Monday, October 29, 2012

Breakdown of the Goose Gossage Awards

So now that I’ve posted my End of the Year Award winners, I thought I’d take my readers through my thought process, see the others I considered for each award and explain why I chose who I chose.  And I’ll finish with my Goose Gossage Award winners.

This one was a little goofy.  I made my picks, copied it off of Microsoft Word (like I always do) and pasted it into my blog.  Then, when I went back to the Word document to work on the breakdown, I thought that I forgot to post my Goose Gossage Award winners.  In reality, they were just one page up and I didn’t see them.  I scrolled down looking for them, and found my initial stat breakdown.  I copied that, inadvertently copying the wrong AL pitcher to go with my correct NL guy and quickly tried to post it on the blog before the deadline to post awards passed.  In doing so I falied to notice two things: 

1.              I actually had posted my Goose Gossage Award winners with the rest of my award winners
2.              And that I copied the top name in both sections of my stat breakdowns, not realizing that both top guys weren’t the winners I chose.  They just happened to be the guys whose stats I looked at first.  The NL guy was correct.  But the AL guy was wrong.

I apologize for any confusion.  But I hope I cleared it up.  And now I’ll clear up my thinking so you can see why I chose the guys I chose.

The race in the AL was a little easier than the NL one.  I considered three guys, but one rose above the rest pretty easily.  The pitchers I considered were Jim Johnson of the Orioles, Rafael Soriano of the Yankees and Fernando Rodney of the Rays.  And in typing that sentence I now notice that all of them are from AL East teams.  What do you know?

Johnson had to be the best story and biggest surprise.  He actually led the league in Saves with 51.  And while his 2.49 ERA and 1.02 WHIP were pretty good, they weren’t nearly as dominant as the other guys he was up against.  Closers have tougher numbers standards.  And in one inning, you’d have liked to see a lower ERA and a miniscule BAA.  Johnson’s was 220.  That’s not bad for a starter, but pretty middle of the road for a closer.  I think he had a fantastic year, but the number of Saves isn’t the only thing that matters in this race.  And other than that one stat, he didn’t dominate.

The second man on this list is in the running for the situation he stepped into in addition to his strong numbers.  Rafael Soriano of the Yankees was asked to do the impossible:  replace Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer of all time.  Luckily he got to do it in New York where the fans are known for their patience and level headedness….wait.  Even though he didn’t spend the whole season as a closer, he was still third in the league with 42 Saves.  In addition, he was pretty dominant with 69 Ks in 67 IP and a 217 BAA.  His ERA was solid (2.26) but his WHIP was too high at 1.17.  In the end though, his numbers were very good as the closer.  Better than when he was a middle reliever.  And he came into an impossible situation and played very well.  He played well enough to almost take the award in my opinion, but there was one other guy who rose above the rest.

And that man was Fernando Rodney of the Rays.  I liked the other guys a lot, but this one wasn’t too close.  Rodeny was second in the league with 48 Saves.  But that isn’t what got the job for him.  He was also asked to step into the closer role after Kyle Farnsworth got hurt in Tampa.  He then held the job and completely shut the door on opponents.  His ERA was 0.60.  That’s not a typo.  It was 0.60.  His WHIP was actually higher than his ERA, coming in at a very strong 0.78.  he held hitters to a 167 AVG against him (BAA) and was overpowering with 76 Ks in 74 IP.  His name was next to ‘dominance’ in the dictionary this season.  Rodney ran away with this one.  And he was my AL Goose Gossage Award winner.

The NL was much tougher, though I only considered two guys.  Both guys will get a lot of votes and either is worthy of the award.  It’s kind of like another MVP situation, where both guys were so good that you can’t imagine either losing.  The two guys I considered were Aroldis Chapman of the Reds and Craig Kimbrel of the Braves. 

Chapman was tied for second in the NL with 38 Saves.  What makes that even more impressive is that he was not the closer when the season started.  He was just the highest paid, most impressive middle reliever in baseball.  Then the Reds thought, “Hey, why don’t we let the guy who throws 105 MPH take a crack at the 9th inning?”  They couldn’t be happier that they had that brainstorm.  Chapman was completely dominant. In 71 IP, he struck out 122.  122!  That’s the best strikeout rate in baseball.  Add to that a fantastic 1.51 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and 141 BAA and you have one of the most dominant closers in the game.  He was so good that it was almost impossible for him to lose this award.  But through no fault of his own (because he almost couldn’t have played any better) there was another pitcher with the same dominant streak who won the award in my eyes.

