September 2005

AL Cy Young

How much do wins matter? That, essentially, is the question facing AL Cy Young voters this year. If you put a lot of stock in wins, Bartolo Colon is your winner. If you don’t, it’s a much more interesting question.

I don’t.

I think wins for a pitcher are a vastly overvalued stat, since there’s so much that a pitcher can’t control. In looking at the Cy Young, I’m much more inclined to look at ERA, innings, strikeouts/walks, complete games/shutouts — basically, the things that the pitcher has more control over.

The Cy Young ballot allows only three names, which changes the dynamic a little. I think Colon will win, because he’ll be on pretty much everyone’s ballot, and I can see guys like Johan Santana and Mark Buehrle getting first-, second- and third-place votes but also being left off of some ballots.

If I had a vote, however, here’s how it would go:

1. Santana. Just the best pitcher in the league. He’s tied with Kevin Millwood for the ERA lead, but he has 40 more innings. He’s on top in strikeouts. He has a ridiculous hit rate, a ridiculous K/BB rate, and no viable candidate has more complete games. It’s not his fault the Twins are dead last in the AL in runs scored. Yes, last. Behind even the Royals.

2. Buehrle. Behind only Santana and Millwood in ERA, first in innings, tied with Santana in CG. I’m not crazy about those 17 unearned runs, though. Once in a while, an unearned run isn’t a pitcher’s fault. But usually, if you give up lots of them, it’s probably a sign that you should have prevented some of them — or that the official scorer helped you a lot more than he helped your defense.

3. Colon. He’s seventh in ERA, and the wins do mean something. Like the other guys, he racked up innings. I take him over Mariano Rivera, who will get some consideration, just because I’d rather have a very good starter than a great reliever pretty much any day. Besides, I’m actually not sure Rivera was all that much better than Francisco Rodriguez.


Leach's Top-10, second installment

1. USC — Will anybody stay within two touchdowns of these guys in the regular season?

2. Virginia Tech — Their obliteration of a very good Georgia Tech team may be the most impressive showing I’ve seen this year.

3. Texas — This isn’t a case of them dropping in my eyes. It’s just being impressed with VaTech.

4. Florida — That Tennessee win looks better than it did a little while ago.

5. Florida State — I’m still biased, but there still aren’t many teams with two quality wins.

6. Ohio State — Wow. What an evisceration. Iowa is obviously not as good as some (including yours truly) thought, but wow.

7. Georgia — Beating Miss. St. by 13 points is
not necessarily something to go crazy about, but the huge game by
Shockley is encouraging. They go to Knoxville in two weeks.

8. Tennessee — Beating LSU in Baton Rouge at night is a great win. Period.

9. Miami — South Florida, Duke and Temple the next three games? Are you kidding me?

10. Michigan State — I love teams that can do one thing exceptionally well. Especially when that one thing is scoring points.

Teams to watch: Alabama, Cal, Wisconsin, Boston College

Game of the week: Florida-Alabama. I really enjoy watching ASU play, and they’re an excellent team, but I think SC beats them by 20 points. This, meanwhile, will be the most telling game. Is ‘Bama’s renaissance legit? Is Florida’s offense legit? This’ll be great stuff. And though I’m a die-hard Seminole, in honor of my dad, I say this — go Gators!



There’s probably not an easier vote this year, in my opinion, than AL MVP. With respectful disagreement to Buster Olney, who argues that A-Rod versus Big Papi is "a dead heat", and to Jayson Stark, who gives some well-deserved kudos to Travis Hafner, A-Rod is the guy.

Heck, even Tiger Woods knows it!

A-Rod has edges on Hafner and Ortiz in batting average and OBP, and he’s right in the ballpark in slugging. He trails Ortiz in RBIs, and actually he’s had more at-bats with runners in scoring position, but overall you’d pretty much have to call the two guys similar in offensive value. Hafner loses points for the number of games he lost. I know it’s not his fault, and his recovery is remarkable. But "number of games played" is one of the criteria on the ballot.

Oh, and then there’s the fact that A-Rod is a Gold Glove-caliber third baseman.

