May 8, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters (32) on deck to bat against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The folly of Major League Baseball All-Star voting

Sunday’s American League All-Star voting update revealed Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, who has only played in 26 games this season, was the leading vote-getter among A.L. catchers. At 1,852,770, Wieters was ahead of second-place Derek Norris by over 350,000 votes. Instantly the folly of letting fans vote becomes apparent, because Norris, the Oakland Athletics backstop, ranks first in OBP (.405), SLG (.509), wRC+ (160), and RBI (35) between catchers with over 200 plate appearances.

MLB All Star Game tickets from Select-A-Ticket

Further exhibiting the ridiculousness of how Major League Baseball decides who starts the prestigious All-Star game, can evidently be seen as Salvador Perez, the American League leader among catchers in fWAR (Fangraphs WAR), does not crack the top five in voting.

The reason is the casual fan significantly outweighs the die-hard fan, and truthfully, those occasional spectators probably don’t even realize who Norris and Perez are.

Another factor is MLB begins the voting in late-April before seasons take shape, and people tend to prematurely mark down the perennial stars. Small-market players often go unheralded and are snubbed by players in big-cities who are seen on media outlets constantly.  All of this contributes to the absurdity.

Frankly, this isn’t the only controversial and erroneous position on the A.L. ballot. Over at shortstop, Derek Jeter leads while ranking 12th of 14 qualifying SS in fWAR and 12th in wRC+ (the most accurate offensive measuring tool). In the outfield, Alex Gordon, who is 2nd in fWAR among outfielders, doesn’t even crack the top 15 leading vote-getters in the OF. At second base, Brian Dozier and Jose Altuve have arguably been the top A.L. second basemen, yet are four and five respectively among second basemen.

And keep in mind we haven’t even delved into the National League ballot where even more controversy arises.

To start, Todd Frazier, the paramount third basemen in the N.L., isn’t a top-five vote-getter at that position. Jonathan Lucroy, who FoxSports’ Jon Morosi believes is the National League MVP at this juncture, trails Yadier Molina by over 700,000 votes. The fact Chicago Cubs first basemen Anthony Rizzo is behind Mark Reynolds in voting, despite a wRC+ 52 points better and an fWAR almost two times higher, is pretty ludicrous if I do say so myself.

It’s been this way for years, but a change is needed in order for the right players to attain a proper All-Star nod and for teams to field the best representatives to represent their league while vying for home-field advantage. So, here are alternatives to the current flawed system.

Players Vote: 

Players do have their say in who goes to the mid-summer classic, but it’s limited. They get to vote and chose some of the bench players for the game while managers chose the others. Nobody knows the game of baseball and the aptitude of players better than the actual players. This makes a lot of sense, but comes with glaring holes.

Players barely see other games besides the ones they participate in, so they will have a biased tendency towards players on their team, players they like personally,  players they see frequently, and how players performed against their team.

A prime example of the failure of player-voting is the NFL Network top 100 player list. Each year they vote, and each year the list is shrouded in controversy and head-scratching inclusions and exclusions. In 2012, Tim Tebow actually made the top 100 list — need I say more?

Managers Pick: 

Jun 10, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington (38) looks on during the game against the Miami Marlins at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Some people are cautious about giving the manager — the managers who squared off in the previous World Series — the complete say in who gets to go for similar reasoning of allowing players to decide. Biases distort judgement and a single person selecting the players is more defective than a player vote.

That said, if they structured it in a way where the two bench/assistant coaches picked by the A.L./N.L. champion managers had an equal say in which players made it, then this system could work. But only if the two other coaches resided in different divisions will it have a chance to succeed. Even then it is not perfect or close to it.

They’ll probably be inclined to pick multiple players from their team who they perceive as All-Star-caliber. Remember when Ron Washington was pulling a majority of the strings in 2012? The Texas Rangers had eight representatives that year.

Unbiased Statistical System (Also know as “the shredder”): 

Every year MLB Network compiles a list of the top ten players at each position right now based on a device known as “the shredder.” Brian Kenny may be the face of it, but he doesn’t operate it, and the determining factors are based on the most advanced, comprehensive stats out there.

While this does eliminate any bias from occurring, it essentially eradicates intangibles from contributing to a player’s “worth.” Clutch hitting is snubbed in the world of sabermetrics as well as the “human element” of the game. If MLB chooses to go down this path — which is highly unlikely — it would upset a lot of fans.

MLB Fan Cave: 

Back in November, Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher (via TwitterBrandon McCarthy made the suggestion that the MVP voting be conducted by the MLB Fan Cave dwellers. It’s an interesting proposal that could work well in All-Star voting, too. In case you’re unfamiliar with the MLB Fan Cave, I’ll give you a brief rundown. Applicants from across the U.S. apply to go to New York to sit and watch baseball all day. Every single game. Putting jealousy aside, they are the only people who watch every single game.

However, it’s questionable whether or not fans can put their biases aside and not show favoritism towards their team’s players. But, hey, it’s an improvement over the current system, nevertheless.

Baseball Writers Vote: 

Lastly, having baseball writers vote, as they do with Award and Hall of Fame voting, is the most obvious alternative. They are trained professionals in not being biased, and binge-watch games, because, well, it’s their job.

People oppose writers having this much power because they can’t appease everybody and someone is upset with every decision that is made. Others are skeptical about writers’ ability to refrain from traditional thinking.

All of these proposals are imperfect, but are an improvement over the current system in which fans binge-vote for their team’s players and vote for well-known players.

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Tags: MLB MLB All-Star Game

  • chavezravining

    There will be a large amount of bias no matter which method MLB goes with. Fan voting is not the best method out there, especially when putting together the best teams, but the fans do get to see the players that most interest them. The problem i have with the All-Star game is that it counts for home-field advantage in the World Series. If the best possible team isn’t out on the field, I would not want that to determine such an important factor in the Fall Classic. There is a lot wrong with the system, and one simple change won’t fix it.