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.

Rangers, Padres, White Sox to continue paying minor leaguers

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In March, Major League Baseball agreed to pay minor league players $400 per week while the sport is shut down amid the coronavirus pandemic. That provision is set to expire at the end of May. As Craig noted earlier, the Athletics will not be paying their minor leaguers starting on June 1.

Several teams are doing the right thing, continuing to pay their minor leaguers $400 per week through at least the end of June. Per The Athletic’s Levi Weaver and James Fegan, the Rangers and White Sox will each tack on another month of pay. The Athletic’s Dennis Lin reported earlier that the Padres will pay their players through the end of August. Craig also cited a Baseball America report from this morning, which mentioned that the Marlins will also pay their players through the end of August.

Frankly, if the Marlins can find a way to continue paying their minor league players, then every team should be able to do the same. The Marlins are widely believed to be the least profitable among the 30 major league clubs. Here’s hoping the rest of the league follows the Rangers’, White Sox’s, Padres’, and Marlins’ lead as opposed to the Athletics’.