Cubs

Posnanski: Why Cubs' Jake Arrieta would get my Cy Young vote

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Posnanski: Why Cubs' Jake Arrieta would get my Cy Young vote

Let’s start with the obvious: All three pitchers are having Cy Young seasons.

Zack Greinke will finish with the National League’s lowest ERA and WHIP in 20 years, since Greg Maddux in 1995.

Jake Arrieta has more wins, more innings, three more shutouts and more strikeouts than Greinke, all while pitching in a tougher home ballpark for pitchers.

Clayton Kershaw, by several very significant measures, is having the best season of his entire career, and he has won three Cy Young Awards.

It’s tempting to say that there is no wrong choice here — but, of course, in sports there is ALWAYS a right choice and a wrong choice. That’s the allure of sports, right? Sports talk radio probably wouldn’t hold much of an audience with the hot topic — “Tom Brady and Peyton Manning: They’re both really good, right?”

...

This year, I don’t have a Cy Young vote. But if I did, as much as it pains me to say it — everyone knows I’ve been in the tank for Zack Greinke since he was a teenager — I would vote for Jake Arrieta.

Why? Well, I could give you lots of reasons why I would vote for any of those guys, but in the end the decisive factor for me would be how well they’ve pitched on the road. Dodger Stadium is a better pitchers’ park than Wrigley Field (though Wrigley, unexpectedly, does lean toward pitchers). It has been a huge advantage for pitchers going back to Drysdale and Koufax, and this year, Greinke has a 1.48 ERA there and Kershaw (as usual) has been almost unhittable there.

What about on the road, though?

Arrieta: 12-1, 1.68 ERA, 4.9-to-1 strikeout to walk, 4 homers allowed

Greinke: 9-2, 1.88 ERA, 4.2-to-1 strikeout to walk, 6 homers allowed

Kerhsaw: 5-4, 2.60 ERA, 6-to-1 strikeout to walk, 9 homers allowed

Road numbers are not everything, of course. But Arrieta’s road ERA is the lowest for any regular starter in the last decade (Greinke’s is fourth lowest, so he’s no road slouch either). All year, Arrieta has gone into some of the toughest ballparks in baseball and pitched incredibly well. His one time in Dodger Stadium, he threw a shutout.

Arrieta has been amazing at home too, let’s not forget that: His 1.97 ERA at Wrigley is the best for a Cubs starter since Greg Maddux in 1992. But in what I think is the closest and most fascinating Cy Young race perhaps ever, the difference for me is just how good Arrieta has been on the road. He’d be my Cy Young choice.

Check out Posnanski's full piece at NBC SportsWorld.

It looks like rough times are ahead for Brewers relief ace Josh Hader

It looks like rough times are ahead for Brewers relief ace Josh Hader

The Brewers' best pitcher is in some serious hot water before the second half of the MLB season gets underway.

As he was serving up a 3-run homer in the All-Star Game Tuesday night, Josh Hader's Tweets from 2011 were aired publicly and the result was...not good.

Hader's Tweets as a 17-year-old reflected racist and homophobic remarks, among other issues. (A summary of his Tweets can be found at Deadspin.)

After the All-Star Game, Hader was immediately put in front of reporters to respond to the Tweets and admitted he will accept any punishment that comes his way — including any possible suspension:

He won't be suspended by the league and will instead under go sensitivity training, but this absolutely could affect Hader mentally moving forward. 

Case in point:

He can ask teammate Ryan Braun how to deal when fans turn on you, but it's going to be a lot more difficult for a 24-year-old in his first full big-league season to deal with any hate that comes down. 

Hader has been the Brewers' most valuable pitcher all season, going 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA, 0.79 WHIP and a ridiculous 16.7 K/9. 

But over the last month-plus, he's been...human.

Ever since Jason Heyward turned on a 98 mph Hader fastball to tie the game in Milwaukee on June 11, the Brewers' relief ace has a 2.84 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 13.5 K/9.

Still great numbers, to be sure, but not the Superman-esque line baseball fans came to expect from Hader after the first couple months of 2018. (Plus, the All-Star Game homer he served up to Jean Segura, but that obviously doesn't count for anything.)

With the Brewers already chasing the Cubs by 2.5 games in the division in the second half, they can't afford Hader's slump to worsen.

Though Cubs fans may be rooting for that...

It might have been just another dinger in homer-happy All-Star Game, but Willson Contreras will remember it forever

It might have been just another dinger in homer-happy All-Star Game, but Willson Contreras will remember it forever

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Willson Contreras’ third-inning home run might not have ended up standing out too much in an All-Star Game featuring a jaw-dropping and record-shattering 10 dingers.

But, obviously, it will always stand out to the guy who hit it.

“I enjoyed every single second that I spent out there.”

Remarkably, Contreras repeated his feat from two seasons ago, when he hit his first big league homer on the first big league pitch he ever saw. Ditto on Tuesday night at Nationals Park, when he launched the first pitch he saw as an All Star out over the wall in left field.

“When I hit the ball and thought it was gone, I went back to 2016, playing in Chicago. It was the same thing, first pitch for a homer,” Contreras, all smiles, said following the American League’s 8-6 victory. “I’m really blessed with these kinds of situations. Those moments, they’re going to be history and they’re going to be in my mind and my heart.”

Contreras’ long ball was the highlight of the evening for fans watching back home in Chicago. Javy Baez got a hit in his first All-Star at-bat but was outdone by his teammate. White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu was hitless in his two trips to the plate.

And while it will be a highlight on this night for Cubs fans, it will be a highlight forever for Contreras, who enjoyed the heck out of his first All-Star experience.

“‘I did it, I did it,’” he said when asked what was going through his head. “I knew it was something special. And I wasn’t trying to do too much because these guys are nasty, throwing 98 in the first inning. I just tried to get the hit out.”

The nasty guy he went deep against was Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Blake Snell, whose 2.27 ERA on the season made him a very worthy inclusion on the AL roster. But Contreras was more impressed with the guy who started the game for the National League, raving about Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer after the game.

“He was great, man. Great stuff, he gets so into the game,” Contreras said. “I would like to have him one day on my team or play with him for a few years. That guy is amazing.”

That’s not the current Nationals star Cubs fans are dreaming about, Willy, but point taken.

But it wasn’t Snell or Scherzer or even Baez or Jon Lester, also in the NL dugout, who Contreras was thinking about the most during his home run trot. Instead, Contreras was thinking about his grandfather, Ernesto, who passed away a few years ago.

“My grandpa, he died in 2015,” Contreras said. “I grew up with him.

“He didn’t play ball. But I feel like every time I go out there and step into the box, he’s at my back. It just feels amazing when you hit a homer or do something special, look at the sky and you know that he’s there smiling somewhere.”

It all made for a pretty incredible night for Contreras, who has officially and loudly taken his place among baseball’s best on the game’s biggest stage.

The only thing that was missing? The ball.

Yeah, Contreras didn’t get the ball, not that he really expected to. But if you’ve got it, he wants it.

“I don’t think they’re giving it back,” he said with a grin.

We’ll see. Social media’s a powerful tool. So reach out.