Analyzing ESPN’s latest quarantine sport: H.O.R.S.E.

By: Thomas O’Farrell

For the first time since the 2010-2011 All-Star game, NBA players will be participating in a televised H.O.R.S.E. competition. H.O.R.S.E. is one of the first basketball games people learn to play, and follows a relatively straightforward set of rules. In a two-player game of HORSE, player A starts.  Player A will choose where to shoot from. If they miss the shot, it is now Player B’s turn to choose where to shoot from. If Player A makes the shot, and Player B makes the shot, it is still the Player A’s turn, and Player A will get to choose a new spot to shoot from. But if Player A makes the shot, and Player B misses, Player B gets a letter, and Player A will choose a new spot to shoot from. This cycle continues until one player has five letters, spelling “horse.” However, is worth noting that H.O.R.S.E. has several variations of rules, and even a small tweak in rules could drastically alter the probabilities discussed in the article. Continue reading “Analyzing ESPN’s latest quarantine sport: H.O.R.S.E.”

2020 NBA Mock Draft

By: Landon Jaeger

The rapid spread of the coronavirus has put the NBA on hold for now, but NBA teams must keep in mind the draft looming in the near future. Former NCAA and international NBA hopefuls continue their path, submitting their names to the 2020 draft. Controversial players such as James Wiseman, who had his season cut short after just 3 games (due to the NCAA ruling him ineligible), and Lamelo Ball, with his journey between American high school and international play, hope to hear their names called early on during draft night by NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

1st pick, Golden State Warriors- James Wiseman, Memphis

Although the Warriors may package this pick with Andrew Wiggins for another superstar to pair alongside Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, here they opt to go with high school phenom James Wiseman. The Warriors fill a long time hole at Center (winning championships with the likes of Zaza Pachulia) and get a beast in Wiseman. Regardless of the fact that there is limited tape and sample size with him, Wiseman is the #1 pick. At 240 lbs and 7’1” with a 7’6” wingspan, Wiseman surely passes the eye-test with flying colors with respect to his NBA-level body. Keeping in mind that Wiseman only played in 3 college games (and poorer competition), he used his long arms to average 3 blocks per game, and is also a dominant rebounder due to his size (10.7 RPG). But his high school statistics have indicated his talents as well, with 25.8 points, 14.8 rebounds, and 5.5 blocks a game, while also being named the Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year (and #1 2019 recruit by ESPN, Rivals, and 247Sports). Wiseman showed elite interior finishing and post moves while in college, shooting 76.9% from the floor, whether he played 3 games or not, this is an impressive number. Wiseman’s weaknesses are apparent in his playmaking and jump shooting, where he lacks the stroke from mid and 3 point range to be a true stretch 5 (so far), and often misses open cutters/makes incorrect reads. He does show some promise to be able to develop a mid-range shot quickly, and shot around 70% from the line in his limited time in Memphis. There are questions about his ability to accept more of a Mitchell Robinson or Rudy Gobert role opposed to a Karl Anthony-Towns (he has a tendency to take wild shots that aren’t yet in his arsenal). Either way, Golden State gets an athletic, defensive-minded big in Wiseman.

2nd pick, Cleveland Cavaliers- Anthony Edwards, Georgia

After back to back years using their lottery picks on scoring, undersized point guards, the Cavaliers take an athletic specimen here in Edwards. Edwards fit with the Cavs should be great, sliding in at the 3 spot, likely with Love and Drummond in the frontcourt, and Garland and Sexton in the backcourt. Edwards was high-volume, and somewhat inefficient in his one year at Georgia (given his star status, and a weak Georgia team), shooting 40.2% from the field, 29.4% from three, and shooting a decent rate from the charity stripe, at 77.2%. Although shooting pretty poorly, he did average 19.1 PPG and 5.2 RPG, and should be able to improve on his efficiency with ample time in the league. Onto his strengths, Edwards is an elite scorer around the basket, with decreasing percentages toward the three point line (67.65% at rim, 39.13% short mid-range, and 25% long mid-range). His free throw rate and decreased volume in the NBA should lead toward him being a quality three level scorer in time. Edwards compares well to previous Knicks pick, R.J. Barrett, both being inefficient but strong inside scorers, with defensive potential due to size and strength.

3rd pick, Minnesota Timberwolves- LaMelo Ball, Illawara Hawks (NBL)

Here we go, LaMelo Ball is finally in the league, and will be paired alongside stars D’Angelo Russell and Karl Anthony-Towns. Although Ball and Russell will pose a weak defensive backcourt, Ball’s upside is too much to pass on here at pick 3. LaMelo has shown his LeBron/Luka Doncic-like vision, as his main talents are within his playmaking. Ball doesn’t just pass to open teammates, he passes teammates open, on cuts, one handed full-court passes, lobs to the hoop, and kick outs to the three point line on drives. Ball is also a better shooter than his numbers show (25% 3P% and 37.5% FG%), these percentages mostly being a reflection of his questionable, at-best, shot selection. Ball has a tendency to take low-percentage long range 3 pointers, and is just out of control at times. He has a sweet floater and finesse inside that the Wolves hope he will use less and less often as he puts on size and muscle. His length at guard (6’7 with a projected 6’10+ wingspan) and instincts display his potential on the defensive end, regardless of his current lack of focus on that side of the ball. Ball will give the Timberwolves a second ball handler in today’s positionless basketball.

4th pick, Atlanta Hawks- Deni Avdija, Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel)

Avdija is somewhat of a mystery with his overseas status, but the Hawks pick up the point-forward to add another dimension to their offensive gameplan. Avdija is a lanky, likely project forward who can be a jack of all trades at the next level. His three point and free throw percentages are not encouraging for his jump shot in the NBA, at 33.6% and 52% respectively, though he does have good form and the size to get shots off over smaller defenders. He is also solid on the defensive end, showing consistent focus and quick feet on the perimeter. There are questions about his production though, with little role in the Euroleague (the highest level of international play), averaging 4 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.2 assists in only 14 minutes per game. Yet he has turned heads in his FIBA U20 performances, averaging 18.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 5.3 assists. Avdija’s potential to become a solid scorer and secondary playmaker next to Trae Young land him here at #4.

5th pick, Detroit Pistons- Killian Hayes, Ratiopharm Ulm

With the trade of Andre Drummond and underwhelming season, the Pistons are looking to go into full rebuild mode, and grab their possible franchise point guard here. Hayes is a 6’5” combo guard with crafty ball handling, good full and half court vision, and a sweet stroke from mid-range. Although Hayes will have to develop more of a three point shot (29.4%), his free throw percentage (87.6%) and form indicates he will be able to do that relatively early in his career. His true 58.5% true shooting percentage also reflects his efficient play in spite of his lower three point percentage, and he should be a consistent scorer at the next level. While he is a good playmaker, at 5.4 assists in 24.8 minutes, Hayes also will need to cut down on his 3.2 turnovers. He often forces passes that aren’t there, or even over throws his teammates, but these should be easily solved by appropriate coaching. Hayes also has 3 years of professional play under his belt (along with his U21 experience), and is only 18, so has a lot of room to grow in Motor City.

6th pick, New York Knicks- Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State

With Hayes and Ball already gone, and the Knicks needing a point guard for the future, they select Haliburton here. The sophomore from Iowa State has put up superstar-like efficiency and overall numbers. He’s averaged 15.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 6.5 APG, and 2.5 SPG on 50.4/41.9/82.2 shooting splits (that’s almost 50/40/90 for anyone who’s keeping count), in his increased role his second year. He’s also impressed in his advanced statistics, with a TS% of 63.1%, eFG% of 61.1%, Box Plus/Minus (BPM, a statistic that estimates the contribution of a player to a team in points per 100 possessions) of 12.1, and PER of 25.9. All of these statistics are absolutely eye-popping. There are some concerns with his skinny frame (only 175 lbs at 6’5”) and shooting form (slow release, and overall awkward shot). As he puts on muscle he should be able to take contact better, and draw more fouls as a result. His athleticism is also at question, given his relatively slow first step, and ability to get around defenders. He is not a natural scorer, but his defense (including an impressive 7’0” wingspan), playmaking, and efficiency make him a polarizing prospect for the Knicks to pair with rising sophomore R.J. Barrett and lob threat Mitchell Robinson.

7th pick, Chicago Bulls- Isaac Okoro, Auburn

If the Bulls front office believes in the young core of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., and Coby White, they’ll draft the swingman Okoro here with the 7th pick. Okoro profile is predominantly based on his potential/existing talents as a perimeter defender (think Andre Iguoadala). He is by no means an effective three point or free throw shooter, at 29% and 67.2% respectively, however has been efficient overall given his finishing at 6’6” and 225 lbs. His numbers include: 58.7% TS%, 55.6% eFG% while shooting 51.4% from the field and a staggering 60.3% 2P%, a testament to his finishing. He should be able to get to the rim, finish with either hand, and if not hopefully get to the free throw line. He has also posted a fairly good BPM, at 7.8. The Bulls will give their line-up one more year before shaking it up if need be.

8th pick, Charlotte Hornets- Onyeka Okongwu, USC

The Hornets are lucky to have a talent like Okongwu fall out of the top 5. Many people may just remember Okongwu as the guy who played with the Ball brothers at Chino Hill, but fair warning, he is a legitimate prospect at the 4 or small ball 5. Outside of his outside shot (or lack thereof) and little production in the playmaking part of the game, Okungwu has no weak points. He is a monster on the inside, dunking almost any and everything he gets his hands on. He also has an array of moves he can use deep in the post at will. He also shoots 72% from the free throw line, an encouraging number when it comes to his development of an outside shot for the young big. On the other side of the ball, Big O is a defensive stalwart, posting numbers that include 2.7 BPG, 1.2 SPG, and 8 DBPM (10th in the NCAA this year and 13.6 BPM overall, third in the NCAA). He has the ability to switch onto smaller players and stick with them on the perimeter, a key skill in today’s NBA. He has also put up an outstanding 31.1 PER, comparable to the likely NBA MVP, Giannis Antetekoumpo at 31.71 (1st in the NBA). 

9th pick, Washington Wizards- Cole Anthony, UNC

Cole Anthony, like Okongwu, is another player who has slipped past his potential/talent. After a shaky season (and one of their worst in years) at UNC, the Wizards slate Anthony to be their heir to the expensive and injury-prone John Wall. Although fundamentally sound on the defensive end, his size and wingspan (6’3” and 6’3.5”) determine he will likely be an average defender at best in the league. He’s athletic, but he’s also not flying by defenders with his first step like many thought he would coming out of Oak Hill. His main talents lie in his scoring ability at the 1, as he averaged 18.5 PPG in his one season of NCAA ball, but on terrible efficiency (38/34.8/75 splits). Anthony also isn’t an amazing playmaker, averaging just 4 APG with 3.5 TOPG, but this should improve with a better supporting cast around him. It is also notable to mention that while Anthony was a one and done prospect, he will be 20 by the time of the draft. While he has a lot of holes in his game at this time, he also has star potential that some of the other point guards in this class don’t.

10th pick, Phoenix Suns- Nico Mannion, Arizona

The Suns have been looking for a solid piece at point guard for years to pair with Devin Booker, and while in the real draft they may trade up for a better option, they take the Red Mamba. Mannion has been in the spotlight since his high school days, going viral for his handles and unique-look (red hair and freckles). Like Anthony though, he hasn’t been great at the collegiate level, with limited defensive potential (for the same reasons as Anthony, 6’3” with a 6’2.5” wingspan), and inefficient play (39.2/32.7/79.7 splits). He has less athleticism than Cole, but has shown more skill in his playmaking ability, with 5.3 assists a game. He is comfortable making the correct read in the P&R game, can make plays in transition, has shot-creating ability, and a smooth-floater. Rubio has been a solid stand-in for the time being, but the Suns desperately need a younger option at the 1.

