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June 11, 2001

The Daily Prospectus

All-Stars (and Mariners, too)

by Joe Sheehan

OK, so the mistake I made was not reiterating my position on the All-Star voting, and simply including a pointer to last year's article. Lazy mistake. Here's the relevant quote:

Regardless of how you define the term, though, it seems obvious that this is what the All-Star Game is about: seeing the best players in baseball, not merely the players who played well in the first half of a particular season. I personally give my All-Star vote to the player who I consider to be the best in the league at that point in time, based on their entire career to date. I consider current-season performance, but I don't let a slow start by the best player at a position--or a great six weeks by a proven mediocrity--overly influence my choice.

This leads to All-Star ballots that can be highly similar from season to season. I can't remember the last time I voted for anyone but Barry Larkin at shortstop in the NL, or for anyone but Mike Piazza behind the plate, although there have been players who had better statistics though the second week of June than those two. Those guys are All-Stars, even if Walt Weiss or Mike Lieberthal is really hot when I punch out the little holes.

I'm not ridiculous about this, either. Sometimes the performance level of a perennial All-Star--we'll call him "Frank"--slips to the point where a vote for him is inexcusable in light of the other talent at that position, even though the long-time All-Star has a tremendous curriculum vitae. And at some positions, the All-Star is a young player--we'll call him "Troy"--whose performance and ability are clearly superior to other players, even other former All-Stars.

I hope that clears things up for you a bit. If you want to disagree with that rationale, that's perfectly fine, but the above may help to understand my point of view. Those of you who believe that Rich Aurilia or Mark Grudzielanek or players like that should start in the All-Star Game because the game is for guys having a great two months are welcome to that point of view, as well. I think it's misguided, but then again, I also thought Paul Wilson was going to be an All-Star this year.

No, I don't think Tony Gwynn or Cal Ripken should start, because unlike a Supreme Court seat or a Gold Glove award, an All-Star spot isn't a lifetime appointment. But there's a far cry from those guys and someone like Larkin or Piazza, who is still either the best or second-best player in their league at their position, but maybe being outplayed at the moment.

Those of you have written is to disagree with me will be happy to know that you have plenty of company, even on the BP staff. Look for a Roundtable on the topic of what an "All-Star" is, assuming Chris Kahrl and I ever actually put down our keyboards and call a truce.

In other news...The Freaking Demigods lost, finally, dropping Saturday's game to the Padres, 6-3. They won Sunday, though, and will no doubt win another dozen in a row.

I've made it a point to watch the Mariners as often as I can for the last few weeks, because for all the analysis we do based on performance metrics, some things are hard to explain. In watching them, one of the things I noticed was the quality of their defense, especially their outfield defense when Stan Javier plays left field. They're keeping runs off the board in much the same way the Minnesota Twins are.

There's also something that reader Jim Cox mentioned to me that I have to say is very impressive to observe, if an unknown (or even a tautology) from an analytical standpoint. The Mariners score in a ridiculous percentage of their innings, and Cox points out that they seem to score in a ton of the innings that succeed an opponent's score.

During their 15-game winning streak, they scored in 41.7% of their at-bats (53 of 127); they scored 39.3% of the time when batting after the opposition scored. That sounds like a lot--two times in five, they answered runs with runs of their own--but I don't have comparative data, and am half-hoping Keith Woolner takes the bait for Tuesday's "Aim for the Head" column.

I know that in watching the Mariners, there is always a sense that a one-run lead is unsafe; not the way it's unsafe when playing the Indians or when you're at Coors Field, where a home run is a constant threat, but unsafe nevertheless. I know I'm edging dangerously close to "intangibles" here, but it's something that you begin to expect when watching the Mariners: a rally that stops momentum.

(Man, I feel dirty, and a little nervous, like the stathead police are going to come in and confiscate my laptop, and maybe even some internal organs.)

As I say, I'm not sure if this has analytical value, especially since a team that scores a lot of runs--the Mariners lead the majors in this category--will score in more innings, anyway. I just think it was an interesting observed point. It's difficult to sustain momentum against the Mariners, and it's an open question what impact that kind of pressure has on the opposition.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

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