Matt Cain, Not R.A. Dickey, To Start All-Star Game

By Matt Musico

Well, the San Francisco Giants have struck again. An official announcement will be coming this afternoon around 1:30pm, but John Harper of the New York Daily News tweeted that Tony LaRussa has selected San Francisco starter Matt Cain to start the All-Star game for the National League, meaning that R.A. Dickey will be coming in at some point in relief. Although it was mind boggling, it was understandable that David Wright lost his starting spot at third base to Pablo Sandoval in the fan voting, but with the way LaRussa has been making public comments during his decision on who will start the game, it sounds like he’s made this decision for the wrong reasons.

The All-Star game does hold some weight; with home field advantage in the World Series at stake, it gives players (especially those currently contending for a playoff spot) some extra incentive to put all their effort possible in the game. Buster Posey was voted in as the NL’s starting catcher, and it does make sense to have someone familiar on the mound, at least to start off the game. Also, it’s not as if Matt Cain has been a slouch this season. He threw the first perfect game in Giants history this year, and added 14 strikeouts to his performance, prompting Tim Kurkjian to say that it was one of the best pitching performances of all time. Cain has put together a 9-3 record to go along with his sparkling 2.62 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and 118 strikeouts. He’s definitely worthy of starting the All-Star game this year, but R.A. Dickey has a case to be disappointed.

If he pitched better in his final start of the first half against the Phillies (7 IP, 11 hits, 5 runs), would he be starting the mid-summer classic in Kansas City tomorrow? Possibly, but with all the talk of LaRussa being worried about Posey and/or Carlos Ruiz catching the Dickey’s knuckleball, I think his uniqueness as a pitcher cost him the opportunity to start the game. If you look at the statistics, the Mets’ starter beats out Cain in each of the following categories; he has more wins (12), less losses (1), a lower ERA (2.40), a lower WHIP (0.93), and more strikeouts (123).

It’s inevitable that some of the most deserving and best performing players from any particular year won’t be starting the All-Star game when fans vote, but one would expect someone like Tony LaRussa to make that kind of decision correctly. The concern about Posey not being familiar with catching the knuckleball is legitimate, but that shouldn’t have been the driving force in picking Cain over Dickey. At the end of the day, Buster Posey should be able to make it work for a couple of innings…he is an All-Star catcher after all. If I’m doing my math right here, Dickey is going to be in the game at some point, which means either Posey or Ruiz is going to have to catch him anyway, so why not let him start? He obviously deserves it.

Would Dickey have been starting the All-Star game if he wasn’t a knuckleballer and had those same stats? You bet he would, but that’s neither here nor there at this point. Although the competitor in him is disappointed that he wasn’t given that honor, we all know that he will be enjoying his first experience as an All-Star as a 37-year-old. It’s just unfortunate that the best NL pitcher in the first half won’t be starting the All-Star game. For Mets fans, the Giants strike again….shucks.