There will be two teams who win the NL Wild Card. When they do, they will technically be considered “playoff teams.” I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true! Someone actually has to win these two spots. And the candidates are all pretty darn “meh.”
- Cardinals: They have a negative seven run differential on the year and, as the reigning NL Pennant winners, were pretty much picked by everyone to win their division. They may be the most talented of the contenders, but they’re probably the most underachieving of them.
- Giants: Nine under .500 since the beginning of June.
- Braves: On a four-game winning streak, but three under .500 since the beginning of June and are being left in the dust in their division race.
- Pirates: Much better in the second half than San Francisco and Atlanta, but losers of six straight. That they’re only two back in the Wild Card despite that and despite being without Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole speaks volumes about this race.
- Marlins: Playing good baseball and, unlike all of these other teams, not disappointments. But they did just reach .500 on Sunday.
I’ll be nice and not include the Reds, Mets and Padres as “contenders,” even though they’re not soooo far back that it would take a miracle for them to get into the conversation.
Given that the Pirates are getting McCutchen and Cole back this week and given that they’re not likely to play as poorly as they have for the past week for long, I suppose they’re the favorite for the second slot. Maybe St. Louis for the first, still. But man, this is not exactly a clash of the titans here.
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: