RE: the Cardinals taking home a Cy Young this year, this is a great gambit—"Carpenter: Wainwright Deserves Cy Young." Tomorrow's article, "Wainwright: Carpenter Deserves Cy Young", is going to be the one that tips their hand, but hopefully they can keep Bud Selig in the dark until he threatens to cut the award in half.
Meanwhile, on the internet: "Advanced Metrics: Lincecum Probably Deserves Cy Young." If computers and basements had existed in Solomon's time the bloggers would have excoriated him for failing to check the birth records and FiveThirtyEight would have posted an exhaustive demographics breakdown. Here, I guess, there's probably a fairer case to be made.
Wainwright hasn't gotten BABIP lucky—both hover around .300—and some of the yawning gap between his ERA (2.58) and his FIP (3.16) might be explained by his groundball prowess and (relative to Lincecum) a high rate of double play conversion. It hasn't all been his defense; by UZR the team D is right down the middle, so it might not even mostly be his defense. It's a little unnerving—there's a certain thing, in pitchers' seasonal lines, that is easier to see than it is for hitters, where a Texas leaguer over Dan Uggla's head is worth as much as a line drive in front of Colby Rasmus. It's value, maybe, and in the course of a game it's buckling down and throwing your best curveball, and in the season it's having everything come together. But over the course of a career we know it's mostly flattened out.
Prospective run-batters in have hit .216/.288/.269 against Adam Wainwright this year. He's walked twice as many of them and struck out 30% against 20% with the bases empty. He managed to shut things down with runners on in 2008, too, but not 2007, and there's no particular reason to think he'll be as good in 2010. But it happened. I'd give this one to Lincecum, if for no reason other than it'd be a shame if this comes down to whether or not Wainwright goes five innings, allows three runs, and wins his 20th game on the last day of the season. He's the better pitcher, and in reality he's probably no worse at pitching with runners in scoring position than Wainwright is.
But game by game Wainwright has done nothing but impress me in 2009, and yeah—in those situations with runners on I've grown increasingly, absurdly confident in his ability to throw five curveballs past the other team's best hitters. Remember the arguments about keeping him in the bullpen? The terrible start he got off to when the team made the right choice? It was hard to see him struggle in the right role so soon after he had the iconic moment of his career as a closer, but he, and the Cardinals, kept at it admirably—he became a de facto ace and then a real one, and this year he's been a revelation.
I wish they could cut the award in half.
While we're rehearsing for next year's tropes, we're seeing a lot of Julio Lugo at shortstop as Brendan Ryan and Tony La Russa nurse dings and an intense desire for lineup variety, respectively. A while back I mentioned that I hadn't yet noticed Lugo's awfulness on defense; soon after that, as though I'd dared the GOBs, I couldn't stop noticing it. It seems like once a game now I see him react to a ball late, dive awkwardly, or move, as though wearing Brendan Ryan-sized ankle weights, in the direction where the ball used to be.
Early, probably not-that-predictive returns at Fangraphs are not comforting, inasmuch as he seems to be exactly as terrible as he was in Boston. 2010, another year removed from knee surgery, might be a different story, but Lugo's ugly play at shortstop to this point might put Tyler Greene ahead of the field in the Tony La Russa Vaguely Relevent Second Utility Infielder sweepstakes. (The Brian Barden Derby?)
Backup shortstops who can hit seem to lose their shortstop cred all at once—one day teams just stop playing Rich Aurilia-types at short, unless they're out of their mind, but it happens more suddenly than you'd think given the usual gap between a player's defensive peak and the baseball world's recognition that he possesses any defensive talent at all. I wonder if 2010 might be the last year he's Shortstop Julio Lugo.