Despite the machinations of Bud Selig and his expanded playoff format for Major League Baseball, there are plenty of teams with little to play for in the final month of the season. Sitting 19.5 games back of the National League East Division leading Washington Nationals, the New York Mets probably fall into this category.
Of course, there remain a couple of things that the team has going for it that might keep fans interested.
People act like there’s no reason to watch the rest of the Mets’ season and ignore Ike Davis’ pursuit of a .300 OBP.
— Ted Berg (@OGTedBerg) September 5, 2012
Oh, and there’s also the fact that R.A. Dickey was the first pitcher in baseball to get to 18 wins, and unsurprisingly, he stands a pretty good chance of receiving some Cy Young Award attention.
A lot has been written about Dickey this season, and that’s because, put as simply as possible, he’s interesting. And he’s interesting both on the field and off of it. Let’s have a mini-Dickey link dump from this season:
R.A. Dickey climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. [Yahoo! Sports]
R.A. Dickey’s two knuckleballs. [Amazin' Avenue]
R.A. Dickey and pitchers who don’t succeed until their mid-thirties. [Baseball Nation]
Searching for an R.A. Dickey comparison. [Fangraphs]
In fact, R.A. Dickey is almost too good of a story. The knuckleballer who lacks a crucial ligament for pitching baseballs is everything that someone who writes about baseball should love: humble, honest, articulate and successful. However, there are six National League starters this season with ERAs under three and two relievers that will most likely strike out a higher percentage of batters this season than any other pitcher in the history of baseball.
Here’s how they stack up, in terms of both traditional and non-traditional numbers:
R.A. Dickey: 18-4, 198 IP, 25.0 K%, 5.8 BB%, 2.64 ERA, 3.12 FIP, 3.24 xFIP.
Gio Gonzalez: 18-7, 175 IP, 25.7 K%, 8.7 BB%, 2.98 ERA, 2.76 FIP, 3.26 xFIP.
Johnny Cueto: 17-7, 189 IP, 19.5 K%, 5.4 BB%, 2.58 ERA, 3.13 FIP, 3.60 xFIP.
Stephen Strasburg: 15-6, 156 IP, 30.7 K%, 7.1 BB%, 2.94 ERA, 2.64 FIP, 2.74 xFIP.
Clayton Kershaw: 12-8, 200 IP, 25.4 K%, 6.3 BB%, 2.79 ERA, 2.95 FIP, 3.20 xFIP.
Wade Miley: 14-9, 165 IP, 17.4 K%, 4.5 BB%, 2.90 ERA, 3.14 FIP, 3.79 xFIP.
Aroldis Chapman: 35 SV, 66 IP, 37 SD, 2.41 WPA/LI, 46.8 K%, 6.8 BB%, 1.23 ERA, 1.11 FIP, 1.59 xFIP.
Craig Kimbrel: 33 SV, 50 IP, 24 SD, 1.46 WPA/LI, 50.3 K%, 7.1 BB%, 1.25 ERA, 1.00 FIP, 0.96 xFIP.
Normally, I wouldn’t even consider relievers to be in the running for being named the best pitcher in a given year, but Chapman and Kimbrel have been so incredibly outstanding this season, that it seems negligent not to mention them in the same breath as the starters. However, if we’re going to name the best pitcher in the National League, I think you have to consider the workload that the pitcher carried, and while Chapman’s amount of innings pitched is impressive coming out of the bullpen, in my mind, it’s not enough to suggest he’s made more of a positive impact than any of the starters on the list above him.
If, in the coming days, evidence is revealed that, as we all suspect, Chapman is some sort of secret agent, fighting the Cuban government, well, then I might have to reconsider. Until then, though, Chapman and Kimbrel are out. I will also have to eliminate Strasburg from consideration considering the likelihood of him being shut down before he reaches 170 innings. That’s not an indictment on him or his handling by Mike Rizzo. It’s merely an explanation as to why I wouldn’t consider him the best pitcher in the National League this year.
I’m also eliminating Johnny Cueto, who along with Dickey has probably received the most media attention as a Cy Young Award candidate, and Wade Miley from consideration based on what normalizing their HR/FB ratio would do to their ERA. Both pitchers having strike out rates below 20% isn’t helping their cause either.
This leaves us with Dickey, Gonzalez and Kershaw. It’s interesting to me that Gonzalez, a pitcher who reached 18 wins on the same day as Dickey, maybe five or six hours later, and has a far superior FIP, hasn’t received as much attention, even among the stats leaning crowd. Nonetheless, Gonzalez is either just ahead or a little bit more behind Dickey and Kershaw in most of the other important numbers, and then between those two pitchers Kershaw appears to be the superior despite a poor win/loss record and higher ERA which is explained once his HR/FB ratio is equalized.
Of course, a couple of great starts to close out the season from any of these three could shake things up, but for now, I’ll go with Clayton Kershaw as the best National League pitcher this season.
And The Rest
Don’t count out the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim just yet. [Baseball Nation]
Joey Votto’s return to the Cincinnati Reds creates a pretty good problem to have. [Hit And Run]
Why attendance was down on Tuesday night. [Big League Stew]
The Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees are set to begin a rather important series. [Blogging The Bombers]
What would a Mike Trout extension take? [The Hardball Times]
Save your Adam Wainwright gets tired nonsense for someone else. [Viva El Birdos]
Anyone up for a joke at the expense of the San Francisco Giants offense and stadium? [Baseball Prospectus]
Washington Nationals phenom Bryce Harper pretty much makes history every night. [Federal Baseball]
The most indiscriminate hitter in the league. [FanGraphs]
The process versus New York Yankees starting (at least for the time being) pitcher Freddy Garcia. [The Process Report]
Would you give St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay a gold glove? [Pitchers Hit Eighth]
Finally, this. [Twitter]
There is a pitcher in the Diamondbacks system named Jose Jose. baseball-reference.com/minors/player.…
— Bradley Ankrom (@BradleyAnkrom) September 6, 2012
Okay, fine, this as well. [Twitter]
Shout out to people who wear white underwear, you have some serious marbles walking that tight rope and wearing that beautiful blank canvas.
— Brent Lillibridge (@BSLillibridge) September 5, 2012
Okay, one more. This is rather fantastic. [Twitter]