Posts Tagged ‘Clayton Kershaw’

2017 Awards: Cy Young

October 10, 2017

Continuing along with my view of what will happen with the 2017 postseason awards, here’s a look at the big pitching awards.

American League

Corey Kluber

Kluber of the Indians led the AL in wins and ERA, still big stats for the traditional voters, and also posted a league leading WHIP and ERA+ to impress the new stat guys. His WAR was 8.0, also a league high. I think he gets the AL Cy Young without too much trouble.

National League

Max Scherzer

Max Scherzer led the National League in WHIP, WAR (for pitchers) for the new guys and in strikeouts for the older writers. His nearest rival is Clayton Kershaw who had more wins and a lower ERA, which, I believe will get him a lot of support. As much as I’d like to see Kershaw win, I am reminded that when he went down, the Dodgers didn’t miss a beat in running up the league’s best record. Apparently they can win without him. Not so sure of that when it comes to Scherzer and the Nationals. I think it may make the difference in what should be a close ballot.

Although I’m reasonably sure of Kluber, I won’t be surprised if Kershaw knocks off Scherzer for the award.

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Another Top of the Line (?) ESPN List

July 6, 2017

Well, being ESPN they’ve put out another one of their lists. This promises to tell us the current top 100 players in Major League Baseball. As usual, it’s a combination of the sublime and the ridiculous. I’m certainly not going to give you the entire list here, but I’ll do my standard job on it. I’ll give you the top player at each position (his spot in the list 1-100 will be the number in parenthesis) plus five pitchers (one of which has to be a lefty and one has to be a right-hander), a reliever, and the first player whose position is already taken will be the DH. Got all that? Good. So here we go.

1b Paul Goldschmidt (4)

2b Jose Altuve (10)

ss Carlos Correa (9)

3b Kris Bryant (6)

rf Bryce Harper (3)

cf Mike Trout (1)

lf Michael Conforto (42)

c Buster Posey (19)

P Clayton Kershaw (2), Chris Sale (5), Max Scherzer (7), Stephen Strasberg (20), Dallas Keuchel (22)

reliever Andrew Miller (36)

DH Nolan Arenado (8 and the second third baseman listed)

Francisco Lindor at number 11 is the highest rated player not to make the team. There are a lot of right and center fielders ahead of Conforto, but I wanted one guy in each position. The list also has a lot more infielders than outfielders high on the chart.

The list is on ESPN where you can check it out. If you don’t like it, take it up with ESPN.

 

Good Bye to 2016

December 29, 2016
Hopefully I won't have to be this old before the Dodgers win

Hopefully I won’t have to be this old before the Dodgers win

Another baseball season is over. The winners are crowned, the loser mourned. The postseason awards are announced, the winter meetings are through, and the Veteran’s Committee has spoken. Here, in my usual nine things for nine innings format, are a few random thoughts on what we saw (and didn’t see) in 2016.

1. The Cubs finally won. It hadn’t happened in 108 years and the Cubs fans are joyous. But I wonder if some of the mystique that surrounded the Cubs wasn’t harmed. The “loveable loser” moniker is gone, as is the “sit in the sun, drink beer, and don’t worry about the score” motif of Cubsdom is over. Will it hurt the overall fan base, or not. I have no idea.

2. Can the Angels find a pitcher? They have Mike Trout, arguably the best player in the Major Leagues in a long time. They have Albert Pujols, a shadow of what he was at St. Louis, but still a formidable player (He had 119 RBIs and needs nine homers for 600). C. J. Cron is 26 and Kole Calhoun is 29. And they still can’t win. Maybe the problem is the staff, maybe it’s the coaching staff (Scioscia hasn’t led them very far in a while), but they just don’t win.

3. Sticking with the West Coast, but moving to Chavez Ravine, we say good-bye to Vin Scully who, for 67 years, graced us with his voice, his wit, his stories. I liked Jack Buck and Dizzy Dean. I liked Bob Prince and Russ Hodges, but there was only one Vin. Maybe he’ll be the first broadcaster elected to the Hall of Fame itself, not just to the broadcasters niche. And the Dodgers answered the question, “who needs an ace?” by rattling off a ton of wins with Clayton Kershaw injured.

4. I loved that Royals team that won in 2014 and 2015, but injuries and free agency have taken their toll. I’d love to see them back in the mix again, but I’m afraid it will have to be with a very different set of players. That’s a shame; they were fun to watch.

5. Then there’s Cleveland. They now have the longest streak of not having won the World Series (since 1948). It’s a good team with a very good manager and I’d like to see them break their streak (but not at the expense of my Dodgers). And sticking with the Indians, I hope the Terry Francona method of using his relievers in key situations, not just the ninth inning, catches on.

6. So Bud Selig is now a Hall of Famer. OK, I guess. There have been better choices and there have been worse choices. Ken Griffey, Jr. and Mike Piazza also made it. They were better, and easier, choices.

7. We lost W.P. Kinsella this year. He gave us the book Shoeless Joe, which in turn gave us the movie Field of Dreams. We also lost Hall of Famer Monte Irvin and broadcast legend Joe Garagiola, and  current pitcher Felix Fernandez, among others.

8. Dan Duquette is an honest man. He told us that the Orioles weren’t interested in Jose Bautista because the fans didn’t like him. OK, I guess. It’s honest, but I don’t know how much baseball sense it makes. Thoughts, Bloggess?

9. Buck Showalter is getting another year. He’s a fine manager, but he’s gotta know when to bring in his relief ace.

And finally it’s time for my annual Dodgers rallying cry “Wait ’til next year.” Why change the cry now; it’s been good for 28 years.

 

Random Thoughts on the 2016 Season Ending Awards

November 18, 2016

The postseason baseball awards are finished, or at least most of them are. There seems to be a ton of new stuff now. It’s almost as if the “participation trophy” syndrome has made it to MLB. But the ones I care most about are now revealed and here’s some thoughts on them.

First, here’s the list of winners in case you missed it (National League listed first):

Rookie of the Year: Corey Seager (Dodgers), Michael Fulmer (Tigers)

Manager of the Year: Dave Roberts (Dodgers), Terry Francona (Indians)

Cy Young Award: Max Scherzer (Nationals), Rick Porcello (Red Sox)

MVP: Kris Bryant (Cubs), Mike Trout (Angels)

All in all it’s not a bad list. I might have done it differently, but the BBWAA did a good job for a change. I’ve been critical of the writers on more than one occasion, but this year their list looks very much like mine (as if they care what mine looks like). In the NL Seager was an obvious choice, as was Bryant. Scherzer was not at all a bad choice either. I was a little surprised that Roberts beat out Joe Maddon for Manager of the Year. I thought the Cubs success would put him over the top for the second year in a row. What Roberts did with a team that looked like a surgery ward in a hospital made him my choice and its nice when the writers agree. To be blunt about it, your team loses the best pitcher in baseball (Clayton Kershaw) and they get better? The manager must be doing something right.

The American League was a little more interesting. Francona was, to me, an obvious choice. As with Roberts, he did wonderfully with a team of walking wounded. Hopefully, his strategy of using his best relievers when the game is in crisis rather than in the ninth inning will catch on. It was done in the 1950s and 1960s and there’s no reason not to return to that model. Frankly I thought Gary Sanchez of New York would win, but I’m gratified Fulmer took the award. Neither would have been a bad choice.

I presume that Trout and Porcello will be, as time goes along, the most controversial choices. Trout’s team didn’t win and Porcello didn’t get the most first place votes. It’s not like either is a bad choice and I got one right (Porcello) and one wrong (Trout) in my own betting on who would win. I expected Mookie Betts to win but I personally would have chosen Trout, who I feel had a better year. I would have chosen Justin Verlander over Porcello, but I thought he’d lose. What I didn’t expect he’d be left off two ballots (And did you see Kate Upton, his fiancée’s twitter post?). It’s one they’ll talk about for a while (actually I mean both the vote and Upton’s reply).

So congratulations to all the winners. It was a heck of a season and each of them made it a better year. Now on to the Hall of Fame votes.

 

What Went Wrong with the Dodgers?

October 18, 2015

As a diehard Dodgers fan I was saddened, but by now inured to their inevitable fate. So I asked myself, “Self, what went wrong this time?” Let me point out a number of things.

1 The Mets are pretty good. In a lot of ways the Dodgers didn’t lose, the Mets simply won (and congrats to both Bill and Glen). It’s a good team and good teams tend to win. So in many ways the answer to what went wrong with the Dodgers is that the Mets played better ball.

2. An over reliance to two pitchers won’t, as a rule, get you a championship. Yeah you can pull it off if you’re the ’63 and ’65 Dodgers (Koufax and Drysdale) or the 2001 Diamondbacks (Johnson and Schilling), but you’re not going to do it very often. All the other team has to do is beat your big guys once or twice (in this case the Mets beat both Kershaw and Greinke once each) and your team has nothing to back up the big guns. On point the ’65 Dodgers were in trouble until Claude Osteen turned things around in game 3. This year’s Dodgers didn’t have an Osteen.

3. It helps if you know how to trade something other than ball cards. The Dodgers pickups and losses before the season began and after it started weren’t inspired. They got rid of Dee Gordon. You know Gordon, don’t you? He hit .333, stole a league high 58 bases, had a league high 205 hits, had 4.9 WAR (BBREF version). In 2014 he played for LA. In 2015 he played for Miami. And the Dodgers got Howie Kendrick who hit a reasonable .295 but with 137 hits, six stolen bases, and all of 1.1 WAR. They also got Jimmy Rollins. I don’t want to imply he’s old, but he has to remember where he was when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor (and he probably shouldn’t have won the MVP he won). His numbers were .224, 12 stolen bases, 116 hits, and -0.1 WAR. Then there was the Latos deal. Seriously? They expected Matt Latos to put them into the World Series? Heck, I coulda done that bad and would have done it a lot cheaper. Then they traded for Chase Utley. I like Utley but he’s as old as Rollins and equally over the hill.

4. This is a team that doesn’t hit all that well. In a fifteen team league that led in home runs, but were 13th in hits. They were second in walks, but 11th in doubles and fifth in total bases. They were tenth in batting average. Kershaw and Greinke had a WAR over 7.5. Next on the team was Adrian Gonzalez at 3.9 tied with Justin Turner.

I could go on, but I’m tired and I’ve vented long enough. There are a lot of things LA has to fix (not least of which is resigning Greinke) in order to repeat as West champs. I’ve been a Dodgers fan so long I know better than to hold my breath.

Nine Random Thoughts on the 2015 Season (Country Music Version)

October 8, 2015
Albert Pujols as a Cardinal

Albert Pujols as a Cardinal

As baseball plays nine innings in a game, it seems reasonable to look at the just concluded regular season by noting nine more or less random aspects of it to the tune of some Country Music titles and lines.

1 Back in the Saddle Again.  There were a lot of team surprises this season for fans who hadn’t seen their team win in a long time. The Mets and Rangers, who’d done good work earlier in the century returned to prominence. No one expected them to win their division, but here they are getting ready for playoff games. Same is true of the Astros, who only a couple of years ago were the worst team in MLB (and just broke a six year run of losing seasons). And while we’re at it don’t forget the Yankees weren’t supposed to be very good this year (and Joe Girardi will still get no credit). You could say that the AL playoff game might have been the surprise game of the year. And my son is happy to see his Twins get above .500 for the first time in a while.

