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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.

Attempting to complete cycle, Robinson Chirinos thrown out to end game

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With his Astros trailing the Tigers 2-1, catcher Robinson Chirinos began his at-bat in the bottom of the ninth a triple shy of the cycle. He doubled in the second inning, singled in the fourth, and hit a solo homer in the seventh. Yordan Álvarez and Yuli Gurriel both struck out, leaving the Astros’ fate in the hands of Chirinos against Joe Jiménez. After working the count to 2-1, Chirinos slapped an 85 MPH slider to the gap in right-center field. A diving Travis Demeritte could not come up with the ball, but center fielder Harold Castro fired the ball back in to Gordon Beckham, who then made a perfect throw to Dawel Lugo at third base. Chirinos was tagged out for the final out of the game. No triple, no cycle. The Astros lost 2-1.

Chirinos was attempting to become the first Astro to hit for the cycle since Brandon Barnes on July 19, 2013 against the Mariners.

The Astros entered Wednesday’s game as the largest favorite in 15 seasons, according to ESPN’s David Purdum. The Astros were -500 per Caesars Sportsbook. Other sportsbooks had them at -550. So the Tigers’ win was quite the upset.

Justin Verlander went the distance in the loss. The only blemishes on his line were solo homers to Ronny Rodríguez in the fifth and John Hicks in the ninth. They were the only hits he allowed while walking none and striking out 11.