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.

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: