Maybe the Astros just didn’t think George Springer was ready after all.
Back in March when the Astros assigned top prospect George Springer to the minors there were reports that his agent and the MLB Players Association were considering filing a grievance on his behalf, claiming that service time and/or contract considerations were playing a part in his not making the big-league roster.
Springer had a monster season in the minors last year, hitting .303 with 37 homers and 45 steals to establish himself as an elite prospect. And then when he got off to a big start at Triple-A this season, hitting .353 in 13 games, there were lots of complaints about the Astros not calling him up right away.
Houston eventually did call up Springer on April 16, waiting just two weeks rather than the usual service time-related timetables for prospects, but here’s the thing: Springer has really struggled, hitting .185 with zero homers and 24 strikeouts in 16 games.
It’s certainly very possible that the Astros’ timetable for Springer was based on something other than purely merit or development, but they would be far from the first team to handle a top prospect in that manner and ultimately it turns out that he wasn’t ready to thrive in the majors immediately anyway.
In 2016, Red Sox starter Rick Porcello narrowly and controversially eked ahead of then-Tigers starter Justin Verlander in Cy Young Award balloting, winning on points 137 to 132. Verlander was not included at all in the top-five of two ballots, both coincidentally belonging to writers from the Tampa Bay chapter, MLB.com’s Bill Chastain and Fred Goodall of the Associated Press. Verlander had more first-place votes than Porcello, but being left out of the top-five on two ballots was the difference maker.
In the aftermath, Verlander’s then-fiancée Kate Upton fired off some angry tweets, as did Justin’s brother Ben.
Verlander was again in the running for the 2018 AL Cy Young Award. He again finished in second place, this time behind Blake Snell of the Rays. Snell had 17 first-place votes and 169 total points to Verlander’s 13 and 154. There weren’t any ballots that made a big difference like in 2016, but there were two odd ballots from the Tampa Bay chapter again.
If a chapter doesn’t have enough eligible voters, a voter from another chapter is chosen to represent that city. This year, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News was a replacement voter along with Mark Didtler, a freelancer for the Associated Press. Both writers voted for Snell in first place, reasonably. But neither writer put Verlander second, less reasonably, putting Corey Kluber there instead. Madden actually had Verlander fourth behind Athletics reliever Blake Treinen. Didtler had Treinen in fifth place. Two other writers had Verlander in third place: George A. King III of the New York Post and Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. The other 26 had Verlander in first or second place.
Voting Kluber ahead of Verlander doesn’t make any sense, especially we finally live in a world where a pitcher’s win-loss record isn’t valued highly. Kluber had 20 wins to Verlander’s 16 and pitched one more inning. In every other area, Verlander was better. ERA? Verlander led 2.52 to 2.89. Strikeouts? Verlander led 290 to 222. Strikeout rate? Verlander led 34.8% to 26.4%. Opponent batting average? Verlander led .198 to .222. FIP and xFIP? Verlander led both 2.78 and 3.03 to 3.12 and 3.08, respectively. And while Treinen had an excellent year, Verlander pitched 134 more innings, which is significant.
Upton had another tweet for the occasion: