Josh Beckett vs. Yankees

First-third awards: 2011 AL Cy Young

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On to the AL Cy Young Award race.  First, the league’s ERA leaders:

1. Josh Beckett (Red Sox): 4-2, 1.80 ERA, 63/25 K/BB in 70 IP
2. Jered Weaver (Angels): 6-4, 2.10 ERA, 77/20 K/BB in 85 2/3 IP
3. James Shields (Rays): 5-3, 2.15 ERA, 81/18 K/BB in 83 2/3 IP
4. Gio Gonzalez (Athletics): 5-2, 2.17 ERA, 63/28 K/BB in 62 1/3 IP
5. Dan Haren (Angels): 5-3, 2.29 ERA, 74/14 K/BB in 86 1/3 IP
6. Trevor Cahill (Athletics): 6-4, 2.31 ERA, 58/30 K/BB in 78 IP
7. Alexi Ogando (Rangers): 5-0, 2.33 ERA, 47/15 K/BB in 65 2/3 IP
8. Michael Pineda (Mariners): 6-2, 2.42 ERA, 66/19 K/BB in 63 1/3 IP
9. Josh Tomlin (Indians): 6-2, 2.74 ERA, 34/10 K/BB in 65 2/3 IP
10. Jeremy Hellickson (Rays): 6-3, 2.80 ERA, 46/27 K/BB in 64 1/3 IP

Notice the presence of two rookies and two sophomores who don’t miss rookie eligibility by much.

Next up is WAR, the Baseball-Reference version:

1. Josh Beckett (Red Sox): 3.2
2. Jered Weaver (Angels): 2.9
3. Trevor Cahill (Athletics): 2.7
4. Dan Haren (Angels): 2.5
5. Alexi Ogando (Rangers): 2.4
6. James Shields (Rays): 2.4
7. Zach Britton (Orioles): 2.3
8. Brett Anderson (Athletics): 2.2
9. Michael Pineda (Mariners): 2.2
10. Justin Verlander (Tigers): 2.2

There’s one more rookie.

And the Fangraphs version of WAR, which is based much more on FIP than ERA:

1. Jered Weaver (Angels): 2.7
2. Dan Haren (Angels): 2.7
3. CC Sabathia (Yankees): 2.2
4. Felix Hernandez (Mariners): 2.2
5. James Shields (Rays): 2.0
6. Brandon McCarthy (Athletics): 2.0
7. Josh Beckett (Red Sox): 2.0
8. Justin Verlander (Tigers): 1.8
9. David Price (Rays): 1.8
10. Michael Pineda (Mariners): 1.8

By trying to take luck out of the equation, Fangraphs generates a very different list. Cahill comes in at 1.0 in their WAR, ranking him behind four White Sox starters, including Edwin Jackson (4.63 ERA) at 1.6.

With Sabathia and King Felix in the top five, the Fangraphs list does look like something we might see at the end of the season. Still, I’m not a fan of basing pitching awards on FIP. I like it better as a predictive tool.

So, those are our candidates. I don’t see any relievers worth adding to the mix. Sergio Santos comes closest with his 1.40 ERA and eight saves in 25 2/3 innings.

Right now, I think the Cy comes down to Beckett and Weaver. Beckett has the nice ERA edge, while Weaver has pitched an extra 16 innings. Normally, I’d say the innings outweigh the modest quality gap. However, here’s one more set of numbers:

Opposing hitters OPS

Beckett: .756
Verlander: .735
Shields: .730
Weaver: .724
Gonzalez: .722
Pineda: .721
Cahill: .719
Haren: .716

Having made two starts against the Yankees and two against the Indians, Beckett has faced far-and-away the most difficult schedule of the top candidates to date. I think that rates him an edge in the competition.

As for the other spot, I’m favoring Shields. Verlander leads the AL in innings and has pitched better than his 3.12 ERA suggests, but Shields is just three innings behind him and has allowed 11 fewer runs.

AL Cy Young
1. Beckett
2. Weaver
3. Shields

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

Screenshot 2016-02-07 at 10.16.43 AM
Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.