You can analyze ad nauseum all the different reasons the Cubs are up 3-2 over the Dodgers in the NLCS. However, Joe Maddon put it best earlier in the postseason when he said, “[The Mets] pitching was unbelievably good,” Maddon said of the Mets’ starting pitching last October. “That’s it. I’m not trying to be smart in any way. They just pitched that well. You would hope to not run into that same method of pitching among the entire group.” (Chicago Tribune). For those that forgot, here is what a healthy Mets rotation looks like in the postseason:
These three pitchers are not only great regular season pitchers, but they are also great postseason pitchers. There is no team in baseball that can match what these three can do. With Harvey and deGrom injured, it just opened the door for someone else. The two teams that couldn’t hit these three aces are now battling it out in the NLCS. For their sake, they better maximize on their opportunity because Harvey and deGrom will not only be healthy, but will also have a chip on their shoulders. With them back, the Mets will reunited the best trio of starting pitchers in baseball, and the Mets will be well on their way to winning the 2017 World Series.
With the Indians heading to the World Series for the first time since 1997 and the Cubs and Dodgers fighting for their chance to play the Indians in the World Sereis, it seems like forever since the Mets season ended. It’s easy to forget that they were actually a part of this postseason. It’s also easy to forget all the players that brought them to this point. In fact, the Opening Day and Wild Card Game lineups looked very different. Can you name the players in both lineups? Good luck!
Curtis Granderson, David Wright, Yoenis Cespedes, Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, Michael Conforto, Juan Lagares, Travis d’Arnaud, Matt Harvey, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jose Reyes, Jay Bruce, Rene Rivera, T.J. Rivera, Noah Syndergaard
Now, some will tell you that Jose Reyes second tenure with the Mets shows us that when a team wins everyone will forget about a player’s transgressions. Personally, I have not found that narrative to be entirely true. Personally, I believe Reyes’ domestic violence issues were not brought up again for a number of reasons.
The main reason was when Reyes came to the Mets, it was all about baseball for him. He just went out there everyday and did his job on the field. While Reyes is an exuberant player, it no longer stands out as much as it did in 2006. In that 10 year time span, he has become more mature and players in general have become more expressive on the field.
By keeping it about baseball, Reyes allowed the story and the vitriol to subside. It also helped that thankfully there were no stories about any repeat offenses. And yes, it did help that the Mets won games. However, the most important thing is Reyes played baseball and didn’t give reason to bring up the issues again.
That’s where Odell Beckham, Jr. and Josh Brown come into play. These are two New York Giants players that have come under scrutiny for far different reasons.
For OBJ, it has been people calling his maturity into question. There was the incident with Josh Norman last year. This year, teams have seized on how emotional he is by delivering late hits and hits out of bounds to entice him into a personal foul. It has worked. However, the main focus on him has been his relationship with the kicking net.
It started with OBJ hitting the kicking net out of frustration and it bouncing back and hitting him. After a few other events, OBJ wound-up jokingly proposing to the net. People have come out either rolling their eyes at him or just downright getting angry with him. His coach and quarterback have said that Beckham has been a distraction with the kicking net and other antics.
However, there are no recent quotes on their kicker, Josh Brown. Brown has no issue with opponents or kicking nets. Rather, he has issues with being a human being as evidenced by his journal entries recently released by Kings County Sheriff’s Office:
I have physically, mentally, emotionally and verbally been a repulsive man. I have abused my wife.
I have been a liar for most of my life. I made selfish decisions to use and abuse women starting at the age of 7 to fill this void. I objectified women and never really worried about the pain and hurt I caused them. My ability to connect emotionally to other people was zero. My empathy levels were zero.
Because I never handled these underlying issues I became an abuser and hurt [my wife] Molly physically, emotionally and verbally. I viewed myself as God basically and she was my slave.
Of course, no one has commented on any of this. Why would they? The Giants re-signed a kicker who they knew was being investigated for domestic violence. They purported to have done their “due diligence.” Apparently, their due diligence and the due diligence of the NFL is terrible because Brown only served a one game suspension for the arrest.
Now, this is back in the limelight again because these documents were released. If not for these documents, no one would have brought this back up again for the remainder of the season (save maybe media day if the Giants made it to the Super Bowl). No, the story would have died after Week 2 when Brown returned to the Giants. With him and the Giants just going out and playing football, the story died. This is just like the Reyes story did.
