The Cupboard is Bare: Franchises Still Searching for a Cy Young or MVP Award

No Texas Ranger has ever won a Cy Young award, not even Yu Darvish. (via Mike LaChance)

Coming into the 2017 season, only four teams in baseball had never fielded an MVP winner. One of those teams (the Marlins) ended their drought last year. Unfortunately for them, Giancarlo Stanton will receive any future MVP awards in the Bronx; the homegrown slugger was traded to the Yankees in the Marlins’ latest iteration of slash-and-burn agriculture.

Such is the life of the Miami Marlins, an expansion team that has won two World Series, one MVP and zero Cy Young awards.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that a team that entered the major leagues in 1993 has yet to field a Cy Young winner. But how about a team that came into existence in 1866? That’s right, the Cincinnati Reds have never won the top pitching honor in their 150-plus year history. In their defense, they had a legit excuse for their first 90 years since, ya know, the award didn’t even exist.

The Reds have had quite a bit of success in the Cy Young-era (1956-present). But the Big Red Machine ran on offense, it seems, because none of the hurlers from those World Series teams won the award.

Equally barren? The New York Mets, who entered the National League in 1962 and have never manufactured an MVP winner. The Mets are one of three holdouts, along with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Rays, aka., two expansion teams (1998) which have had far fewer opportunities to win the award. What’s the Mets’ excuse? Underexposure in a small media market?

Here’s a look at the four teams that have never had a Cy Young winner, including near misses, years they possibly should have won, and their best candidate for breaking the streak this year — followed by similar examinations of the clubs that can’t boast an MVP for good measure.

No Cy Young Award winners

Colorado Rockies

Do you think it’s fair to single out expansion teams for not winning major individual awards? Me too! The Marlins and the Diamondbacks both won World Series titles within the first five years of their existence, so it stands to reason that expansion teams should also be able to produce winners of the Cy Young and MVP awards.

Sure, you say. Except in the case of the Colorado Rockies and the Cy Young.

In 2014, SB Nation’s Grant Brisbee addressed the droughts that teams have had in producing winners of baseball’s major awards. He picked on the Orioles for not winning the MVP, Cy or rookie awards since 1991, but he gave a relative pass to expansion teams; in particular, the Rockies, of whom he said they would never, ever, ever win the Cy Young, so he didn’t even address them.

As a sports fan who just watched dozens of Eagles fans celebrate the team’s first Super Bowl victory by collapsing the awning of the Ritz Carlton, I can confidently report that “never, ever” sometimes becomes “well, maybe.”

I mean, just ask the Chicago Cubs or the Houston Astros. (Don’t ask the Cleveland Indians.)

Now, is it difficult for a Rockies pitcher to win the Cy Young when he’s pitching all of his home games in the thin air of Denver, where home runs emerge whole from the heads of baseballs? Sure. But is it impossible?

Since joining the National League, the Rockies have had just three top 10 finishers in the Cy Young voting:

Note: The Rockies could increase their odds of winning if they timed their great pitching seasons to those years when other pitchers are less unanimously awesome.

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

Jimenez led the league in winning percentage (.704) in 2010 and actually won a higher percentage of his games at home than on the road. But overall, his splits are pretty distinct.

He had more complete games (3-1) and shutouts (2-0) on the road. His WHIP was considerably better on the road (1.083 versus 1.239), and his strikeouts per nine were lower at home (8.5 versus 8.9). But his strikeout-to-walk ratio was better at home (2.53 to 2.19).

At home, batters had a much better OPS (.661 to .564) and a much better batting average on balls in play (.310 to .241). In short, it’s like we’re looking at the career home and away splits for Jim Rice.

(I’m a Red Sox fan; I’m allowed.)

Still, it’s not impossible for a Rockies pitcher to win the Cy Young Award. Will it finally happen in 2018? Well, last year the team had four rookie starting pitchers – German Marquez, Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela and Jeff Hoffman – anchoring a team that reached the playoffs. Will one of these four young bucks go where no Rockie has gone before? It’s possible. Heck, maybe two of them will even tie for the Cy Young Award. Don’t tell me it’s impossible. I know the meaning of that word (I looked it up) and the Rockies have a chance of finally breaking through.

