Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Baseball In The Daytime: 23 September 2009

Yet again, but one day game highlights our major league calendar. I know the kids are back in school, and these clubs are simply trying to milk every last buck out of the season before shutting down for the winter. But I've got another reason for Baseball In The Daytime: It's cold!

The temperature at Coors Field for last night's Rockies-Padres game was Farenheit 45 at first pitch. By the end of the 11-10 home team win, stalagtites of snot were seen forming on Jason Giambi's handlebars. This is no way to play the game, use the daytime. That's the end of our public service announcement, join us for the game preview (and a little Cy Young political activism) after the jump...

NY Yankees @ Los Anaheim, 1:35 Scott Kazmir starts for Los Angels today, and there's a rumor working the circuit that Kazmir would be Mike Scoscia's choice to pitch Game 1 of the AL Division Series. This is a joke, right? I know that Kazmir has been solid since coming over from the Bay-Rays, and that he's a historic Red Sox killer, but going with Kazmir over John Lackey is cuckoo. Lackey is a horse, the ace of the staff, and a playoff veteran. I never thouhgt I'd call Mike scoscia a dope, but if he goes with Kazmir over Lackey the shoe might fit. A.J. Burnett is your Yankee pitcher, and Joe Girardi is desperately looking for a way to hide Burnett in his playoff rotation. Fun times at the Big A today.

In almost completely unrelated news, I saw a bit on Joe Posnanski's blog (last paragraph) about a gentleman named Patrick Reusse. Reusse is a sports columnist for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and a part-time radio personality. Apparently while on the radio yesterday Reusse said that Zack Greinke will need to win at least 16 games to get consideration for his--Reusse's--Cy Young vote. I tried to listen to Posnanski's link to the broadcast but couldn't get it to work, so I have no idea about the accuracy of the statement or its context, but I'm still steamed.

The fact that this Reusse would deny Greinke the Cy, after Greinke has posted not only the indisputably best season of any pitcher in the AL but the best season of any pitcher this decade is nutty enough. But to announce to the world that his reason for potentially doing so is that he needs 16 wins (not 20, not 11, not 85, but 16) is completely bonkers. I know awards are stupid, and that they often go to undeserving recipients, but I see a unique opportunity in baseball history here. In the past the Patrick Reusses of the world worked solely for newspapers, and they were insulated from their readers and the world around them. No baseball writer ever discussed his votes for the Cy Young award or the MVP, never. The secret ballot was sacred.

Now, most of your Patrick Reusse types do what Patrick Reusse does, out of survival. They chatter on the radio. They pop up on television. They blog. They work harder more, across more platforms, in order to make a living. As a result, they're forced to come up with more shit to discuss, more than would simply fill three 500-word columns a week. And if they're Cy Young voters, they have a golden fountain of interesting talk-radio fodder. I could care less about the spoken opinions of Pat Reusse, Twin Cities lunchbag sportswriter. But Pat Reusse, Baseball Writer of America Member and Cy Young Voter, let me hear that. That's interesting. Unfortunately, his voting method is idiotic.

So I emailed Pat Reusse, (you can too, with my feelings about this topic. I was polite, and I didn't call him a moron. If he gives his Cy vote to C.C. Sabathia, however, moron will be the nicest thing I label Patrick Reusse. The email:

Mr. Reusse,

I'm writing in regards to your vote for the American League Cy Young award. It's my understanding that you have gone on the record to say that Zack Greinke needs to win at least 16 games to garner your vote for the Cy. Now it's your vote, and your business what you do with it, but the fact is that you announced to the world some of your criteria for that vote, and I have an opinion about that. I respect you as a journalist and a baseball man, but I think saying that 16 wins is mandatory for a Cy Young season is not commensurate with the spirit of the award.

In your previous Cy Young votes have you imposed this 16-win standard? I wonder where, exactly, you arrived at this figure as the threshold for excellence. Perhaps you have a valid set of standards for doing so that I have missed. I've always been bothered by the rigid adherence to certain arbitrary counting numbers in the game of baseball.

20 wins, for instance, has over my lifetime always been the line of demarcation for a great pitching season--even though since we've set that standard we've changed the number of games teams play in a season from 154 to 162, we've gone from four-man rotations to the current five-, and we've radically altered usage patterns with relief pitchers. Yet 20 wins remains the benchmark for excellence. There's nothing inherently evil with that--20 wins is great, and is in fact significant. But what gets me is that if you don't reach that plateau you're downgraded too severely. Let's say we have three pitchers, and one wins 24 games, one wins 20 and one wins 19. The 24-game winner would be universally applauded, and rightfully so. The 20-game winner would also get many accolades, and probably more Cy Young votes, than the 19-game winner, because he simply notched one more victory. The reason he won that single contest could be that he's much better than the 19-game winner. But it could also be pure luck, more run support, a better defense, a pitcher's park, or any of a hundred reasons why one team beats another on a single day.

Same goes with hitting .300, or collecting 200 hits in a year, or 3,000 hits in a career, or winning 300 games as a pitcher. Doing any of these things requires great skill as a ballplayer, but falling just short sometimes condemns that player to baseball purgatory. In my opinion Bert Blyleven is better than at least a dozen pitchers in the Hall of Fame, yet the fact that he ended his career 13 wins shy of 300 has haunted him. Johan Santana won Cy Young awards in 2004 and 2006, but finished third in the voting in 2005 despite leading the AL in strikeouts, WHIP and ERA+. His ERA was second in the league that year, yet his win total of 16 was tied for fifth. Bartolo Colon won the Cy Young in 2005, despite finishing 8th in both ERA and strikeouts. But Colon led his league with 21 wins, thus trumping an obviously superior season from Santana. All because of a silly adherence to the magical value of 20 wins.

Now C.C. Sabathia will get two more starts this season, and in those he will have a chance to win his 19th and 20th games. Zack Greinke will also start twice more, and it's possible that he could end up stuck on 15 wins. Even if their win totals were to end up with that wide disparity, every other statistical measure says that Greinke is the better pitcher in 2009. Sabathia has the benefit of working for a team that will win over 100 games, Greinke labors for a club that is currently 25 games under .500. Even if you simply throw out all the stats and numbers, just watching Greinke pitch it's obvious that he's on a higher level than Sabathia (or Felix Hernandez or Roy Halladay or Justin Verlander or anyone else in the AL). I would beg you, as a fan of the game of baseball, to reconsider your requirement of 16 wins for Greinke to earn your Cy Young vote. Up to this point he's been the finest pitcher in the American League, and he deserves it.

By the way, I'm not a Royals fan--I actually root for the Red Sox.

Thanks for your time,


Johnny Utah said...

Well said. If you get a reply from this ass hat please post it. My guess is that the 16 win plateau this d-bag uses as a measuring stick, is due to the fact that no Cy Young winner has never had less than 17 in the W column.

If Zack doesn't win the Cy, I swear I will go on a bi-state stab fest. It's sickening to think that he could be snuffed based on the fact that he plays on a shitty team (sorry Banky) If that's the case, what is the criteria?

Run support alone:
Josh Beckett-6.08
Greinke-??? I can only find the top 50