That’s the main lesson for OBJ to learn here. As long as you focus on the field, in the long run, no one is going to care. They will forget about the Norman incident. They will forget about the personal fouls. They will forget about your relationship with the kicking net. They will forget about everything that has happened in your past. None of the bad happened so long as you are focused on your play.
Ultimately, that is the lesson we have learned this baseball and football season. Stay focused on the field and hope the sheriff’s department doesn’t reveal the case they had against you and for some reason didn’t prosecute.
Time and again, we have heard about the Billy Goat curse and the Chicago Cubs not having won a World Series since 1908. As a result, many are supposed to empathize with them for their time falling short time and again. Moreover, many sympathize with a fan base that has never seen their team win a World Series in their lifetime. While all of this is true, it is not appreciably different than being a Cleveland Indians fan.
The Indians last won the World Series in 1948 against the Boston Braves. Yes, the Boston, not Atlanta Braves. That’s how long ago the Indians last World Series title was. If you are to assume that a 10 year old had the full capacity to appreciate the World Series victory and remember the run to the World Series, that means Indians fans who could relish those Lou Boudreau teams were born in 1938. That would make those fans 78 years old today. Rounding up just a tad, unless you are an octogenarian, Indians fans have never seen their team win a World Series. What they have seen is some excruciating losses.
Back in 1995, the Indians sent out what could be considered the greatest offensive team ever assembled. That Indians team was shut down by Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Steve Avery over the six game set. A team that had scored 840 runs in 144 games (strike shortened season), an average of 5.8 runs per game, could only muster 19 runs (3.2 runs per game) in the series. A team that was shutout just three times in the regular season would be shut out in Game Six of the World Series in an excruciating 1-0 loss.
The 1997 Indians weren’t the favorites to win the World Series. Instead, they had to fight and claw their way back to the World Series. They needed the rookie Jaret Wright to become a Yankee killer and Sandy Alomar, Jr.Moi to hit a pivotal home run in what was going to be the Game 4 clincher of the ALDS for the defending champion Yankees. Instead, the Indians persevered and would win their second pennant in three years after beating the Orioles in six in the ALCS. It should be noted Armando Benitez took the loss in that game being a harbinger of things to come for Mets fans.
That 1997 World Series was thrilling with the Marlins and Indians alternating wins setting the stage for an epic Game 7. The Indians had to like their chances with their newfound postseason hero Wright going up against Al Leiter. The Indians had tattooed Leiter for seven runs in 4.2 innings in Game 4. Leiter would never win a postseason start in his career. While it was more of a challenge than the Indians expected, they hand their closer, Jose Mesa, on the mound with a 2-1 lead in the ninth inning. Mesa would blow the game allowing Craig Counsell to hit a sacrifice fly to score Moises Alou (again how was he not the MVP of that series) to tie the game. The Indians couldn’t touch the Marlins bullpen in extra innings. Finally, in the 11th, Charles Nagy gave up the game winning hit to Edgar Renteria scoring Counsell of all people as the winning run. That is as excruciating a loss as it gets for a fan.
There have been other tales of recent woe for this Indians fan base. In 1998, the Yankees exacted revenge against Wright and the Indians by scoring five runs in the first inning off Wright en route to a Yankees 4-2 ALCS series win. In 1999, the Indians blew a 2-0 series lead and a 5-2 lead in Game 5 to lose the ALDS to the Red Sox. That game was memorable for Pedro Martinez‘s epic performance out of the bullpen. The lean years were not too far away from here.
Then there was an Indians resurgence. In 2007, the Indians had a 3-1 game lead over the Red Sox in the ALCS with Game 5 at home. CC Sabathia just couldn’t close the deal, and the Indians bullpen would implode leading the Red Sox to their comeback. Like the rest of baseball, the Indians would watch helplessly as the Red Sox would win their second World Series in four years. To make matters worse, the small market Indians would have to break up the team. Two years later, Indians fans would watch as Sabathia took the hill for the Yankees in Game One of the World Series against Cliff Lee and the Philadelphia Phillies.
In response, many Cubs fans will scream the Bartman Game! One of their own prevented them from winning the pennant and going to the World Series back in 2003. Of course, that narrative is a bit nonsense because there is a real debate as to whether or not Alou could catch that ball. Furthermore, that didn’t cause Dusty Baker to leave Mark Prior out there too long. It didn’t cause Alex Gonzalez to allow a double play ball to go through his legs. It didn’t cause the Cubs to blow a 3-0 lead. It certainly didn’t cause the Cubs and Kerry Wood to blow a 5-3 lead in Game 7. Furthermore, it did not cause Cubs fans to try to ruin Bartman’s life.
Absolutely, blowing a 3-1 series lead when your team hasn’t won a World Series in nearly a century is devastating. It was no more devastating than the Indians blowing the 2007 ALCS. It is definitively not more devastating than the 1997 World Series.
Sure, it hurts to lose and not be competitive. However, as a Mets fan I know the 2015 World Series loss was infinitely more hurtful than anything I saw from 1991 – 1996 or 2001 – 2004 or even 2009 – 2014. No, it is hte misses that stick with you the longest. Personally, I’m more haunted by Ron Darling pitching the worst game of his life against an unbeatable Orel Hershiser, Kenny Rogers walking Andruw Jones, Luis Sojo‘s two RBI single off Leiter, Carlos Beltran looking at an Adam Wainwright curveball, Eric Hosmer‘s mad dash to home plate, and any of the other events that led to those deciding plays which ended the Mets postseasons.
The Cubs may not have won since 1908, but the Indians fan base is the more tortured fan base. They deserve this World Series title more than anyone.
Impressively, like Willie Mays after “The Catch”, Chavez was aware of the game situation, he made a strong relay to Jose Valentin, who then got it over to a fired up Carlos Delgado to nail Jim Edmonds at first to complete the inning ending double play.
As we know with the American League having won the All Star Game, the Mets wouldn’t have a home game until Game 3 of the World Series. In his first World Series at bat at home, David Wright, the same man who had an RBI single to open the scoring in Game 7 of the NLCS, would do this:
Yes, those events happened in the same October. You cannot convince me otherwise.
One of the best things about being a parent is you get the opportunity to remedy the perceived wrongs from your childhood. No matter how small or childish they may seem, we all have ones that linger. One of my lingering issues was my parents not going out and getting the Halloween Pail Happy Meals when my brother and I were children.
You see the Mets winning the World Series wasn’t the only major event of October 1986. I’ve never confirmed this, but I’m pretty sure Mookie Wilson got one of these for his stepson and nephew Preston Wilson. Much like the Mets hopes of winning the World Series the following year, my hopes of getting a McDonald’s Halloween Pail were dashed in 1987. My chances of obtaining one in 1989 were as much as nonstarter as the Mets chances were that year. In 1990, Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter were closer to New York than I was to getting my Halloween Pail. In 1992, there were no hopes for me or the Mets. From there, the Halloween Pails all but disappeared.
That was up until last year when the Halloween Pails re-emerged. Despite Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard not being alive in 1986, these trio of arms led the Mets to the World Series in the same year the Halloween Pails returned. Never underestimate the power of the pails. Like the good Mets fan and father (or petulant child) that I am, I made sure to get all four of them for my son who really had no clue who the Minions were or why he needed four of these pails. That changes this year.
My son loves Peanuts. He has loved them since we took him to see The Peanuts Movie, his first ever movie, for his birthday last year, and since he saw A Charlie Brown Christmas last year. Like any child, he loves Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the whole Peanuts gang:
With that, we have now found the intersection where my son’s love of Peanuts and my need to get these Halloween Pails have met in the parenting Venn diagram. With that, I have checked one thing off my parenting bucket list, and I will now seek out curing other perceived wrongs like never getting the chance to attend a Mets World Series victory parade. I guess that one will just have to wait until next year.
To ensure that will happen, I think McDonalds will need to roll out an Avengers Halloween Pail featuring Thor, Captain America (David Wright), Iron Man (Steven Matz), and The Incredible Hulk (Lucas Duda).
By the way, the Great Pumpkin is on tonight:
— PEANUTS (@Snoopy) October 19, 2016
John Harper makes a case in the New York Daily News that the Mets need to obtain Kenley Jansen to return to the postseason stating, “If the Mets want to take a huge step toward re-claiming that supremacy next year and beyond, they should make a big splash this off-season by signing Kenley Jansen.” He figures the Mets could obtain Jansen for a four year $54 million contract. His reasoning is flawed.
