Today’s ballot is for the equivalent of the MLB Cy Young Award. Here are my picks, all of whom were All Stars in 2010:
1st Place: CC Sabathia of the New York Yankees.
Not only did he have 21 wins and only 7 losses, he pitched 237.2 innings, had an ERA of 3.18, 197 strikeouts and a low WHIP of 1.191. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the WHIP stat, it means walks and hits per inning pitched. It is one of the best ways to evaluate a pitcher. He’s the only one of the 5 listed here who won over 20 games. So, much as I hate the Yankees, he gets my nod for #1.
2nd Place: Cliff Lee of the Texas Rangers. Although he had a bit if a rough go after he was traded by Seattle to Texas, he deserves to be #2. I know, the Cy young doesn’t usually go to a pitcher unless he has at least 16 wins, but when Cliff (12-9) is on, he is completely dominant, and he’s on most of the time, and almost always lights out when it really counts. His ERA was 3.18, not the lowest by any means, but he gave up only .8 walks per 9 innings, his strikeout/walk ratio was 10.28, and his WHIP was a very low 1.003. On paper he may not look like he deserves second place, but I’d take him as the ace on my team anyday.
3rd Place: David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays. David (19-6) had a 2.72 ERA, Pitched 208.2 innings and had 188 strikeouts. So far, so good. But his WHIP was 1.193, he gave up 3.4 walks/9 innings, his SO/BB ratio was 8.1, all worse than Lee.
4th Place: Trevor Cahill of the Oakland Athletics.
You would be wrong if you thought this was strickly a sentimental pick, because if it were, Trevor (18-8) would be much higher up the list. He deserves considerable recognition for what he accomplished in 2010, especially since he started the year at AAA, and in the majors he pitched for a team with some of the lowest hitting stats in the league. He finished with an ERA of just 2.97, had 118 strikeouts, and his WHIP was 1.108, second lowest of the 5 listed here behind only Cliff Lee. His hits/9 innings was the lowest at 7.1.
5th Place: Jon Lester of the New York Yankees. Another Yankee, I know, but his stats alone warrant his consideration: W/L of 19-9, ERA 3.25, 208 innings pitched, 225 strikeouts, 1.202 WHIP, and 7.2 hits/9 innings.
There you have it.
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Nest: The Stan Musial Award (akin to MLB’s Most Valuable Player award)
Young Pitching: The A’s young hurlers are having some successes and failures, and some of the good things don’t show up in the win column. We have to remember they are all under the age of 25, except the “veteran” Dallas Braden, who will be 26 on August 13th. These young guys are learning how to be professional ballplayers in the major leagues, not in the minors where pitchers typically spend 4 or more years before being called up.
Brett Anderson had a terrific complete-game 2-hitter against the Red Sox in Fenway, which was electricfying to watch.
Even the Sox fans acknowledged his feat with respect. The day before, Gio Gonzalez looked great in his 5-2 victory over Cy Young winner Cliff Lee in Cleveland. But those were the only bright spots since Dallas Braden beat Justin Verlander on July 1st in Oakland.
Trevor Cahill struggled mightily in Cleveland, lasting 3.2 innings and giving up 8 runs (5 earned). In Boston, he pitched well for 5 innings, but in the 6th gave up a solo home run to J.D. Drew and a 3-run shot to David Ortiz Maybe Bob Geren needs to pull these young kids when they first get into trouble (like after Drew’s solo homer) until they get used to facing tough major league hitting. In general, I think Geren leaves pitchers in too long.
Unfortunately, Vin Mazzaro pitched too well in his first 2 starts with the A’s. His luck has turned since then.
It didn’t help that twice he had to face the Giant’s Tim Lincecum who is having another career season this year. He has taken the loss in his last 4 starts, although he pitched well in his last outing but got no run support.
I won’t even comment on the Dana Eveland loss. I think the A’s need to cast him adrift or trade him. He has shown us over the last couple of years that he can pitch well at the Triple-A level, but falls apart in the majors. He just doesn’t fool major league hitting and I think the A’s need to wake up to that fact.
I hope that Dallas Braden does well today in Tampa. We need our “veteran” Ace back.