And that was Craig Kimbrel of the Atlanta Braves.  Kimbrel was tied for first in the league with 42 Saves.  And while he didn’t quite have the strikeout rate of Chapman, he was probably the second best in the bigs, with 116 Ks in 62 IP.  That’s still a phenomenal rate.  So if Chapman’s K rate was slightly better, why did Kimbrel get my vote?  Because Kimbrel was better in every other statistical category.  Both were dominant in every way.  The only area where Chapman was better was with the Ks, but Kimbrel was almost as good.  And, again, strikeouts are probably the least important statistic to a pitcher.  Kimbrel had a fantastic 1.01 ERA to go with a 0.65 WHIP and a miniscule 126 BAA.  Both pitcher’s were incredibly good and either is more than deserving of the award.  But I had to go with Kimbrel as my NL Winner of the Goose Gossage Award.

Okay so that’s the last of the awards breakdowns.  I’d love to hear what you think.  Share some of your picks with me.  And I’ll post the BBA’s final awards tally as soon as it’s all up.  Until then you can keep up with me by liking my Facebook page here.  It’s October!  Love the playoffs!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Breakdown of the Willie Mays Award

So now that I’ve posted my End of the Year Award winners, I thought I’d take my readers through my thought process, see the others I considered for each award and explain why I chose who I chose.  I’ll continue with the Willie Mays Award (Rookie of the Year).

In the National League, it came down to three people for me.  The first was the obvious choice, Bryce Harper.  The second was Todd Frazier.  And the third was the guy I ultimately chose, Wade Miley.

Todd Frazier was Cincinnati’s everyman.  He played all over the field and did a nice job.  His numbers were good, hitting 272 with 19 HR, 67 RBI, 55 R and 3 SB.  But as good as the numbers were, what really put him in the running was the way he stepped up for the Reds when Joey Votto went down.  Votto was out for the majority of the second half, and Frazier didn’t miss a step, taking over first base and keeping the Reds not only in the running, but also helping them race to the top of the standings to win the Central.  There’s no replacing Joey Votto, but Frazier did a fantastic job and they were unaffected by the loss of their best hitter.  As solid as his numbers were, what impressed me the most was the way he kept his team in it and didn’t miss a beat stepping in for the best hitter in the National League as a rookie.

Harper was the popular choice to win, and he had a great year for the Nationals.  He hit 270 with 22 HR, 59 RBI, 98 R and 18 SB.  Those numbers are pretty fantastic.  He came up to a club that was leading the NL East, and took over, hitting second in the order and doing everything they asked of him.  I was very impressed with his year, like I expected to be.  And no offense to Todd Frazier, but Harper just out hit him and was easily my runner up.  He scored almost 100 R, hit over 20 HR and stole 18 bases.  We could see a new member of the 20/20 club next year.  Harper was great, but was only second in the running in my book.

The player who got my rookie of the year vote was Wade Miley of the Arizona Diamondbacks.  I always think it’s harder for pitchers to get it going early in their careers than hitters.  And Miley was not in an easy situation in Phoenix.  After losing Daniel Hudson, their number 2 starter for the year, the Diamondbacks asked Miley to step up, and he did in a big way.  He won 16 games for a 500 team in Chase Field, which isn’t the friendliest pitchers park out there.  But he plugged up the hole in the rotation, eating innings and turning in a very impressive ERA in his first year in the majors.  I was impressed with the young hitters in the NL, but the poise of this young pitcher is what sealed it for me, making Wade Miley my Willie Mays Award winner for the National League. 

The AL was not close.  It was barely a race.  No offense to the other guys I considered, but I was ready to crown one of these guys MVP over a Triple Crown Winner.  But I did consider others for a brief second.  And those guys were Yu Darvish and Matt Moore.  And of course, my winner, Mike Trout.

Moore played pretty well.  He was another strong pitcher for a team of strong pitchers in Tampa Bay.  His 11-11 record was solid, as was his 3.81 ERA.  What really did it for me was his ridiculous strikeout rate.  He got 175 Ks in 177 IP.  But as good as he was he wasn’t even the best rookie pitcher in the AL this year. 

That honor belonged to Yu Darvish of the Rangers.  His numbers were a little better, but are all the more impressive when you consider that he did half his pitching in the Ballpark in Arlington, one of the best hitters parks in the majors.  He went 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA and 221 Ks in 191 IP.  Other than the ERA, those numbers are almost good enough to warrant Cy Young discussion.  Unfortunately for him there were a number of extremely good candidates for that race.  But he came in second in this one.  He threw almost 200 innings in his first season in the majors, playing in the strong AL West.  He was arguably the ace of that Rangers staff and played a major role in them getting to the playoffs.  16 Wins is impressive for anyone, much less a rookie.  And with over 200 Ks, he was dominant out there.  He was great.  Moore was good.  Yoenis Cespedes played well in Oakland too, better than anyone thought.  But this race was won by a large margin.  And the winner was Mike Trout.

Honestly it wasn’t even close.  His team had the best record in the AL ever since he was called up.  He was my MVP, second in the AL in AVG, first in SBs with 149 R and 30 HR and 83 RBI to boot.  He played Gold Glove caliber center field, while spending time in both corner outfield positions to help out the team early on.  He was the best player in the AL, and happened to be a rookie too.  That seals this award for him.  Trout was my Willie Mays Award winner for the AL in the easiest vote I had to cast this year.   

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Breakdown of the Walter Johnson Award

So now that I’ve posted my End of the Year Award winners, I thought I’d take my readers through my thought process, see the others I considered for each award and explain why I chose who I chose.  I’m continuing with the Walter Johnson Awards.

This was one of the trickier ones.  There were a lot of good candidates.  In the NL, I considered Clatyon Kershaw, Johnny Cueto, Gio Gonzalez and R.A. Dickey.  Like most of these, I really took a long hard look at the stats to make this decision.  I ended up going with Dickey, but it was tough.

Here’s a look at the stats these guys had.

R.A. Dickey:                        20-6, 2.73, 230 Ks, 1.05 WHIP, 210 BAA, 33 Starts

Clayton Kershaw:                 14-9, 2.53, 229 Ks, 1.02 WHIP, 210 BAA, 33 Starts

Johnny Cueto:                       19-5, 2.78, 170 Ks, 1.17 WHIP, 252 BAA, 33 Starts

Gio Gonzalez:                        21-8, 2.89, 207 Ks, 1.13 WHIP, 206 BAA, 32 Starts

Gonzalez had the most wins playing for a good Nationals team that made the playoffs and had the best record in the league.  And he took over the staff becoming the ace after the decision to shut down Stephen Strasburg.  But it’s tough to consider a guy who may or may not have been the best pitcher on his own team for the Cy Young.  And other than leading the league in Wins, his stats weren’t the best.  His 206 BAA (batting average against) was fantastic, but he still walks too many guys.  The Ks are impressive, but he wasn’t the best in that area.  And with the highest WHIP and ERA of the guys that I considered, he was the easiest to dismiss, despite his fantastic year.

It got harder after that.  Johnny Cueto was the ace of a talented young Cincinnati staff that also made the playoffs.  He had a very impressive 19 wins to go with a sub 3 ERA.  And he did all this in the Great American Ballpark, one of the best hitters parks in baseball.  But he didn’t have the strikeout numbers of the other guys I considered, logging only 170 Ks.  He actually had the worst WHIP and BAA of the guys I considered.  His 252 BAA was actually pretty average.  He still had a fantastic year and helped the Reds win the NL Central, but in a conversation about the best pitcher in baseball, his numbers weren’t as good as the other elite guys.  Ks aren’t the most important thing, but if you aren’t striking out a lot of guys your ERA and WHIP better be stellar.  And while they were good, they weren’t good enough this year.

So really it came down to the final two guys for me:  Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers and R.A. Dickey of the Mets.  Neither guy played for a playoff team.  But their numbers were good enough that it didn’t matter to me.  Kershaw led the league with a 2.53 ERA.  He was also second in the league with 229 Ks and sported a stellar 210 BAA and 1.02 WHIP.  He was the winner last year and had another fantastic season for the Dodgers.  Dickey led the league in Ks with 230 and was second in ERA with a 2.73.  His WHIP was a smidge higher and they had identical BAAs.  The only difference in these two pitchers was the Win total.  Dickey had 20 Wins to Kershaw’s 14.  If it was 10 years ago this would have been a slam-dunk, but the recent shift in understanding of pitchers’ wins changed my perspective.  It ended up being the tiebreaker for me, instead of the deciding stat.  Even more impressive was the fact that Dickey had 20 Wins for a Mets team that wasn’t as good as the Dodgers team that Kershaw pitched for.  Both guys had incredible seasons, but I think Dickey’s 20 Wins put him over the top.  It was an impressive year for him and he’s my Walter Johnson Award winner in the NL.

The race in the AL was just as tight, though I didn’t consider as many guys.  I ended up focusing on David Price of the Rays, Justin Verlander of the Tigers and Jered Weaver of the Angels.  And no disrespect to Chris Sale, but I think these guys were the top option in the Junior Circuit this season.  Here’s what they did in 2012.

David Price:               20-5, 2.56, 205 Ks, 226 BAA, 1.10 WHIP, 31 Starts

Justin Verlander:        17-8, 2.56, 239 Ks, 217 BAA 1.06 WHIP, 33 Starts

Jered Weaver:            20-5, 2.81, 142 Ks, 214 BAA, 1.02 WHIP, 30 starts

The numbers are pretty similar.  Any of the three is worthy of the award.  Verlander won 17 games for a Tigers team that is headed to the ALCS.  That’s a pretty obvious choice.  He won the award last year, along with the MVP.  He led the league with 239 Ks and his 2.56 ERA was stellar.  His 1.06 WHIP was fantastic and he held hitters to a 217 BAA.  He did everything well.  So did David Price.  Price won 20 games for a team that was good, but not playoff caliber.  His 205 Ks and 2.56 ERA were fantastic.  There was really nothing that he didn’t do well.  But I didn’t go with either of those guys.  I went with Jered Weaver.

Weaver also had 20 Wins for a good Angels team, though they weren’t good enough to make it to the playoffs.  However, he won his 20 games in only 30 starts, compared to Price’s 31 starts.  Verlander only got to 17 Wins in 33 starts.  His ERA wasn’t as good, as the other two (2.81) but his WHIP was a miniscule 1.02 and he had the best BAA in the league, holding hitters to a 214 AVG.

This is a situation where I don’t think the numbers tell the whole story.  First, Weaver isn’t a strikeout pitcher.  He had 142 Ks in 30 starts.  That’s not nearly as many as the other two guys in this discussion.  And his ERA, while great, wasn’t as good as Price or Verlander either.  However for the first time in a long time, the AL West was one of the best divisions in baseball.  The Central was very weak.  And the East had two bad teams and none of the other teams ran away with it.  The Rays couldn’t hit, the Orioles had a terrible run differential, and the Yankees struggled down the stretch.  In the West, pretty much every team hit all year, except for the Mariners.  And the West is where Weaver pitched all year.  I think that helps account for the difference in ERA.  And while Ks are important, any manager will tell you that they pale in comparison to the importance of getting batters out.  Greg Maddux won like 50 Cy Youngs and he only broke the 200 K barrier once in his career.  He won because he got batters out.  That’s what Weaver did.  His 214 BAA was the best in the league as was his 1.02 WHIP.  Batters just couldn’t get hits off of him.  And he didn’t walk guys.  The strikeout is exciting, but Weaver’s dominance is worthy of awards.  And that’s why he was my AL Walter Johnson Award Winner.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Breakdown of the Stan Musial Award

So now that I’ve posted my End of the Year Award winners, I thought I’d take my readers through my thought process, see the others I considered for each award and explain why I chose who I chose.  I’m continuing with the Stan Musial Awards.

And now it’s time for my mea culpa.  I made a mistake.  I did my best, but I was wrong.  I’m coming out the changing my AL MVP pick after a rash decision on my part.  Miguel Cabrera was my initial pick.  He’s a Triple Crown winner, the first in 45 years, and had a fantastic year.  He’s not a bad pick for the award by any means.  But a re-examination of the stats and the award itself has led me to see the error in my ways.  Mike Trout is my MVP and I’m ready to back it up.

Here are Miguel Cabrera’s stats this year:  330 AVG, 44 HR, 139 RBI, 109 R and 4 SB

Here are Mike Trout’s stats this year:  326 AVG, 30 HR, 83 RBI, 149 R and 49 SB.

The stats are close.  Closer than most people want to believe.  Trout was only 4 points behind Cabrera in AVG.  He trailed Cabrera by 14 HR, but had 20 fewer games to hit his 30 HR, which is still impressive.  Trout also smoked Cabrera in R and SB while playing a Gold Glove caliber center field compared to Cabrera’s subpar defensive third base.  The award is not an offensive award.  Offense is a major component, but it’s not the only mitigating factor.  If it was, how could a PITCHER have won the award last year???

The award is called the most VALUABLE player.  Not the best hitting player.  That’s the Silver Slugger.  There is also an element of which player is the most outstanding that has to be considered when giving the award.  Taking both of those elements into consideration, both guys are very worthy of the award.  But I don’t think any player was more valuable to his team than Mike Trout.

I can break down the stats, but the fact is they are incredibly close.  Cabrera has those 14 extra HR, but again had 20 more games to do it in.  The big stat difference that breaks in Cabrera’s favor is RBI.  He had 139 to Trout’s 83.  But Trout was a leadoff hitter who only had 142 games to play in the majors this year.  Cabrera hit third for 162 games.  I’m not just saying that the third hitter has more RBI opportunities than the leadoff guy, though he does.  I’m saying that Cabrera had more opportunities than anyone in baseball to hit with men on base.  He led the league in at bats with runners in scoring position.  And, for the purposes of this debate, had 70 more at bats with runners on second or third than Trout did and over 120 more at bats with runners on base period.  Modern sabermetrics has taught us that RBIs, while important, are so heavily based on the team a player plays on that they shouldn’t be as important as we make them out to be.  Otherwise, how could Nick Swisher have led the Yankees in RBI for most of the first half while hitting 6th.  So when you consider that the AVG difference was miniscule, the HR and RBI were in Cabrera’s favor, but with some big caveats, and that Trout annihilated Cabrera in runs scored and stolen bases, all in 20 fewer games I strenuously point out, you can’t say that Cabrera ran away with this award offensively.  I’ll give him the edge in the offensive stats, because in 3 of the 5 stats I broke down he was better.  Just a little better, but better nonetheless.  However I bring your attention back to the fact that offense alone should not be considered in a vacuum.  Justin Verlander won without any offensive stats in his favor last year, and only playing in 20% of his team’s games.  Offense is important to consider, but it’s not the only thing.

