My Vote for 2016 N.L. Cy Young Award

As I stated in my American League Cy Young post, each season there are usually several pitchers from each league who have incredible seasons, making it difficult to choose between them for who most deserves the Cy Young award. This year was no different. Max Scherzer, Jose Fernandez, Tanner Roark, Johnny Cueto, Madison Bumgarner, scherzerNoah Syndergaard, Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks all had years worthy of recognition, but in the end only one can with the National League Cy Young award.

Admittedly, there are a few others with unbelievable stats from 2016 in the National League not included on my list, but I decided to begin the discussion with Tanner Roark, who is one of the eight pitchers in the NL with an ERA below 3.00. Roark’s 2.83 ERA over the course of this season is quite remarkable, but with so much competition, it quickly leaves him on the outside looking in.

Another pitcher in Roark’s position is Johnny Cueto, who had an unbelievable year but still didn’t do enough to earn the Cy Young. Even so, Cueto’s 18-5 record with a 2.79 ERA helped get the Giants into the postseason once again, despite some offensive struggles, and he will be a big part in their success moving forward.

Jose Fernandez is the next pitcher I’m taking off the list, which is truly unfortunate. With the stunning news of his untimely death coming back in September, it would be fantastic to see him win the award. However, while I’m all for honoring his memory, there are other candidates who deserve the award more when you take a close look at the stats.

Despite getting the Mets into the postseason for the second straight season, Noah Syndergaard won’t wind up with the Cy Young award when all is said and done. But his 2.60 ERA and 218 strikeouts certainly stand out on a pitching staff that saw a plethora of injuries, and Syndergaard will likely continue to be the ace of Queens.

Three-thousand miles away, out in San Francisco, Madison Bumgarner had yet another great season of what has become a great career to this point. Bumgarner managed to strike out 251 batters over the span of 34 starts this season, and combined with Johnny Cueto to make on of the best one-two punches in all of baseball, but won’t take home the award when the voting is revealed.

Speaking of one-two punches, John Lester made up one half of perhaps the best duo in all of baseball for the Cubs. His 2.44 ERA was second best in all of baseball, and his .211 opponent batting average definitely jumps out, but so does Lester’s less than one strikeout-per-inning, making him fall short of the Cy Young award.

It came down to a couple of aces this season. But while Kyle Hendricks and his MLB-best 2.13 ERA initially makes him the heavy favorite, I couldn’t select him to pick up the award. His strikeout numbers are subpar at best, and while that isn’t always a deciding factor in the voting process, it is in this case.

For that reason, I went with Max Scherzer to win the National League Cy Young. He has the worst ERA of all the players on my list, at a dismal 2.96, but it’s his strikeout numbers that give him the edge in my mind. The Cy Young award is about utter dominance, and Scherzer’s 284 K’s (including a 20-strikeout performance this season) makes him the number one choice. Striking out 114 more batters than my runner up Kyle Hendricks, I made the tough but correct decision for the award this season.

Marlins’ Playoff Chances Without Stanton Still High

It’s been said countless times, both on this blog and around the baseball world: If Giancarlo Stanton could stay healthy for a full season, he could hit 45+ home runs. The problem? Stanton has never been able to stay fully healthy for a whole year throughout the length of the majority of his entire career, proven once again recently by his latest injury that’s going to force him to sit out the rest of 2016. Stanton

The most games Stanton has ever played in came back in 2011, when he took part in 150. Since then, Stanton has missed 249 possible games with the Marlins, leaving them without his immense power for an extended stretch.

In 2014, Stanton missed the final two weeks of the season after getting hit in the face by a pitch. Then, last season, Stanton lost out on an entire three months after breaking his hand. Given, Stanton can’t avoid freak injuries such as those, but it’s certainly not the amount of playing time the Marlins were looking for when they signed him to a 325 million dollar contract.

Stanton’s latest season-ending injury takes him from the Marlins just as they are in a race for the second Wild Card spot. Now, without Stanton and his team-leading 25 home runs and 70 RBI’s, many people are simply dashing any chance whatsoever of the Marlins making the postseason.

But I’m just not convinced.

Yes, the loss of Stanton is very impactful. Hitting anywhere from 24 to 37 home runs each of the past six seasons, and crushing the ball virtually every game, Stanton is a bat that you definitely want in your lineup. However, the time to panic for the Marlins and their fans is not now.

Although given just a 22 percent chance at making the postseason by MLB.com, the Marlins still have some big time contributors, including Christian Yelich, Martin Prado and Marcell Ozuna, among others. While their pitching, with the exception of Jose Fernandez, isn’t all that great, I feel they have enough to make the postseason without Stanton, or at least stay relevant right up until the end.

It’s been thirteen years since the Marlins made the postseason at all, winning the World Series back in 2003. If nothing else, the Marlins are giving the fans in Miami something to be optimistic about for a change, currently tied with the Cardinals for a Wild Card spot with less than fifty games remaining.

They survived 80 games without Dee Gordon.

Now they just need to make it 44 without Giancarlo Stanton.

Bryce Harper Speaks Out for More Emotion

The regular season is still several weeks away and Bryce Harper is already making headlines across baseball. Not for an amazing throw or catch, or even a mammoth homer out of the ballpark. Instead, Harper is being talked about for his recent comments on baseball’s unwritten rules that involve one of the game’s touchiest topics: emotion.

HarperIn recent seasons, certain players have taken some heat for showing emotion on the field after making a game-changing play. Guys who have taken their sweet time rounding the bases after a home run, such as David Ortiz, or pitchers who have pumped their fist in celebration of a big time strikeout, i.e. Jose Fernandez, have had a negative light put upon them by opposing teams and fans alike.

Because of this, Bryce Harper (who has also been criticized numerous times for his emotional gameplay) took a very verbal stance recently, opposing those who feel individual celebration and emotion have no place in baseball, saying, “It’s a tired sport, because you can’t express yourself . . . I’m not saying baseball is, you know, boring or anything like that, but it’s the excitement of the young guys who are coming into the game now who have flair.”

I’m not sure I agree with Harper in going as far as to say baseball is a tired sport. I for one think baseball is more exciting than ever, with players getting seemingly more and more talented each season, and subsequently posting some unbelievable numbers. But I do agree with him that it’s time for emotion to find a place in baseball, assuming the situation calls for it (I don’t want to see celebrating after a bases-empty single), as it is a natural reaction as a human being to have some sort of emotional display after doing what is essentially your job as a big leaguer: to help your team win.

What’s become tired to me is isn’t the sport, as Harper suggests, but players allowing their feeling to be hurt so easily because the opposing team’s batter took too long to circle the bases on a home run or stood and watched the ball for too long, resulting in them being plunked in their next at-bat as a form of retaliation. That’s what is making baseball a tired sport.

Not surprisingly, however, some players don’t agree with Harper’s words (or my opinions). San Francisco Giant’s reliever, Sergio Romo, stated, in response to Harper’s comments, that there is undoubtedly ways to show emotion without showing up the other side. But I find that hard to envision. Inevitably, there will always be someone who views another player’s celebratory action as uncalled for, no matter how innocent the intention may have been. That’s the way the world works, so players might as well just do their thing and not care what anyone thinks.

But while guys such as Bryce Harper obviously couldn’t care less what people think or say about them, I imagine they Bautistado care what opposing pitchers do in retaliation. In the recent past, as previously touched upon, it’s been common “tradition” to get back at a team who had a player celebrate a home run or big play by drilling another player — usually the superstar player — with a fastball. Giving every player the okay to be themselves and celebrate would hopefully cut down on these over the top retaliations.

Baseball has long been a sport of tradition, and while I’m all for that, I think baseball also needs to grow with the times. There is a rule in the official Major League Baseball rule book that states that players aren’t allowed to fraternize with opposing players at any point before, during or after the game; yet players are laughing and joking with each other from the time they take the field until the last out. The game has historically changed with the times, and we have reached a new point in that timeline.

