Classic moments in BBWAA buffoonery: Take 1

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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.

A.J. Hinch: “We’ll use every pitcher in Game 7 if we have to”

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It’s not entirely clear why the Astros threw Ken Giles into the ninth inning of Game 6 of the ALCS. With a six-run advantage and the bottom half of the Yankees’ lineup due up, pushing the series to its seven-game capacity looked like a sure bet. Giles may be one of Houston’s better bullpen arms, but he’s not their only option, and it would have made more sense to keep him fresh for a do-or-die Game 7 on Saturday night.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to postseason baseball. That’s more or less what Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch had to say after the game, telling reporters that he had envisioned a quick three outs from his closer as they tried to pull back from the brink of elimination. “We didn’t have the luxury of limping into that inning,” Hinch said. “We’ve seen how these guys can explode in these innings.”

It’s not difficult to recall the Yankees’ explosive drive in the eighth inning of Game 4, when they exploited the holes in Houston’s ‘pen and evened the series with Gary Sanchez‘s go-ahead double off of Giles. Back home in Minute Maid Park, however, there was a slightly different feel to the eighth and ninth innings of Game 6. Jose Altuve led off the eighth with a solo home run, followed by Alex Bregman‘s two-run double and Evan Gattis‘ sac fly. In the ninth, Giles labored through a 23-pitch outing to lock down the win, handing out a base hit and a seven-pitch walk before eventually whiffing Chase Headley on three straight pitches for the last out.

So, while Hinch’s decision to lean on Giles in Game 6 may have felt wasteful, his concerns were not entirely unfounded. He’s prepared to roll with the same strategy during Saturday’s series finale, too, leaving nothing on the table as the Astros battle for their first World Series showdown since 2005. According to Dallas Keuchel, that means all hands on deck — except for Justin Verlander, whose four wins, 24 strikeouts and 1.46 postseason ERA have gotten the Astros as far as he could possibly be expected to take them. “No pitcher is going to be in the dugout,” said Keuchel. “They’re all going to be in the bullpen, myself included. Any way we can help out, we’re trying to get to the World Series, the same way the Yankees are, and that’s a nice feeling to have.”

Does that mean Giles will be available for a Game 7 appearance? Stranger things have happened. Joe Sheehan notes that the right-hander has pitched in back-to-back days 13 times this year, though he’s never thrown as many as 23 pitches on Day 1. Granted, he likely doesn’t have enough left in the tank for another 20+ pitch run on Saturday, but with the World Series on the line, any help he can offer will be invaluable.