A Hypothetical Pitching All-Star Ballot

The All-Star Game ballot is no longer available in paper form. This comes to the chagrin of many, but probably didn’t really bother the vast majority of the baseball watching population. The paper ballot certainly had its limitations, and space was chief among them. There simply isn’t much room on the paper ballot, and often you had to squint to read the names, which is all the more difficult on a sunny day when you’re consuming some frosty beverages. Now that baseball has done away with the paper ballot though, it raises the following question:

Joe often comes up with good questions around MLB’s big events, and this was no exception. Given that there is no limit to how long the ballot can be online, and given how slick MLB’s online ballot actually is, there really doesn’t seem like much reason to keep pitchers off the ballot. For one thing, you’d be doing the managers a big favor, as the fans would be doing a lot of the work for them. There will still inevitably be pitchers who start on the Sunday before the game and are thus removed from the proceedings (side note: this bugs me when teams do this, though there really isn’t a good fix for it), not to mention normal injuires, so the managers won’t have their voting power completely stripped away. Still, this would alleviate some of their burden. There’s a chance that it could simply focus their pain on one or two decisions when crappy teams are involved and you need to pick an All-Star, any All-Star from said crappy team, but that seems like a risk worth taking to give fans more of a say.

We don’t get to do anything sort of official, but I thought we could have some fun with this, so I thought we’d set up a vote for you, the people. Just how many pitchers should fans be allowed to vote for? On the one hand, you don’t want to bog down the voters, or they may not complete their ballot. No current position on the ballot asks them to go more than three votes deep, and that position — the outfield — has always been the biggest chore for me as a voter. Perhaps it would be best to keep things simple and just go with three starters, one reliever. But for the sake of argument, let’s take a look at how many pitchers have been used in recent All-Star Games:

# Pitchers Used in All-Star Game, 2010-2014
2014 6 5 4 6
2013 4 6 5 3
2012 5 4 7 4
2011 4 5 4 6
2010 6 4 4 5
Average 5.0 4.8 4.8 4.8

Roughly 10 pitchers per team, so let’s bump that starting pitcher tally to five. Still, I can’t shake the feeling that most fans will want to select five relief pitchers on a ballot, so let’s keep it at three. Perhaps the smaller number will even inspire the managers to use fewer of them in the actual game.

We’re not just dealing in hypotheticals though, let’s actually do this thing. I know that the ballots are decided at the beginning of the season, but it seems silly to not use the information we have at hand, and the games played thus far this season are certainly useful information. While the ballot will ask you to pick five starters, we’ll only list three per team, because what team has five good starting pitchers? How many have three? Going through the list of qualified starters team by team, you find that many teams only have three qualified starting pitchers, and sometimes the third is someone like Jeremy Guthrie.

We’ll start with the AL. If there was one tough omission, it was Danny Salazar. Maybe Anibal Sanchez. Some kind of constraint was necessary to determine eligibility for this exercise, though — and, otherwise, the putting together the ballots was pretty straightforward. Note, there is no way to prevent you from checking more than five boxes, so you’re officially on the honor system. Don’t let me down:

And now for the NL.

Here, it was hard leaving Carlos Martinez off, as well as Kyle Hendricks and Jon Niese. And Stephen Strasburg I guess, though he isn’t a qualified pitcher (the answer to all of your questions about why Player X was left off is “he’s not a qualified pitcher.”). Also, two teams didn’t even have three qualified starters — the Marlins and Rockies. So with them, I made an exception and just listed Jose Fernandez and Jorge De La Rosa, respectively.

I’m actually going to stop here. If there’s demand for reliever ballots, I will create those next week over at InstaGraphs. Until then, happy voting. Perhaps next year we’ll be able to do it for real. It would be lots of fun. Imagine a team with a dominant rotation like the 70’s Orioles sweeping the starting pitcher ballot, or just having the ability to try and wash marginal All-Stars from the game. That’d be nice too. Either way, it’s time.

Paul Swydan used to be the managing editor of The Hardball Times, a writer and editor for FanGraphs and a writer for Boston.com and The Boston Globe. Now, he owns The Silver Unicorn Bookstore, an independent bookstore in Acton, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @Swydan. Follow the store @SilUnicornActon.

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Well-Beered Englishman
7 years ago

I can’t believe I just voted for Bartolo Colon.

A couple of nights ago, the Cubs broadcasters suggested, “There should eb a Home Run Derby just for pitchers.” Not only is this an amusing idea, but Bartolo Colon participating in a home run derby would, I think, be the single best baseball moment since Disco Demolition.

7 years ago

And I can’t believe I just voted for Aaron Harang.

7 years ago

I think Colon has to be an automatic all-star, whether he’s terrible or not. Just the fact that he can take the mound at all is amazing, let alone watching him swing.

Pro Golfer Nacho Elvira
7 years ago

Bartolo Colon is two years older than Jeff Suppan.