First-third awards: 2011 NL Cy Young

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Following up yesterday’s look at the AL Cy Young race one-third of the way through the season, here’s the rundown on the NL.

First, the top 10 starters by ERA:

1. Jair Jurrjens (Braves): 7-1, 1.51 ERA, 38/11 K/BB in 65.2 IP
2. Josh Johnson (Marlins): 3-1, 1.64 ERA, 56/20 K/BB in 60.1 IP
3. Kyle Lohse (Cardinals): 7-2, 2.13 ERA, 47/15 K/BB in 80.1 IP
4. Tim Lincecum (Giants): 5-4, 2.22 ERA, 79/24 K/BB in 77 IP
5. Charlie Morton (Pirates): 5-2, 2.51 ERA, 37/29 K/BB in 68 IP
6. Roy Halladay (Phillies): 7-3, 2.56 ERA, 91/13 K/BB in 91.1 IP
7. Anibal Sanchez (Marlins): 5-1, 2.57 ERA, 74/23 K/BB in 73.2 IP
8. Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers): 6-3, 2.62 ERA, 87/24 K/BB in 79 IP
9. Tommy Hanson (Braves): 5-4, 2.80 ERA, 65/21 K/BB in 64.1 IP
10. Shaun Marcum (Brewers): 6-2, 2.80 ERA, 67/17 K/BB in 70.2 IP

That’s everyone in the NL with a sub-3.00 ERA to date. Cole Hamels is 11th at 3.01.

Moving on to the Baseball Reference version of WAR:

1. Roy Halladay (Phillies): 3.6
2. Kyle Lohse (Cardinals): 2.9
3. Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers): 2.8
4. Jair Jurrjens (Braves): 2.6
5. Cole Hamels (Phillies): 2.4
6. Josh Johnson (Marlins): 2.3
7. Tim Lincecum (Giants): 2.2
8. Ian Kennedy (Diamondbacks): 2.1
9. Anibal Sanchez (Marlins): 2.1
10. Jonny Venters (Braves): 2.1

Yes, that’s a reliever sneaking in at the end there. Venters has been incredible, giving up just two runs while working 33 2/3 innings, almost all of them in close games. He’s picked up three wins, and he’s only blown one lead all year, that coming when he entered a game with a two men on and none out.

Moving on to Fangraphs’ WAR. Since it’s based on strikeouts, walks and homers allowed, and not those pesky hits, it produces substantially different results:

1. Roy Halladay (Phillies): 3.3
2. Cole Hamels (Phillies): 2.4
3. Matt Garza (Cubs): 2.3
4. Daniel Hudson (Diamondbacks): 2.2
5. Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers): 2.1
6. Cliff Lee (Phillies): 2.1
7. Tim Lincecum (Giants): 2.1
8. Kyle Lohse (Cardinals): 1.9
9. Jaime Garcia (Cardinals): 1.8
10. Josh Johnson (Marlins): 1.8

FIP thinks Venters has been terribly lucky when it comes to allowing hits, so he’s at just 0.9 WAR here, ranking him slightly behind strikeout-happy teammate Craig Kimbrel.

Hamels posted strong showing in both WARs. His ERA is higher, but he has an exceptional 78/15 K/BB ratio and he’s yet to allow an unearned run.

I also like to check out quality of opponent here. Let’s run through the average OPS for hitters faced for the top contenders:

Johnson: .744
Jurrjens: .742
Sanchez: .741
Halladay: .729
Lohse: .728
Lincecum: .726
Kershaw: .724

That doesn’t really settle things, though it does make Jurrjens look like a stronger candidate.

Regardless, I do agree with WAR here: Halladay is the choice to date. He’s not quite there in ERA, but he’s pitched 11 more innings than anyone else. The Phillies are 9-3 in his starts, and they’ve scored a total of three runs in the losses. Four times already this year, they’ve scored three runs or fewer and come away with a victory with Halladay on the mound.

After that, it a tougher call. Johnson is probably the NL’s second-best pitcher, but he’s thrown just 60 innings. Jurrjens, the ERA leader, is at 66. Lohse and Kershaw are both around 80 innings. Neither has allowed an unearned run all year (Lincecum has given up five, Jurrjens one, Johnson two).

It’s close enough that I want one more stat.  I’m going to look at the team’s record in games pitched by each, and the team’s record in those games while scoring three or fewer runs.

Hamels: 9-2, 4-2
Johnson: 6-3, 2-3
Jurrjens: 7-2, 2-2
Kershaw: 7-5, 1-4
Lincecum: 7-4, 3-3
Lohse: 7-4, 1-2
Sanchez: 7-4, 3-2

That looks pretty good for Hamels. The Phillies have won 82 percent of his starts despite scoring more than five runs in just two of those games. On the other hand, the Cardinals have lost a couple of Lohse’s starts in which they scored five runs. One of those was Lohse’s fault, the other the bullpen’s when Lohse came out after six.

Anyway, there’s not a whole lot of margin here. I’m favoring Jurrjens second and Hamels third, but we’re still early enough that any of these guys could be second next week.

NL Cy Young
1. Halladay
2. Jurrjens
3. Hamels

Rays beat Mets 8-5, clinch 1st AL East title in 10 years

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK (AP) Confetti instead of champagne. Silly string instead of beer.

The Tampa Bay Rays, long accustomed to doing more with less, figured out a way to maximize the division-clinching celebration they were allowed to enjoy during a 2020 season shortened by the coronavirus.

