First-quarter awards: NL Cy Young

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Here are the top 10 NL starters according to VORP, along with some relevant statistics.
1. Roy Halladay – 28.1 – 6-2, 1.64 ERA, 58/10 K/BB in 71 1/3 IP
2. Ubaldo Jimenez – 27.8 – 7-1, 1.12 ERA, 54/21 K/BB in 56 1/3 IP
3. Tim Lincecum – 23.7 – 5-0, 1.76 ERA, 69/15 K/BB in 56 1/3 IP
4. Livan Hernandez – 23.6 – 4-2, 1.62 ERA, 19/18 K/BB in 55 2/3 IP
5. Jaime Garcia – 21.3 – 4-2, 1.28 ERA, 42/20 K/BB in 49 1/3 IP
6. Barry Zito – 20.5 – 6-1, 2.15 ERA, 34/20 K/BB in 54 1/3 IP
7. Adam Wainwright – 18.6 – 5-2, 2.48 ERA, 49/15 K/BB in 58 IP
8. Tim Hudson – 17.8 – 4-1, 2.41 ERA, 23/19 K/BB in 52 1/3 IP
9. Josh Johnson – 17.3 – 4-1, 2.68 ERA, 63/18 K/BB in 57 IP
10. Roy Oswalt – 16.8 – 2-5, 2.62 ERA, 52/13 K/BB in 55 IP
I don’t think any of the relievers are worth throwing into the mix. Matt Capps and Tyler Clippard have provided the Nats with a ton of value in the early going, but Capps isn’t exactly dominant and Clippard has allowed a bunch of inherited runners to score while racking up his seven wins.
Most will be surprised to see Halladay ranked over Jimenez, but those extra 15 innings weigh pretty heavily.
I like VORP as a tool for balancing quality and quantity in cases like this, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. For one thing, here are the opposing OPSs of the batters faced by the top five:
Halladay – 719
Jimenez – 742
Lincecum – 688
Hernandez – 720
Garcia – 728
Jimenez has his sterling record despite facing one of the toughest schedules of any NL pitcher. Lincecum leads the NL in strikeouts and WHIP, but he’s been doing it against one of the league’s easiest schedules.
Of course, those things should begin to even out over time. I’d say Halladay and Lincecum remain the favorites to win the Cy Young Award this season. Jimenez did throw 218 innings last season and still perform better after the All-Star break than before. However, he doesn’t have the same track record of durability as the other two. Predicting the order of finish for the full season, I’d currently go: Halladay, Lincecum, Jimenez, Wainwright, Johnson.
But this isn’t about the full season. A quarter of the way through, Jimenez has been the NL’s top pitcher. I’d put Halladay second because of the innings and the schedule. Then it’s Lincecum versus Hernandez for the third spot. Hernandez has the advantage when it comes to ERA and strength of schedule. But Hernandez asks so much more from his defense. In the same number of innings pitched, Lincecum has a ridiculous 50 additional strikeouts. He’s also allowed four fewer homers.
First-quarter NL Cy Young
1. Jimenez
2. Halladay
3. Lincecum

Yadier Molina responds to Willson Contreras on Instagram

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On Monday, Cubs catcher Willson Contreras showed he was very confident heading into the 2018 season, saying, “I know that I’m going to be better than [Yadier Molina and Buster Posey].” Contreras explained that his goal is to become “the best catcher in the game for a long time — like it was with Yadier Molina, like it is with Buster Posey.”

Apparently, Contreras ruffled Molina’s feathers as the Cardinals’ veteran backstop took to Instagram to respond. Posting a picture of himself with Buster Posey and Salvador Perez, Molina wrote, “Respeten los rangos NOVATOS!! aqui con los q si han probao que son los duros!!” That loosely translates to “respect the ranks,” referring to Contreras as a novice.

Molina is no stranger to using Instagram to air his grievances. He apparently used the social media app to take a swipe or two at manager Mike Matheny last year.

Of course, Molina seems to be misreading the intent of Contreras. Contreras seems to think highly of Molina, having referred to him as being one of the best catchers in the game — even if it was in the past tense. Molina should know, being someone who also competes at the highest level, that having confidence is an important part of the recipe for success. Perhaps this will make for some interesting games during the season, breathing new life into the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry.