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Hafner Got Robbed

  • This season's All-Star Final Man voting concluded last night, with A.J. Pierzynski of the White Sox edging out Francisco Liriano of the Twins for the award. Much like last season's leading vote getter, Pierzynski's teammate Scott Podsednik, he absolutely did not deserve to make the All-Star team in place of those who received less votes.

    Every candidate -- Travis Hafner, Ramon Hernandez, Liriano, Pierzynski, and Justin Verlander -- is enjoying a fine season, but the vote should have invariably come down to two people, Hafner and Liriano. Each one has been among the best players in the game this season. Hafner leads the AL in OBP, SLG, OPS, runs created per game, walks, and VORP, among, I'm positive, many other statistics. For the past three seasons, he has been one of the best, most consistent, yet somehow completely overlooked players in baseball. At a very strong position in a very strong league, he is the most productive player. His exclusion from the All-Star team is surely one of the game's all-time snubs.

    While not as deserving as Hafner, Liriano absolutely should be on the team as well. The AL's pitching staff looks very weak relative to the NL's and Ozzie Guillen certainly didn't make the best use of the players he had at his disposal. Players who shouldn't be on the team include Mark Buerhle, Mark Redman, Kenny Rogers, and Bobby Jenks. Excluding Redman, all those players are having terrific seasons, and it's not unreasonable for any one of them to make the team. However, significanly better pitchers were left off the team as a result, and Liriano heads the list. His ERA is 1.99 (including an unreal 230 ERA+), his strikeout rate (11.5) is incredible, and he even has an aesthetically-pleasing 9-1 won-lost record.

    Other pitchers who were snubbed: Mike Mussina (10-3, 3.24 ERA, 1.04 WHIP), John Lackey (6-5, 3.12 ERA, 1.09 WHIP), J.J. Putz (2.23 ERA, 15 SV, 57/7 K/BB), and Joe Nathan (1.80 ERA, 15 SV, 0.80 WHIP).

    Buerhle and Jenks were chosen by Guillen, mostly as a result of their relationship with him. I won't condemn him for selecting his own players because, after all, he'd have to answer to them in the clubhouse if he didn't. But no one could seriously argue that Buerhle has had a more productive season than Mussina, for example, or that Jenks has had a better season than Nathan, for instance. Since it's entirely possible that the White Sox will repeat as AL champions, Guillen's actions are detrimental to himself because he'll be fielding an inferior team.

    That brings me to Rogers. Not only did he make the team ahead of three teammates who are enjoying better -- albeit slightly -- seasons, but he's also the odds on favourite to be named the AL starter. The fact is that Rogers' glitzy won-lost record simply doesn't correspond to his how he's pitched. According to Baseball Prospectus' Pitcher Expected Win-Loss Records, Rogers should be 7.6-5.3, or approximately 8-5, ranking 27th in the game. Instead, he's 11-3, with an ERA that's creeping up towards 4.00 and, judging by his penchant for late-season swan dives, will eclipse that mark shortly after the All-Star break.

    Redman's selection has caused widespread reaction among fans and analysts alike. Last night's impressive (and painful-to-watch) performance against the Blue Jays notwithstanding, he's pitched very poorly this season. But, due to the Royals' ineptitude, he's arguably been his team's best pitcher this season. The rule that each team, no matter how bereft of talent, must have at least one All-Star representative is an archaic remnant of the pre-expansion era, a time when every team could lay claim to an above average player, let alone a bone fide All-Star. The fact is that someone like David DeJesus or Mark Grudzielanek -- neither much of an All-Star, though surely more deserving than Redman -- should have made the team instead. In the end, it's possible -- nay, very likely --  that Redman was chosen because of his connection with Ozzie Guillen from their days with the Marlins. The AL might be vastly superior to the NL at the moment, but it will be the heavy underdog in the All-Star game, at least in my view.

  • Troy Glaus will participate in this season's home run derby. The scheduled contestants are Lance Berkman, Miguel Cabrera, Jermaine Dye, Glaus, Ryan Howard, David Ortiz, Miguel Tejada, and David Wright. Glaus participated in the contest once before, when he placed last in the 2001 contest with zero home runs. I'm confident he'll improve upon that result this time around.

    Fortunately, MLB decided to veer away from last season's We Are the World motif, wherein eight players from eight different nations competed against one another. Venezuela's Bobby Abreu won the contest with a record 41 home runs, 20 more than Ivan Rodriguez, who finished second. Following the All-Star Game, however, Abreu suffered through a power drought, registering only six home runs during the second half. I'm curious to see if that's a recurring trend for winners of the event. Here's how the past four winners (this is by no means a rigorous study) have fared before and after they won.

    Year    Champion    HR Before     HR After
    2005    Bobby Abreu       18             6
    2004    Miguel Tejada     15            19
    2003    Garret Anderson   22             7
    2002    Jason Giambi      22            19

    Well, the results don't suggest that any pattern exists. Abreu and Anderson experienced major drops in power, while Tejada and Giambi were able to maintain their first-half production for the remainder of the season.

  • Manager John Gibbons has taken a two-game leave of absence to be with his father, who is seriously ill. From an AP story:
    Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons was not with the club for Thursday night's game against Kansas City. He was in San Antonio to be with his father, who is seriously ill.

    Gibbons is expected to miss the first two games against the Royals and rejoin the club on Saturday for the third game of a four-game series.

    In Gibbons' absence, bench coach Ernie Whitt will act as manager.

    Gibbons, who has been selected to the American League coaching staff at the All-Star Game, said he would be in Pittsburgh for Tuesday's game.

    Best of luck to John and his father.