HBT First-Half Awards: American League Cy Young

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With no baseball on Wednesday or Thursday, we’re taking stock of the best performances of the first half of the season by handing out midseason awards. Maybe someday we’ll have the budget for an actual Midseason Award Trophy, but for now they merely get our kind and admiring words. Next up: American League Cy Young Award.

Craig Calcaterra‘s ballot:

1. Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox
2. Sonny Gray, Oakland A’s
3. Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros

This is a dang close race, folks, with arguments for all three of these guys, in terms of stats, in terms of narratives or in terms of whatever combination of those two things you prefer to let lead you in your analysis of such things.

Chris Sale, of course, has been striking out the world, leading the league in strikeouts, strikeouts per nine innings and leading the AL in WHIP and in Fielding Independent Pitching. Sonny Gray leads the American League in adjusted ERA+, ERA, and has given up fewer hits and fewer home runs per nine innings than any starter. Dallas Keuchel, for his part, is tied for the lead league in wins and WAR among pitchers. As far as narrative stuff goes, Keuchel is leading a surprisingly good Astros team, Sale tied the record for most consecutive games with ten strikeouts or more and Gray, well, he’s at least a reason to watch the A’s every fifth day.

If you ask me who should win this award ten times in the next few days I’d probably go back and forth between Sale and Gray a handful of times and may, when I’m feeling narrative-y, throw it Keuchel’s way on occasion. And I’d probably clear my throat and mention Felix Hernandez and Chris Archer a couple of times too because they’re having fantastic seasons. But if you put a gun to my head and make me choose one, I’ll choose Sale, because strikeouts are fun, even if they’re somewhat fascist.

Aaron Gleeman‘s ballot:

1. Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros
2. Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox
3. Sonny Gray, Oakland A’s

I agree with basically everything Calcaterra said above, especially the stuff about this being an extremely close race so far. Chris Sale has been the most dominant starter, but in looking over all the relevant numbers I kept coming back to Dallas Keuchel as being every bit as deserving. He leads the league in innings pitched and batters faced–which is huge for an Astros rotation that otherwise hasn’t been particularly good–and Keuchel ranks second in ERA at 2.23, just 0.18 behind Sonny Gray and 0.49 better than Sale.

I give Keuchel the slight edge based mostly on a higher workload–he’s thrown 14 more innings than Gray and 18 more innings than Sale–while also having zero problem with anyone thinking Sale or Gray should be in the top spot. It’s also worth giving a little nod to reigning Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, whose secondary numbers remain Cy Young-caliber even if poor lineup, bullpen, and defensive support from the Indians have burdened him with an ugly win-loss record and too many runs allowed.

Royals outfielder Gordon to retire after 14 seasons

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Kansas City Royals outfielder Alex Gordon, the former first-round pick whose rollercoaster career took him from near bust to All-Star and Gold Glove winner, announced Thursday he will retire after the season.

Gordon was the second overall pick in the 2005 first-year player draft following a standout career at Nebraska, where he won the Golden Spikes Award as the best amateur in baseball. He made his big league debut two years later and, after a few years shuttling back and forth to the minors, moved from third base to the outfield and finally found success.

He wound up playing his entire 14-year career in Kansas City, joining only George Brett and Frank White as position players with that much longevity with the franchise. He heads into a weekend four-game series against Detroit with the third-most walks (682), fourth-most homers (190), fifth-most doubles (357) and sixth-most games played (1,749) in club history.

The three-time All-Star also holds the dubious distinction of being the Royals’ career leader in getting hit by pitches.

While he never quite hit with the kind of average the Royals hoped he would, Gordon did through sheer grit turn himself into one of the best defensive players in the game. He is the only outfielder to earn seven Gold Gloves in a nine-year span, a number that trails only White’s eight for the most in franchise history, and there are enough replays of him crashing into the outfield wall at Kauffman Stadium or throwing out a runner at the plate to run for hours.

Gordon won the first of three defensive player of the year awards in 2014, when he helped Kansas City return to the World Series for the first time since its 1985 championship. The Royals wound up losing to the Giants in a seven-game thriller, but they returned to the Fall Classic the following year and beat the Mets in five games to win the World Series.

It was during the 2015 that Gordon hit one of the iconic homers in Royals history. His tying shot off Mets closer Jeurys Familia in Game 1 forced extra innings, and the Royals won in 14 to set the tone for the rest of the World Series.

Gordon signed a one-year contract to return this season, and he never considered opting out when the coronavirus pandemic caused spring training to be halted and forced Major League Baseball to play a dramatically reduced 60-game schedule.

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