July 20, 2000
The Atlanta Blues
Post All-Star-Game Starts
In my years of following baseball, I've formed the impression that starters who pitch in the All-Star Game tend to be a little off in their first start after the midsummer classic. This year, while watching SportsCenter highlights of Al Leiter getting shellacked, I decided to look a little more deeply to see if my impression is borne out by the numbers.
I took all the starters who appeared in the 2000 All-Star Game and looked at each pitcher's subsequent start. As you'll see, the numbers aren't pretty:
Rank Among Pitcher Date Park H/R IP R Dec. SNVA Own Starts
(Hudson's game against the Rockies was called by rain after three innings, so his numbers above aren't part of his official stats.)
Remember, these are the All-Stars, supposedly the cream of the crop, and they collectively allowed more than six-and-a-half runs per game in their first starts back. Six of the nine pitchers--Leiter, Darryl Kile, Aaron Sele, David Wells, Kevin Brown and Randy Johnson--had a start that ranked among their worst four games of the year.
I'm no expert on mechanics, but I can imagine a number of possible reasons why a starter would struggle after pitching in the All-Star game. Lack of rest is one possibility. While you may have noticed that three of the starters above took the usual four days rest after the July 11 exhibition, none of those three got four days' rest before the All-Star game. In fact, of the nine, only Kevin Brown got the standard four days before the All-Star Game. And the number of rest days aside, simply the act of warming up and then throwing an inning or two under game conditions represents a deviation from these guys' usual routines.
Numbers from nine starts are not enough to prove anything. On the other hand, when you're talking about potentially costing your team a game in a tight pennant race, all for the sake of appearing in an exhibition game, you have to wonder how much proof is needed. If a few more numbers like the ones above come to light, you may start seeing more and more of the league's top starters suddenly come up with "injuries" right around the All-Star break.
Michael Wolverton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.