Voting for the starters of the 2016 Major League Baseball All-Star Game ends tomorrow, and if current results hold, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina will start the game behind the plate for the National League.
It is hard statistically to argue that Molina "should" be the starter. Heading into Tuesday's games, he ranked 12th among NL catchers in Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement and 10th by Baseball Reference WAR. For reference, his recently designated for assignment backup Eric Fryer led him in each as recently as Sunday.
There is perpetually a somewhat fair if occasionally exaggerated argument that Molina's true value is neglected by WAR metrics because he benefits his team in intangible ways, like handling a pitching staff. Though in the context of the All-Star Game, this is less relevant than over the course of a season: the time during which a catcher is able to leave an imprint on pitchers for the Midsummer Classic is negligible.
And while Yadier Molina is fairly unlikely to catch a Cardinals pitcher (particularly if he starts the All-Star Game; Seung-Hwan Oh is a legitimate candidate for the game but as a reliever, he would not likely pitch in the early innings), Giants catcher Buster Posey, who is 2nd behind Molina in voting, may have a chance to catch for two of his starting pitchers: Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto.
But "should" and "deserve" have nothing to do with it. And you should feel no guilt about being a homer and voting for Yadier Molina.
Tying home field advantage in the World Series to the result of the All-Star Game has given a heightened sense of importance and magnitude to the game, and while by definition the All-Star Game isn't truly an inconsequential exhibition anymore, this isn't that far removed from the truth.
Home teams in baseball tend to win somewhere between 52-53% of games, though intuitively, home field advantage matters more in interleague games, since the presence of a DH forces NL teams to play a typical bench player and the lack of a DH forces AL teams to bench a typical starter. But even when limiting it to games in Interleague Play since its creation in 1997 through the end of last season, home teams have only won 55.1% of games.
In a seven game series, assuming the two teams are equal, the odds that a home team will win all seven games in a World Series are 1.54%. There was recency bias in 2003 when the home-field advantage rule was implemented, as all seven World Series games were won by the home team in 2001 and five of seven were won by the home team in 2002, but the former has yet to be duplicated in the ensuing years and the latter was duplicated only once (in 2011, when the Cardinals won a World Series in which the home team won 5 of 7 games). In the only other seven-game World Series since 2002, the road team won Game 7, in 2014.
And this is just to demonstrate how little Yadier Molina over Buster Posey (or Jonathan Lucroy, or Wilson Ramos, or whomever) matters if you assume that playing Molina will be the difference between winning and losing. In reality, the gap between Molina and whomever you may deem the best option at catcher is much smaller.
In its updated season projections, ZiPS estimates Posey as 3.3 wins more valuable than Yadier Molina over a full season. This is not an immaterial gap, but it is also very unlikely to manifest itself over the course of one game. And since the starting catcher will likely only play 5 or 6 innings, it's essentially a difference of around 2 wins. And that's not even considering that if Buster Posey doesn't start, he would likely serve as a backup, and thus improve the marginal WAR provided during the later innings. And if Molina starts and comes to the plate in, like, the fifth inning in a high-leverage situation, Terry Collins would likely elect to pinch hit anyway.
Oh, and there's also the part where even if it impacts who gets home-field advantage in the World Series, the odds that said team is the Cardinals are relatively low. It is far more likely that the team whose World Series home-field advantage is being jeopardized is the Chicago Cubs.
Basically, it doesn't matter. You should vote for whatever you want to see happen. And if that thing is for Buster Posey to start, that's fine. He's an objectively likable player who is aesthetically pleasing to watch and he is great at what he does. In fact, if memory serves me correctly (I might be wrong; I generally don't care about these things), I believe I voted for Buster Posey for last year's Fall Classic. Whatever, boo, hiss, revoke my Cardinals Fan card.
I mostly want to annoy Best Fans St. Louis
Some of you may be familiar with the notorious Twitter account, which once focused on shaming genuinely terrible people who would spew racist and homophobic hate speech while carelessly posting threats of violence towards baseball players who did baseball things they did not like. Now, however, it focuses primarily on things like chastising baseball fans for openly showing great affection for its historically significant 13-year veteran catcher.
And for spearheading "grassroots" movements to convince fans to vote for Buster Posey over Yadier Molina.
There's a lot going on in this image, and I find it is better submitted without comment. But the account is encouraging its over 32,000 followers, which include several high-profile media personalities, to vote for Buster Posey with a full-fledged campaign, placed prominently in front of an American flag while Yadier Molina is...not.
As though any of this matters. As though Cubs shortstop Addison Russell, himself a perfectly likable young player with worlds of potential, is leading voting at NL Shortstop over the more productive Corey Seager or the more accomplished Brandon Crawford for any reason other than Cubs fans turned out in droves to vote for Russell, just as Cardinals fans have turned out in droves to vote for Molina.
Here is my NL ballot:
Hey, look at that! Two Cubs and two Nationals. This is a good and impartial ballot. I considered Matt Carpenter but ultimately want to see him play second base, so decided against it. And for the sake of clarity, here are my AL All-Stars, the team that will be fielded with a chance to deprive the St. Louis Cardinals of home field advantage in the World Series.
This roster is a reflection of just how sacred your responsibility as an All-Star Game voter is. Which is to say, it isn't. Do whatever you feel like. And if somebody says that you do not have the right to be an unabashed homer, you can do this.