A League with No CY?

 

Who will be the American CY Award winner this year? Through 4 months, it is very unclear as to who is the top pitcher in the American League.

Unlike most years, the 2016 campaign has been very interesting, especially in the American League. The A.L. has seen a lot of aces not pitch to their potential. Guys like David Price, last year’s CY Dallas Keuchel, Sunny Gray, and Felix Hernandez have all struggled for extending periods this season. There are only 4 pitchers in the American League that have sub .300 ERA’s. Heading into August, there is no clear-cut favorite for the award. The National League is the complete opposite. In the N.L, there are 15 pitchers with sub 3.00 ERA’s. So let’s take a look at who could be the potential CY in the American League.

First on my list would be Aaron Sanchez of the Toronto Blue Jays. Sanchez is 11-1 with a 2.72 ERA in 20 starts. His WHIP is 1.149 and his K/9 is 7.8. The 24 year-old is getting his first opportunity to pitch as a starter in the big leagues and is quickly becoming the ace of the Toronto staff. The problem with Sanchez is he has an innings limit and most likely will be moved to the pen sometime in the next month. I say let him pitch, monitor how he feels, and throw this innings limit crap out the limit.

Chris Sale is next on my list due to his strong start. He started the season 9-0 and was dominating hitters. Sale has not been the same dominant starter that we saw in the first two months of the season. He had a 3.93 ERA in June and has a 4.85 ERA in July. Despite his recent struggles, he is 14-4 with a 3.17 ERA. He does have a 1.029 WHIP and an 8.6 k/9. Sale will need a good 2 month stretch to secure the CY award.

Danny Salazar would be third on the list. He is quickly becoming one of the top righties in all of baseball and was selected to his first All-Star team this summer. He is 11-3 with a 2.97 ERA in 19 starts and has a 1.205 WHIP and 10.1 K/9. I think Salazar has the best chance to be the CY heading forward because he has been consistent all season long. Also, the Indians are going to be in contention for the A.L. Central which should help his case.

Could Cole Hamels be the guy? He is 12-2 with a 2.84 but I feel like no one talks about him. He is having a very solid season in Texas but he is not dominating. There are three starters that are all having similar seasons. Rick Porcello is having a bounce-back season at 14-2. Chris Tillman is 14-3 for the Orioles. J.A. Happ is 14-3 as well but I don’t think any of these three starters are poised for a CY award. There is still plenty of games left for these pitchers to improve upon their resumes.

The A.L. CY award race is wide open. There is not a favorite as of now to win the CY or a pitcher who has separated himself from the rest of the field. It will be an interesting final two months of the season.

Bad Start to a Big Deal

 

 

Over the off-season, Jason Heyward signed an 8 year/184 million dollar contract with the Chicago Cubs. At the time of the signing, a lot of reporters liked the deal because adding a player like Heyward to the already loaded Cubs made them look like a World Series favorite. The Cubs are still one of the favorites to win the World Series but I wonder if some would go back on the deal if they could now.

Heyward’s contract was without a question the result of baseball’s growing use of sabermetrics in the sport. Over the past two seasons, Heyward has been a top 10 player in the game when looking at WAR (11.3). Over the same period, he has saved 15 more runs than any other outfielder in baseball (48). Heyward had a solid season last year hitting .293 and had a .359 OBP but the contract is a representation of Heyward as a defensive player as much as it is him as a hitter. Baseball is beginning to not just value what players do at the plate but what they do on the base paths and as fielders. This is not the first time we have seen a player’s contract be reflected by advanced sabermetrics because the Los Angeles Angels’ Andrelton Simmons comes to mind when thinking about a guy who was paid more for his defense than his offense. I am not saying that baseball should not value defense and base-running but I do not believe players should get paid superstar money just because their WAR is off the charts.

If I were to give a player a contract like Heyward, I would expect big time returns. My main focus would not be how many defensive runs saved the player has or his WAR. What I would want is a guy to hit 25+ home runs and drive in 100+ RBI. Now I know RBI are a team statistic and depends where a guy hits in the order but superstar players are expected to put up big time numbers. After Sunday, Heyward is hitting .228/.318/.315 with 4 home runs and 28 RBI. I wanted to throw in the RBI because the Cubs offense is a top offense in baseball and there are plenty of RBI opportunities in that lineup.

Now I will not call the Heyward contract a bust because it has only been 3 and a half months. If I was Theo Epstein and the Cubs, I would be very concerned. Heyward hasn’t really shown signs of coming out of his season long slump. I think the advanced sabermetrics are valuable in today’s game but I do not think they should be used to determine a player’s dollar value.

Potential Hall of Famers

 

 

While I was watching the All-Star game, I was thinking about how many potential Hall of Famers were on both rosters. Now I did not want to get crazy with making outrageous predictions about players who have only been in the league for 2 years so I decided to look at players with at least 5 years of MLB experience. I chose 5 years because Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are two players that I believe could become Hall of Famers and have been in the league for 5 years. So let’s take a look.

  1. David Ortiz: .286/.380/.552                   WAR: 54                               525 Home Runs

The 2016 All-Star game was another part of the David Ortiz farewell tour. The announcers were talking about David Ortiz in the same sentence as Derek Jeter and Mario Rivera as ambassadors of the game. If Ortiz would become a Hall of Famer, he would become the first designated hitter to be elected into the Hall of Fame.  With Big Papi’s regular season numbers and his clutch performances in the playoffs, Ortiz really should be a lock for the Hall of Fame. His 3 World Series titles and 500+ home runs is a hell of a career. Ortiz’s name has come up with steroids so it will be interesting to see how the voters vote for Ortiz in 5 years.

 

  1. Mike Trout: .306/.400/.560                   WAR: 43.6                           2014 MVP

Mike Trout is one of those once in a generation type of players and it is a shame that he plays on the West Coast. If Trout was on the East Coast, he would be one of the most talked about athletes in professional sports. Trout already has an MVP but what is remarkable is in his other 3 full MLB seasons, he was runner up for MVP. The average WAR of a Center Field Hall of Famer is 71.1 and Trout is already over half of the way there and he is only 24. As long as Mr. Trout can stay healthy, he will be a lock for the Hall of Fame.

 

  1. Bryce Harper: .284/.386/.514                   WAR:21.7                            2015 MVP

Harper’s career is off to a great start and he is still only 23.  He was one of those prospects that had outrageous projections and he is actually living up to be a superstar in the big leagues. His MVP last season will not be his last MVP he wins in his career. Trout is a 5 tool player and already has 116 career Home Runs. The average WAR of a Right Field Hall of Famer is 73.2 and Harper is well on his way towards adding his name to the list. Harper will be one of the faces of baseball for the next decade.

 

  1. Buster Posey: .309/.374/.483                   WAR: 31.6                           2012 MVP

In Posey’s first 8 seasons in the big leagues, he is a 3-time World Series champion. Posey is one of those glue guys that seems to hold everything together for a team. He is a fantastic player but he has the intangibles that can turn a good team into a great team. The average WAR of a Hall of Fame catcher is 52.7 and Posey’s career War right now is 31.6. By the time Posey’s career is over, he could be one of the most decorated catchers in MLB history.

 

  1. Jose Altuve: .309/.352/.429                   WAR: 18.4                           949 Hits

The 5’6” second baseman out of Venezuela has turned into one of the best players in all of baseball. Altuve is in his 6th big league season and he seems to get better every season. He has always been one of best average hitters in baseball but he continues to develop power as he is one shy of his career high in home runs at the All-Star break (14). Altuve is only 26 years-old and is only 51 hits shy of 1,000. He is almost a lock for 200+ hits every year and he could be a guy that could chase 3,000 hits towards the end of his career. The average career WAR of a Hall of Fame second baseman is 69.3 and Altuve is almost a third of the way there.

 

  1. Miguel Cabrera: .320/.398/.560                   WAR: 67                               2012-2013 MVP

Miggy could go down as a top 10 right-handed hitter of all-time. He is one of the rare hitters today that can hit for both average and power. In a few seasons, he will try to join both the 500 home run (426) and the 3,000 hit club (2429). His back-to-back MVP seasons were remarkable as he became the first player to hit for the Triple Crown since 1967. The average WAR of a Hall of Fame first baseman is 65.9 and Cabrera has already surpassed that total. Miggy is a lock for Cooperstown.

 

  1. Robinson Cano: .308/.356/.497                   WAR: 59.7                           2129 Hits

At the end of Cano’s career, he could go down as one of the greatest second baseman of all-time. Heading into the break, Cano has 2129 hits and could hit the 3,000 hit mark within the next 5 seasons. Cano did not put up typical Cano-like numbers in his first two seasons in Seattle but has really put together a good first half in the 2016 season. Despite leaving Yankee Stadium where he could have broken records as a second baseman, Cano is only 117 home runs behind Jeff Kent from being the best power-hitting second baseman of all-time. Right now, his WAR would suggest that Cano is already in the Hall of Fame discussion but he has plenty of time to improve his resume.

