Pouliot’s midseason award picks: AL & NL Cy Young

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Yesterday, we took a look at what WAR had to say as far as midseason awards winners. Now, I’m making my own choices, starting with the Cy Young Awards.

First, let’s get the charts out of the way, here are the top 10 in the AL by ERA and both versions of WAR.

ERA

1. Clay Buchholz – 9-0, 1.71 ERA, 81/29 K/BB in 84 1/3 IP
2. Hisashi Iwakuma – 7-3, 2.42 ERA, 101/17 K/BB in 115 1/3 IP
3. Felix Hernandez – 8-4, 2.70 ERA, 123/22 K/BB in 116 2/3 IP
4. Yu Darvish – 8-3, 2.78 ERA, 151/37 K/BB in 113 1/3 IP
5. Bartolo Colon – 11-2, 2.79 ERA, 61/13 K/BB in 106 1/3 IP
6. Chris Sale – 5-7, 2.79 ERA, 114/24 K/BB in 106 1/3 IP
7. Ervin Santana – 5-5, 2.84 ERA, 89/22 K/BB in 111 IP
8. Hiroki Kuroda – 7-6, 2.95 ERA, 75/21 K/BB in 106 2/3 IP
9. James Shields – 3-6, 2.99 ERA, 104/33 K/BB in 117 1/3 IP
10. Alex Cobb – 6-2, 3.01 ERA, 76/23 K/BB in 83 2/3 IP
11. Max Scherzer – 12-0, 3.10 ERA, 131/25 K/BB in 110 1/3 IP
12. Derek Holland – 6-4, 3.14 ERA, 97/27 K/BB in 106 IP

Baseball-reference WAR

1. Chris Sale – 4.3
2. Clay Buchholz – 4.2
3. Hisashi Iwakuma – 3.8
4. Felix Hernandez – 3.4
5. Yu Darvish – 3.3
6. Max Scherzer – 3.3
7. Bartolo Colon – 2.9
8. Anibal Sanchez – 2.5
9. Jesse Crain – 2.5
10. Derek Holland – 2.4

Fangraphs WAR

1. Derek Holland – 3.4
2. Max Scherzer – 3.4
3. Felix Hernandez – 3.4
4. Anibal Sanchez – 3.2
5. Chris Sale – 3.1
6. Yu Darvish – 3.0
7. Clay Buchholz – 2.9
8. Doug Fister – 2.9
9. Justin Verlander – 2.8
10. James Shields – 2.4

Buchholz was in the lead here a few weeks ago, but he hasn’t pitched since June 8 because of neck and shoulder difficulties. If the vote were held today, it’s a given that Scherzer’s 12-0 record would make him the AL Cy Young Award winner, even though he’s just 11th in the league in ERA. And he wouldn’t necessarily be a bad choice. Fangraphs essentially puts him in a tie for the league WAR lead. He’s second in the AL in WHIP behind Iwakuma and second in strikeouts behind Darvish.

Also working in Scherzer’s favor here is that he’s faced a more difficult schedule than most of the alternatives. Here’s some of the top guys by opponents’ OPS:

Holland: .755
Scherzer: .753
Hernandez: .751
Darvish: .746
Iwakuma: .744
Buchholz: .733
Sale: .730

Now, that doesn’t tell the whole story. One reason Sale’s is so low is because quality left-handed hitters sit against him and get replaced by lesser right-handed hitters. That’s not something that should be held against him. However, it’s also true that Sale hasn’t faced any of the AL’s top three offenses to date.

Besides the tougher schedule, Scherzer has also had to overcome a lousy defense. The Tigers are 28th in the majors in defensive efficiency. And despite the Tigers’ struggles, Scherzer has allowed just one unearned run this year, compared to two for Darvish, three for Sale and Iwakuma and four for King Felix.

So, I think I’m in favor of Scherzer, too. Going by RA rather than ERA eliminates some of the gap, and Scherzer has been remarkably consistent. 14 of his 15 starts this year have concluded with the Tigers in the lead, and they were tied in the other.

After Scherzer, I just don’t see much to separate the two Mariners pitchers, two Rangers pitchers and Sale. Darvish has the strikeouts, but he also has issued more walks than the competition and only Iwakuma has allowed more homers. I think I prefer King Felix’s start.

