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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.

Astros defend barring reporter from clubhouse

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As we wrote about this morning, last night the Houston Astros, at the request of Justin Verlander, barred Detroit Free Press reporter Anthony Fenech from the clubhouse during Verlander’s media availability following the Tigers-Astros game. After Verlander was done talking to the press in the scrum setting — and after a call was placed to Major League Baseball about the matter — Fenech was allowed in.

As we noted, this was done in violation of agreements to which Major League Baseball, the Houston Astros and the Baseball Writers Association of America are parties. The agreements are meant to ensure full access to BBWAA-accredited reporters as long as they have not violated the terms of their credentials.  In no case do the clubs — and certainly not the players — have the right to bar access to BBWAA-accredited reporters. Indeed, the whole point of the BBWAA is to ensure such access and to ensure that teams cannot bar them simply because they are unhappy with their coverage or what have you.

This morning Verlander tweeted, obliquely, about “unethical behavior” on the part of Fenech that led to his request to the Astros to bar him. As we noted at the time, such an allegation — however interesting it might be — is of no consequence to the admission or barring of a reporter. If Fenech has acted unethically it’s a matter between him and his employer and, potentially, between him and the BBWAA. At the very least, if Verlander has a specific concern, it would be incumbent upon him or the Astros to take the matter up with either the Free Press or the BBWAA.

In light of all of this, it’s hard to make a case for Verlander’s request and the Astros’ honoring it. A few moments ago, however, the Astros released as statement on the matter which, basically, says, “so what?”

Which is to say, the Astros have made a decades-long agreement between the BBWAA and MLB regarding reporter access optional, because a player does not like a reporter who is covering him.  Someone without the power to alter the BBWAA-MLB relationship has just done so unilaterally. And they have done so in such a way that any player, should they decide they don’t like a reporter, will now presumably rely on it as precedent. Finally, it should be noted that in issuing this statement, the Astros have given at least some tacit credence to Verlander’s thus far unsubstantiated and unspecified allegations of unethical behavior on the part of Fenech, which seems less-than-ideal at best.

It’s your move, Major League Baseball and BBWAA. Whatcha gonna do about it?