The other elements to consider are base-running, where Trout led the league in steals and was only caught 4 times, and defense.  Mike Trout plays center field.  A premium position.  And he plays it incredibly well.  It’s Gold Glove caliber in fact.  Miguel Cabrera plays a subpar defensive third base.  He didn’t commit a ton of errors, though he did commit some, and his range is abysmal at the hot corner.  You can’t ignore that factor.  Defense isn’t as sexy as offense, but it’s what wins games.  Well pitching is what really wins championships, but a pitcher who isn’t going to K 200 guys a year needs a strong defense behind him.  And Mike Trout’s defense in center field in LA was superb.  Possibly the best.  Miguel Cabrera’s defense at third was not even average.

The last point I hear in favor of Cabrera winning the award over Trout is that his team made the playoffs while Trout’s is at home.  That’s true.  But I think it’s important to point out that Trout’s team had the best record in baseball after he came up to the major leagues.  The Angels started out 6-14.  Then they called up Trout and he turned their season around.  The Tigers had Cabrera all year.  And while they stumbled along in the first half, they were able to put it together in the last few weeks of the season, and move up to take over their rightful place atop the weak AL Central winning 88 games.  The Angels fought all season long in the tougher AL West and won…89 games.  They won more games than the Tigers.  If they were in the same division, they would have been in first.  I don’t think that playoff argument can hold any water when the team that didn’t make it won more games than the team that did make it and only missed out on playoff baseball because they had to face tougher competition.  It’s not the player’s faults that the teams they played were better than other teams.  You can only effect what’s in your control.  And being in a better division hurt the Angels, despite the masterful season Mike Trout put together. 

Miguel Cabrera had a great season.  He won the Triple Crown.  That’s no easy feat.  But it also doesn’t guarantee him the MVP award.  Ted Williams won the Triple Crown in 1947 and 1942, only to see the MVP go to Joe DiMaggio and Joe Gordon respectively.  Chuck Klein and Rogers Hornsby both won Triple Crowns and lost the MVP to others (Carl Hubble and George Sisler respectively).  And Lou Gehrig finished 5th in MVP voting when he won the Triple Crown in 1935.  In the past the Triple Crown has not automatically meant an MVP.  And despite the excitement we feel over this one (the last one was in 1967…45 years ago) it shouldn’t cause us to overlook the facts.  And the fact that I see is that Mike Trout is the most valuable player in the American League this year.  He turned his team around proving that he was the most valuable piece of that team.  He had outstanding statistics, the other requisite for this award.  And he was the best player all around, excelling at the plate, on the field and on the base paths.

Now I fully expect Cabrera to win the MVP.  As far as the BBA goes, my vote is officially a Cabrera vote.  And people want to see him rewarded for his Triple Crown effort, an effort that I think is outstanding.  But I just don’t think he’s more deserving than Trout.  I actually did research to support my Cabrera pick, but a closer look at the stats ended up changing my mind.  I didn’t want to see Trout as better, but it still happened.  I’m not alone.  Check out Jeff Passan of Yahoosports’ take on it here.  And listen to the video he attached at the top of the article to hear Tim Brown give his thoughts on Mike Trout too.  Some say there is a changing of the guard.  Modern sabermetricians are using complex mathematical formulas and algorithms change the way we look at baseball.  They’ve already de-valued pitchers’ win statistics.  And they were right.  They are starting to move towards considering other offensive categories as more important than the big three, the very same three that make up the Triple Crown.  Older baseball fans do not like that.  But I tend to agree with math more often that what old men say they see based on their years of experience.  There’s no way to quantify, measure or prove that.  Anyone read Moneyball?  See the movie?  I don’t think ignoring those with a ton of experience is the right thing to do either, but you have to be willing to see all points of view.  I in no way consider myself a sabermetrician, or even an ardent supporter of them.  But I recognize the importance of their findings and think they should be considered.  And in considering all the data available, I am officially changing my Stan Musial Award winner for the AL from Miguel Cabrera, to Mike Trout.  It’s too late and technically my vote is still Cabrera as far as the BBA goes, but I’d rather admit that I was wrong and go on the record with my mistake and my new pick, rather than sit back and accept the pick the I originally chose that will likely win and is the most popular pick.  Think of it as a dissenting opinion.  Mike Trout is the AL MVP.  I only wish I’d have realized it sooner.

