2012 midseason awards: AL Cy Young

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The AL Cy Young balloting turned into a rout last year, as Justin Verlander lapped the field on his way to taking league MVP honors. At the midway point, this year’s Cy is still very much in doubt.

Here’s the league top 10 in ERA:

Jered Weaver (LAA): 9-1, 2.13 ERA, 68/21 K/BB in 88 2/3 IP
Chris Sale (CWS): 10-2, 2.19 ERA, 98/25 K/BB in 102 2/3 IP
C.J. Wilson (LAA): 9-4, 2.33 ERA, 84/46 K/BB in 104 1/3 IP
Justin Verlander (Det): 9-5, 2.58 ERA, 128/30 K/BB in 132 2/3 IP
David Price (TB): 11-4, 2.82 ERA, 105/37 K/BB in 111 2/3 IP
Jake Peavy (CWS): 6-5, 2.96 ERA, 101/24 K/BB in 112 2/3 IP
Matt Harrison (Tex): 11-3, 3.16 ERA, 65/25 K/BB in 105 1/3 IP
Hiroki Kuroda (NYY): 8-7, 3.17 ERA, 80/31 K/BB in 102 1/3 IP
Felix Hernandez (Sea): 6-5, 3.26 ERA, 122/32 K/BB in 116 IP
Jason Hammel (Bal): 8-4, 3.43 ERA, 97/34 K/BB in 99 2/3 IP

Oakland’s Jarrod Parker, at 2.46 in 80 1/3 IP, and Brandon McCarthy, at 2.54 in 78 innings, just miss the cut for qualifying.

Here’s the WAR top 10 from Baseball-reference:

Sale: 4.4
Verlander: 4.4
Peavy: 3.9
Harrison: 3.3
Kuroda: 2.9
Price: 2.7
Parker: 2.6
Weaver: 2.6
Hammel: 2.4
Wilson: 2.4

That’s nine of the top 10 from the ERA list, plus Parker. The lone omission is King Felix, who comes in at 1.5.

WAR’s top reliever is Jim Johnson at 2.3, followed by Pedro Strop at 1.9 and rookie Ryan Cook and Robbie Ross at 1.7.

I don’t think any of the relievers belong in the mix at this point. Ernesto Frieri might if one included his Padres numbers as well, but he’s thrown just 24 1/3 innings for the Angels.

I want to look at the ERA leaders again, this time at their strength of schedule. Here’s their opponents overall OPS to date:

Weaver: .731
Sale: .727
Wilson: .750
Verlander: .763
Price: .775
Peavy: .757
Harrison: .729
Kuroda: .749
Hernandez: .744
Hammel: .762

I probably weigh this more than most, but there are some big differences there. Price has faced 451 batters this year, and on average, they’ve had about 50 points of OPS on the guys Sale has faced. Price has already made four starts against the Yankees, two against Toronto, two against Boston and one against Texas. Sale, on the other hand, has made a total of two starts against teams in the top 10 in the majors in runs scored (Texas and Milwaukee).

My feeling is that the three spots on the ballot come down to the guys ranked second through sixth in ERA. Here they are again:

Chris Sale (CWS): 10-2, 2.19 ERA, 98/25 K/BB in 102 2/3 IP
C.J. Wilson (LAA): 9-4, 2.33 ERA, 84/46 K/BB in 104 1/3 IP
Justin Verlander (Det): 9-5, 2.58 ERA, 128/30 K/BB in 132 2/3 IP
David Price (TB): 11-4, 2.82 ERA, 105/37 K/BB in 111 2/3 IP
Jake Peavy (CWS): 6-5, 2.96 ERA, 101/24 K/BB in 112 2/3 IP

Weaver’s 15-20 innings behind the pack here, so that takes him out of the running for me. WAR puts both Harrison and Kuroda in the top five, but I don’t see it. They’re a bit behind in ERA, their K/BB ratios and WHIPs don’t stand out and they don’t get bonus points for their schedules.

I think Verlander has to get the edge, thanks in large part to that inning total. I don’t know that he’s been the AL’s best pitcher this year, but I believe he’s been the most valuable because of those extra innings he’s thrown. And it’s not like anyone else really stands out as the best. Sale has the ERA, but he’s faced the weakest competition of the group. Wilson’s stats apart from his ERA are less than stellar, and he’s given up seven unearned runs. I like the fact that Price has faced so many top offenses, but he does have a 1.20 WHIP, compared to the 0.95 marks for both Verlander and Sale. Also, he works in a friendlier ballpark for pitchers.

Peavy can’t be dismissed. He’s faced five top-10 offenses, and the White Sox have scored a total of two runs in his five losses. He’s a strong No. 4 here, but I’m going elsewhere with the top three.

My ballot
1. Verlander
2. Sale
3. Price

Report: Major League Baseball bans transactions with Mexican League teams

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Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that Major League Baseball has banned all transactions with Liga Mexicana de Beisbol (LMB), popularly known as the Mexican League. As of now, all 30 teams are prohibited from signing players under contract with LMB teams. The ban was issued due to Major League Baseball’s contention that “corruption” and “fraud” run rampant in the player acquisition process.

Passan describes the issues in detail, and they sound pretty compelling. The upshot: LMB clubs — which have full control over their players — are taking advantage of them, taking most if not all of the signing bonuses MLB teams give them after negotiating for their rights. Mexican teams often sign players when they’re 15 years-old so that, once they are old enough for American teams to approach them, they’re in the position to take a usurious cut.

Passan says Major League Baseball is demanding greater transparency from LMB before it’s willing to lift the ban. He also says that the MLBPA is in “lockstep” with Major League Baseball on the matter, which makes sense given that, if MLB’s claims are accurate, players are being exploited here. He also says that if LMB does not change its ways, there is a “Plan B,” though it’s not clear what that is.

There aren’t a ton of Mexican players signed by MLB teams each year, but there are enough to make this a significant issue that is worth watching.