  1. Carlos Beltran: .281/.354/.492                   WAR: 69.5                           411 Home Runs

Beltran’s Hall of Fame case is an interesting one because I could see both cases being made for Beltran. Some fans would make the case that if he doesn’t get 3,000 hits or 500 home runs, he will come up just short. But Beltran was a top 5 outfielder in baseball from 2001-2008. I am not a huge fan of the advanced metrics of baseball but I think Beltran is a case where they really make sense. His WAR puts him in the discussion because his WAR is better than some members in Cooperstown. His JAWS is 56.9, which puts him right around the average of Hall of Fame center fielders. Beltran could continue to play a year or two to improve his Hall of Fame numbers but in my opinion, he deserves a spot in Cooperstown.

  1. Clayton Kershaw: 125-58, 2.39 ERA               WAR: 51.9                           2014 MVP

There is no question that Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball and I believe he is the best pitcher we have seen since Pedro Martinez. It seems like every year he gets better and he is still only 28 years-old. His 3 CY awards puts him with some of the all-time greats like Koufax, Maddux, Seaver, and Palmer. Anytime you are mentioned with that company, you are doing something right. The only thing that is missing from Kershaw’s resume is the postseason success. He is 2-6 with a 4.59 ERA in the postseason but I think it is just a matter of time before regular season Kershaw shows up in the playoffs. If Kershaw never pitched again in the big leagues, he would be a Hall of Famer in my book.

  1. Cole Hamels: 130-93, 3.31 ERA               WAR: 47.6                                           2009 WS MVP

Hamels has had a fantastic career and has been an ace for the majority of his career. He has been a reliable pitcher as he throws 200+ innings almost every season. The case for Hamels to be a future Hall of Famer is the longevity of his success and his WS MVP in 2008. But his highest finish in the CY award was 5th. I believe a Hall of Fame pitcher should have a few years where he dominates and has at least 1 CY award. Hamels is still a really good pitcher and has time to improve his resume.

  1. Jon Lester 136-83, 3.52 ERA               WAR: 37.6           2-time World Series Champion

Lester is in a very similar situation as Hamels. Like Hamels, Lester has been a reliable pitcher who has thrown 200+ innings all but once since he has become a regular starter in the big leagues. His numbers are solid but they are not dominating numbers like a guy like Kershaw. What Lester does have is consistent numbers over a 9 year period and he has postseason success. He played huge role in his second World Series title as he threw 15 innings in the World Series and was 2-0 and only gave up 1 run.  Lester will need to put together 4-5 solid seasons to be in the discussion as a Hall of Famer.

  1. Madison Bumgarner 95-62, 2.93 ERA                 WAR: 24.3           3-time World Series Champion

Bumgarner is right up there with Clayton Kershaw as the top left-hander in baseball. Bumgarner seems to be getting better each season and heading into the break has a 1.94 ERA in 19 starts. What makes Bumgarner so special is his dominance in the postseason. The Giants win the World Series every two years and he gets a lot of opportunities to shine when the lights shine the brightest. His career numbers in the playoffs are 7-3 with a 2.14 ERA but he went 2-0 with 21 innings pitched and 1 earned run in the 2014 World Series. My only concern with Bumgarner is what will his stuff be like in 5 year? His arm slot is very strange and his velocity is already starting to decline. But right now, Bumgarner’s career is off to a great start.

One of the reasons I love the midsummer classic so much is due to the fact that I get the opportunity to watch the game’s best players on the same field. The 2016 All-Star was a treat to watch with many special players.

Yankees Acquire Headley

The New York Yankees have been struggling to produce on the offensive end as they have a team batting average of .252 and they rank just 21st in baseball in runs with 391. The Yanks decided to make a change in the infield and acquired Chase Headley from the San Diego Padres in exchange for Yangervis Solarte and minor league pitcher Rafael De Paula. The Yankees are hoping that he can find his 2012 form where he hit 31 Home Runs and drove in 115 Runs and not his 2013 form where he hit .250 with only 13 Home Runs ad 50 RBI. If Headley can take advantage of the short porch in Yankee Stadium, he could be a big lift to the struggling Yankees offense.

Weekend Recap: Mets lose 2 of 3 to Nationals

This past weekend the Mets lost two out of three to the division rival Nationals. The Nationals won game one of the series 5-2, thanks to some shaky defense by the Mets and a poor start by Jonathan Niese, which saw the Mets go down 5-0 after three innings. The Mets did make things interesting in the ninth, when Daniel Murphy hit a ball that Jayson Werth caught at the top of the wall for the final out of the game with the tying runs on base. The Mets took game two of the series on Saturday, thanks to a solid outing from Bartolo Colon (8 inn, 2 runs, 5 hits, 5 SO) and the return of Juan Lagares (2-4, HR, 3 RBI, and a HR saving catch) to the lineup. In the rubber game, Zach Wheeler continued to struggle on the mound, as the Nationals won game three of the series, 6-3, behind 4 RBIs from Met killer Wilson Ramos ( 7 HRs and 29 RBIs in 32 games against the Mets).