First of all, there is nothing about the Mets to suggest they can win a bidding war against the Dodgers for Jansen’s services. This doesn’t even account for other bigger spenders like the Cubs, Nationals, and Yankees also potentially getting involved. More importantly, there is no underlying need for Jansen.
Furthermore, the Mets already have a dominant closer in Jeurys Familia. Over the past two seasons, Familia has accumulated more appearances, more innings, and more saves than Jansen. Additionally, despite the current narrative floating around, Familia has been better in the postseason. In 13 postseason appearances, Familia has a 2.30 ERA and a 0.638 WHIP. In 15 postseason apperances, Jansen has a 3.38 ERA and a 1.250 WHIP. People forget that because Familia’s defense let him down in the World Series and he threw a bad pitch to Conor Gillaspie in the Wild Card Game. They also forget because Jansen has had back-to-back great performances in the postseason. That makes you forget the times Jansen has failed or his 6.75 NLDS ERA.
More important than that, the Mets have Addison Reed in the eighth inning. It is quite possible there was no better reliever in the National League than Reed this year. Reed had an amazing season that saw him shatter the Mets record for holds with him recording 40 this season. It’s all the more impressive when you consider Reed made the third most in the majors with the fifth best 1.97 ERA, and the highest WAR among relievers (2.9). Long story short, Reed has the eighth inning locked down.
Overall, between Familia and Reed the Mets have already made games a seven inning game. With the Mets young starters going 6+ per game, they don’t need the 7-8-9 dominant trio that other teams require. In fact, up until the rash of Mets starting pitching injuries this season, the seventh inning wasn’t an issue at all. Terry Collins was able to utilize his full bullpen, notably Hansel Robles, Jerry Blevins (a pending free agent), and when healthy, Jim Henderson, to get through the inning. It wasn’t until Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman took over starting pitching spots that the seventh inning was an issue. It should be noted by that time, Fernando Salas (a pending free agent) locked it down.
The overriding point is the Mets do not need a three headed monster coming out of the bullpen to return to the postseason. Instead, the Mets need their starting pitchers healthy, and they need to re-sign Yoenis Cespedes. Therein lies the rub. As noted by MMO., Mets payroll commitments for the 2017 season already hover around $108 million, and that is before the Mets seek to re-sign Cespedes, Neil Walker, and/or Bartolo Colon.
If the Mets were to re-sign Cespedes to and average annual value commensurate with his 2015 salary figure, the Mets payroll would jump to $135 million. Keep in mind, the Mets 2016 Opening Day payroll was $135 million, and the team had to stretch it to that point to accomodate Cespedes. It is hard to imagine the Mets expanding on this payroll figure when they had a higher payroll in 2016 and didn’t have a long postseason run to offset some of the cost.
If you add Jansen at an average annual value of $13.5 million, that would increase the Mets 2017 payroll to $121.5 million before address the Cespedes, second base, and fifth starter issues. Adding Jansen, a very nice but unnecessary piece, only serves to build a more dominant bullpen at the expense of building a complete team. Adding Jansen overlooks the real need for the Mets, which is their starting pitchers returning next season fully healthy. Overall, the model the Mets shouldn’t be looking at is the three headed monster in the bullpen. Rather, the Mets should be looking at their 2015 model which is being emulated by the Cleveland Indians this postseason:
A dominant young starting pitcher going as deep into the game as possible and then a two-headed monster coming out of the bullpen to win the game.
The Mets already have that in place. What they do not have in place is Cespedes. They cannot do anything to damage their chances to lock him up and return to their 2015 form.
The ongoing narrative in the American League Cy Young race is that there hasn’t been any dominating pitching, and therefore, Zach Britton should probably win the Cy Young. The narrative is flipped. The case for Britton is that he has been historically dominant out of the bullpen, and therefore he should receive some consideration. I did consider him, but ultimately, he wasn’t my choice for Cy Young. Here is my ballot:
1st – Corey Kluber
To say that there hasn’t been a dominant starting pitcher is to ignore the type of season Kluber had with the Cleveland Indians this year. In 32 starts, Kluber has pitched 215.0 innings. Overall, Kluber is 18-9 with a 3.14 ERA, 1.056 WHIP, 9.5 K/9, 227 strikeouts, 1.056 WHIP, 149 ERA+, 3.26 FIP, and a 6.5 WAR. He also led the American League in shutouts (2).
