What if the All-Star Game counted?

I know.  Allan H. “Bud” Selig says that “This time, it counts.”  And yeah, it goes to determine who gets home-field advantage in the World Series (which is a stupid idea… perhaps the actual teams playing in the World Series should have their records decide the matter?  Just a thought.)  Let’s be honest here, the All-Star Game doesn’t actually count. 
Side note: The All-Star Game does produce (or at least it used to, because they don’t show it any more) produce the most awkward 2 minutes of television of the year when MLB trotted out Avril Lavigne or Barnaked Ladies or Bryan Adams or Geddy Lee to sing “O Canada!” and the network realizes that they have nothing in particular to show during that time (Is Justin Morneau here?  The Canadian flag we dragged out of storage?  The Blue Jays’ representative who hails from the Dominican Republic?) 
Most of the players are laying off just a bit.  Why get hurt in a game that doesn’t mean anything when there are 75 more to play that do matter?  But what if the All-Star game counted?  During the World Baseball Classic a few years ago, I was desperately hoping for something like a U.S. vs. D.R. final, because it would be the closest thing we’d ever see to an All-Star game that counted.
What if the game were played though and it really actually meant something.  Would good pitching beat good hitting?  Or would good hitting take over?  Would they cancel each other out?  Everyone in the All-Star Game lineup is… well… an All-Star.  And so is everyone on the mound.  I took a look at the 2007 All-Star game and everyone who played in it (sorry Albert Pujols), and found all those situations in which, during the 2007 regular season, an All-Star hitter faced an All-Star pitcher.  (I didn’t look for times when All-Star pitchers were batting.)  There were 1317 plate appearances in 2007 where this happened.  How did they turn out?
The hitters had a batting line of .255/.321/.442.  If you projected their combined stats over 700 PA, the All-Star hitters would have 36 doubles, 3 triples, 25 HR, 147 strikeouts (21%), and 55 walks (7.4%).  Looks like good pitching takes a bite out of good hitting, although not rendering it totally impotent.
It’s mostly power hitters that go to the All-Star Game because chicks dig the long ball, and it’s mostly strikeout pitchers that pitch to them.  Power hitters usually take their share of K’s, so the high strikeout totals are expected.  That .321 OBP is ugly, although that ISO would work out to be .187 and the SLG is pretty high.  Our All-Stars aren’t getting on base much, but when they do, it’s usually for extra bases.  So, if there really were an All-Star game that counted, at least the way people have recently been voting for All-Stars, it would probably be filled with a lot of hacking and a few big flies.


6 Responses to What if the All-Star Game counted?

  1. tangotiger says:

    It looks like what you are saying is that when great hitters face great pitchers, the overall performance is league average. That is, the great hitters are dragged down as much as pitchers are dragged down. Similar results were found in The Book (tables 34-36).

  2. Pizza Cutter says:

    Well, in 2007, the NL as a whole hit .266/.334/.423 and the AL hit .271/.338/.423. Looks like the pitchers win by a little bit in OBP and lose by a bit in SLG. Whether that’s just noise or not is another issue.

  3. If great hitters vs. great pitchers produce average results, then are average results also produced when average hitters face average pitchers as well as bad hitters vs bad pitchers? As in, are the only above average results, overall, found in situations with differing quality levels between hitter and pitcher?

  4. dan says:

    What’s the league average slugging usually around?

  5. Dan, according to my updated Oddibe Awards numbers, the average SLG between 1981 and 2007 hovered between .385 and .425.

  6. tangotiger says:

    Eric: It’s all based on the Odds Ratio matchup. A .300 wOBA against a .380 wOBA, in a league of .340 wOBA, will produce a .340 wOBA (.338 is best estimate), regardless of whether it’s the pitcher or batter that is putting up the .300 and .380.
    This should apply for OBP, K/PA, and any other component measure (if you use the player’s “true talent” rates).
    Pizza’s comment that the overall production seemed to match league average, but got there is different ways bears a closer look. It could be sample size, or it could be real. The overall production, however, is what in the end counts. And so, when two of equal forces meet, one side does not get an extra benefit because he’s a pitcher or batter.

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