Whether Connie Mack was correct -- pitching is 75 percent of the game -- or the recent statistical analysis is more accurate in assessing a 25 percent level of important to pitching, there's no debate that the game doesn't start until a pitcher throws the ball.Over the years, however, while
Whether Connie Mack was correct -- pitching is 75 percent of the game -- or the recent statistical analysis is more accurate in assessing a 25 percent level of important to pitching, there's no debate that the game doesn't start until a pitcher throws the ball.
Over the years, however, while fans have been allowed to select the starting lineup for the American League and the National League in the All-Star game, they haven't had a chance to make their feelings known in terms of pitching.
In MLB's never-ending effort to jazz up the game, why not add a starting pitcher in the AL and NL to the fan ballot?
• Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for #ASGWorthy players
With concerns about workloads and uncertain about how each team's rotation will have been aligned going into the All-Star break, the manager of each team could have leeway on how to use the pitcher.
Last year alone, five players elected to the starting lineups were replaced because of injuries.
In the NL, second baseman Dee Gordon of the Marlins was replaced by DJ LeMahieu of the Rockies, and outfielders Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins and Matt Holliday of the Cardinals by Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates. AL outfielder Alex Gordon of the Royals was replaced by Adam Jones of the Orioles, and first baseman Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers by Albert Pujols of the Angels.
• National League voting update
So would it really matter if the elected starting pitcher wound up being used on the Saturday or Sunday before the All-Star Game, and had to be scratched? The fans would have still had their say. The pitcher would still have the distinction on their resume. And the manager of the team would select the replacement -- just like he would if an outfielder, infielder or catcher was unavailable.
There are some great debates already over the fan voting at positions -- like catcher in the NL, where Yadier Molina of the Cardinals heads into the final week of voting in the 2016 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot with a slim 75,413-vote margin over Buster Posey of the Giants.
What if pitchers were on the ballot, too?
• American League voting update
Having to decide on a pitcher from each league might be the most challenging of decisions the fans would have to make. Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers, Johnny Cueto of the Giants and Jake Arietta of the Cubs went into Wednesday holding the NL lead with 11-1 records. Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals (10-1) and Zack Greinke of the D-backs (10-3) were one victory back.
The analytics folks, however, don't put stock in victories for individual pitchers. So some fans might turn to other numbers, and there are Kershaw (1.57) and Arietta (1.74), ranked 1-2 in the NL in ERA.
Don't ignore Madison Bumgarner of the Giants, who is third in the NL with a 1.88 ERA (8-3 record), and Noah Syndergaard of the Mets, who is 7-2 but fourth in the NL with a 1.91 ERA. Strasburg, meanwhile, ranks 13th with a 2.90 ERA, and Greinke 25th at 3.54.
In the AL, Chris Sale of the White Sox has a best-in-baseball 12 victories -- two ahead of Chris Tillman of the Orioles (10-1) and three more than Jordan Zimmermann of the Tigers (9-3).
However, Steven Wright of the Red Sox (8-4) leads the AL with a 2.01 ERA, but he is a knuckleball pitcher, which creates a special challenge for the catcher. Danny Salazar of the Indians (8-3) ranks second in the AL with a 2.23 ERA.
So what would happen when the fans starting casting votes?
Would they lean toward the traditional numbers -- likes wins and losses -- or take a more analytical approach and give an edge in the area of ERA?
Maybe someday baseball will find out.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com.