11th pick, San Antonio Spurs- Obi Toppin, Dayton

Toppin falls all the way to pick 11, where the Spurs will gladly pick him up. He has been one of the best, if not the best player in college basketball this year. He impresses with his high-flying ability, do it all mentality, and capability to play up to the competition (from only starting a year in high school varsity, to Mt. Zion preparatory School, to redshirting his freshman year, to being Dayton’s top scorer). The only real red flag on Toppin’s resume is his age (he’s already 22). He put up 20 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.2 assists in 32 minutes this past year. He’s also shown he can stretch the floor shooting 39% from three on 2.6 attempts per game. His efficiency and advanced metrics were off the charts, including his eFG% (67.4%), TS% (68.4%), PER (32.5), and BPM (11.8) (Tankathon Toppin). He doesn’t have as much switchability as you may like, but with the Spurs’ coaching, this can certainly be solved. Overall, the Spurs get a steal in Toppin.

12th pick, Sacramento Kings- Tyrese Maxey, Kentucky

After a digression from the 2018-19 season (39-43 vs. 28-36, 9th vs 11th in the Western Conference) and the likelihood of losing Bogan Bogdanovic this offseason, the Kings could use a combo guard off the bench in Maxey. Maxey is a strong finisher at the rim (he shot 64.4% at the rim this past season) and a competent, physical defender. While he could stand to work on his 3 point shot (29.2%), he could mesh well with Fox running the point, or even sub in for Fox if need be. His free throw percentage also could point to a higher percentage for his three point shot in the NBA, at 83.3%. Maxey isn’t a perfect prospect, but at this deep in the lottery, he’s the best option to add depth for Sacramento.

13th pick, New Orleans Pelicans- RJ Hampton, New Zealand Breakers, NBL

The Pelicans don’t have any huge holes in their roster after the huge Anthony Davis deal last year, but take a shot on the previously highly-touted high school prospect. Hampton decided not to go to college in the U.S., but rather opted to compete in the NBL (like Lamelo Ball). His season did little to improve his draft stock, but some still believe in his potential to be a spark plug off the bench, who can also distribute the ball. Like Ball, his shooting was abysmal in Australia, 40.7/29.5/67.9 splits. Hampton does have good playmaking for a combo, at 4.2 assists per 36 minutes. This will only be amplified with easy dump offs to players such as Zion Williamson. Hampton is a project, but a chance this young Pelicans team is willing to take.

14th pick, Portland Trailblazers- Devin Vassell, Florida State

The Trailblazers will look to run back the roster that got them to the Western Conference Finals last year. They desperately need production from the wing spot, and Vassell can definitely fill that need. He will be a key 3&D player in the NBA, with solid size and wingspan at 6’6” and 6’10” respectively. He’s not a great shot-creator but McCollum and Lillard will take care of that. On the defensive end, he was great, stuffing the stat sheet with a block and 1.8 steals a game, while also contributing 4.6 DBPM and a 93.6 defensive rating. He’ll be a great option from deep range, shooting 41.5% on 4.4 attempts per game. 

Blake Snell 2018 vs 2019: Reasons Behind his Increased ERA

blake snell

By: Douglas Young

In 2018, Blake Snell put together a historic season. He was the CY Young winner where he posted a 1.89 ERA. Snell did not have the same success in 2019, succumbing to a 4.29 ERA. His FIP, xFIP, and SIERRA stats suggest he was a slightly worse pitcher between 2018 and 2019, however, they do not suggest a 2.40 difference in ERA. When equating the advanced stats to his ERA, they suggest Snell was lucky in 2018 and unlucky in 2019 (See figure 1). Undeniably, luck was a factor, however, it does not tell the whole story as evidenced by his poor pitching with runners in scoring position.

(Figure 1, FanGraphs)Screen Shot 2020-02-27 at 8.28.55 PM

In 2018, Snell was extremely tough to score on. He led the league by 2.7% in LOB% with a LOB% of 88%. The next year, his LOB% of 71.6 was around the league average – far from the MLB’s best. FIP, xFIP nor SIERRA weigh situations where pitchers have runners on base. This explains why Snell’s ERA changed so drastically leaving his advanced stats somewhat constant.

