Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Missed Opportunities

W. Ross Clites
Your City Sports-Cleveland


Saint Louis, MISSOURI--Like the Dow Jones Industrial, Ubaldo Jimenez continued a downward slide last week. The Rockies ace left the door wide open for his fellow National League starting pitchers, Adam Wainwright and Josh Johnson, to dethrone him from the top Pitcher Rating spot he has held for the entire season.

On Fox Network's nationally-televised Saturday game of the week, Jimenez lasted only two innings in Philadelphia. He gave up six earned runs and subsequently his PR dropped 2.15 points. Come Sunday morning, this decline was enough to put him in second place behind an idle Wainwright.

Because the three arms--competing for the NL Cy Young--are not aligned in the days that they throw, it took until Tuesday for Wainwright and Johnson to respond. But when they did step on a mound again, one had a chance to extend his lead over Jimenez; while the other had the potential to leapfrog both pitchers ahead of him. For both, all it would take was another stellar performance, and a W, on the road. With the streaks they were carrying into the games, this seemed very possible.

With Johnson out west, Adam Wainwright was first to toe the rubber--in Citi Field. It was his first pitching appearance in New York since he closed out the 2006 National League Championship Series, but was certainly not a repeat performance. He was the Cardinals closer then, and the result was a Saint Louis victory. Wainwright did not pitch terribly, but surrendering two home runs to a sputtering Mets offense in their cavernous ballpark was a bit unnerving. This wasn't a Wrigley Field day game with the flags blowing out to left. So, for the first time all season, Wainwright gave up more runs (six) than he had innings pitched (five). He also took his first loss in a month, dropping his PR 1.14 points.

Because Pitcher Rating is updated on Wednesdays, the PR top spot that Wainwright held for two short days never happened. He was "pitching with the lead" and spoiled the opportunity.

Perhaps a slice of humble pie is just what Wainwright needed. If you live by the law of averages, then a bad outing was on the horizon for all of these top Cy Young candidates. Now that they are out of their systems, it could be a full-bore sprint to the finish line without any further hiccups. And that would be a sight to see.

Johnson came into San Francisco with a streak of eight-straight starts where he pitched more than seven innings and surrendered two runs or fewer. With Wainwright and Jimenez faltering, any stat line that read something close to: W, 8 IP, 1 ER, 8 SO would have taken him from third to first. Instead, the line was a microcosm of Josh Johnson's season: ND, 7 IP, 3 ER, 5 SO. In other words, a typical Marlins ball game that was decided in the late innings after the starting pitcher was long gone.

Yet again, Johnson pitched well enough to win but was not so justly reward. With a formula predicated on the W, Johnson actually slid back a few points, nestled into his familiar third place spot.

So what did we learn from this week? These men are human. But they are also the three best by a sizable margin. In a cluttered list, where decimal points separate two or three pitchers, the combination of Johnson, Wainwright, and Jimenez have distanced themselves as a cut above. All three slipped up and yet a third place Josh Johnson is still 2 full points ahead of the next closest competitor, Roy Halladay.

There is no denying that the ball was dropped by all the power pitchers involved. For Wainwright, the positive spin is that the short outing was an anomaly. For Johnson, it was that he pitched a decent game and his team spared him a loss. Both could easily record a shut out in their next start and I would not be surprised. Jimenez, on the other hand, seems to have lost something. His downward trend has exposed some mechanical flaws, leading to more hitter's counts. And you know what those usual lead to.

To the defense of Jimenez, I feel he is already being unfairly looked down upon. In a "what have you done for me lately world" he has been moved to the back burner of sports media. You cannot luck your way into a 15-2 record and a no-hitter against a division-leading team. He still is the best pitcher in the game until someone else takes the title from him.

It will be interesting to see if Jimenez rights the ship. Even more interesting to look back on, when this Cy Young voting is through, is whether or not a series of mid-season poor starts adversely affect his chances. In other words, will a 22-5 record be looked at negatively because it had patches in the middle that were not "dominant" enough? If so, the door will be open once again for Wainwright and Johnson.

If each ace in the mix has 12 more starts remaining, going 10-0 to end the year is not out of the question for any of them. Should each succeed, Jimenez would finish 25-2; Wainwright ending 24-6; and Johnson with a 20-3 record. It would be the first time one league contained three 20-game winners since the AL did in 2008. It should definitely be a fun race down the stretch.

As for the dreaded ESPN Cy Young Predictor, ask yourself where Cliff Lee's name is. The Rangers new ace is not even on the list, which goes up to ten places in each league. Essentially, Cy Young Predictor is saying that Cliff Lee is not one of the 20 best pitchers in baseball right now. I respectfully disagree.

Instead, Phil Hughes makes the cut. Hughes, who slipped all the way down to 43rd in Pitcher Rating, is beginning to show his true colors. He is a reliever-turned-starter, not accustomed to this work load, and might have been the victim of a flash-in-the-pan first half. I can't deny he belonged in the All-Star Game and near the top of Pitcher Rating in the past. The key is "in the past," it is a very fluid ranking. Now, Hughes has an ERA over 4.00 and run support over 10 runs per game. Pitcher Rating exposes that kind of watered down win total. Cy Young Predictor obviously does not.

Pitcher Rating July 28
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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Spotlight Shifts from All-Stars to Cy Young

W. Ross Clites
Your City Sports-Cleveland


Saint Louis, MISSOURI--This is my first installment since I moved west of the Mississippi on Wednesday. The Cardinals are sure glad I am here, while the Indians are sure glad I am gone.

It could also be that the absence of LeBron has renewed Cleveland's faith in baseball and the team--playing pressure-free and finally healthy--is responding to an AL Central spoiler role.

Any way you would like to spin it, since my U-Haul touched down in STL both teams have won 5 straight games and not lost once. Let me go on believing that I was the missing piece in the sports scene for the Redbirds. But if I am going to be that ego-centric, I must also accept blame for holding back the youthful bats of the Tribe. My apologies, Cleveland, and you're welcome, Saint Louis.

Now, on to this week's Pitcher Rating highlights. Recently, a friend introduced me to an interesting section of espn.com's baseball page. Two gentlemen that definitely belong on the Mount Rushmore of baseball stat geeks, Rob Neyer and Bill James, evidently came up with a formula for rating pitchers a few years back. They co-authored a book in 2004, aptly named "The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers." ESPN picked up the rights to one of the formulas found amongst the nearly 500 pages of text, and now markets it as a "Cy Young Predictor."

When I set out to create a uniform stat for judging starting pitchers to closers, this was all an unknown for me. I have Bill James' 2006 and 2007 Baseball Handbooks--both were gifts. I like to write, but ironically hate to read. Especially baseball nerd alert books. Very ironic, because that is all that I write about these days. It's like Edison deciding against the use of light bulbs in his own house.

I'd rather watch, play, coach, umpire baseball than read about it. For me, cataloging pitcher rating is just a byproduct of the spectator portion of the game. It is the same as keeping score when you are at the ballpark; it is exciting for me, but doesn't mean I want to read someone else's work.

Having said all that, this week's article (and all future posts about the 2010 baseball season) will set out to prove that my formula is even better than the powerful duo of Neyer and James. The two target some interesting stats, add some quirky bonuses, and weigh things in ways I wouldn't dream. Plus, they must think we are in England or Canada using "an" in front of "historical" on the cover of their book. Just because it is a correct option doesn't mean it needs to be used.

In their purest of forms, our invented stats do study the same data in a very similar fashion. We sought out to find who is the best on the mound in a given year, producing one quantifiable number. Neyer and James may have the original recipe, but I have reached a unique version of their classic stat from scratch. The newest ingredient is run support, RS. The idea is to level the playing field for people like Josh Johnson, whose team can't push across more than two runs when he is on the mound. He could easily have 15 wins if he had a bullpen or run support. Thus, his dominance is falling by the wayside. Pitcher Rating will recognize offensive shortcomings.

Enjoy my new take on something that is apparently old-hat. I will stick by my ingredients as having a better finish; Pitcher Rating doesn't have a bitter Keith Foulke aftertaste.

http://espn.go.com/mlb/features/cyyoung

Pitcher Rating July 21
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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

All-Star Game Recap

W. Ross Clites
Your City Sports-Cleveland


Kent, OHIO--We should have expected this. 2010 has been billed as "The Year of the Pitcher" by everyone and anyone since mid-June. A bit of a snooze-fest in the All-Star Game is simply the undesired side effect to a pitching Renaissance.






Pitcher Rating July 14
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Friday, July 9, 2010

Dash to Miami


W. Ross ClitesYour City Sports-Cleveland

Kent, OHIO--The term "free agent" is just that, LeBron James was free to sign with any team he desired. My issue is not that he left, but where he went. Honestly, if LeBron James chose the New York Knicks the feelings in Cleveland would be just as sour, but not as blood-thirsty. The man goes off every time he steps foot in Madison Square Garden; and, after all, it
is Madison Square Garden. For a player that wants to bolster his international brand and career stats, he should have jumped at the opportunity to play home games in NYC. Mike D'Antoni is an offensive mastermind, Amar'e Stoudemire is there immediately, and all signs of Carmelo Anthony being there next season are in place.

But no. He is pulling a Marian Hossa. He is picking a group of players to piggyback on their success; not the city, not the organization itself, definitely not the coach. Jordan would never play second fiddle to anyone. Yet here we are. Some say LeBron is ultimately being drawn by the climate and party scene over the cold winters of Northeast Ohio, New York, and Chicago. After all, he is "taking his talents to South Beach" and not Miami. But I discount all that. If Dwyane Wade were drated by the Milwaukee Bucks, it seems LeBron would be bound for Wisconsin -- tertiary violin in hand. How A-Rod of him.


The Cleveland fans are partly to blame; they have empowered him into a larger-than-life 'Bron-zilla and now he doesn't care what buildings he must smash in the path to getting a championship. He is a mercenary. He will wear a Heat jersey, no problem. I'm surprised LeBron didn't try to gain dual-citizenship in Argentina following the 2004 Olympics. It is what a championship-hungry "winner" would do, right? If you cannot beat the best, align yourself with the best.

Let this be a lesson to sports fans and city commissioners everywhere: keep your merchandise -- with player names on the back -- to a minimum. And think twice before you devote ten thousand square feet of urban canvas to an athlete. It only ends in hard feelings and money down the drain. Just ask the people that own Braylon Edwards' Browns jersey or the fine folks in Oregon that paid for Joey "Heisman" Harrington's billboard in downtown Manhattan back in 2001.

The whole situation almost makes Clevelanders wish the 2003 ping pong balls didn't fall the way they did. LeBron playing elsewhere would not be this difficult if he never had a taste of the home cooking. In this case, it was not better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. Denver had the identical 17-65 record as the Cavs did in 2002. If the National Basketball Entertainment (I mean Association) was not a shock-value-driven novelty circus, the draft order would be set in stone based on the previous regular-season finish. Makes too much sense, right?

With a tie-breaker won by Denver, they would have taken LeBron James and the Cavs would have gladly selected 'Melo with the second pick (sorry, no Darko Milicic). The win totals for the past seven seasons in Cleveland might have been exactly the same, Carmelo's personal trophy case might be just as full as LeBron's. But even if that Cavaliers' superstar did not win the big one and decided to leave in free agency, the heart strings would not be pulled quite like this.
If Anthony left, it would be like reining Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee leaving the Tribe two years ago. Painful? Yes. Expected? Somewhat, yeah. For whatever reason it seems that Cleveland is not allowed to have nice things. But Carmelo Anthony and Cliff Lee, for that matter, were not born in Akron. That is why the dash to Miami has become so nasty. Akron and Cleveland are only 40 miles apart, but I suppose they were always world's apart in LeBron's heart. Everything charitable he did was hosted in and benefited Akron, not Cleveland. The Cavaliers were not his hometown team... Akron does not have an NBA team. Taking that selfish stance has now sealed LeBron's fate, like Art Modell, that he will never be welcomed back in Ohio ever again.