Silent Bats: Mention must be made of the A’s lack of situational hitting. A lot of the losses might have been wins if the A’s could have driven in maybe half of the runners they had in scoring position. It often seems as if the bats don’t come alive until the 8th or 9th inning when they are in the hole, sometimes a deep one. It’s too little, too late.
Jason Giambi has been a real disappointment to the team, the fans and himself. No one wants to win more than the G man. Unfortunately, it looks as if he’s a little late when he swings at fastballs and doesn’t make contact. But he’s not the only one who strikes out or hits into double plays. It’s been happening all too often up and down the lineup. Matt Holliday certainly isn’t helping his chances of being traded to a contender. In short, the A’s just aren’t getting the key hits when they need them.
Scott Hairston: To finish on a brighter note, the aquisition of Scott Hairston was a brilliant move by Billy Beane.
We control him through 2011, and he is a terrific hitter and can handle the center field position very well. Maybe he can ignite the lineup and they can score more runs to help out the young pitching staff. Time will tell. I haven’t given up on the A’s yet. I just hope they don’t finish in the cellar.
Yesterday’s Game Against the Twins: Trevor Cahill pitched well initially, but in the top of the 4th inning got into some trouble and gave up a 3-run homer to Joe Crede. Oh, no, not again, must have been going through the fans minds. Not another long losing streak, please? Thankfully, after that Cahill pitched 3 more scoreless innings. Meanwhile, Twins’ starter, Nick Blackburn, completely befuddled the A’s for the first 7 innings, allowing no one past 2nd base.
Jack Hannahan and Adam Kennedy Man Up: In the bottom of the 8th inning, Jack Hannahan, batting in the 9 hole, led off with a triple (has he finally solved the riddle of hitting?) He scored when Orlando Cabrera stroked a single to center field, making the score 3-1 Twins. Then Nick Blackburn left a pitch up in the middle of the strike zone and Adam Kennedy sent the gift over the right field wall to tie the game at 3-3. Brad Ziegler, who had pitched the top of the 8th inning, worked a 3-up, 3-down 9th, keeping the game tied.
Things Start Going the A’s Way: In the bottom of the 9th, Jason Giambi led off with a walk, and was replaced by the speedy Chris Denorfia. Suzuki tried to bunt Denorfia to 2nd base but was unsuccessful in 2 attempts. Then Twins relief pitcher, Matt Guerrier, hit Suzuki, which accomplished the same result. Daric Barton laid down a nifty bunt in front of home plate and the runners advanced to 2nd and 3rd. Now, there were 2 on and 1 out.
Rajai’s First Walk-Off Hit: Manager Bob Geren had told Rajai Davis in the dugout before he went out to the on-deck circle, “You’re gonna win the game.” After Barton was thrown out at first after his great bunt, Raj stepped into the batters box. He dumped the first pitch he saw into right field for a walk-off single, scoring Denorfia and giving the A’s a 4-3 victory and a split of the series at 2 games apiece. That shut down the losing streak at 2 games.
The Battle of the Young Guns: Tonight the A’s move across the Bay to begin a 3-city interleague road trip. The pitching matchup for the first game is stellar: Tim Lincecum (5-1. 2.96 ERA, Opp. BA .235, WHIP 1.211) is going against Vin Mazzaro (2-0, 0.00 ERA, OBA .170, WHIP .923). For those of you who are not familiar with the WHIP statistic, it stands for Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched. It’s a truer measure of a pitcher’s effectiveness than ERA. In all those categories, Mazzaro has the better stats, but he’s only pitched 2 games in the Major Leagues. It should be fun to watch.
Everything is Clicking: Wow! 6 wins in a row! Everything appears to be working well: terrific starting pitching, great bullpen, the bats have heated up, and sterling plays in the field abound. This is exciting stuff and makes me want to go out to the Coliseum to see a game. I’ll have to wait until Tuesday.
Mazarro is Magic Again: Vin Mazarro pitched 7.1 shutout innings in today’s game against the Orioles. He looked like veteran pitcher on the bump today:
His fastball was in the mid-90’s, he painted the corners, and batters looked foolish. In short, he was awesome. After giving up a hit in the top of the 7th inning, Geren came out the mound and asked for the ball. As he walked into the dugout, all 17,208 fans were on their feet cheering wildly. “When I got off the field, I had goose bumps,” Mazarro said. “That was the longest walk off the field.” He now has pitched 13.2 innings of scoreless inning in his short major league career.
