Friday, September 05, 2003

Front office talk

Everybody talks about how the Cincinnati Reds have torn their team apart with trades, but nobody says the same thing about the Pittsburgh Pirates for some reason. The Pirates, in case you don't remember, have traded away Brian Giles, Kenny Lofton, Aramis Ramirez, Jeff Suppan, Scott Sauerbeck and Mike Williams. They also tried to trade Jason Kendall.

However, despite all of the players they have gotten rid of in order to rebuild their ballclub, the Pirates still have a player who certainly could have helped a number of teams in playoff battles.

Matt Stairs went 2-for-4 with his 17th home run of the season last night, and is now hitting .297/.385/.574 (.960) in 102 games (249 at-bats). Stairs has obviously not played enough to qualify for the batting title, but if he had, that .960 OPS would put him 11th in the entire major leagues.

The main reason Stairs hasn't played enough to qualify for the batting title is that he doesn't hit lefties very well and simply shouldn't be playing against them. To their credit, the Pirates have not used him against lefties very much. Stairs has just 24 at-bats against southpaws this year, in which time he has hit .208/.296/.458 (.754). That's not a very big sample, but from 2000-2002, Stairs hit .192/.279/.333 (.612) in 156 at-bats against lefties.

However, Stairs can certainly hit right-handers. In 225 at-bats this season, Stairs is hitting .307/.395/.587 (.982) against righties. That is a lot higher than what he did from 2000-2002, when he hit .246/.356/.463 (.819), but Stairs clearly still has the ability to hit well against righties.

The Pirates were not (and are not) going to do anything this season with or without Stairs and, at age 35, he is obviously not in their plans for the future. Why the didn't trade him for whatever they could get (even if it's just a marginal prospect) is beyond me.

You cannot possibly tell me that there was no team even remotely interested in a player who can bash right-handed pitching and only costs $900,000. Heck, just looking at last night's box scores, I can point out a team that definitely could use Stairs.

Maybe they didn't know it before, but after managing just four hits, two walks and no runs against Jorge Sosa, the Mariners must realize that they are at least one bat short of having a good offense.

The area in which the Mariners are especially deficient is hitting right-handed pitching. Want to guess how many Seattle players -- counting everybody, no matter how few at-bats they've had -- have an OPS against right-handed pitchers higher than Stairs' .982?

The answer is just one. Jamie Moyer is 1-for-2, which works out to hitting .500/.500/.500 (1.000), against righties this year.

Only Bret Boone, who is hitting .309/.367/.578 (.945) against righties, has an OPS above .860 among all the Mariners with at least 10 at-bats against right-handers this season.

I know Stairs isn't as good in the outfield as Randy Winn, but Winn is hitting just .267/.322/.366 (.688) against right-handers this season. I'll do the math for you and point out that Stairs' OPS against righties is 294 points higher than that.

I know Pat Gillick hates making trades (although he did get lucky with Rey Sanchez. I don't know how a player hits .207/.240/.236 in 174 at-bats with one team and then .348/.390/.384 in 112 at-bats with another team), but he should have traded for Stairs. It probably wouldn't have cost him much, and it could have really helped the Mariners. Even if Seattle didn't use him against righties every day, Stairs would have given them a potent pinch-hitter against a right-hander.

I don't know which team is to blame for Stairs not being traded -- Seattle for not offering anything or Pittsburgh for not accepting the offer -- so I'll blame both of them. It may not seem like a big deal, but it really could have helped both teams. The Pirates would have gotten a player they might be able to use down the road and the Mariners would have gotten a player who might have helped get them into the playoffs.

At any rate, I'm glad the trade didn't happen for two reasons. One, it gave me something to write about today. Two, the Mariners are now half a game behind the Red Sox in the wild card race, and they do not scare me at all.

While I'm bashing teams for moves they didn't make, I thought I'd check in on an earlier trade and bash a team for a move it did make. When the Red Sox traded Shea Hillenbrand to the Diamondbacks for Byung-Hyun Kim, there were two distinct camps.

Sabremetrically inclined baseball fans thought it was an absolute steal for the Red Sox, and other fans wondered why Boston would get rid of a cheap, young, .300-hitting third baseman.

Well, after hitting .303/.335/.443 (778) in 185 at-bats for the Red Sox, Hillenbrand has hit .261/.291/.474 (.764) with the Diamondbacks. That is pretty bad, especially that OBP, but it's not a complete and utter black hole for a third baseman.

