Mike Trout

Sometimes September matters. Sometimes it doesn’t.


Jon Heyman prefaces his awards column with an explanation that he does take winning into account when he chooses an MVP. He also says that, if you differ, and if you simply view the MVP award as a “best player award” that’s fine. He just sees it another way.

This, I think, is reasonable. He’s clear and he’s open to alternative approaches even if he’s not likely to adopt them. It’s his ballot and he can do what he wants with it.  As such — and I am being 100% sincere here — the purpose of this post is not to mock Heyman’s choices. He chooses Miguel Cabrera as his MVP as I feel the voters will as well. I’ve said several times that it’s not a bad choice, even if I’d make a different one. Cabrera is probably the best hitter in baseball, especially when he’s healthy, and we’re a long way from the days when Juan Gonzalez was winning this award.

My point is merely to say that, when you choose to make a winning team matter — and when you choose to make finishing strong an important factor — you should probably be consistent with it. Here’s what Heyman wrote in his 2012 awards column:

Cabrera, I believe, won the award with his big finish. He had a 1.032 OPS in September compared to .836 for Trout. Cabrera’s big finish put the Tigers into the playoffs.

Here’s what he wrote today:

[Cabrera] couldn’t do much the last month because he was hurt, costing him a shot at back-to-back Triple Crowns. But he pretty well had the MVP wrapped up by August. His batting percentages are better than anyone else, and way better than anyone on a contender. (Note: the reason his big September last year counted so much is the Tigers needed it, whereas they had things pretty well wrapped up by September this year even if they only wound up winning the division by a game.)

That parenthetical does a lot of work here. It has to given that the Tigers won the division by three games last year and one this year. It has to given that last year Heyman said that Trout’s .836 September OPS cost him while Cabrera’s sub-.800 OPS is brushed aside.

Again, as Heyman explains what he’s doing it’s merely a difference of opinion, and he is entitled to his. But it does illustrate that, the farther you stray from merely picking the best player for the MVP and step into the tall, amorphous weeds of “value,” the harder it is to apply consistent criteria. Sometimes September matters, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes a team that wins by one game had it in the bag all along, sometimes a team that won by three was fighting for its playoff life. Some games are pressure free, some games are pressure packed. It can get a little messy. And I don’t figure any reporter would dare tell Mike Trout, as Heyman says here, that he didn’t play any meaningful games after May, thus had no pressure.

My view: pick the best player and you reduce the number of impossible to quantify variables. You also, you know, reward the best player for something. Which, under the “winning matters” criteria, often won’t happen. And that seems like quite an oversight.

Clayton Kershaw can win in the postseason! Who knew?

Clayton Kershaw
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Sometime after their Game 2 loss to the Rangers last week, the Blue Jays decided they trusted Marcus Stroman more than Cy Young candidate David Price in a potential Game 5 start. Such is the power of a postseason slump.

It can lead to one of the best hitters in the world being dropped to the eighth spot in the lineup. It can lead to quality regulars sitting at highly irregular times. In the postseason, what you did yesterday matters 10 times as much as what you did last month, usually not for the better.

Fortunately, Clayton Kershaw never had to worry about being skipped because of his postseason struggles. Even calling them struggles overstate the reality. In his previous three postseason starts, Kershaw had:

  • Allowed two runs over six innings in Game 1 of the 2014 NLDS against the Cardinals before being left in to give up a whopping six runs in the seventh
  • Pitched six scoreless innings on three days’ rest in Game 4 of the 2014 NLDS before giving up a three-run homer in the seventh
  • Allowed one run over 6 2/3 innings in Game 1 against the Mets before his two inherited runners came around to score off the pen
So, yes, Kershaw entered Tuesday’s outing against the Mets with a 4.99 postseason ERA, but he had turned in six quality starts in nine tries, allowing one earned run or fewer three times. It wasn’t nearly regular-season Kershaw, but it also wasn’t as bad as the ERA suggests, not when he’d been the victim of slow hooks and lousy bullpen support.

And, really, Tuesday’s win over the Mets didn’t seem much different at all than Kershaw previous couple of postseason starts, at least through six innings. Maybe the fastball was amped a bit. The real difference this time was that he made it through the seventh. Best of all, since he was on three days’ rest, Don Mattingly wasn’t tempted to send him back out for the eighth at 94 pitches, as he probably would have done had Kershaw been on normal rest. The bullpen took over and turned in two hitless innings in the 3-1 win, sending the NLDS back to Los Angeles for a decisive Game 5 on Thursday.

It’s completely unnecessary redemption for Kershaw, who had nothing in need of redeeming. But it’ll keep the trolls quiet for now and also all winter if Kershaw doesn’t get the chance to pitch again. He’d surely prefer to risk the chance of failure again next week in the NLCS.

Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers top Mets in Game 4 of NLDS to force a Game 5

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

There will be a decisive NLDS Game 5 on Thursday evening in Los Angeles.

Clayton Kershaw yielded just three hits and struck out eight batters over seven innings of one-run ball and Justin Turner hit his fourth double of the series — a two-run poke down the left field line in the top of the third inning — as the Dodgers defeated the Mets 3-1 in Game 4 of the National League Division Series on Tuesday night at Citi Field.

Kershaw’s past postseason demons peaked their head out when Yoenis Cespedes reached on an infield single to lead off the bottom of the seventh, but there was no Matt Adams or Matt Carpenter to make him pay this time around. Kershaw retired the next three batters in order and then gave way to reliever Chris Hatcher for the eighth inning having thrown 94 pitches on short rest.

The only run Kershaw allowed was on a Daniel Murphy solo shot in the fourth inning. The other two hits he surrendered were singles.

Los Angeles’ bullpen answered the call after Kershaw’s departure, with Hatcher and closer Kenley Jansen combining to post two big zeroes on the scoreboard in Queens. Jansen secured the final four outs, earning his fifth career postseason save and second this October.

Jacob deGrom is lined up for the Mets and Zack Greinke will be on the hill for Los Angeles in the loser-goes-home tilt Thursday at Dodger Stadium. This series is shaping up to be a classic.

The winner Thursday will face the Cubs in the National League Championship Series.

Video: Justin Turner gives Dodgers early Game 4 lead with two-run double

AP Photo/Julie Jacobson
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Clayton Kershaw has looked sharp on the mound and at the plate so far in this must-win NLDS Game 4 at New York’s Citi Field.

After no-hitting the Mets in the first two frames, Kershaw smacked a one-out single to left-center field in the top of third inning. Howie Kendrick followed soon after with a two-out single to left and then Adrian Gonzalez blooped a ball to shallow center that drove in Enrique Hernandez, who had reached earlier on a fielder’s choice grounder to second base.

That all set up this Justin Turner two-run double down the left field line that put Los Angeles up 3-0

That’s now four doubles this postseason for Turner, which is a Dodgers franchise record for the Division Series. Los Angeles is trying to force a Game 5.