Sunday, October 26, 2014

MLB's African-American Pitchers -- A Dying Breed?

A Philadelphia middle-school little leaguer has a higher public profile -- what do they call it, Q factor or something? -- than any MLB starting pitcher over the past several seasons or so who happened to be, like Mo'ne Davis, African-American. I'd even speculate that she's more widely recognized than any black big-leaguer since Barry Bonds.

Friday's Straight Line looked back at the season that broke Baseball's "color line" and initiated the "ajarring" of a good many other societal doors.

Today's "take" actually better fits the theme of my blog, as it involves an ironical consequence that seems to have played out over the decades of aftermath to this historic breakthrough. While the initial period of integration -- with more than its share of bush-league resistance, mind you -- enabled the emergence of Mudcat Grant's Black Aces, the flow of African-American athletes (particularly pitchers) to the National Pastime has slowed to a trickle.

Football and basketball teem with Black American athletes, the NHL seems to feature more players of color than ever before -- but the diversity in baseball in these global times stems from south (the Caribbean) and east (Asia).

Consider these numbers -- Since Opening Day of 2011, nearly 500 different pitchers have started a regular-season game, 291 in the 2014 Season of Debilitating Arm Injury alone. A whopping nine of these pitchers are African American, one of them a military kid who was actually born in Germany. That's over 9,700 regular season games, of which 616 were started by these nine men.

Five of the nine have drawn a starting assignment in each of these four seasons. How many do you think you can name? All but one played for multiple teams during that stretch. The easy answers are David Price, now with Detroit, and the Yankees' CC Sabathia (though the slimmed down CC's 2014 was derailed after just eight starts). German-born journeyman Edwin Jackson gave his employer, currently the Cubs, 30 starts for the eight consecutive year. San Diego's Tyson Ross along with Jerome "Rent-Don't-Own" Williams (who threw for three teams in 2014) round out this quintet.

James McDonald (who hasn't worked since April of 2013 and dwells on the Cubbies' DL for now), Chris Archer (a full-time starter for the Rays this year), the Mariners' young Taijuan Walker and old war-horse Dontrelle Willis (thirteen 2011 starts for Cincinnati) complete the list.

African-Americans on the World Series Mound: A Little Quiz

Since Jackie Robinson entered the Major Leagues in 1947, there have been 34 African-American pitchers who have worked in the 68 subsequent Fall Classics. Exactly half of these players have been awarded at least one starting assignment.

Some of the questions alone are likely to "make you go Hmm" -- and the answers may make you look like this. (A mystery-resolving link is provided.)

Here we go ...

Who was the last African-American pitcher to earn a winning decision in a World Series game?

Who was the first African-American ever to pitch in a World Series game?

Which African-American pitcher has appeared in the most World Series (5)?

Name the Hall of Fame manager who started African-American pitchers in Games 6 & 7 of the same World Series.

Brooklyn’s Don Newcombe threw a five-hit complete game in his 1949 World Series debut. What five-time Yankee All-Star out-dueled him in that memorable Game1?

Who was the last African-American starting pitcher to earn a winning World Series decision for a National League team?

True or False? Vida Blue earned a 7-out save in his initial World Series appearance.

Who is the only African-American to pitch in the World Series for a National League team in the 1990’s?

Which African-American pitcher has appeared in three World Series for three different teams?

Which was the first MLB team to utilize two African-American pitchers in the same World Series?

Since Dwight Gooden started Game 5 of the 1986 World Series for the Mets, who is the only African-American pitcher to start a World Series game for a National League team?

Answers available here.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Recalling Jackie Robinson "42" Years After His Passing

Not only do Numbers have a well-deserved reputation for truthfulness ... they also have a way of providing perspective.

On the 42nd anniversary of the passing of Sport's most impactful No. 42,
as legendary sportswriter Roger Kahn is publishing an insider's account of this history,
let's revisit "42," Brian Helgeland's 2013 film version of Jackie Robinson's MLB infancy.

The Narrative

“Please take a shower with me.”

So says Brooklyn Dodger right-hander Ralph Branca to his rookie teammate Jackie Robinson in one of the lighter moments in the film “42.” Branca’s awkward attempts to make his effort at camaraderie more palatable get them both to laughing. (And we all thought poor Ralph’s most embarrassing moment came four years later when he surrendered the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” to Bobby Thomson.)

This sort of gentle humor arises from time to time in the movie, as when Robinson expresses concern that he’s being cut in spring training from the Dodgers’ Montreal affiliate. In actuality, Pittsburgh Courier reporter Wendell Smith was rescuing him from a lynch mob.

Sadly, such commonplace activities as the usage of locker-room showers and public restrooms were still filtered through the lens of segregation in the 1940’s. Indeed, one of the harder cases on those Dodgers, outfielder Dixie Walker, is shown immediately leaving the shower area upon Jackie’s entry.

The tale of Jackie Robinson has been well documented in American folklore, from his exploits at UCLA, through his historic Hall of Fame major league career, to his untimely death in 1972 at the age of 53—and even beyond, thanks to the tireless efforts of his widow Rachel.

This “based on fact” account of Robinson’s entry into “white” baseball imposes upon the details a humanity, in all its glory and all its ugliness. It also provides us a vivid and accurate representation of an era, from fashion to on-field equipment to a marvelous musical score (Cole, Holiday, Ellington, Basie…even some Hank Williams).

The film’s most compelling scene occurs in the corridor between the dugout and clubhouse during an early-season game against Philadelphia at Ebbet’s Field. Robinson had just been the target of some vicious, racially-toned bench-jockeying from Phillies manager Ben Chapman. Jackie temporarily cracked, smashing his bat on the wall before dropping to his knees in sobs. Dodger honcho Branch Rickey arrived to provide the right words to keep Robinson “living the sermon” and playing first base. (“Your enemy will be out in force and you cannot meet him on his low ground.”) In the tradition of a parable, Robinson singled to right in the eight, moved to third on a steal and throwing error, then scored the game’s only run on a single.

The schmaltziest scene involved Hall of Fame shortstop Pee Wee Reese. Reese, a native of nearby Louisville, was reluctant to play a series in Cincinnati after receiving an uncomplimentary letter. From a filing cabinet in his office, Rickey pulled three over-stuffed manila folders—Robinson’s mail. In a haunting monotone, Pee Wee read aloud three letters, each more hate-filled and threatening than the last.

As Robinson and his mates took the field for the opening game, the stands erupted with invective—even a pre-teen relative of Reese, who sadly was merely aping his dad. Reese fielded a practice grounder from Robinson and ran the ball across the infield. Standing with his arm over Jackie’s shoulder, Pee Wee said, “Maybe tomorrow we’ll all wear 42 so they can’t tell us apart.”

The question “Why” permeates this story. At his initial spring training with the Montreal Royals, a reporter asked, “Is this about politics?” Robinson replied, “It’s about getting paid.”

A more crucial “why” required three askings—Jackie inquiring as to Rickey’s motivation in this endeavor. The response was both social and personal. As Rickey had told him in that narrow ballpark corridor, “You’re medicine, Jack!”

Is “42” a historically accurate accounting of Jackie Robinson’s entry to the major leagues? Not exactly.

But more importantly (as ESPN’s Howard Bryant observed), it is a movie to watch with a young person whom you love.

The History

Wikipedia includes in its entry for “42” a list of the film’s historical inaccuracies. Several minor game and player details are identified; radio voice Red Barber would not have been broadcasting from road venues; and Jackie’s to-his-knees “breakdown” (and Rickey’s subsequent pep talk) in reaction to the bitter racial tauntings of Phillies’ manager Ben Chapman was completely fabricated.

