At first glance, you’d think that Steve Delabar‘s candidacy to represent the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2013 All-Star game through the Final Vote comes down to one thing: the strikeouts.
That’d be fair. After all, the 12.83 K/9 is a flashy number that’s difficult to ignore, and the right-hander does lead all of his rivals on the ballot in that category. What it also does, on the other hand, is take away attention from the actual thing that sets Delabar apart and the reason why he should be joining the AL bullpen in a week.
See, while it’s certainly the case that the bluebirds reliever can set them down with strike three with the best of them, it’s not as though folks like Koji Uehara (12.78 K/9), David Robertson (11.39) and Joaquin Benoit (11.39) are slouches at it either.
What they can’t do as well, however, is keeping the ball in the park.
Sure, an out is like another other out, and you can make a good case that the AL All-Stars might be better off not having someone who walks batters at a 4.95 BB/9 rate like Delabar, especially when some of his counterparts can do the same without exhibiting so much generosity.
The fact, however, is that no hitter is unhittable, and when Delabar does get hit, it generally results in less damage because of his ability to keep the ball in the park. In fact, his 0.23 HR/9 is the reason why he owns a 1.58 ERA that ranked third in the AL heading into play on Tuesday, and why he’s a a better option compared to his fellow AL relievers.
Considering that the Final Vote candidates were not part of the initial All-Star roster, it’s likely that any situation which might call for the final bullpen arm during the All-Star game won’t be a clean start of an inning.
If it does happen to be the case that one of Delabar, Robertson (0.74 HR/9) , Uehera (1.21) , Tanner Scheppers (0.84), or Benoit (0.50) were to be called for a situational out with men on base, wouldn’t the team want the arm who can only not get the K, but also minimize the damage if he does get hit?
It might seem like a minimal risk to consider, but when the situation and samples are reduced to getting one or two key outs, not giving up the long ball is one trait that could be game-changing — and simply put, few in the AL do it as well as Delabar.