Showing posts with label Felix Hernandez. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Felix Hernandez. Show all posts

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Cy Young Awards: One surprise, one obvious

The 2014 American League Cy Young Award winner is ... Corey Kluber?

Yes, the relatively unknown Cleveland right-hander earned 17 of the 30 first-place votes and totaled 169 points, edging out Seattle's Felix Hernandez, who had 13 first-place votes and 159 points. White Sox lefty Chris Sale was third on 19 of the 30 ballots, so he placed third with 78 points.

Kluber expressed surprise to win the honor. I'm right there with him. I'm stunned. I figured Hernandez would prevail.

Let's do a side-by-side comparison of the two pitchers:

Hernandez: 15-6 W-L, 236 IP, 248 Ks, 2.14 ERA, 0.915 WHIP, 2.56 FIP, 6.5 H/9
Kluber: 18-9 W-L, 235.2 IP, 269 Ks, 2.44 ERA, 1.095 WHIP, 2.35 FIP, 7.9 H/9

When I first heard the results of the vote, I thought it was flatly ridiculous, but you can see how Kluber has a case. He went 5-1 with a 2.09 ERA in September, and that strong finish put his final numbers in the same ballpark with Hernandez.

Speaking of ballparks, I think we can all agree that Cleveland is a tougher place to pitch than Seattle. I think we can also agree that Seattle has a better defensive team than Cleveland. The numbers geeks really like that FIP (fielder independent pitching) stat, and Kluber was the best in the American League in that department. He also led thel eague in strikeouts. Those were the arguments in his favor.

However, I still would have voted for Hernandez. He had 16 consecutive starts from May to August where he allowed two runs or less. He led the league in WHIP, and he allowed almost a hit and a half less per nine innings than Kluber did. Hernandez also led the league in ERA. For the final month, Kluber was the better pitcher, but for the totality of the season, I thought Hernandez was the best and most dominant pitcher in the league. As an opponent, he was the guy you least wanted to see on the mound.

Thirteen voters agreed with me. Seventeen did not. That's how Kluber won.

Clayton Kershaw wins NL Cy Young

Clayton Kershaw won the NL Cy Young Award for the second consecutive year in a far less controversial vote. His name appeared first on all 30 ballots (150 points) after he went 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA for the NL West Division champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

There's really no argument with this one.

Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto placed second with 112 points. Adam Wainwright of St. Louis was third with 97 points.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Will Chris Sale's hiccup against the Royals cost him the Cy Young?

White Sox ace Chris Sale had his worst performance of the season Wednesday night, as he allowed a season-high five earned runs on nine hits over five innings in Chicago's 6-2 loss to the Kansas City Royals.

Just how big of an outlier was this outing for Sale? Consider this: He's thrown 668.2 innings in his major league career, and he had never given up a home run on an 0-2 pitch until Lorenzo Cain took a hanging slider out the park for a 3-run shot in the third inning Wednesday night.

Sale gave up a second home run on a similarly lousy pitch to light-hitting Kansas City shortstop Alcides Escobar in the fourth inning.

It's extremely rare for Sale to give up home runs to any Kansas City hitter. No Royals player had taken Sale deep since Aug. 17, 2012, a span of eight starts.

Indeed, this was an out-of-character start for Sale, and it might have cost him whatever chance he had of beating out Seattle ace Felix Hernandez for the AL Cy Young Award. The two pitchers are statistically similar in a lot of categories:
  • Sale is 12-4 in 25 starts; Hernandez is 14-5 in 31 starts.
  • Hernandez leads the league in ERA at 2.14; Sale is right behind at 2.20.
  • Hernandez has 225 strikeouts; Sale has 198.
  • Sale leads the league with 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings; Hernandez is at 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings.
  • Hernandez leads the league with a 0.918 WHIP; Sale is right behind at 0.958.
  • Sale's strikeout-to-walk ratio is 5.50; Hernandez is at 5.49.
Sale was ahead of Hernandez in both ERA and WHIP until his struggling outing against the Royals, which lessens his case. If Sale were to finish ahead of Hernandez in ERA, WHIP, strikeouts per nine innings and strikeout-to-walk ratio, I think you could make a strong argument he deserves the Cy Young. But, with one poor performance by Sale, Hernandez has nosed back in front in two of those four important categories -- pending his outing Thursday night against the Los Angeles Angels.

I'm pretty certain Hernandez is going to win the Cy Young at this point. If all things are fairly equal, he's going to get the nod because he's made six more starts and pitched 51 more innings than Sale this year. That stint on the disabled list Sale had in late April and early May probably costs him more than one crummy outing in September against Kansas City, but last night's showing did not help his argument. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Big contract for any pitcher is risky business

The contract Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka is going to receive is already giving some people upset stomachs. The size of it might end up being more eye-popping than the $50-60 million contracts teams gave to Yu Darvish and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Keep in mind that was before the posting fee was capped at $20 million. The Red Sox and Rangers each coughed up posting fees in excess of $50 million, making the total investment for each pitcher more than $100 million.

