Every year we have the same debate about who should toe the rubber for the All-Star Game. Oftentimes, the key arguments are who is more deserving versus who is the best face to take the mound currently in the game. This year there are a number of different ways the All-Star managers could turn to as we near first pitch at Dodger Stadium.
In the American League, the race for the starter is not terribly challenging to figure out. While Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Alek Manoah, and 2021 starter Shohei Ohtani are all great candidates, Shane McClanahan stands alone as the best candidate to start for the American League.
McClanahan has been nothing short of devastating for hitters to face in 2022. He has posted an elite 1.71 ERA and miniscule 0.795 WHIP, to go with 147 strikeouts in 110 ⅔ innings to close out the first half of the season.
The young left-hander’s overall body of work has been good enough to argue he deserves the start. Not to mention, he lines up perfectly to pitch in the game, with his last start on July 13th and the game set for July 19th.
Meanwhile, All-Star Manager and Astros Manager Dusty Baker said Verlander is unlikely to pitch in the game. Gerrit Cole will not pitch with his final start of the first half of the season set for the 17th.
Alek Manoah would have to pitch on four games rest following his start on the 15th. With the process of elimination, Ohtani would be the best competition for McClanahan who also lines up perfectly with his most recent start Wednesday. Between the two, McClanahan has logged more innings, a better record, more strikeouts, more quality starts, and a better ERA and WHIP than Ohtani. This selection shouldn’t be difficult.
In the National League, the debate is more difficult to break down. Tony Gonsolin and Clayton Kershaw are both worthy of starting the game and are both part of the hosting team in Los Angeles. However, an argument can be made for Sandy Alcantara, Corbin Burnes, and Joe Musgrove to start the game as well.
Statistically, Gonsolin and Kershaw have logged less innings than the other starters in the conversation. Still, the lure of having a Los Angeles starter pitching in the All-Star Game is certainly one that would appeal to the fanbase. Gonsolin features a perfect 11-0 record to go with an elite 2.02 ERA and 0.843 WHIP, striking out 86 hitters in 93 ⅔ innings.
Meanwhile, Kershaw is set to start July 15th and, considering his health this season, may decide to play it safe and sit out the game instead of pitching on short rest.
Sandy Alcantara has posted the most impressive resume of the rest of the group statistically, featuring a 1.73 ERA and 0.91 WHIP, along with 130 ⅓ innings while striking out 111 hitters. His final start is the 15th as well, however, Alcantara is a horse and would most likely be okay with pitching an inning on short rest.
Burnes lines up perfectly with his final start Thursday, posting a 2.20 ERA and 0.89 WHIP in 106 ⅓ innings, while striking out 134 hitters. Joe Musgrove also lines up perfectly with his final start Wednesday, as he has featured a 2.42 ERA and 0.971 WHIP, striking out 102 in 104 innings.
While all of the National League candidates have an argument, I do believe the pull of LA may play a key role in the decision making. Dave Roberts has been named an assistant manager to Brian Snitker and should have some pull in the matter.
While it would be cool to have Kershaw start his first All-Star Game, he doesn’t necessarily have the full body of work the other pitchers have. When you consider the full body of work from the other starters, it is razor thin.
Prior to his final start of the first half on Wednesday night, there was a strong argument to be made that Tony Gonsolin should have received the nod. The fact that Gonsolin had the best record, ERA, and WHIP would have been enough of an argument to put a hometown All-Star in front of the Los Angeles fans.
That all changed though last night, when Gonsolin gave up five earned runs across five innings pitched against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Dodgers scored seven runs to get Gonsolin off the hook in the later innings, preserving his perfect record, but suddenly his stats really don’t stack up to the current Cy Young front-runner Sandy Alcantara.
Gonsolin now trails Alcantara with his 2.02 ERA and 3.39 FIP (Alcantara has a 2.83 FIP). When you factor in the fact that Sandy has now pitched to a better ERA in nearly 40 additional innings of work, it is going to be hard to deny him the ball to start the All-Star Game.
Alcantara still has one more start though to secure his place as the All-Star starter, as he takes the ball today against the Philadelphia Phillies. If Alcantara struggles, maybe the conversation will once again be re-opened for Gonsolin to make the start in front of the home fans.