacement. The fans voted in Chris Sale from a group of five Final Vote candidates, and the other four—all starting pitchers—were not pitching Sunday and very much available.

Garrett Richards would have made the most sense with a half-season that a traditionalist would love—a great record, ERA and team performance—and the underlying stats to go with it.

But Farrell didn’t go with Richards or any of the four. He didn’t go for a starting pitcher to replace Price at all. Like when he picked Koji Uehara to replace the injured Masahiro Tanaka, Farrell chose a relief pitcher, Fernando Rodney. The American League team will now have seven starters and six relievers active instead of the original nine and four.

How one views this move depends a lot on how one views not only the purpose of the All-Star Game, which we’ll get back to in a second, but also on how one views who is having a better year. One could argue that, with a 1.98 ERA and a 2.38 FIP thanks to a much improved walk rate, Rodney is performing the job he’s been asked to do just as admirably as Richards has. But, as we know, starting pitching is a more important skill and the pitchers who are starting could probably do just as well or better if they were only asked to throw in one inning sprints.

Mostly, though, if you acknowledge that the starting pitcher is the candidate more deserving of recognition, the decision becomes about what the goal is. If the goal is to recognize the outstanding players of the first half, Rodney was probably the wrong call. But if the goal for the American League manager is to field the best American League All-Star team, it’s not so clear that this wasn’t the right call.

Read the full article here: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=24155

Originally published: July 15, 2014. Last Updated: July 15, 2014.