Tigers writer goes it alone, gives Verlander his Cy Young vote

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Steve Kornacki of Booth Newspapers was the lone writer to give Justin Verlander a first-place vote in the AL Cy Young balloting announced Tuesday. The decision didn’t cost Zack Greinke a unanimous selection — Felix Hernandez claimed two first-place votes — but it did move Verlander past CC Sabathia into third place in the voting.
Kornacki defended his decision in a blog entry, though he hardly built much of a case:

Verlander received my first-place vote because nobody was tougher on the mound with the season on the line for his team.
Verlander threw at least 120 pitches in six of his last eight outings and won his last three starts, forcing a one-game playoff against the Minnesota Twins with his final victory.
He was an inspirational ‘horse,’ using Tigers manager Jim Leyland’s term for him, on a fading team.

Kornacki is never foolish enough to come out and say that Verlander was the AL’s best pitcher. He knows it’s not true. Instead, he’s trying to use the typical MVP argument for an award that is simply meant to honor the league’s top performer.
Verlander was exceptional for the Tigers down the stretch, and it is admirable that he maintained his performance with such a heavy workload. Still, it’s not a point in his favor that he has so many 120-pitch outings. Verlander just isn’t equipped to record quick outs.
So, Verlander won his last three starts. He lost the two before that. His ERA actually bottomed out in late July. He was 7-4 with a 3.94 ERA over the final two months. That’s impressive, but not exactly dominant.
Overall, Verlander finished with a 3.45 ERA in 240 innings. He had a terrific season, and the Tigers certainly wouldn’t have been in the race without him. He wasn’t, though, the AL’s best pitcher in any way, shape or form. Kornacki deserves plenty of flak for picking him.

MLB’s juiced baseball is juicing Triple-A home run totals too

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There has been considerable evidence amassed over the past year or two that the baseball used by Major League Baseball has a lower aerodynamic profile, leading to less drag, which leads directly to more home runs. If you doubted that at all, get a load of what is happening in Triple-A right now.

The minors have always had different balls than the majors. The MLB ball is made in Costa Rica at a Rawlings facility. The minor league balls are made in China. They use slightly different materials and, by all accounts, the minor league balls do not have the same sort of action and do not travel as far as the big league balls. Before the season, as Baseball America reported, Major League Baseball requested that Triple-A baseball switch to using MLB balls. The reason: uniformity and, one presumes, more accurate analysis of performance at the top level of the minor leagues.

The result, as Baseball America reports today, is a massive uptick in homers in the early going to the Triple-A season:

Last April, Triple-A hitters homered once every 47 plate appearances. As the weather warmed up, so did the home run rate. Over the course of the entire 2018 season, Triple-A hitters homered every 43 plate appearances. So far this year, they are homering every 32 plate appearances. Triple-A hitters are hitting home runs at a rate of 135 percent of last year’s rate.

Again, that’s in the coldest, least-homer friendly month of the season. It’s gonna just get worse. Or better, I guess, if you’re all about the long ball.

Which you had better be, because if they did something to deaden the balls and reduce homers, we’d have the same historically-high strikeout and walk rates but with no homers to provide offense to compensate. At least unless or until hitters changed their approach to become slap hitters or something, but that could take a good while. And may still not be effective given the advances in defense since the last time slap hitting was an important part of the game.

In the meantime, enjoy the dingers, Triple-A fans.