Best candidate to win the Rockies’ first Cy Young in 2018: German Marquez.

Texas Rangers

One of my former buddies, a huge NHL fan and a supporter of the Boston Bruins, used to make cracks about the New York Rangers, saying the team would annually add a bunch of high-priced vets in a bid to win the Stanley Cup. He took to calling them the “Strangers,” since the players were largely unknown to each other and usually didn’t gel quickly enough for a deep playoff run.

If he were writing this article, he’d probably find the opportunity to refer to the Texas baseball team as the “Strangers,” since they’re unfamiliar with winning the Cy Young Award. So be glad he isn’t, while I’ll continue to be glad he’s a former friend.

Of the three teams that have yet to win pitching’s top individual honor, the Rangers should probably be the most ashamed. After all, they aren’t a recent expansion team and they don’t play in the thin air of Denver. The organization has been in existence since 1961 – first as the Washington Senators, and since 1971 as the inspiration for a Chuck Norris TV show – and they’ve employed Hall of Fame pitchers and reached a few World Series.

So why has a team that’s fielded the likes of Nolan Ryan, Fergie Jenkins, Bert Blyleven, Gaylord Perry, Kenny Rogers, Kevin Brown, Ken Hill and Yu Darvish been unable to notch a single, solitary Cy Young Award? Have any of these gentlemen been robbed of the honor? Were their well-deserved laurels incorrectly placed on the heads of lesser men?

I wish there were some interesting back stories to all this collective failure, but frankly none of their pitchers have ever really deserved to win the Cy Young. If you look at which pitcher has led the American League in WAR each year since 1961, you’ll notice that not a single Ranger or Senator is listed.

Is WAR the end-all, be-all standard for pitchers? Not necessarily. But oftentimes guys who led the league in this category were overlooked by the standards of the day – because they didn’t have the glitzy triple crown numbers that voters usually like to see in the win, ERA and strikeout columns. That’s not the case with the Rangers.

But they do have a mitigating factor. Though not as well-known as Denver as a launching pad, Texas and its high heat is definitely a hitter’s paradise. In 2017, Globe Life Park in Arlington ranked third behind Coors Field and Chase Field in MLB Park Factors.

Here are the team’s best Cy Young finishes:

1974: Fergie Jenkins (25-12) tied Catfish Hunter for the league lead in wins, while leading in complete games (29), walks per nine innings (1.2) and SO/BB ratio (5.0). They had the same number of shutouts (six), but Catfish had a lower ERA (2.49-2.82), a better WHIP and a better ERA+. Fergie had a better WAR (7.7-6.9), but Catfish was pitching for an A’s team that was about to win its third straight World Series and finished five games ahead of Fergie and the Rangers in the AL West. Should a team’s success affect the Cy Young voting? When two pitchers are this close statistically, I’d give my vote to the guy with the better nickname on the better team. Fergie finished a close second in the voting to Hunter (90-75 in overall points; 12-10 in first place votes).

2013: Yu Darvish (13-9, 2.82, league-leading 277 Ks) finished a distant second to Max Scherzer (21-3, 2.90 ERA, 240 strikeouts). Scherzer had a better WAR (6.7-5.9) and basically led the race from start to finish, going 13-0 before his first loss in July, at one point running his record to 19-1. Scherzer notched 28 out of 30 first-place votes, with some yutz actually voting for Chris Sale (11-14, 3.07 ERA, 226 Ks) and another voter casting a ballot for Scherzer’s Detroit teammate Anibal Sanchez (14-8, 2.57, 226), who had a far better ERA+ (162 to 144).

So, that’s it. In the entire history of the franchise, only two pitchers have ever finished in the top two in voting – which is one more 20-game winner than the team has in history (Rick Helling, 1998), Kevin Brown (1992) and Fergie.

Maybe Rockies and Rangers pitchers could up their chances of winning a Cy Young if they pitched all their games on the road…

Best candidate to win the Rangers’ first Cy Young in 2018: Probably Nolan Ryan.


During the 1970s, the Big Red Machine won six division titles and two World Series (1975-1976). Four different Reds hitters won the National League MVP award in that era – Johnny Bench (twice), Pete Rose, Joe Morgan (twice) and George Foster. None of their pitchers back then (or back anywhere) won the Cy Young, a strange distinction for an old franchise with so much success.

During the 1970’s, only three Reds pitchers produced a single-season WAR of 4.0 or higher: Gary Nolan (4.7, 1970), Doug Bair (4.1, 1978) and Tom Seaver (5.6, 1978). None came close to winning the Cy Young.

The 1975 Reds team, which won 108 games and is widely considered one of the greatest teams of all time, didn’t have a single pitcher with more than 15 wins. Only one of their pitchers, Don Gullett, received any Cy Young consideration: a single first place vote to help him finish fifth (!).

Do you think a single Reds fan would trade one of those mid-’70’s world titles for a single Cy Young Award?

That 1975 team didn’t simply batter teams. Yes, those Reds finished first in the league in runs scored and third in batting average. But the pitching staff – with its six starters with more than 10 wins and three with 15 – was truly balanced. They finished third in team ERA and first in saves, which were spread out among four pitchers. Interestingly, their pitchers finished last in the league in strikeouts.

Reds pitchers have finished second in the Cy Young voting four times:

1981: Tom Seaver grabbed the same number of first-place votes as Fernando Valenzuela (eight), but lost 70-67 in overall points. Seaver led the league with 14 wins in this strike-shortened season, but Valenzuela notched seven shutouts and led the league in strikeouts, too. He had a better WAR than Seaver – 4.8 to 4.0 – so it’s hard to argue that Tom Terrific was robbed of his fourth Cy Young.

1983: Mario Soto (17-13) led the league in complete games (18) and home runs allowed, which aren’t usually two categories that indicate a strong Cy Young candidacy. Still, he finished a respectable runner-up to John Denny, who led the league in wins (19), was second in ERA (2.37) and easily outdistanced Soto in first-place votes (20 to two).

1988: Orel Hershiser was the unanimous winner, but Danny Jackson matched “Bulldog” with 23 wins and bested Orel with a league-best 15 complete games. Unfortunately for Jackson, Hershiser lead the NL with eight shutouts and set a record with 59 consecutive scoreless innings pitched.

1995: Maddux (Greg, that is) won the award unanimously, but Pete Schourek finished second. Should Schourek have stolen a few first-place votes from The Professor?

Schourek: 18-7, 3.22 ERA, 160 Ks, two complete games, no  shutouts, 1.067 WHIP, 128 ERA+.
Maddux: 19-2, 1.63 ERA, 181 Ks, 10 complete games, three shutouts, 0.811 WHIP, 260 (!) ERA +

Um, no.

2014: Clayton Kershaw won the award unanimously, but Johnny Cueto finished second. Should Cueto have stolen a few first-place votes from that Dodgers ace?

Cueto: 20-9, 2.25 ERA, 242 Ks, 4 CG, two shutouts, 0.960 WHIP, 163 ERA +
Kershaw: 21-3, 1.77 ERA, 239 Ks, 6 CG, two shutouts, 0.867 WHIP, 197 ERA+

Um, no.

Best candidate to win the Reds’ first Cy Young in 2018: Luis Castillo.

Castillo finished eighth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting last year after only 15 starts. He was 3-7, which would have had him basically ineligible before baseball observers got wise to the questionable worth of a pitcher’s win-loss record; but he struck out 9.9 batters per nine innings, and far exceeded the league averages in batting average against (.202 versus .255), on-base percentage against (.279 versus .324) and slugging percentage against (.360 versus .426).

Miami Marlins

In addition to being one of the few teams that has never won a Cy Young Award, the Marlins (formerly of Florida, currently of Miami) have the longest postseason drought in the National League. Their last postseason appearance was in 2003, when Josh Beckett, Dontrelle Willis and others helped beat the Yankees and Derek Jeter (formerly of retirement, currently of running Miami into the ground).

The team has come close to taking the Cy Young on a few occasions, including 1996, when Kevin Brown finished second to John Smoltz but should have won. That’s right, Brown was robbed – not only of the Cy, but of a longer look on the Hall of Fame ballot. For our purposes, we’ll look only at his case for beating Smoltz.

Brown: 17-11, 1.89 ERA,  five CG, three shutouts, 159 K’s, 0.944 WHIP, 215 ERA+, 7.3 WAR, 2.88 FIP
Smoltz: Smoltz: 24-8, 2.94 ERA, six CG, two shutouts, 276 Ks, 1.001 WHIP, 149 ERA+, 8.0 WAR, 2.64 FIP

The bolded numbers led the league. Smoltz paced the NL in FIP. And Smoltz had seven more wins, but thanks in large part to a huge disparity in run support: Atlanta averaged 5.32 runs in games that Smoltz started, while the Marlins averaged 3.15 runs when Brown took the bump. But Brown’s ERA is more than a full run lower than Smoltz’s, while he posted a better WAR and a way better ERA+.

The Marlins should have won a Cy Young before they even won their first World Series in 1997. Meanwhile, I hope Brown gets a longer look from Cooperstown down the line. He’s got a higher career WAR than a lot of Hall of Fame pitchers.

2005: Man, check out this neck-and-neck race.

2005 NL Cy Young Results
Player Vote Pts 1st Place Share WAR W L ERA GS CG IP R SO WHIP ERA+
Chris Carpenter 132 19 83% 5.8 21  5 2.83 33 7 241.2 82 213 1.055 150
Dontrelle Willis 112 11 70% 7.3 22 10 2.63 34 7 236.1 79 170 1.134 152
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

Chris Carpenter bested Dontrelle Willis in winning percentage, innings pitched, strikeouts and WHIP, while Willis won out in WAR, wins, ERA, shutouts and ERA+. Carpenter had better run support in his starts (5.41 to 4.63) and the Cardinals won 100 games to finish first in the NL Central, while the Marlins won 83 games and finished third in the NL East. Still, Willis deserved to win, in my book. Two years before they won their second World Series title in 2007, the Marlins ought to have won their second Cy Young.

2013: The late, great Jose Fernandez finished third in the voting behind near-unanimous winner Clayton Kershaw (29 out of 30 first place votes) and Adam Wainwright, who received the other first-place vote. Fernandez had no complete games (and hence no shutouts), while Kershaw and Wainwright had two shutouts apiece and Kershaw had five complete games. You could argue that Fernandez deserved to finish second ahead of Wainwright — especially with a much lower ERA (2.19 to 2.94) and a much better ERA+ (176 to 127). But Kershaw was still clearly superior in those categories (1.83 and 194), while also having a better WHIP (0.915 to Fernandez’s (0.979).

Best candidate to win the Marlins’ first Cy Young in 2018: José Ureña. *checks roster* Nope, Jeter hasn’t traded him yet.

No MVP awards


In just the team’s second year of existence, 1999, Arizona had its first Cy Young winner in Randy Johnson. Many more Cy Young awards arrived in the years to come, as the Diamondbacks won five of the nine Cys in the National League from 1998 to 2006, with Johnson nabbing four (in a row) and Brandon Webb earning the honor at the tail end of that period.

But the closest they came to an MVP during that era was a third-place finish by Luis Gonzalez in 2001, when he finished far behind Barry Bonds in Arizona’s World Series-winning year.

In recent years, Paul Goldschmidt has been a perennial contender, finishing second twice (2013, 2015) and third in 2017. In none of those seasons did he come particularly close to winning:

2013: Andrew McCutchen nabbed 28 out of the 30 first-place votes, with third-place finisher Yadier Molina grabbing the other two. Goldschmidt had a monster year, but McCutchen was a worthy victor.

2013 NL MVP Results
Player Vote Pts 1st Place Share WAR Games AB Hits HR SB BA OBP SLG OPS
Andrew McCutchen 409 28 97% 8.1 157 583 185 21 27 0.317 0.404 0.508 0.911
Paul Goldschmidt 242  0 58% 7.1 160 602 182 36 15 0.302 0.401 0.551 0.952
Yadier Molina 219  2 52% 5.6 136 505 161 12  3 0.319 0.359 0.477 0.836
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

2015: Bryce Harper won unanimously with a WAR of 9.9, while Goldschmidt posted a career-best WAR of 8.8. They were a wash in pitching stats, though.

2015 NL MVP Results
Player Vote Pts 1st Place Share WAR Games AB Hits HR SB BA OBP SLG OPS
Bryce Harper 420 30 100% 9.9 153 521 172 42  6 0.330  0.46 0.649 1.109
Paul Goldschmidt 234  0  56% 8.8 159 567 182 33 21 0.321 0.435 0.570 1.005
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

2017: Goldschmidt finished third behind Giancarlo Stanton, who barely beat out Joey Votto (302 to 300 in total points). Goldschmidt drew four first-place votes, though (to 10 each for Stanton and Votto) but he definitely didn’t get robbed of the award. His WAR (5.8) was considerably less than Stanton (7.6) and Votto (7.5).

Best candidate to win the Diamondbacks’ first MVP in 2018: I’m going with Paul Goldschmidt.


For many years, the Mets were the last major league team to not have a pitcher throw a no-hitter. A team that’s fielded a cornucopia of pitching greats – including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden – had to wait till 2012, the franchise’s 51st season, till Johan Santana finally brought honor to the team by allowing five baserunners (but no hits!) as the team beat the Cardinals. Nowadays, the Mets are the last National League team not founded in 1998 to not have an MVP winner.

As a Red Sox fan who was 13 years old in 1986, I used to hate the Mets with the heat of a thousand suns. That heat has cooled considerably over the years as it’s become readily apparent that this franchise and its fans are not to be envied. They really are a star-crossed organization. They’ve won two World Series, but never an MVP – in New York, where valuable guys like to go. Unfortunately, those guys always seem to end up in the Bronx.

The Mets have come close a few times, with three second-place finishes.

1969: Tom Seaver (25-7, 2.21, 208 Ks) lagged behind Willie McCovey, who led the Senior Circuit in home runs, runs batted in, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS+. Seaver led the league only in wins, and stat geeks worth their pocket protectors will tell ya wins are a bogus measuring stick, anyway.

1984: Keith Hernandez led the league in nothing and finished second to Ryne Sandberg, who had the most runs and the most triples in the National League. Hernandez was very well-rounded, though – just not as round as Ryno.

1988: Darryl Strawberry gave Kirk Gibson a run for his money, but lost 272 to 236 in the point totals, with seven first-place votes to Gibson’s 13. An iconic image of that season is Gibson limping around the bases after homering off Dennis Eckersley in the World Series, so it’s easy to forget that Gibson actually stole 31 bases in 1988. Straw stole 29 himself to go along with 39 home runs. But Gibson had a better WAR (6.5-5.4). Gibson probably had less sex in the clubhouse between innings, though, so props to Straw on that.

Best candidate to win the Mets’ first MVP in 2018: Mike Trout. I mean, they could always trade for him, right? Needless to say, the 2018 National League MVP is not currently on their roster.


Perhaps it was a harbinger of things to come that Tampa Bay Devil Rays were abbreviated as “TBD” by, as the franchise’s ability to win its first World Series and Most Valuable Player award is still “to be determined,” 20 years after the team came into existence.

A Rays player didn’t appear in the total for MVP voting until the team’s sixth season, 2003, when Aubrey Huff nabbed four total points to finish 24th. Apparently the experience spooked the entire organization, because no one on the team made a bid to be most valuable in 2004 – even though 30 American League players earned at least one vote point.

Jorge Cantu followed in Huff’s pioneering footsteps and finished 25th in the 2005 voting, and soon the Rays had the MVP bug – Carl Crawford (26th in the voting 2006); Carlos Pena (ninth (!) in 2007; and then the dam broke loose in the team’s pennant-winning 2008 season, when Pena repeated at ninth, Evan Longoria made his MVP ballot debut at No. 11 and Jason Bartlett had his one-and-done MVP ballot appearance at No. 18.

The dalliance with most valuableness would peak for Tampa Bay in 2010 when Longoria finished sixth, far outdistanced by Miguel Cabrera. Tampa sent no one to the MVP ballot in 2017 and seems uninterested as a franchise in developing potential candidates. But hey, at least Jonah Keri wrote a book about the Rays and they once appeared in a World Series.

Having valuable players is overrated anyway.

Best candidate to win the Rays’ first MVP in 2018: Corey Dickerson.

We’ll all have to wait and see if 2018 will prove to be any different, or if these seven teams will see their cupboards remain bare.