There's a bit of a problem, though. If you look at his player page on closely, you'll notice that Hillenbrand is no longer listed as a third baseman. He's listed as a first baseman. After playing 29 games at third and 28 games at first with Boston, Hillenbrand has played 25 games at third and 41 games first for Arizona.

Hillenbrand's "production" this season has been simply awful for a first baseman. In Arizona's organization alone, I'm sure there are two or three players who could provide adequate defense at first base and hit better than Hillenbrand has. There is simply no good reason to ever use Hillenbrand as a first baseman.

Arizona got rid of a good, young pitcher for a bad, not-quite-as-young hitter. It was and still is an awful deal.

Now, Kim hasn't been as lights out as Red Sox fans had hoped he would be, but he does have a 3.55 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 62 strikeouts (7.86 K/9IP) and 17 walks (2.15 BB/9IP) in 71 innings. And he's 3.5 years younger than Hillenbrand.

The biggest reason trading Hillenbrand has been good for the Red Sox, however, is that they haven't been able to use him at first base like they were doing occassionally when he was on the team. It also doesn't hurt that they haven't been able to use him at third base. With Hillenbrand in Arizona, the Red Sox have three players who have been able to play pretty much every day, instead of one of them having to sit to make room for an unproductive hitter.

In case you're not aware, those three players are David Ortiz, Bill Mueller and Kevin Millar. Ortiz is hitting .293/.375/.602 (.977) with 35 doubles, 25 home runs and 84 RBI in 107 games. Mueller is hitting .319/.394/.543 (.936) with 41 doubles, 17 home runs, 73 runs and 74 RBI in 126 games. Millar is hitting .279/.355/.482 (.837) with 27 doubles, 22 home runs, 78 runs and 85 RBI in 128 games.

The Red Sox are currently scoring 6.05 runs per game (841 runs in 139 games) which puts them on pace for 980 runs. They still have a shot at scoring 1,000 runs, which they almost certainly would not have if they had kept Hillenbrand. More important, they still have a (good) shot at making the playoffs, which they also might not have had they kept Hillenbrand.

While I'm doling out congratulations to Boston's front office, I want to congratulate Kansas City's front office and ownership for not trading Carlos Beltran, who makes $6 million this year and will make a lot more next year.

After going 3-for-3 with a walk and three steals yesterday, Beltran is now hitting .306/.394/.514 (.907) with eight triples, 21 homers, 82 runs, 86 RBI and 33 steals in 36 attempts (91.7-percent success rate). In addition to being one of the best offensive centerfielders in baseball at the moment, he may also be the best base-stealer in baseball history.

In his career, Beltran has stolen 142 bases and been thrown out 19 times. Among all players with at least 200 stolen-base attempts (a group which does not yet include Beltran), I believe Tim Raines has the record with an 84.7-percent success rate (808 steals, 146 times caught stealing). Beltran's success rate for his career is currently at 88.2-percent, which is simply amazing.

The Royals may not win the AL Central (they are currently in third place, 1.5 games back) and they may not even finish with a winning record (they are currently 71-67), but they have certainly revived fan interest in their team. Last night, the Royals drew 20,385 fans to the ballpark, which isn't bad for a Thursday. So far this season, the Royals have drawn more than 20,000 fans to their home ballpark 37 times. In all of last season, the Royals had more than 20,000 fans at a home game just 21 times.

That is a tremendous improvement, and Beltran is a big part of the reason for it. The Royals may still trade Beltran in the offseason, but waiting until the offseason and allowing the team to try and make the playoffs will engender some good will with the fans.

Finally, I have some football-related stuff to talk about.

First, as I mentioned the other day, I am writing a weekly fantasy football column for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. Here is the link to my first-ever column in a major daily newspaper:

Fantasy football: You're not the only owner looking for RB

I'm not technically a columnist because I don't get my headshot in the paper and the column doesn't get put in the "columnists" section on the website, but I get to use the first person and give my opinion, so that's all that really matters.

Also, Seth Stohs, who writes the blog Seth Speaks, which I have added to my list of links to the right, asked me if I would make picks for every NFL game this year, which he would post on his web site. I happily agreed, so myself and eight other people will be trying to correctly pick as many games as possible. Here's the link to see how we all picked this week.