It was a big deal when Kevin Brown
became the first $100 million pitcher
in baseball when he signed with the Dodgers.
That big of an investment rarely works out well if you're expecting the player to pitch well over the life of the whole contract. Here are the biggest contracts ever given to pitchers:

Felix Hernandez, Mariners, $175,000,000 (2013-19)
CC Sabathia, Yankees, $161,000,000 (2009-15)
Zack Greinke, Dodgers, $147,000,000 (2013-18)
Cole Hamels, Phillies, $144,000,000 (2013-18)
Johan Santana, Mets, $137,500,000 (2008-13)
Matt Cain, Giants, $127,500,000 (2012-17)
Barry Zito, Giants, $126,000,000 (2007-13)
CC Sabathia, Yankees, $122,000,000 (2012-16)
Mike Hampton, Rockies, $121,000,000 (2001-08)
Cliff Lee, Phillies, $120,000,000 (2011-15)
Yu Darvish, Rangers, $111.700,000 (2012-2017)*
Kevin Brown, Dodgers, $105,000,000 (1999-2005)
Daisuke Matsuzaka, Red Sox, $102,111,111 (2007-2012)*
Adam Wainwright, Cardinals, $97,500,000 (2014-18)
Carlos Zambrano, Cubs, $91,500,000 (2008-12)
-Source: Cot's Baseball Contracts
*posting fee included with salary

Obviously most of these contracts are newer as teams have been flush with cash and the pay for elite pitchers has gone up. Though maybe it's interesting is that five of the top six contracts ever given out to pitchers weren't signed by free agents, but were extensions for guys with a year or two left before hitting the market.

Of the contracts that have been completed, all of them looked like a disaster at some point. Hampton's looked like one almost as soon as the ink dried in the thin Colorado air. Zito's was almost as bad save for the fact he still soaked up a lot of innings for the Giants over the course of his seven-year deal.

Over the course of Zambrano's extension, he suffered a decrease in either his performance or ability to take the mound each and every year of his new contract. Matsuzaka and Santana each had a few good years at the front ends of their deals before ineffectiveness and/or injuries did them in.

The best contract of all of them in my opinion was Brown's. Baseball's first $100 million arm was good for more than 1,000 innings with a 3.23 ERA over seven years. Brown, who I think has an underrated Hall of Fame case, missed some time with injuries, but still pitched a lot of mostly good innings for his money, only completely losing it the final year when he was 40.

The jury is still out on the other contracts. Cain, Verlander, Hamels and Sabathia each just endured their worst season in years. Greinke was very good, but missed time after breaking a bone in a scuffle with Carlos Quentin. With Hernandez, Lee, Darvish and Wainwright, things are looking so-far-so-good, though only Lee's contract is even close to completion.

The results here seem pretty apparent. If you don't have to spend almost $100 million or more on a pitcher, then don't. The risk is still one that teams are willing to make, especially teams that are close to contention. Should they be?

Possibly. In a way, this is already how teams view the cost of dabbling in free agency. They're willing to get a good value on the front end of a contract in exchange for dead money at the end.

Looking at each of these contracts, none of them really stopped the team paying the checks from doing anything else. Zito didn't keep the Giants from winning two World Series titles. Lee and Hamels aren't the problem with the Phillies' payroll. Even Mike Hampton's contract was eventually carved up and served in digestible bites that teams other than the Rockies helped swallow.

Unless Tanaka pulls a Hampton-Zito, the team that wins the bidding for his services will be getting a good pitcher for at least a few years. So any team with the money might as well bid away.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Tigers, Mariners challenge MLB single-game strikeout record

As I was driving home from work in a torrential rainstorm Wednesday night, I was able to catch the final innings of an epic game between the Detroit Tigers and the Seattle Mariners on the radio.

The Tigers prevailed 2-1 in 14 innings. Detroit scratched across a run in the top of the 14 and held on, literally, in the bottom half of the inning. The final out of the game was recorded at home plate, with Detroit catcher Brayan Pena holding on to a relay throw and making a tag as Seattle first baseman Justin Smoak knocked him over.

I was hoping the game would be tied again -- not just because it would have helped the White Sox if Detroit had lost. The two teams were getting close to setting a new record for most combined strikeouts in a single game. Had the game continued, it would have been a chance to see (or hear) a little bit of history.

The two starting pitchers, Seattle's Felix Hernandez (pictured) and Detroit's Max Scherzer, had remarkably similar pitching lines. Both men went eight innings, allowing one run. Both struck out 12. Scherzer threw 105 pitches, 75 for strikes. Hernandez totaled 106 pitches, 76 for strikes.

When all was said and done, the two teams combined for 40 strikeouts -- 21 by Detroit batters and 19 for Seattle. That 21 figure tied team records for both teams -- most strikeouts for Tiger hitters in a single game and most strikeouts for Mariner pitchers in a single game.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, forty combined strikeouts in one game ties for the second most in the Live Ball Era -- which began in 1920. For those wondering, the record is 43, set during a 20-inning game between the Oakland A's and California Angels on July 9, 1971.

Too bad this Detroit-Seattle contest didn't go to a 15th inning. There's a good chance that record would have fallen.