Thursday, June 24, 2010

The All-Star question

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
At best, Stephen Strasburg will be 4-1 when All-Star rosters are announced.
It was probably sometime in the first hour following Stephen Strasburg's second career start that I received my first email from someone wondering whether there was any chance the rookie could make the National League All-Star roster. My initial reaction: Are you nuts? Of course not!

But the movement has gained steam over the last 10 days, bolstered by Strasburg's continued dominance, and suddenly it doesn't sound like such a far-fetched idea after all. Why wouldn't Charlie Manuel want to have this guy in his bullpen to help win an exhibition game that could ensure home-field advantage for his Phillies in the World Series? And what fan wouldn't want to see Strasburg stare down Justin Morneau, Kevin Youkilis and Robinson Cano in the eighth inning of a one-run ballgame?

There are plenty of reasons why Strasburg should be an All-Star. Here, though, are more reasons why he shouldn't go to Anaheim...

1. He'll only have been in the majors for one month. Manuel must announce his reserves and pitching staff on July 4, one day after Strasburg is scheduled to make his sixth start of the season. Six starts! That's one-sixth of a full season. Yes, it's somewhat absurd that all players are judged on only three months' worth of performance, but at least that's 50 percent of a full season. Because of his no-decision last week and his loss yesterday, Strasburg at best could be 4-1 when the roster is announced. No matter what the rest of his numbers look like, is 4-1 worthy of an All-Star berth?

2. He can't be the Nationals' lone representative. It's possible the Nats will place two players on the NL squad, but it's tough to see that happening if they're languishing in last place at the time. In the club's five previous seasons of existence, only in 2005 did they send two players to the All-Star Game (Chad Cordero and Livan Hernandez). And that team held the NL's best record at the break. There are several worthy candidates on this year's club, from Ryan Zimmerman to Ivan Rodriguez to Matt Capps to Adam Dunn to Tyler Clippard. At least one of those guys has to be selected. Two of them absolutely deserve to be picked. It would be entirely unfair to all of them if Strasburg is taken instead and is the only player wearing the curly W at the midsummer classic.

3. He could use the time off. Since arriving in D.C. earlier this month, Strasburg has been under a constant microscope. Every pitch of his is analyzed and scrutinized. Every run he surrenders is cause for uproar. Every strikeout he records is heralded like none before. On top of all that, he's scheduled to pitch more this season -- and under far-more strenuous circumstances -- than he has any previous year of his life. The Nats have set up a schedule that allows him to take some much-need time off over the break, giving him perhaps 10 or more days between starts so he can recharge and prepare for the second half. The All-Star Game, while a cool experience for all who participate, also is an exhausting ordeal. Players have been known to struggle in the immediate aftermath of the event and not recover for a while.

4. Strasburg doesn't believe he deserves it. This may be the most-important point. If we've learned nothing else about this 21-year-old since he was drafted last summer, we've learned that he is incredibly humble and doesn't seek out attention. His press conferences have become uncomfortable exercises as Strasburg cringes every time he's asked about "the hype" and everything else that doesn't have to do with his actual performance on the field. He always makes a point to deflect credit to his teammates. He insists he's not the face of the Nationals franchise, not at this incredibly delicate stage of his career. He doesn't believe he's accomplished anything yet. The All-Star Game is nothing but a two-day extravaganza of personal accolades. The day before the game, players sit behind individual daises and spend one full hour talking to every media outlet in attendance. The same questions are asked dozens of times by reporters from every outlet known to man (newspapers, websites, TV stations, radio stations) from the United States, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Mexico and countless others. No player really relishes that ordeal, but Strasburg in particular would abhor it at this point. He would be the center of attention in a room full of his sport's greatest players, and he wouldn't believe he deserved to take the spotlight away from everyone else.

Look, it would be a great story: Most-hyped rookie in baseball history makes the All-Star Game after only six career starts. But it's probably not the right thing to do right now. And Strasburg would be the first to agree with that.

31 comments:

Brian said...

Just put him on that fan ballot for the final roster spot and let that determine whether or not he goes

Bowdenball said...

Brian- putting him on the fan ballot would effectively be the same as putting him on the roster. You could put him on there with Albert Pujols, Babe Ruth, Mother Theresa and Alessandra Ambrossio and he'd win.

Chris Duckworth said...

Dontrelle Willis went to the All-Star game in his rookie year, after making an early May debut and a last minute All-Star team roster move.

Dan said...

Dontrelle Willis was 9-1, 2.08 as an AS in 2003, and made the team as an injury replacement.

Anonymous said...

"Yes, it's somewhat absurd that all players are judged on only three months' worth of performance, but at least that's 50 percent of a full season."

