During the last week of the 2012 MLB season, 10 writers from Beyond the Box Score joined forces to create the greatest collaboration of baseball minds the world has ever known . This elite organization, known only as the BtBWAA, was formed for one and only one purpose: To conduct a player awards vote in which the truly meritorious take home the coveted hardware.
We've already announced our picks for MLB Executive of the Year, Silver Sluggers (AL, NL), Gold Gloves (AL, NL), and Rookies of the Year (AL, NL). On Tuesday, we revealed our pick for the AL Cy Young, so today we'll look at the results for National League Cy Young.
Before we get to the results, a few words on the process. Voting began on October 1 (after 159 games had been played) and continued until October 5, with the balloting closing before the first playoff games started. Each writer voted for three candidates, with voting scored Each writer voted for three candidates, with ballots scored on a 9-7-5-3-1 basis.
Without further ado, here are the results:
Ladies and gentlemen, your 2012 NL Cy Young is R.A. Dickey, who narrowly edges out Clayton Kershaw for the honors in what was easily our closest vote. Gio Gonzalez takes home the bronze, followed by Stephen Strasburg, Matt Cain, Craig Kimbrel, and Kris Medlen. Cole Hamels and Aroldis Chapman also get a vote apiece.
Our dividedness was reflected in the distribution of first-place votes. Dickey got five, Kershaw got four, and Gonzalez got one (that's me!).
Based on these results, it looks like the BBWAA did a pretty good job. Dickey won the real Cy Young, followed by Kershaw, Gonzalez, and Cueto, in that order.
This was by far the hardest award for me. For those curious, my ballot went: Gonzalez, Medlen, Kershaw, Dickey, Kimbrel, in that order.
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The Miami Marlins are liquidating assets faster than a used-carpet store going out of business. It shouldn't be all that surprising considering they performed a similar fire-sale following high-spending championships seasons in 1997 and 2003. Because of this, Jeffrey Loria has been castigated as one of the worst owners in all of sports, a man motivated by pure greed and disdain for the common fan.
Jeffrey Loria took control of the Marlins before the 2002 season after agreeing to let MLB control his club, the Montreal Expos. In the eleven seasons since, the Marlins have had:
Kansas City Royals
A few caveats:
The primary argument for the fire sale trade perpetrated by the Miami Marlins with the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday is that the team saved a good amount of money on negative assets. As good as Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle were, their back-loaded contracts were not likely to be valuable to the team in the future, as the Marlins could have done a better job with their money. Reyes did well enough to be a bright spot for the Marlins in 2012, but he did not live up to expectations entirely and should be expected to start declining in the next few seasons. The same could be said for Buehrle, especially at his advanced age. It was unlikely that either player would be able to live up to the rest of their contract simply due to increasing age and the back-loaded salaries.
In a perfect world, the Miami Marlins would be able to turn around and utilize those savings to supplement a future team with enough free agent pieces to become a contender. The Marlins accomplished the secondary goal of refiling their organization's barren minor league system so that, in two or three years, the team may have prospects who are ready to become major league contributors. But the world created by the fire sale trade performed by the Fish is not one that would allow for the Marlins to sign free agents. Beyond the question of whether or not owner Jeffrey Loria would even consider spending again after the worst case scenario season of 2012, the team's actions in this trade had to have convinced prospective free agents that signing with the Marlins is not a long-term commitment.
One reader from our initial piece insisted that the Marlins put themselves in the best financial situation to compete in future seasons, and in that I tend to agree. With all the money the team opened up, they could spend in the future to build around their in-house prospect talent. But I argued that showing this kind of lack of loyalty to their players, particularly their free agent signings, undermines the organization's ability to negotiate with free agents. No player would take the choice of playing with the Marlins over playing with another team for anything close to a similar offer.
I am not privy to negotiations of any players, but it is easy to believe that money is a primary determinant of whether a player will or will not sign a free agent contract with a team. However, as obviously important as money is, I find it difficult to believe that money is the only determinant. If money really were the only determinant, no-trade clauses would have no value, and it is clear that no-trade clauses hold some value to players, as their inclusion typically lowers the value of a contract. Players are not just baseball machines that are turned off when the game is over. They are people with families who want to live in a location in which they can be comfortable for a long period of time. They have children whom they want to remain in good schools for a long duration in order to not upset their development. They want to build a home that they know will be their home for a long time to come in order to bring a measure of stability in a profession that is wrought with the potential for upheaval at any time. Much like any other family, moving constantly and changing locations is not preferable, and I believe there is a value to this for players, though it is significantly lower on the totem pole than money.
