HBT First-Half Awards: National 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: National League Cy Young Award.

Craig Calcaterra‘s ballot:

1. Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals
2. Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers
3. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

Zack Greinke is making some ERA history at the moment, what with his microscopic 1.39 ERA. In terms of ERA+ — which adjusts for park and era and compares him with other pitchers in the league — Greinke is at an astounding 265. To put that in perspective, the year Bob Gibson set the modern ERA record for starters with a 1.12 mark, his ERA+ was 258. Greinke also leads the NL in pitching WAR, by a wide margin pursuant to the folks at Baseball-Reference.com and a smaller margin by the guys at FanGraphs.

Still, ERA ain’t perfect, even if Greinke’s margin in that category is pushing a full run over A.J. Burnett and Max Scherzer. And, quibble with me if you want as I am not a hardcore stats guy, but pitching WAR always gets a bit of the side eye from me.

That’s why I’m going with Max Scherzer. A guy who while “only” posting an ERA of 2.11 has a better WHIP, better strikeout ratios, better fielding independent pitching numbers and a lower opponent’s batting average than Greinke and just about everyone else. He has an astounding strikeout-to-walk ratio of 10.71 which, if it holds, will be one of the best marks in that category in history. Scherzer leads the NL in innings pitched, complete games, shutouts and batters faced as well. To me he’s the clear choice, even with that microscopic Greinke ERA.

Kershaw? Well, I feel like it’s a two-horse race here and I figured the third horse may as well be the guy leading the league in strikeouts and strikeouts per nine innings pitched. He also leads the league in xFIP while coming in second in FIP. The guy has pitched in some bad luck, especially dingers-wise. If that’s not good enough, I have him here so you deadenders who insist that he doesn’t “have what it takes” in the playoffs or some such can get mad.

Aaron Gleeman‘s ballot:

1. Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers
2. Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals
3. Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Pirates

There are definitely other compelling arguments to be made–for Max Scherzer leading the league in innings pitched and having the best all-around numbers, or for Clayton Kershaw being the best pitcher on the planet and leading the league in strikeouts. Ultimately, though, I’m a simple man and when someone goes into the All-Star break with the best first-half ERA by any starting pitcher since 1968 they get my vote.

Zack Greinke’s secondary numbers aren’t as good as his historic ERA, but they’re pretty damn good and his ERA is 1.39. One-thirty-nine. Greinke also ranks second to Scherzer in innings pitched and opponents’ batting average, is currently riding a 35.2-inning scoreless streak, and blows away the competition in Win Probability Added. I think there’s a strong chance Scherzer will wind up being the most deserving pitcher at the end of the season, but in the meantime I’ll ride with Greinke.

Roberto Osuna to be the Astros new closer

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When the Astros acquired suspended reliever Roberto Osuna it was viewed as a low-price move to bolster their bullpen. Now, it turns out, it was a move to get a closer. Manager A.J. Hinch said as much today, anyway, telling MLB Network Radio that Osuna is going to get most of Houston’s save chances going forward.

This comes the morning after a late innings loss to the Mariners. The closer who Osuna is going to take over for — Hector Rondon — didn’t even pitch in that game, with the damage coming on a three-run Robinson Cano homer off of Collin McHugh. Rondon has blown saves in two of his last three appearances, however, coughing up runs against the Mariners at home on August 12 and against the A’s this past Friday.

Osuna has made five appearances since joining the Astros, allowing one run, striking out three and walking one in five innings of work. Before that he saved nine games for the Blue Jays prior to his domestic violence suspension.