Fun fact: In baseball history, there have been 18 seasons in which the MVP and Cy Young winner have come from the same team -- not counting guys who won both awards -- and it’s starting to look more and more like the Detroit Tigers are going to add to that total this year.
On Friday night, Max Scherzer improved his record to 12-0, but it was Miguel Cabrera who was the big story, as the reigning Triple Crown winner/AL MVP went 4-for-4 with two more homers and a double in a 6-3 win against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Cabrera now has 24 home runs, 81 RBIs and is hitting .377 (!) with a .464 OBP. He leads the AL in the latter three categories, and as good as Chris Davis is playing -- he actually has a slight edge in OPS+ -- it seems like the MVP award is once again Miggy’s to lose. Nothing against Davis, but Cabrera’s track record leaves me with a lot more confidence that he can keep this up. Additionally, Detroit seems poised to win the AL Central, and that usually plays well in awards voting. (Another fun fact: Of the 18 pairs of teammates to win MVP and Cy Young in the same year, 17 of them played for teams that finished in first.)
That brings us to Scherzer, who, as Dan Szymborski wrote earlier this week, projects to win the Cy Young award, and he helped his case by improving to 12-0 on Friday.
He wasn’t at his absolute best, as he allowed homers to Wil Myers and Ben Zobrist, but he struck out nine in seven innings to become the first pitcher since Roger Clemens in 1986 to win his first 12 decisions of the season. (One final fun fact: In the divisional era, the longest streak to begin a season without taking a loss is 26 games, set by Dave McNally in 1969. He didn’t take his first loss until August!)
The wins are a big reason Scherzer has the lead in the Neyer-James Cy Young Predictor, and they are also a fun piece of trivia, but let’s not make them out to be more than they are. He has had a couple of cheapies -- such as when he allowed five runs in five innings against the Royals on April 24 -- and he’d be getting a lot less attention if he had taken a loss or two, even if he had pitched exactly the same.
That’s the thing about pitcher wins (or saves or RBIs, for that matter): I don’t mind them as stats, I just don’t like seeing things attributed to those numbers -- or players who accumulate them -- that don’t exist. Good pitchers win games, but lots of randomness is involved that is completely out of the pitcher's control. Go take a look at Nolan Ryan's 1987 season if you want to see what I'm talking about.
To quote a smart tweet by Joe Sheehan earlier today: "Stats are just information. It's what people do with the information that's bad." And by focusing on the wins, you lose sight of the fact that Scherzer is pitching better than he ever has before. His walk and home run rates are down a touch, and his FIP is actually lower than his ERA, which suggests he’s pitching even better than his ERA indicates.
No matter how you slice it, it’s another fun summer to be a baseball fan in Motown. I just hope Tigers fans are cherishing these last few summers of Miggy, Justin Verlander and now Scherzer, because these kinds of performances don’t come around all that often.