First-quarter awards: NL Cy Young

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Here are the top 10 NL starters according to VORP, along with some relevant statistics.
1. Roy Halladay – 28.1 – 6-2, 1.64 ERA, 58/10 K/BB in 71 1/3 IP
2. Ubaldo Jimenez – 27.8 – 7-1, 1.12 ERA, 54/21 K/BB in 56 1/3 IP
3. Tim Lincecum – 23.7 – 5-0, 1.76 ERA, 69/15 K/BB in 56 1/3 IP
4. Livan Hernandez – 23.6 – 4-2, 1.62 ERA, 19/18 K/BB in 55 2/3 IP
5. Jaime Garcia – 21.3 – 4-2, 1.28 ERA, 42/20 K/BB in 49 1/3 IP
6. Barry Zito – 20.5 – 6-1, 2.15 ERA, 34/20 K/BB in 54 1/3 IP
7. Adam Wainwright – 18.6 – 5-2, 2.48 ERA, 49/15 K/BB in 58 IP
8. Tim Hudson – 17.8 – 4-1, 2.41 ERA, 23/19 K/BB in 52 1/3 IP
9. Josh Johnson – 17.3 – 4-1, 2.68 ERA, 63/18 K/BB in 57 IP
10. Roy Oswalt – 16.8 – 2-5, 2.62 ERA, 52/13 K/BB in 55 IP
I don’t think any of the relievers are worth throwing into the mix. Matt Capps and Tyler Clippard have provided the Nats with a ton of value in the early going, but Capps isn’t exactly dominant and Clippard has allowed a bunch of inherited runners to score while racking up his seven wins.
Most will be surprised to see Halladay ranked over Jimenez, but those extra 15 innings weigh pretty heavily.
I like VORP as a tool for balancing quality and quantity in cases like this, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. For one thing, here are the opposing OPSs of the batters faced by the top five:
Halladay – 719
Jimenez – 742
Lincecum – 688
Hernandez – 720
Garcia – 728
Jimenez has his sterling record despite facing one of the toughest schedules of any NL pitcher. Lincecum leads the NL in strikeouts and WHIP, but he’s been doing it against one of the league’s easiest schedules.
Of course, those things should begin to even out over time. I’d say Halladay and Lincecum remain the favorites to win the Cy Young Award this season. Jimenez did throw 218 innings last season and still perform better after the All-Star break than before. However, he doesn’t have the same track record of durability as the other two. Predicting the order of finish for the full season, I’d currently go: Halladay, Lincecum, Jimenez, Wainwright, Johnson.
But this isn’t about the full season. A quarter of the way through, Jimenez has been the NL’s top pitcher. I’d put Halladay second because of the innings and the schedule. Then it’s Lincecum versus Hernandez for the third spot. Hernandez has the advantage when it comes to ERA and strength of schedule. But Hernandez asks so much more from his defense. In the same number of innings pitched, Lincecum has a ridiculous 50 additional strikeouts. He’s also allowed four fewer homers.
First-quarter NL Cy Young
1. Jimenez
2. Halladay
3. Lincecum

Joe West explains the fan interference call he clearly blew

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One of the biggest plays in a game full of big plays in last night’s Red Sox-Astros game was the call of fan interference that took a home run away from Jose Altuve.

Well, actually, it didn’t technically take a home run away, because right field umpire Joe West never called it a home run to begin with. He called it, sorta, tentatively, fan interference and it was thrown in the lap of replay officials.

For my part — and, it seems to me, for the part of most folks watching the game — West blew the call. The fan in question did not reach out onto the field of play — Mookie Betts‘ glove entered the stands — and the rules clearly state that no interference is called if a spectator comes in contact with a batted or thrown ball without reaching onto the field of play. It’s only if he or she reaches out onto the field. If the ball is in the stands, all’s fair in love and souvenir-snagging.

After the game, West was interviewed about the call. Here is how he explained it.

 

Q. What did you see that prompted the initial call of fan interference?
JOE WEST: Well, when he jumped up to reach for the ball, the spectator reached out of the stands and hit him over the playing field and closed his glove.

Q. So the ball had not yet crossed the railing?
JOE WEST: No.

Q. And Betts’ glove had not yet crossed the railing, do you believe?
JOE WEST: No.

Q. Okay. Did the fan —
JOE WEST: Here’s the whole play, here’s the whole play. He hit the ball to right field. He jumped up to try to make a catch. The fan interfered with him over the playing field. That’s why I called spectator interference.

Q. So it’s a clear call in your mind?
JOE WEST: Yes.

Q. Were there already — was there a single call that you saw, that the replay officials saw on replay that confirmed —
JOE WEST: I don’t know what he saw. He just — the replay official said I was right.

Q. Okay.
JOE WEST: That’s all. He said I have nothing that can change it.

That last bit is not entirely true, by the way. They didn’t say, specifically, that West was right. Rather, they could not find sufficient evidence to overturn West, so the call stood. Which is an important distinction: if the ruling was that West was definitively correct, the ruling would’ve been that West’s call was “confirmed.” That is not what they said. They said the call “stands,” which meant that they didn’t have enough evidence to overturn West.

That’s a different issue in its entirety, by the way: the deference given to the field umpires and the high burden replay officials have to overturn them. Here, I suspect it was a matter of them not having sufficient camera angles establishing that the fan had not reached onto the field. I think that’s nuts given what even the primary view and some basic common sense showed — Betts did not run to the wall and then jump straight up, failing to break the plane into the stands — but the current replay system places a high burden on replay guys overruling the field umpires.

That whole setup is dumb. This is not the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and guys like Joe West should not be treated like District Court judges to whom deference should always be granted. Replay officials have better views almost every single time and they should be able to simply substitute their judgment rather than meet some high burden aimed, I suspect, at making field umpires feel like they’re not losing power now that baseball takes a 21st century approach to officiating rather than a 19th century approach.

Unfortunately for the Astros, that is not how the replay rule works. Unfortunately for the Astros, Joe West’s judgment was to be deferred to. Unfortunately for the Astros, West blew that call and, unfortunately for the Astros, it cost them a two-run homer that could’ve changed the outcome of this game.