Fan voting for the Major League Baseball All-Star Game has been an off and on tradition since 1933.
For most of baseball’s history, fan voting has been the standard. The exceptions to this being manager-selected squads from 1935 to 1946, and a temporary halt to fan voting after ballot box stuffing in Cincinnati. Nonetheless, fan voting is what baseball fans are used to when it comes to selecting All-Stars for the MLB’s midseason exhibition game.
However, there are many in the baseball community that want to rid of it. Some say it is not fair to smaller teams. Others say it is just a popularity contest. Even more claim that better teams have a voting advantage.
If baseball truly wants to award those who are the game’s stars, they need to move to a more standard approach to choosing All-Stars.
Problems with fan voting
There are a number of problems when it comes to baseball’s fans choosing who starts for each league in the MLB All-Star Game. All of which combine to often give a false representation of baseball’s elite.
The first deals with market size. Naturally, teams in New York, Los Angeles or Chicago are going to have more fans than Tampa Bay or Oakland. A decent player for the Yankees is going to be selected nine times out of 10 over a star on the Padres.
Differences in fanbases and market sizes pave the way for big city teams to naturally be favored in All-Star Game voting.
Team success is crucial to fans for All-Star voting, whether they realize it or not.
The popularity of teams is highly dependent on media coverage. Who is the media going to cover? Successful teams and big market teams.
Small market teams who are at the bottom of their division, such as Cincinnati and San Diego, get relatively no coverage in the national media. Thus, their star players are not going to get the coverage that lesser players on better teams will.
Voting starts too early
Nowadays, voting for the All-Star Game starts nearly two months before the actual game. A lot can happen in two months, but fan voting does not take that into account. A player who is hot in the first month of the season may get all of the votes when voting starts in May. Yet, Player B that has put together a much more impressive resumé through June may not be able to catch up. This is a flaw in the system that puts players’ ASG fates on the line in April.
2018 fan voting
Here are the latest American League and National League balloting totals for the 2018 @AllStarGame with less than four full days of voting left for the @CampingWorld All-Star Ballot. Visit https://t.co/Jd6REEkFYI to vote. #MLBVote pic.twitter.com/xQMrIIUtVr
— MLB Communications (@MLB_PR) July 2, 2018
The tweet linked above is Monday’s update to the MLB All-Star Game fan voting.
National League outfield situation
Lorenzo Cain and Brandon Nimmo lead all National League outfielders in WAR. Cain is 12th in voting, and Nimmo fails to make the top 15.
Nimmo, who suffers from early voting, leads NL outfielders in wOBA and wRC+. Lorenzo Cain leads in on-base percentage, WAR and defensive rating. Both should be All-Star Game starters; both have a good chance of missing the game altogether.
Bryce Harper makes an excellent example of player popularity among voters. Among NL outfielders, Harper is 16th in WAR, 11th in wRC+, 30th in batting average and 21st in strikeout percentage. He is also in a position to be a starter for the All-Star Game.
J.T. Realmuto having an All-Star season
J.T. Realmuto is currently fifth in fan voting for the National League catcher position. Realmuto sits behind Posey, Contreras, Suzuki and Molina. Just looking at the names, that is an impressive list of players in the top four.
Statistically, Realmuto is severely underrated. His NL catcher leading WAR (3.2) is significantly higher than both Posey (1.7) and Contreras (2.2). Realmuto is the only NL catcher with a batting average higher than .300. He also leads in slugging percentage, wOBA and wRC+.
Realmuto has the stats to be the clear favorite at catcher for the National League, but a 500,000+ vote deficit in the last week of voting says otherwise.
Voting is not kind to the Cincinnati Reds
Let’s start with Scooter Gennett. Gennett leads the entire National League in batting average. At second base, he is ahead of Albies in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, wOBA (first), wRC+ (first), and WAR (first). Yet, Albies will likely win the fan vote and the starting spot.
Eugenio Suarez is next on the list of Reds players with All-Star voting woes. Now, I am not going to try and tell you that Suarez is the clear choice over Nolan Arenado. But, fourth? Among qualified NL third basemen, Suarez is first in batting average, second in OBP, second in slugging, second in wOBA, first in wRC+ and second in WAR.
Kris Bryant is fifth, third, fifth, fourth, fifth and fifth. However, Bryant does lead Suarez in market size and the NL Central standings. Kris Bryant is an elite player, don’t get me wrong. But, this is a great example of how smaller market players do not get the publicity they should among fans.
Is it worth fixing?
This is the key question when it comes to talking about fan voting for the All-Star Game. Is it worth changing? A new system would have to be put in place, but what would it be? Would you let the managers pick the team? How about writers or analysts? Is it worth taking away the certain amount of involvement in the process for fans? Whatever the decision be, it would be a positive step for Major League Baseball if analytics began to play a larger role in the selection of All-Stars.