November 17, 2016
For the first time in the team's twelve-year history (since the "rebirth" in Washington) a Nationals pitcher has won the Cy Young Award: Max Scherzer. I was watching with bated breath when the announcement was made on MLB TV at about 6:20 last night, and shared "vicariously" in Max's celebration with his buddies. That guy sure knows how to have fun! It was his second Cy Young Award, the first being in 2013 when he was with the Detroit Tigers. Max therefore becomes just the sixth pitcher in history to have won Cy Young Awards in both leagues.
Scherzer beat out two Cubs pitchers: Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks, and I was as surprised as anyone that he received 25 of 30 first-place ballots. I thought it might be closer, but apparently postseason stats are excluded. With a 20-7 record, Max was the only National League pitcher to reach the 20-win level. His 284 strikeouts were 30 more than the number two MLB pitcher, Justin Verlander. (The late Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins threw 253 strikeouts.) He also led the NL in innings pitched, with 228 1/3. In terms of ERA, Scherzer only ranked eighth in the NL, with 2.96; see below. His one clear weak spot was in allowing home runs, and he tied for seventh place (with 31) among all MLB pitchers, dubious distinction. Today's Washington Post had a full page devoted to graphs showing all the measurements of pitching performance.
Here's an oddity to ponder: How many Cy Young winners in history have not recorded the lowest ERA among regular starting pitchers on their team? Well, Scherzer's one of them: his ERA was 2.96, compared to 2.83 for Tanner Roark.
Rick Porcello of the Boston Red Sox won the American League Cy Young Award, even though he received fewer first-place votes than the Tigers' Justin Verlander. Porcello led the majors with 22 wins (versus 4 losses), and had a solid ERA (3.15), with 189 strikeouts.
There has been a lot of talk about another AL pitcher who was contending for the Cy Young Award, Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox, and where he might end up next year -- perhaps even with the Nationals. Sale threw 233 strikeouts this year, tied with Chris Archer of the Tampa Bay Rays for second place in the AL. (Verlander was number one; see above.)
Kris Bryant was overwhelmingly chosen as the National League Most Valuable Player, getting 29 of 30 first-place votes. The lopsided voting shocked me. Daniel Murphy came in a distant second, even though he was within an inch of leading the majors in batting average (.347) as well as other measures of batting success such as OPS (.985). His mere 57 strikeouts in 531 at-bats are the best in the majors, from what I can tell. Subjectively, Murphy has shown himself to be a true leader on the Nationals, fitting in very well and carrying the team into the postseason. Bryant had 39 home runs but his average (.292) was not near the top of the league. He was the fourth player to win an MVP Award a year after being named Rookie of the Year, and if it weren't for the one first-place vote for Murphy, he would have been the first-ever player to win those two awards by unanimous acclamation. I still think Bryant should have been named the World Series MVP, but that went to Ben Zobrist.
In the American League, Mike Trout of the L.A. Angels was named MVP. He wasn't ranked near the top in either home runs (29) or batting average (.315), but his OPS of .991 was second place behind David Ortiz, who of course was "just" a designated hitter. This comes four years after Trout was chosen as AL Rookie of the Year, and two years after his first AL MVP Award. It is also the first time in several years that this award has gone to a player whose team did not make it to the postseason.
To the surprise of no one, the L.A. Dodgers' Corey Seager, won the NL Rookie of the Year Award by a unanimous vote. Seager had a batting average of .308 and hit 26 home runs, which is just insane for a rookie. I became acquainted with the young Mr. Seager in a most unpleasant way, watching his feats of slugging and fielding during the National League Divisional Series against the Nationals. It's a shame that the Nationals' star rookie, Trea Turner, didn't have much of a chance against Seager. Turner didn't join the roster until July, and yet he hit 13 home runs in barely half a season. I read somewhere that Turner actually surpassed Seager in one of those new-fangled obscure stats.
The AL ROY winner, Michael Fulmer of the Detroit Tigers, had an 11-7 record and a 3.06 ERA, which would be admirable numbers for a veteran. He is one of the few bright lights for the Tigers this year. Former National Jordan Zimmermann pitched very well early in the season, but ended up with a middling 9-7 record and a 4.87 ERA, which is not very good.
I was a bit surprised that none of the Nationals won a Golden Glove, since the team as a whole ranked near the top defensively this year. They were in a virtual tie in fielding percentage (.988) with the San Francisco Giants, with just 73 errors (.45 per game), one more than the Giants. Nelson Arenado (Colorado Rockies) beat the Nats' third baseman, Anthony Rendon, despite committing more errors. It must have been Arenado's greater number of double plays: 39 vs. 25. Likewise, even though Jayson Werth ranked at the top among left fielders in fielding percentage, Starling Marte got the Golden Glove, probably because of all the assists he had: 17, which was 5 more than anyone else. I could go on, but probably shouldn't...
For a roundup of all this year's major awards, see MLB.com.
I updated the Washington Nationals page, with the chart Nats' daily winning percentage for the 2016 season shown below, as well as the historical head-to-head table. It is interesting to chart the march toward the postseason in their three division championship years: 2012, 2014, and 2016. There are many similarities between the 2012 season and the 2016 season: In both cases, the Nats were on a hot streak in April, and stayed near the .600 winning percentage level for most of the season. (They were atop the NL East for almost the whole season both years.) In contrast, their other division championship year, 2014, the Nats had a rather dismal month of May, dipping below .500 briefly before making a long climb to just under the .600 level at season's end.
After consulting with baseball-reference.com, I found two errors in my daily compilation of Nationals home game attendance: April 14 and July 17. (I mentioned the discrepancy in my October 2 blog post.) The correct total for the year is 2,481,938 rather than 2,482,218; average home game attendance was 30,641 rather than 30,645.