As fans vote for the final spot on the 2007 All Star teams, Hideki Okajima of the Boston Red Sox deserves to go. Yes, I am biased, because I am a Red Sox fan, but just look at the stats and you will realize I am right. It is hard to compare relief pitchers to starting pitchers so I will begin by looking at Okajima in comparison with the other relief pitcher on the ballot, Pat Neshek. Neshek has one more win the Okajima, but Okajima’s ERA is nearly 50 points better than Neshek. Both have one blown save, but Okajima has four saves while Neshek has none. Neshek has also allowed four home runs to just 1 by Okajima. Though Neshek has more strikeouts the Okajima, their strikeout-to-walk ratio are very similar. For a relief pitcher that is not a closer, the most crucial category is Holds in which Okajima comes out on top 13-8. I can continue with their stats, but in nearly everyone they are the same. The only difference between them is the ERA, making Okajima the better selection.
On to starting pitchers: Roy Halladay’s 4.27 ERA and low strikeout total for a starting pitcher at only 60 combined with a 1.24 WHIP and a .306 OBA should rule out Halladay. Next there is Jeremy Bonderman who also has a high WHIP at 1.18 and high OBA at .289 compared with Okajima’s .78 and .212 respectively. Bonderman’s 3.58 ERA and 9-1 record are a testament to his great year, and how much he helped his team. Okajima is in the top 15 in Holds on the season and that shows the impact he has had on the Red Sox. With each player both having a huge impact on their teams, the stats neutralize each other and we must rely on other statistics to determine the true All Star. With a significantly lower ERA, WHIP, and OBA, Okajima has the better “other” statistics. Last person on the ballot is Kelvim Escobar of the Los Angeles Angels. Escobar has the best ERA out of the starting pitchers, but continues the trend of high WHIP and OBA. His 9-3 record give him and advantage over Okajima, but, just like with Bonderman, Okajima’s 13 holds neutralize the advantage. The deciding statistic in this comparison is strikeouts to walks ratio (K/BB). Okajima has a 3.7 K/BB ratio, nearly a full point better of Bonderman’s at 2.86. This final statistic gives Okajima the right to go to San Francisco. The players (with the exception of Halladay) all make huge impacts on their teams, so deciding the All Star amongst them comes down to the smallest statistics. That is what makes the difference.
On a side note, Okajima’s Japanese counterpart Daisuke Matsuzaka had a rough start to the season, but has turned it around beautifully, lowering his ERA to 3.53 and racking up a 10-5 record. He has the fourth most strikeouts in Major League Baseball. He has had control problems this year, and that is probably the reason he does not deserve to be an All Star, but he does deserve some recognition. People expected a lot from him, and he did not deliver in the first few months of the season, but the last month he has.