Zack Greinke captures AL Cy Young with 25 of 28 first-place votes

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Zack Greinke took home his first Cy Young award this afternoon, receiving 25 of 28 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers Association of America. He was second on the other three ballots.
Of the three first-place votes not given to Greinke, two went to Felix Hernandez and one went to Justin Verlander. Greinke should have been a unanimous selection, because he was clearly the best pitcher in the league, but Hernandez was at least great enough that a pair of voters putting him atop their ballot isn’t completely absurd.
However, one of the 28 professional writers picked to vote for the league’s best pitcher choosing Verlander is silly and not surprisingly it was Steve Kornacki of Booth Newspapers in Michigan. Verlander is an excellent pitcher who had an outstanding year, and surely Kornacki would tout his AL-leading 240 innings and 19 wins. Of course, if given anything resembling a decent supporting cast Greinke would have surpassed 19 wins and he logged just 11 fewer than innings than Verlander … while allowing 35 fewer runs.
Greinke had a 2.16 ERA in 229 innings. Verlander had a 3.45 ERA in 240 innings. Unless you’re misguidedly still focusing on win-loss records as the sole means to evaluate pitchers or you’re simply a huge Tigers fan (or a reporter paid to cover the Tigers), there’s really no way to justify giving Verlander a first-place vote. He wasn’t better than Hernandez or Roy Halladay, let alone Greinke. Whatever the case, the real story should obviously be Greinke rather than some writer in Detroit deciding to give Verlander an undeserved vote.
Kansas City’s ace had an amazing season for a terrible team, posting the lowest ERA of any American League starter since Pedro Martinez in 2000 and the best mark of the past 20 years from someone other than Pedro or Roger Clemens. He started the season by going 6-0 with a 0.40 ERA, finished it by going 5-0 with a 1.29 ERA, and in between put well-chronicled off-field issues as well as some on-field struggles behind him to establish himself as the league’s best pitcher at the age of 25.

Magic Johnson says the Dodgers will win the World Series

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Baseball, as we so often note around here, is unpredictable. Especially when it comes to the playoffs. You can be the best team in the land for six months but a few bad days can end your season once October hits.

In 2001 the Seattle Mariners won 116 games in the regular season but lost the ALCS to the Yankees, four games to one. In 1906 the Cubs won 116 games in a 152-game season and lost the World Series. In 1954 the Indians won 111 games in a 154-game season and lost the World Series. In 1931 the Philadelphia A’s won 107 games and lost the World Series.

More recently, with the advent of expanded playoffs, the chances for the team with the best record to win the World Series have been pretty dang terrible. Since the beginning of the wild card era, only five times has the team with the game’s best record gone on to win the World Series: The 1998 and 2009 Yankees, the 2007 and 2013 Red Sox and the 2016 Cubs. That’s it.

At the moment, the Los Angeles Dodgers have baseball’s best record. They’re 71-31 and sit 12 games up in their division. Their playoff chances are almost 100%. The above examples notwithstanding, if you had to make a prediction as to who might win the World Series, it would not be unreasonable to pick the Dodgers. Sure, you’d want to make sure they got Clayton Kershaw back by early September or thereabouts to make it a safer prediction, but it’d be a totally defensible pick. Maybe even the one most people make.

But it’d be the utmost in magical thinking to presume that one could make such a prediction with any degree of certainty, right? The Los Angeles Times, however, passes along some Magical thinking:

Magic Johnson called his shot Thursday night, and he wasn’t shy about it. The Dodgers’ co-owner did not hesitate when he predicted how the team would finish this year.

“The Dodgers are going to win the World Series this year,” Johnson said. “This is our year.”

The headline calls it a “guarantee.” I don’t know if I’d call it that — I think it’s more of a confident prediction — but it is a bold statement whatever you call it.

If I had to pick one team at the moment — and we could assume a healthy Clayton Kershaw — I suppose I would make them my World Series favorites too. And, yes, if I had an ownership interest in the Dodgers, I’d probably say what Johnson said.

But given the example of history, I think “field” would be a much safer bet.

Mariners trade Steve Cishek to the Rays for swingman Erasmo Ramirez.

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The Tampa Bay Rays have acquired reliever Steve Cishek from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for reliever Erasmo Ramirez.

Cishek had appeared in 23 games this season for Seattle after recovering from major offseason hip surgery. He’s 1-1 with a 3.15 ERA, with a 15/7 K/BB ratio in 20 innings. He’s a setup man right now, but he has experience as a closer, saving 25 games for Seattle last year and as many as 39 back when he pitched for the Marlins in 2014.

Ramirez has appeared in 26 games for the Rays and has started eight games. He’s 4-3 with a 4.80 ERA and a 55/16 K/BB ratio in 69.1 innings. This will be his second stint with the Mariners, having played for them from 2012-14.

Sort of a surprising deal given that both Tampa Bay and Seattle are competing for a wild card spot, but needs are needs.