Industry standard does not believe in clutch players, and thinks that LOB% is a measure of luck. Blake Snell is the exception – his LOB% is not a result of luck. The difference in his walk rate between low-medium leverage situations and high leverage situations is statistically significant at the .025 level with a t-score of 2.16. Snell is walking more batters during the games most decisive moments, that compounds his problems. His declining pitching performance looks like a control problem as his HR rate also spikes during high leverage situations with a t-score of 1.55. While it is not statistically significant at the level .025 it should not be discounted completely. He is either missing the zone completely or missing his spots and giving up more homeruns. This is in stark contrast to his 2018 campaign. In 41 TBF in high leverage situations, he only gave up three walks and one homerun. A pitcher’s ability to manage high leverage situations are key for limiting runs. Snell did not manage high leverage situations well in 2019 and almost 20% of the runs he allowed were during these situations.

(Figure 2, FanGraphs)Screen Shot 2020-02-27 at 8.31.47 PM

From looking at just the advanced stats, many would believe Snell’s deteriorated ERA was from misfortune. Bad luck is undeniably true, however, there were additional factors at play that cannot be discounted. Snell’s 2.40 difference in ERA can be explained from his poor performance in high leverage situations, slightly worse performance overall (shown by his advanced stats), and a swing in luck. His poor performance in high leverage situations exemplifies one variable in a larger equation which should not be overlooked.

 

Why David Fizdale’s Firing was the Right Move

By: Landon Jaeger

With the recent dismissal of New York Knicks’ coach David Fizdale, there has been outrage among many NBA coaches and fans alike, calling for more blame on the front office of the Knicks rather than Fizdale. Respected coaches Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich came to Fizdale’s defense stating, “If I had gone to New York that would have been me like three years ago” and, “He’s a fine, talented young coach… it’s ridiculous to think you’re gonna bring in a young guy and after being there a minute-and-a-half, you expect him to fix everything” respectively. Fizdale’s firing was called for after a 4-18 start, even worse than a 7-15 start through 22 games in the 2018-19 season. Despite spending upwards of 70 million and the acquisition of 3rd overall pick RJ Barrett during the 2019 offseason, the Knicks have seemed to get even worse, as their record indicates, and have lost their last two games by a combined 81 points (on the date of Fizdale’s dismissal). The Knicks’ organization has appointed Mike Miller as the interim coach (no, not that Mike Miller, yes the 2017-18 G League Coach of the Year Mike Miller), and seem to have no current direction. Amongst all the noise from the NBA community, I’m here to tell you why firing Fizdale, while not fixing the New York Knicks’ dysfunctional organization, was the right decision. Continue reading “Why David Fizdale’s Firing was the Right Move”

NL MVP Race 2019: Cody Bellinger

By: Tim Sever

The Los Angeles Dodgers put together another astounding season in 2019, capturing their seventh straight National League West division title, while ultimately falling short in the playoffs. With a combination of young potential and veteran leadership, Los Angeles is one of the best-positioned teams in the Major Leagues to contend for titles in the future. No player better exemplifies this promising present and future than star outfielder Cody Bellinger. He has been nothing short of stellar thus far into his career, and if this year is any indication, he will be a premier player in this league for a long time. Continue reading “NL MVP Race 2019: Cody Bellinger”

NL MVP Race 2019: Christian Yelich

By: Romeo Wada

Since being traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, Christian Yelich has emerged from being a consistent hitter to being one of baseball’s top stars.  Coming off a historical career year in 2018, Yelich picked up right where he left off, putting together another remarkable season. Despite a September 10th injury sidelining him for the end of the season, Yelich has still put together a strong case for another MVP award.

Continue reading “NL MVP Race 2019: Christian Yelich”

NL MVP Race 2019: Anthony Rendon

By: Kathleen Boyce

For the majority of the season, the NL MVP race has been between Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger. On July 8th, MLB released a commercial called “Belli vs. Yeli: A game of M-V-P (Cody Bellinger vs. Christian Yelich!)” with the two players playing a game of PIG, but with letters M,V, and P. However, while the MLB made the NL MVP race out to be a two-horse race, another player put together an MVP caliber season and catapulted himself into the discussion.

Anthony Rendon used to fly under the radar when it came to the recognition of his talent, but his impressive statistics and World Series win has changed this and he is now regarded as one of the best hitters in baseball. He helped pull the Nationals out of a huge regular-season hole and through the playoffs with a dominant season at the plate and in the field, and he deserves to take home the NL MVP award. Continue reading “NL MVP Race 2019: Anthony Rendon”

UVA Basketball Preview: Can History Help Predict How Good the Hoos Will Be In 2019?

By: Christian Rogers

Last year at this time, Wahoo basketball fans were nervously excited for the season, desperately hoping that this would finally be the year. The team was coming off the most devastating loss in program (and possibly NCAA) history, and many feared that another core group of studs would leave school empty-handed. This year, it’s a little different. In April, the Hoos became the first first-time champion since Florida in 2006, and they did so in a historic manner. Everyone knows how close the final three games of the tournament were, but just how crazy was the run to the championship? Per Kenpom’s minimum win probability data (i.e., the lowest chance of winning the team had at any point in the game) the Hoos had the most improbable tourney ending of the past ten years in terms of how the games played out:

Screen Shot 2019-11-06 at 9.15.58 AM.png Continue reading “UVA Basketball Preview: Can History Help Predict How Good the Hoos Will Be In 2019?”

AL Cy Young Race 2019: Charlie Morton

By: Charlie Silkin

Coming off a World Series title and 2 ALCS appearances with the Astros, Charlie Morton took his talents to Tropicana Field, signing a 2 yr./$30M deal with the Tampa Bay Rays during the 2019 offseason. Given the fact that the Rays were on a tight budget and had to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox in the division, they needed a difference-maker, and Morton was the pitcher of choice.

Besides the Rays’ unusual splurging, there were 2 other reasons why this move could be considered a surprise: First of all, Charlie Morton was 35 years old when he signed and with the recent exceptions of Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, pitchers tend to be less effective as Father Time takes its hold. Secondly, prior to his two-year tenure with the Houston Astros, Charlie Morton had only one season (2013) where he was an above-average pitcher, and then again, he was barely above-average with a 109 ERA+ (he was only 9% better than the average pitcher).

Nevertheless, Morton did experience a resurgence when he signed with the Houston Astros prior to the 2017 season, which is no surprise considering Houston is one of the best teams at analytically improving starting pitchers. Of course, Tampa Bay is a heavily analytically-driven club as well, so one could argue that Morton was put in a good position to succeed despite leaving the Astros.

As for the question of “Why Morton?”, under-the-radar, Morton is actually one of the most clutch pitchers in baseball. Prior to the 2019 season, Morton was 2-0 in playoff elimination games, with wins in Game 7 of the 2017 ALCS and Game 7 of the 2017 World Series. His clutch ways would continue throughout the 2019 season, as he was 5th in the AL in Win-Probability Added (WPA) and 3rd in the AL in +WPA1; it’s no wonder he was selected to start the AL Wild Card game for the Rays (which he would also win). Needing someone to get them over the hump, the Rays chose Morton, and it’s safe to say that their investment paid off greatly, as he was one of the best and most valuable starting pitchers in all of MLB this past season and as a result, he should be considered as the top candidate for the AL Cy Young award this season.

