We all have certain things that we "dork out" for harder than others, whether they are TV shows, leisure time activities, video games, whatever. I think most of you know mine by now — WWE, Sopranos, Star Wars, gambling, and trivial knowledge of the names of every Playboy centerfold from 1982 through 1989. (Wait, did I SAY that last one or just THINK it?)
Within the sports realm, I am a huge dork for Major League Baseball's All-Star game, who makes it every year and the records of who's made it in past seasons. That's one of the more underrated things about the renaissance of Astros' baseball we are experiencing — the Astros are in line to have several All Stars for many, many more seasons to come!
In case you hadn't heard, the ballot for this year's game is out, and the Astros want you to go select
the most deserving players ALL Astros!
I'll say this — at least the Astros field a team now where you can reasonably ask people to go vote for MOST of their guys and still, with a straight face, say that you advocate the All-Star Game as a showcase of baseball's best and brightest stars. It was a much harder sell back in 2013, I would imagine, when the team would be tweeting out a graphic of Jose Altuve and eight guys who'd had actual minor league at-bats within the last three weeks prior to the graphic being tweeted out.
In case you're wondering, the ballot has one representative from each team at every position, with a DH added for the American League (YAY! GATTIS!). The fans pick the starters, but the process to select pitchers and reserves has changed through the years. Not that long ago, the managers of each All-Star team would select them, which is relevant since A.J. Hinch will be managing the American League team this season.
Now, it's a combination of fellow MLB players and the league office filling out the rosters, with the fans getting to pick the final player for each team. here are a few of the relevant reserve selection rules, via MLB.com:
How many spots have to be filled?
The NL has 24 spots, while the AL has 23. The difference, of course, is that fans vote in a starting designated hitter for the AL team. There are 32 total roster spots for each league, 20 position players and 12 pitchers per side.
Who picks the reserves and pitchers?
In short, it's a group effort. The player ballot, the Commissioner's Office and the fans all have a say in how the rosters rounded out. The new wrinkle this year is that the NL and AL skippers (in this case, Dave Roberts and A.J. Hinch) no longer have a say in the selections, so there won't be accusations of homerism this time around.
How many player ballot selections are there?
The ballots gathered in all 30 clubhouses shortly before the roster announcements account for 16 players in the NL and 17 in the AL — eight pitchers (five starters and three relievers), as well as one backup for each position (including DH in the AL).
How many MLB selections are there?
The Commissioner's Office is responsible for selecting seven NL players (four pitchers and three position players) and five AL players (four pitchers and one position player). At this stage, MLB must ensure that every club is represented by at least one All-Star selection.
What about the fans?
You guys aren't done yet. You'll fill 32nd and final spot on each roster via the Final Vote ballot. It will feature five position players as candidates (again, selected by MLB) from each league.
Of course, every team must have one representative in the game, although if that player is injured, they need not be replaced by a member of their MLB team. There was a time when that rule mattered for the Astros (Jason Castro, All-Star, anyone?), but those days are long gone.
So the question is "How many Houston Astros will make this season's All-Star Game?" Last year, if you recall, the Big Three — Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and George Springer — all made the starting lineup. The team also sent three pitchers to the game in Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, and Chris Devenski. Oddly enough, Keuchel and McCullers were bitten by the injury bug for a large part of the second half of the season, and it took a trade for Justin Verlander to bring the World Series ship into shore come October. Good times!
That brings us to this year's game. Let's start with fan balloting. It will be fascinating to see if the Astros' World Series run bumps up the profile of some of their upper mid-tier players like Alex Bregman. I fully expect Jose Altuve to steamroll everyone at second base in the AL (bigger question — how close does he come to being the overall votes leader?), and Carlos Correa should stand in pretty strong against Francisco Lindor and Didi Gregorious at shortstop. Also, George Springer, reigning World Series MVP and 2017 All-Star, should be in the mix to start again in the outfield. At the very least, Correa and Springer should land spots as reserves, if they're not voted in by the fans.
On the pitching staff, Verlander (7-2, 1.24 ERA) is a lock to not only make the team, but a near lock to start the game, if the calendar is friendly and he hasn't started, say, on Sunday before the All-Star Game. Gerrit Cole (6-1, 2.20 ERA) has been dominant all season, as has been Charlie Morton (7-1, 2.84 ERA) up until Sunday night's game against Boston.
As for last season's All-Star starters, Keuchel is probably screwed because of his overall record (3-7), despite an ERA (3.65) that is reparable between now and the end of June. McCullers, meanwhile, has a higher ERA than Keuchel (3.89), but a stellar 7-3 record. His numbers have largely been done in by two horrific starts. One thing all of the staff will benefit from in June is a super soft schedule. As for the bullpen, and I mean no disrespect, I think they can all probably make vacation plans for the break.
So, if the Pendergast Sports Book is placing a number on Astros in the All-Star Game, I'll go with 5.5 and put a little bit more juice on the OVER, put it at, say, -130:
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SHOW ME HOW
OVER 5.5 -130
UNDER 5.5 +110
(Plain English — if you want to bet OVER 5.5 All-Stars you'd have to risk $130 to win $100. If you want to bet the UNDER, you need only risk $100 to win $110.)
My personal prediction is the Astros will, once again,l get six All-Stars — Altuve, Correa, Springer, Verlander, Cole, and then one of either McCullers or Morton.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.