Not only am I interested in beating everybody else Seth asked, I also want to see how I stack up against ESPN's expert football game pickers. I'll let you guys know how I do each week.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

I'm a columnist now!

Well, sort of.

I'm still only employed part-time in the sports department at the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, but I have just been given the opportunity to write a fantasy football column for the next 17 weeks.

Obviously, this is, if not the highlight of my writing career, well up there. I'm hoping that this encourages them to hire me full-time and also that they let me write a fantasy baseball column next year.

For now, however, I'm just concentrating on putting together a good fantasy football column, which will appear in the paper every Friday. I will post a link to the column here when it comes out each week.

For this week, the good news means that I will be taking yet another day off from blogging so that I can research what I want to write about tomorrow. I will be back with at least one post tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

I love this game!

Baseball is certainly not a game for those with weak hearts. If you do not like being disappointed many dozens of times over the course of a summer, then you should definitely not try to become a die-hard fan of any baseball team. Unlike football, where even the worst teams only have to deal with losing 15 times a year, the best baseball teams must take the emotional blow of a loss about 60 times.

I've often talked about how difficult it is to be a Red Sox fan outside of New England, because I do not get to watch nearly as many games on TV. This year, however, it may be a good thing.

Boston is a good team this year and it is a fun and exciting team. It is also a very draining team. Almost every win feels like it could have been lost 10 different ways and almost every loss feels like it should have been won 10 different ways.

The emotions are a little easier to control, however, when you are not watching or listening to every single pitch. This weekend, however, I have been watching and listening.

Living in New York, I get the YES Network as part of my cable package. So, I happily watched as the Red Sox pounded the Yankees on Friday night. Then I watched and listened to most of an agonizing loss on Saturday afternoon before finally watching every pitch of another excruciating loss on Sunday.

And today, Boston's makeup game with the Phillies was on ESPN2, so I was able to watch this thriller as well.

The bottom of the first inning had just ended when I turned on the game and saw that the Red Sox were already trailing 2-0. I would later learn that the Red Sox had not scored in the first inning despite drawing two walks, but the first part of the game I really saw was Boston going down rather meekly in the second.

Still, I've seen enough of the Boston offense to know that a two-run deficit would not be all that difficult to overcome, so all I wanted was for Jeff Suppan to settle down and hold the Phillies down a bit.

Then, Tomas Perez singled to lead off the bottom of the second. Luckily, Philadelphia starting pitcher Brett Myers was up next, and he sacrificed Perez over to second. After Todd Walker made a nice play on a Marlon Byrd line drive, I felt confident that the score would not change before the bottom of the third.

I didn't count on Suppan hanging a breaking ball to Jimmy Rollins, who deposited it over the right-field wall. Rollins is now hitting .267/.318/.386 (.705) with seven homers, 41 walks and 94 strikeouts. If you let him hit a home run off you, it simply means that you were not concentrating hard enough on making good pitches.

So, the game went into the third inning with the Red Sox trailing 4-0 rather than 2-0. Before I had a chance to become despondent, however, Boston's metronomic offense clicked on.

Johnny Damon led off with a walk and then stole second (by the way, Damon has a .399 OBP since the All-Star break). Walker followed with a nice nine-pitch at-bat that ended with him slapping a high 3-2 pitch into right field for a single that moved Damon to third.

Nomar Garciaparra, whose double play was mainly responsible for Boston not scoring in the first inning, was then robbed of at least a single on a nifty bare-handed grab and strong one-hop throw across the diamond by Perez. Damon did score on the play to put the Red Sox on the board though.

David Ortiz then knocked the second pitch of his at-bat into left for a single to move Walker to third, Kevin Millar took his third pitch into left field to score Walker and move Ortiz to second and then Trot Nixon slammed a 3-2 pitch into right field for an RBI double to make it 4-3 Philadelphia.

AL batting leader Bill Mueller followed with a groundout to tie the game at 4-4 and Suppan struck out after the Phillies intentionally walked Jason Varitek.

So, the Red Sox had a fresh start and Suppan was able to carry it through to the fourth inning by working around a walk and a single in the third.

In the top of thr fourth, Damon singled to get on base leading off an inning for the third time in four innings. After Walker and Garciaparra made outs, Ortiz and Millar walked to load the bases, bringing up Nixon with his first opportunity to break the game open for the Red Sox.