AL Cy Young picks

1. Scherzer
2. Hernandez
3. Darvish
4. Iwakuma
5. Sale

Now on to the NL, where there’s a little more separation after the top two. Here are the leaderboards:

ERA

1. Matt Harvey – 7-1, 2.00 ERA, 132/24 K/BB in 117 IP
2. Jeff Locke – 7-1, 2.06 ERA, 67/41 K/BB in 96 1/3 IP
3. Clayton Kershaw – 6-5, 2.08 ERA, 118/33 K/BB in 121 1/3 IP
4. Adam Wainwright – 11-5, 2.22 ERA, 114/12 K/BB in 125 2/5 IP
5. Patrick Corbin – 9-0, 2.22 ERA, 85/29 K/BB in 109 2/3 IP
6. Stephen Strasburg – 4-6, 2.41 ERA, 90/27 K/BB in 93 1/3 IP
7. Jordan Zimmermann – 12-3, 2.46 ERA, 85/17 K/BB in 120 2/3 IP
8. Mike Leake – 7-3, 2.52 ERA, 67/21 K/BB in 103 2/3 IP
9. Cliff Lee – 9-2, 2.59 ERA, 115/21 K/BB in 125 1/3 IP
10. Jose Fernandez – 5-4, 2.72 ERA, 94/33 K/BB in 92 2/3 IP

Baseball-reference WAR

1. Matt Harvey – 4.6
2. Cliff Lee – 4.5
3. Clayton Kershaw – 4.4
4. Adam Wainwright – 4.3
5. Jorge De La Rosa – 3.8
6. Jhoulys Chacin – 3.5
7. Patrick Corbin – 3.3
8. Jordan Zimmermann – 2.8
9. Kyle Kendrick – 2.6
10. Mike Leake – 2.6

Fangraphs WAR

1. Adam Wainwright – 4.3
2. Matt Harvey – 4.2
3. Cliff Lee – 3.5
4. Clayton Kershaw – 3.1
5. Mat Latos – 2.7
6. Homer Bailey – 2.5
7. Jhoulys Chacin – 2.4
8. Jeff Samardzija – 2.4
9. Jordan Zimmermann – 2.4
10. Patrick Corbin – 2.3

A BBWAA vote right now would be pretty fascinating. It’d come down to Wainwright vs. Harvey, with Wainwright’s four extra wins being weighed against Harvey’s edges in ERA and strikeouts, plus the  Harvey hype factor.

Those aren’t the only stats in conflict between the two, though. Harvey currently has a .253 BABIP, suggesting he’s been quite lucky this season. Wainwright’s is .307, which could be taken as a sign of bad luck. His career mark coming into the year was .292, which is right about the league norm.

It’s that difference being filtered out by the Fangraphs stats, which rates them dead even. In fact, their FIPs (2.01 for Wainwright, 1.99 for Harvey) and xFIPs (2.67 for Wainwright, 2.64 for Harvey) are practically identical.

Also, it should be mentioned here that no one is even close to those two according to Fangraphs stats. The next best FIP belongs to Lee at 2.58, with Kershaw fourth at 2.67.

What also makes the NL race a little easier to judge than the AL race is that the big four have all made exactly 17 starts at the moment and range in innings from Harvey’s 117 to Wainwright’s 125 2/3. Those extra 8 2/3 innings are an edge for Wainwright, but not as big of one as some might think given that Wainwright has four complete games (and two shutouts) to Harvey’s none.

One more thing to look at. Let’s go back to strength of schedule, by opponents OPS:

Lee: .753
Kershaw: .751
Wainwright: .746
Harvey: .722

Harvey lags way behind here, courtesy of his three starts against the Marlins. In all, eight of his 17 starts have come against teams in the bottom four of the NL in runs per game (the Mets are fifth from bottom). Wainwright has faced those teams just twice, plus the Mets twice.

If the two had faced similar schedules, I’d probably give Harvey the edge here, largely because of the outstanding strikeout rate. As is, I have to lean Wainwright. And while I’m not taking it into account here, Wainwright is definitely the better bet for the full season award, since Harvey is probably going to be shut down at some point in September.

NL Cy Young picks

1. Wainwright
2. Harvey
3. Lee
4. Kershaw
5. Zimmermann

Report: Astros’ assistant GM yelled ‘Thank God we got Osuna!’ at female reporters

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Last year, then-closer for the Blue Jays Roberto Osuna was arrested in Toronto on an assault charge. He allegedly assaulted the mother of his then three-year-old son. The charge was eventually withdrawn in exchange for a peace bond, but Major League Baseball still suspended Osuna for 75 games without pay.