Randy Arozarena homered twice and the Rays clinched their first AL East title in 10 years Wednesday night with an 8-5 victory over the New York Mets.

“I’m completely dry right now, which I’m not a huge fan of,” center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, the longest-tenured Rays player, said with a grin. “But you have to adapt to what we’re asked of.”

With teams instructed to celebrate in a muted and socially distant style, the Rays went old school – or maybe elementary school – with their clinching party.

The team filed slowly onto the field after Nick Anderson fanned Andres Gimenez for the final out. A couple of players shot off canisters filled with confetti that eventually dotted the grass and dirt at Citi Field. Hugs and handshakes were exchanged before the Rays doused one another with silly string and lit some cigars in the visiting clubhouse.

Later, hooting and hollering could be heard from the visitors’ dugout.

“We’re little kids trapped in grown men’s bodies,” Kiermaier said.

Joey Wendle and Brandon Lowe also went deep for the Rays to back Tyler Glasnow‘s six solid innings. Tampa Bay will be home at quirky Tropicana Field for a best-of-three first-round playoff series beginning next Tuesday.

It is the third division crown for the thrifty Rays, whose payroll this season is just over $28 million – more than only the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles. Tampa Bay, which began play in 1998, also won the AL East, home of two big-spending powers in the Yankees and Red Sox, in 2008 and 2010.

“It feels great to win the division, no matter what division you’re in,” Kiermaier said. “But especially the American League East – it’s just a different animal.”

After missing a chance to clinch Tuesday, the Rays went into Wednesday again needing just a win or a Yankees loss against Toronto to lock up the division championship.

The Rays (37-20) broke a 2-all tie in the sixth on Arozarena’s two-run homer off Michael Wacha and pulled away, taking care of business themselves while New York was routed 14-1 by the Blue Jays.

“At the end of the day, a clinch is a clinch,” said Wendle, who homered in the second. “But to do it on a win – everybody’s kind of riding the high of winning the game along with the division. We didn’t want to see it come down to them losing a game.”

Tampa Bay also is closing in on wrapping up the top record in the AL and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.

Lowe, who had an RBI fielder’s choice in the third, hit a two-run homer in the eighth. Willy Adames added an RBI single later in the inning and Arozarena homered again in the ninth.

The insurance came in handy for the Rays when the Mets scored three times off Oliver Drake in the ninth – via an RBI groundout by Robinson Cano and a two-run homer by Todd Frazier – before Anderson closed the door.

“I think we had the game pretty much in control (and) certainly recognized what was going on in Buffalo, but I don’t know if you can ever prepare for a moment like that – it’s pretty special,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

Glasnow (5-1) allowed two runs on three hits and one walk with eight strikeouts.

Gimenez and Dominic Smith homered off Glasnow in the final home game of the season for the Mets, whose long-shot playoff hopes were further damaged with the loss. New York began the day 2 1/2 games out of an NL wild-card spot.

“We still have a shot with the four games left and we’re competing,” manager Luis Rojas said. “We’ve just got to do what we do – just keep fighting like we did in the ninth.”

Wacha allowed four runs on six hits and struck out four in six innings.

STABLE SHIRT

Rays pitcher Charlie Morton sported a T-shirt picturing a stable of horses as he spoke with reporters during a pregame Zoom call. Morton did little to discourage the notion the shirt was inspired by Cash’s viral rant earlier this month, when he declared the Rays have “a whole damn stable full of guys that throw 98 mph” after Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman threw near Mike Brousseau’s head in the ninth inning Sept. 4.

“The stable shirt?” Morton said. “It was in my locker last week and I like horses.”

With a grin obviously growing even behind his Rays mask, Morton said he rode horses as a kid.

“So I was ecstatic to see this shirt in my locker and I wore it,” he said.

As for the fireballers on the Rays’ pitching staff?

“We’ve got some guys that throw really hard,” Morton said.

ANOTHER LOSING SEASON

The loss guaranteed the Mets (25-31) will finish with a sub-.500 record for the ninth time in the last 12 seasons – a total matched or exceeded only by the Chicago White Sox (nine), Miami Marlins (10) and San Diego Padres (10). The White Sox and Padres have already clinched playoff spots and a winning record, while the Marlins are in second place in the NL East.

New York made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons in 2015 and 2016 and went 86-76 last year.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rays: LHP Jose Alvarado (shoulder, lat) is scheduled to throw batting practice to 3B Yandy Diaz (hamstring) and 1B Ji-Man Choi (hamstring) at Tropicana Field on Thursday. Cash said all three players are progressing and he hopes they are available for the playoffs. . Brousseau (oblique) missed a fourth consecutive game. Cash said he would have been available off the bench if needed

Mets: RF Michael Conforto (hamstring) returned to the lineup as the designated hitter after missing two games and went 0 for 4. . The Mets activated RHP Dellin Betances (lat), who last pitched Aug. 29, and optioned RHP Corey Oswalt to the alternate site.

UP NEXT

Rays: After a day off Thursday, Morton (2-2, 4.64 ERA) is scheduled to get his postseason tuneup in the opener of a series against the Phillies on Friday.

Mets: Rookie LHP David Peterson (5-2, 3.80 ERA) opens a four-game road series against the Nationals. Peterson struck out a career-high 10 against the Braves last Saturday.