The point here is that any player is also a human who wants stability for him and his family. No one likes to move around constantly, so when they finally get a chance to make their own decision about where they will be in the future, you have to believe that many of them would also prefer to sign with an organization who can assure them that they will be here for the long haul. The Miami Marlins are officially the last organization from which a player can receive that kind of commitment. After the trade of all three of the Marlins' free agent signings from last season, the organization has broken any nuance of trustworthiness that they may have had with future free agent negotiations. Signing with the Miami Marlins may have been perceived as sketchy before, but now there is no way the Fish can shake that perception. There is an argument that, even if free agents suspected this problem before, they will certainly know about this problem now that the team perpetrated such a mass exodus of recently signed players.
If a player's goal is to receive a long-term contract and stay with one team for as much of the duration as possible, you know that signing with the Marlins is never going to be an option for that player. But as was pointed out in the initial piece by some readers, money is still an overwhelming factor that can override some of these problems. For the Marlins, however, simply overpaying for free agents creates another problem for the franchise. Most ball clubs can be decently efficient with their free agent money, generally paying what the market will bear. But for select teams with a history of mediocre performance, it is far more difficult to get players to sign. The result is that, for a team to attract free agents, they have to overpay at a high level to get players to commit.
An often-used example of this is the Washington Nationals signing of Jayson Werth, which was deemed an overpay by much of the analytic community but was also considered a "necessary evil" to prove that the Nationals were interested in contending. The Nationals may be competitive now thanks to their efficient recent drafting, but they will still have Werth's expensive deal hovering over their heads for years to come.
The problem with this is that it perpetuates a bad cycle. If the Marlins have to drastically overpay to sign free agents, they will never maximize their assets and, if their core of prospects falters, they will end up in a position akin to the one the organization felt they were in after 2012, with a series of overpaid veterans and no young core to support them. If the young players. Combine this problem of either being unable to sign or being inefficient in signing free agents and the issue with being unable to retain Giancarlo Stanton and other young stars, and you get a recipe for consistent failure, as Dave Cameron of FanGraphs noted in his piece yesterday.
And if you can’t keep a 22-year-old superstar, then what’s the point of any of this? The whole point of having cheap young Major League talent is that you can get quality performance at a low cost, allowing you to redistribute the majority of your payroll to expensive veterans and build a good team around them. But if you alienate your franchise players and have lost any credibility in negotiations with free agents, then all you are left with is a bunch of minimum salary kids who aren’t good enough to win on their own.
The pillars of success for many franchises are tied to growing, developing, and retaining stars from the minor leagues and supplementing them with good free agent signings. We already discussed how the Marlins are going to have difficulty retaining young stars with an organization that lacks a long-term plan or commitment to a process, and the team's lack of commitment should also cause problems with their ability to attract free agents looking for a place in which to settle down long-term. This does not even consider what Loria will do with the payroll and what the winning situation with the Marlins will be in the next few years. All of these factors are combining to form an ugly combination for the franchise, one in which they have little to which to look forward.
SEATTLE (AP) — The Seattle Mariners say they will install the largest scoreboard video screen in the major leagues at Safeco Field during the offseason.
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A comprehensive look into the years preceding, pitches thrown, and lingering effects both before and after Tommy John Surgery.
The other day, I introduced what we believe to be the most complete list of baseball players that have undergone the UCL reconstruction procedure that has come to be commonly known as Tommy John surgery.
With a relatively large sample of major league pitchers on the list, there is ample opportunity for many different studies relating to the surgery. One area of interest for me is the mix of pitches that pitchers use in the years leading up to the surgery, as well as potential changes in pitch selection after the surgery has been performed. Today we will focus on just the first part of that topic: the pitch mix in the years immediately preceding Tommy John surgery.
