Papelbon for the Cy Young? Er, no. Not a chance.

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The lack of any real playoff drama this year has led to a dramatic increase in the number of newspapers pimping their local boys for postseason hardware. The latest: Jonathan Papelbon:

His core numbers are excellent: a 1.89 ERA and 36 saves. But anyone who has watched him – or looked up how many hits and walks he was allowing – could tell that for much of the year, this wasn’t the same pitcher who shortened games for Boston from 2006 to 2008. Papelbon allowed nearly 1.5 baserunners per inning before the All-Star break, and many of his successful saves were roller-coaster rides of walks, hits, and then finally strikeouts.

That has changed over the past month. Papelbon is now pitching efficiently and effectively, backing up his excellent core numbers with shutdown, worry-free performances, like Sunday’s three-strikeout scoreless inning. Since the end of July, he has improved to the point where talking about whether he should be in the Cy Young mix isn’t that crazy after all.

Actually, it is crazy.  Even if you were to set aside the argument that relief pitchers should almost never, ever win the Cy Young award because they simply don’t throw enough innings to provide the same value a good starting pitcher brings, something else stands in between Papelbon’s candidacy and sanity: Mariano Rivera. The same Mariano Rivera who has a lower ERA, more saves, has allowed far, far fewer baserunners, has better rate stats across the board, and has induced far fewer hear attacks among his fanbase than has Papelbon this season.

If, as I argued last week, Mariano Rivera is not worthy of the Cy Young Award, there is no logical argument whatsoever for Jonathan Papelbon.  And I assume the writer of the linked piece knows it too, as he doesn’t even mention Rivera’s name in the article. If he had, the whole thing comes crashing down.

(link via BTF)

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: