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Tony Gonsolin’s case for starting the All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium

The last 15 times a pitcher led the league in wins & ERA at the break, they started the All-Star Game

Los Angeles Angels v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Tony Gonsolin added to his dream season on Friday night, pitching into the eighth inning for the first time in his career. It’s pretty clear that Gonsolin will be selected for the National League All-Star team, but now the question is will Gonsolin start at Dodger Stadium on July 19?

This is not as farfetched as it once seemed, though there are other candidates.

Sandy Alcantara of the Marlins is pitching like an old school horse, averaging an eye-popping 7.21 innings per start. He has a 1.95 ERA, leads the NL in xERA (2.67), and has pitched 33⅔ more innings than Gonsolin, recording 101 more outs than the Dodgers right-hander.

Reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes of the Brewers has a 2.36 ERA, ranking fourth in the NL, and he leads the league with 124 strikeouts. He’s pitched 17⅔ more innings than Gonsolin.

Cases can also be made for Max Fried, Aaron Nola, Joe Musgrove, and Carlos Rodón to start the midsummer classic.

But sometimes the blunt instruments of baseball’s past can be wielded like a hammer, making perhaps the best case for Gonsolin to start the All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium: He’s the major league leader in ERA (1.54) and wins (10), is undefeated, and would be starting the game at his home park.

Sure, MLB has largely evolved beyond wins and ERA over the last two decades, ushering in a wide variety of statistics to measure pitcher performance. Gonsolin, for instance, is sixth in the NL in xERA (2.88), 11th in FIP (3.31), and largely due to his relatively low innings total (81⅔) is third in Baseball Reference WAR (3.5) and 14th in FanGraphs WAR (1.7). He’s not exactly chopped liver though, still leading the majors in WHIP (0.820), batting average against (.156) and OPS against (.514).

Very generally, a pitcher leading their league in both wins and ERA is still quite good. And every time in the last six decades a pitcher has led the league in both wins and ERA at the time of the All-Star break, that pitcher has started on the mound in the All-Star Game.

Pitchers to lead their league in both wins and ERA at the All-Star break

Year Pitcher Team ERA Record Comments
Year Pitcher Team ERA Record Comments
1934 Lefty Gomez Yankees 2.03 14-2 led MLB in both
1936 Lefty Grove Red Sox 2.83 11-3 led AL in both
1937 Monty Stratton* White Sox 1.95 10-4 led MLB in ERA, AL in wins
1938 Johnny Vander Meer Reds 2.28 10-3 led MLB in ERA, NL in wins
1940 Bucky Walters* Reds 2.48 11-4 led NL in both
1947 Ewell Blackwell Reds 2.10 14-2 led NL in ERA, MLB in wins
1947 Spec Shea* Yankees 1.91 11-2 led MLB in ERA, AL in wins
1948 Bob Lemon* Cleveland 2.39 13-7 led AL in ERA, MLB in wins
1951 Bob Feller* Cleveland 2.86 12-2 led AL in ERA, MLB in wins
1954 Johnny Antonelli* Giants 2.12 13-2 led NL in ERA, MLB in wins
1966 Sandy Koufax Dodgers 1.60 15-4 led MLB in both
1970 Tom Seaver Mets 2.40 14-5 led NL in ERA, MLB in wins
1971 Vida Blue A's 1.42 17-3 led MLB in both
1971 Dock Ellis Pirates 2.11 14-3 led NL in both
1986 Roger Clemens Red Sox 2.48 15-2 led AL in ERA & MLB in wins
1987 Bret Saberhagen Royals 2.47 15-3 led AL in ERA & MLB in wins
1988 Frank Viola Twins 2.24 14-2 led AL in both
1990 Jack Armstrong Reds 2.28 11-3 led NL in both
1991 Tom Glavine Braves 1.98 12-4 led NL in ERA & MLB in wins
1998 Greg Maddux Braves 1.54 12-2 led MLB in both
1999 Pedro Martinez Red Sox 2.10 15-3 led MLB in both
2000 Randy Johnson D-backs 1.80 14-2 led NL in both
2002 Derek Lowe Red Sox 2.36 12-4 led AL in both
2010 David Price Rays 2.10 12-4 led AL in both
2019 Hyun-jin Ryu Dodgers 1.73 10-2 led MLB in ERA, NL in wins
*did not start the All-Star Game

Whit Wyatt was the first Dodgers pitcher to start an All-Star Game, getting the nod in 1941 at Briggs Stadium (which was renamed Tiger Stadium 20 years later) in Detroit, and nearly joined this list. Wyatt led the National League with 13 wins at the break and ranked second with a 2.01 ERA, the latter only narrowly trailing Cardinals left-hander Ernie White (1.98).

Only six of the 25 pitchers to lead their league in both wins and ERA at the break did not start the All-Star Game. Each of the last 15 have started the game, dating back to Sandy Koufax in 1966.

Hyun-jin Ryu is the other Dodgers pitcher to lead the league win wins and ERA at the break, and started the All-Star Game in 2019.

The 1971 All-Star Game is a classic given the Hall of Fame talent on display and the many memorable home runs. That game also featured the A’s Vida Blue, the major league leader in both wins and ERA (17-3, 1.42 ERA) start opposite Doc Ellis of the Pirates, the NL leader in both categories (14-3, 2.11). It’s the only time both wins and ERA leaders started the midsummer classic.

Since the All-Star Game began in 1933, there have been just five times that a pitcher led the majors in both wins and ERA at the break. All five times, that pitcher started the All-Star Game for their league.

After Friday, Gonsolin leads the majors with a 1.54 ERA. Shane McClanahan of the Rays is No. 2, at 1.77. Gonsolin is tied with Justin Verlander of the Astros at 10 wins. Kyle Wright of the Braves and three American League pitchers (Alek Manoah, Logan Gilbert, and Jameson Taillon) have nine wins.

We’ll find out next Sunday, July 10 if Gonsolin makes the All-Star team. He’ll likely have two more starts before the break to make his case that he should be the first pitcher on the mound at Dodger Stadium on July 19.