Coincidentally, when Kluber won the Cy Young Award in 2014, he was 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA and a 1.095 WHIP. These two seasons are not that appreciably different.
They’re not appreciably different because Kluber had another fantastic season. Kluber led the American League in pitcher WAR, shutouts, ERA+, FIP, adjusted pitching runs (33), and adjusting pitching wins (3.5). He was also in the Top 10 in many of the major pitching categories. Kluber was fifth in innings pitched, sixth in ERA, third in wins, eight in win-loss percentage (.667), fourth in WHIP, third in hits per nine (7.116), fourth in strikeouts per nine, fifth in innings pitched, third in strikeouts, fifth in games started, third in complete games (3), tenth in strikeout to walk ratio (3.983), fifth in homers per nine (0.921), fifth in batters faced (860), and seventh in WPA (2.7).
Overall, Kluber was the most dominant starting pitcher in the American League this season. He was every bit as dominant as he was in 2014 when he won his first Cy Young Award. Considering how he matched that level of dominance, he should be taking home his second Cy Young Award this season.
2nd – Rick Porcello
About a year ago, the baseball world was laughing at the Red Sox for not only trading away Yoenis Cespedes got obtain the 9-15 Porcello and his 4.92 ERA, but also because the Red Sox gave him a four year $82.5 million extension. This year, it was Porcello and the Red Sox who were laughing.
The 2007 first round pick seemingly fulfilled his promise in his eight major league season going 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA, 1.009 WHIP, 145 ERA+, and a 5.91 strikeout-to-walk ratio. This was clearly the best season of his career, and he was one of the main reasons the Red Sox won the AL East.
Overall, Porcello would lead the majors in both wins and strikeout-to-walk ratio. He would also fair well in the Top 10 categories for American League pitchers finishing fifth in pitching WAR (5.0), fifth in ERA, second in win-loss percentage (.846), second in WHIP, seventh in hits per nine (7.789), second in walks per nine (1.292), fourth in innings pitched (223.0), eight in strikeouts (189), fourth in games started (33), third in complete games (3), fifth in home runs per nine (0.928), fourth in batters faced (890), second in ERA+, second in FIP, second in adjusted pitching runs (32), and second in adjusted pitching wins (3.2).
Porcello wasn’t that glamour ace that went out there and struck out 10+ batters a game and had the fans rhythmically clapping for that next strikeout. Instead, he was a ground ball pitcher that was best suited for his team and his ballpark. Twenty years ago, he probably wins the Cy Young Award as he had the most wins. Now, with better information available, he finishes second.
3rd – Chris Sale
4th – Justin Verlander
At this point is where it gets more and more difficult to differentiate between players. In many ways, Sale and Verlander were neck-in-neck for the next spot on the ballot.
Sale made 32 starts pitching 226.2 innings going 17-10 with a 3.34 ERA, 1.037 WHIP, 120 ERA+, 3.46 FIP, and a 9.3 K/9. Verlander made 34 starts pitching 227.2 innings going 16-9 with a 3.04 ERA, 1.001 WHIP, 136 ERA+, 3.49 FIP, and a 10.0 K/9.
Both were in the Top 10 in multiple categories among American League pitchers. Sale finished seventh in WAR (4.9), ninth in ERA, fourth in wins, third in WHIP, fourth in hits per nine (7.544), fourth in walks per nine (1.787), sixth in strikeouts per nine, third in innings pitched, second in strikeouts (233), first in complete games (6), second in shutouts (1), third in strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.178), second in batters faced (907), and third in FIP.
Verlander finished first in WAR (6.6), second in ERA, sixth in wins, first in WHIP, second in hits per nine (6.760), third in strikeouts per nine, second in innings pitched, first in strikeouts, second in games started, fifth in complete games (2), seventh in strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.456), third in batters faced, sixth in ERA+, fourth in FIP, third in adjusted pitching runs (29), and third in adjusted pitching wins (3.0).
