Steven Wright Deserves to Start the All-Star Game for the American League
The Major League Baseball All-Star Game has taken its fair share of criticism, from the laughable "this time it counts" campaign, to fans stuffing the ballot box trying to ensure that the entire roster of their favorite team is chosen (cough, Kansas City Royals fans, cough).
Letting fans control who gets selected to the game has created controversy as well, with debates over who got "snubbed" and who doesn't deserve to be there.
One player who definitely deserves to make the mid-summer classic is Steven Wright, starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox.
As a knuckleballer, Wright doesn't fit the profile of what most fans likely envision an All-Star pitcher being. However, not only does he deserve to make the roster, but he should be in the running to start the game as well.
Royals manager Ned Yost will serve the same role for the American League in the All-Star game, and the decision of who will start on the mound will be his to make. He doesn't have an easy choice on his hands, but Wright should at the very least be on his short list of guys to pick from.
Wright started on the mound on Wednesday against the Baltimore Orioles and entered the game with the lowest ERA in the American League among qualified starting pitchers. He limited the Orioles to three runs on six hits in 7 1/3 innings, with four strikeouts to one walk, slightly increasing his ERA to 2.22 which is currently second-best in the AL to Danny Salazar.
Wright got the victory -- his fifth straight win -- and moved to 8-4 on the season. As a knuckleball pitcher, he doesn’t have big strikeout numbers, but his 20.3 strikeout percentage (K%) is just slightly below the current league average of 21.1 percent.
It doesn't mean his stuff isn't nasty, though. See for yourself what he did against the O's on Wednesday.
.@Knucklepuck23 was more than all-Wright last night …https://t.co/FvRV40oKys
— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) June 16, 2016
Opponents are hitting just .203 against Wright, which is third-best in the American League. And even when hitters do make contact, the ball tends to not go very far -- his 0.40 home runs allowed per nine innings is an American League best.
Wright has a valid claim to start the All-Star Game, but lets see where he stacks up to five other American League pitchers having impressive seasons.
|Steven Wright||89 1/3||2.22||8||20.3||0.203||0.40||1.8|
|Marco Estrada||87 1/3||2.58||5||22.1||0.168||1.03||1.6|
|Jose Quintana||84 2/3||2.66||5||24.2||0.237||0.53||2.8|
|Chris Tillman||84 2/3||2.87||9||24.2||0.219||1.06||1.5|
This chart is in order based on the best ERA, led by Salazar, although he also has the fewest innings pitched of this bunch. As you can see, Wright's numbers matchup well among this group, especially in "traditional" categories like ERA and wins, things the masses look for.
He's also shown the ability to neutralize impressive offenses -- during his winning streak, he's beaten the Colorado Rockies, Orioles (twice), and Toronto Blue Jays, who rank 2nd, 5th, and 10th, respectively, in team wOBA.
There's still about a month until the All-Star game, meaning the numbers on this list are likely to change, but for the time being, Wright is more than worthy of consideration for the starting gig. And if he continues to pile up the wins and maintain a low ERA, he could even become the front runner.
If nothing else, it would be enjoyable to see him make some of the games best hitters look foolish, like he has done several times already this season.
The single most unhittable pitch I've seen all year. Not Kershaw's curve or Thor's slider. Steven Wright's knuckler. https://t.co/t6vyY1HWR1
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 30, 2016
Steven Wright made both Joe Mauer & his catcher look silly with one knuckleball https://t.co/drQH8sVnih
— The Cauldron (ICYMI) (@CauldronICYMI) June 11, 2016