November 18, 2016
A Model Argument:
Verlander Got Robbed.
By KEITH GAVE
As a former member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, I have no issue or grievance with the process by which Boston’s Rick Porcello won the American League Cy Young Award this week over the Tigers’ Justin Verlander. Kate Upton, we love the way you’re standing by your man, but your boyfriend lost. Get over it.
I didn’t even have a problem when it was revealed that two writers left Verlander completely off their ballots, which listed, in order, their top five candidates for the award. That they were both from the Tampa Bay chapter of the BBWAA appears to be a coincidence, though it did lead to some interesting conspiracy theories, none of them even remotely plausible.
I do have a problem, however, a big problem, with one of those two writers, Bill Chastain of MLB.com, who explained that if he had a chance to do it all over again he would have waited until the end of the season to cast his ballot. Say again? Seriously?
That’s one of the mandates for the voters. The awards are based on the performance throughout the regular season. Chastain completed his ballot and sent it off with a week left in the season – a time in which Verlander had two more outstanding starts.
On Sept. 27, he pitched 7 2/3 innings in a 12-0 rout of the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park, On the last day of the season, he pitched seven innings and gave up the game’s lone run in a 1-0 loss at Atlanta. Both were must-win games in a wild wildcard race. His combined numbers for those two starts: 14 2/3 innings, 10 hits, one earned run, two walks and 20 strikeouts – and an earned-run average of 0.63.
This wasn’t a presidential election. By voting early, Chastain was derelict in his duties and should lose his voting privileges. Truth be told, I don’t know why he’s voting anyway. His employer is Major League Baseball, not one of the newspapers or wire services whose beat writers have no particular allegiances. I could make an argument that it’s good for MLB when the awards get spread around a bit more. He voted Porcello first, followed by Baltimore reliever Zach Britton, Cleveland ace Corey Kluber, Chicago ace Chris Sale and New York starter Masahiro Tanaka.
The other voter who left Verlander off his ballot was Fred Goodall of The Associated Press, the world’s largest news-gathering organization. As a former AP Sports Writer myself, I’m guessing that the organization is anguishing over this. The AP, which values integrity and ethical responsibility above all else, has a love-hate relationship with its writers being involved in this kind of sports balloting. It prefers to report the news, not make it.
I know Goodall from our days together in Chicago. He’s an honest and hardworking reporter who is widely respected by his peers and the coaches and athletes who take the time to get to know him. Yet it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see the wire service prohibit its writers from future activities of this kind.
The major awards – MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year – should be voted on by writers who travel with the teams they cover, people who see the entire league, at home and on the road. Neither Chastain nor Goodall travel with the baseball. Goodall, in fact, is responsible for covering the NFL’s Tampa Bay Bucs and other major sports in the Tampa-St. Petersburg region. In fact, his byline appeared over a story this week announcing the news that Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, who injured his knee in Detroit on Tuesday, would be out up to four months after undergoing surgery.
While it’s easy to look at Porcello’s 22-4 record and say, sure, obviously the guy deserves the Cy Young, it’s the writers’ responsibility to look beyond that for greater evidence that Porcello was deserving of the award. There was none, especially compared to Verlander – his friend and former Detroit Tigers teammate.
While Verlander finished with a record of 16-9, he also led in strikeouts (254 to Porcello’s 189); batting average against (.207 to Porcello’s .230); and games allowing two earned runs or fewer (Verlander, 23 of 34 starts, to Porcello’s 16); and earned-run average (3.04 to Porcello’s 3.15). Porcello also enjoy some of the league’s best run support, averaging 7.63 runs per nine innings to Verlander’s 4.35 – lowest among the top five starters in the Cy Young balloting.
Clearly 14 of the 30 Cy Young voters considered some of those numbers, because they listed Verlander as their top candidate for the award to Porcello’s eight first-place votes. So yeah, Kate Upton has a pretty good case for her man.
But Britton may have an even better case after yet another year when a dominant reliever got short-changed by voters who tend to favor dominant ace pitchers for the award. It didn’t seem to matter to them that Britton was virtually perfect at his job, going 47 for 47 in save opportunities.
His 0.55 earned run average would be the lowest in baseball history for a pitcher who had thrown at least 65 innings. Although Britton faced only about a third of the batters that Verlander, Porcello and other top starters faced, his success in high-leverage situations made him the league pitching leader in Win Probability Added, a measure of how much a player affects the outcome of games.
Where’s the outrage from Britton’s corner? Maybe he needs to start dating a Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition cover model to join the tweet-storm.
And the envelope, please. . .
Six days from now, the Detroit Lions could be sitting pretty in the NFL standings. Or not.
They came out of their bye week leading the NFC North by a half game over the Minnesota Vikings. Both are 5-4, but by virtue of Detroit’s come-from-behind win two Sunday’s ago in Minnesota, the Lions hold the tiebreaker.
Sunday’s game against Jacksonville (2-7) has all the earmarks of trouble. It’s the kind of game we all expect the Lions to win, and then they don’t. They’re 6.5-point favorites, which seems like an awful lot. They haven’t won by that many points all season. They squeak by Sunday, then get the Vikings on Thursday for a Thanksgiving Day feast. And suddenly 7-4 in the standings looks reasonable. After a 1-3 start, it should.
Sunday: Detroit 24, Jacksonville 20
Thursday: Detroit 34, Minnesota 17