We’ve mentioned it a few times already, and a great many people in the national media have already taken their swings at it, but let us reiterate one more time: supporting CC Sabathia over Felix Hernandez for the Cy Young Award is the sort of thing that should spark a hearing over whether or not you should be made a ward of the state due to extreme mental incompetence.
The statistical case is so simple that I’m surprised that there’s any debate at all. Hernandez leads Sabathia in innings pitched, complete games, hits allowed, ERA (by a lot) and strikeouts. He’s allowed fewer hits, home runs and has walked fewer batters. Hernandez’s infield defense is worse. So is his bullpen.
While people say “hey, Hernandez pitches in the weak AL West,” (a) the weakest part of the AL West is his own team which he cannot face; (b) the strongest part of the AL East is Sabathia’s which he cannot face; and (c) Hernandez has actually started against more teams that are in contention than Sabathia has. Wanna give Sabathia points for playoff race pressure? Fine. Just make sure you even it out by giving Hernandez points for having to deal with the pressure of knowing that he must be absolutely perfect in order to win, because he’s getting zero help from his atrocious teammates.
The only advantage Sabathia has over Hernandez is the one thing that is not in a pitcher’s control: run support. That’s it. And that’s what leads to the wins that many Cy Young voters are citing as the reason for supporting Sabathia over Hernandez.
Which is strange, because last year the writers got it right and gave the Cy Young Awards in both leagues to guys who pitched the best despite having relatively lackluster win totals — Zack Greinke and Tim Lincecum. Why it appears that won’t happen again this year is a mystery.
Maybe the writers feel like going against their base instincts to reward wins once is enough. Maybe it’s just too early, the Sabathia supporters just happen to be the most vocal and once the voting occurs sanity will prevail.
All I know is that if their performances hold up for the last couple of weeks of the season and Hernandez doesn’t win the Cy Young Award the BBWAA ought to be whacked upside the head.
Jim Tankersley of the New York Times notes that a tax law passed by Republicans could affect trades in Major League Baseball. The law added the word “real” to a certain line of tax code that now only allows real estate trades to qualify for tax immunity. Previously, certain assets like trucks and machinery could have been traded tax-free.
A perhaps unintended consequence of that change could mean baseball teams could have to pay capital gains taxes when they trade away and acquire players. MLB’s chief legal officer Dan Halem said, “There is no fair market value of a baseball player. There isn’t. I don’t really know what our clubs are going to do to address the issue. We haven’t fully figured it out yet. This is a change we hope was inadvertent, and we’re going to lobby hard to get it corrected.”
Tankersley wonders how players would be valued for the purposes of this tax law:
Mr. Verlander, for example, was clearly a more immediately valuable asset to the Astros than the three prospects they traded to get him. He gave up only four runs in his five regular-season starts for the team, then won four straight starts to begin the playoffs. In very simple terms, he brought value to the Astros in a trade, and had the new law been in place last year, the team would have owed taxes on that added value.
But what, exactly, was that value? Was it the size of his contract? Mr. Verlander earned $28 million last year, while the players traded for him drew minor-league salaries. Was it the additional wins he brought to the team? Statisticians estimate Mr. Verlander gave the Astros nearly two more wins last season, a value that, depending on the statistician, could reach $20 million. Or was it some calculation of the total future value Mr. Verlander will bring to the team, minus the total future value it gave up in the prospects it traded away — and possibly adjusted for the amount the team will have to pay Mr. Verlander?
Complicating matters further is that teams value players differently, and one player might help a certain team far more than another team. A struggling club with a surplus of starting pitchers might trade one to a playoff contender in desperate need of one, in exchange for position players who could improve a struggling lineup. In that case, both teams could, reasonably, be considered to have gained value in the trade, and thus would owe taxes on it.
Republicans said they weren’t trying to hamstring sports teams, but that’s exactly what they might have done here. It seems likely that the law will eventually be amended to exempt sports teams, given that leagues like the MLB and NBA are enormous and worth so much money. Whether that will be done in a reasonable amount of time is another question entirely.