For this study, I will use the Baseball Info Solutions data that has been available since 2002. By restricting my view to the pre-surgery years, it allows me to include any pitcher from the list that pitched in the major leagues leading up to their surgery since 2002, regardless of whether or not they successfully returned to pitching after the surgery and lengthy rehabilitation period.
The idea will be to compare the average pitcher that received Tommy John surgery to the league average pitcher with respect to pitch frequency. In order to attempt to make this comparison fairly, I will control for two factors that can significantly affect pitch selection.
The following two graphs show the breakdown of average pitch frequency by age for starting pitchers and relief pitchers. They serve to highlight the importance of controlling for these two factors in this comparison process. Note that cut fastball usage does tend to increase on average as pitchers age, while fastball and curveball usage tends to decline.
Data: Baseball Info Solutions, 2002-2012, via Fangraphs
The comparison then will be to contrast the pitch frequency of each Tommy John recipient that meets the requirements for this study to the league average pitcher of the same age that performs the same pitching role. I will perform this comparison for two years prior to the surgery, the year before the surgery and the year of the surgery. For example, if a relief pitcher underwent Tommy John surgery at age 28, I will compare his pitch frequency in his age 26 season to the league average pitch frequency of all relief pitchers from 2002-2012 in their age 26 seasons. I will compare his age 27 season pitch mix to the league average pitch mix of all 27-year old relief pitchers.
Finally, I will compare his age 28 Tommy John surgery season pitch mix to that of the league average relief pitcher of the same age. I will then take the average of all of these differences to form a pitch frequency profile of the average Tommy John pitcher in the three seasons leading up to his surgery as compared to the league average pitcher. Since each pitcher's pitch frequency delta is controlled for pitching role and age, I feel that I can take the average of the deltas of all Tommy John pitchers at this point without any further weighting. For the purposes of this study, I used every pitcher that appeared as a pitcher in the major leagues between 2002 and 2012. I defined a starting pitcher as any pitcher that started at least one game in a given season.
Here are the results of this comparison process:
The table indicates that the average pitcher headed toward Tommy John surgery tended to throw slightly more fastballs and sliders that his league average peer, at the expense of slightly less curveballs and changeups. In effect, for every 100 pitches thrown, one extra fastball and one extra slider are tossed instead of one curveball and one changeup. The difference does not appear to be earth shattering; however, the deltas are in the direction that seem logical.
Fastballs and sliders are the two pitches of the four that are thrown with the greatest velocities. It would seem to follow that they would on average exert more force on the elbow than the curveball and changeup. Per Wikipedia, a 2002 study of very young pitchers showed that slider usage increased the likelihood of elbow injury by 86%.
There certainly may still be some important dependent factors that I did not consider in this comparison process. If you have any ideas about ways to improve this study, please let me know. The magnitude of the results may not be overwhelming, and I cannot make any claims directly from this set of data, other than to say that the trend of the outcome did match my expectations.
In the near future I will look to complete the second, related part of this study, to see if pitchers who successfully return from Tommy John surgery to the big league level alter their pitch mix from their pre-surgery repertoire.
You can follow me on Twitter at @MLBPlayerAnalys.Follow @MLBPlayerAnalys
Credit and thanks to Fangraphs for data upon which this analysis was based.
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Pitcher Brandon McCarthy is ready for a normal offseason after being medically cleared this week to resume his regular routine, less than three months after being struck in the head by a line drive and undergoing emergency brain surgery.
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SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) — Manny Ramirez homered on his first pitch of the Dominican winter league season.
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Rob Neyer of Baseball Nation does his best to try to reach some justification for a first-place Cy Young vote for a reliever: Making the case for closers as Cy Young candidates, in 9 easy steps - Baseball Nation
As things stand now, a relief pitcher has a fighting chance for the Cy Young Award only if he's nearly perfect and there isn't a starting pitcher with 20 wins and a low ERA. Which is probably as it should be.
Dave Cameron of FanGraphs does not think that the Trout/Cabrera MVP debate is a war on WAR: Tonight Is Not a War on WAR | FanGraphs Baseball
While WAR has become the symbol for the pro-Trout argument, at the end of the day, this is really the same argument that has been going on for 20 or 30 years. If the Tigers hadn’t made the playoffs, or Cabrera hadn’t led the league in runs batted in, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. This entire discussion is about the validity of those specific points, and those two points have been at the heart of nearly every MVP argument since. The names change, but the discussion remains the same.