Recent changes to the written rules have seen second basemen being protected from takeout slides, as well as advanced instant replay rules being put into place to help get calls correct. In my mind, it’s time for the unwritten rules to be looked at as well. I don’t want things to go as far as players dancing after every base hit, but I don’t think things will reach that point. All that players such as Harper are asking is that they be allowed to show off their talent while having fun with it all.

Emotion takes baseball players back to their little league days when baseball was simply just a game. That emotion is needed in baseball, not because “showing up” the opposing team is a good thing, but because baseball is a much better sport when players are being genuine with who they are and the way they are feeling.

As Bryce Harper put it, it’s time players showed their “flair”.

Abreu and deGom Win Rookie of the Year Award

The Rookie of the Year award was first handed out in 1947 to Jackie Robinson, after he broke baseball’s color barrier and went on to have a great first season of what would become a Hall of Fame career. Given out to a single player again 1948, the award was expanded in 1949 to include a player from each league, and has been that way ever since.

Renamed the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year award in 1987, fourteen players who have won the award have gone on to the Hall of Fame, up until this point, of the 130 players to win it — several of those winners are still active players, however.

Voting for the award is fairly straightforward.

Two writers from each city of both the American League and National League make up the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) voters for the Rookie of the Year award, making a total of thirty voters for each league (fifteen teams, with two voters per city). A first place vote earns a player five points, a second place vote gets three points, with a third place vote receiving one point. Once added up, the player with the highest overall total wins.

The 2014 Major League Baseball Rookie of the Year award winners for both the American League and National League were announced Monday night on MLB Network. Here are the winners, along with my thoughts on each:

AMERICAN LEAGUE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Original Pick: Jose Abreu

Finalists: Jose Abreu, Dellin Betances and Matt Shoemaker

Winner: Jose Abreu

Thoughts On Jose Abreu Winning

Despite Jose Abreu being two months shy of his 28th birthday, and forgoing the fact that he came to the United States this past season after several years of playing pro ball in Cuba, there is little argument that Jose Abreu most deserves the award for 2014 American League Rookie of the Year. Jose+Abreu+Chicago+White+Sox+v+Kansas+City+v87XhNQz_CWl

Batting .317 on the season, to go along with 36 home runs and 107 RBI’s, Abreu showed off his ability to hit for both power and average this past year with the White Sox, and has truly been the award frontrunner since he blasted his way onto the scene in April.

Abreu becomes the first Rookie of the Year award winner in White Sox franchise history since Ozzie Guillen in 1985, as well as the first player since Mike Trout (2012) to receive the award via a unanimous vote; joining the likes of Craig Kimbrel (2011), Evan Longoria (2008) and Albert Pujols (2001), as the most recent.

Picking up 30 out of the 30 first-place votes, Abreu’s 150 points overall easily carry him past the runner up, Matt Shoemaker, who picked up 40 points, and Dellin Betances, who placed third, with his 27 overall points.

Although some players have posted great rookie seasons only to go onto have poor MLB careers, it’s safe to say that Jose Abreu — with his 30-40 home run a year potential — is bound for historic seasons moving forward.

NATIONAL LEAGUE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Original Pick: Jacob deGrom

Finalists: Jacob deGrom, Billy Hamilton and Kolten Wong

Winner: Jacob deGrom

Thoughts On Jacob deGrom Winning

Heading into the 2014 season, many saw the speedy Billy Hamilton as the likely runaway winner for the National League Rookie of the Year award. And he surely would’ve been, if not for a slow start to the season and a player by the name of Jacob deGrom who made his debut in mid May and took the baseball world by storm.

Although he didn’t post the most impressive stats in MLB history, going 9-6 with a 2.69 ERA over the course of 22 games started, deGrom was more1405284576000-USATSI-7987222 than good enough to win the Rookie of the Year award, striking out eight straight batters to begin a game during one of his starts.

