“The Triple Crown is nonsense”

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Brian Kenny (or his headline writer) says it, and he’s absolutely right.  Not absolute nonsense, of course — it’s really cool and rare to win the Triple Crown and if Miguel Cabrera does it he deserves tons of huzzahs and kudos — but nonsense in terms of naming an MVP:

I like the Triple Crown. Really, I love its place in baseball history and how it’s one of the exclusive clubs of the immortals. I also like giving the Most Valuable Player Award to the best player in the league. Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers — Triple Crown or not — is just not that guy … if Miguel Cabrera wins the Triple Crown this year, he deserves to be put alongside Carl Yastrzemski, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams and Lou Gehrig. It just doesn’t mean, on its own, that he was the best player in the American League. He’s not. Mike Trout is.

It has been established wisdom in baseball for the better part of a decade — and much longer in some circles — that RBI is an extremely poor measure of an individual player’s worth, that batting average is far less important than many other metrics and that, while chicks dig the long ball, there is much more to baseball than power at the plate. In light of that, how can one say that the leader in those three categories is automatically the most valuable player in the game?

Granted, in most years that player probably is the best. But not when there’s another guy whose overall offense is almost as good, and who then laps the Triple Crown leader in every other aspect of the game. Aspects of the game which the very same people who get all mad at “sabermetrics” have argued for years that the sabermetricians were ignoring.

If you reject the notion that RBI and batting average tell you the most about a player’s overall value, you cannot slavishly look to the triple crown categories as the authority on who is the most valuable. To do so makes no sense at all.

Noah Syndergaard on Mets extending Jacob deGrom: ‘Pay the man already.’

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March has marked contract extension season across Major League Baseball. Just in the last week, we have seen Justin Verlander, Chris Sale, Brandon Lowe, Alex Bregman, Ryan Pressly, Mike Trout, Eloy Jiménez, Blake Snell, and Paul Goldschmidt sign extensions. Nolan Arenado, Luis Severino, and Aaron Nola also notably signed extensions during the offseason.

One name strikingly absent from that list: Mets ace Jacob deGrom. The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner is coming off of a season in which he posted a 1.70 ERA with 269 strikeouts and 46 walks across 217 innings. It’s the lowest ERA by a qualified starter since Zack Greinke‘s 1.66 in 2015. Prior to Greinke, no pitcher had posted an ERA of 1.70 or lower since Greg Maddux in 1994-95 (1.56, 1.63).

deGrom is earning $17 million this season and will enter his fourth and final year of arbitration eligibility going into the 2020 season. He will turn 31 years old in June, but is an obvious extension candidate for the Mets, who have built arguably their most competitive team since 2015, when the club lost the World Series in five games to the Royals. Thus far, though, the Mets and deGrom haven’t been able to get anywhere in extension talks.

deGrom’s rotation mate Noah Syndergaard is watching. Per MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, Syndergaard said, “I think Jake’s the best pitcher in baseball right now. I think he deserves whatever amount he’s worth. I want them to keep him happy so when it does come time for him to reach free agency, he stays on our side pitching for the Mets. I just think they should quit all the fuss and pay the man already.”

Syndergaard added that the recent extension trend around baseball — and deGrom’s lack of an extension to date — sends a message. He said, “I think so, yes, because of what you see in what’s going on in baseball right now. If there wasn’t a trend of other guys getting contract extensions, then I don’t know what the circumstance would be. But you see Chris Sale, Verlander getting extensions. I think it’s time Jacob gets one too.”

Part of the equation behind the recent rash of extensions is the stagnation of free agency. Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel — two of baseball’s better pitchers — have gone through almost an entire spring training without being signed. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado didn’t find new homes until late February. Free agents in their 30’s are largely being underpaid or otherwise forgotten about. Extensions represent financial security for young and old players alike. Syndergaard himself can become a free agent after the 2021 season, so if deGrom’s prospects improve, then so too will his, at least without knowing the details of the next collective bargaining agreement which will be put into place ahead of the 2022 season.