Originally posted on The Sports Post  |  Last updated 7/12/13
In past seasons Justin Verlander has been one of the most dominating pitchers in baseball and has been a reoccurring name at the Mid-Summer Classic. The only problem this season is that he has not been having an All-Star season, but he's still on the team.  Verlander does have 9 wins and 122 strikeouts, but he also holds a 3.71 ERA. He had showed signs of returning to form lately and had brought his ERA down from a 3.90 to a 3.54, but then he allowed 5  earned runs over 7 innings in a loss to the White Sox.  There are much more deserving players who did not make the All Star team, but Jim Leyland has decided to pick his own player instead.  When asked about the reasons for choosing Verlander over players that appeared to have better numbers Leyland made this statement: “First of all, he's one of the great pitchers in baseball, I think that's obvious, I think you take a little bit of history into consideration. You also take into consideration that he's won nine games and has a lot of strikeouts. He's also one of the faces of baseball and I think he deserves to go. When you put all of those combinations together, I think it's a no-brainer.” Yet, if taking history into account really did matter then why did Grant Balfour not make the team? Not only has he converted all 24 of his saves this season he converted 41 straights games dating back to last season, an Oakland A’s record.  And it is not like Balfour has been letting runs score either — he has a 1.72 ERA for the season. The other thing with Balfour is that he is not a typical closer because he has also been an above-average middle reliever in the past. Balfour came over from the Tampa Bay Rays after recording only 8 saves in four seasons with the team. Until 2011 Balfour had pitched in 10 major league seasons earning only 10 saves.  Then, in 2012 Balfour recorded 24 saves, a total he has already matched this season. Now, this means that Balfour would be completely comfortable entering a game in the 6th, 7th, or 8th innings of an important game because he has done it before. Not only did Balfour get snubbed for the All-Star team, he was not even put on the final vote. The five relievers chosen for the final vote are all middle relievers and, outside of the saves, Balfour’s numbers are very similar. It is not clear why Balfour was snubbed for this year’s All-Star game, but at least there is still a chance he can be added to the team. Another All-Star snub that has drawn almost no attention is Alex Cobb. Even though the Tampa Bays Rays pitcher has not pitched in major league game in almost a month after being struck by a ball behind his right ear he has still put up All-Star numbers.  Cobb, who suffered a concussion on the play, is just now beginning to throw off a mound. While there is no timetable for his return, it appears Cobb is on his way back and could be begin a rehab assignment after the All-Star break. That should not have prevented Cobb from making the 2013 AL All-Star team. If Alex Cobb would have been named to AL All-Star team he would have been the third pitcher named that was on the disabled list. No one has said that Clay Buchholz or Jesse Crain are not All-Stars, because they are, but for some reason Alex Cobb was not given the same treatment.  Yes, Buchholz’s numbers have been better than Alex Cobb’s, but Buchholz had been the most dominate pitcher in the AL until his injury. Buchholz only started twelve games while Cobb started thirteen with Buchholz pitching 84.1 innings and Cobb pitching 83.2.  While Buchholz holds the better numbers in almost every category Cobb is not far off the pace. Buchholz sports a dazzling 1.71 ERA and Cobb has a 3.01 ERA. While Buchholz has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the American League Cobb has been almost as good, especially when you look at their other numbers. Buchholz boasts an 8.64 K/9 with a 3.09 BB/9 while Cobb has an 8.18 K/9 with a 2.47 BB/9. This means Buchholz is striking out 2.79 batters for every walk he allows while Cobb is striking out 3.30 batters for every walk he allows. Both Buchholz and Cobb have done an amazing job of stranding runners this year as well with an 84.1% and 81% left on base percentage, respectively.  The biggest difference is that Cobb has allowed nine home runs this season while Buchholz has allowed only two. By keeping the ball in the yard and stranding 84.1% of base runners Buchholz has made it nearly impossible for teams to score runs, but although Cobb has not been this efficient he has not been far behind. Just because Cobb has not been better than Buchholz does not mean he should not be an All-Star. Leyland acknowledges that Verlander is not going to the All-Star game based solely on the numbers he has for this season. Instead Leyland is judging the body of work that Verlander has put together throughout his career, all spent playing under Leyland for the Tigers. Just because he is “one of the faces of baseball” should not make him an All-Star.  Leyland should petition the commissioner for an All-Decade Game if he wants to select players on their entire career. Obviously, Verlander has had better numbers in his career than Cobb, who is only in his first full season as a starter. Another strange part of this whole thing is that Verlander is scheduled to start for the Tigers on Sunday, so he will be unable to pitch in the game anyway. This all appears to be Leyland trying to satisfy his own players instead of picking the most deserving players. Players like Grant Balfour and Alex Cobb, who are having great seasons and who should have made the roster, will not play because Verlander has undeservedly taken their spot.  By: Justin Haffermehl

This article first appeared on The Sports Post and was syndicated with permission.

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