References and Resources

Cameron Martin has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, Page 2 of, Yahoo! Sports, CBS Sports and other publications. Email him here.
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4 years ago

The name of the Ray’s player is Corey DickerSON.

4 years ago

I can’t tell if Dickerman was a joke or a typo.

4 years ago

You are amiss in not at least mentioning David Wright, who led the NL in WAR in 2007 but finished 4th in MVP voting.

And give Michael Conforto some credit – he had 4.4 WAR last year and may finally force the Mets to give him regular playing time.

4 years ago

You are amiss in not mentioning David Wright, who led the NL in WAR in 2007 but finished 4th in MVP voting.

Also, don’t neglect Michael Conforto entirely – he had 4.4 WAR in just 440 PAs, and may finally force the Mets to give him regular playing time.

4 years ago

For the Mets, the player who probably deserved it most was Gooden in 1985. He won the pitcher’s triple crown and his 13.3 bWAR was more than 5 WAR higher than Willie McGhee, Dave Parker and Pedro Guerrero, the 3 players who finished above him in MVP voting.

4 years ago
Reply to  GoNYGoNYGoGo

Little known fact: according to B-Ref WAR, Doc G had the best pitcher season (in 1985) of the past 100+ years.

4 years ago

Kevin Brown did not get robbed by Smoltz in ’96. By WAR, ERA+, FIP, strikeouts, and innings pitched Smoltz has him beat soundly. And, if you promise not to waste my time with the ERA argument, I won’t waste yours with the wins argument.

4 years ago

How… How is the Rockies’ best chance not Jon Gray?

4 years ago

Isn’t it pretty damn redundant to compare players in a single season and reference both ERA and ERA+? They’re the same damn thing, so of course the person leading in one would lead in the other.

4 years ago
Reply to  superhtown

superhtown, ERA and ERA+ are not the same damn thing. The latter is adjusted for park factors and league average, the former is not.

Example: In the Rockies inaugural season of 1993:

Rockies team ERA: 5.41, worst in the NL
Pirates team ERA: 4.77, 2nd worst

Pirates team ERA+: 85, worst in the NL
Rockies team ERA+: 88, 2nd worst
ERA+ = 100 = league average when adjusted for park factors

Fenway, Wrigley, and Fulton-County Stadium also caused pitchers to seem worse then they actually were, while the Astrodome, Shea, and Dodger Stadium did the opposite.

I’d say that the only way any Rockies pitcher will win a Cy Young is if the team moves into a dome to neutralize park effects, and their ace wins 20 games and takes the team all the way.

4 years ago

Crazy to see these huge CG numbers, even as recently as 2005.

Paul G.member
4 years ago

Another time the Mets could have won the MVP was 2006. Carlos Beltran was slightly behind Albert Pujols in WAR (8.5 vs. 8.2 bWAR, 8.1 vs. 7.8 fWAR). Both of their teams won the division but the Mets had the best record in the NL and the Cardinals are the team known as one of the worst teams to win the World Series. So the voters gave the award to Ryan Howard who hit 58 homers for an also-ran team. Lance Berkman also finished ahead of Carlos for some reason.

4 years ago

In 2014, Kershaw missed the entire month of April. He certainly beats Cueto on a rate basis – 197 ERA+ to 163, to use one metric. But that’s a huge innings deficit. 7 starts, 45 innings. The CYA vote should have been much closer than it was.

FWIW, if you add Kershaw’s two playoff starts his ERA goes from 1.77 to 2.14. Cueto had a 2.25. And he’d still have 32 more innings than Kershaw.

Jon L.member
4 years ago

Thor is the most likely Met to win the 2018 NL MVP Award.

4 years ago

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4 years ago

The Rockies will never win a Cy Young until the BBWAA does two things.

1) Stops calling Coors Field a cancer or a joke and therefore completely biasing themselves against everything Rockies because of their hatred for the the park. I understand many don’t feel this way but a large amount due and have publicly stated such things.

2) Start giving the pitchers a bonus commensurate to the amount they detract from a hitter’s accomplishment for playing half their games at Coors because otherwise it’s hypocritical. Ubaldo Jimenez’s 2.88 ERA that year for playing half of his games at Coors is absolutely insane. They say Coors adds around 1 run to a pitchers ERA over the course of a season so think about that.