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Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2018 — No. 7: Jacob deGrom wins the Cy Young Award with only ten wins

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We’re a few short days away from 2019 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2018. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were more akin to tabloid drama. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

Once upon a time the Cy Young Award was reserved for guys with 20 wins or more. Ok, maybe 18 is you were really good, but don’t push it, buster. Anyone much below that need not have applied.

In the last 15 years or so, however, people (i.e. awards voters) have come to realize that pitcher wins is not a great measure of pitching excellence. Indeed, it’s quite a poor one given how whether a pitcher wins or loses is super dependent upon how one’s teammates’ hit. A guy can win a game is he allows seven runs in five innings if his lineup scores eight. A guy can lose a game if he gives up a single run over nine innings if his teammates score none. Wins are, in very significant ways out of a pitcher’s hands.

In light of that, the Cy Young voters have, at least on a couple of occasions, given out the hardware to guys with lower-than-usual win totals.  Tim Lincecum won 15 en route to the NL Cy Young in 2009 with the Giants thanks to his leading the league in ERA, strikeouts, shutouts and complete games. The next year Felix Hernandez won the AL Cy Young Award with only 13 wins — and 12 losses — because it was clear, based on his ERA, his innings pitched and his overall stinginess in allowing base runners that he was the best pitcher in the league that year.

Certainly, though, 13 wins was as low as Cy Young voters would go, right? Nah, Jacob deGrom won the NL Cy Young Award this year despite only notching ten wins. And, like Lincecum and Hernandez before him, he won it quite deservingly.

deGrom put up a best-in-baseball 1.70 ERA along with 269 strikeouts and 46 walks over 217 innings. deGrom and Zack Greinke (1.66 in 2015) are the only pitchers to post a 1.70 ERA or lower dating back to 1996. Before that it ben done only four other times since the lowered the pitcher’s mound and shrunk the strike zone in 1969: twice by Greg Maddux (1994-95), once by Dwight Gooden (1985), and once by Nolan Ryan (1981).

To the extent any of you folks still hung up on win totals are bothered by this, know that the voting for the award wasn’t even close. deGrom almost won the award unanimously, in fact, receiving 29 of 30 first-place votes. Aside from the numbers themselves, those voters no doubt tracked the progress of the New York Mets in 2018 and realized that deGrom pitched in the worst luck possible, start after start after start. Over the course of the season the Mets lost 17 deGrom starts in which he allowed three runs or less. His run support on the year — 3.53 runs per game — was the absolute worst among qualified starters in the National League.

deGrom may have one won ten games in 2018, but he earned all ten of those wins and deserved a hell of a lot more of them. He not only should’ve won the Cy Young Award, he should have members of the Mets 2018 lineup come to his house every Saturday to polish the dang thing for the next year.

Dodgers clinch NL’s top seed, West title with win over A’s

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Wrapping up an NL West title has become routine for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but in a year in which no one was sure three months ago if there would be a baseball season, manager Dave Roberts wanted his team to still savor the moment.

The Dodgers clinched the NL’s top postseason seed and eighth straight division title Tuesday night with a 7-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics. They are third team to win at least eight straight division titles, joining the Atlanta Braves (14 straight from 1991-2005) and New York Yankees (nine straight from 1998-2006).

“To fast forward a couple months and be crowned NL West champs is a credit to everyone. It should never be taken for granted,” Roberts said. “Truth be told a lot of guys didn’t know we could clinch. We were responsible but I let it know that it has to be appreciated.”

The Dodgers, who own the best record in the majors at 39-16, were the first team in the majors to clinch a playoff berth on Sept. 16. They will open postseason play on Sept. 30 by hosting every game in a best-of-three series against the No. 8 seed.

Los Angeles came into the day with a magic number of two and got help with the Angels’ 4-2 victory over the San Diego Padres.

Instead of a wild celebration on the mound after Jake McGee struck out Sean Murphy for the final out, players briskly walked out of the dugout to celebrate with teammates. Everyone grabbed a division clinching shirt and cap before heading to the mound for a group photo.

The clubhouse celebration was also muted. Champagne was still involved, but it was players toasting each other with a glass instead of being showered in it.

“We talked about it instead of dumping stuff on people. It’s a moment you need to celebrate and we did,” said Corey Seager, who had three hits and one of Los Angeles’ four home runs, “It stinks not being able to do champagne and beer showers because some of the younger guys haven’t been able to experience that.”

Max Muncy, Chris Taylor and AJ Pollock also went deep for Los Angeles, which leads the majors with 104 home runs.

“This whole year has been weird. There’s no other way to describe it,” Muncy said. “It’s sad not to be celebrate as usual but we know there is a lot more at stake.”

Dustin May (2-1) went five innings and allowed two runs on three hits. The 22-year-old red-headed righty set a team record by not allowing more than three earned runs in his first 13 career starts, which include 10 this season.

Robbie Grossman homered for Oakland, which clinched its first AL West crown in seven years on Monday during a day off. The Athletics, in the postseason for the third straight year, currently are the AL’s No. 3 seed.

Mark Canha had two of Oakland’s five hits.

Seager tied it at 1 in the first with an RBI single and then led off the fifth with a drive to center off T.J. McFarland to extend LA’s lead to 6-2.

Muncy gave the Dodgers a 3-2 lead in the third inning with a two-run homer. Taylor and Pollock extended it with solo shots in the fourth off Oakland starter Frankie Montas (3-5).

Grossman quickly gave Oakland a 1-0 lead when he homered off the left-field pole in the first inning. Sean Murphy briefly gave the Athletics a 2-1 advantage when he led off the third with a walk and scored on a wild pitch by May with two outs.

Montas, who allowed only four home runs in his first seven starts, has given up six in his past three. The right-hander went four innings and yielded five runs on seven hits with a walk and three strikeouts.

“They’re a pretty good team that when you make mistakes, they make you pay,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “They’re pretty good laying off and making you throw it over the plate. They made Montas pay, unfortunately.”

Cody Bellinger added two hits for the Dodgers, including an RBI single with the bases loaded in the seventh.

ATHLETICS ADVANCE

The A’s have a team text thread they used to celebrate clinching their first AL West title since 2013 during their off day Monday, when the Mariners beat Houston.

“We didn’t really celebrate too much yet. It’s exciting,” Chad Pinder said. “We wanted to do it on our own terms. We still won the division and that was our goal. It’s nice to know we’ll be playing home for the series.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Athletics: INF/OF Pinder (strained right hamstring) planned to run at Dodger Stadium and test his leg with hopes of still playing before the conclusion of the regular season. …. RHP Daniel Mengden has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Las Vegas. He was designated for assignment after being medically cleared and reinstated from the COVID-19 injured list following a positive test from Aug. 28.

Dodgers: 3B Justin Turner was scratched from the lineup less than an hour before first pitch due to left hamstring discomfort He came off the injured list on Sept. 15 and has not played in the field since Aug. 28. … Joc Pederson was in the lineup at DH after missing five games while on the family emergency medical list. Roberts said before the game that he wasn’t sure if Pederson will remain with the team during the entire postseason.

UP NEXT

Athletics: LHP Sean Manaea (4-3, 4.50) is 4-1 with a 2.25 ERA over his last five starts dating to Aug. 20.

Dodgers: LHP Julio Urias (3-0, 3.49) will make his team-leading 11th start.

AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this story.

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports