There has been an increasing movement on social media to urge Jim Leyland to select famed Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera as the starter for this summer's All-Star Game. Most of the push is coming from Yankees supporters in the gargantuan New York media market.
Make no mistake, Rivera deserves to be in the All-Star Game. He has 16 saves in 16 opportunities, giving up only 3 runs in 18 frames of work.
However, I think starting him is a bad idea, for several reasons that amount to jeopardizing home-field advantage for the Yankees or another AL team this October.
The first is that Mariano Rivera is a closer, not a starter. As a starter, Rivera has a calamitous 5.94 ERA, surrendering a gosh-awful .852 OPS. Not exactly the type of numbers you want for your All-Star starter.
Yes, those numbers came in 1995, and Rivera hasn’t started a game since then. Not starting a game in well over a decade, particularly when there are people who have started many games effectively since then, seems to be another strike against a Rivera start.
Mariano Rivera is largely a one-inning, one-pitch man; his last appearance of more than three outs came back in 2011. Starters in the All-Star Game nearly always pitch a second inning.
Also, there is the fact that there are deserving starting pitchers. Felix Hernandez, with 8 quality starts and a 5-2 record, is the first name that comes to mind. Hernandez has a sub-1.00 WHIP, and has allowed 11 runs in 64-and-two-thirds frames, during which he has amassed 64 strikeouts.
King Felix's WAR (at least according to ESPN) is a full 2 wins better than Mo's. Felix also has a broader arsenal of pitches than Mo.
Clay Buchholz and Chris Sale also make much stronger cases for the starter’s helm in the Midsummer Classic than Rivera does. Even relievers Casey Janssen and Tom Wilhelmsen have better WAR and better ERA numbers than Rivera.
A much more symbolic gesture would be to bring Rivera in in the bottom of the ninth (and, yes, will be the bottom of the ninth, as the game is in an NL park), and him retire a side of batters, much as he has been doing for the past two decade.
Bottom line: Rivera is probably the greatest active pitcher, but by no stretch of the imagination is he the greatest active starter.