Not fabricated—confirmed in Steve Jacobson’s 2007 Carrying Jackie’s Torch—is the gas-station incident from Robinson’s lone season (1945) with the Negro League Kansas City Monarchs. The precocious rookie with the big mouth on the ball field bartered bathroom usage in exchange for a rather profitable business transaction.

In effect (and certainly with a good bit more forethought and social intent) Branch Rickey was exercising the same principle—disregarding precedent and tradition in exchange for a championship team. He tells Jackie as much in his office. Leo Durocher tells the rest of the team in his “He’s Only the First” night-night story in response to a “We Won’t Play With One of ‘Them’” letter of discontent.

Always a forward-thinking man, Branch Rickey was the architect of baseball’s first farm system with the St. Louis Cardinals back in the ‘20’s and ‘30’s. Little wonder, then, that his efforts at integration were aggressive, but strategic. There had been prior attempts, mostly surreptitious. Acclaimed New York Giants manager John McGraw had tried some forty years earlier to pass off a Negro pitcher as Native American, even using the common nickname “Chief.” Alas, the player’s true identity was revealed, and he never pitched for the Giants.

Not to be foiled, Rickey told his inner circle in 1945 they needed the right man for the job. Jack Roosevelt Robinson, though validated by history, was a less than obvious candidate—and a “hard case” as noted by the ever-present Wendell Smith of the Pittsburgh Courier. Stubbornly strong-willed enough to have been court-martialed during his military stint, yet “in-the-moment” enough to fear being cut from the squad even as Smith rescues him from a potential lynching. The filmmakers suggest that a shared Methodist background factored into Rickey’s choice.

With the help of his classical education from Ohio Wesleyan, Rickey astutely foresaw how Jackie’s “guts enough not to fight back” in the face of vile invective would generate sympathy and then acceptance, first in his own locker room, finally in baseball overall.

As with Branca’s verbal clumsiness in the “shower” scene, the narrative counters the stark emotion of such a pivotal season in our national pastime in subtle ways: the Robinsons’ white baby-sitter; the presence of a black police officer on the ball field during opening-day ceremonies in 1946 Jersey City; the blue-collar Florida dude’s well-wishes and respectful “Ma’am” to Rachel; even the pregnant pause by the white kid in the Cincinnati stands prior to parroting his pop.

The family’s reaction to the iconic image of Reese and Robinson on the field that day is left to the viewer’s interpretation.

The film wraps up a pennant-winning season (a 7-game World Series loss to the Yanks is omitted) and offers some biographical and historical tidbits of the key figures.

Overall, “42” successfully combines the celebration of a historic occasion with a reminder of our need for such an occasion.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

R.I.P Tim Hauser of the Manhattan Transfer

One of the most popular, innovative and enduring treats in our community musical cupboard suffered a gut-wrenching loss a couple of days ago with the passing at a seemingly still vibrant 72 of Tim Hauser. For over four decades, this creative genius and vocal Operator behind the melodious machinations of the Manhattan Transfer took us from Tuxedo Junction, through Ray’s Rockhouse, all the way to the Twilight Zone, infusing the journey with ample Soul Food To Go and the Spirit of St. Louis.

It was The Spirit of St. Louis, a 2000 Manhattan Transfer release saluting the talents of a certain Mr. Armstrong, was inhabiting my old-fashioned – it’s actually got a functioning turntable – stereo when I discovered the sad news. The songs of the Manhattan Transfer dot the many old home-made cassette tapes whose merry mixtures still find a way to accent my air from time to time. My wife and I were lucky enough to enjoy many of these renderings live and unplugged about ten years ago when Tim and his cronies were touring in support of Vibrate. An enthusiasm and precision was evident throughout all the Doodlin' that evening.

The Manhattan Transfer have always seemed the very anti-thesis of the manufactured (rather than creative) approach to music – perhaps to art in general – that produces One-Hit Wonders and other Flashes-in-Pans. Their only Top-Tenner was a re-vamped take on a ‘60’s doo-wopper. Their records and CD’s won awards aplenty, were critically acclaimed and sold well, but never reached the stratosphere of the charts. (“Plain Old Toe Tapper” has yet to be recognized as a separate genre, ‘twould seem!)

Perhaps the greatest legacy of the Manhattan Transfer will be this – once Tim Hauser assembled the right set of voices and visions, the line-up saw but one change through all the years, and that one precipitated by medical concerns. Such longevity and continuity speaks  less to the talent required to generate such a body of work, and more to a collective enjoyment of each other and the work itself, a continuous challenge that motivates and rewards.

Is it not often said of performers that they never really retire … they’re just waiting for their next gig? I’ve read somewhere that St. Louis himself spoke of going back on the road with his boys on the very day he died. After a particularly satisfying classroom experience with his students, a teacher-buddy would typically conclude his joyous re-telling with the rhetorical question, “And they pay me, too?” The real reward in life, it would seem, is the work itself and another opportunity to do it well.

For fans not privy to Mr. Hauser the man – heck, I was not even aware that he’d missed a number of shows last year due to some spinal surgery – isn’t it tempting to think ol’ Tim’s feeling like my buddy and has just Gone Fishin’.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Hustle In, Hustle Out, Keep the Game Moving

‘Twas a summer Saturday, early in the afternoon, right about the time it starts getting really hot … right about the time a fastpitch umpire with minimal cache gets thrown a little work. It was an insignificant (except for those playing and watching the games, of course) little tournament at a time when there was a lot of youth softball being played hereabouts – the young ladies of South Texas, particularly Greater Houston, represented well at all competitive levels.

I’d barely broken a sweat that hot day when I got myself into a little encounter with an out-of-town coach, an old-timer I knew casually from my coaching days. We were at the first change-over, going into the bottom of the first inning; I’d just summoned the warm-up ball from the field. That was when it happened … Ol’ Boy from Beaumont, loud enough only to be heard by me and maybe his catcher, complimented my attempt to keep the game moving, as the rules mandate and they preach at the clinics, grumbling at the “pace” of his team’s prior games.

I turned down few opportunities to call ball for several more years, kept pretty busy, perhaps even gained a modicum of that “cache” (equally possible that I flatter myself unduly).

Coach and I would have a good many subsequent “encounters” as the middle-school grand-daughter he was coaching that fateful day grew into a pretty good left-handed pitcher and, befitting a coach’s kid, a feisty, heady player … every last one of them pleasant, even when he thought I missed a call, though none ever quite so validating.

Funny, such a moment is not the sort of thing about which one would boast in the designated umpire’s corner of the parking lot. Indeed, such strict, by-the-book punctuality would be considered an attack-of-sorts upon that amorphous commodity known as “umpire discretion.” One primary manner in which this discretionary authority gets exercised is in the matter of time management, specifically the ending of one’s game promptly. In the eyes of some, keeping one’s field “on time” is viewed as an art. Shenanigans regarding late-game time issues, involving both officials and coaches, can morph into common practice and ultimately into a set of unwritten rules. (Even a prominently displayed game clock can eliminate only so many problems.)

As Major League Baseball yet again professes a desire to address the ponderous pace of play and consequent excessive length of its games, maybe they should consider what an old softball coach’s gut was telling him one summer Saturday a while back. MLB could shorten its games simply by reducing the length of time between innings. A regulation game requires 17 such stoppages in play (16 if the home team doesn’t need its last “raps”). Simply slice a minute or minute-and-a-half each time – instant shorter game, perhaps even more crisp play as tends to occur with pitchers who do not dawdle.

Of course, such an adjustment is likely to be impractical under the sport’s current “economic model” – a between-inning reduction of 90 seconds would eliminate from both radio and TV broadcasts about 300 30-second advertising spots per team per week.