Due to the off-the-field ugliness, the Astros were able to acquire Osuna on the relative cheap, sending Ken Giles, David Paulino, and Hector Perez to the Blue Jays. Osuna has been mostly great for the Astros since the trade, finishing the 2018 season with 12 saves, a 1.99 ERA, and a 19/3 K/BB ratio in 22 2/3 innings in his new uniform. This year, Osuna racked up an American League-high 38 saves with a 2.63 ERA and a 73/12 K/BB ratio in 65 innings.

With the Astros holding a 4-2 lead in the top of the ninth in ALCS Game 6 against the Yankees, manager A.J. Hinch called on Osuna to get the final three outs to send his team to the World Series. He ended up allowing a leadoff single to Gio Urshela, then a game-tying two-run home run to DJ LeMahieu. Nevertheless, the Astros won it in the bottom of the ninth thanks to José Altuve’s walk-off two-run homer off of Aroldis Chapman.

In the postgame celebration, Stephanie Apstein of Sports Illustrated reports that Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman yelled towards a group of three female reporters, “Thank god we got Osuna! I’m so … glad we got Osuna!” Taubman repeated the phrase half a dozen times. One of the reporters was wearing a purple domestic violence awareness bracelet.

The Astros declined to comment on the issue and did not make Taubman available for an interview. That shouldn’t come as a shock because the Astros have organizationally failed repeatedly to meaningfully address Osuna’s behavior. GM Jeff Luhnow released a poorly thought out statement last July about Osuna, claiming that the Astros’ due diligence was “unprecedented,” and citing that Osuna is “remorseful” and “willingly complied with all consequences,” despite pleading not guilty and not having had his day in court yet, thus no consequences. The Astros released another statement in August defending their belief that “Roberto deserved a second chance.”

Later that month, Osuna went after his critics, saying, “Everybody is judging me for things they don’t know. I don’t like that.” In the postseason, teammate Ryan Pressly defended Osuna from a heckler, telling the fan, “You can talk all the sh– you want. Just don’t bring that stuff up.”

The Astros also kicked out a fan who protested Osuna’s presence by holding up a sign displaying a domestic violence hotline number. After receiving plenty of criticism for that, the Astros decided to display flyers, featuring the National Domestic Violence Hotline number, in women’s restrooms at Minute Maid Park.

Taubman’s behavior is not the first strike for the Astros on this issue. Acquiring Osuna was strike one. Luhnow’s statement and the club’s subsequent statement were strikes two and three. Osuna’s backlash was strike four, Pressly’s defense of him was strike five, and the whole issue over the DV hotline sign was strike six. The Astros are in danger of having the side strike out on this issue.

It’s also worth mentioning that Luhnow worked for McKinsey and Company, a management consulting firm, before getting into baseball. McKinsey has been consulting for the Astros since 2017, The Athletic’s Evan Drellich reported in July. McKinsey has, ahem, a checkered past.

The Astros have clearly and intentionally thrown ethics to the side in order to run a baseball-related business. That they have repeatedly mishandled a very serious domestic violence issue within the sport shouldn’t come as a surprise, and it shouldn’t be surprising that the Astros are hoping the issue goes away with the World Series set to begin on Tuesday.

Update: The Astros released a statement. Via Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle:

The story posted by Sports Illustrated is misleading and completely irresponsible. An Astros player was being asked questions about a difficult outing. Our executive was supporting the player during a difficult time. His comments had everything to do about the game situation that just occurred and nothing else — they were also not directed towards any specific reporters. We are extremely disappointed in Sports Illustrated’s attempt to fabricate a story where one does not exist.

The Astros had an initial chance to respond to the story before publication and didn’t take Sports Illustrated up on it. They also didn’t deny that Taubman said what was reported. They’re disputing the context and the intended audience, but that doesn’t really make them look that much better. Perhaps an organization with a less spotty history would get the benefit of the doubt, the Astros certainly haven’t earned it.

Furthemore, Hunter Atkins of the Houston Chronicle and Hannah Keyser of Yahoo Sports both confirmed Apstein’s report. Atkins tweeted, “The Astros called this @stephapstein report misleading. It is not. I was there. Saw it. And I should’ve said something sooner.”