Classic moments in BBWAA buffoonery: Take 1

Leave a comment

Since it seems we’re all set up for at least one and and maybe two potentially lousy choices in AL award balloting, I thought it’d be fun to look at some historical low points.
I’ll take suggestions for future episodes — I could probably do a week’s worth of blogs on 1987 alone — but here’s my personal favorite and a big reason why I don’t let myself get dragged into the discussions like I used to.
The 2005 AL Cy Young Award balloting
1. Bartolo Colon – 118 points – 17 first-place votes
2. Mariano Rivera – 68 points – 8 first-place votes
3. Johan Santana – 51 points – 3 first-place votes
It was a classic example of wins overriding everything else, but it was particularly disgusting in this case.
Let’s just ignore Rivera here. He was his typical outstanding self, finishing with a career-best 1.38 ERA in 78 1/3 innings. However, he did blow four saves and take four losses. He also gave up a career-high six unearned runs. I’m not a big fan of putting closers into the Cy Young mix even in historic seasons, and Rivera’s campaign doesn’t qualify. It was just the game’s most outstanding closer doing his usual thing.
No, this was all about Colon versus Santana. And in every number besides wins, it was a non-contest. Santana had a 2.88 ERA, Colon finished at 3.48. Santana led the league in strikeouts by 27, finishing at 238. Colon finished tied for eighth with Daniel Cabrera at 157. Santana finished second in the league in innings, Colon finished seventh (though it was just a nine-inning difference). Santana was first in WHIP at 0.97, Colon third at 1.16.
Santana’s ERA+, after adjusting for ballpark, was 155, easily tops in the league. Kevin Millwood, who barely edged him out for the actual ERA title, was second at 146. Colon was 11th at 122.
Of course, in the end, only one fact mattered to the vast majority of the voters: Colon won 21 games, leading the circuit by three. Santana finished tied for fifth with 16 victories.
But even if had to be boiled down to wins and losses entirely, the voters still chose blind idiocy. While Santana was credited with only 16 victories, the Twins went 24-10 in his 34 starts. The Angels went 22-11 when Colon pitched. Yes, the Twins, a significantly worse team overall, had a better record in Santana’s starts than the Angels did in Colon’s.
To add a little more perspective, the Twins were 59-69 in games not started by Santana, while the Angels were 73-56 when Colon didn’t pitch.

Marcus Stroman named World Baseball Classic MVP

Denis Poroy/Getty Images
2 Comments

United States starter Marcus Stroman was named Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic after helping lead the U.S. to its first ever WBC title on Wednesday night in an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico. Stroman flirted with a no-hitter through six innings, but gave up a double to lead off the seventh before being relieved by Sam Dyson.

Stroman also pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dominican Republic in Pool C play on March 11. He struggled in Pool F play against Puerto Rico last Friday, surrendering four runs in 4 2/3 innings.

The WBC MVP award understandably goes to a player of the winning team. However, Wladimir Balentien of the Netherlands deserves special mention. In 26 at-bats during the WBC, he hit a double and had a WBC-high four home runs, 12 RBI, and 12 runs scored while putting up a .615/.677/.1.115 batting line. That’s MVP-esque as far as this tournament is concerned.

U.S. blanks Puerto Rico 8-0 to win first World Baseball Classic title

Harry How/Getty Images
6 Comments

The United States handed Puerto Rico its first loss in the World Baseball Classic, winning 8-0 for its first title in the fourth iteration of the tournament.

Puerto Rico starter Seth Lugo was matching Marcus Stroman zero-for-zero through the first two innings, but the U.S. broke out for a pair of runs when Ian Kinsler deposited a two-run home run just beyond the fence in left-center at Dodger Stadium. The U.S. tacked on two more in the fifth on RBI singles from Christian Yelich and Andrew McCutchen, pushing the lead to 4-0.

Meanwhile, Stroman was dealing. The right-hander, normally seen in a Blue Jays uniform, held Puerto Rico hitless through his first six innings, giving up just a lone walk. The U.S. put together a long rally in the top of the seventh, scoring three runs on three hits, two walks, and a hit batter. Stroman came back out for the seventh but immediately served up a double down the left field line to Angel Pagan. U.S. manager Jim Leyland immediately lifted Stroman from the game, bringing in Sam Dyson who escaped the inning without any further damage.

Pat Neshek allowed a leadoff single to Yadier Molina to begin the eighth, but induced a double-play, then worked around a two-out walk by striking out Kenny Vargas to end the frame.

In the ninth, David Robertson took over. He induced an infield pop-up from Enrique Hernandez. After Pagan singled up the middle, Francisco Lindor sharply grounded out to Eric Hosmer at first base for the second out. Finally, Robertson closed it out, inducing Carlos Correa to ground out to third base, making the U.S. 8-0 victors over Puerto Rico to win the World Baseball Classic.

Puerto Rico had an admirable run, defeating Venezuela, Mexico, and Italy to get out of Pool D undefeated. Then, in Pool F, it beat Venezuela again as well as the U.S. and the Dominican Republic to move to the semifinals. It narrowly edged Netherlands 4-3 in the semifinals to get into the finals.

The U.S. lost to the D.R. but beat Canada and Colombia to get out of Pool C. In Pool F, the U.S. lost to Puerto Rico and defeated the D.R again as well as Venezuela. The U.S. took down Japan in the semifinals to advance to the finals to play Puerto Rico.

The U.S. joins Japan (twice, 2006 and ’09) and the Dominican Republic (2013) as countries to win the World Baseball Classic. The 2017 tournament was a rousing success, setting attendance records, drawing over one million fans to ballparks to take in the games. It will hopefully encourage commissioner Rob Manfred and others to make a concerted effort to make the 2021 tournament bigger and better.