Here are some general thoughts from what I saw in this series from the Mets:

Terry Collins: For the most part, I have been a supporter of Terry Collins and how he has managed the Mets the last couple of seasons. This week, though, I do not understand what Collins is trying to do. First, he sits Lagares for 4 of the first 5 games of the week, then inserts him in the lineup and watches Lagares steal the show, only to say that Lagares may not play everyday. Then he states that Ruben Tejada really stepped his game up in the last week or so and will likely see the majority of the playing time at shortstop going forward over Wilmer Flores. Look, I get that Wilmer Flores is likely not an everyday shortstop in the major leagues, specifically on the defensive side. However, Tejada has been given enough of an opportunity to show what he can do, and he is not a starting shortstop in the major leagues. He made a costly error in Sunday’s game that cost the Mets two unearned runs and he can’t hit. He is batting .185 with a .309 OBP on the year, and he is 3 for his last 21 (.143) at the plate, though Collins says that he is swinging the bat really well. Terry, it is time to play Lagares everyday and let’s give Wilmer Flores the next ten games at shortstop and see if he can get in a rhythm at the plate and add a boost to the lineup.

Juan Lagares (Series: 3-8, HR, 4 RBI, 1 Run, 1 BB, and this amazing catch): I know I have mentioned him already, but after not starting the first game of the series, Lagares looked like one of the best players on the field. If he can keep hitting, he has the opportunity to become one of the more complete players in all of the National League. This weekend showed just a glimpse of that with the way he swung the bat and how he played defensively in centerfield.

Zach Wheeler (Series: 0-1, 6 IP, 5 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 SO) Wheeler continued to struggle on the mound, as he was not able to command any of his off speed pitches. He did a decent job of fastball location, but when you can’t get much else over the plate, big league hitters will just sit on the fastball. I think Wheeler will figure it out, as most young pitches (minus Matt Harvey, Jose Fernandez, and a few others) go through growing pains. Hopefully this is just part of the process and Wheeler will figure it out soon.

Eric Young Jr. (Series: 1-13, 2B, RBI, BB, 3 SO) Terry Collins insists on playing Young Jr. everyday because when he gets on base, he scores runs. Well, that may be the case, but the problem is Young Jr. does not get on base enough. After his rough series against the Nationals, Young Jr. is hitting .221 with a .310 OBP. That is not going to cut it out of the leadoff spot. It is time to start platooning him with Chris Young, getting both players 3-4 starts a week, and riding whoever gets hot.

The Little Things: The Mets really struggled playing defense and made mistakes on the base paths this weekend in D.C. On Friday, Eric Young Jr. missed a cutoff man allowing two runners to move up an extra base. In the same inning, the Mets were not able to turn a potential inning ending double play, which allowed another run to score. On Sunday, Murphy was caught too far off of third base, killing a potential rally. Reuben Tejada messed up a back hand, allowing two runs to later score when the inning should have been over, and Juan Centeno was thrown out at second trying to advance on a throw while also struggling behind the plate. If the Mets are going to win games, they have to do the little things because they do not have the ability to make up for mistakes by hitting the three run home run.

All in all, it was a disappointing weekend for the Mets. After taking the first two from the Yankees in the beginning of the week, it looked like the Mets were about to go on one of those streaks, winning 8 out 10 or 9 out 12. Instead, reality struck hard when they returned to Citi Field and didn’t scores run in the final two games against the Yanks. Then, with an opportunity to win a series against a Nationals team who has owned the Mets (going into the series, they had won eight in a row), they were unable to do so thanks to some costly mistakes. When the Nationals are without three of their best bats in Harper, Zimmerman, and LaRoche, and you miss Strasburg’s turn in the rotation, you have to win the series if you are going to compete in the division. The Mets showed that they are just not ready to be a serious contender to the likes of the Nationals and Braves in the National League East.

Looking Ahead: The Mets have the day off on today. After today, the Mets play 20 straight days, including the next nine at home against the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, and Pirates before heading out on the road. The first three of the nine games at home will be against the Dodgers, a team that is not quite living up to their large payroll and expectations, but is still a very talented team. With the likes of Puig, Kemp, Ramirez, Gonzalez, Greinke, and Eithier, it will be a tough test for the Mets.

Pitching Match-Ups vs. Dodgers

Tuesday: 7:10

NYM Montero (0-1, 4.50) vs. LAD Beckett (1-1, 2.38)

Wednesday: 7:10

NYM deGrom (0-1, 1.29) vs. LAD Ryu (3-2, 3.00)

Thursday: 7:10

NYM Niese (2-3, 2.54)  vs. LAD Greinke (7-1, 2.03)