The first New York Met to win the Rookie of the Year ward since 1984 when Dwight Gooden took the honor, deGrom was one of the best pitchers in baseball following July 4th, posting the second best ERA (only Clayton Kershaw was better) in all of baseball over his last 15 starts.

deGrom received 26 out of the 30 first-place votes, coming out to 142 points overall, leading him to a sizeable win over Billy Hamilton, who picked up 92 points and the other 4 first-place votes; and future big league star Kolten Wong’s third place finish with a total of 14 points.

When the Mets receive back their ace, Matt Harvey, in 2015, deGrom should be a great number two starter in their rotation. If things go as planned, the Mets could be a drastically better team next season than they were in 2014. However, whether or not that happens, deGrom is going to be really exciting to watch.

The Tommy John Epidemic Not Letting Up

First it was Corey Luebke. Then it was Luke Hochevar. Following soon after was Kris Medlen, along with Brandon Beachy, Jarrod Parker, Patrick Corbin, Bruce Rondon, David Hernandez, Peter Moylan, Erik Davis, Cory Gearrin, Bobby Parnell, Matt Moore, Josh Johnson, Ivan Nova, Pedro Figueroa and A.J. Griffin.Jose Fernandez

And now, reportedly, it’s Jose Fernandez.

Though it’s officially being classified as just an elbow strain, Fernandez would become the 18th major league pitcher to be forced to undergo Tommy John surgery (assuming the reports are true, and he has to have the surgery) since February 18th of this year. Meaning, Fernandez’s quest to win the 2014 National League Cy Young award, after placing third in 2013, would come to an end, as would his season.

While you don’t want a season ending injury to occur to any pitcher, you especially feel for Fernandez. Regardless of the fact that he has come across wrong in the past to a few, select players, he has a ton of fun out there on the mound and is an extremely humble guy. You don’t find both qualities all too often nowadays in major league players.

Coming off a career worst start in San Diego on Friday, in which Fernandez went just five innings, giving up five runs and raising his ERA from 1.74 to 2.44, the poor outing was the first indication that there was something wrong with Fernandez. Normally topping out at around 98 miles per hour on his fastball, Fernandez was throwing at around 91 when he was pulled from Friday’s game, and that drew a ton of attention his way as to what might be wrong. Now we know that there indeed was an issue.

If Fernandez has to undergo Tommy John surgery, it would be the first time in around a year that the Marlins have had to experience games without him toeing the rubber every fifth day. Without Fernandez for an extended period of time, it should be interesting to see how the Marlins fare. They’re off to a great start to the season, and if the pitching performances of Henderson Alvarez, Nathan Eovaldi and Tom Koehler can continue, as well as the hot bats of Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, the Marlins should be able to hang in there.

But even so, the loss of Fernandez isn’t something you want to brush off too lightly, because, as stated, he’s not the only pitcher who has been lost from their team for the season. In addition to the 18 major league pitchers previously listed who have fallen victim to Tommy John surgery, 16 minor league pitchers have been faced with the crushing news as well — all since February 18th, which averages out to a new pitcher having to have Tommy John once every 2.5 days.

Something is obviously wrong, and something needs to be done.

The most Tommy John surgeries in a single year since it was first performed on Tommy John himself back in 1974 was 46 in 2012. Sitting just 12 away for 2014, with several months left to go in the season, it’s likely that the number 46 could be surpassed, and that should be enough to tommy-johnmake people pay attention.

With there having only been 31 pitchers to have the surgery from it’s debut in 1974 all the way up until 1997, there have been more pitchers so far (33) in 2014 to have the surgery than there were in that 23-year span. That’s a definite problem.

Though the cause for the need of the surgery has been debated, from a pitcher’s mechanics having an impact, to the number of pitches thrown in an outing, or the innings pitched in a season playing a role, more and more people are beginning to look into the stress put on a pitcher’s arm in their youth.