2. He’ll Have to Go. Last season Matt Williams was National League Manager of the Year. This season he got fired. Strange how that works, isn’t it?

3. Don’t Worry About Me. It was great to see the return of Albert Pujols to something like his old self. OK, it was only for half a year, but it reminded us just how good Pujols was in St. Louis and why Anaheim paid so much to get him.

4. Please Help Me I’m Falling. What happened in Detroit and in DC? Both were picked to do well and both collapsed. Detroit could at least argue that the players who weren’t hurt got old. Washington couldn’t argue that. Considering everything, including picking up Papelbon, the Nationals gave an entirely new meaning to “choke.”

5. With Every Heartbeat I Still Think of You. Although no one ascended to Mount Rushmore heights, a lot a milestones were reached this season. David Ortiz picked up his 500th home run, Albert Pujols slugged his 560th, Clayton Kershaw became the first pitcher in 10 years to notch 300 strikeouts, Zack Greinke’s ERA was Gibsonesque (is that a word?), Ichiro Suzuki got within one halfway decent season of 3000 hits (and he pitched an inning), and Alex Rodriguez, like Suzuki, got within one season of a milestone. In Rodriguez’s case it’s 700 home runs (stated without reference to steroids and without intending to spark debate about either Rodriquez or steroids).

6. Trailers for Sale or Rent. I don’t remember a trade deadline that was so meaningful to so many. Hamels, Cespedes and Tulowitzki were key to the championship runs of the Rangers, the Mets, and the Blue Jays. And Latos was one of the things that came close to costing the Dodgers their shot at a pennant. There have surely been more meaningful deadlines but I can’t remember any recently. Feel free to correct me if you do remember a recent one.

7. Am I That Easy to Forget?  Miguel Cabrera is one heck of a ballplayer, isn’t he? He just won his fourth batting title and no one noticed. The four wins puts him in some elite company.  Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Rod Carew, and Wade Boggs are the only American Leaguers with more than four batting titles. Cabrera’s home run total was way down this year and maybe his period as a power hitter has come to an end, but he can still hit. Of course there are a lot of other superior ball players giving the game a try right now. One of those is Adrian Beltre, and you can also say a lot of the above about him. His home run total was also down, but try and imagine the Rangers in the playoffs without him.

8. One by one, they’re turning out the lights. If all those players who reached, or got within reach, of the milestones mentioned in #5 above, have gotten to those milestones, it means that we’re seeing the end approaching for a number of truly fine players (Kershaw and Greinke excepted–they’re still in mid-career). That’s a shame. All of them have given fans wonderful (and sometimes not so wonderful) memories. For some it’s a short wait for a call from Cooperstown. For others it’s a longer wait and possibly a call that never comes. But you gotta admit, they were and are great to watch.

9. Poor, Poor Pitiful Me. This has been a year of absolutely dominant pitchers. Sometimes you can’t help but feel sorry for the hitters. And you know, Dodgers left-handers whose last names start with “K” are pretty good, aren’t they?

On to postseason.

Nine Reasons to Remember the 2014 Season

December 30, 2014

Well, the year is almost over and so is the baseball season. As there are nine innings to a game and nine players to a side, it seemed reasonable to look back on the 2014 season in “nines”. So here’s nine reasons to remember in 2015 what happened in 2014.

1. Madison Bumgarner is one heck of a postseason pitcher. In World Series play he is 4-0 with an ERA of 0.25 in 36 innings with a save and a shutout. At 20 or more innings pitched, that’s number one. It’s also number one if you start with 25 innings, 30 innings, or 40 innings. To top that ERA you have to push the innings pitched total to over 50 innings (Sandy Koufax at 57 innings pitched).

2. Giants fans can take a breather in 2015. Since moving to San Francisco, the Giants have won six pennants. Five (1962, 2002, 2010, 2012, 2014) have been in even-numbered years. Only 1989 is an odd-numbered year.