Actually, since fan balloting begins in like Week 2 of the regular season, players are really being judged in large part on their performance last season, or on their total career/reputation. It's nothing but a popularity contest, but at least with the balloting beginning so early in the season the names on the ballot are limited to players who have a body of work at that point. MLB ought to just acknowledge that fact, and declare that these are the All Stars for the period since the last game was played (i.e. second half of previous season and first half of the current one). That way it would be patently obvious that no matter how good or how popular he is, Stephen Strasburg with one month of service time has no business being on the All Star team this year.

Anonymous said...

It is completely absurd, sure he is a good rookie with lots of potential but some guys play well for a whole CAREER and get one or two AS games, if you want to make a COMPLETE mockery of this game then sure let's add Strasburg and while your at it have Bryce Harper compete in the HR derby!

raymitten said...

No AS appearance for SS in my opinion. I think the idea he would bump another deserving Nat from the team ends the story. The team has played much better this season due to performances from several key players, including Zim, Dunn, Hammer, Capps, Clipp, etc. They've been here all year and made a bigger difference in the improvement of the team than has SS in four starts, and 24 innings.

We Need a Bat said...

I'm in the camp of keeping SS out of the All-Star Game. There will be plenty of chances in the future, barring catastrophic injury. If the Nats only get one spot, it has to be Tyler Clippard.

Bowdenball said...

We Need a Bat-

Ryan Zimmerman is the defending Gold Glove and Silver Slugger winner at his position. He's third in OBP behind David Wright and Chipper Jones, and Chipper's been injured a bunch. He outslugs both of those guys and is universally considered the better defender. He's 12 among ALL NL hitters in both OBP and slugging, again all while behind generally considered the best in the league at a key defensive position. By the way, Dunn is seventh among ALL NL hitters in OPS and Willingham is eleventh. There are, I believe, 22 all star position spots, so all three fall well within that range.

Clippard's been great, but there's a pile of relief pitchers with stats as good or better than his- Gregerson, Nunez, Kuo, Rhodes, Meek, Broxton, Wagner, our old buddy Joe Beimel, etc. And that's not even accounting for the fact that some of them pitch the ninth against more pinch hitters in tenser, more valuable situations and against pinch hitters and tougher matchups. You're entitled to your opinion just like anyone else, but mine is that he's fourth in line. Maybe third because of the position depth at 1B in the NL. Anything beyond that, I just can't understand.

joemktg said...

Mark: where would the All Star game fit in relative to the every-5-day start sequence? It was my impression that the club has mapped out a strict 5 day rotation, so I have to think that if the All Star game does not fit into this sequence, then it's a non-starter.

LoveDaNats said...

Couldn't SS "just say no" to an all star invitation?

We Need A Bat said...

Everybody's entitled to their opinion, of course. I'd be perfectly happy to see Zimm go, and despite the fact I wouldn't give him credit for last year's Silver Slugger and Gold Glove, I agree with much of what you wrote. I just think he's hurt himself by hitting .239 and slugging .352 in June on a team that has been dreadful offensively for most of the month.

Tyler has been overworked all year, maintaining a 1.53 ERA and a WHIP under 1. He has 8 wins as a reliever. He's been particularly good in June, having to be used in almost every pressure situation in which the Nats got a W. Come to think of it, that was true when they were winning, too.

When I think of having Brian Bruney or Ron Villone, or heck even Tyler Walker or Sean Burnett (even though they're pitching better lately) in all those tight jams, I shudder to think what our record would be.

I agree, I don't think Dunn is a consideration due to numbers at 1B, and I guess that's your point about Tyler Clippard and numbers at reliever.

To me, it's: (1) Clippard, (2) Zimmerman, (3) Hammer, (4) Dunn, (5) Strasburg. Just my $0.02. I've been wrong before ....

Anonymous said...

Let me play devil's advocate(for the record its completely absurd were even discussing this), wouldn't it spark everyone's interest in the game to see how he would play against the likes of Pedroia and Aroid?

Cwj said...

My take: Strasburg's W-L record shouldn't be considered. Nor should any other pitcher's. W and L are meaningless in determining a pitcher's worth. ERA, K/IP, BB/IP, K/BB, and WHIP of course.
Still, I don't think Stras should get the nod over Clippard. Clip has been AMAZING this year and even going back to last year.

Cwj said...

Clippard's last 17 games: 9 holds, 1 sv, 1 win.
18.1 IP, 10H, 1ER, 1BB, 23K...those are Strasburg like numbers (if SS were a reliever) :)

Green Armadillo said...