The theory is that with young pitchers, in Little League and such, throwing too hard, too often, and adding in breaking balls too early in their playing years, their arms can’t handle the stress, and they begin to break down long before they reach the majors and have a season ending injury. With year round leagues becoming more popular, as well as multiple leagues for some pitchers, everything combines together for something bad to happen, and that is appearing to be the case.

One solution being pointed out by a lot of people (other than telling kids to lighten up with their velocity and number of games pitched) is for young pitchers to pitch off a flat mound instead of one that’s the same height as a major league pitcher. As Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci put it, “[it] makes no sense that 13-year-old kids are pitching off the same size mound as major league pitchers. Little Leaguers should be throwing off flat ground”. I have to agree with Verducci, and if that would help minimize injuries, then I’m all for it.

While Tommy John surgery is now becoming a routine surgery, and one that many pitchers have successfully come back from (a study showed that 97 percent of pitchers make it back to the minors, with 83 percent getting back to the majors, including Tommy John who pitched 14 more years and won 164 more games after his surgery), if it can be avoided altogether, obviously, that’s the more appealing alternative.

Whatever it takes, things need to change.

If you need to lower the mound for Little Leaguers, and perhaps even the major leagues down the road — lower the mound. If you need to issue a plan for young kids with what they’re allowed to do before a certain age — issue a plan. Do something that turns around this increasing Tommy John epidemic. There are far too many of the game’s greatest pitchers having to sit out a season in their prime, and that’s beginning to get very tiresome for the fans, and, I imagine, the players themselves.

Clayton Kershaw Makes Impressive Return In D.C.

Going into Tuesday, it had been over a month since Clayton Kershaw last threw a pitch on the major league level (down in Australia against the Diamondback’s on March 22nd). However, despite the large gap due to an injury, Kershaw picked up right where he left off, overpowering the Nationals and recording his second win of the 2014 season — the 31st start of his career with zero earned runs on seven or more innings pitched.Untitled

Kershaw’s missed month was due to an injury he acquired after plowing through the D-backs lineup in game one of the 2014 Opening Series in Australia (a start that many are now questioning), experiencing a strained left shoulder muscle afterwards, which landed him on the disabled list for the first time in his seven-year career.

Though many people felt that the Dodgers were too cautious with Kershaw, spreading his rehabilitation out over several weeks, you can understand their concern, having just locked him up on a seven-year, 215 million dollar, record breaking contract back in January.

Making two rehab starts down in the minor leagues before getting the call back up to the majors, Kershaw’s return couldn’t have come at a better time for the Dodgers, who were merely managing to keep in contention, having gone 17-15 without him. Sitting behind the Rockies and Giants in the National League west, despite pre season predictions from many for them to run away with the division, having Kershaw back immediately makes the Dodgers a stronger overall team.

But the loss of their two-time Cy Young award winner for the first part of the season didn’t just have an impact on the Dodgers as a whole; it may prove to have a big impact on Kershaw himself. Although he moved to 2-0 with a 0.66 ERA on the season, behind an 8-3 win on Tuesday night against the Nat’s, having missed over a month, many pitchers in the National League have been given the opportunity to overtake Kershaw when it comes to the running for some of the games’ highest honors.

Jose FernandezNone more so than Jose Fernandez.

Fernandez, who finished third in Cy Young voting in 2013 (truly saying something considering the fact that it was his rookie season), currently sits as the front runner to make the start for the National League All-Star team in July, as well as to win the 2014 NL Cy Young award, with his stat line of 4-1 with a 1.74 ERA on the year.

Given, there’s still a ton of the season left where anything can happen, with Kershaw having to play catch up, Fernandez could potentially run away with the voting at season’s end, should he be able to continue his fantastic pitching performances.

Even so, Clayton Kershaw’s return is good for both the Dodgers and baseball, even if it did come a bit later than in year’s past. Every time he takes the mound, people stop and watch to see how Kershaw will perform, as there’s always the chance for something special to happen.

