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What debate? Of course Strasburg belongs in the All-Star Game

Jun 29, 2010, 3:31 PM EDT

There is no good reason to keep Strasburg out of the All-Star Game and plenty of good reasons to let him in.

Lots of people have spent a lot of time in the past few days debating whether or not Stephen Strasburg should be on the All-Star team.  I’m having a hard time getting my brain around the “no” side of the debate.

The way I see it, the All-Star Game is either (a) a pitched competition of the best players in the game that determines home field advantage in the World Series; or (b) it’s an exhibition designed to showcase the stars and thrill the fans who get to see all of baseball’s brightest lights on one stage on one night.  No matter which of those philosophies you subscribe to, Strasburg belongs, does he not?

For those who believe that the teams absolutely need to play to win, can anyone honestly tell me that there are 13 pitchers National League partisans would rather have throw one or two innings?  Ubaldo, Halladay, Josh Johnson, Jaime Garcia, Adam Wainwright, Mike Pelfrey, and a handful of relievers have an argument, I guess, but if you don’t put Strasburg in your top 13 most dominant NL pitchers this year, you’re crazy. Put differently, if I needed to pick one dude to strike someone out in order to save my children, I’d pick Strasburg for the job and so would you, and that has to count for something.

Likewise, if you believe the All-Star Game to be a mere exhibition, how can you deny him? What is more worthy of exhibition than Strasburg’s array of pitches? He has spurred ticket sales and TV ratings all year. He’s made guys on other teams drop what they’re doing in the clubhouse just to watch him pitch. I can’t imagine a single player in the National League who has generated more interest than Strasburg has this year. He’s practically designed to be at the center of a three-ring circus.

So what’s the cogent argument against his inclusion? That he hasn’t been up all season? Like that’s his fault? Even if you care about that — which I really don’t — I think he’s done enough in five starts alone to qualify for the “he had a great first half” argument, don’t you?

Besides: the Nats have to have someone in the game. Who you gonna send in his place? Matt Capps?

  1. Dberg - Jun 29, 2010 at 3:40 PM

    The Nats do have a couple of guys named Zimmerman and Dunn who have been pretty good this year, but I can’t say I disagree with you that Strasburg belongs there as well.

  2. JBerardi - Jun 29, 2010 at 3:46 PM

    Yeah, the only reason I can see to hold him out is to comply with some kind of unwritten rule about paying one’s dues that no one agrees upon or cares about in the first place. He’s only the biggest pitching draw in baseball right now. Put him in the game!

  3. nps6724 - Jun 29, 2010 at 3:55 PM

    It’d be a farce to put a guy with 5 career starts in the All-Star Game, especially when 3 of those 4 starts were against Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Kansas City. Any pitcher can put together a 5-game streak where he looks unhittable. I won’t deny Strasburg has killer stuff, but there’s been hundreds of guys with good stuff who didn’t produce consistently.

    And considering who he was up against last night, I would add Tim Hudson to that list. He’s quietly had a tremendous season so far. You could also add Gallardo, Cain, Pelfrey, Latos, and Carpenter. All these guys have pitched extremely well this season and for more than 5 starts.

  4. Michael - Jun 29, 2010 at 3:56 PM

    You’re ignoring a third ASG philosophy: a reward for the players who have performed the best over the first few months of a given season. I’m betting that the ASG doesn’t mean very much to the annual attendees, like Albert Pujols, but what about the guy getting squeezed out who has had a superb first half and may not have another shot at the game?
    I don’t actually care about that hypothetical player’s feelings and I’m all for Strasburg in the game (I mean, have you seen him pitch?!?), but the “cogent argument against his inclusion” that I can see Charlie Manuel using would be that he should reward those who have played the best for the first half of the season, not those who’ve had the best one-month stretch.
    And to answer your last question: Ryan Zimmerman and/or Josh Willingham.

  5. Mr. Heyward - Jun 29, 2010 at 4:02 PM

    I love me some Strasburg but first I’d give the All Star berths to those who deserve it more THIS season (in no particular order):
    1. Lincecum
    2. Halladay
    3. Jiminez
    4. Wainwright
    5. J. Johnson
    6. Carpenter
    7. Gallardo
    8. Price
    9. Hudson
    10. Haren
    There’s ten w/o trying to think hard for more. There’s 10 w/o relievers. All 10 have 5 really good starts or more. All 10 have played all season. All 10 are on paper more deserving than Strasburg for the 2010 ASG. Strasburg will get his chance (repeatedly no doubt) to show off at the ASG and obtain various MLB accolades. Speaking to your 2 options of the purpose of the ASG: (A) he is not a better pitcher on paper than any of the above yet, and (B), perhaps is a bigger star than some of those 10 already but I disagree that this is what the ASG is about.