Overall, they were neck-in-neck. The deciding factors were Sale went deeper into games, and Sale issuing fewer free passes while having similar strikeout numbers.
5th – Zach Britton
This very easily could have gone to any number of pitchers, including Michael Fulmer, who should be the American League Rookie of the Year. However, a vote needed to be made for Britton who had a historically great year for a reliever.
Britton’s ERA+ this season is 827. No, that’s not a typo. It is actually that high. That’s better than anyone has ever posted in any single season in major league history. Note, unlike Tim Keefe and Pedro Martinez, Britton does not have enough innings to qualify.
Among major league relievers, he has the lowest ERA (.054) and the highest WAR (4.3), and it wasn’t particularly close in either category. On the season, Britton made 69 appearnces going 2-1 with 47 saves, a 0.836 WHIP, 9.9 K/9, 827 ERA+, and a 1.94 FIP. This has now become the gold standard upon which all reliever seasons will be judged.
With Clayton Kershaw suffering a mid-season back injury and missing a somewhat significant chunk of time, the National League Cy Young race became wide open. For the most part, the season was very close with many viable choices. Here is my ballot:
1st – Johnny Cueto
Understandably, Madison Bumgarner gets all the publicity with his postseason heroics, but in reality, Cueto was the staff ace for the San Francisco Giants this year, and ultimately the one pitcher who should win the Cy Young Aaward this season.
In 2016, Cueto made 32 starts pitching 219.2 innings while throwing five complete games. Overall, Cueto was 18-5 with a 2.79 ERA, 1.093 WHIP, 8.1 K/9, 198 strikeouts, a 147 ERA+, 2.95 FIP, and a 5.7 WAR.
While complete games was the only category Cueto led, his name was spread out all over the National League Top 10 pitching categories. On the season , Cueto finished second in pitcher WAR, fifth in ERA, third in wins, third in win-loss percentage (.783), ninth in WHIP, third in walks per nine (1.844), second in innings pitched, sixth in strikeouts, third in starts, second in shutouts (2), fifth in strikeout to walk ratio (4.400), second in home runs per nine (0.615), second in batters faced, sixth in ERA+, third in FIP, fifth in adjusted pitcher runs (34), fifth in adjusted pitcher wins (3.6), second in WPA (5.0).
More so than any pitcher across the National League, Cueto’s traditional and advance statistics hold up. In an era where going deep into games is a lost art, Cueto led the league in complete games. By the thinnest of margins, Cueto edges out the rest as being the best pitcher in the Naitonal League this season.
2nd – Max Scherzer
Like Cueto, Scherzer was a traditional and advanced statistic darling this season. For the season, Scherzer made 33 starts pitching 223.1 innings. Overall, he was 19-7 with a 2.82 ERA, 0.940 WHIP, 11.2 K/9, 277 strikeouts, a 148 ERA+, a 3.16 FIP, and a 6.5 WAR.
Looking over these stats, Scherzer is the National League leader in WAR (for pitchers), wins, WHIP, hits per nine (6.287), inning pitched, strikeouts, games started, and strikeout/walk ratio (5.130). Scherzer was also sixth in ERA, fourth in win-loss percentage (.731), third in K/9, eighth in complete games (1), third in batters faced (877), fifth in ERA+, fourth in FIP, fourth in adjusted pitching runs (35), fourth in adjusted pitching wins (3.8), and fourth in WPA (4.4).
Looking at his numbers as a whole, Scherzer leads in most of the important traditional ones like wins, strikeouts, WHIP, starts, and innings pitched. He is also scattered across the top 10 in the advanced statistics that were created to normalize pitching across teams and ballparks. Overall, he just falls short of Cueto as Cueto was better in run prevention with him having a better ERA, FIP, and WPA.
3rd – Noah Syndergaard
It was a tale of three seasons for Syndergaard. There was the first part of the season where he debuted a 95 MPH slider to go with his 100 MPH fastball that made you wonder how anyone could ever hit him. There was a second part where he was affected by bone spurs in his elbow leaving your wondering if he could finish out the season. The final part was him returning to form.
Syndergaard made 30 starts and one relief appearance (thanks in part to Chase Utley) pitching 183.2 innings. Overall, Syndergaard was 14-9 with a 2.60 ERA, 1.149 WHIP, 10.7 K/9, 218 strikeouts, 158 ERA+, 2.29 FIP, and a 5.2 WAR.
