MLB Insider: Twins dominated by all AL Cy Young candidates

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 7, 2013 - 7:47 PM

Unsure. Leading Cy Young Award candidates all dominate against Twins.

The Tigers’ Max Scherzer has all the wins you expect in a Cy Young winner, but exceptional run support explains some of that.

The Twins have been no help at all.

I received my official BBWAA ballot for the American League Cy Young Award recently, a personal invitation to become a target for passionate fans in a race that may turn into one of the most difficult choices I’ve ever faced. There are still three weeks to go, and perhaps someone will separate himself in that time the way Clayton Kershaw seems to have managed to do already in the National League.

But in trying to choose among (in alphabetical order, so no e-mails about my bias yet, please) Yu Darvish, Felix Hernandez and Max Scherzer, with David Price, Chris Sale, Anibal Sanchez and James Shields a few steps behind, the Twins have remained remarkably unbiased. They have been dominated by each of them.

I understand the “eye test” shouldn’t count for much when considering a season’s worth of work, and I realize that one commanding performance, particularly against an offensively challenged team like these late-season Twins, doesn’t accurately reflect how that pitcher fared the other 30-plus times he pitched. Still, there’s no denying that it’s human nature to welcome confirmation of your opinions by evidence in front of you. And I watch the Twins for a living.

So when Hernandez allowed only three measly singles in eight innings against the Twins on July 26, I remember thinking “That was a Cy Young performance,” even after he gave up a ninth-inning run to send the game to extra innings.

It happened again last week. Darvish took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, and looked simply unhittable. Well, until Chris Herrmann and Justin Morneau spoiled his perfection with back-to-back homers. Strangely, the Twins have been shut down by both Hernandez and Darvish, and won both games.

Scherzer hasn’t faced the Twins since May, odd given how frequently they meet, but he may well get one more shot when the Tigers visit Target Field in the season’s final week. But two of his 19 wins have come at the Twins’ expense, and he has posted a 2.70 ERA in those games.

Yeah, the Twins seem to be neutral in this race. So who deserves to win it?

Scherzer, of course, is a runaway leader in victories, but that statistic has little meaning, particularly considering Scherzer has received the most offensive support, nearly six runs per game, of anyone in the game. But his case is strong regardless — his ERA of 2.88 is second in the league behind Sanchez, and his Wins Above Replacement (WAR), which measures overall value toward winning, ranks behind only Sale (as calculated by baseball-reference.com) or Hernandez (as calculated by FanGraphs). He also leads the league in fewest baserunners (walks and hits per inning) and is second in strikeouts and strikeout rate.

Darvish, however, is the runaway leader in those strikeout categories. With an ERA of 2.91 and an average of 12 strikeouts per nine innings, he’s turning into a latter-day Nolan Ryan in Texas. He appeared primed to move into the favorite’s role in the race, but suddenly, Texas has lost his past four starts.

Hernandez is better than he was when he won the award in 2010, striking out more hitters per inning and walking fewer. He leads FanGraphs’ WAR calculation, though he may be hurt by being out of the pennant race.

With three weeks left, this ballot remains a mystery. But September makes a wonderful tiebreaker.

Strong in September

Josmil Pinto is off to a great start in his first September in the major leagues. But he’s not the first Twin to do so. Here are the best Septembers by Twins rookies, as measured by OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging).

Player OPS Year

Chris Parmelee 1.035 2011

Steve Lombardozzi .958 1985

Willie Norwood .954 1977

Dave Engle .928 1981

Matt Lawton .881 1995

Marty Cordova .877 1995

Jacque Jones .869 1999

Tim Teufel .863 1983

The Twins’ history with catchers isn’t quite as stellar, however (with one exception). The 10 best rookie seasons by Twins catchers:

Player OPS Year

Joe Mauer .976 2004

Damian Miller .731 1997

Butch Wynegar .729 1976

Wilson Ramos .729 2010

Bruce Look .661 1968

Glenn Borgmann .634 1972

Sal Butera .596 1980

Matthew LeCroy .596 2000

Mike Durant .539 1996

Chad Moeller .538 2000


Central Intelligence

It’s been a frustrating season for Chicago. But several of the White Sox say their troubles were put in perspective by a visit to Walter Reed Medical Center for wounded soliders while in Baltimore. “A very humbling experience,” said Addison Reed, one of five players to go. “Those guys are awesome.”

• • •

It’s widely believed in Cleveland that the Indians intend to find a new closer for 2014, rather than pay the $10 million or so that Chris Perez may seek in arbitration.

Perez, who makes $7.3 million this year, is frequently booed at Progressive Field. Cody Allen, whose ERA is 1.69 since Aug. 1, is a potential replacement.

• • •

The Tigers are worried about Miguel Cabrera’s health, since he has been bothered by a hip flexor for three months and recently missed three games due to an abdominal strain. But Cabrera insists on remaining in the lineup, and he was AL player of the month in August.

“When he’s been crippled up, he’s hit as good or better than he did when he was totally healthy,” manager Jim Leyland told reporters.

• • •

The recent rash of concussion cases hit Kansas City last week, when second baseman Chris Getz, after a collision in the field, and catcher Salvador Perez, who took a hard foul ball off his mask, both left games after experiencing nausea and other concussion symptoms.
Both players recovered quickly but were expected to miss a game or two to make certain the symptoms didn’t return.
 

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