I’m not the guy’s biggest fan, and I’m certainly not a Yankee fan, but to me, Rodriguez is just about a no-brainer.


Leach's Top 10

Welcome to my weekly college football Top 10. A couple ofnotes: I don’t believe in inertia when it comes to rankings. This week’s
rankings don’t mean a thing next week. Also, rankings should be a measure of
two things: how good you are, and what you’ve accomplished. It shouldn’t have
anything to do with what’s to come. It shouldn’t be a prediction. So just
because I have USC and Texas, that doesn’t mean I necessarily think that’s
where they’ll be at season’s end.

On with the show…

1. USC — Every couple of years or so, a team comes out
on a roll and everyone starts wondering whether they’re the Greatest Team Ever.
Now it’s SC. But geez, maybe it’s not hype with these guys. We won’t know until
they actually play someone, but they’re downright terrifying.

2. Texas — The OSU win was nice, even if the Big 10
looks like it was pretty heavily overrated. That’s still a tough place to play.
October won’t be easy for them — at Mizzou, Oklahoma, home for Colorado and
Texas Tech, at Oklahoma State.

3. LSU — Yep, thus far I’m right in line with both major
polls, but these do look like the three best teams in the country to me.
JaMarcus Russell really impressed me against ASU, and that was a nice win over
a good team. We’ll know more after Saturday against Tennessee.

4. Florida State — Of course I’m biased. But there
aren’t many teams with two good wins at this point, and you’d have to call
beating Miami and winning at BC to be good wins. IF Drew Weatherford is even
pretty good, and IF the young wideouts come through like they appear they will,
then there’s only one question — the secondary.

5. Georgia — I think this is the best team in the SEC
East, and they’ll have to be, since they play at Tennessee and at Florida. But
they can run the ball, they can throw it enough and the defense is very good.

6. Virginia Tech — This might be a very, very good team,
but they had a hard time with the only decent opponent they’ve had so far. I
can’t shake the feeling they’ll lose to somebody they shouldn’t — maybe as
soon as this weekend against Georgia Tech, which is a very dangerous team.

7. Florida — They can play defense. They’ve got
attitude. But if Meyer can’t or won’t tailor his offense to fit an amazing
talent like Chris Leak, then there are major problems in Gainesville. This team
could be scary good. They’re not quite there right now.

8. Miami — Yeah, they’ve got a loss. But Tallahassee is
a tough place to play. So is Clemson, where the ‘Canes pulled out a very gutty
win. The schedule is pretty favorable to UM for the next month and a half or so
— they’ll probably be 7-1 and rolling when they go to Blacksburg in November.

9. Tennessee — Yup, it’s another team with a loss. But
as with Miami’s loss, it’s hard to dock them too much for it. UT’s defeat is to
Florida, at night, on the road. And that close win over UAB is actually a
half-decent showing, because UAB is not a weak team.

10. Purdue — I hate to put them here when they haven’t
really showed anything, but it’s hard to leave out the Big 10 entirely.
Louisville is the other team I considered here, and their win over Oregon State
is probably better than anything Purdue has done. So I reserve the right to
change this spot even if Purdue keeps winning.

Teams to keep an eye on: Georgia Tech, Michigan State,
Cal, Arizona State, Texas A&M, Alabama.

Game of the week: Iowa-Ohio State. I was very high on
Iowa before the season started; I thought they might well be the best team in
the Big 10. Now the conference has been exposed, but a win for either of these
teams will be a nice step back towards being well regarded. It will be hard
this year for a one-loss team to make the Rose Bowl, but it will be impossible
for a two-loss team.



And Proud We Are of All of Them


The clinch thing.

First of all, let me ask this. How many of you, Cardinals fans, genuinely care about when they clinch, whether it’s after a win, whether the magic number might get to zero when the Cardinals aren’t actually on the field… all that kind of thing? We reporters are making a big deal out of it, and I do think it’s an interesting topic for a few reasons. But are we making too much of it?

Now on to how I see the situation.

Let’s say the Cardinals actually did lose every single game from here on out. And the Astros were to win every single game from here on out. And the two teams were to finish tied. The Cardinals, as has been dissected ad nauseam, would be division champions by tiebreak. The NL might well give the Astros a "co-champion" certificate in that scenario.

