Baseball Prospectus Needs Your Help! Check out our call for contributors!

In a way, the institution of the much-debated and occasionally-mocked USA vs. the World format for the All-Star Game did exactly what it was supposed to do. And yet in many others, the announcement of the first ever starting lineups under this format last night only underscored how sloppily this was put together and how much there is to clean up for 2018.

There were few changes since the previous round of voting with Xander Bogaerts over Carlos Correa on the world team being the only verdict that carried any drama last night. But in case anyone missed it: here are the starting lineups, which were announced in the first of two prime time broadcasts, the second with the pitchers and reserves coming tonight.





Yasmani Grandal (LAD)

Yadier Molina (STL)


Paul Goldschmidt (ARI)

Jose Abreu (CHW)


Kolten Wong (STL)

Jose Altuve (HOU)


Matt Carpenter (STL)

Adrian Beltre (TB)


Trea Turner (WAS)

Xander Bogaerts (BOS)


Jason Heyward (STL)

Yasiel Puig (WAS)


Mike Trout (LAA)

Yoenis Cespedes (DET)


Bryce Harper (WAS)

Jose Bautista (NYY)


Mark Trumbo (ATL)

Miguel Cabrera (DET)

In the spirit of generosity, let’s start with what went right, and it comes down to the reason that this rule was instituted – to give every fanbase a chance.

Just like in 2016 when the Cardinals were able to parlay the high from their World Series victory and the us-against-the-world attitude leftover from the hacking scandal into the first ever clean sweep of the NL All-Star starting spots, one fanbase did overrepresent itself in the voting. However unlike when it was AL vs. NL, one team taking over didn’t necessarily mean every other team in its league was doomed.

The change away from AL-NL, just the latest step in the gradual erosion of meaning of the leagues, made it so that even when the Cardinals stuffed the ballot box instead, it didn’t shut out other NL stars like Yasmani Grandal and Yasiel Puig – every fanbase had a chance. That pair rode a strong Cuban voting contingent as the effects of openness in the island nation were seen in yet another place.

It may have been the elimination of straight-ticket voting. The Cardinals got four across the finish line, and they weren’t all deserved, but just by having some of their players show up on each ballot and have fans have to put some effort into finding them and filling the other spots, it may have dissuaded some of the straight-ticket funny business.

As we look back on the voting process and await the rest of the rosters, however, there are a number of issues – some that were predictable and some that clarified as we saw the voting come down.

The “Who’s an American” controversy was a big deal

This problem was recognized immediately, but with the rush to get the ballots out, there wasn’t much MLB could do. For 2018, which should have been the first year of this all along, expect some of the rigidity to go away.

Their decision – that if you were draft-eligible from a school in one of the 50 U.S. states, you’re wearing Red, White and Blue – not only continued to be a subject of gripes, but did have a very real effect on the team. Even with Trea Turner’s sensational play in the Nationals’ run to the title last year, there’s almost no chance he would have beaten out Carlos Correa had the Puerto Rican-born shortstop been listed under the U.S. flag. (He shouldn’t have beaten out Francisco Lindor either, but voters gonna vote.)

On the other hand, Jose Fernandez would have been Bengie Molina’s no-brainer choice to start for Team World, but since he was drafted out of a Florida high school, he may have to piggyback Max Scherzer on Team USA.

There’s been lots of talk of changing the ballot assignments to be based on birthplace rather than draft-day nationality and on what to do with Puerto Rico, but this year’s ballot leads to another conclusion.

Let the players choose

First, it would let players play where they’re comfortable, which can be a sensitive issues for players who have roots in one place but an upbringing elsewhere and cling more closely to one or the other. Sure there will be a few hot takes like when the American-born Alex Rodriguez chose to play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, but the players will be wearing the flag they want to wear, which feels more important. (And the A-Rod situation wouldn’t be an issue here; the choice would be only for people born one place and either educated or naturalized in another.)

But it might actually make for better teams. For instance, a dual citizen at a loaded position for one side could find an easier route to election on the other and avoid some of the issues brought by this imbalance.

Speaking of which…

Deserving players fell victim to the imbalance at certain positions

This was expected. Americans are the best outfielders, while we tend to find shortstops beyond our shores, and if you’re Giancarlo Stanton or Andrew McCutchen or Correa or Andrelton Simmons and starting this game on the bench, you knew this already.

The results fit with the statistics on just how overwhelmingly U.S.-heavy the outfield positions are and the fact that shortstop is the only place where international players have out-WARPed Americans over the last decade.

Total WARP, 2007-2016


U.S.-born WARP

Foreign* WARP

U.S. percentage





































*Foreign includes Puerto Rico and after much deliberation, does not include Florida.

What you’d never know from this table, though, was how mismatched the two ballots were at third base.

Even without all of them having career years, Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado, Todd Frazier and Kris Bryant, were leading an All-American hot corner hierarchy. This led to some notable omissions on the U.S. side and an ugly World ballot that at least resulted in a nice Lifetime Achievement Award start for Beltre. Additionally, a separate vote for DH made for an easy path for Mark Trumbo to reach his second All-Star game—though you’d be hard pressed to make an argument for him over any of the third basemen who didn’t make it, despite his lofty home run total.

The future

More than any of those things, the future of the “This Time It Doesn’t Count” experiment comes down to ratings, the decline of which under the old system is probably why we’re here to begin with. The voting has already shown that it can get clicks on with much more frequency overseas than it ever had before, but the TV number will go a long way to whether this format can outlast the NHL’s five-year dalliance with a North America-vs.-the-World format.

The game should be fine. The U.S. team, when the pitching is announced, will be better – the books already list these other “Yanks” as a bigger favorite than they’ve made any of the recent league All-Star teams, but it’s not a mismatch, and that’s not what drives All-Star eyes anyway.

Like many things this decade from realignment and new interleague scheduling to instant replay, it was rushed in. Eventually, though, it should be revised if not perfected, and the new format might just be the injection that this fading classic needed.

Thank you for reading

This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.

Subscribe now
You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe
Wow, I woke up to a rather strange April Fools in July BP day.
Pretty ridiculous that 2-time World Series MVP Carlos Correa was left off this list imo
Will the All-Star Game still "count?"

The winner could decide whether the World Series is played in Caracas or in Omaha
You made a mistake. Remember Puig plays for the Marlins. Remember how the Dodgers traded Puig plus Grant Holmes and 100 million in cash for Stanton at the All-Star break in 2015.

Super tragic that Puig was the only one able to put on a parachute while flying to Italy with owner Jeffrey Loria in his small private jet. But luckily the new Miami-based ownership group of Dwayne Johnson, Pitbull, and the Bush family along with new director of analytics Blake Ross have really turned the franchise around.
I really hope you NEVER do this again.
do you have twitter
This is one of the reasons I love BP.