Nixon obliged, lining the ball into right field where Bobby Abreu made an awful throw back into the infield.

Damon scored easily and Ortiz was waved around by third base coach Mike Cubbage. At least initially. Ortiz is very slow and Cubbage eventually realized that the play at the plate might be close so he threw up the stop sign. But Ortiz wasn't watching Cubbage at that point, he was looking at the throw coming in and he ran right through the stop sign and on toward home plate, where Mike Lieberthal made an outstanding play by grabbing the bad toss in to him and diving to the front of home plate to tag out Ortiz and end the inning with the Red Sox leading 5-4.

ESPN's commentators for the game -- Gary Thorn, David Justice and Jeff Brantley -- criticized Ortiz for not sliding, but I don't agree. You see, Ortiz is a very large man and he doesn't slide particularly well or gracefully. Coming non-stop from second base, he had built up a lot of speed and trying to slide would certainly have slowed him down. Plus, Ortiz may very well have been safe. Lieberthal's glove and Ortiz's foot arrived at the front of home plate around the same time, but the replays seemed to show that they did not find each other there.

Either way, Boston went into the bottom of the fifth with just a one-run lead instead of what could have been a much more comfortable margin for error, and there would be a lot more error.

Suppan got the first out quickly in the fourth, but then walked Byrd on four pitches. Rollins followed with a chopper to Garciaparra, who would have had to make a perfect throw to get him. Instead, he threw a little wide of first base and Ortiz could not handle it, allowing Byrd and Rollins to move up a base each. And so, when Abreu followed quickly with a single, the Phillies had the lead back at 6-5. After Lieberthal grounded into a double play to end the inning, both offenses -- and both manager's brains -- disappeared for awhile.

Carlos Silva started the fifth inning in relief of Myers, who had been pinch-hit for in the fourth after allowing five runs on seven hits and seven walks in four innings. Silva gave up a single to Mueller and then struck out Varitek.

That brought up Suppan, and I thought that it was an easy call to pinch-hit for him. There was a runner on base and Suppan had given up six runs in four innings. It looked like he would pitch himself out of the game in the fifth inning anyway, so why not take him out to give your offense a boost?

Well, Grady Little thought differently than I did, and Suppan sacrificed Mueller over to second. With two lefties coming up and a runner on second, Larry Bowa decided to go to his lefty specialist IN THE FIFTH INNING. So, Dan Plesac came in and promptly walked Damon and Walker. That forced Bowa to go to Mike Williams to face Garciaparra, who flied out to left center to leave the bases loaded for the second time in his last four at-bats.

Suppan, however, rewarded Little's faith by facing just three hitters to retire the Phillies in the bottom of the fifth, although he did give up a single to Jim Thome.

Williams followed with an easy top of the sixth, allowing just a walk to Nixon, and Suppan then got the first 1-2-3 inning of the game to send things into the seventh inning with Philadelphia still leading 6-5.

Rheal Cormier came on in the seventh and got Philly's first 1-2-3, including Gabe Kapler who pinch-hit for Suppan, ending his night at six runs allowed (five earned) on 10 hits and three walks in six innings.

Scott Sauerbeck relieved Suppan in the bottom of the seventh and immediately tried to sabotage Boston's comeback chances by loading the bases with no outs on a single and two walks.

With the game pretty much on the line, Little turned to Mike Timlin. Timlin struck out Pat Burrell, got Chase Utley to ground to Ortiz who threw home to keep Philadelphia just a run ahed and then got Perez to ground out to end the inning without a single run scoring for the Phillies.

With that impressive performance by their pitcher, Boston's offense must have felt it was time to step up and contribute to the cause.

David McCarty (who is hitting .467/.500/.800 (1.300) in his brief time with Boston) pinch-hit for Walker and drew a lead-off walk. As those of you who follow the Red Sox know, Little is infatuated with pinch-runners, so Damian Jackson went to first base and McCarty went to the dugout. This is a fine move to make, because McCarty wasn't going to play second base (Walker's position) anyway, so he would have had to come out eventually.

Anyway, Garciaparra followed with a groundball deep into the hole at shortstop, which Rollins showed great range just to get to, but could not do anything with. With runners on first and second, Ortiz came up and pounded the second pitch he saw from the left-handed Cormier, off the 8 in the 408 sign on the center field wall.