While Syndergaard did not lead in any of the more traditional statistics, he was the league leader in FIP. He was also the the league leader in HR/9 allowed (o.539). Coupling that with him ranking second in strikeout to walk ratio, Syndergaard was the pitching king of the three true outcomes this season.
In addition to the three true outcomes catergories, Syndergaard also ranks highly in WAR (sixth), ERA+ (third), adjusted pitching wins (seventh), and WPA (tenth). In the more traditional statistics, Syndergaard also rates highly. Syndergaard is third in ERA, eighth in walks per nine, fourth in strikeouts per nine, fourth in strikeouts, and second in strikeout to walk ratio.
Overall, you could justify Syndergaard being named the Cy Young for the 2016 season. However, with Cueto and Scherzer making more starts and throwing more innings, they were more valuable pitchers than Syndergaard was this season.
4th – Jon Lester
When people have addressed the Cubs rotation this season, many have focused on last year’s Cy Young Award winner, Jake Arrieta, or Kyle Hendricks, who is the major league ERA leader. People have overlooked Lester, who has been the most valuable pitcher of the group.
In 31 starts, Lester has pitched 197.2 innings. Overall, Lester is 19-4 with a 2.28 ERA, 0.997 WHIP, 8.87 K/9, 191 strikeouts, 176 ERA+, 3.35 FIP, and a 5.6 WAR. This has been just an outstanding year for Lester, and it is quite deserving of Cy Young consideration.
Like the aforementioned starters, Lester is in the Top 10 in several pitching categories. Lester ranks third in pitcher WAR, second in ERA, first in wins, first in win-loss percentage (.826), third in WHIP, fourth in hits per nine (6.739), eighth in strikeouts per nine, sixth in innings pitched, seventh in strikeouts, fifth in complete games (2), seventh in strikeout to walk ratio (3.898), eighth in home runs per nine (0.911), second in ERA+, seventh in FIP, first in adjusted pitching runs (41), first in adjusted pitcher wins (4.4), and first in WPA (5.2).
With Lester ranking this highly in each of these categories, he could very easily have finished in the top spot in the Cy Young voting instead of fourth. The reason why he is ranked lower than Cueto and Scherzer is that while Lester has a better ERA and is a league leader in wins, he also has pitched fewer innings than those pitchers. While Lester has thrown more innings than Syndergaard, he doesn’t compare to Syndergaard when it comes to the run prevention categories. In reality, it’s splitting hairs, and the way those hairs split leads to Lester being ranked fourth on the ballot.
5th – Jose Fernandez
Honestly, this was a toss up between Fernandez and Hendricks. Both were deserving given there statistics. However, overall, Fernandez was more dominating that Hendricks was this season.
In 2016, Fernandez made 29 starts pitching 182.1 innings. Overall, he was 16-8 with a 2.86 ERA, 1.119 WHIP, 12.5 K/9, 253 strikeouts, 137 ERA+, 2.30 FIP, and a 4.2 WAR.
The main case for Fernandez is him leading the majors in strikeouts per nine and having the second best FIP in the majors. In sum, what this means is he was about as dominating a pitcher in the National League this season. He was striking out batters at a higher rate than any other pitcher, and in the hypothetical neutral setting, he was the second best pitcher at keeping runs off the board. Like the aforementioned pitchers he ranked highly in several categories ranking seventh in ERA, fifth in wins, sixth in win-loss percentage (.667), tenth in WHIP, ninth in hits per nine (7.355), second in strikeouts, fourth in strikeout to walk ratio (4.600), third in home runs per nine (0.642), eighth in ERA+, ninth in adjusted pitching runs (23), ninth in adjusted pitching wins (2.4), and sixth in WPA (3.5).
For reasons we are all too familiar, Fernandez wasn’t able to catch up to Scherzer in strikeouts, nor was he able to pitch in more innings to bolster his case. As such the strength of his case was how dominating he was viewed through the prism of the advanced statistics. Looking through that prism, he feel short of putting up the type of season Syndergaard did. As such, he finished behind Syndergaard.
