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Who Should Be the 2014 MLB All-Star Game Starters?

by Photo of Sam Cohen

With the MLB All-Star game a week away, here’s who the starting pitcher should be for each league

Who Should Be the 2014 MLB All-Star Game Starters?

The 2014 MLB All-Star Game is one week away and the rosters were announced last week. While the all-star game is not a must-see like it used to be, the rosters this year are stacked with talent that has rarely been matched in previous all-star games. From Jose Bautista to Mike Trout to Yasiel Puig, there won't be many at-bats you will want to miss. And let's not forget that Derek Jeter is playing in his final Midsummer Classic.

The only question now is who will be throwing to these guys at the beginning of the game. American League manager John Farrell and National League manager Mike Matheny both have tough decisions to make regarding who will be their starting pitcher for the game. Since so many All-Star pitchers are scheduled to pitch on Sunday, two days before the All-Star Game, the list of starting pitchers that are able to pitch in next Tuesday's game has decreased in both leagues. This does not mean, however, that the choice as to who should start the game becomes easier. 

There are still a few worthy candidates in each league that are available to pitch and there is a lot of parity between them. Let's take a look at some of the candidates in each league.

National League

Johnny Cueto has a 2.03 ERA, 134 strikeouts, 0.88 WHIP, and an N.L.-leading 137.2 innings pitched, but he is starting on Sunday and will be unavailable to pitch. Julio Teheran and Madison Bumgarner are also unavailable to pitch, though they probably wouldn't have started if they were available.

So that leaves us with Zack Greinke, Jordan Zimmerman, Adam Wainwright, and Clayton Kershaw. While Greinke (2.66 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 111.2 innings pitched) and Zimmerman (2.79 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 109.2 innings pitched) have been stellar, their seasons are most definitely not as amazing as Wainwright's. Wainwright has been phenomenal, with a 1.79 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 131 innings pitched.

Here is where it gets interesting. Kershaw has put up statistics rarely seen before, including a current streak of 36 consecutive scoreless innings and an otherworldly 115:12 strikeout:walk ratio. He had 61 strikeouts in June, 13 more than Jake Arrieta, who had the second-most strikeouts for an N.L. pitcher in June. His 1.85 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, and 115 strikeouts are just silly. The only problem is that Kershaw missed the first few weeks of the season and only has 87.1 innings pitched.

Wainwright and Kershaw have very similar statistics, but the fact that Wainwright has pitched 43.2 more innings than Kershaw cannot be ignored. If Kershaw had 110 innings pitched, I probably would've chosen him to start the game. But 87.1 innings is not a lot and 131 innings is. Their numbers across the board are extremely similar, so workload should most definitely be taken into consideration. 

Mike Matheny, Wainwright's manager in St. Louis, should go with his guy as the starter over Kershaw. By the way, look for Wainwright to show off some of his crazy dance moves, like the ones seen below:

American League

Red Sox manager John Farrell has a much larger group of pitchers to choose from than Matheny does, as Masahiro Tanaka is pitching on Sunday. While it's a shame that fans won't get to watch Tanaka pitch in the All-Star Game, there are still plenty of viable candidates to replace him. Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, Mark Buehrle, Yu Darvish, and Scott Kazmir have all put up great numbers, but Felix Hernandez is second in the MLB in innings pitched and has put up better pitching numbers in almost every single meaningful statistical category than every one of those pitchers. So the debate is really between Hernandez and David Price.

Hernandez has a 2.11 ERA and 0.87 WHIP, numbers that are much better than Price's 3.48 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. That being said, Price is leading the MLB with 159 strikeouts while Hernandez is in second with 145. Price also leads the MLB in innings pitched with 139.2, 3.1 more innings than Hernandez has thrown. Price has put together this gem of a season while hearing his name in trade talks almost every day since the season began.

The choice becomes clear, however, when sabermetric stats are taken into account. According to fangraphs.com, Felix Hernandez has a BABIP (batting average on balls in play) of .271 while David Price has a BABIP of .307. What this means is that hitters do not hit the ball as hard against King Felix as they do against Price. 

King Felix also has a much lower FIP (fielding independent pitching) a statistic that measures everything that a pitcher can control, including home runs, strikeouts, and walks. Plate appearance outcomes that involve defensive plays are not taken into account. 

Lastly, Felix leads Price in arguably the most important statistic in baseball: wins above replacement. WAR measures how valuable a player has been to his team and Felix's 4.0 WAR is far greater than Price's 1.6 WAR. Felix also has some of the nastiest stuff in the game, including this curveball:

Felix should be the A.L.'s starter and if he is, it would be great for the city of Seattle. The Mariners have not been relevant for a while. Wainwright and King Felix would definitely make for an exciting pitching matchup between two of the best pitchers in baseball, year in and year out. Either way, this will be a great All-Star Game. I am most excited to see Wainwright facing off against Mike Trout, as those are two of my favorite players in the MLB. That will be one of many matchups you won't want to miss.

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