My ballot: National League Cy Young

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Later today the Baseball Writers Association of America will announce their choice for NL Cy Young, but first here’s how my ballot would look:
1. Tim Lincecum, San Francisco
2. Chris Carpenter, St. Louis
3. Adam Wainwright, St. Louis
4. Javier Vazquez, Atlanta
5. Dan Haren, Arizona
This is a tight race, so it’ll be an interesting test of whether the BBWAA has truly moved past focusing on win-loss records to evaluate pitchers or if they were merely willing to do so with Zack Greinke because he was so clearly the best guy in the AL.
Adam Wainwright led the NL with 19 wins and had a great year, posting a 2.63 ERA and 212/66 K/BB ratio in 233 innings. He also just wasn’t as good as Tim Lincecum, who had a 2.48 ERA and 261/68 K/BB ratio in 225 innings. Wainwright logged eight more innings than Lincecum, but allowed six more runs with 20 percent fewer strikeouts and the same number of walks, and his opponents’ batting average was 40 points worse. We’ll see how many voters focus on that rather than Lincecum’s modest 15 wins.
And then there’s Chris Carpenter, who led the league with a 2.24 ERA and ranked second to Wainwright with 17 wins. At first glance that would make him the favorite, but it’s important to note that Carpenter logged only 193 innings to rank 26th in the NL. Is the difference between his 2.24 ERA and Lincecum’s 2.48 ERA bigger than the difference between his 193 innings and Lincecum’s 225 innings? Or put another way, if Carpenter tossed 32.2 more innings with a 3.85 ERA he’d match Lincecum in innings and ERA.
Certainly a 3.85 ERA in 32.2 innings isn’t dominant pitching, but it does have value and that gap between Lincecum and Carpenter makes it worth examining workloads along with ERAs. Lincecum was second-best in the NL at preventing runs with an ERA that’s 10 percent higher than Carpenter’s, but he threw 20 percent more innings. He also led the NL in Zack Greinke’s new favorite stat, Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), and saved slightly more runs than Carpenter compared to a replacement-level pitcher.
This is a very tight race and my guess is that Carpenter will win the award because of his lower ERA, higher win total, and a dramatic comeback from arm injuries making for a much better story, but Lincecum is the reigning Cy Young winner and was actually better than last season even if his win total kept many people from realizing it. He gets my nod for the best pitcher in the league, just barely over Carpenter, because of a higher workload and more dominance with similar overall run prevention.

How long do you stay a fan of a team that left town?

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File this under “not a really deep thought, but there isn’t much going on this morning, so why not?”

I was catching up with the latest, and final, season of “The Americans” over the weekend. I will give no spoilers and ask that you do the same, but I want to talk about something that came up in the second episode.

The episode takes place in October 1987 and a character is listening to a Twins playoff game on the radio. He later talks about baseball and the Twins with some other characters. The context is not important, but the guy — probably in his mid-late 40s, living in the Washington D.C. area — makes a point to say that he has been a Twins fan since the beginning, and then says he was, in fact, a fan of the franchise back when they were still the Washington Senators.

In case you are unaware, the original Washington Senators moved to Minnesota following the 1960 season and became the Twins. At the same time an expansion team, also called the Senators, was placed in D.C. to replace them. That franchise would stay in D.C. for 11 seasons before moving to Texas in 1972 to become the Rangers.

In light if that, am I the only one who has a hard time buying that such a man actually existed? How would the character, who was a kid when the original Senators moved, be a Twins fan some 26 years later?

There were relatively few televised baseball games back then. Just a game of the week and some out of town coverage of local teams. There was obviously no internet. Outside of the 1965 World Series, it’d be a shock if more than a couple of Twins games were broadcast to the D.C. area during the rest of the guy’s childhood. Maybe he kept up with the Senators players like Harmon Killebrew and Bob Allison via box scores, baseball cards and The Sporting News, but I couldn’t imagine a D.C. guy raised on the Senators keeping up with the Twins through the 1970s and 1980s. Would he not become a new Senators fan or, eventually, a Rangers fan? Maybe, like so many people on the D.C. area, he picked up the Orioles as his team due to their 1960s-70s dominance? Any number of things could happen, but I’m struggling to imagine the existence of a Senators guy who becomes a hardcore Twins fans up to and including 1987.

All of that got me thinking about other relocated teams.

The Dodgers are the most famous example, of course, with the narrative being that Dodgers fans in Brooklyn felt betrayed by Walter O’Malley and thus turned their back on the club, later adopting the Mets as their rooting interest. The betrayal narrative is less pronounced with the Giants, but that’s the same general story with them too. I mean, there’s a reason the Mets picked orange and blue as their colors. They wanted to, and largely did, co-opt the old NL New York fans.

I’m sure a lot more Dodgers and Giants fans continued to follow their teams in California than would let on, given that many of the same players starred out there in the ensuing years, but that likely died out as those players retired. Bob Aspromonte was the last Brooklyn Dodger to play in the bigs, retiring after the 1971 season. Willie Mays played through 1973. I assume NL fans in New York kept some nice thoughts for them — particularly because the Mets picked both of them up for the tail end of their careers — but I can’t see those guys rooting for, say, Steve Garvey and John Montefusco in 1979.

Others:

  • There likely aren’t many St. Louis Browns fans left — they last played in Missouri 65 years ago — but even if the ones they had in 1953 felt like rooting for the Cardinals was impossible, I bet most of their kids and grandkids became Cards fans;
  • The A’s fans in Philly — and later Kansas City — probably have a similar story. I mean, there’s a reason that franchise skipped town twice, so to expect undying love over the decades, with the Phillies and Royals around, is a bit much. The Philadelphia A’s glory years were like 90s years ago now anyway, and all of those fans are dead. The A’s modern glory years have all come in Oakland. No one in Philadelphia or Kansas City is looking to the California with an aching in their heart;
  • I could imagine someone’s grandfather in Milwaukee still thinking that the Braves are his team, but not many other people. The Braves won a World Series and two pennants in Milwaukee, but that was an awful long time ago and they moved to Atlanta before the A’s moved to Oakland. Don’t even get me started about Boston Braves fans. They all have to either be dead or have long since moved on. Following a team to a new city is a big ask, but following them to two new cities over 66 years seems pathological. UPDATE: OK, there are some pathological people out there.
  • I have some Nationals fan friends and they tell me that there is a small, weird contingent of Expos fans who root for Washington now. I get that since it wasn’t terribly long ago, but was Brad Wilkerson really a good enough reason to carry a torch? I’d like to talk to some of those people and ask them about their value system;
  • The only other team to move was the Seattle Pilots. They played one season in Seattle and no one would remember that if it wasn’t for Jim Bouton’s book, “Ball Four.” If you find someone claiming to be a Pilots fan in Seattle, you’ve found yourself a hipster peddling revisionist b.s.

Anyway, that’s a lot of words wasted on a couple of lines from a TV show, but as always, your thoughts are appreciated.