Ringolsby: Jorge De La Rosa worthy of Cy Young consideration

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Rockies lefty starter Jorge De La Rosa is worthy of Cy Young consideration, argues Tracy Ringolsby in his latest column on MLB.com. My initial reaction to the article was that he was intentionally exaggerating to make a point, but he has covered the Rockies for a while, so maybe he legitimately believes this. Ringolsby writes:

De La Rosa not only shares the NL lead in victories (16) with Jordan Zimmermann of the Washington Nationals, but he is 10-1 with a 2.76 earned-run average at Coors Field.

That is exactly all of the space he uses to make an argument, the rest is filled with extraneous details about De La Rosa’s struggles in previous seasons. We’ve all heard Brian Kenny’s spiel by now, so we don’t really need to address the 16 wins. We can address the ERA in a bit of detail, though.

There is a stat out there that adjusts ERA for a player’s ballpark, known as ERA+ which is found on Baseball Reference. The average ERA is set to 100, below it is below average and above it is above average. De La Rosa has a 134 ERA+, quite respectable. But Cy Young worthy? Among qualified National League starters, De La Rosa ranks fifth in ERA+. Clayton Kershaw is a mile ahead at 187, Jose Fernandez isn’t far behind at 175, Matt Harvey is at 158, and teammate Jhoulys Chacin is at 141. Kershaw also happens to have 43 more innings on De La Rosa. He is aiming to become the fifth starter since 2009 to post an ERA+ of 180 or better. Only Zack Greinke (205 in 2009) and Clay Buchholz (187 in 2010) have been equal or better since.

If Ringolsby was simply being facetious to draw some attention to De La Rosa, mission accomplished. De La Rosa certainly deserves some praise for his great season. But in no universe, this one or alternate, does De La Rosa rank ahead of Kershaw — or Fernandez — in NL Cy Young balloting.

MLB Network airs segment listing “good” and “bad” $100 million-plus contracts

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On Wednesday evening, Charlie Marlow of KTVI FOX 2 News St. Louis posted a couple of screencaps from a segment MLB Network aired about $100 million-plus contracts that have been signed. The list of “bad” contracts, unsurprisingly, is lengthier than the list of “good” contracts.

As Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus pointed out, it is problematic for a network owned by Major League Baseball to air a segment criticizing its employees for making too much seemingly unearned money. There’s a very clear conflict of interest, so one is certainly not getting a fair view of the situation. MLB, of course, can do what it wants with its network, but it can also be criticized. MLB Network would never air a similar segment in which it listed baseball’s “good” and “bad” owners and how much money they’ve undeservedly taken. Nor would MLB Network ever run a segment naming the hundreds of players who are not yet eligible for arbitration whose salaries are decided for them by their teams, often making the major league minimum ($545,000) or just above it. Similarly, MLB Network would also never think of airing a segment in which the pay of minor league players, many of whom make under $10,000 annually, is highlighted.

We’re now past the halfway point in January and many free agents still remain unsigned. It’s unprecedented. A few weeks ago, I looked just at the last handful of years and found that, typically, six or seven of the top 10 free agents signed by the new year. We’re still at two of 10 — same as a few weeks ago — and that’s only if you consider Carlos Santana a top-10 free agent, which is debatable. It’s a complex issue, but part of it certainly is the ubiquity of analytics in front offices, creating homogeneity in thinking. A consequence of that is everyone now being aware that big free agent contracts haven’t panned out well; it’s a topic of conversation that everyone can have and understand now. Back in 2010, I upset a lot of people by suggesting that Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract with the Phillies wouldn’t pan out well. Those people mostly cited home runs and RBI and got mad when I cited WAR and wOBA and defensive metrics. Now, many of those same people are wary of signing free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer and they now cite WAR, wOBA, and the various defensive metrics.

The public’s hyper-sensitivity to the viability of long-term free agent contracts — thanks in part to segments like the aforementioned — is a really bad trend if you’re a player, agent, or just care about labor in general. The tables have become very much tilted in favor of ownership over labor over the last decade and a half. Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs pointed out in March 2015 that the players’ share of total league revenues peaked in 2002 at 56 percent, but declined all the way to 38 percent in 2014. The current trend of teams signing their talented players to long-term contract extensions before or during their years of arbitration eligibility — before they have real leverage — as well as teams abstaining from signing free agents will only serve to send that percentage further down.

Craig has written at great length about the rather serious problem the MLBPA has on its hands. Solving this problem won’t be easy and may require the threat of a strike, or actually striking. As Craig mentioned, that would mean getting the players all on the same page on this issue, which would require some work. MLB hasn’t dealt with a strike since 1994 and it’s believed that it caused a serious decline in interest among fans, so it’s certainly something that would get the owners’ attention. The MLBPA may also need to consider replacing union head Tony Clark with someone with a serious labor background. Among the issues the union could focus on during negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement: abolishing the draft and getting rid of the arbitration system. One thing is for sure: the players are not in a good spot now, especially when the league has its own network on which it propagandizes against them.