Is Munenori Kawasaki Ruining Baseball?

USA TODAY Sports

This #WriteInKawasaki campaign is unholy.

"Minor Leaguer" over at Bluebird Banter is trying to ruin baseball. For the sake of all that is holy, we have to stop him. You see, ML has started a #WriteInKawasaki campaign aimed to get Toronto Blue Jays’ shortstop Munenori Kawasaki voted as a starter into the All Star Game. Kawasaki, you may know, is the best thing to happen to the world, period.

But the All Star Game isn’t about fun and games. It’s a tradition, and it impacts the World Series, dammit! This is a travesty!

Or so some may say.

I gathered some opinions from around the internet that I’ll share below, but first, some tidbits from Minor Leaguer on the why and how of this campaign.

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Blake: What prompted you to start the campaign?

ML: He isn't a great or even good player, but he has fun playing the game. So much fun. And he doesn't take himself that seriously either... His personality brought some light into this season that had seen so much dark. He was what Toronto needed, really.

Blake: Do you expect the campaign to be successful?

ML: No, of course not. I would've been happy to get 1000 write-in ballots with Munenori Kawasaki's name on it. I don't know how many people have actually written in, but the campaign has garnered more attention than I had expected. It was picked up by several web and print media, and I heard it discussed on Toronto's sports radio station a couple of times. I have spoken with reporters from Toronto, Seattle, and Japan about this fake campaign... which is kind of crazy if you think about it.

Blake: What do you say to those who claim it's an affront to ASG?

ML: They're a bit silly, in my mind. Kawasaki was/is never going to make it in to the ASG. The vote counts aren't going to reach Rory Fitzpatrick level--it's a write-in not a click, and the campaign is not nearly as big. The All-Star Game voting is a popularity contest anyway. I mean, the Blue Jays themselves are running a campaign to get fans to vote for all the Blue Jays, including the Jose Reyes and Brett Lawrie, who have been hurt, and Maicer Izturis who has a -0.9 WAR (Kawasaki has +0.7). So if you're going to mark down all Blue Jays on your ballot, why not write in Munenori Kawasaki instead of Jose Reyes for shortstop?

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You can see the campaign videos embedded below.

And in case you can’t fully appreciate why Jays fans are nuts for him, check out the two videos below (though I’m sure you’ve seen them):

And then of course, there are these amazing GIFs from his time in Seattle.

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But some people aren’t happy about this campaign. My friend Mike, a Jays fan and admitted skeptic, texted me this the other day: "Come on, he’s a poor man’s John McDonald (and don’t get me going on the uneducated fans’ love for him) with a few clutch hits. Kawasaki has done a great job filling in but I hope he’s sent to Buffalo when Reyes is back." This got me wondering if other’s felt as strongly, so I asked around.

Adam Darowski, a BtBS writer and fan of the first-place Red Sox, who may lose home field advantage if Kawasaki plays and costs the American League the game: "Obviously, home field is nice—particularly for the Sox since they are typically a much better home team. But I wouldn't get worked up if that happened. I don't hold the All Star Game in very high esteem, so I wouldn't worry about a quirky campaign ruining its integrity or anything."

Paul Sporer, of BP and Rotowire and other places, a fan of the first-place Tigers who also happen to employ Johnny Peralta, a great hitting shortstop in his own right: "Meh. I'd prefer that over the Rivera thing. As a Tigers fan I want the best chance to win because the home field horse**** could legitimately impact my favorite club. Muny's D for JP's bat trade isn't as bad as wasting Mo early. "

Lance Rinker, a BtBS writer and fan of the Orioles, who have J.J. Hardy competing for that shortstop spot: Quote redacted because he didn’t really answer my question and just ripped on Canada instead.

Dave Cameron, Fangraphs don-mega and Mariners fan: "Personally, I got my fill of the Munenori Kawasaki experience last year. I think the man missed his calling as a mascot."

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Okay, so even those people who are potentially impacted don’t seem to care all that much. Probably because it’s really unrealistic that he’ll get voted in, or even crack the top-five at the position (while he does have the "Asian vote" going for him that has wreaked havoc on NBA All Star Game voting in the past, it’s probably too little, too late even if it does catch on).

But what if? Would it really ruin baseball or swing the results of the World Series? J.J. Hardy is the current vote leader as of June 8, followed by Elvis Andrus and Jhonny Peralta. Let’s assume that those three would have made the team and played in that order (last year, the AL used just two shortstops, but we’re assuming three here). Kawasaki bumps Peralta, bats ninth, and shifts the other two to later times in the game.

Kawasaki OBP/SLG/wOBA/WAR per PA: .327/.277/.280/.003

Hardy OBP/SLG/wOBA/WAR per PA: .302/.478/.334/.007

Andrus OBP/SLG/wOBA/WAR per PA: .310/.304/.274/.003

Peralta OBP/SLG/wOBA/WAR per PA: .382/.484/.374/.010

So instead of two plate appearances for Hardy, one for Andrus and one for Peralta (expected WAR of .027), we would get one from Kawasaki (before the AL manager removed him), two from Hardy and one for Andrus (expected WAR of .020).

That’s a difference of .007 wins above replacement, or about .07 runs.

That obviously rounds to zero, but let’s play super-hypothetical and suggest that in that final plate appearance from a shortstop, because we’ve downgraded from Peralta’s large OBP to Andrus’, by way of Kawasaki’s insertion. That appearance comes in the ninth and increases the chances of an out being made by 7.2 percentage points (or roughly 19% in net terms).

That could be huge – six of the past 11 All Star Games have been decided by one run (or less, technically).

Since the winning league from the game gets to host the World Series, could Kawasaki cost an American League team the World Series?

Well, if we assume the eventual World Series teams are evenly matched and the series goes seven games, Kawasaki impacts the World Series as follows:

.007 wins in All Star Game * .080 (swing from .540 Win% for home teams to .460 Win% for road teams) = 0.00056

So, basically, no, Kawasaki can’t impact the World Series. One plate appearance in a game that determines home field advantage for a series is far too small an impact for anyone to get upset about.

If you wan’t to get upset about him hypothetically bumping someone, by all means, go ahead. But no, Munenori Kawasaki and the #WriteInKawasaki campaign are not ruining baseball, the holy tradition of the All Star Game, the World Series, and all that is good and right with the world. Maybe nobody suggested that, but I take even a cynical shrug towards My Man Munenori as a challenge and an insult to fun. And now you know how little it actually matters.

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