MLB snubs Red Sox starters in ridiculous fashion for AL Pitcher of the Month

Cleveland Guardians v Boston Red Sox
Cleveland Guardians v Boston Red Sox / Jaiden Tripi/GettyImages

Major League Baseball unveiled its American and National League pitchers of the month for March and April, and the honors went to Ranger Suárez of the Philadelphia Phillies and José Berríos of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Berríos is off to an incredible start to the year, but he was not better than Tanner Houck. A case could also be made for Kutter Crawford being better than Berríos. 

Berríos led all of baseball in innings pitched in March and April with 43.2. His seven starts were tied for most in baseball as well.

Houck and Crawford each started one fewer game. Houck trailed Berríos by 4.1 innings pitched, and Crawford by 10.1. Berríos recorded four wins, tied for most in the AL, to Houck’s three and Crawford’s one. His batting average against and BABIP were also lower than the two Sox starters'. 

Other than those basic statistics, it's unclear what the voters were thinking when they chose Berríos.

Red Sox's Tanner Houck and Kutter Crawford unjustifiably overlooked for AL pitching award

The number one case for either Houck or Crawford is their wins above replacement. According to FanGraphs, Houck and Crawford each posted a 1.4 WAR. Those marks are tied with Zack Wheeler for the highest in baseball. Berríos’ fWAR came in at 0.5, which ranked 48th in MLB. Berríos’ WAR ranked lower than his teammate, Yusei Kikuchi.

Essentially, Houck and Crawford were both more valuable than Berríos by .9 wins, and Berríos was not even the most valuable pitcher on his own team. Baseball Reference also ranked Houck’s WAR above Berríos, although they did have Crawford below Berríos in their calculations.

Another benchmark statistic that’s highly regarded in baseball is FIP, or Fielding Independent Pitching. FanGraphs defines FIP as “what a player’s ERA would look like over a given period of time if the pitcher were to have experienced league average results on balls in play and league average timing.” This statistic measures strikeouts, walks, hit-by-pitches, and home runs. 

Houck’s 2.01 FIP ranked 2nd in all of baseball, and Crawford’s 2.19 ranked 5th. Berríos’ FIP was 4.02 for the months of March and April, which ranked 80th in MLB. Houck and Crawford also posted far superior Expected FIPs than Berríos.

Furthermore, Toronto’s defensive WAR was by far the best in baseball. Their 12.7 defensive WAR was 4.7 points better than the second-best team in MLB. Boston’s defense posted a -10.2 defensive WAR, ranking 24th in MLB. Boston also leads the league in unearned runs allowed, errors committed, and ranks last in fielding percentage.

Houck and Crawford controlled what they could control and were highly disadvantaged by Boston’s subpar defense, whereas Berríos was aided by Toronto's fielding and defensive positioning. 

Houck ranked higher than Berríos in BB/9, BB%, GB%, WHIP. Houck had maybe the most dominant start of the season, his three-hit complete game shutout against Cleveland.

Houck and Crawford both ranked higher than Berríos in the following categories: K/9, K%, HR/9, SIERA (Skill Interactive ERA). In terms of a pitcher's "stuff" Houck and Crawford once again have Berríos beat according to FanGraphs' metrics.

Boston has a better record than Toronto in large part due to their dominant starting pitching. Sadly, the American League Pitcher of the Month award did not reward either of Boston’s best starters for their preeminent performances. 

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