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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.

Madison Bumgarner has been competing in rodeos under a fake name

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The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly and Zach Buchanan report that Diamondbacks starter Madison Bumgarner has been competing in rodeos under a fake name as recently as December. The fake name is Mason Saunders. Bumgarner explains that “Mason” is shortened from “Madison,” while “Saunders” is his wife’s maiden name.

Bumgarner — err, Saunders — and one of his rodeo partners, Jaxson Tucker, won $26,560 in a team-roping rodeo competition in December. The Rancho Rio Arena posted a picture of the pair on Facebook, highlighting that they roped four steers in 31.36 seconds.

As Baggarly and Buchanan point out, Bumgarner also pointed out in a rodeo competition last March, just a couple days before pitching in a Cactus League game versus the Athletics, back when he was still with the Giants.

Bumgarner suffered bruised ribs and a left shoulder AC sprain in 2017 when he got into a dirt bike accident. Given that, Bumgarner’s latest extracurricular activity does raise a concern for the Diamondbacks, who inked him to a five-year, $85 million contract two months ago. Baggarly and Buchanan asked Bumgarner about such a concern. Bumgarner referred them to the club’s managing partner Ken Kendrick. Kendrick directed them to GM Mike Hazen. Hazen declined speaking about “specific contract language.” For what it’s worth, Bumgarner says he primarily uses his right hand to rope.

The jig is up on Bumgarner’s hobby. He jokingly said to The Athletic’s pair, “I’m nervous about this interview right now.” He added, “I’m upset with both you two.”