Mailbag: Can CC win the Cy Young?

Mailbag: Can CC win the Cy Young?

How much does CC Sabathia have to pitch to qualify for the National League Cy Young Award?
-- Willis W., Madison, Wis.

There is no minimum to qualify; it's up to voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America to decide who deserves the award. Our Nationals beat writer, Bill Ladson, pointed out that Rick Sutcliffe won the 1984 NL Cy Young Award after a June trade from Cleveland to the Chicago Cubs. Sutcliffe went 16-1 in 20 Cubs starts with a 2.69 ERA and seven complete games, including three shutouts.

Sabathia also came from Cleveland in a midseason deal but will have fewer starts to make his case. He is already 6-0 with a 1.58 ERA and four complete games in his seven NL starts, a remarkable start to his Brewers career. If my math is correct, Sabathia could make 10 more starts if manager Ned Yost keeps him as close as possible to an every-fifth-start schedule through the end of the season, giving him 17 NL starts before the end of the year (including the regular-season finale).

Would that be enough to unseat someone like Arizona's Brandon Webb (17-4, 2.88 ERA, three complete games) or San Francisco's Tim Lincecum (12-3, 2.68 ERA, 175 strikeouts)? There are so many other good candidates who could get hot down the stretch to bolster their case (Ryan Dempster, Johan Santana, Edinson Volquez, Dan Haren or even the Brewers' Ben Sheets all have a good head start) that I have a hard time believing Sabathia will have enough opportunities to make a real case.

Unless, of course, he stays on his ridiculous pace, which would give him 14-15 wins, 120-130 strikeouts and nine or 10 complete games. If Sabathia comes close to those numbers, he would at least be an intriguing candidate.

By the way, Yost said Monday morning that he has several top-secret scenarios in mind for his starting rotation down the stretch. He could stay the course and simply bump all five starters back a day when the team is off, but even that won't work during the week of Aug. 25, when the team plays a two-game series in St. Louis sandwiched between off-days. If he changes things and keeps Sabathia and Sheets as close as possible to pitching every fifth day, it leaves them unavailable or only partially available for some of the biggest remaining series. Neither would pitch in St. Louis, and Sheets would miss a three-game series against the Mets in early September and all six remaining games against the Cubs.

Adam, lots of inquiring minds are dying to see someone ask Ned why Craig Counsell is playing so often, and why in the world he's batting sixth? Does Ned just not like Russell Branyan, or what? Counsell's OPS through Sunday: .625. Branyan: .928. This is madness.
-- Jeremy A., Ann Arbor, Mich.

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It has been a strange season at third base, a position we expected in Spring Training would be locked down by Bill Hall. When Yost says he is riding the hot hand in playing Counsell, he is not necessarily talking about results (Counsell was in an 0-for-13 funk entering Monday's game). He's talking about good, quality at-bats, and in Yost's estimation, Counsell has been stringing them together.

The move puts Branyan, who like Counsell bats left-handed, in a tough spot. He is one of those guys who is clearly better when he gets consistent playing time, and all of a sudden he has been sent to the end of the bench.

What are the terms of Prince Fielder's current contract? Does he have the choice of signing elsewhere next year?
-- Dave L., Menomonee Falls, Wis.

Fielder is eligible for arbitration for the first time this offseason, so while his annual salary will skyrocket, he remains Brewers property through 2011. The Brewers and Fielder's agent, Scott Boras, will have to negotiate contract terms this winter, and if they cannot agree, both sides will submit a proposed figure to Major League Baseball. They can then continue negotiating into February, and if they cannot agree, the case will go before a panel of judges.

It is not a pleasant process because it forces a team to essentially argue the faults of one of its key players. Given that the feelings between the Brewers and Boras are not exactly warm and fuzzy, and that Fielder was unhappy last spring when the Brewers renewed his contract for what Fielder felt was below his value, it could be a tough case.

Why aren't the Brewers platooning Gabe Kapler and Mike Cameron? Sure, Cameron is a good addition, but if it isn't a home run it's a strikeout, and that's getting annoying.
-- Kyle Z., Brown Deer, Wis.

To be fair, Cameron has gotten some clutch hits since Kyle e-mailed his question late last month. But the numbers are still below his career averages -- Cameron entered Monday's start hitting .232 with a .324 on-base percentage. His .806 OPS, however, was slightly above his career norm.

Cameron is the everyday center fielder as much for his glove as for his bat. As Yost sees it, the runs Cameron quietly saves defensively make up for his relative inconsistency at the plate. Fans can debate until they are blue in the face whether this is the right way to handle center field, but it's just the way the Brewers are doing it.

What are the chances that Sabathia and Sheets are going to be Brewers next season? They are both on their last year on their contracts. Will Milwaukee have the money to meet their surely high demands?
-- Kyle C., Reedsburg, Wis.

Don't hold your breath. And, if you do decide to hold your breath, pass the time by compiling a list of the mega-contracts for pitchers that look favorable to teams four or five years deep.

As I have said before, maybe the Brewers will catch fire, win the World Series and change their approach. Barring something dramatic like that, I just don't see how either pitcher, particularly Sabathia, who will have every big-market team after his left arm, could fit in the Brewers' plans. It is overwhelmingly more likely, at least at this point, that the Brewers will take the compensatory Draft picks and try to continue building a stable of talent to either advance to the Majors or use as trade bait.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.