But tell me this: do you think the Cardinals wouldn’t claim the division title, outright? I firmly believe they would fly a banner calling themselves champions, not co-champions. And rightly so. The rules provide for a tiebreak to determine the division champ in just such a situation.

So if they’ve reached a point where they will call themselves division champions no matter what, then I figure they should have popped champagne on Thursday night. I understand the logic that you wait until the magic number is zero. And that’s going to come. Soon. Fortunately for the Cards, Saturday brings another chance to do it on the field, and have a dogpile, and spray champagne after winning a game. All of which this team deserves.

That’s at the heart of this, really. You work from mid-February to September for a goal, and when you reach it, you should enjoy it. Abraham Nunez, who has never seen the playoffs in the Major Leagues, should enjoy it. All of the rookies should enjoy it. And all of the guys who have been here before, and know how hard it is to get back, should enjoy it. There’s a bigger deal ahead, but this is a big deal.

And it just seems to me that every day that goes by makes it a little more surreal. Every day that passes where we know that this team will be the champions of the division, yet they haven’t celebrated, will lead to that celebration being just a little less spontaneous, just a little less everything that a celebration is all about. And it seems to me that that’s a little bit of a shame.

I’m not saying they’re wrong. It is consistent with last year, when they waited until it was zero. But I think, if it were my decision — which obviously it wasn’t — there would have been plastic on the lockers after Thursday night’s win.

What do you all think?


Quick Update: Sanders in, Pujols out


As always, there will be more in-depth stuff on all of this in my notebook later this afternoon, so be sure to check that out. But I wanted to make sure to go ahead and get this out there now.

  • First, Reggie Sanders has been activated from the DL. He’s playing left field and batting fifth against Pirates lefty Mark Redman.
  • Second, Albert Pujols is out of the lineup this evening with a sore adductor muscle in his right leg. Unfortunately, Will Carroll is not online right now, so I can’t run it by him as to where exactly that is, but as near as I can tell, it’s in the upper inside thigh — basically, the groin area.

I’ll try to have some actual content soon. In the meantime, I will say this: I can recommend the new discs by both Kanye West and the Rolling Stones. Good stuff; I’ve basically alternated between them in my car for the last week.


Quick Update: Duncan's suspension halved

Hello, all…

I’ll have more details on this in my notebook, which will be on the site in a couple of hours, but here’s the nuts and bolts. Dave Duncan’s suspension has been cut from four games to two after a telephone hearing with John McHale of Major League Baseball yesterday. Duncan will not be in uniform tonight, though he’s eligible to participate in pregame activities. Since he already served one game of the suspension, he’ll be back in uniform tomorrow.


League game, Smokey

Warning: no baseball content ahead.

When I was a kid, and all through college, and even in my first few years after college, I was not only a fan of the sports I followed, but a die-hard fan of about three or four different teams in various sports. As I believe I mentioned in a comment here at some point, I used to be a huge Red Sox fan, but I’m just too ensconced in keeping up with the Cardinals to follow any other baseball teams religiously. I root for my alma mater, but Division 1-AA football and college hockey aren’t the kinds of things you really live and die with.

But there’s one left. One team that makes me suffer when they lose, and dance around with glee when they lose. That’s Florida State football. I grew up in Tallahassee going to games. I was there in 87 when they went for two and lost against Miami. I was there in 91 at Wide Right 1. I got dressed up in all garnet and gold and painted my face for a game at Auburn in 87. I drove to South Bend two years ago to see them beat Notre Dame. And on and on. This is the team that can still make me have a spring in my step days after a win, and make me feel sour for days after a bad loss.

So I almost cried last night. There are no ugly wins in a rivalry. Sure, it may be a long year with the FSU quarterback situation. And sure Miami may be the better team. Heck, FSU very well could lose in two weeks at Boston College. But it had been a long time since I had that tension all day looking ahead to a big game. It had been a long time since I sat in front of the TV, going crazy with every turn in momentum, yelling at the screen and the coaches, all that. And it was great.

Man, I love college football.