Rethinking Baseball's All-Star Voting

Atlanta slugger Ronald Acuna, Jr. got more votes than any National Leaguer during last year's balloting for the All-Star Game.Photo byDan Schlossberg, IBWAA

By Daniel R. Epstein

MLB All-Star voting has already begun and the IBWAA’s own All-Star voting commences this coming week.

By definition, IBWAA members love baseball enough to write about the sport or create multimedia content covering it, so we should have an insightful perspective on who are the best players through the first half of the season. 

Of course, our members could already vote for All-Stars by filling out an official MLB All-Star ballot, but so can everyone else in the world. There are millions of ballots cast each year, with many people voting dozens of times.

As of today, there are 806 IBWAA members, so in a members-only election, each ballot is more meaningful. Besides, voting is fun! More opportunities to vote are always welcome, which is why we also do end-of-season awards, Hall of Fame, and preseason prediction balloting.

Fans first voted for All-Stars in 1946, lost the right to vote in 1957, then got it back in 1970. There haven’t been many changes to the election process in all those years. We still can’t even vote for pitchers!

When the IBWAA started its own All-Star voting in 2021, we re-imagined what it should look like. We tried to mirror MLB’s voting where possible, but we wanted to modernize the ballot and give our members an opportunity to put their baseball knowledge to good use.

Here are the rules for the IBWAA All-Star election, some of which will look familiar while others are different:

  • Voters choose the pitchers. The IBWAA ballot includes a section for pitchers from each league. Each voter chooses 12 pitchers per league: six starters, two relievers, and four at-large regardless of their role—starters, closers, long relievers, openers, etc.
  • Voters pick at-large position players. In addition to the usual position player spots (one catcher, one from each infield position, three outfielders, and a designated hitter), voters pick three at-large position players in each league. If the two best players in the league both happen to play third base, the at-large spots allow voters to pick them both, but it creates other difficult decisions too!
  • Every member can vote… but only members can vote. Participating in IBWAA elections is a privilege of membership, so it’s members-only. However, everyone is welcome to join the IBWAA, All IBWAA members are eligible to vote, regardless of whether they’ve been a member for years or if they just joined yesterday.
  • Only one vote per person. Stuffing ballots is an MLB All-Star voting tradition, but for practical reasons, IBWAA members are limited to one vote each. Rather than an electorate of millions of people, we merely have hundreds. If a few members skewed the election by voting repeatedly, it would be evident in the results.

After the voting is finished, we use the results to compile the IBWAA All-Star teams based upon who received the most votes. Positional and at-large votes for the same player are added together, so for example, if a player earned 200 votes as a starting pitcher and 100 as an at-large pitcher, we consider them as having 300 total votes.

Here’s the structure for the teams once we add everything up:

  • 20 position players including at least three catchers, two players at each infield position, five outfielders, and one designated hitter. The “starters” are the players with the most votes at each position.
  • 12 pitchers with a minimum of six starters and two relievers.
  • If a player gets elected as both a pitcher and a position player (who could that be?), we choose one more player to complete a full 32-player roster.

Naturally, the IBWAA All-Stars don’t necessarily get to go to the real All-Star Game, but this actually liberates us in a few different ways. We don’t need MLB’s rule mandating at least one player representing each of the 30 teams. We also don’t have to negotiate with managers about which pitchers are available or how many innings they can throw. If an All-Star pulls a hamstring the weekend before the All-Star Game, we don’t have to scramble for a replacement. We simply pick the best, most deserving baseball players.

If you’re an IBWAA member, keep an eye out for your All-Star ballot in your inbox. Whether you participate in the MLB voting, the IBWAA voting, or both, have fun picking your players!

Daniel R. Epstein serves as Co-Director of the IBWAA. He writes for Baseball Prospectus and Off the Bench Baseball.

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