3. Mike Trout finally won an MVP Award. It always looks strange to see a player win an MVP in a “down” year for them. Happened this year.

4. For the first time since Bob Gibson in 1968, a pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, won the National League MVP Award. How rare is it? The current NL award goes back to 1931 only Carl Hubbell (twice), Dizzy Dean, Bucky Walters, Jim Konstanty, and Don Newcombe won the award prior to the expansion era. Since expansion (1962 for the NL) only Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, and Kershaw have won. It’s somewhat more common in the American League. Add Newcombe to the expansion list and you have all of the NL pitchers who’ve won the MVP since the advent of the Cy Young Award.

5.  Derek Jeter, the last of the “Core Four” retired.

6. It was year 69 of the Cubs rebuilding. The last time Chicago made it to the World Series was 1945. Harry Truman was President.

7. The Kansas City Royals won a pennant for the first time since 1985. Their rebuilding only took 29 years.

8. For my Dodgers, it’s up to 26 years.

9. The Hall of Fame class of 2014 included three managers, two pitchers, and a power hitter. It was the biggest class since the mass enrollment of Negro League personnel in 2006.

That’s my nine. I presume yours will be different. Have a great 2015 and say it with me “Go Dodgers.”

A Few Random Thoughts on the 2014 Postseason Awards

November 13, 2014
Sandy Koufax's 1965 Cy Young Award

Sandy Koufax’s 1965 Cy Young Award; note the trophy is right handed

 

Now that the postseason awards are over, here’s a few comments on them:

1. For American League Rookie of the Year, did anybody not have Jose Abreu? He had this thing locked up well before the season ended. As for Jacob DeGrom, my reaction is “why not?” MLB is full of Rookies of the Year who have the one great opening season (sometimes really just a handful of opening months) then flame out (Joe Charboneau, anyone?). I have no idea what will happen with these two, but I wish them luck and hope they have long and productive careers.

2. The Manager of the Year Award generally comes down to one of two types: the guy takes a team that’s done nothing and makes it a winner or the guy takes a team that is full of adversity and makes a winner out of it. This year adversity takes the prize. With multiple players injured both Matt Williams and Buck Showalter took teams to the playoffs. I think Showalter is one of the better managers in baseball and I’m glad to see him win. Williams? As with DeGrom, “sure, why not?” BTW in case you haven’t noticed, Showalter was Manager of the Year in 1994, 2004, and 2014. You might want to get a bet down on 2024.

3. Again, did anybody not have Clayton Kershaw for the National League Cy Young Award? If so, I have this great bridge in Brooklyn you might be interested in. I’ll sell it cheap. I’m one of those who thought Corey Kluber should have won the AL Cy Young, so I’m happy there, but would have been neither upset nor surprised had Felix Hernandez gotten the award.

4. Over at ESPN there’s a story on Kershaw winning the award. It’s a nice little story and included with it is a factoid box that works as a great example of what’s wrong with cherry picking stats and facts. It states that Kershaw is one of six pitchers to win the Cy Young Award in three out of four years. Here’s the list: Sandy Koufax, Jim Palmer, Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Kershaw. That’s nice, isn’t it? Well, it’s not really as great as it sounds. They fail to mention that both Maddux and Johnson won not three out of four Cy Young Awards, but actually won four out of four Cy Young Awards. They also don’t tell you that Koufax won his when there was only one Cy Young Award given, not one in each league (and he’s still the only pitcher to win three by unanimous vote). Kershaw is good enough without having to cherry pick stats. Writers (including me, unfortunately) tend to look for ways to make someone sound good and forget that you can use stats to prove about anything. I remember when George Brett was about to retire someone found out that he and Willie Mays were the only guys with a specific number of home runs and stolen bases who also hit .300 (I forget the numbers involved). Of course if you move one of the home run or stolen base numbers around (not to mention change .300) you can get Mays alone or no one at all or twenty different guys. I try not to do that (at least not too often) but we’re all prone to it.