The Bats Cool Off: The A’s only managed 2 hits in the game today, but scored 3 runs in the bottom of the first on a hit, 4 walks, a hit batsman and a sacrifice. That was all they needed as Mazarro and the bullpen (Michael Wuertz, Craig Breslow and Andrew Bailey) kept the O’s scoreless. Hopefully, the guys will find their strokes and get the hits they need tomorrow.
The A’s Have a Closer: Even thought Manager Bob Geren won’t call him so, Andrew Bailey is the A’s closer. He throws wicked mid-90’s fastballs, paints the black, and hitters look silly either swinging wildly or slumping as they watch the ball cross the plate with their bat still on their shoulders. Andrew pitched his way onto the A’s at Spring Training, completely bypassed triple-A. By the way, Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson also skipped triple-A. If Bailey continues to dominate, he could be named pitcher of the week before too long.
Yankees-Giants Game Today: No, it wasn’t an MLB Interleague game. It was the championship game of the San Ramon Double-A Little League. Our neighbors son, Jack Holt, plays for the winning Mighty Yankees, and his parents invited us to cheer him on. It was wonderful to experience the young end of the baseball spectrum, and see these boys demonstrate the nuances of the game, play their hearts out, and show moments of brilliance at the plate and in the field. So support your local little league. That’s where the future major leaguers will come from. It’s fun to watch.
Last night A’s fans were treated to something very special: Vin Mazarro made his major league debut for the A’s in Chicago.
The 22 year-old pitcher from Rutherford, New Jersey was called up yesterday to join the starting rotation, whose oldest member is a mere 25 years old. That would be Dallas Braden, whose total MLB experience consists of 35 starts over the last 3 seasons. He’s the veteran in the rotation! The next younger is Josh Outman at 24, and Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson are both 21 years old. This is the youngest rotation in all of major league baseball.
Mazarro didn’t disappoint. He struggled a bit in the first 2 innings, but made quality pitches when he needed to and was helped out by stellar defense, including his great wheel and pickoff of Scott Podsednik as the latter strayed off 2nd base in the 1st.
From the 3rd inning on, Vin got his nerves under control and pitched 4.1 innings of shutout ball with ease. Craig Breslow came in and got a double play to end the 7th inning and Brad Ziegler pitched the 8th and 9th innings. Neither gave up a run, preserving Mazarro’s 1st major league win, a 5-0 shutout of the White Sox.
Mazarro was also helped by two great catches in the outfield. Ryan Sweeney did a face plant into the padding in centerfield padding as he caught a long fly ball near the top of the wall, robbing Paul Konerko of extra bases. Matt Holliday made a nice shoe string catch as well.
Vin had a couple of dozen family members and friends from all over the country in the stands to cheer him on. They could be heard making lots of noise with every strike and out that Mazarro rang up. His dad hardly sat down for the 6+ innings his son pitched.
After he settled down, Mazarro’s pitches looked like those of a seasoned veteran, with great movement and velocity in the low to mid 90’s and he located his pitches very well. “He kept us off balance. He had good stuff,” said Scott Podsednik. “You can see why their organization was high on him and brought him up and gave him a shot.”
When manager Bob Geren announced Mazarro’s call up a couple of days ago, he said, “The future is now!” Vin certainly put paid to Geren’s words. In short, Vin Mazarro showed us that he is the complete package, and I am sure that his success and poise on the mound, in what must have been a nerve-wracking pressure-packed situation, will rub off on the other young pitchers on the staff.
Last night was truly special, for Vin, the A’s and the fans. It was a glimpse into what is possible in the very near future, and gave the fans what they need most right now: legitimate hope. Maybe–keep your fingers crossed–it will translate into more butts in the seats at the Coliseum the rest of the season.
On that note, the A’s ran another hit promotion last night, taking a dollar off a plaza-level ticket for Saturday’s game against the Orioles. The A’s got 8 hits last night so a $24 dollar ticket will now cost $16 each. Go to the A’s website to order tickets and use the discount code “Hits” to get the reduced price. Oh, and the game starts at 6:00 pm because there’s a free Jordan Sparks concert immediately following the game. Such a deal!
