Tuesday, July 15, 2003

This Time, It Does Count - Handicapping The All-Star Game

If you've been to any baseball message board or forum this week, you've probably come across some spirited debate over the relative merits of ballplayers both in and out of the game. I'm as guilty of this as anyone, shouting from the rooftops about Milton Bradley getting royally screwed. But sprinkled throughout these discussions are comments by people of how disgusted they are by the whole process, how meaningless the game is, how they're not going to watch the game now, how they never watch the game.

There's a bunch of things wrong with that, of course. First of all, why are you arguing about the selections if you don't care about the game? And you're still getting to see most of the best hitters against most of the best pitchers. But the most important thing of all is that in the end, the game is not meaningless. Two cities are going to look back on this game just before they enter the World Series, and realize that what happens tonight may have altered the history of their franchise.

The home team has won the last seven seventh games. I consider this something of a fluke, being a Red Sox fan, I have to. But still, no matter how many game 7s the Sox lose, I still want that game 7 at home. And you know what? I bet the players and managers do too, and assuming there's no blowout, I'm thinking that the second half of the game could be the most interesting thing we've seen in an all-star game. Your going to have lots of very good players out there actually trying to win this thing.

The odds are even out of Las Vegas, with the over/under at 9.5. So who's going to win? Let's start with the pitching staffs. I'm figuring that for each team the starter will go two innings, then seven other pitchers go one. A starter will be saved in case it goes to extra innings, and a lefty or two will be saved in the pen. Below the pitchers are listed with the starting pitcher first, then the rest of the starters, then the relievers, by ERA:

AL - Loaiza 2.21, Moyer 3.02, Mulder 3.03, Sabathia 3.27, Clemens 3.28, Halladay 3.64
Donnelly 0.41, Hasegawa 0.81, Foulke 2.53, MacDougal 2.59, Guardado 3.41, Carter 4.17

The AL has five lefties on their staff (Moyer, Mulder, Sabathia, Guardado, and Foulke), which is surprising. I'm betting that either Halladay or Sabathia are saved for extra innings, and that MacDougal, Guardado, and Carter don't get in to the game. The median ERA for the guys left is 2.99.

NL - Schmidt 2.30, Prior 2.54, Willis 1.98, Williams 3.18, Wolf 3.23, Wood 3.36, Ortiz 3.50
Smoltz 0.84, Gagne 2.09, Wagner 2.47, Benitez 3.18, Williams 6.29

What is it with NL all-star pitchers and the letter "W"? Almost all righties except for Wolf and Wagner, so Wolf will be saved for a matchup. Benitez and Williams won't pitch, and I don't think they'll use Prior unless it is necessary. So it's going to be something like Schmidt for two, then Wood, Williams, Willis, and Ortiz for the first six innings, then finishing with Wagner, Gagne, and Smoltz. Wow! Median ERA for probable pitchers is 2.47.

I think there's a huge pitching advantage for the NL. They have all of the best closers, and AL hitters won't face a lefty unless the NL wants them to, or it's Billy Wagner. My guess is that the AL is going to have to get an early lead to win this game, so let's look at the lineups. The OBP and SLG for American Leaguers is only against righties, because we know that's all they'll face. The NL numbers are the totals:

AL

Posada - OBP .403, SLG .491
Delgado - OBP .446, SLG .692
Soriano - OBP .343, SLG .522
Glaus - OBP .328, SLG .481
ARod - OBP .374. SLG .542
Anderson - OBP .337, SLG .610
Matsui - OBP .354, SLG .455
Ichiro - OBP.359, SLG .462
Edgar - OBP .368, SLG .500

NL

Lopez - OBP .352, SLG .636
Helton - OBP .441, SLG .637
Vidro - OBP .418, SLG .516
Rolen - OBP .379, SLG .534
Renteria - OBP .382, SLG .482
Pujols - OBP .432, SLG .690
Edmonds - OBP .398, SLG .668
Sheffield - OBP .423, SLG .596
Bonds - OBP.496, SLG .719

Most of these players will play the first four to five innings. The median OBP for the AL is .359, for the NL it is .398. For OPS, the AL median is .500, the NL median is .636.

I've seen enough. The starting pitching for each team is pretty equal. The NL opening lineup is better than the AL lineup, which will only get to face righthanders. If the NL gets ahead, they have three dominant closers to finish the game.

National League 6 American League 3

My wife told me that I can't invite a blog reader to the game between the Red Sox and Toronto on Sunday in Fenway. Even though I have an extra ticket that I can't give away.

Comments? Counseling?l

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