As we enter the All-Star break, I thought it would be fun to review past Brewer performances in the All-Star Game and rank them by WPA. Unfortunately, and I’m sure this comes as a surprise to you all, but even though This Time It Counts, there is not a meticulous database of every All-Star game performances with the corresponding WPA data! So while I will do my best to adhere to WPA, some of the below will be based on feel and not advanced stats.
2011 Prince Fielder (+.230 WPA): 1-for-2, HR, 3 RBI, R
Of course, the lone Brewer All-Star MVP is tops on the list. Prince Fielder’s last season in Milwaukee was monstrous. He was in the midst of a 5.5 WARP campaign and en route to a Top-3 finish in the NL MVP voting. He was selected to start the game ahead of Joey Votto and, uh, Gaby Sanchez.
Fielder lined out in his first at-bat against American League starter Jered Weaver. He earned his ASG MVP award in the fourth inning with his homer off southpaw C.J. Wilson. Carlos Beltran and Matt Kemp hit singles before Fielder’s home run, which put the National League up 3-1. It was the top play of the game according to WPA, worth +.250 on its own. C.J. Wilson was tough that year on lefties, making Fielder’s homerun even more impressive. Wilson allowed only two regular season home runs to left-handed batters and limited their slugging percentage to a measly .335.
Also noteworthy: This was the first home run by a Brewer in an All-Star Game.
2014 Jonathan Lucroy (??? WPA): 2-for-2, 2 2B, 2 RBI
I was disappointed WPA information for the 2014 game wasn’t logged, because Lucroy had a strong game and it’d be great to determine how it measured against Fielder’s MVP. In his 3.5 innings of work, Lucroy collected a double in both of his at-bats, driving in a run with each hit. The runs scored on his doubles represented the second and third runs of the game for the NL after the AL scored three in the first inning; thus, via Win Probability Added, it should have been an impressive showing.
2012 Ryan Braun (??? WPA): 2-for-3, 2B, 3B, RBI, R
This would have been another interesting game for a WPA measure. Ryan Braun served as the catalyst for the rout with his double off Justin Verlander in the first inning. Melky Cabrera, then with the San Francisco Giants, scored the first of five runs in that inning. It was shocking to see Verlander — who was in the middle of his second-consecutive Cy Young season — get torched to start the game. To bring us back to WPA, while Sandoval’s triple broke the game open and made it 5-0, one assumes that Braun’s hit would have scored high as well.
For the rest of the game, Braun recorded another hit via a triple in the fourth inning off lefty Matt Harrison. However, it came with two outs and the bases empty, and the NL already had an 8-0 lead, so it likely wouldn’t have moved the WPA needle much in a positive direction. The rest of Braun’s positive contributions came from some catches in left field, which likely had a small, but positive effect on his WPA.
1986 Teddy Higuera (+.189 WPA): 1.3 RE24, 3.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K
Finally a pitcher! As All-Star Game managers have continued to rely on pitchers for one inning at maximum, the opportunities for hurlers to have an outsized and positive impact on the game is pretty much nil. Not enough time exists to accumulate much in terms of WPA, and if they allow a couple runs, they won’t get another inning to balance out their poor showing.
Teddy Higuera pitched in an era in which managers employed strategies meant to maximize their chances of winning, rather than emptying their benches so everyone got a chance to play. While Roger Clemens started the game and earned MVP honors for three perfect innings of work, Higuera actually earned slightly more WPA, as Clemens finished the game with only a +.149 Win Probability Added.
Higuera was in the middle of his best season as a professional. He would go on to place second in the Cy Young voting (Roger Clemens bested him again) and finished the season with +5.7 WARP. During the game, Higuera struck out Tony Gwynn (true story) and Ryne Sandberg, maintaining the AL’s 2-0 lead. He got into some trouble in the fifth, surrendering a single to Darryl Strawberry and a walk to slugger Mike Schmidt, but he wiggled his way out of the inning.
1978 Lary Sorensen (+.184 WPA): 1.2 RE24, 3.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K
Once again, a pitcher provided solid value when given a chance to shine. Sorensen started his appearance by allowing Larry Bowa to hit a single. Then, he retired the next nine batters he faced. Somehow, the right-hander made it through his three innings without recording a strikeout, which is borderline unfathomable in 2015. What odds would you need to bet on a team making it through three innings on Tuesday without striking out? The answer, of course, is none, unless you enjoy giving away your money.
Then again, it was a different time, and Sorensen was not a strikeout pitcher. During his four years in Milwaukee, Sorensen’s highest K/9 was 3.60, which came during his rookie season in 1977. It was at 2.50 in 1978, much lower than the American League average of 4.50.
Worst Performance in an All-Star Game
Rollie Fingers (-.545 WPA): -2.2 RE24, 0.1 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 0 K
As mentioned above, it’s difficult for a pitcher to have a large, positive impact on the All-Star Game. However, across all All-Star Game eras, it’s quite easy for pitchers to record a terrible WPA. Blowing saves represents an easy way to do so.
Rollie Fingers’ first year in Milwaukee, 1981, was magical. He became the first relief pitcher to win both the Cy Young and MVP awards in the same season — however dubious those awards may have been — and the Brewers made their first playoff appearance that year. The All-Star Game was a blemish on that season. Called upon to start the eighth inning for the American League, Fingers faced five batters and the only out recorded came via a base running miscue by Ozzie Smith. He gave up a two-run homer to Mike Schmidt and another single before being replaced by Dave Stieb. The homerun put the National League ahead 5-4, which was the final score.
Can we expect either Francisco Rodriguez or Ryan Braun (!) to crack this list after Tuesday? Let’s hope Rodriguez doesn’t, since reliever usage patterns would likely mean he blew the game. Braun may have a chance for a positive impact, though. If the game stays close as the benches empty, Braun could have a chance to deliver a big hit, which could prove to be the difference in the game.