To his defense, seven seasons and no rings is getting blown way out of proportion. Since LeBron entered the league, there are 25 franchises that did not win the NBA Championship. That guy out in Los Angeles (what's his name?) is very similar to Michael Jordan in one major way; both kept more people ring-less than a high school Jostens rep. Karl Malone and John Stockton were definitely in the league seven seasons without a ring. And what did they do? They stuck around the same locker room long enough to finish with twenty seasons and not a single ring. The Hall of Fame sure respected their inability to win the big one. Even more importantly, their jerseys hang proudly in the Utah rafters. LeBron James woke up to find his burned on the streets of Cleveland. A lack of rings was the criticism when it should be a lack of loyalty. Cal Ripken never joined the Yankees.

There was a time when I thought that LeBron would have two numbers retired by the Cleveland Cavaliers (6 and 23). Now, as long as Dan Gilbert is the owner, nothing LBJ will grace the interior or exterior of Quicken Loans Arena. I absolutely loved the Gilbert tirade, saying everything we wished we could. It was completely unprofessional, whiny, counter-intuitive to all his pleading the "King" would stay, published in a juvenile Comic Sans font, and will likely set the franchise back in the long run (free agents will have a hard time wanting to play for a guy that will bash you this publicly when you're days in Cleveland are threw). Having said all that, it was the perfect medicine to take some of the sting off. It represents the resolve and "good riddance" attitude of Clevelanders.

Gilbert's championship guarantee might be a stretch, but I think we would all settle for a little bad karma following LeBron out of town. A riff with his new fan base should not take long. On September 2, the Dolphins and Cowboys play a preseason game. Wait until the Miami faithful see him rocking a Cowboys hat.


Then again, it is Miami. They could care less... about everything. If it doesn't pertain to the beach and/or a P. Diddy gala, the interest level does not register. The people there seem to enjoy hosting the Super Bowl more than they crave their team participating in it. It would be nice to collect a dollar for every time a South Beach native has uttered the words, "We have a hockey team?" I can't imagine there is a large population of Miami that is aware that "their" team has won two World Series titles in a mere 17 years of existence. Ho hum. We can't buy one, and they barely acknowledge their championship banners -- tucked in the left field corner next to the collapsed football bleachers.

The band wagon does not stop with football and baseball; to my knowledge there is no such thing as a die-hard Miami Heat fan. There are so many other activities in South Beach that heading over to American Airlines Arena on a nightly basis sounds pretty boring. It is such a long season to pour out that much emotion over a stupid regular-season game. Wake the locals when they are in the playoffs, and poof, the loyalty returns. That is not what Midwesterners do. And although he seems to want to distance himself from his roots all of a sudden, LeBron is a Midwestern guy. If he loves the game as much as he claims to, why would he want to associate with such casual fans?

The domino effect of his Miami decision has an even greater negative impact on the health of the league. The talk in college football these days is all about superconferences. Why not just contract the NBA to super teams while we're at it? This one move has screwed up any resemblance to balance of power in professional basketball. What is the over/under on attendance at next year's Cavaliers vs. Pistons game? A once-proud rivalry will be reduced to a near pick-up game in front of hundreds.

We might as well have 16 total teams, everyone making the playoffs. The talent pool is so shallow, and the Boston Celtics "Big Three" model has become the norm. If I lived in Minnesota, I would wish that the NBA never came back. It was the kiss of death. Now people there actually invest their money in the T'Wolves cause. For what? Their passions will never be satisfied. How can they be with multiple super teams in the league? The second an expansion team was granted in Anytown, USA, the fans should have cried out, "Great, I'm inevitably going to fall in love with this team. I'm going to spend my time willing them to make me happy. And inevitably nothing will be gained from their existence. Thanks."