  6. Mr. Heyward - Jun 29, 2010 at 4:04 PM

    oh and yeah, Zimmerman totally deserves a slot at the ASG.

  7. Scott - Jun 29, 2010 at 4:05 PM

    Oh come on, we stink but that’s a bit unfair. Zimmerman has the 2nd highest WAR for NL third basemen this year, and the second highest over the last three years combined (David Wright is first in both). And he’s only 25.

  8. JBerardi - Jun 29, 2010 at 4:05 PM

    There have not been hundreds of guys with Strasburg’s stuff in the entire history of the game.

  9. nps6724 - Jun 29, 2010 at 4:14 PM

    But there HAVE been hundreds of guys with killer stuff that flamed out, never made it, were resigned to being mediocre, etc. And I’m betting a lot of them put up 5 consecutive good starts at some point.

  10. Benny Blanco - Jun 29, 2010 at 4:19 PM

    Craig your right, its not Strasburgs fault that he will only have 5 or 6 starts before the All-Star Game. And he does have fantastic stuff and has helped ticket sales and is already very well known. But his numbers are not all star material. Granted that is because he has not pitched enough innings to get them, but the fact remains no pitcher has or ever should go to the All Star game with his current numbers of 2-2 with a 2.27 era. His WHIP is great and most likely will only get better. But there are too many pitchers more deserving. If he was 5-0 and threw a shutout or complete game in there, I might be more inclned to agree.
    I understand his team has not played well behind him. But one of the losses was because the other pitcher, pitched better. So blame the Nationals team or their management, but Strasburg should not be an All-Star. My vote anyway.

  11. palehose67 - Jun 29, 2010 at 4:20 PM

    It wouldn’t be a “farce” to put Strasburg in the All-Star Game, but I don’t think I’ve seen enough yet to convince me that he belongs. A couple of the above posts point out others equally or more deserving of a spot on the team. The above post that noted his starts have included outings against the Pirates, Royals and Indians forgot that another start was against the White Sox. Thanks for not including my White Sox in that list of horrible teams, but let’s be clear that my White Sox are NOT a good hitting team (their recent sucess is mostly due to pitching, pitching and pitching). Five games is a very small samply size. I’m confident that he’ll keep up the good numbers (but not like they currently are); I just don’t think my confidence is enough (right now, at least) to give him a spot. And I always agree with you, Craig!

  12. Rays fan1 - Jun 29, 2010 at 4:20 PM

    If the All star Game is about show casing who the fans want to see, then one minor point to consider–MSNBC’s fan vote currently going on, while nonscientific, does show the votes running 3:1 against Strasburg being selected.
    Personally, I agree with the concept that it’s really a meaningless exhibition game although an honor to be selected & I think some have bonus clauses in their contracts tied to selection. That is to say, I don’t really care whether he pitches or not, and also don’t really care when players who spent the better part of a season’s 1st half on the DL wind up being elected starters either. Michael makes a very good point though.

  13. BigBBFan - Jun 29, 2010 at 4:22 PM

    nps6724–I could not agree with you more. The young man has excellent stuff, but his two losses have come from teams only in the middle of the pack with hitting statistics. I will reserve judgement until I see him pitch against the Red Sox, Yankees, Texas Rangers type of ball club. I think he will do well even against them, but he will definitely not look all world. Last night he was obviously struggling at times against again only a middle of the pack hitting team.
    I assume Craig keeps banging away on this issue because he can’t come up with anything else. Or it could be he just loves to stir up controversy. If that is the case it is OK, but if he seriously believes this position he is putting forth he needs a lot of help in the logical reasoning arena. Also, I grow weary of him saying the fans want it. I regularly converse with a group of 12 avid baseball fans, only ONE supports his position.