In the NL, I went with Ryan Braun as my Stan Musial Award winner and don’t think I’ll be retracting it.  Braun had a fantastic year.  He hit 319 with 41 HR, 112 RBI and 108 R.  There were others to consider as well, including Buster Posey and Andrew McCutchen.  But the numbers just ended up falling towards Braun, in my opinion.  His AVG was third in the league, behind Posey and McCutchen.  But he led the league in HR, was second in RBI (behind only Chase Headley) and first in R scored.  In addition to that, he had 30 SBs, making him the only 30/30 guy in the league.  He was one of only three guys that were near the top in all the major statistical categories that I considered.  He also was a menace on the base paths in a way that Posey was not while hitting more HR, driving in more RBI and scoring more R than McCutchen did.  His team didn’t make the playoffs, but neither did McCutchen’s, or Trout’s (and we know how I feel about that).  I always thought that should be what puts a player over the top if it’s really close, not a requirement for consideration of the award itself. 

In the end, I think Braun just has superior numbers.  He was arguably the best offensive player in the NL this season and also threw in great numbers on the bases while playing an excellent left field.  McCutchen may be better defensively, but he didn’t steal as many bases.  Posey may have had a higher AVG, but didn’t come close to Braun’s HR, RBI, and R totals.  And Yadier Molina may be in the postseason, but his numbers pale in comparison to Braun’s.  You can still think he’s a cheater who got out of a suspension on a technicality, but you can be certain that with the extra tests he had to take this season, that he was not on any PEDs in 2012.  Say what you will about his past, for me, he was the NL MVP and my Stan Musial Award winner for the National League.    

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Breakdown of the Connie Mack Award

So now that I’ve posted my End of the Year Award winners, I thought I’d take my readers through my thought process, see the others I considered for each award and explain why I chose who I chose.  We’ll start with the Connie Mack Awards (Manager of the Year).

In the National League I chose Davey Johnson of the Washington Nationals.  It was not too difficult to come to that decision, though there were certainly others worth considering.  Mike Matheny has done a great job in his first season in St. Louis.  Bruce Bochy deserves some credit for getting his Giants back into the race and winning the NL West.  But for me, it really came down to Davey Johnson and the Cincinnati Reds Dusty Baker.  Baker's club played hard all year.  After losing closer Ryan Madson in spring training and then Joey Votto for most of the second half, the Reds were able wear down the Pirates and outlast the Cardinals.  The Reds are coming back after a miserable year in 2011 where they criminally underachieved.  In addition, Baker led this team in what was essentially a lame-duck season this year as the top brass in the Queens City haven’t seen fit to give him a contract for next season.  But the players adore him, and he hasn’t worn out pitchers’ arms in the way he used to.  His Reds had a great year and were the best team in the second half this year.  But I still have to go with Johnson.

The Nationals skipper was coaching in his first full season in the bigs after an absence of over a decade.  He took over a team that had a lot of expectations, a lot of young players and a lot of hope.  D.C has been desperate for some good baseball ever since the Nationals arrived.  And Johnson didn’t let them down this year, leading his club to the best record in the National League and their first NL East title.  They got bounced in the NLDS, but they had a great season regardless.  Others were deserving, but Johnson is the winner in my book.

Now the AL was a much harder decision.  It essentially came down to Buck Showalter in Baltimore and Bob Melvin in Oakland.  Either guy is worthy of the award.  If I thought ties were acceptable, that’s what I’d do.  But I think it’s important to try and pick a winner, no matter how difficult it is.  And that’s what I did.  I ended up going with Buck Showalter in a very close race.  Here’s how I came to this decision.

The A’s were one game better than the Orioles.  That helped Melvin.  As did the fact that he took a team with one of the lowest payrolls in baseball that was expected to lose 100 games and was able to beat the two time defending AL Champion Texas Rangers and the big offseason winners, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  Those teams both have payrolls over $120 million, while the A’s barely break $50 million.  What he did was incredibly impressive.  Moving to the other finalist in the AL East, Showalter had a fairly low payroll, though more than the A’s.  However big spenders in Boston and New York and even Toronto blow his team’s payroll out of the water.  A few years ago, this would have been easier.  The AL East has been the class of baseball for years.  An Oriole team climbing from the bottom to second in the division and winning the wildcard would pretty much seal this for him.  But this season, the AL West was actually the better division.  So that all seems to break Melvin’s way.  But, the big difference for me was the culture of losing in Baltimore.  The A’s are by no means a powerhouse that consistently wins.  But they’ve had successful seasons in the past with three different groups of dominant starters and some division titles in the early part of the millennium.  But the Orioles haven’t tasted playoff baseball since 1997.  They have been one of the least desired free agent locations for years.  An assistant GM in Toronto turned down the full GM job in Baltimore, to keep his ASSISTANT title with the Blue Jays.  And we are talking an assistant GM for the Blue Jays, not the Yankees or Red Sox.  In a much more publicized rejection, Jerry DiPoto chose the Angels over the Orioles and some of the biggest free agent acquisitions of the decade.  This is what the Orioles had to deal with.  The GM they settled on hadn’t worked in baseball in a decade.  But he took some pieces that others overlooked, built a team of cast-offs, and sent it down to Buck Showalter to do his best.  And Showalter’s best was the best in the league this season, in my opinion.  He took a group that no one believed in, made them believe in themselves, and kept them going all season long, winning a ton of close games, and overcoming a gross run-differential to win in spite of everything.  So, no disrespect to Melvin, and if anyone voted for Melvin I couldn’t blame them, but I had to go with Buck for the incredible job he did with the Orioles.

Okay so that's part one.  I'll follow with my MVP breakdowns after this.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Goose Gossage Awards

Forgot to post my Goose Gossage Award Winners.  (Relievers of the Year)

For the NL:  Craig Kimbrel

For the AL:  Jim Johnson

Explanations to follow.

Friday, October 12, 2012

End of the Year Awards

As a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, one of our duties is to vote in one of the 4 yearly voting opportunities.  One of those opportunities is upon us as it’s time to vote for the end of the year awards.  It’s also the first voting opportunity that has come up since I joined the Alliance, and I’m honored and excited to be a part of it.  Here are the awards we are voting for:

The Connie Mack Award (compare to Manager of the Year)

The Willie Mays Award (compare to Rookie of the Year)

The Goose Gossage Award (compare to Reliever of the Year)

The Walter Johnson Award (compare to Cy Young Award)

The Stan Musial Award (compare to MVP)

So here are my winners, with a breakdown of my voting following in my upcoming posts. 

The Connie Mack Award

NL:            Davey Johson

AL:            Buck Showalter

The Willie Mays Award

NL:            Wade Miley

AL:            Mike Trout

The Goose Gossage Award

NL:            Craig Kimbrel

AL:            Fernando Rodney

The Walter Johnson Award

NL:            R.A Dickey

AL:            Jered Weaver

The Stan Musial Award

NL:            Ryan Braun

AL:            Miguel Cabrera

I’ll be following this post with a breakdown of how I made my picks, the other people I considered and some final thoughts on the season.  Share some of your picks.  I’d love to read them.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Facebook Page

Hi Friends,

If you get a chance, I'd love it if you could Like my Facebook page.  You can keep track of all my posts from there and even see some comments from people who don't post on the blog directly.

You can check it out here!

Baseball’s Historic Wildcard Game Overshadowed by their beloved “Human Element”

The first ever Wildcard Round Playoff game took place at Turner Field in Atlanta on Friday evening.  The game was historic because it was the first of it’s kind.  It also featured two of the National League’s most successful franchises, the defending World Series champs taking on the team they eliminated on the last day of the season last year.  This would have been the matchup we saw last year if there were a second wildcard.  It was the final game for Chipper Jones, one of the greatest switch hitters in baseball.  His next stop is Cooperstown.  And the final game of his career, a game played in his home stadium in a town where he spent his entire career, a game so historic for him that his number 10 was cut into the outfield grass, is going to be remembered for the all important “human element” that Bud Selig wants to protect more than the integrity of our national pastime.  A game rife with potential headlines is instead dominated by the memories of a call bad enough to make me wonder if the NFL’s replacement refs found work in MLB’s postseason.

For those of you who didn’t see the game, the Braves were trailing 6-3 in the bottom of the 8th.  There was one out in the inning with men on first and second.  The young shortstop, Andrelton Simmons, hit a shallow sly into left field that dropped between the Cardinals shortstop and left fielder.  The shortstop, Pete Kozma, called off the left fielder as he raced back for the catch.  However the ball continued to travel, further into the outfield than Kozma thought, and he lost it.  The ball dropped between Kozma and Matt Holliday for what looked like a bloop single, with the runners moving up.  The bases were then loaded with one out for Brian McCann and the crowd was going crazy.  But then the unthinkable happened.  Sam Holbrook, one of the two extra umpires provided by major league baseball for playoff games put his hand up at the last possible second, invoking the infield fly rule as the ball landed on the grass.

The crowd was understandably disgusted, and after watching the replay on the jumbo-tron, proceeded to shower the field with trash, perhaps hoping no one would notice with all the garbage Sam Holbrook was spewing.  The call was so bad that Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez finished the game under protest, though major league baseball denied an appeal on the play saying judgment calls aren’t up for review.  While the sentiment is true, the Braves were arguing that two aspects of the infield fly rule that they believe weren’t met.  First, the infielder had to make more than an ordinary effort to get to the ball, a ball that he actually couldn’t get to.  In addition, the rule states that the umpires shall call the infield fly rule immediately, not a half a second before the ball strikes the outfield grass.  However, ambiguous wording of a complex rule ended up being advantageous to MLB, as they have absolutely no interest in overturning any on the field rulings after the fact, as they want to avoid that can of worms.  The fact is that while the Braves are correct in saying that two aspects of the infield fly rule weren’t met, both the determination of ordinary effort and the determination of what an “immediate” call is are both judgment calls.  They are up to the judgment of the umpire.  Most people would define an immediate call as within about 3 seconds of the ball striking the bat, not 10 seconds later as the play has almost reached a conclusion independent of official interference.  But, again, the concepts of immediacy and effort are both left up to the umpire’s judgment, and judgment calls are not under the MLB umbrella of appeal.  Even if it was, I’m sure they wouldn’t overturn the call, claiming that there’s no proof that the call had a direct effect on the outcome of the game.  I agree, but I would also point out that there is no proof that the call WOULDN’T have an effect on the outcome of the game.  And the aftereffects of this call look like they’ll have more staying power than the memory of this first wildcard game.  Already we’ve seen a wave of criticism and discussion about the call.  I personally enjoyed this article by Jay Busbee of Yahoosports.  Or you could check out this article here.  And don’t forget about this one here.  Or even this more reasoned article from Tomahawk Take. 

Now, as a Braves fan, I can tell you that this play is not the reason Atlanta lost the game.  They couldn’t hit a thing and made three throwing errors leading to 4 unearned runs.  But, the team that plays the best doesn’t always win the game.  And regardless of the way the game went down, now there will always be some aspect of doubt as to what would have happened.  Any time an umpire potentially changes the outcome of a game it’s bad news, especially when he changes it with a terrible call.  The Braves were already the guinea pigs of this single game playoff experiment, which does more to de-value the regular season than any nightmare scenario dreamed up by the CEOs of the BCS.  The Braves won 94 games and had a 6 game lead over the Cards for the first wildcard.  And in one day, their season ends after a great year.  Baseball diehards already were shaky on a 5 game playoff series because they thought it devalued all the good work a team did in the regular season.  One game is a crapshoot, where any team can win.  It’s moderately exciting for baseball fans that aren’t rooting for either team involved in the playoff.  But it’s maddening to fans of a team that played great all year and has their season decided by a roll of the dice.  And if your starter gets hurt in the first, or your best hitter pulls in a muscle in BP, or, God forbid, an umpire changes the game with a bad call, there is no time available for you to fix it and make up for the mistake or bad fortune.  It’s one and done.  It’s not baseball.  It’s a football mentality in a non-football world.  Baseball is loath to change, except in situations that could earn it more money, even if that’s not what’s best for the game.  Honestly, the Commissioner’s Office is an analog player in a digital world.  But the answer isn’t to keep everything the same, hop in a time machine and see how you do.  The way to keep up is either to hold true to your essence or make small changes that improve the game itself.  Instead they try to keep everything the same but change its format.  Not a recipe for success.

I’m okay with baseball being slow to change.  I think they have a good product and they’ve been around a long time with a lot of success.  They should think hard about any changes they want to make.  But the problem is, they do change things.  They change plenty of things.  And the things they change are all built around money.  Again, that’s fine.  But don’t refuse to change aspects of the game that could feasibly make it better, while claiming that the game is too sacred to handle any adjustments, even the positive ones.  Instant replay is a controversial issue in the game.  I’m not sure where I end up on it.  But claiming you don’t want it because you want to protect the human error element is backward and shortsighted.  Sticking to that claim while making commercial breaks between innings longer and adding commercial breaks between pitching changes in order to sell more add time is insulting and hypocritical.

The world has changed around baseball.  The introduction of television, steroids and instant replay has an effect on the game.  To ignore that effect (steroids) is not a good idea.  To claim that its introduction will negatively affect the game (instant replay) is blatantly untrue.  To do both of those things, then bend over backwards making changes to reap the awards of television is nothing short of offensive.  The only reason this play didn’t shake the world in the same fashion that the Packers/Seahawks Hail Mary travesty did is because this play didn’t directly contribute to one team winning or losing.  Well that, and because it wasn’t on Monday night football.  (P.S.  My favorite NFL team….the Green Bay Packers.  The gods of officiating hate me).  At the end of the day, a potentially great game is largely forgotten in the midst of one of the worst calls I can remember.  Adding to the dismay is the fact that this was an historic game for major league baseball, though not a popular game that hurts the brand more than it brings in viewers.  But at least baseball found a way to protect the all-important human element of the game, the reason I think most of us tune in to the playoffs. 

P.S.  Baseball’s official Twitter page used to have a sentence on it’s page saying “We don’t understand the infield fly rule, either”.  I’m not overly surprised.  They took it down shortly after Friday’s game.  I’m sure that’ll solve everything.