Jonah Keri of Grantland thinks that Jeffrey Loria is a genius: There's Shrewd, There's Genius, Then There's Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria - The Triangle Blog - Grantland
I don't blame him for any of this. I'm just impressed by how well he worked everything to his advantage, taking advantage of elected officials, short-sighted businessmen, and a system that rewards the kind of behavior that might seem despicable but is impossibly profitable. When it comes to Jeffrey Loria, I'm just in awe.
Jason Wojciechowski of Baseball Prospectus analyzes expectations and the manager of the year award: Baseball Prospectus | In A Pickle: Managing Expectations
If Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke sign with the Astros this offseason, there's no projection system that would posit that that's enough to make them a playoff team. If you add (e.g.) 10 WARP to a team with a 60-win core, you get a 70-win team, but you don't get a playoff team, as I suspect many fans and writers would hope/believe based on the motion on the roster. This is not something I brilliantly made up just now, of course, and it's also not something that I can prove exists, but I have a hunch that it tickles many of you in a particular brain-spot that indicates that you also have a feeling that fans and analysts and writers are fooled by this type of bias.
One of the key pieces to the Marlins / Blue Jays trade was left-handed pitching prospect Justin Nicolino. Nicolino, 20, has a legitimate chance to reach Double-A by the end of the 2013 season. If everything goes right, Nicolino could turn into a solid third starter at the major league level.
Justin Nicolino was born on November 22, 1991 in Orlando. Some Miami natives may remember Nicolino's days at University High School in Orlando, where he hit .259/.394/.414 during his senior season. Nicolino posted a 1.14 ERA with sixty-one strikeouts in thirty-seven innings pitched. Heading into the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft, Nicolino was committed to the University of Virginia. However, Nicolino was viewed as signable so his commitment did not affect his draft stock. After the Blue Jays selected Nicolino with the 18th overall pick, he signed for a $615,000 signing bonus.
Justin Nicolino throws an average fastball, a plus changeup, a curveball that is nothing special and occasionally a slider. This is not exactly the repertoire of an above-average pitcher in the majors. If Nicolino had the arsenal of say, Luis Heredia of the Pirates, he would probably be the best pitching prospect in baseball. Nicolino's fastball is in the low nineties and has minimal movement. Some talent evaluators question whether or not Nicolino can become an above-average pitcher without a good array of pitches. However, his pitches are effective because he can locate them accurately and throw them at the right time during at-bats
One of the main reasons Justin Nicolino is such a highly regarded prospect is because of his repeatable delivery. Nicolino has a fluid windup and that will help him a ton once he faces more advanced hitters. Also, his delivery doesn't look like it will put him in any position where injuries would be more likely. His command, control and mechanics are why he has such amazing potential. If his body fills out (he's only listed at 160 pounds), Nicolino has a very good chance at becoming an above-average major league starting pitcher.
In 2011, Nicolino's first full season, he began the year in Short-Season Low-A Vancouver of the Northwest League. In just twelve games, nine starts, Nicolino posted a 1.44 FIP with 11.01 K/9 and 1.89 BB/9. Unlike a lot of high school pitchers after being drafted, Nicolino proved that the jump to professional baseball wasn't too much for him. Nicolino spent the 2012 season with Lansing in the Midwest League. Nicolino pitched in twenty-eight games, twenty-two of which were starts. He threw 124 innings, striking out 8.61 batters every nine and walking 1.52 per nine innings. Nicolino's first two seasons in the minors could not have gone much better than they have.
The Marlins' young pitchers are not that far away from forming an outstanding starting rotation. Just imagine a rotation featuring Jose Fernandez, Adam Conley, Chad James and Justin Nicolino. Nicolino is never going to be a Game One-type of starter, but he definitely has the potential to be a second or third starter. My best guess would be that Nicolino would start the year out at High-A Jupiter and end at Double-A Jacksonville. If everything goes right, Nicolino should be in the majors by midseason 2014.