Going down in the record books — at least for now — as the highest annually paid pitcher in Major League Baseball history, Kershaw showed on Tuesday why he’s worth every penny the Dodgers spent, and, inevitably, why he will go down in the record books as one of the best pitchers the game of baseball has ever seen.

Surprising Starts for Teams A Week Into the Season

It’s been just over a week since Opening Day launched the 2014 Major League Baseball season back on March 31st, and there have already been a lot of ups and downs for teams all around baseball, some of which were anticipated, but some that have come as a shock to many. Though we’re less than ten games into the long 162-game season, and many things can and will happen over the next several months, it’s interesting to take a look at how teams are beginning their season.

The most surprising good starts to the year, in my opinion, have to be the Mariners, Brewers, Marlins, and Rockies, as each have gotten off to an unpredicted great start.

While the Mariners picked up Robinson Cano this offseason, and made a couple of other great additions to their team as well, I’m not sure anyone predicted them to pitch and produce runs the way they’ve been able to do thus far. Everyone up and down their lineup is clickingYovani Gallardo for the most part, and their pitching has been really good. It should be interesting to see if they can keep up their 4-2 start.

The Brewers don’t really have all that much above average talent past Ryan Braun and Yovani Gallardo, who can be hit and miss, but they’ve been able to put together a great start to the season. Going 4-2 so far this year, the Brewers, while still not predicted to do much, have shown that they have the potential to cause some problems with the rest of the teams in the National League Central division.

Down in Miami, it takes a lot to get fans excited about the Marlins, ranking year after year towards the bottom in overall attendance, however, the start to the season the Marlins have produced is more than anyone could’ve asked for. Jose Fernandez has been fantastic in his two starts, and Giancarlo Stanton seems to have found his groove earlier than usual. Looking to build on their 5-2 start, the Marlins are worth watching.

One of the great things about baseball is that you never know what may happen, and that holds true with the Rockies, who have gotten off to a .500 start of 4-4 to begin the season. Though they’re still expected to finish near the bottom of the division, with Carlos Gonzalez clicking as usual and Troy Tulowitzki finally healthy, in addition to a good start for their pitchers, they could surprise a lot of people.

But those are just the surprising good starts to the year.

On the other side of the spectrum, the most surprising bad starts to the year, in my opinion, are the Rangers, Diamondbacks, Reds and Orioles, who haven’t been able to put much together yet.

The worst start to the 2014 season in all of baseball goes to Diamondbacks, who currently stand at 2-7. That comes as a big surprise, as they made several good moves this offseason, including acquiring power bat Mark Trumbo, who is currently one of the only bright spots on the team, MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Cincinnati Redsbesides Paul Goldschmidt, who is always consistent. The D-backs certainly need to turn things around, but they have plenty of time to do so.

Cincinnati is one of those teams that can be good or bad, however, I thought they’d begin the year better than they have. With a 2-5 record, they sit at the bottom of their division, and with several players struggling (mainly Billy Hamilton) or injured, it could be awhile before they begin to rebound. Though, they’re still too good of an overall team to keep doing this poorly as the season goes on, in my mind.

Like the Reds, the Orioles can be good or bad depending on several factors, but what it really comes down to is their pitching. Their offense is one of the best in baseball, with strong points up and down the lineup, but they need their newly added starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez to return to form for the Orioles to make a run in the division. Sitting at 2-5, it will be fun to watch the O’s in the difficult American League East.

Picking up Prince Fielder this offseason, many people (myself included) predicted the Rangers to have a great year, possibly winning the division. However, due to a ton of pitching injuries, among other things, they haven’t been able to perform to their potential, currently sitting at the bottom of the division with a 3-4 record. But despite the poor start, the Rangers should be just fine.

As stated, there is still a ton of season remaining where anything could happen. The teams that are off to a fantastic start could end up taking a tumble as the year goes on, while other teams that are struggling at the moment could very well take off on a major run. You never know what will happen throughout a given MLB season, and that’s what makes baseball so much fun.