Even after being effective for the Astros, Morton had a breakout year with the Rays. He ranked in the top 10 in the American League in most statistical categories among qualified starters. He ranked 3rd in ERA (3.08), 4th in fWAR (6.1), 4th in xFIP (3.28), 5th in K/9 (11.1), and 5th in ground ball rate (48.2 %). He even ranked 2nd in FIP (2.81) – ahead of Justin Verlander’s 3.27! Shocking, right? Well not really. Justin Verlander is still one of the best pitchers in the game, yes, and he still has elite stuff to prove it, but he had one major flaw: home runs. His 36 home runs allowed were the second-most in the American League this season, but he still had an ERA below 3. Why? Only one of his home runs allowed was with more than one baserunner. 28 of his 36 home runs allowed were solo shots, the result of allowing a .218 BABIP against him and stranding almost 90% of his baserunners. In the playoffs, we saw what happened when Justin Verlander did not effectively prevent baserunners and did not leave them hanging on the bases. In Game 2 of the ALCS against the Yankees, Verlander allowed a 2-run home run to Aaron Judge that would have won the game for the Yankees had Adam Ottavino not imploded. In Game 5 of the ALCS as well, Verlander allowed a 3-run home run to Aaron Hicks and that was all the Yankees would need to win the game. There’s no question that Verlander is very valuable to his team and he has the 6.4 fWAR to prove it, but his 2.58 ERA vs a 3.27 FIP suggests that his performance was in spite of being home-run prone and that his stats paint a better picture of his performance than what it probably should have been. Morton wasn’t as fortunate in keeping people off the bases, with a LOB% of 75.3% and a .298 BABIP, but he was the only one of the Cy Young contenders with a higher ERA than FIP, suggesting he was likely a bit unlucky throughout the season.

Cole, on the other hand, needs no introduction. His ERA (2.50), ERA+ (189), and FIP (2.64) all led the American League, and he had the most strikeouts (326) and highest K/9 (13.8) in all of baseball. There’s no question that Gerrit Cole was one of the best pitchers in baseball this season, but was it because of an easy schedule? Of course, the Astros didn’t choose their schedule, Gerrit Cole was a dominant pitcher during the season, and his stuff showed as much, but it has to be worth noting that only 12 of his 33 starts were against a team who finished the season with a record of .500 or better. It’s no wonder why his stat line looks so attractive—one-third of his starts were against the Angels, Rangers, and Mariners. Great job beating up the bottom-feeders of the American League, Gerrit. In all seriousness though, Cole mostly did well at preventing runs against the good teams with a 2.05 ERA, but really, only 12 starts? The best team Cole can say he faced in the regular season was the injury-plagued Yankees—in April. Morton, on the other hand, made 18 of his 33 starts against teams with a winning record, and while pitching through a tougher schedule successfully does not deem a pitcher “better”, it can’t be ignored that Morton had to go through much more adversity than Gerrit Cole to put up high-level numbers this past season. Not only did Cole face mostly soft opponents, but when the ball was in the air, like Verlander, Cole got into trouble. Cole finished the season with the 2nd-highest HR/FB rate in the AL (16.9%), meaning that almost 17% of Cole’s fly balls went into the seats. In addition, Cole had a mere 40.3 ground-ball %, tied for the 8th lowest in the AL. With that distribution, Cole is probably counting his blessings that his run prevention statistics weren’t worse as well. When hitters did manage to make contact against Cole, they got plenty of opportunities to do damage, but given their mostly lack of talent, there was barely any offense to be generated.

When determining who deserves the distinction of being the “best” pitcher in the league, should the title go to a pitcher who got lucky, one who coasted his way through the season, or the pitcher, who, despite not having the shiniest stat line, could be counted on in the biggest moments and would always come through when his team needed him? That was Charlie Morton. When the Rays needed a difference-maker in the rotation, Charlie Morton stepped up. When the rest of the Rays rotation was injured in August, it was Morton who provided length and stability every 5th day in order to give his team’s bullpen a much-needed reprieve. In the shadow of Justin Verlander and Cole, Morton tossed the best season of his career and as a result of his contributions, the Rays, the team which spent the least amount of money on its roster, were able to fight their way into the playoffs.

AL Cy Young Race 2019: Justin Verlander

By: Alexander Eustace

With the World Series in full swing, and featuring several star-studded pitching matchups, it seems fitting to reflect on the league’s best pitchers throughout the regular season. The AL Cy Young race, in particular, features Astros teammates Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole on top, with Rays right-hander Charlie Morton trailing right behind them. Given the dominance of both Verlander and Cole, it may not be fair to call either one the “unquestioned leader” of Houston’s staff. However, as evidenced by both traditional and modern statistics, Verlander has a stronger case to collect his 2nd career Cy Young Award and his first since 2011. Continue reading “AL Cy Young Race 2019: Justin Verlander”