2008 MLB All-Star Game Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 07/14/2008
I have a saying that I generally apply to All-Star games - I am more than happy to handicap them as long as I don't have to watch them. Tuesday's Midsummer Classic at Yankee Stadium is no exception to my rule. I don't get much of a thrill from watching pitchers who are used to pitching six innings at a time trying to get through one with the least effort possible, and I prefer to see guys at least a little disappointed when they strike out. There are odds, though, and that means that this mess of an institution is worth at least a little attention.
Here's a shock - the American league is favored this year. Bodog has the AL at -145, while the National League comes in as a +125 underdog. The favoritism is to be expected. After all, the AL has won 10 of the last 11 All-Star Games (the 11th was that ridiculous tie in Milwaukee in 2002, but I'm going to pretend that that never happened). It hasn't ever been particularly close, either - the AL has won by an average of 2.6 runs per game. Things have been closer in recent years, though. The last two years the AL has squeaked through by a single run, and the year before that it was two runs.
The National League may be closing the gap, and the American League is facing a pretty daunting price for an exhibition game, but I just don't see how you can pick against the American League here. Sure, the National League has more power, and they have some real studs throughout their lineup. I just don't think that it is enough for them to overcome the NL. There are at least three good reasons for that:
History - More so than most situations, what has happened in the past doesn't mean a lot here. Rosters are different every year, and so is the setting and the coaching staff, so every game is essentially a completely unique event. That being said, it's hard to ignore the winning streak the American League is on. I'm not saying that the American League will win because they always win. What I am saying, though, is that the stunning dominance of the American League is a sign of what we pretty much know - the American League is just better right now. Until the National League gives us a reason to believe that they have altered the balance of power then it doesn't make a lot of sense to assume it has changed.
The rosters - The eight NL starters have played in a combined 25 all-star games. The AL starters have already played in 51. That depth of experience alone gives the AL a big edge. Another big edge the AL has is the makeup of the pitching staffs. Because pitchers aren't going to get to pitch for long then pitchers who are used to coming in and being at their best on short notice will be at an advantage. The American League has just six starters on their roster. They also have the five leading pitchers in the league by saves playing for them, and you can throw in Mariano Rivera, playing at home, as well. As long as the starters can get them to the fourth inning the AL should be able to shut the NL bats down. The National League, on the other hand, is way more tipped towards starters. They have eight starters, and two of the top 10 in saves for the league, Jose Valverde and Kerry Wood, will not be playing.
Interleague Play - It's not perfect, but the best way we have to see how the two leagues stack up this year is Interleague Play. It won't tell us how these rosters match up, but it will tell us how the leagues compare in general, and it does it over a large sample size. The news isn't good for the NL. In fact, it's bleak. The National League had three teams with winning records in Interleague Play this year. The American league had 11, and a 12th, Seattle, finished at .500. That means that there were only two AL teams - Cleveland and Toronto - who weren't better than the National League teams they faced, while 13 of the 16 NL teams couldn't stack up. There are probably ways you could try to spin this one if you are a fan of the NL, but the fact remains that this is pretty dominant, and the AL has a very obvious edge.
That's how it all boils down. The National League certainly could win this game, but I don't think that there is enough likelihood of that to justify the +125 price. That makes the American League the play.