We aimed to make a fire and toast marshmallows yesterday. We made a fire. There were marshmallows. Giant ones – like, bigger than the big ones. And then the kids ate them without toasting them. Because they are kids. It was lovely.
• The Cy Young Award comes from the writers, and those finalists haven’t been announced yet. But it’s a good bet that they’ll match the trio the players just announced:
These are the finalists for the Players Choice Awards NL Outstanding Pitcher!
These three were lights out in 2020! pic.twitter.com/mocxQlRuob
— MLBPA (@MLB_PLAYERS) October 14, 2020
• There are certainly arguments for Dinelson Lamet and Corbin Burnes based on ERA, and Max Fried based on ERA and a 7-0 record (*garbage stat*), but Darvish, deGrom, and Bauer are the only guys who were among the top five or so in pretty much every category that matters. They are also the top three by WAR. They would be my finalists, and you’d really have to pick nits among them to get your winner.
• For me, it’s Darvish by virtue of his WAR lead, his innings lead, his FIP lead, and the grip stuff that Bauer won’t even at least address publicly after doing so openly a couple years ago. (At least cop to it, man. Then we can have a conversation about what to do with it.)
• The full top 20 in WAR from the NL:
• Every time I dig into the pitching numbers for this season, I’m reminded just how good Kyle Hendricks was also. No, he wasn’t in that top five tier by the end of the season, but he was 11th in ERA and in WAR, and his 81.1 innings pitched was the second most in the NL, 0.1 behind German Marquez, who made one more start than Hendricks. It was a short year, unfortunately, but it was probably the best season of Hendricks’ career behind the 2016 Cy Young Finalist season. Bonus fun: Hendricks’ 2.5% walk rate didn’t just lead the NL by a bit – it led qualifiers by OVER TWO PERCENTAGE POINTS. Like, the number two guy (incidentally, it was Yu Darvish), had a walk rate nearly double Hendricks’ (4.7%).
• That reminds me to make a general note: although Willson Contreras broke out to become one of the best framers in baseball this year, as a team, the Cubs’ total framing runs generated were only fifth in the National League (2.5), less than half that of the best teams (Brewers at 5.8 and Braves at 5.5). The point there is not a criticism of the Cubs’ catchers – they were awesome! Instead, it’s just to say that the success of guys like Darvish and Hendricks wasn’t solely about a switch-flipping from the catchers stealing strikes.
• Speaking of catchers who broke out as framers, by the way, talk about what Omar Narvaez did with the Brewers. He was notoriously a terrible framer who joined the Brewers and became one of the best – clearly, they knew they could work with him. That’s the kind of scouting-and-then-development win the Cubs are going to need this offseason. Not so much on the pitch-framing side, obviously, but on the offensive side. They need to find a guy or guys to target that they know they can do X, Y, and Z, and then really improve that guy at the plate in a way that wasn’t going to happen in another organization. The Cubs do well with it on the pitching side, but have yet to show they can do it offensively.
• (One more on Narvaez, just because it’s wild: like I said, he was notoriously one of the worst framers in the game, but he had jobs because he was fantastic at the plate, especially for a catcher. This past year? He hit just .176/.294/.269 with a 59 wRC+. It’s probably a fluke, but does any part of you wonder whether there was so much work and time and focus put into his game behind the plate that he kinda lost a bit at the plate?)
• Hooray! Arizona Phil was able to be present to watch the Cubs’ first Instructional League game, so if you’re hard up for prospect notes, head over to TCR. Top draft pick Ed Howard doubled and walked in his two plate appearances, undrafted signee Jacob Wetzel tripled, Andy Weber had two hits, and Yohendrick Pinango reminded me how much I love the name Yohendrick Pinango. Cory Abbott threw four innings and struck out six, while also allowing two homers and four fly outs. He’s a fly ball pitcher because he works up, but I wonder if he was especially working on his fastball up in this one. His slider is probably pretty advanced for a lot of the young hitters.
• Bears fans are hopeful today:
REPORTS: Le'Veon Bell Deciding Among Five Teams Tonight or Tomorrow, Bears Among Them https://t.co/n4Q6jEGQG3
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) October 15, 2020
• Amazon flipped from Prime Day to “Holiday Deals,” so it looks like we’re now already in the season where you’re going to see better specials than usual. #ad