One Night Only!

This edition of One Night Only is a slave to none and a servant to maybe 20 or 30.

(NERD scores in parentheses.)

Featured Games
Tonight’s slate of games features three favorites for the AL Cy Young award. Is that interesting? I don’t know, to be honest. But people seem to like it, so here we are.

New York Americans (6) at Toronto (7), 7:07pm ET
• Your Cy candidate is CC Sabathia.
• His credentials look exactly like this: 33 GS, 229.1 IP, 7.42 K/9, 2.83 BB/9, 50.6% GB, 3.56 FIP, 3.82 xFIP, 4.6 WAR
• Tonight, he opposes the AL’s fifth-best offense, with +50.4 park-adjusted runs relative to average.
• My bold prediction for the game is that Jose Bautista hits his 59th and 73rd home runs. What? Who said he had to hit them in order?

Baltimore (2) at Tampa Bay (10), 7:10pm ET
• Your Cy candidate is David Price.
• His credentials look exactly like this: 30 GS, 199.2 IP, 8.07 K/9, 3.56 BB/9, 44.7% GB, 3.54 FIP, 4.03 xFIP, 4.0 WAR
• Tonight, he opposes the AL’s 13th-best offense, with -56.3 park-adjusted runs relative to average.
• My bold prediction for the game is that Reid Brignac runs around the infield, avoiding MLB officials, while coach Joe Maddon begins a “Let them play!” chant for the entire Tropicana Field crowd.

Seattle (2) at Texas (7), 8:05pm ET
• Your Cy candidate is Felix Hernandez.
• His credentials look exactly like this: 33 GS, 241.2 IP, 8.45 K/9, 2.53 BB/9, 53.5% GB, 3.07 FIP, 3.26 xFIP, 6.1 WAR
• Tonight, he opposes the AL’s seventh-best offense with +38.2 park-adjusted runs relative to average.
• My bold prediction is that one of Felix Hernandez’s pitches, instead of going into the catcher’s mitt, goes straight into heaven.

A Brief Editorial
In the wake of yesterday’s wordfest, I’ve now made reference in these electronic pages to every single book I’ve ever read. Or, every single book but one, at least.

Luckily, that one last book contains shockingly prescient commentary on this year’s American League Cy Young race.

The author? Epictetus. The text? Discourses. The passage? Boo-yah:

Whenever I see a person suffering from nervousness, I think, well, what can he expect? If he had not set his sights on things outside man’s control, his nervousness would end at once. Take a lyre player: he’s relaxed when he performs alone, but put him in front of an audience, and it’s a different story, no matter how beautiful his voice or how well he plays the instrument. Why? Because he not only wants to perform well, he wants to be well received — and the latter lies outside his control.

He is confident as far as his knowledge of music is concerned — the views of the public carry no weight with him there. His anxiety stems from lack of knowledge of and lack of practice in other areas. Which are what? He doesn’t know what an audience is, what approval from an audience amounts to. Although he know well enough how to play every note on the guitar, from the lowest to the highest, the approval of the public — what it means and what real significance it has — this he does not know and has made no effort to learn.

Elsewhere, Epictetus takes pains to impress upon his reader that, really, public opinion — being fickle, having no grounds in reason — is meaningless. Hence, the only real concern for the lyrist is totally shredding on his lyre. If the public likes it, awesome. If they don’t, sorry. The point is, it’s never going to be a particularly reliable comment on the quality of lyre-playing.

As for the relevance of the passage to the present Cy Young race — to any awards-voting — well, it’s pretty clear. Felix Hernandez, CC Sabathia: they’re lyre players. Media sorts, dudes watching TV: their the audience. They’re not totally clueless about what does or does not constitute good lyre-playing, but, as a group, their not geniuses, either.

The only real difference between Epictetus’s hypothetical scenario and the Cy Young case is this: the “nervousness” in question — it isn’t Hernandez’ and Sabathia’s nervousness. Really, those guys don’t seem too worried. Rather, it’s anyone who allows himself to engage in the Cy Young conversaion*.

*Perhaps “nervousness” isn’t the right word. Maybe “undue concern” makes more sense. Still, you get the idea: having an emotion about it one way or the other.

Now, that’s not to say we can’t have debates about who is and who’s not the American League’s best pitcher. “Hernandez has totally dominated,” says one. “But Cliff Lee, Francisco Liriano: they have higher WARs,” says another. That’s fine. But Cy Young voting is different. I concede, it looks the same: it’s billed as the award that goes to the best pitcher. But it hasn’t always been that. So there’s no reason to fret.

Perhaps those who care about the Cy Young do so because because they care about justice. Like, of tonight’s three starters, for example, Hernandez has pretty clearly been the best pitcher this year. More strikeouts and fewer walks per nine, better groundball rate, better FIP and xFIP, better WAR. There’s also a pretty good chance he doesn’t win the Cy. Some will regard this as an injustice. Not a, you know, Sudan-sized injustice, but important in its own way.

I don’t know what to tell those people except that, ultimately, justice isn’t that important. It depends on swaying the views of many — which, as Epictetus has suggested, is of little concern. If DIPS theory has liberated us in any way, it’s to call attention to those instances where a pitcher has excelled while his team has failed him (or vice versa).

Also Playing
These games are very likely playing at some kind of sporty channel near you.

Note: As reader Mike points out, the Tigers are not, in fact, playing two different games in two different American cities tonight. Were that the case, however, such a practice would go some way towards explaining their underwhelming season.

pNERD = Pitcher NERD
Game = Time and Average NERD for Game
* = Estimated NERD

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Carson Cistulli has just published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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I am impressed, that not only are the Tigers playing 2 games tonight, they have regained the services of Edwin Jackson.