5. So the third time really was the charm for Mike Trout. I always find it interesting when someone wins a big award for a year that isn’t his best when he’s previously failed to win for a better year. Happens all the time. Now it becomes interesting to see what happens. Frequently a player keeps getting touted for an award, finally wins one, then sort of gets forgotten by voters. Wonder if that will happen to Trout?

6. And the ugly “can a pitcher win an MVP award?” question is upon us again. I always figure that it’s for the “most valuable player” not the “most valuable hitter” or “most valuable fielder” or “most valuable pitcher.” And the idea that between 1968 and 2014 no National League pitcher was more valuable than all the league’s hitters each and every year is simply silly. Of course the key word is “valuable.” I’ll be the first to admit that I define “valuable” differently than others (and if you’re honest, so do you). That’s actually one of the great things about “valuable”, it’s not self-defining. That makes it just nebulous enough to make it worthwhile to debate.

 

A Year’s End 9 Inning Celebration

December 31, 2013

So the year is ending, is it? Well, good riddance to bad rubbish. In many ways 2013 was a lousy year. The weather, the politics, the expenses, my wife broke a leg (which is now healed fine). But baseball provided some good moments. Here, in honor of nine innings and in no particular order, are some moments, both good and bad, that I remember.

1. The Dodgers made the playoffs and promptly hashed it. If you’re a Dodgers fan like me, this is a good sign.

2. The Miguel Cabrera/Mike Trout controversy stayed around. Isn’t it great that there are two players this quality in the Major Leagues today so we can debate the meaning of greatness?

3. Biogenesis. Who ever heard of them? I wish the whole PED issue would just go away, but I know it won’t.

4. Mariano Rivera did finally go away. That’s the wrong kind of going away. Never a Yankees fan, but it was a joy to watch Rivera perform. He was good, he had class, he had style. Name five other players you can say all that about.

5. The Red Sox won the World Series. OK, I’m not a BoSox fan either, but they’re a good team, a good organization, and David Ortiz is one heck of a hitter.

6. Clayton Kershaw proved why it’s now alright to mention his name in the same breath as you mention Sandy Koufax’s.

7. Albert Pujols proved mortal again. I hope it’s not the end of the line for the finest first baseman I ever saw.

8. Mike Matheny got his Cardinals to the World Series. Finally he can begin to move out from under Tony LaRussa’s shadow.

9. The Hall of Fame put in Deacon White and Jacob Ruppert, both of which I’d been pushing for, but left out everybody else except an ump and three managers. Are you kidding?

Hopefully, you have your own list of nine. These are mine. May you have a better 2014 than you had a 2013.

2013 Awards: Cy Young

October 14, 2013
Koufax, the only 3-time unanimous Cy Young winner

Koufax, the only 3-time unanimous Cy Young winner

To me, the 2013 Cy Young Awards are the easiest to figure. I have my choices and I believe the will coincide with the writers.

NL: Does anyone serious expect someone other than Clayton Kershaw to win the National League Cy Young Award?

AL: It’s a little trickier in the American League. There is going to be a lot of support for new stat guys like Felix Hernandez, but I think the writers will ultimately go with Max Scherzer of Detroit (without reference to his bullpen letting him down last night). There was one 20 game winner in the Major Leagues this season and Scherzer was it. I think that stat alone will give him the writers nod. I’ll go with him too. I recognize the devaluing of the “win” stat, but Scherzer has a lot of other things going for him. His WHIP is impressive (and first in the AL), as is his FIP. His ERA is 2.90, which is good in this era, and is fifth this season. His ERA+ is 145 (tied for second). He’s third in pitcher’s WAR behind Iwakuma and a guy with a losing record (Sale). He’s second in strikeouts. All of that together puts him first on my ballot.

About the picture. As people are constantly comparing Kershaw to Koufax, thought you might like to see a shot of the real thing in action.