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MLB All-Star Game skills competition proposal

Boston Red Sox' Jacoby Ellsbury reacts after colliding

Boston Red Sox' Jacoby Ellsbury reacts after colliding with Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Reid Brignac while being forced at second base during the fourth inning. (April 13, 2012) (Credit: AP)

The Mets, MLB and New York officials laid out the schedule for the 2013 All-Star week (held at Citi Field) Wednesday afternoon, which of course made us think of the game, the celebrity softball game and...the home run derby.

Home runs are just so….blah.

Mark Trumbo and Prince Fielder can hit the ball a long way. We get it. Isn’t it time for the other baseball skills to have their day during the All-Star week festivities?

If there was going to be an MLB skills competition, here’s some of the events we’d like to see featured, and some of the players we’d like to see included:

Pitching accuracy, throwing a fastball in a specific location

Description: A high-tech take on the old carnival game of throwing a beanbag through a hole. The great thing about this event is that it focuses on control, not speed – meaning pitchers wouldn’t be worried about hurting their arms trying to throw 100 mph to impress people.

How selected: The best measure we have for control is how well a pitcher commands the strike zone, namely walks and strikeouts. So we’ll go with strikeout-to-walk ratio as the indicator (all stats are as of Wednesday morning).

1. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals – 37.00 K/BB ratio
2. Bartolo Colon, Athletics – 17.00 K/BB ratio
3. Kyle Lohse, Brewers – 8.50 K/BB ratio
4. Max Scherzer, Tigers – 7.50 K/BB ratio

Range: infielders fielding ground balls

Description: A pitching machine, pointed at the ground, fires out grounders to a shortstop’s left and right, getting progressively farther and farther to the extreme edges of his range. Whoever can snag the furthest ball wins.

How selected: Fielding percentage is often inaccurate and not a good judge of a slick fielder. So we’ll go with the top players in Ultimate Zone Rating, an advanced stat that measures a player’s range on balls hit in his fielding zone.

1. Andrelton Simmons, Braves – 3.4 UZR
2. Zack Cozart, Reds – 3.3 UZR
3. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies – 3.0 UZR
4. Elvis Andrus, Rangers – 2.8 UZR

Outfielders: throwing out a runner at third

Description: The actual runner isn’t needed here. We’re just looking for quickness of release, speed of throw from the outfield and accuracy of the throw to third base.

How selected: ARM – an advanced stat that measures the amount of runs above average an outfielders saves by using their arm to prevent runners from advancing.

1. Bryce Harper, Nationals – 1.8 ARM
2. Norichika Aoki, Brewers – 1.7 ARM
3. Chris Denorfia, Padres – 1.7 ARM
4. Gerardo Parra, Diamondbacks – 1.5 ARM

Base stealers: Speedy thieving

Description: Base stealers compete for the fastest time from first to second base (slide required at the end). If you really wanted to expand this, you could also include catchers throwing down to second to try and nab them. Yadier Molina vs. Jacoby Ellsbury would be a heck of a lot more fun than watching Nick Swisher struggle to hit a home run.

How selected: Speed score, and advanced stat that measures a player’s speed and baserunning ability.

1. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox – 9.6 Speed Score
2. Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies – 8.7 Speed Score
3. Coco Crisp, Athletics – 8.7 Speed Score
4. Elvis Andrus, Rangers – 8.7 Speed Score

Batting: directional hitting

Description: Think of the NBA’s three-point contest, but for hitting. Hit a ball to right, left, center. Hit a grounder, liner, fly ball and home run. It measures a player’s bat control.

How selected: Patience is great in-game, but here we’re just looking for the top players who make contact with the ball.

1. Placido Polanco, Marlins – 96.2% contact
2. Marco Scutaro, Giants – 95.8% contact
3. Norichika Aoki, Brewers – 95.1% contact
4. Martin Prado, Diamondbacks – 94.7% contact

Tags: All-Star game

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