First-quarter awards: AL Cy Young

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doug fister throwing.jpgNo Zack Greinke, Felix Hernandez, CC Sabathia, Justin Verlander or Jon Lester here.
We’ll turn to VORP again here to give us a top 10 list:
1. Doug Fister – 21.4 – 3-2, 1.96 ERA, 25/10 K/BB in 55 IP
2. Shaun Marcum – 20.0 – 3-1, 2.61 ERA, 45/14 K/BB in 62 IP
3. David Price – 19.4 – 6-1, 1.81 ERA, 44/20 K/BB in 54 2/3 IP
4. Andy Pettitte – 18.7 – 5-0, 1.79 ERA, 29/16 K/BB in 45 1/3 IP
5. Matt Garza – 18.7 – 5-1, 2.38 ERA, 48/17 K/BB in 56 2/3 IP
6. John Danks – 18.4 – 3-3, 2.26 ERA, 45/16 K/BB in 55 2/3 IP
7. Jeff Niemann – 16.4 – 3-0, 2.54 ERA, 31/16 K/BB in 49 2/3 IP
8. Ricky Romero – 16.4 – 4-1, 2.88 ERA, 59/21 K/BB in 56 1/3 IP
9. Phil Hughes – 16.0 – 5-0, 2.25 ERA, 42/15 K/BB in 44 IP
10. C.J. Wilson – 15.7 – 3-1, 2.55 ERA, 39/19 K/BB in 53 IP
Yeah, matches my preseason rankings exactly.
Relievers worth adding to the mix include Jose Valverde (0.51 ERA, 10 saves in 11 chances) and Rafael Soriano (1.59 ERA, 10 saves in 10 chances).
By ERA, Pettitte has been the AL’s top pitcher. However, he’s made just seven starts and he ranks 15th in WHIP.
The league WHIP leaders are Fister at 0.91 and Marcum at 0.97, with Hughes, Jason Vargas and Dallas Braden right behind at 0.98.
Unlike in the NL, strength of schedule isn’t much of a factor here:
Fister – 720 OPS against
Marcum – 730
Price – 731
Pettitte – 715
Garza – 717
Danks – 731
Niemann – 730
Romero – 698
Hughes – 741
Wilson – 733
I think Hughes has been the American League’s best pitcher so far, but like Pettitte, he’s made seven starts, while the competition has made eight or nine. And he’s not far enough out in front to make up for the gap in innings.
Fister has miraculously limited hitters to a .203 average despite striking out just 25 batters in 55 innings. He’s getting a ton of help from a top-notch defense. Safeco Field is playing a part as well; 70 percent of Fister’s innings have come at home.
Marcum is getting less help from his defense and his ballpark. Plus, like Fister, he’s yet to allow an unearned run. Still, while I’m not big on win-loss records, it is disappointing that he’s won just one-third of his starts despite decent run support.
Price is the only AL starter with six wins. He’s yet to allow more than three runs in a start. The Rays scored a total of three runs in his loss and no-decision. He has allowed three unearned runs, but they all came in wins.
This just isn’t an easy call. And none of the pitchers under consideration now are close to sure things to be in the mix at season’s end. I’m going with Price, in large part because of his innings advantage over Hughes. I wouldn’t argue against Fister, though. While his defense has shouldered much of the load, he’s been ridiculously effective.
First-quarter AL Cy Young Award
1. Price
2. Hughes
3. Fister

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)
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:

Tony Clark responds to Rob Manfred’s claim that union had a “lack of cooperation”

ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, JAN. 18-19 - This Jan. 15, 2014 photo showing new baseball union head Tony Clark during an interview at the organization's headquarters, in New York. Clark has big shoes to fill _ and not just as Michael Weiner's replacement as head of the baseball players' union. Moving from Arizona to New Jersey, the former big league All-Star also needed to find size 15 snowshoes.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
AP Photo/Richard Drew
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Earlier, Craig covered Rob Manfred’s comments in which he accused the Major League Baseball Players’ Association of “a lack of cooperation” concerning some proposed rule changes. The union would need to agree to any such changes, which have included automatic intentional walks, limiting mound visits, pitch clocks, and swapping batting practice times for home and visiting teams.

Manfred went on to say that MLB will impose those rule changes unilaterally next year as allowed in the latest collective bargaining agreement.

Tony Clark, the executive director of the MLBPA, responded to Manfred’s comment. Via Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:

“Unless your definition of ‘cooperation’ is blanket approval, I don’t agree that we’ve failed to cooperate with the Commissioner’s office on these issues.”

“Two years ago we negotiated pace of play protocols that had an immediate and positive impact. Last year we took a step backward in some ways, and this off season we’ve been in regular contact with MLB and with our members to get a better handle on why that happened.”

“I would be surprised if those discussions with MLB don’t continue, notwithstanding today’s comments about implementation. As I’ve said, fundamental changes to the game are going to be an uphill battle, but the lines of communication should remain open.”

“My understanding is that MLB wants to continue with the replay changes (2min limit) and the no-pitch intentional walks and the pace of Game warning/fine adjustments.”

Clark’s response isn’t anything too shocking. Manfred’s accusation was pretty baseless, but it’s behavior to be expected of a commissioner who comes down on the side of the owners over the players almost always.