“Moneyball” can mean a lot of things.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Best and Worst MLB Starting Pitching 2014: A Smorgasbord of Leaders, Rankings & Crazy Data

The 2,430 games on this year’s MLB schedule required the work of 291 starting pitchers, 130 of whom threw their team’s first pitch at least 20 times. Over a hundred (104, to be exact) initiated at least 25 contests, while 68 took the proverbial bump in 30+ games. (Thirty-one guys drew but one starting assignment, nine of them coming in the season’s waning days, four times for playoff teams.)

There were 19 pitchers who made starts for multiple teams, the Cubs, A’s (perhaps to their detriment) and Red Sox the main movers and shakers. The Rangers and Rockies trotted out 15 guys apiece, heading a list of nine teams using a dozen or more starting pitchers. On the other end of the spectrum, the Orioles and Brewers made do with just seven. The Cardinals, Giants and Braves used the season’s final days to join a group of seven teams that utilized a total of eight starters (which was the highest frequency for this set of data – the average was 9.7 starters per team).

Double Doubles

On July 11, the Phillies’ A. J. Burnett became the first pitcher this season to start ten games that his team ultimately won and ten games they ended up losing. Curiously, he did it in his 20th start, an oddity that befell 24 other MLB starting pitchers in 2014. Even more curiously, eight pitchers – all National Leaguers – split 30 starts equally between wins and losses. Most curiously of all, the Dodgers’ Dan Haren, the Cubs’ Travis Wood and the Mets’ Jon Niese experienced this perfectly even distribution after both 20 and 30 starts. The epitome of a .500 pitcher, huh – though it’s got to be tougher to do for the Cubs or Mets than in Tinseltown. (We’ll come back to that last idea shortly.)

In all, a total of 102 starting pitchers reached double figures in both team wins and team losses, with names from the obscure (like Miami’s Jarred Cosart or Tampa Bay’s Jake Odorizzi), to the emerging (like Cleveland’s Corey Kluber or Washington’s Tanner Roark), all the way to the audacious (like “Big Game” James Shields of KC or the Tigers’ Justin Verlander, both of whom joined the club in June.)

The 100th guy (and fourth Baltimore Oriole) to qualify for this “distinction” was inducted during the final weekend of the regular season. This player, Chris Tillman, also led MLB in three categories: he was one of ten pitchers to log 34 starts for the season; he tied with the Tigers’ Max Scherzer at 24 team victories; and he tops the heap alone at 15 No-Decision starts.


Tillman headed a list of 19 starting pitchers who accumulated a dozen or more ND’s this season. Four of that number – Shields, Oakland’s Jeff Samardzija, the D’backs’ Wade Miley and 2013’s leader with 17, Jose Quintana of the White Sox – had been shackled with a dozen or more decision-less starts in 2013 as well.

15 ND’s: Tillman

14 ND’s: Vidal Nuno (NYY/Ariz)

13 ND’s: Miley, Samartdzija, Chris Archer (Tampa Bay), Trevor Bauer (Cleveland), Nathan Eovaldi (Miami), Yovani Gallardo (Milwaukee), Felix Hernandez (Seattle), Jordan Zimmerman (Washington)

12 ND’s: Quintana, Shields, Cole Hamels (Philadelphia), Tom Koehler (Miami),Hiroki  Kuroda (NY Yankees), Francisco Liriano (Pittsburgh), Shelby Miller (St. Louis), Jake Peavy (Bos/SF)

On the team front, 11 pitching staffs required a relief pitcher to earn a decision in 50 or more games, led by Pittsburgh’s 58 games and Cleveland’s 57. The Indians led the majors with 35 bullpen victories, nosing out those Pirates. The Giant, Angel and Marlin bullpens also reached the 30-win plateau. (Cincinnati’s mere 11 bullpen wins and 32 losses, an MLB worst on both fronts, symbolized a disappointing season.)

Perhaps we should not be so quick to relegate the work of relief pitchers to second-class status – overall, MLB bullpens posted a 724-713 record in 2014. That’s 29.6 percent of all regular-season pitching decisions.

