First of all, great stuff by Dave Cameron over at fangraphs re: Albert. In 6 games, his WPA has been 1.38.
Second, there's been some discussion here over the last week about the merits of "pitching to contact" vs. being a strikeout pitcher. The notion is that getting an out on 1 pitch is better than getting strikeouts b/c strikeouts increase pitchers' pitch counts so the best way to have your starter pitch deep into games is to have him "pitch to contact." The problem is that this is a false comparison. Of course, getting an out on 1 pitch is better than getting an out on 3 pitches (provided the 1 pitch doesn't allow base runners to move up or score!) but when a batter puts a ball into play, it doesn't always end up an out. Strikeouts end up as outs nearly 100% of the time.
NL batters have 75,182 ABs so far this season -- 15,516 of which have ended w/ a strikeout. Of the 59,666 balls put in play, 19,468 of them have resulted in base hits (.326). So nearly a third of the balls put in play this season in the NL have led to the batter reaching base successfully. 11% of the base hits have ended in home runs and another 22.7% have resulted in doubles and triples. Exactly 0% of the strikeouts this year in the NL have ended in extra base hits. Additionally, another 766 batters have reached base successfully via the error. All told, nearly 34% of the time a ball is put in play, the batter reaches base successfully and many of those have resulted in extra base hits. That's approximately 34% more often than batters reach base successfully when struck out. (I'll acknowledge that a handful of batters have reached base this season when struck out, due to a passed ball or wild pitch. Still, that number has to be extremely small.) Additionally, there have been 595 sacrifice flies in the NL so far this season. This means, of course, that runners have scored nearly 600 times JUST ON FLY BALLS b/c the ball was put in play.
Additionally, there's the argument that pitching to contact is better than strikeouts b/c sometimes a double play is better than a strikeout. That's true, of course. 2 outs are better than 1. However, the league strikeout % for pitchers is 18.1% The league's DP% for pitchers is 11%. That is to say that the average NL pitcher is 7% more likely to get a strikeout than a double play in a DP situation and the likelihood of a batter reaching base when he hits the ball is 3 times greater than the likelihood of him hitting into a double play. Therefore, in most cases, I'd rather NOT intentionally walk hitters to set up the double play. Why add an extra base runner when a DP just isn't that likely? Among Cards' pitchers, only Joel Pineiro, Kyle McClellan, Blake Hawksworth, and Brad Thompson are more likely to get a DP than a K.
The comparison of a 1-pitch out to a 3-pitch strikeout is therefore incomplete. The best way to limit pitchers' pitch counts is to limit the number of batters they face and the best way to do that is to avoid allowing batters to reach base successfully. Batters have reached base successfully more than 20,000 times so far this season just by putting the ball in play -- 20,234 to be exact. I'd be willing to bet that's 20,000 MORE TIMES than batters have reached base successfully via the strikeout. Anyone want to take that bet? It's hard to score and hard to run up pitch counts when they're making u-turns to the dugout.
Ground balls are good, to be sure, as long as batters are putting the ball in play. Grounders are less likely to end up as extra base hits and hardly ever end up as homers. But they do end up as hits fairly often. All things equal, in a big game, I'd rather have Chris Carpenter and his 6.97 K/9 and 55.4% GB%, or Adam Wainwright and his 7.68 K/9 and 51.5% GB% on the mound than Joel Pineiro and his 4.26 K/9 and 61.2% GB%.
Perhaps this weekend I'll have a chance to get into Derrick Goold's ridiculous article yesterday on the prospect of Matt Holliday receiving some MVP consideration this season. I suppose it's not ridiculous that people might vote for him, but realize that his WAR in the NL is lower than Colby Rasmus's and it's far lower than Manny Ramirez's was last season. I guess I'm not saying it's ridiculous that people might vote for him. I'm saying it's ridiculous to consider him worthy of MVP consideration. Additionally, he points out that Chris Carpenter is putting on a Rick Sutcliffe-like show and may warrant the Cy Young despite having fewer IP, CG, shutouts, WAR, RAR and many other stats than Tim Lincecum. I love Carp as much as the next guy but at some point don't we have to set aside our fandom and evaluate these guys somewhat objectively? Particularly if we're newspaper reporters? I can understand Cards' fans pushing for Carp to win the Cy, but objectively, if the season ended today, he simply doesn't deserve it. 2nd? Maybe. 3rd? Maybe. 4th? No way! Lincecum's the best pitcher in the NL and has demonstrated that throughout the season. Wins or not, he's deserving of the award and it's really difficult to objectively argue otherwise. As a Cards' fan, I'd love to see Carp win it but as someone who also loves intellectual honesty, I have a difficult time stomaching voting for anyone except Lincecum first.