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Bochy and Washington's All-Star Bullpen Blunders

W. Ross Clites
Your City Sports-Cleveland

Saint Louis, MISSOURI--The rosters have been set for the 2011 Major League Baseball All-Star Game next week in Arizona. Yet again, it appears that the managers who make the tough decisions need some serious help.

These guys obviously make it more difficult than it needs to be, by not to relying on objective data. They do not have the time to watch every single pitcher around the league, keeping tabs on their nightly performances.

This year's scapegoats are San Francisco skipper, Bruce Bochy, and Texas' Ron Washington. For appearing in the 2010 World Series their prize will be a handful of angry colleagues from the teams in their respective league, a few scorned players, as well as thousands of fans of said scorned player.
The solution is quite simple: give people parameters/rules of the game and the complaints magically dissipate. If Major League Baseball would simply adopt a minimum criteria a player must meet for selection, the game (now to be taken seriously) will be better off. For the second year of its existence, Pitcher Rating could have been this savior from all the headaches and gripes.

Formatted the same as last year, the table below shows statistics of the top 45 pitchers (based on Pitcher Rating) in baseball, as of the Selection Sunday. Players highlighted in dark blue are 2011 All-Stars. Those shown with an asterisk are the token representative from their club.

Moving our way down the list, the first nine selections are no-brainers. Quickly, things begin to get questionable. Tommy Hanson should undoubtedly be in Phoenix next week, and odds are he will find his way there. There are several aces that will pitch on the Sunday before the Midsummer Classic. The close proximity means they are unavailable on Tuesday, and (by rule) will be replaced. Thus, Hanson is a lock to get a call. The same is true of CC Sabathia; highly possible for Dan Haren.

If this hold true, the top 15 pitchers will be in Arizona.

As we hit number 16, the debate begins. Bochy and Washington each passed on an unexpected ace of 2011. The early-season performances of the upstart Michael Pineda and the hometown representative Ian Kennedy should have been rewarded. They were snubbed simply because their greatness has not been sustained over the course of several years. Remember this fact when we get to Ryan Vogelsong.

Picking up Pineda and Kennedy--matched with the actual selections of Felix Hernandez, Jonny Venters, David Price, and Matt Cain--would have put the top 21 pitchers in the All-Star Game.

If only Bochy followed along with a selection system based on Pither Rating. Of his 13 possible selections, he would have the top 11 National League arms; needing to stray from the list only to pick up a player from the Washington Nationals and San Diego Padres to meet the representation criteria.

Heath Bell would have fit the bill, and he was the logical decision for Bochy. He only dropped down to 28th to get the San Diego closer. To fill the Washington spot, however, Bochy dropped the ball. Drew Storen should have been a lock to represent the Nats. Instead, Bochy dipped down too far to Tyler Clippard--ranked 47th in Pitcher Rating.

By not following along with the Pitcher Rating, Bochy has opened himself up to some severe criticism. He selected two of his own; Tim Lincecum (6-6) and Ryan Vogelsang (with a Pitcher Rating comparable to Johnny Cueto, and very little to show for his journeyman career). It should be interesting to see how this plays out in a ballpark where a divisional foe called all the shots.

Ron Washington did not fair much better. If he followed along with Pitcher Rating, he would have the top 12 pitchers before needing to jump the tracks for Kansas City. You could certainly argue that he should have looked to Alex Gordon or Melky Cabrera for that. This is partly due to the fact that Joakim Soria is having a down year, and mainly because the rest of the Kansas City pitching pool is quite shallow.

With that token spot going to a position player, Washington would have been able to use that 13th, and last, bullpen selection on a closer. If he truly believed Jose Valverde warranted an All-Star selection, it should have been the only closer he picked.

Bullpen selection is not a fan-based portion of the event. Mariano Rivera (ranked 54th in Pitcher Rating) did not warrant a spot. The same is true of Chris Perez (ranked 59th), who should have waited another year for his arrival.

If this game is to mean something, the days of taking three or four closers makes no sense. There is only one ninth inning. Starters would be more accustomed to throwing in the eighth inning than most of the All-Star closers selected. The starters typically have a larger array of pitches to combat a potent All-Star lineup.
The save is a watered-down statistic as it is. Each manager should take the one guy they feel would best shut the door and leave the rest at home.

Case and point, Brandon League. He was not a must; Seattle had plenty of representatives given their sub .500 record. And if you are going to take a second pitcher from the Mariners, make it Pineda.

Aaron Crow? Seriously? Aaron Crow ranks in the 100s of Pitcher Rating. There is no reason for any All-Star manager to dip that low. Selection should be an honorable moment, not a stretch. Combining wins, holds, and saves, Crow has only ten total. That is not an All-Star.

Using Pitcher Rating would help ease all these tensions that other managers currently have with Bruce Bochy and Ron Washington. They should not only implement the system, but put a cap on the number that managers cannot go below. If you cannot do away with the mandatory team representative, then we must be able to find better pinch hitter/runner options than cut-rate relievers. Steal bench guys from the basement-dwellers and leave the 13 bullpens spots for the best available.

Pitcher Rating July 3 2011

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