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.

2017 Winter Meetings Preview

Craig Calcaterra
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL — The baseball world has descended on the Swan and Dolphin Resort at Disney World for the 2017 Winter Meetings. There’s a lot of work to be done.

The two biggest names on the market — Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton — have found new homes, but so far only 33 of baseball’s 249 free agents have signed, almost all of them minor. Still looking for a home: Yu Darvish, J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Jake Arrieta, CC Sabathia, Lorenzo Cain, Wade Davis, Lance Lynn, Greg Holland and many, many more. In early November we ran down the top free agents, position-by-position, to help you get a jump on who is available and what your team is looking at as it seeks to fill its needs.

It’s not just players looking for homes this week, however. It’s teams looking to make up for their failures in the Ohtani and Stanton derbies. The Cardinals and Giants both went big to get Stanton and came up empty. The Giants were likewise in Ohtani, but no dice. Baseball’s worst team in 2017 is obviously willing to spend some money to improve, and now they will look elsewhere to spend it. The Red Sox weren’t in on those two, but since it’s biggest rival landed Giancarlo Stanton, GM Dave Dombrowski will no doubt be kicking the tires hard on J.D. Martinez or Eric Hosmer to try to keep pace. The Mariners acquired a lot of international pool money in their quest for Ohtani, but they could still use a starting pitcher or two, so perhaps they may look at, say, Jake Arrieta? Lance Lynn? Yu Darvish? Well, they should, but who knows if they will.

Despite the sheer number of available free agents, this is a thin free agent class in terms of talent. That means that, for a team to improve significantly, they may be better served by making a trade. The Marlins already traded Stanton, but their fire sale does not seem to be over. Could they deal the newly-acquired Starlin Castro? Christian Yelich? Marcel Ozuna? Bet on yes, and bet on any team wishing to spend prospects instead of free agent cash to take what Miami is unloading. Other potential trade candidates: Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen, Rays starter Chris Archer and third baseman Evan Longoria and Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler.

Trade deals and free agent negotiations take place behind closed doors at the Swan and Dolphin. One of the major public activities of the Winter Meetings is when all 30 of the managers meet and greet the press. This year there are six new men at the helm: Dave Martinez in Washington, Mickey Callaway with the Mets, Gabe Kapler — Baseball’s Most Handsome Manager — in Philly, Alex Cora in Boston, Aaron Boone with the Yankees and Rob Gardenhire with the Tigers. I’ll be in the scrum for a lot of these guys — they do them two at a time so I can’t see everyone — and will let you know if they say anything fun. Or if any of them slug me for saying that they’re ugly.

Outside of the transactions and the Hall of Fame stuff, we have the more mundane Winter Meetings business. Indeed, the vast majority of the people at the Meetings aren’t there for transactions. They’re there to network, seek jobs and discuss the business of baseball like any other industry convention. Ever year we hear about a rule change or a proposal for future rule changes at the Meetings. The big one everyone is talking about this offseason is the possibility of a pitch clock.

The final event of the Winter Meetings is the Rule 5 Draft, which will take place at 8am on Thursday morning. You likely have no idea who most of the players who will be selected are, but here’s a good place to start your research on that. If your team takes someone in the draft, the most important thing to know is that he’ll either be on the big league roster all year or he’ll have to be returned to his original team. Well, they could be stashed on the disabled list with phantom injuries so they won’t have to be returned, but no team would ever do that, would they? Perish the thought.

So, yes, there’s a lot to be done. I’ll be on the scene down here at Disney World, bringing you all the best hot stove business we have to offer and, as usual, some more fun odds and ends from baseball’s biggest offseason event.