If you let the Memphis Grizzles and Minnesota Timberwolves combine rosters, you still might not produce a comparable super team. Especially when the league teeters on the corruption line as is. David Stern is the puppet master that will stop at nothing to make sure it is a Lakers/Celtics Finals once again.

So why even have a team in these small, middle American towns? They are just another 120-95 victory for the Miami Heat on some random Tuesday night. They are win number 6 in a line of Miami's commonplace 10-game win streak. They are confidence builders for the Heat as they have a key match-up against the Lakers in primetime on ABC this coming Sunday.
You have to give the other teams a fighting chance. Either let them go well above the salary cap, or combine some rosters. My biggest argument for the latter would be a slew of cooler names in the league. A Memphesota Timbergrizzly sounds terrifying as hell, and a Rocky Mountain Jazz Nugget sounds intriguingly delicious. A Golden State Warrior King does sound a little redundant; makes you wonder why there are two separate mediocre teams -- with similar aggressive names -- in the same geographical area in the first place.


None of these changes will ever occur so each fan now has three options: A) Let LeBron and the entire NBA go. It hasn't been basketball for a long long time, anyway. B) Hop on the Oklahoma City band wagon. C) Stick it out with the current Cavs' roster. J.J. Hickson is a man-child and 45 wins are still possible. How great of an 8 vs. 1 playoff match-up would Cleveland and Miami be next season?

For me, I chose a combination of all three. I'm tired of wasting my efforts on LeBron James discussion. A championship may be inevitable, but it will be bittersweet. I am quite sure that Marian Hossa had some uneasy feelings filling his brain as he lifted the Stanley Cup this year. If he questioned all his decisions even once, that is a victory for me. It means it was not 100% joy, and that is no way to win a championship.

LeBron did "what made LeBron happy." Yes, he went with third person. I guess happiness is faking an elbow injury, tanking in the previous season's playoffs, and not telling your boss that you are leaving until a very public -- highly narcissistic -- television spectacle. The highlights of the on-camera appearance were as follows: after two years of prep time for this one moment, LeBron chose to wear a picnic tablecloth as a dress shirt to compliment his very bad beard. Was it a half 'n half neck beard/chin strap? And with an entourage as large as he rolls with, someone should let him know that there is not a long "i" in "organization." It makes me think it is intentional; a subtle way of believing he is an entire franchise. Or maybe he doesn't know how to say the word because he has never believed in, or respected, any organization. Except the fine people of the Greenwich, Connecticut Boy and Girls Club, of course. When has that town ever been a part of his life? What a trainwreck of a spectacle. How T.O. of him.

Bye bye, LeBron James. You still travel 83% of the time you touch the ball. I'll just be screaming it out at the TV more often now that you are gone.

P.S., six should be an illegal basketball number. If refereeing was still pure, and fouls were signaled to the scorer's table with their hands, no ref (to my knowledge) has six digits on one hand. Five and one is fifty-one, not six. Stupid NBA.


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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

All-Star PR Spectacular

W. Ross Clites
Your City Sports-Cleveland


Kent, OHIO--The days of multiple Cleveland Indians in the All-Star Game are unfortunately a thing of the past. The once-proud franchise will return to such greatness someday, but for now we are left with token representation. As much as it pains me to say, it might be time to reevaluate the league's "one team, minimum one player" mandate. If this game is to be taken seriously, then pitchers with 7-7 records should probably be passed.

Fausto Carmona is a solid arm, and his Triple-A lineup does little to help his run support. However, he has a negative PR rating, ranking 96th overall. Think what you want about my stat, but it very nearly predicted the NL and AL All-Star rosters correctly. Furthermore, it doesn't take a concocted statistic to show that the Indians should not send a representative to this year's All-Star Game. The day that Shin-Soo Choo went on the Disabled List with a thumb injury is the day the Tribe should have lost its right to a token player. No one else on that team has an argument to belong, especially not a pitcher.

