FOX Sports Exclusive
Mound musings: Who wins the Cy Youngs?
CY YOUNG RACE
Like most sane analysts and non-Murray Chass loving baseball aficionados, I eschew the wins category as a measure of performance for the most part. Let's face it, if a pitcher is good, the wins are going be there for the most part (unless your set-up man is Kyle Farnsworth followed by the 2010 version of Brad Lidge as closer). I need to see a relatively high innings pitched total, preferably in the 180-220 range, a K/9 of 6.5 as a minimum, but preferably 9.0-plus and a sub-3.0 BB/9. I take that data, mull it over, and usually, the outcome is pretty clear or close to it.
There are really no NL closers worthy of being in this discussion this year, as none have had what I would term a "Gagne-esque" season. Jonathan Broxton may get some consideration for his 109 strikeouts and 35 saves, but he's also blown five chances. Dan Haren tailed off once again during the dog days, and while Javier Vazquez deserves top-five consideration, it really comes down to these three.
Right off the top, fair or not (but this is my article, so it IS fair), Carpenter gets disqualified due to his trailing the others by 30-40 innings. That's a huge amount of innings in my book and amounts to about five starts due to his oblique injury sustained in May. Yes, he does lead the NL in ERA, but the gap isn't sufficient enough for me to discount the innings gap to the point where he's my favorite.
So, now we're down to two, with Lincecum having the lead in both ERA and strikeouts (a sizeable lead) over Wainwright with a similar walk rate. Wainwright will get serious consideration from the voters for his wins total, especially if he can beat the Rockies (in Coors) and Brewers in his final two starts to reach the magical 20-win plateau. However, when all is said and done, Lincecum's been the better pitcher and would get my vote. He's 2-3 in his last five starts, with the Giants scoring a grand total of five runs in those three losses. Sorry, myopic voters, but that's a team failure, not one of the pitcher.
Again, Joe Nathan and Mariano Rivera have had very good years, but not good enough for me to bypass starters who have pitched 150-plus more innings. This race comes down to Zack Greinke and Felix Hernandez, as Roy Halladay and Justin Verlander don't quite measure up despite Verlander's impressive strikeout rate and Halladay's command. Greinke may have locked up the award with his performance Tuesday against Boston, but Hernandez will likely have three more starts to Greinke's two, so there's still time. Right now, though, Greinke's numbers are more impressive across the board and he gets my vote.
2010 BREAKOUT CANDIDATES
Keep these names in mind for your 2010 cheatsheets.
Homer Bailey (CIN) Sure, Bailey's yet to live up to the hype as one of baseball's top pitching prospects, but keep in mind he's still just 23. He may be showing signs of a breakout recently, posting a 1.83 ERA over his last six starts with 39 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings. He does have 17 walks as well, so the transformation from great minor league prospect to excellent big league pitcher is far from complete, but he'll wind up on more than one of my teams next season.
Sean West (FLA) Dude is 6-foot-8 and throws left-handed. That's good enough for me. OK, well almost. West, 23, had just 65 innings of minor league experience above the Single-A level before he was promoted to Florida in May. He had a 2.22 ERA through his first four big league starts before the inevitable struggles began, but he's shown enough to give me confidence that he can be a solid No. 3 long-term.
Max Scherzer (ARI) Nine wins and a 4.08 ERA don't constitute a great fantasy season, but Scherzer's close to the breakout that looks to be inevitable. Despite occasional lapses in command and a propensity for leaving pitches up in the zone (1.1 HR/9), he has a career K/9 of 9.5 and just needs to continue to work hard and develop a consistent release point.
Ubaldo Jimenez (COL) Some may say that 14 wins, a 3.47 ERA and 181 strikeouts equates to a breakout, and I might be inclined to agree, but I still see bigger things in store for this kid. Jimenez has done a much better job this year in controlling the movement on his fastball, cutting his BB/0 from 4.7 to 3.4 over last year. You can't teach a mid-90s fastball, plus a slider and excellent curve, and with a career 1.74 GB/FB rate, he looks like he has the ability to be the best pitcher in Rockies history. I see continued progress as a 26-year-old next year (he turns that age in January), perhaps even as a darkhorse Cy Young candidate.
Anibal Sanchez (FLA) I wasn't too optimistic on Sanchez coming into this season, as how many pitchers do you know that have returned anywhere close to their previous success after labrum surgery? He started strong, posting a 2.50 ERA through three starts before the wheels came off and he would up on the DL for 3.5 months due to more shoulder woes. Since returning, he has a 2.58 ERA in seven starts, capped by eight shutout innings against the Phillies on Tuesday.
Luke Hochevar (KC) A three-hit shutout of the White Sox is good enough for me to put him front and center on this list, though he probably makes it regardless of one outing. Hochevar's had an uneven rookie season, going 7-11 with a 5.98 ERA and 1.43 WHIP, but there are positives. First, I give a lot of latitude to No. 1 overall picks, regardless of how much they struggle initially in the big leagues. Second, his walk and strikeout rates have improved dramatically over 2008. Finally, the average velocity on his fastball is up 1.4 mph over last year, a relatively significant jump. I'd expect more progress in 2010.
Matt Garza (TB) Although Garza recorded 10 strikeouts in his last start, he should have more than two double-digit strikeout games to his credit with his stuff. All Garza did last year was win the ALCS MVP, and he's posted nearly identical regular season numbers this year. His strikeout rate, though, has taken a leap from 6.2 K/90 to 8.3, though a few more walks and home runs leave him with identical 3.70 ERAs the last two years. He turns 26 in November and is about ready to take that next step.
Trevor Cahill (OAK) Cahill hasn't quite handled his baptism by fire as well as Brett Anderson, but that may just mean he's the better value of the two in 2010 drafts. Cahill had just 37 innings above Class-A ball when he opened 2009 in the Oakland rotation, and it showed. He's been somewhat lucky to have a 4.45 ERA considering his 5.38 FIP, as a .273 BABIP has helped mask an 89:70 K:BB in 174 innings. He's thrown nearly 50 innings this year over last, so that's a concern, but for a guy who should have spent 95 percent of the year in the minors, he did fine. Expect rapid progress in 2010.
Derek Holland (DET) Holland isn't exactly finishing strong with a 12.38 ERA in his last five starts, but like Cahill above, he was rushed a bit. He has a three-hit shutout of the Angels to his credit and a solid 7.2 K/9 against a 3.1 BB/9, so he's done some good things. He'll need to ratchet down that 1.8 HR/9 and induce a few more ground balls, but I think he can.
Brandon Morrow (SEA) Three years into his career, and despite more strikeouts than innings pitched, we're still waiting for that breakout. Maybe it's just me, but giving up on top-10 draft picks with plus stuff after three years seems foolish. Morrow may be nearly two years older than his far more accomplished teammate Felix Hernandez, but don't write him off too quickly. The big issue is clearly the 6.0 career BB/9, but perhaps not jerking him around between the bullpen, rotation and the minors would help settle down his psyche.
Marco Estrada/J.D. Martin (WAS NYM, @ATL) Estrada's minor league numbers aren't overly good or bad, but anything can happen in a given week we suppose. Just make sure an Estrada blow-up won't result in your losing ground in the ERA and WHIP categories. Martin may a bit more helpful, as he has five wins to his credit this year despite a 4.5 K/9. Neither are great options, but if wins are all you need, and you're in a very deep league, you may want to give one or both of these guys a shot due to their two-start status.
Bud Norris (HOU @PHI, @NYM) Norris has had his ups and downs, but with a 1.57 ERA over his last four starts and a 8.7 K/9 in 55 2/3 innings overall, he could be a valuable performer this week. Sure, the Phillies can be tough, but he's worth a gamble if you need the extra starts.
Mark Hendrickson (BAL @TB, TOR) I'm not normally in the recommending Mark Hendrickson business, but the vertically-gifted did have a solid start last time out against the Blue Jays, and he's tentatively scheduled to face them again next week. The Orioles could certainly shuffle things around, but if you have the room in AL-only leagues and need the Ws and Ks, perhaps he comes through.
Wade Davis (TB BAL, NYY) We've already seen what Davis can do against the Orioles, but he also gets the Yankees week. No easy chore, but do the Yankees rest a few regulars considering Davis' start against them will come on the final day of the regular season? Perhaps, but either way, he's a no-brainer in all formats right now.
Luke Hochevar (KC @NYY, @MIN) We talked quite a bit about Hochevar above, but here he is with two starts this week. Sure, the Yankees are a tough play, but a 102:41 K:BB in 134 innings is pretty impressive. Give him a shot if you need to roll the dice.
Jeff Manship/Brian Duensing (MIN @DET, KC) Manship had a tough outing last time out and isn't a no-brainer to be a two-start guy next week, so tread cautiously. He might not even be a two-start pitcher next week depending on how things shake out. Maybe I like him too much based on what he did in Low-A a couple years ago (1.51 ERA and 77:9 K:BB in 77.2 IP). Duensing though is 5-1 with a 3.33 ERA on the year and, even better, 4-0 with a 1.45 ERA in his last six starts. Use him in all but the shallowest of leagues and Manship only if you can stand a hit to your ERA and WHIP.
Anibal Sanchez (FLA @ATL, @PHI) See above. Article first appeared 9/24/09