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

Oakland A’s officials taking a tour of a possible waterfront ballpark site

OAKLAND, CA - FEBRUARY 19:  A Maersk Line container ship sits docked in a berth  at the Port of Oakland on February 19, 2015 in Oakland, California. International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) longshoremen at the Port of Oakland took the day shift off today to attend a union meeting amidst ongoing contract negotiations between dockworkers and terminal operators at west coast ports. The port closure, the seventh one this month, has left 12 container ships stuck at the dock with no workers to load and unload them. The ILWU members at 29 West Coast ports have been without a contract for 9 months. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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The Oakland Athletics’ ballpark saga has gone on for years now, with false starts in Fremont and San Jose, lawsuits and seemingly interminable talks with the City of Oakland over a new place on the current Coliseum site. That’s all complicated, of course, by the presence of the Raiders, on whose address — be it Oakland, Las Vegas or someplace else — the A’s future is still largely contingent.

The city has tried to get the A’s interested in a waterfront site for several years now. There are a lot of problems with that due mostly to zoning and regulatory matters, as well as proximity to transit and other practical concerns. The artist’s renderings are often pretty, but it takes more than artist’s renderings to make a good ballpark plan.

But no one is giving up on that and, it seems, even the A’s are willing to at least listen to such proposals now:

Oakland A’s co-owner John Fisher is expected to join officials Thursday for a hush-hush tour of the Port of Oakland’s Howard Terminal, a cargo-loading area near Jack London Square that Mayor Libby Schaaf tirelessly promotes as “a fantastic site for a ballpark.”

Guess it ain’t so “hush-hush” anymore. As with all Oakland ballpark stories, however, feel free to continue snoozing until someone gives us a real reason to wake up.

Note: The above photo is from the Port of Oakland. I have no idea what the proximity of the working part of the city’s port is to where they’d build a ballpark, but I used this picture because I love the story about how George Lucas spotted those things from an airplane as he was leaving Oakland or San Francisco or whatever and used them as inspiration for the AT-AT Imperial Walkers in “Empire Strikes Back.” Which may be a totally aprocyphal story, but one I love so much that I told it to my kids when we flew in to Oakland back in June and will choose to believe despite whatever evidence you provide.

Wade Davis? Greg Holland? Who needs ’em?

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 21: Joakim Soria #48 of the Kansas City Royals throws in the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium on August 21, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The story of the two-time defending AL champion and current defending World Series champ Kansas City Royals cannot be told without talking at length about their bullpen.

In 2014, Wade Davis, Greg Holland and Kelvin Herrera formed a shutdown brigade that not only made it next to impossible for the opposition to mount late rallies, but managed something which seemed utterly impossible before 2014: they turned Ned Yost into a tactical genius. Indeed, the only time Yost got criticism at all that fall was when he messed with the autopilot formula that had that three-headed monster handling the 7th, 8th and 9th innings.

Much the same happened in 2015, of course, despite Holland’s sharp decline and eventual injury. Davis and Herrera continued their dominance. They were joined by Ryan Madson and a cast of other effective relievers who, along with timely hitting, great defense and good health, helped propel the Royals to the title.

This year had not been quite the same story. Holland has been out all year and Davis, while effective when he’s pitched, has missed time due to injury. As has longtime contributor and presumptive next-man-up Luke Hochevar. Herrera is basically still Herrera, but Ned Yost has been presented with a decidedly different set of choices. Lots of choices and Ned Yost don’t always go together well, but lately that hasn’t mattered.

Last night the Royals’ bullpen came in to a close game and tossed three scoreless innings. That set a franchise record with 32 straight scoreless frames, besting the previous record set back in the club’s inaugural season in 1969. The streak is a huge part of why the Royals have won nine games in a row.

Unlike the success of 2014-15, the streak is not a three-man show. As Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star notes, eight different relievers have appeared for Kansas City during the streak, with Joakim Soria and Matt Strahm leading the crew with five and a third innings pitched. Herrera has tossed five scoreless. Otherwise it’s been a group effort with even Peter Moylan offering a couple of scoreless frames. And here you thought Moylan was, I dunno, gearing up for the upcoming Brisbane Bandits season. Nope.

The Royals are still not, in my view anyway, a lock to make the postseason. It’s a a crowded field right now. They’re seven and a half back in the AL Central and four back in the Wild Card with a bunch of teams in front of them. But they’re certainly playing themselves back into the conversation. They’re interesting. And they’re doing it in much the same way they’ve done it the past two years. Only with different dudes doing the do.