Both Jackson and Garciaparra scored on the play and Ortiz went to third on the throw home. Ortiz was hitting .217/.261/.446 (.707) against lefties this season, but that coolness must have been outweighed by his recent hotness. In his last 11 games, Ortiz is hitting .436/.532/1.027 (1.559) with seven home runs, 13 runs and 17 RBI.

With no outs and Ortiz on third, Little decided that the situation called for another pinch-runner. So, Lou Merloni went out to third and Ortiz went to the dugout. Now, this move might have helped the Red Sox score a run, as Merloni is more able to score on a sacrifice fly than Ortiz is. However, the move also emptied Boston's bench and pretty much ensured that, if things got interesting, Jackson (.602 OPS) and Merloni (.732 OPS) would have to bat in the ninth.

Anyway, with a runner on third and nobody out, Millar hit a ground ball that Merloni couldn't score on, Nixon was hit on the wrist but able to stay in the game, Mueller struck out and Varitek grounded out.

Now, it was about 4:15 at this point. I had to work at 5 and I had yet to shower. So, with the Red Sox back in the lead, I thought it would be a good time to hop in the shower. When I got out, the game was tied and Philadelphia had just loaded the bases.

Apparently, Ricky Ledee had pinch-hit for Cormier and tied the game on a solo home run. Then, Byrd walked and moved up on a sac bunt, Abreu was intentionally walked and Lieberthal was hit by a pitch.

With Thome coming up, Little turned to lefty Alan Embree. Thome greated Embree with a two-run single, after which point catcher Doug Mirabelli replaced Embree and Byung-Hyun Kim replaced Varitek.

Kim got Burrell to ground into a double play, so Philadelphia went to the ninth inning with a two-run lead for closer Jose Mesa.

After throwing a mini temper tantrum, I sat down on the couch and watched Mirabelli draw a lead-off walk and Damon line out, bringing up Jackson.

I have been somewhat remiss so far in that I have not mentioned that Manny Ramirez, who missed the entire Yankees series, was at the ballpark but not starting. The ESPN crew showed him very frequently and guessed that he would be available for pinch-hitting duties. When Jackson strode to the plate to hit for himself, it appeared that Ramirez was not available.

No matter, as Jackson knocked a single into right field. Mesa's first pitch to Garciaparra was wild and the runners moved up to second and third. After another ball, the Phillies decided to intentionally walk Garciaparra to load the bases for Merloni.

Ramirez still stayed in the dugout and Merloni came up to hit for himself. On a 2-2 pitch, Merloni hit a chopper that third basemen Perez couldn't handle, allowing Mirabelli to score and bring Boston within a run.

This presented me with a problem.

As I mentioned, I had to work at 5. At the time of Merloni's hit, it was about 4:45. However, Bowa decided he had seen enough of Mesa and went to the bullpen. I decided that I would be way too late to work if I stayed through the pitching change and for the rest of the ninth inning.

Fortunately, my friend Rob called me on my cell phone and agreed to tell me what was going on as I drove into work. So Rob, who was a Yankees fan, unhappily told me that the Red Sox were going to win because Bowa was bringing in Turk Wendell. Wendell's 3.27 ERA coming into the game wasn't bad at all, but maybe Rob just doesn't like him. One stat that wasn't good for Wendell was 25 walks and just 22 strikeouts in 55 innings.

Sure enough, Rob gloomily recounted each of Wendell's six pitches to Millar, the last of which was a 3-2 slider that was waaaaaay outside, forcing in the tying run.

That brought up Nixon, who was 2-for-3 with a walk and a hit-by-pitch. Nixon has been destroying right-handed pitchers this season (hitting .333/.426/.627 against them) and Wendell is a righty. As Rob said, "Wow, he hit that a long way."

Of course, Rob didn't say whether Nixon hit it a long way fair or a long way foul, so I had to ask him. He grudginly admitted that it was a grand slam.

After Mueller singled, Kim lined into a double play and then pitched a scoreless ninth and the Red Sox won 13-9.

Over at Baseball Musings, David Pinto said this was some of the poorest baseball he has seen all season. He said there was poor hitting, poor fielding, poor pitching and poor managing and the only reason the fans got their money's worth was that they got a Mike Schmidt bobblehead doll.