  14. Tim Kelly - Jun 29, 2010 at 4:22 PM

    April 27th. MLB opened All-Star balloting to fans on April 27th, just three weeks into the Major League season. On 4/27 the average Major League team had played just 20 games, 20 games for people to evaluate the performance of the players for their inclusion in the All-Star Game.
    Stephen Strasburg was called up by the Nationals on June 8th. Today is the three-week anniversary of his debut and tonight’s game against Atlanta will be the Nationals’ 20th with Strasburg on the roster making him eligible for the All-Star Game by the standards of MLB. The terms of this “debate” were set by MLB when they determined that All-Star votes could begin after 20 team games… way back in April. After tonight, Stephen Strasburg will have met that requirement.
    Case closed? Case closed.

  15. Ace2000 - Jun 29, 2010 at 4:25 PM

    Zimmerman is criminally under-rated, and I think that’s got to be a function of playing for the Nats. His offensive numbers, while excellent, do lag a bit behind behind Wright’s. But damn, the dude is one a hell of a defensive third baseman. You could make a strong argument for him as the best in baseball, I think.

  16. geoknows - Jun 29, 2010 at 4:27 PM

    Actually – surprise, surprise – the Royals lead the AL in hitting. You can look it up.

  17. nps6724 - Jun 29, 2010 at 4:33 PM

    But the voting doesn’t end after 20 games. If it did, you’d have a very good point. And if whoever was voted in as the starter initially after 20 games stayed at the top to the finish, then you’d have a point.
    But either way, no one votes for the pitchers so there’s no terms set one way or the other. I have one question: has any starting pitcher ever made the All-Star team with fewer than 10 starts? If not, then I don’t see what Strasburg has done to deserve to be the first. He’s been good, but not otherworldly. Unless you are talking about the hype.

  18. nps6724 - Jun 29, 2010 at 4:35 PM

    In BA. They’re 17th in runs.

  19. Benny Blanco - Jun 29, 2010 at 4:35 PM

    The problem with your case is, most of the voting did not take place on April 20th. I didnt vote the first time until early June. I have no idea how many votes came in on April 20th, but its probably fair to say that the majority of voting came in well after May began.
    Your argument actually works against you. If he was a position player, do you think he would have accumalated enough write-in votes in the last 3 weeks to overcome the current leader?

  20. Tim Kelly - Jun 29, 2010 at 4:59 PM

    I’m not talking about whether he “would” be the leader in a hypothetical vote. I’m just talking about his eligibility under the terms set by Major League Baseball. If MLB thinks it’s OK for votes to be submitted off of 20 games of data, then who are we to argue? The argument “against” Strasburg’s inclusion is that he has not done enough to make the team by virtue of his being called up in June. I am just stating that he’s been on an MLB roster long enough to be eligible, and his performance to date clearly suggests that he’s one of the top 10 starters in the National League.

  21. scatterbrian - Jun 29, 2010 at 5:04 PM

    Latos has pitched 142.3 innings in his career, to the tune of a 1.5 WAR. Strasburg has done exactly that in his first 31.6 innings.

  22. nps6724 - Jun 29, 2010 at 5:15 PM

    And 1 bad start would make that plummet. Strasburg has way too small a sample size.

  23. geoknows - Jun 29, 2010 at 5:16 PM

    I wonder if the Nationals, given that they want to go easy on him this year, would prefer that he NOT go. Is there a precedent for a team asking a manager not to select its player?

  24. palehose67 - Jun 29, 2010 at 5:19 PM

    In law school, I had a professor who said that any time you saw the word “clearly” in a legal brief, the point probably wasn’t so clear. Based on an incredibly small sample size (5 games!) against some pretty bad hitting teams, he has pitched incredibly well. I don’t think it is “clear” that he is one of the ten best starters in the NL (see other posts above). Would I like him on my team? Of course! But I still would like to see more of a track record before he is chosen to be an All Star.

  25. nps6724 - Jun 29, 2010 at 5:24 PM

    But pitchers aren’t voted in by the fans so MLB isn’t saying anything in regards to pitchers.
    And no, his performance thus far doesn’t show him to be one of the top 10 starters in the NL. It shows that he has the POTENTIAL to do it. You’re comparing a guy with 5 starts (4 against mediocre at best offenses) to guys who have already amassed around 15 starts. His small sample size makes it akin to comparing a middle reliever to starters. That’s the kinda discrepancy we’re looking at.

    Should Strasburg be considered? Of course, as should every player. And maybe if the NL had a dearth of starting pitching, then he should make it. Or maybe if he threw 3 CG SHO in those 5 starts, that would signify that he is above everyone else. But neither of those are true.

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