Bay Area Teams Swept: The A’s and their counterparts across the Bay were unceremoniously swept over the weekend. I had hoped for a win yesterday for A’s 21-year-old rookieTrevor Cahill against Eric Bedard, especially after the very expensive Seattle hurler had such a mediocre season last year, but it was not to be. Cahill pitched a terrific game through 6+ innings, only giving up a run, but it was one run too many. Bedard was lights out, living up to his pre-Seattle reputation.
Red Sox in Town: Tonight the A’s begin a series at home with the Red Sox and as usual the Coliseum will look more red than green and gold. Red Sox fans–at least those who come to A’s games–are some of the most rude and obnoxious fans I’ve ever encountered. Unfortunately, A’s fans get sucked in and give as good as they get. It doesn’t make for a pleasant evening at the ballpark and I avoid these games like the plague.
A Leftover Post from Spring Training: I wrote this on the plane coming home from Spring Training at the end of March. It got sidelined once the season started and in all the sadness over the death of Nick Adenhart. Since there is nothing much to celebrate after a weekend of losses, I have decided to put it in here–a positive note for a change.
On March 29th before the Colorado Rockies game (the subject of my “Speed Guns, Testosterone and a Snafu” post below) I drove out to the Minor League Camp at Phoenix’ Papago Park. I parked the car under a Smoke tree, and walked in towards the playing fields. Here the players in the A’s organization who are invited to Spring Training–from Single A through Triple A–work out in the mornings and play intra-squad games after lunch. It was a slightly overcast morning in the seventies with a light breeze to keep things very comfortable.
I was astounded that there were exactly 5 people in the whole complex who were not players, coaches or groundskeepers. A guy sat in a beach chair munching on chips and watching the Triple A field from about 30 feet away. Across the way, an older couple and a woman on a cell phone sat on the metal bleachers at the Double A field. The fifth was yours truly.
I had come on a mission: to talk to “my guys,” three A’s minor league pitchers whom I had interviewed in October of 2007, when they were playing for the Phoenix Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League. At that time I was doing research on the life of a professional ballplayer for my novel, “Contract Year”, which is now “finished”–is anything ever finished? I wanted to say hello and catch up with them.
The first one I found was James Simmons, a lanky right-handed pitcher with a dazzling smile, who was drafted 26th overall by the A’s in the 2007 MLB June draft, and who commanded a seven-figure signing bonus from the A’s. For the last two seasons, he’s pitched for the Double A Midland Rockhounds in the Texas League, completely bypassing all rookie and A ball levels. He’s playing at Sacramento with the Triple A River Cats this season.
I asked James how he felt about Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson (both drafted the year after Simmons) getting an opportunity to play for the A’s this year. He said, “I’m not ready yet. There are still some things I need to work on. I’m fine with it and they deserve it.” Now there’s class!
While I was talking to James, Jeff Gray, another RHP who pitched for the River Cats last season strode up with a big smile on his face and extended his hand. He’s the oldest of the three at 28, and I had hoped he might break camp with the A’s this spring. Joe Stiglich, the A’s beat writer for the Contra Costa Times and other Bay Area News Group papers, told me that the A’s are “high on him,” but he’s going back in Sacramento to start this season.
I had to go looking for the last guy, Brad Kilby, a LHP who has pitched for Sacramento the last two seasons. I found him sitting on the bench next to the water cooler, staring at the paper cup in his hand . A man of few words, he’s also back in Sacramento for another season.
I have been following the careers of these three ballplayers from Double A to Triple A, and in Jeff’s case to the A’s. Last September Jeff got a “cup of coffee” in the majors, when the A’s called him up after rosters expanded on September 1st. He threw 5 innings in relief with the A’s and I got to see him pitch two of them in person. These guys have been invaluable to me in terms of my understanding of what minor league ballplayers have to deal with: playing for peanuts, climbing up the minors, hoping to get called up, and dealing with the fact that so much of their fate is out of their hands.
I brought a copy of my book with me and gave it to James to read. The other two will read it after James is finished. James, bless his heart, agreed to write a blurb for the dust jacket when the book is published.
I must confess that my heart was aflutter standing around talking to these good-looking very fit young men who are living the dream I would have aspired to in my youth if I’d had a Y-chromosome. They are all extremely nice and enthusiastic, and I am honored to call them my friends.