The 2015 MLB All-Star game will be played on July 14 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The exhibition game does have some meaning, controversial though it is, in that the winning league gets home field advantage in the World Series. Prior to giving this exhibition game that power, home field for the World Series was dictated by whichever team playing in the championship series had the best regular season record. The All-Star game can be a tough event to handicap. Here are a few aspects that you should consider when weighing which team has the best chance of winning this classic contest that features the best of the best in MLB.
All-Star Game Overview
Since 1995, the American League has dominated this battle. They have won 14 of those 20 games, while the senior circuit has managed just five wins. In 2002, the game ended in a controversial 7-7 tie. After that, it was decided that the game needed to have some meaning and be played to the very end. In 2003, it became the deciding factor in who would get home field in the championship series.
The game is being played in a National League park, which means there is no DH. That should give the senior circuit an advantage, but it does not. It would if they were playing a series, but this is one game and it is a showcase. In the All-Star game, unlike a regular series or playoff game, there’s an attempt by coaches to get in as many players as possible. That includes pitchers.
Thus, there’s a lot more substituting than one would normally see, and that allows managers to get designated hitters in as pinch hitters. So not having the DH has very little impact in this game, as managerial strategies are much different than they would be in a MLB series.
Pitching and the Edge
If you want to know who has the edge, then carefully review the pitching rosters. Do this as close to game time as you possibly can. Pitching is very important in this contest, as hurlers tend to have an advantage in that hitters must make major adjustments at the plate to hurlers they don’t normally face.
In evaluating the pitching, the home plate umpire will be an important part of this process. This year, 32-year veteran umpire Tim Welke will serve as crew chief and will be behind home plate. Although Welke called games in the American League for the first half of his career, for the past 15 years or so, he has officiated in both. Of the 75 full-time umpires in MLB, he has the 9th most liberal strike zone.
In calling outside strikes on LHB, he is ranked fourth, which means he renders a high percentage of possible ball calls in this region of the plate as strikes. In the same situation with RHB, he is in the top 10 of the most liberal strike callers. That means that with Welke behind the plate pitchers will be given the benefit of the doubt in this game.
Edge in Close Games
It’s interesting to note that historically over the past 20 years that the American League has the edge in close contests. Seven of their wins have been by two runs or less and four more have been by three runs. On the other hand, three of the National League’s five wins have been by four or more runs. The American league has the clear advantage in close games, while the Nationals seem to do a lot better when they can generate runs in one or two big innings.
Long Ball Hitters
Homerun hitters do not have as much of an impact as you might think. Why is this the case? There’s a thing called the homerun derby, which is played the night before. It is hugely popular, and it features some of the best long ball hitters in both leagues.
However, many players feel that the derby is very taxing, and that it not only has an effect on their performance in the game the following day, but it can have an impact on them for the rest of the season. For that reason, you will find some of the best four-bag hitters sitting out the derby.
If a team has a premium long ball guy who did not compete in the derby, then they have a bit of an advantage in the game. Not much, but they do have one, and in a close game, that can turn into a major advantage. As an example, this year Angels outfielder Mike Trout has announced that he will not compete in the derby. Teammate Albert Pujols will swing the bat instead. That will allow Trout to use his all of his muscle in the game on Tuesday.
Game Time Coming Up
As noted, the 2015 MLB All-Star game will be played on Tuesday, July 14. It will be at Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark. Starting time for the event is scheduled to star at 7:30 ET and will be broadcast on Fox.