All-Star Game Ratings Prove Good Pitching is Bad for Baseball

St. Louis – July 22, 2010
By Jeremy Clements

A week ago at this time baseball fans were gearing up for the Midsummer Classic. After the ratings came in one thing became clear. The dominant pitching we saw in the first half of the season is bad for baseball. Here’s just a sample of what we saw:

  • There were 167 shut outs and 29 games with a final of 1-0 at All-Star Break, the most in over 5 years.
  • 18 pitchers who enough innings pitched to qualify for ERA title had an ERA under 3.00.
  • 23 different pitchers took no hit bids into the the 7th inning or later.
  • Home Runs per game at lowest point at the All-Star Break since 1993.
  • There have been four no hitters and two perfect games (really 3 perfect games if you count Gallaraga’s).
  • Rockies pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez had the most wins (15) at the break since David Cone in 2000.
  • Runs per game at lowest point (8.92/game) since 1992.

The most important of those stats shouldn’t be hard to pick out. Home Runs per game are at lowest point at the All-Star Break since 1993.

Toronto Blue Jays Jose Bautista led MLB in home runs at the All-Star Break.

Why is that so important? Simple. People love offense. The long ball is what people come ot the ballpark to see. They don’t come to see a 4-hit, one run game taken into the 8th inning. They want to see an offensive explosion.

Don’t believe me? Then go back to the Brewers/Pirates game earlier in the year and explain why the Pirates fans were giving Brewers players a standing ovation when they scored 20 on the Buco’s. Simple..they were having fun. They got their money’s worth and were just enjoying the offensive show.

Sluggers aren’t the most popular players for no reason. I don’t see fans in St. Louis going to Busch to buy Brendan Ryan and Skip Schumaker jerseys. They want Pujols, Holliday or Ludwick on their back. The guys that mesmerize them with their Herculean power. Not their cannon of an arm that pound the zone repeatedly with 98mph fastballs.

What does all of this have to do with the All-Star Game?

The ratings for this year’s version of the midsummer classic were the lowest they have ever been. There could be several explanations for this. The game did start later than usual (8:40pm EST), but then again it’s summer so it’s not like the kids had to be in bed early.

A different reason could just be that it’s an exhibition game. No matter how much you want to say “this one counts” at the end of the day it doesn’t. It’s just a game and you can have home field decided all you want, but it still won’t get people to watch. When you stop with the gimmicky “this one counts” stuff fans may come back because then they can just enjoy seeing their favorite players playing together for one night. I’d also argue that interleague play hurts the All-Star game but I’ll save that for later.

2008 MLB All-Star Game - Home Run Derby - Josh...
Image by Al_HikesAZ via Flickr

When the biggest story you had going into that game was Charlie Manuel choosing the starter for the NL and you were fed the stats of Ubaldo Jimenez until you were blue in the face, that isn’t going to get people excited. If you had given them huge power numbers from a home run derby that would get them to watch. I can go back to 2008 and remember after watching the gargantuan blasts hit by Josh Hamilton, I was very excited to see the All-Star game.

And we can’t forget the game itself. We didn’t see a huge offensive show. Even with guys like Ryan Howard, Evan Longoria, Alex Rodriguez and other powerful bats in the lineups we didn’t see any real scoring until the 8th. Through 7 innings the game was tied 1-1. That’s not what fans ant to see, especially in the All-Star Game.

The point of all this rambling is that even though there are some fans who are fine seeing that 4-hit, 1-1 game, the majority aren’t like that. They come to the ballpark to see the power hitters crush pitches into the bleachers. This year the pitchers have dominated and if that continues, I wonder if fans will find other things to watch on tv when the postseason rolls around.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at stlsportszone@live.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @stlsportszone and I will gladly return the favor.

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