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And the Winner Should Be...

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So let's say you're a Phillies phan who needs a more compelling reason to watch this year's All-Star game than Fox Sports' marketing ploy of determining which league's representative in the World Series will host Game 7. It's also not enough for you that Bobby Abreu, on his way to becoming the second greatest Phillies hitter of all time, will finally get to start an All-Star game. Nope, the more players that get to represent that 42-41 juggernaut that is YOUR 2005 Phillies, the better it is for you.

The good news is that both Brett Myers and Billy Wagner have been placed on the National League's five-man ballot to determine who will be the 32nd player elected to the All-Star game. The bad news is that the two Phils could end up splitting the vote as phans, who turned to their computers in droves last year to push Abreu into the final spot, divide their loyalties  between the two players. Your concern is probably valid: last year Frank Thomas and Paul Konerko of the White Sox finished 2nd and 3rd behind Hideki Matsui in the race to determine the American League's 32nd man. So, let's determine which player a Phillies phan should support.

Of course, choosing your All Star ballot involves striking a delicate balance between a player's career performance and his performance this year. If your emphasis is on lifetime achievement, Billy Wagner pretty clearly has Brett Myers beat. Wagner has pitched 590 innings in his career over the last 10 years and has a 2.52 ERA and 266 saves (of course, as a discerning reader, you don't care about this meaningless counting stat). He's also struck out a whopping 790 guys (12.05 per 9) over those 590 innings. Myers, on the other hand, has pitched 550 innings over what amounts to 3 full seasons and has both a much higher ERA (4.51) and a much lower strikeout rate (6.58 per 9 innings).

When you compare them to their peers, it's easy to see Wagner's career value. Going back to 1997, Wagner finished in the Top 25 of Relievers Expected Wins Added (WXRL) as measured by Baseball Prospectus, every year except 2000 when he only pitched in 27 games due to injury. Prior to this year, Myers best showing among starters in Baseball Prospectus' Support-Neutral Lineup-Adjust Value Added Rate(SNLVAR) statistic was in 2003 when he finished 73rd.

This year is a different story as Wagner is a very respectable 36th in WXRL while Myers is an outstanding 13th in SNLVAR. Myers is definitely having the better 2005, but given Wagner is still pitching well above average and has had the far superior career, Wagner wins on performance.

What about the intangibles that matter so much to loyal Phillies phans? Well, neither guy is particularly easy to like. Personally, I live in constant fear that Myers will finally succeed in "Sticking it up my ass" and, as Joe Kerrigan could tell you, Brett has had problems getting along with coaches. Many fans find Wagner's outspoken behavior endearing. I find it incredibly annoying and not very successful in accomplishing anything beyond allowing Billy Wagner to hear Billy Wagner's voice.

Strategically, another All-Star appearance for Billy Wagner (he's had three already) probably won't do much to raise his trade value should the Phillies fall out of contention. However, preventing Myers from being an All-Star could have two positive effects: motivation and salary depression. Myers seems to operate on a "Me against the World" plane and the slight he might feel from missing the All-Star game could serve to raise his game even higher. Also, having one less All-Star appearance on his resume could help depress his value in arbitration at the end of this year and also on the free agent market when the time comes.

So, for those of us determined to see another Phillie on the All-Star team, the choice is clear - vote Billy Wagner in 2005. For the rest of us... well, we'll be voting for Roy Oswalt.