Current All-Star Voting Process:
The fans vote for the starting eight position players on each All-Star team.
The players vote for eight pitchers – five starters and three relievers – and another eight position players to serve as back-ups.
The manager of each All-Star team selects 9 players to round out the roster.
The main problem with having managers and players select the All-Star roster is that players and managers often don’t understand how to properly evaluate a baseball player in terms of how good he is at his job. This probably sounds snooty coming from some 18-year-old presumably blogging from his mother’s basement, but it’s true — and it’s arguably a necessary aspect of the game. If Don Wakamatsu was telling Felix to keep his xFIP down if he wanted to make the All-Star team, Felix would certainly 1) have no clue what Wak was talking about, and 2) likely lose a bit of, yes, trust in his manager. You could make the argument that as long as baseball players were educated about the component parts of meaningful stats like FIP and wOBA, they ought to pay some attention to how successful they were, but I simply don’t believe it’s necessary to.
Here’s why: baseball players and baseball managers aren’t statisticians. It’s not their job to tally stats and crunch numbers. That’s my job. Their jobs are to make solid contact with pitches, throw out runners on defense by ranging to hard-hit balls, strike hitters out, and refrain from walking hitters. WAIT A SECOND! These skills are some of the component parts of stats like FIP, wOBA, and UZR! So, as long as baseball players know what methods they should use to be successful, they don’t need to understand sabermetrics. Because they don’t need to know how to evaluate their peers, they don’t; so why give them a say? As for managers, they probably ought to understand which statistics are meaningful and which ones aren’t, since they’re the people who fill out lineup cards and attempt to maximize their roster efficiency by determining what players are better and thus should be played more. As Henry David Thoreau would say, “the machine has friction,” which is to say that this problem is one that can easily be fixed; the fact that managers don’t really pay attention to stats like WAR and bRAA is a product of a fault in the system – not a faulty (or fundamentally broken) system.
However, I digress. The argument that I endeavor to make in this post is that people who truly understand how to evaluate baseball players should have, if not most, a much bigger say in the All-Star selection process than they currently do. People like Dave Cameron. R.J. Anderson. The entire god damn Fangraphs staff. And, again, it’s not like the American public is going to have an easy time determining people that really understand baseball. I don’t know how the selection process for those people should go. The casual fans of the world probably have no idea that ESPN analysts are dumb and Conor Glassey is a genius, so it would be difficult to stage an effective public vote. Although it’s fairly safe to say that in a country in which registered voters elect public officials to run the country for them, electing smart people to oversee the All-Star selection process might not be so poorly received.
Fans can vote for whoever they want to. It’s not the job of the fans to determine who are necessary the best baseball players; their job is to enjoy themselves. If the fans of America really like the crappy utility guy who gets his jersey dirty as he slides headfirst into first base, out by ten feet, then so be it. I can live with that. Besides, they only get to elect the starting eight position players for each team. What we really, crucially need is to limit the extent to which stupid fans can elect undeserving players to the All-Star game. In that regard, the way voting is currently set up is fine.
Then again, it’s only the All-Star game.