I'm not going to argue about the poor managing part, but this was a great baseball game (and not just because the Red Sox won). Sure, it was fundamentally perfect, but it was a tension-filled, drama packed, meaningful, day-time baseball game in front of a packed house.

Sure, there was bad pitching -- the team's combined for 22 runs after all. But there was also good pitching. Williams gave Philadelphia 1.1 scoreless innings and Kim gave Boston 1.2 scoreless innings. And although Timlin's final numbers were ugly, he was impressive when he came in with the bases loaded and nobody out and shut down the Phillies.

Sure, there was bad fielding -- Boston made two errors and Philadelphia made one. But there was also good fielding. Perez had a "Web Gem" on the play that robbed Garciaparra, and Walker, Millar, Lieberthal and Utley all made nice plays in the field.

Sure, there was bad hitting -- the team's combined to leave 23 men on base and hit into five double plays. But there was also good hitting. Ledee had a double and a home run in two at-bats, Thome (two singles, two walks), Damon (single, three walks) and Ortiz (single, double, two walks) all reached base four times and Rollins went 3-for-4 with a home run. And, of course, Nixon went 3-for-4 with a walk, a HBP, a double and a grand slam for a grand total of six RBI.

So, the Red Sox played another crazy, crazy game and came out on top in this one. That means all is well in Red Sox Nation.

At least until the next game.

Monday, September 01, 2003

It's a race again

I'm not talking about any of the very exciting playoff races going on. I'm talking, rather, about the NL MVP competition between Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols.

Now, according to much of the national media, this race was never over. I've seen plenty of columns arguing for either one, even as Bonds pulled further and further away as an offensive machine this season. And I know what you're thinking -- Bonds hasn't stopped pulling away.

You're right.

Bonds is currently hitting .343/.526/.766 (1.292) with 40 homers, 93 runs, 80 RBI, 120 walks and seven steals in seven attempts. He also has a .423 EqA. That, obviously, is just not natural offensive production and is certainly MVP-caliber.

Pujols, in comparison, is hitting .368/.439/.687 (1.126) with 44 doubles, 37 homers, 117 runs, 114 RBI, 58 walks and three steals in four attempts. He has an EqA of .368. He's having an incredible season, but his offensive production isn't really in the same league as Bonds'. Pujols' high runs and RBI numbers are due largely to the fact that he hits in a much better lineup than Bonds does.

So, if Pujols is obviously not having as good a season offensively as Bonds, and their defense is probably a wash, then why am I saying that the race is back on?

Because I haven't yet discussed perhaps the most important number in this argument. That number would be 24, which is how many more games Pujols has played than Bonds.

Pujols has played 131 of his team's 136 games, while Bonds has played 107 of his team's 135 games. It doesn't really matter, but St. Louis has gone 2-3 in the games Pujols has missed and San Francisco has gone 14-14 in the game's Bonds has missed.

The statistic that perhaps illustrates the point most clearly is EqR. EqA basically takes a player's entire offensive contribution and transforms it into one number. EqR takes that number and modifies it by the amount the player has played. Pujols has 126.5 EqR this season, Bonds has 125.3.

So, you can see that, when playing time is taken into account, there is a useful statistic that shows Pujols to be the better offensive contributor.

I feel terrible for Bonds' loss and I certainly hope that his current medical ailment is not at all serious, but if the season ended today, I would have to give my NL MVP vote to Pujols (if I had one). And looking forward, I'd say Bonds is likely to miss more of the rest of the season than Pujols. So, unless Bonds gets his OPS up near 1.350, I think Pujols will deserve this year's NL MVP award.

Me making this argument is kind of strange, because I always get upset at people for giving the MVP award to somebody with lesser stats instead of giving it to a deserving Barry Bonds. This year, Bonds is again very deserving (and it would seem very strange to ignore a 1.292 OPS), but Pujols is also deserving and has put in much more time.

It's kind of like the argument facing people who vote for the Cy Young award when Pedro Martinez has one of his exceptional, but shortened seasons. Can you give the Cy Young award to a pitcher who is unbelievable for 28-29 starts when there is another pitcher who has been exceptional (apparently, unbelievable is one step above exceptional on my list of adjectives) for 35-36 starts?

I don't think you can. And I don't think you can give the NL MVP award to Bonds right now. Despite the ridiculousness of his offensive value.