Wins and Losses

Three MLB pitchers, all National Leaguers, earned “20-Game Winner” status this year. The Dodgers’ incomparable Clayton Kershaw forged a 21-3 record, while Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto and Cardinal ace Adam Wainwright each finished 20-9 on the season. An additional 14 players started at least 20 games that were ultimately won by their teams.

24 team-wins: Scherzer, Tillman

23 team-wins: Kershaw, Wainwright, Zimmerman

22 team-wins: Cueto, Kluber, Hernandez, Jered Weaver (LA Angels)

21 team-wins: Shields, Mark Buehrle (Toronto), Scott Kazmir (Oakland)

20 team-wins: Henderson Alvarez (Miami), Madison Bumgarner (SF), Phil Hughes (Minnesota), Jon Lester (Bos/Oak), David Price (TB/Det)

Tillman and Wainwright were also on this list last season, Zimmerman the last three seasons, while Scherzer and Shields earned this distinction for a fourth consecutive season.

On the flip-side, Burnett (8-18) topped Baseball in losing decisions, one of nine pitchers who accumulated 20 team losses.

23 team-losses: Eovaldi

22 team-losses: Burnett, Samardzija

21 team-losses: Nuno, Mike Leake (Cincinnati)

20 team-losses: Gallardo, Quintana, Brandon McCarthy (Ariz/NYY), Eric Stults (SD)

Samardzija is the lone “repeat offender” among this group.

Steady Work

Simple arithmetic (whether performed by mind, pencil or gadget) computes 162 regular season games divided by five spots in a pitching rotation as 34.2 games per rotation spot. So let’s consider 34 starting assignments to be full-time work. By this criterion, MLB had 48 “full-timers” in 2014.

The late-season swoon of the Oakland A’s is either further mystified or better understood (I’m not sure which) when we recognize that they ended the year with four full-timers in their rotation – though two had been obtained in mid-season swaps. Five staffs – Toronto, Detroit, Washington, Cincinnati and San Francisco – can claim three. This group of teams accounts for nearly half the playoff field.

Another five – Boston, Houston, Texas, Pittsburgh and the Cubs – were like the fourth little piggy and had none. (The Red Sox did trade away two, however.) But one playoff team to be found in this bunch, it might be noted.

Of these 48 pitchers with perfect attendance, the performance of six would seem to qualify them as modern day Iron Men – guys who show up every day and stay late. They are among a group of only nine pitchers who worked at least seven innings in a minimum of 60 percent of their starts. Take a bow, David Price (26 out of 34, 77%); Adam Wainwright (24 out of 32, 75%); King Felix (24-34, 71%); Johnny Cueto (23 out of 34, 68%); the ubiquitous Mr. Samardzija (21 out of 33, 64%); and Corey Kluber (21 out of 34, 62%). Also, please stand and be recognized, Brother Kershaw (22 out of 27, 82%); Cole Hamels of Philadelphia (22 out of 30, 73%); and the Angels’ Garrett Richards (17 out of 26, 65%).

Across the board, MLB pitchers delivered a “Long Start” (7+ innings) 1,520 times this season, nearly a third (31.3 percent) of all starting assignments. Seven teams, led by the Reds with 70,exceeded 60 LS’s; four squads, the Rockies (22), Rangers (36), Yankees (39) and division-winning Orioles (40), pitched “long” in less than 25 percent of their outings.

Nowadays, a Complete Game rendered by a starting pitcher occurs about as often as a successful execution of the hidden ball trick. Not surprisingly, Kershaw (once again) tops this chart with six CG’s, a total that exceeds that of 23 teams. Wainwright and Houston youngster Dallas Keuchel each went the distance on five occasions. The leading teams in this area with a mere eight were – no, not Kershaw’s Dodgers, but the competitors in this year’s NLDS, Wainwright’s Cards and the Giants.