I partly blame the selection process. I said this when I created Pitcher Rating and will once again stick to my guns: the top 13 pitchers should trump position players. A team like the 2010 Indians--represented by a single player--should not have that delegate come in the form of an undeserving pitcher. There are only 13 spots in the pitching staff of an All-Star roster, so they should be held at a premium. Let a token player rob one of the 22 other spots on the roster. There, they wouldn't even have to play. The best 13 arms (statistically, not situationally) in each league should be there, no questions asked.

The most troubling part of the Carmona selection was that Choo's injury was not cited as the reason why he was left off the team. This says to me that AL manager, Joe Girardi, actually sought out Fausto Carmona; as if to say that even a healthy Choo would have been overlooked. For a 7-7 pitcher with a 3.69 ERA? Cue the Charlie Brown "Aaugh!"

By taking Fausto Carmona, a starter like Justin Verlander (10-5, 103 strikeouts, and a 25th-ranked Pitcher Rating) was snubbed. If Girardi would have selected Shin-Soo Choo as the Tribe rep instead, someone like Vernon Wells is the snubbed man and not Verlander. The talent decline from Vernon Wells to Shin-Soo Choo is negligible, especially when neither would start or see much action in the game. Conversely, the fall off from Verlander to Carmona is embarrassingly large. And Verlander would pitch and help his League. We will have to wait and see what Carmona can offer.

Charlie Manuel--NL manager--is not free form criticism either. Forget the Joey Votto snub; he had far more questionable moves with the pitchers. He went to the armory and forgot some of the biggest weapons in the entire Major Leagues. Not the ideal way to end a long drought of All-Star Game losses.

Had Manuel followed my Pitcher Rating-based selection, the teams represented in the pitching staff would be:
Colorado, St. Louis, Atlanta, San Diego, Florida, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Milwaukee, and Chicago.

This would leave Cincinnati, Washington, Houston, Arizona, and Pittsburgh in need of delegation. For the Reds, Scott Rolen is a lock at third, Votto should have been at first, and you could make an argument for second baseman, Brandon Phillips. Check mark. No pitcher's spots necessary.

For Washington, Manuel will send Matt Capps to Anaheim; leaving third basemen, Ryan Zimmerman, to wallow around in the Final Vote (which he will unfortunately lose). Staying with my theme of "best pitchers trump token representation," I would have switched those two. Zimmerman deserves to back up David Wright, Atlanta's Omar Infante does not. He should join Capps as a spectator during the Break.

Manuel took care of Houston with Michael Bourn, so there is no adjustment necessary there. Likewise, Arizona will send Chris Young. This is the way the reserves should be handled; add bench players that are speed and defense guys. If we are going to play this thing to win, you need value in pinch runners that are not liabilities in the field in the next half inning.

The last unsatisfied team would then be Pittsburgh. Because Manuel is forced to treat this stupid semi-exhibition game like a meaningful affair, he is taking a middle reliever. If this game was still a reflection of the best talents in the game, like it should be, Evan Meek would be nowhere near the All-Star Game. His Pitcher Rating is ranked 83rd. If you want to dip that low in the ratings, you might as well pick up Steven Strasburg (92).

Do not snub Billy Wagner, Heath Bell, Mike Pelfrey, and Mat Latos for a match-up relief pitcher from a last place team. I prefer Andrew McCutchen in his place. He has a better chance of stealing a base late in the game than Evan Meek will have in keeping the American League offense scoreless. McCutchen is no slouch either; hitting .294, with a .375 OBP and 20 steals.