As you will see across baseball, the voting for the AL Rookie of the Year Award is going to be across the board. Many will want to reward a player putting together almost a full year while others want to reward a players who got called up and was insanely hot for a short stretch of time. There is room for both types of players on the ballot, and as you will see in my ballot, the player that did both, should win the Rookie of the Year Award:
1st – Michael Fulmer
Other than Corey Seager, Fulmer was the most impressive rookie in baseball this season. Consider that if not for a long rain delay, Fulmer would have pitched enough innings to qualify to have the best ERA in the American League. Overall, on the season, Fulmer was 11-7 with a 3.03 ERA, 1.119 WHIP, and a 7.5 K/9. He was also one of 14 pitchers in the American League who would throw a complete game shut out.
When Fulmer was first called up by the Tigers, he was only supposed to be the rotation for a short duration due to the Shane Greene injury. Fulmer laid those plans to rest by putting together the best rookie season out of any pitcher in baseball this year.
If you are more interested in short bursts of greatness over longer periods of work where a player’s performance is permitted to ebb and flow consider that Fulmer was 3-1 with a 0.61 ERA and a 0.910 WHIP in five June starts. Consider that in a stretch from June 1st to August 14th, Fulmer made 13 starts going 6-2 with a 1.57 ERA and a 0.872 WHIP while averaging 6.2 innings per start. No rookie in the American League put up a two and a half month stretch that can compare to the run Fulmer went on over the summer.
That run was also part of the season for Fulmer falling off. As he far exceeded his innings limits for a team in the middle of the Wild Card race, his performance would noticeably suffer. However, that’s part of the reason why Fulmer is the Rookie of the Year. He was put in position to have a long run of success while also having to deal with being put in a position to fail. Ultimately, as Fulmer had the most dominant stretch of any American League rookie while also having a successful season stretching from April to September, he is the Rookie of the Year.
2nd – Nomar Mazara
Mazara was called up to the majors earlier than he was ready due to an injury to Shin-Soo Choo. Despite Mazara not being ready, he would jump right out of the gate winning the AL Rookie of the Month Award for April and May. In fact, if you took a straw poll around the All Star Break over who was the Rookie of the Year, Mazara would have won it hands down.
In that April and May stretch, Mazara hit .302/.348/.479 with three doubles, nine homers, and 24 RBI while being the Rangers everyday right fielder. Mazara played an above averaged right field too with a 5.3 UZR. Yes, Mazara would regress just as any other 21 year old rookie not quite ready for the majors would. Mazara finished the season hitting a respectable .266/.320/.419 with 13 doubles, three triples, 20 homers, and 64 RBI. Mazara would be only one of two rookies, Cheslor Cuthbert being the other, that had enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title.
Among rookies, Mazara had the most at-bats, runs, hits, and RBI. He is tied for first in homers. When you lead all rookies in these categories while playing well defensively, all for a first place team, you are among the top rookies in the sport, and you should be considered the top rookie among position players.
3rd – Gary Sanchez
In August and September, there has been no player, rookie or otherwise, discussed than Sanchez. After the Yankees decided to sell by trading away Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, and Carlos Beltran, Sanchez was among the rookies called-up by the Yankees to see which ones were ready to contribute next year to a rebuilding ball club. Sanchez came out and immediately announced he was ready to contribute.
In 51 games, Sanchez has hit .299/.372/.650 with 12 doubles, 20 homers and 42 RBI. Naturally, he leads all major leagues in homers during that stretch, and he’s tied with Mazara for the most amount of homers by a rookie. If you extrapolate those numbers over the course of a full 162 game season, Sanchez would finish the year with 37 doubles, 62 homers, and 131 RBI. After a full season like that, the Yankees would probably be best advised to just give him a monument and retire his number 57. You get numbers from a catcher like this, especially one with a cannon behind the plate, you are talking about a top five regular season in major league history.
But that’s part of the issue. Sanchez hasn’t played a full season. He’s played just two months. They’ve been two awesome months, but it’s still only about one-third of a full season. As we have seen with Fulmer and Mazara, a rookie who has a bright major league career ahead of them can have an incredible run for two months. Because Sanchez only played one-third of a season, we didn’t get the opportunity to see the league adjust to him and see if he could respond. While Sanchez’s rookie year was definitely the best, the brevity of his season coupled with how others have dominated in similar stretches that he did bumps him down to third on my ballot.