For the third consecutive season, the overall frequency of CG’s fell, down to 118 this time around – the second-fewest, like, EVER.

The McGinnity Measure

Cousin Horatio and I have conjured up a calculation designed quantify a combination of a starting pitcher’s endurance and his overall effectiveness in terms of wins and losses. (A discussion of the “theory” behind this concept is available here.) The formula uses CG’s and LS’s along with game outcomes on both an individual and team basis. The math yields a per-start rating that is similar in appearance and range to a slugging percentage. (A small percentage of the “scores” – 11 of 130 – were negative, that is, less than zero.)

Among American League pitchers with at least 25 starts, the three guys that best emulated Joe “Iron Man” McGinnity were Felix Hernandez, David Price and Corey Kluber, who each graded out at 1.970. The AL Top Ten is rounded out by Scherzer (1.939), Lester (1.844), Keuchel (1.724), Chris Sale of the White Sox (1.692), Hughes (1.687), Shields (1.529) and Seattle's Hisashi Iwakuma (1.500).

The true Iron Men, like McGinnity himself, represent the Senior Circuit, however, Kershaw yet again the top dog at a whopping 3.645. Three other could have been AL-best – Wainwright (2.594), Cueto (2.205) or Washington's Doug Fister (2.040). The rest of the elite: Bumgarner (1.727), Zimmerman (1.594), Alvarez (1.567), Hamels (1.466), Atlanta’s Julio Teheran (1.454) and Jake Arrieta of the Cubs (1.360).

(At my age, it’s nice to see an old war-horse like the Mets’ Bartolo Colon, at 1.323, scoring in the upper echelon by these standards.)

Most Valuable Starting Pitcher

This final little measuring stick is designed to evaluate a starting pitcher’s contribution to his team’s overall performance. Does not, for example, Niese’s afore-mentioned 50/50 split for a lousy team outshine the same performance from Haren for a top-tier squad?

At the risk of a little shameless self-promotion, I’ll point out that this “metric” (explained below*) has correctly identified four of the six Cy Young winners over the last three seasons. Essentially, the numerical value is the difference between the player’s showing and the team’s – a .500 pitcher scores +100 for a .400 team, but scores -100 for a .600 team. (A score for all 20-game starters can be seen here.)

Here are the Top Tens (again, minimum 25 starts):

AL   --   NL

Sale (213)  --  Kershaw (284)

Scherzer (199)  --   Cueto (200)

Hughes (188)  --  Arrieta (183)

Lester (170)  --  Josh Collmenter, Az (172)

Keuchel (147)  --  Alvarez (170)

Hernandez (144)  --  Jorge De La Rosa, Col (155)

Richards (143)  --  Wainwright (149)

Kluber (132)  --  Cosart (137)

Collin McHugh, Hou (103)  --  Zimmerman (135)

Tillman (102)  --  Fister (131)

The 2014 Cy Young Goes To …

Post-season strife notwithstanding, Kershaw’s selection is a no-brainer.

But the American side lacks not for candidates – Scherzer again, Price redux, Kluber for a change? Has Sale been valuable enough? Do all Tillman’s wins put him in the discussion?

Kluber’s strong close – five winning decisions in a row, all LS’s, one a CG – for a still-contending team may well have put him over the top.

*Abacus Starting Pitcher Index

We'll identify the pitcher's won-loss record in his starts (decisions from relief appearances not allowed), as well as the team's record in all his starts (including No-Decisions).  Simply take the average of these two percentages; then just subtract the team's final winning percentage.

Example A:  33 starts -- player (16-7, .696), team (21-12, .636); team overall (85-77, .525).  So, the equation becomes: [(696 + 636) / 2] - 525 = 666 - 525 = +141.

Example B: 32 starts -- player (10-14, .417), team (15-17, .469); team overall (76-86, .469).  The calculation this time: {(417 + 469) / 2} - 469 = 443 - 469 = -33.