Things I can compromise on: Tim Lincecum, Arthur Rhodes, and Tim Hudson on the roster, despite not having them in my top 13. Two of the three were reserves in my All-Star Predictor. One is the two-time reigning Cy Young Award winner, and the other two have found the fountain of youth. Rhodes and Hudson can look at these appearances as Journeymen Career Revival Lifetime Achievement Awards.

In a perfect world I would get rid of Meek, get rid of Capps. Not only will the pitching become better, but so will the National League offense (McCutchen and Zimmerman, not Infante and Jose Reyes). Add Wagner and Bell in place of those two relievers, and have either Mike Pelfrey or Mat Latos replace the injured Yovani Gallardo. That would be the best team to finally end the skid for the Senior Circuit.

The American League is far more cut and dry. Joe Girardi had most of the decisions made for him. The pitching crop is not deep, and injuries/need for rest opened the door to those who felt snubbed.

I can respect Girardi's decision to take Trevor Cahill from Oakland. He is having a great sophomore season and the A's would be a hard team to come up with a quality position player. Similiarly, I had Neftali Feliz one spot away from making the All-Star roster, so I have no problems with his selection.

Girardi had luck on his side to avoid major scrutiny that plagues Charlie Manuel. Up until Tuesday I was screaming for the insertion of the Major League leader in strikeouts (and hometown Angel) Jered Weaver as well as his own player, Andy Pettitte. With the hamstring pull of Clay Buchholz and the voluntary removal of Mariano Rivera, the two slide in nicely. Girardi is off the hook. It leaves Rays' closer Rafael Soriano as the only true snub. He has the fifth-best Pitcher Rating in baseball and for some reason will be on vacation next week.

The easy fix--to get Soriano in the game--would have been to rethink the White Sox sole representative. Matt Thorton is the American League version of Evan Meek. He is a hard throwing set-up man that would not even sniff the All-Star Game if it were not being played to win... sort of.

The problem with including middle relievers is that their sample size (i.e. innings pitched) is not large enough to really tell whether the season is All-Star worthy. Position players have roughly 300 at-bats, while Meek has not even eclipsed 48 innings pitched; Thorton has not even reached 36. If Girardi wanted to include a bridge to the American League closers, Fernando Rodney would have been a much better choice. His Pitcher Rating made him a reserve in my Predictor, and he is a member of the Anaheim Angels. You always have to try to maximize the hometown exposure. As it stood on Selection Sunday, only Torii Hunter represented the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of Orange County of Planet Earth.

Rodney over Thorton, if that's how we want to play this quirky exhibition game. Neither if it is about star power. It takes a powerful feat--like Arthur Rhodes' Major League record-tying 33 consecutive scoreless appearances--for a set-up man to really turn heads. Without that, he loses serious leverage to be a member of the National League squad. A hold is a thankless stat, not one that is synonymous with All-Star appearances.

Let's play a game called "Who sounds like more of an All-Star snub?" First up: Paul Konerko or Matt Thorton? Throw out the stats and go solely on reputation and/or prior knowledge of the player's talent. If the roles were reversed and Matt Thorton were left out, he couldn't possibly consider himself a snub. He definitely would not have made the Final Vote like Konerko. You cannot pass on a guy with 20 home runs and a track record for productive offensive seasons. The rosters should at least pass an eye test and Thorton is an outlier.

Wrapping up where I began, Fausto is just as embarrassing of a blemish. It pains me to say that this one does not have a fixable solution. He is the only undeserving player that cannot be moved anywhere. Cleveland position players, aside from the injured Choo, are so bad that it had to be an Indians' pitcher. Until the Tribe gets better, they are going to rack up the All-Star appearances by .500 pitchers.

This is where I would like Bud Selig to make a change. The one-player-per-team rule has got to be amended. Like I have stated before, and will again, go with the best pitchers... period. So right off the bat, no Fausto. Then, if you select a position player--to be the token ambassador--and he happens to be injured, that team foregos its mandated appearances. Choo should be the All-Star, show up and smile to the cameras, and no Cleveland player will play. It is an honor, not a right.

Pitcher Rating July 7
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