"2. He can't be the Nationals' lone representative. "

Says who? Not the fans, who aren't voting in any of those you listed, or the other potentials (Livan, Willingham). The player ballot? Perhaps someone gets in that way, but the bottom line is that it is almost certain that half a dozen deserving guys from this Nats club alone won't make the team.

Strasburg isn't yet the best pitcher in the league, but he doesn't have to be. There are a dozen slots for pitchers on the roster. There is absolutely no way that there are a dozen pitchers in the National League that the general public would rather see over Strasburg. For that reason alone, I'd say that it's more likely than not to happen.

K.D. said...

Manuel is an old school, by the book, earn your way baseball man. I can't see him inviting Strasburg to join the AS pitching staff. There are plenty of talented NL pitchers to choose from. Now next year, that is a distinct possibility.

alm1000 said...

No way he goes - #2 the fact that he would likely bump another Nats is the best reason. That would create resentment, even if unstated at the time. We don't need that problem and Stephen is right - he doesn't deserve it. Its an honor to be earned based on performance - not stuff. He has maybe the best stuff in the games but hasn't played enough yet.

rogieshan said...

alm1000: <"No way he goes...That would create resentment...">

There already is resentment. Our bats go silent when he's pitching.

The All-Star game is now one big infomercial. If there's enough push from fans, Selig will consider it, maybe not this year. A rookie exemption can't be far off.

Steve M. said...

Definitely not in the initial group. If a pitcher drops out, then the door is open for Charlie Manuel.

As a Nats fan, I want to see several Nats chosen. My concern is that Manuel could choose 1 Nat and that may be Strasburg which would keep any other worthy Nat off of the roster.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_for_Me said...

No. It would count against the Scott Boras-ordered innings cap. Rather he pitches the extra two innings for us, not some exhibition.
What's Brian Bruney doing the third week of July?

A DC Wonk said...

"the Scott Boras-ordered innings cap"

Huh? Perhaps I'm unaware?

My understanding is that the Sabermatic stat-heads have figured out a pretty strong correlation between too many innings pitched and a young arm and subsequent injury. (Didn't most of the the young pitchers on, was it the '08 TB Rays, suffer injuries soon after? Another team?) -- and that they've figured out how many innings is too many (something like increase by 20 innings year-by-year or something)?

I dunno. But we've all seen incredible young talents pitch a lot of innings and get arm trouble too soon. I'd rather be safe than sorry and still have Strasburg be as effective in five years as he is now, even if it means shutting him down in Sept. We're probably not in the playoffs this year.

(Of course, Livo is an exception to all rules regarding innings thrown ;-) )

Anonymous said...

I still don't understand why a short period of time in the Majors should be a consideration of all-star worth. Even if SS went 0-20 AFTER the all-star game....SO WHAT? A player should be picked on his record NOW, BEFORE the all-star game. Being in the Majors for a short period of time doesn't take away from his talent TO DATE, or lessen his statistics TO DATE! All this nonsense about only being in the Majors for a couple of months is not credible. His record is.

NatsJack in Florida said...

To rogieshan and the "resentment" comment....
The team must REALLY be resentful of J.D. Martin. They only got 3 hits for him but 6 hits for Stephen....

natsfan1a said...

Good points, Mark, and I'm also in the "eh, not so much" camp for sending SS this year. I'd rather see the nod go to someone who has played (and performed) in the bigs for more than a month or two.

STRASBURG IS A WASHINGTON NATIONAL said...

The All Star vote has never been fair from the "fan perspective". It is usually a popularity contest or a joke in some cases like William Hung. Placido Polanco as the starter at 3rd base? Yah, real fair.

So, Stephen Strasburg right now is one of the Top 5 pitchers in the National League at this point in time and if Charlie Manuel wants a scoreless inning, wouldn't he want Strasburg to get him home field advantage in the World Series?

natsfan1a said...

How about Enrico Pallazzo behind the dish? :-)

---

It is usually a popularity contest or a joke in some cases like William Hung. Placido Polanco as the starter at 3rd base? Yah, real fair.

Pete said...

http://cheezburger.com/View/3673673472

Bonnie Jo said...

@joemktg: If the All-Star Game DOES line up with the 5 day schedule, then maybe Stras really SHOULD go. You know, routine is very important for these young guys.

Mrs. Z. said...

Pete: you are awesome.

A DC Wonk said...

I still don't understand why a short period of time in the Majors should be a consideration of all-star worth.

Well, there's an argument to be made that lots of players can get on a hot streak, but it's not objective proof that they are all-star quality unless they can demonstrate that it's not just a lucky hot streak.

Would you, e.g., argue that Michael Morse deserves a spot, since his BA is so high?

(I'm not saying the two are completely analogous, but I'm sure you know what I mean)

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