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Everything Baseball

All things Baseball

On Sunday, September 25th, 2016, the baseball world was shocked with the news of the tragic accident involving young Miami Marlins star, Jose Fernandez. Early Sunday morning, reports surfaced that Jose had gone out on a fishing trip with two friends late Saturday night, and that they had been involved in a fatal accident. It has been reported that there was no drugs or alcohol involved, and that Jose was not the one driving the boat at the time of the accident, but none of this lessens the blow that baseball, and his family will feel. Jose was one of the brightest young players in baseball with an incredible future ahead of him, yet it was cut short to just 76 electrifying games. Fernandez was, without a doubt, the most exciting pitcher in baseball, as he played the game with an undying passion and intensity level that was unmatched by any player in the league. Jose wore his heart on his sleeve, put his team before himself, and was never afraid to show his love for the game through his on-the-field emotions. Jose was just 24 years old, and announced just last week that his girlfriend, Carla Mendoza, is pregnant. 

Career stats and accolades - 38-17, 2.58 ERA, 76 games, 471.1 IP, 589 K's, 1.05 WHIP/ 2013 NL Rookie of the Year, 2013 & 2016 NL Allstar
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

While some may say he was just an athlete, Jose's story shows that he was much more. Fernandez, a Cuban native, made three failed attempts to defect to the USA, landing in prison all three times. In 2008, Jose and his mother were making yet another attempt for the USA, when they hit heavy waves and Jose heard somebody fall off the boat; without a moments hesitation, 15 year old Jose Fernandez jumped into the water and saved the person who had fallen off, which incredibly, turned out to be his own mother. After the 2013 Rookie of the Year season for Fernandez, the Marlins organization did one of the best things any franchise has ever done in the history of sports. The Marlins saw first hand how much Jose's family meant to him, especially his grandma, Olga, who had practically been his coach growing up in Cuba. Of course, Olga was the one family member Jose was missing, so the Marlins got her a two year visa, and surprised Fernandez when she arrived in America. His grandmother arrived just before Fernandez was awarded the NL Rookie of the Year, and saw him pitch for the first time on Opening Day, 2014. Fernandez allowed just one run over six innings while striking out nine, but we can all be sure that meant nothing to him compared to the presence of his grandma. 

Jose became an American citizen in 2015, something that he considered to be one of his proudest moments. "This is one of my important accomplishments, I'm an American citizen now -- I'm one of them. I consider myself now to be free." Fernandez was thankful for every game, every moment, and every pitch that he threw, as he commonly would talk about how blessed he was after each and every start.

There were several chilling images throughout the day Sunday, as baseball mourned the loss of Fernandez. Jerseys were hung in dugouts, teams observed a moment of silence before each game, and the Marlins canceled their game in favor of a press conference

There were hundreds of heartfelt quotes on Sunday from coaches, teammates, stars, and reporters alike regarding the passing of Fernandez, but the one that struck me most was from teammate Dee Gordon. Gordon was seen in some heartbreaking photos as he paid tribute to Jose, kneeling behind the pitchers mound with his head resting in his hands. Following this moment, Dee made the following post on instagram - 

My brother.
You were family to heart is hurting wishing you would just burst through the clubhouse doors any second now late like always laughing telling me how many red and yellow snapper you caught last were always happy and kept the biggest smile on your may have rubbed people who didn't get to know you the wrong way at times but I always had your back no matter what and didn't never let you get in any of those brawls...last Sunday when you came to chapel with me is crazy now bc you said you needed to just told me that your last game was "the best game I ever pitched in my life" and it was your last...I don't know if God was calling you last Sunday and made you decide to come to chapel or helped you pitch your best game but I do know I love you and I'm so hurt to see my brother go...I know I'm being selfish but you weren't just a teammate to were family...I love you Josey!!! Long Live YOU FOREVER!!!! Rest In Peace my brother I hope you and God catch the biggest fish heaven has to offer. #JDF16FOREVER

Jose will without a doubt be remembered for his absolutely unreal ability on the field, but it's the person that he was, and the things that he did off the field that will stick in the memory of many. Jose loved the game of baseball more than life itself, and he loved his family even more, and baseball will mourn this tragedy for years to come. 

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One of the best things that 2016 has brought is extremely tight races for almost every award in both leagues, and perhaps none is tighter than the AL Cy Young. No candidate has even come close to separating from the rest of the contestants, but do not take that to mean we aren't seeing some incredible pitching. I'm going to dig into several names who I believe are more than legitimate candidates, then you tell me who you would vote for. 

RHP Rick Porcello - Boston Red Sox
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Rick Porcello - 21 W (1st in the AL), 4 L, 3.08 ERA (2nd/AL), 210.2 IP (4th), 174 K's (10th), .98 WHIP (1st)

Rick Porcello has always been a solid middle-back end of the rotation kind of guy, but the 27 year old has taken a huge leap forward in 2016. It could not possibly come at a better time for the pitching starved Boston Red Sox, who have seen David Price (The guy they made the highest paid pitcher in MLB history last offseason) post an ERA of 3.91. The downfall for Porcello in the Cy Young race may wind up being his low strikeout numbers, and the voters throwing wins out the window.

LHP J.A. Happ - Toronto Blue Jays

J.A. Happ - 20 W (2nd), 4 L, 3.28 ERA (9th), 181.1 IP (16th), 160 K's (17th), 1.17 WHIP (9th)

Realistically, Happ doesn't have much of a shot at all of beating out the other Cy Young candidates, but he clearly has placed himself in the conversation. Some people, including myself, were extremely surprised to see him get a three year $36 million dollar contract last winter, but he has made every dollar worth it in year one. 

RHP Corey Kluber - Cleveland Indians
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Corey Kluber - 18 W (3rd), 9 L, 3.11 ERA (3rd), 211 IP (3rd), 224 K's (1st), 1.05 WHIP (4th)

At the All-star break, the only Cleveland Indian in the Cy Young discussion would have been Kluber's teammate Danny Salazar; however, much like when he won the award in 2014, Kluber has put on a show in the second half that has perhaps put him as the front runner for the hardware. After posting ERA's above 4.00 in each of the first two months, Kluber has posted monthly ERA's 2.19, 2.51, 2.43, and sits at 3.29 for September. His 9-1 2.43 second half has been very similar to the 9-3/1.73 second half he had in 2014. 

RHP Justin Verlander - Detroit Tigers
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Justin Verlander - 14 W (8th), 8 L, 3.22 ERA (7th), 207 IP (5th), 223 K's (2nd), 1.01 WHIP (2nd)

Veteran Justin Verlander has not only put his team on his back as they try to sneak into the postseason, but he has very quietly made an extremely good case for his second Cy Young. Verlander currently has a 2.12 ERA in 13 post-Allstar starts, to go along with an incredible .86 WHIP. People may not be talking about it, but Verlander may just have the most solid case for the hardware. 

RHP Masahiro Tanaka - New York Yankees
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Masahiro Tanaka - 14 W (8th), 4 L, 3.07 ERA (1st), 199.2 IP (6th), 165 K's (14th), 1.08 WHIP (5th)

Twenty-seven year old Masahiro Tanaka is another guy who hasn't gotten much consideration in the Cy Young consideration, but is more than deserving. Tanaka may trail in the innings and strikeouts categories, but if you lead the American League in ERA you are doing something right. As New York desperately tries to scratch their way into the postseason, Tanaka is their only starter with an ERA lower than 4.00, clearly shows how much he has done to help New York even stay in contention. 

LHP Danny Duffy - Kansas City Royals
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Danny Duffy - 12 W (13th), 2 L, 3.18 ERA (5th), 169.2 IP, 181 K's (8th), 1.08 WHIP (6th)

It has been some kind of a roller coaster career for Danny Duffy, who after starting 2016 as a bullpen arm was moved back to the rotation where he has kicked it up a notch. Duffy has gone 12-2 with a 3.20 ERA in 24 starts, including a 5-1/2.51 month of August. The lefty has slightly faded off in the last month of the season, and that, combined with the fact that he was in the bullpen for a while will likely block him almost entirely from the Cy Young discussion. 

LHP Zach Britton - Baltimore Orioles
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Zach Britton - 2-1, .59 ERA, 45/45 SVO, 61.1 IP, 4 ER, 67 K's, .85 WHIP

Now we come to the controversial question of the moment - should the AL Cy Young go to closer, Zach Britton? No relief pitcher has won the Cy Young since Eric Gagne in 2003, and no relief pitcher has won the award in the AL since hall of fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley in 1992. My question is - why shouldn't the Cy Young go to a closer? We can all agree that the closing job is not only one of the most important, but one of the most difficult jobs in baseball, and we need to give credit where credit is due. There is, however, an award particularly for relief pitchers, and that is the reason some don't like it. Personally, I would much rather see the Cy Young go to a starter but what is the award for? The Cy Young is simply an award that recognizes the best, or the most valuable pitcher, which a closer is certainly capable of being. Zach Britton has had a freak show of a season, and if the award were to go to him he would certainly be deserving. 

Call me a bias Cleveland fan if you want, but I would go with Kluber. The "Klubot" has picked up the first place Indians in a big way with two of their starters being on and off the disabled list all season, and really helped push them towards what should be their first AL Central crown since 2007. 

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"We lost a really good pitcher yesterday, probably one of the better pitchers in the league, but, I don't think anybody's in here feeling sorry for ourselves because of it. I don't think there's a gloomy outlook or anything. Other guys have pitched well up to this point to get us where we are now, so I don't think there's any reason why we can't continue to going forward." - Corey Kluber

The Cleveland Indians have overcome some huge obstacles this season, yet none will be bigger than the one handed to them on Saturday. Cleveland was in game two of a huge three game series with the Detroit Tigers, and on the second pitch of the game Ian Kinsler hit a line drive right into the pitching hand of Indians starter Carlos Carrasco, which caused a season ending injury for the right hander. While this should not derail the rest of the Indians regular season, as they have a seven game lead in first place with a magic number of seven, but it puts some real concern on the Tribe's postseason. 

Cleveland has been one of the best offensive teams in baseball, but their team is still built around starting pitching - a great recipe for success in October baseball. The problem for Cleveland is that Carrasco is the second starter who will be unavailable for postseason play, joining 2016 All-star Danny Salazar on the disabled list. The postseason rotation typically consists of four pitchers, and the Tribe has lost half of the four they would have used. 

"To lose a guy like that, it hurts. He's an unbelievable pitcher. For us, we've just got to step up and try to keep winning games and see what happens." - Josh Tomlin

If the playoffs started today, the Cleveland rotation would likely begin with Corey Kluber, who is making a strong case for his second Cy Young award, Trevor Bauer, who has been inconsistent but stepped up when the Indians need him to, Josh Tomlin, who got off to an incredible start in 2016 but has struggled since the All-star break, and rookie Mike Clevinger. The initial reaction of many has been to count them out and assume they will be done in the first round of the playoffs, but the Tribe isn't giving in. 

“I know some people have said the season is over. They pronounced it yesterday, wrote articles about it. I think it’s complete [bull].” - Trevor Bauer

“Don’t get me wrong: It absolutely sucks, losing those two guys, that’s something that’s going to be difficult to come back from. But, if there is a team that’s capable of doing it, it’s this team. We’ve played without Brantley the entire year and have been doing OK. We’ve played spurts without Danny and Carlos and we’ve managed to do OK. I think everybody in here, it almost makes you have a little bit more motivation, because you want to do it so bad for those guys who aren’t here to help us do it in their own right.” - catcher Chris Gimenez

“Losing Carlos and losing Danny hurts, and we feel bad for them, but, no one questions that Josh can step in or Mike Clevinger can step in or [Ryan] Merritt or [Adam] Plutko or whoever else, Cody Anderson, whoever is going to start. I think you saw yesterday we got a lot of guys in the bullpen, a lot of guys on this team, that can go out there and put up zeros and be very competitive.” - Trevor Bauer

"I think that up to this point, and it would be the same thing moving forward, it hasn't been one of those things where we've felt sorry for ourselves because of whether it be for Brant's injury or Yan's or Danny's or now Carlos'. I think it's one of those things where guys maybe pull together because of it and everybody's looking to cary their own weight and not necessarily try to shoulder more of a load or anything like that. It's everybody trying to pull together. You can't really quantify the heart, but I think there's a lot of guys with big hearts in this clubhouse, too, and that counts for something." - Corey Kluber 

Cleveland has already come through a lot in 2016, including a combined total of 82 games from former Silver Slugger winners Michael Brantley and Yan Gomes

One thing that has caused waves in the Indians clubhouse is this article written by Paul Hoynes, an Indians beat reporter for the Plain Dealer. While Hoynes argues that he is simply doing his job and stating his opinions, the Indians won't buy it. 

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

It may be a lot to overcome for the Indians, but it can be done. The MLB playoffs are one of the most, if not the most unpredictable thing in sports, and there have been bigger odds overcome than this. Anything can happen, and Cleveland is confident that they can overcome this and make a deep run in October. Danny Salazar is expected to be able to come out of the bullpen in the playoffs, but should they make a deep run they may be able to squeeze a start or two out of him. 

“We have to make sure that these guys are all prepared to do whatever job they’re going to do when it comes to the postseason. The good thing is Kluber and Bauer can probably pitch every fourth day, or whenever you need them to. Bauer’s arm never hurts and Kluber’s just a beast. That helps. But, we’re going to prepare guys for the postseason and, if we get in, we’ll go from there.” - Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway
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