Mauer a lock for AL MVP?

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Tyler Kepner, who covers the Yankees for the New York Times, sparked a mini-controversy with an innocent little tweet following Mark Teixeria’s heroics in a 4-2 win over the Mariners on Friday night.

“By the way, this is probably obvious by now, but Teixeira’s the AL MVP. No question, as Joe Torre would say.”

Rob Neyer and Joe Posnanski
have already whacked him on the head for suggesting that anyone besides
Joe Mauer could realistically win the award. I’m with them. As I
watched him go 3-for-3 against the Indians on Friday night,
raising his batting average to .375 for the year, I was hard-pressed to
think of another player even remotely worthy of the distinction.
After all, Mauer enters play on Saturday tops in the league in batting,
on-base percentage (.444), slugging percentage (.622) and OPS (1.067),
all while playing the most demanding position in the league.

But, in my quest to find his nearest competition, I decided to look at two leading metrics for evaluating players:

Wins Above Replacement (WAR) Leaders – AL:

1. Joe Mauer – 5.7

2. Ben Zobrist – 5.4

3. Evan Longoria – 5.3

4. Derek Jeter – 4.7

5. Marco Scutaro – 4.6

VORP Leaders – AL:

1. Joe Mauer – 64.0

2. Jason Bartlett – 49.9

3. Ichiro Suzuki – 43.0

4. Carl Crawford – 42.0

5. Michael Young – 41.8

6. Derek Jeter – 41.5

7. Kevin Youkilis – 41.1

8. Justin Morneau – 39.9

9. Ben Zobrist – 39.4

10. Marco Scutaro – 37.9

You know, just in case you needed
any more evidence that Mauer is far and away the best player in the
league this season. It shouldn’t be close, really. But I suspect that
Kepner is focusing on an old-fashioned idea like winning baseball
games. And as the Twins currently sit in third place with an 18.3%
chance of making the playoffs, according to
Cool Standings, Mauer could, but shouldn’t, lose a few votes if they miss out come October.

But if we want to use Kepner’s
argument, Teixeira might not even be the most valuable player on his
own team. With an improved UZR (+8.3) to go along with an excellent
.318/.387/.456 line and the metrics shown above, Derek Jeter has a
stronger case for some individual hardware.

Wild Card, Division series umpires announced

Angel Hernandez
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Major League Baseball just released the umpire assignments for the Wild Card Game and the Division Series. As always, the basis for these assignments is a proprietary, scientific calculation undertaken by Major League Baseball, mixing in (a) skill; (b) seniority; and (c) trolling of baseball bloggers who, unlike 99% of the rest of the world actually know the names and track records of various umpires and who are easily riled.

Which is to say that, while we have no Joe West in the early playoff rounds this year — too obvious, perhaps? — we do get an Angel Hernandez.

Here are the assignments. The asterisks represent the crew chief of each unit. Guys with little up arrows next to their names are regular season crew chiefs in their own right. Print this out and keep it near your television so you know who to yell about before the broadcasters tell you who to yell at:

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Which teams improved and declined the most in 2015?

Joe Maddon

I was curious about which MLB teams changed their fortunes the most this season compared to last year, so I crunched the numbers.

First, here are the biggest win total improvements from 2014 to 2015:

+24 Cubs
+21 Rangers
+16 Astros
+15 Diamondbacks
+13 Twins
+11 Mets
+10 Blue Jays
+10 Cardinals
+10 Pirates

The top five teams on the biggest-improvement list all had managers in their first season on the job, led by Joe Maddon joining the Cubs after tons of success with the Rays. Also worth noting: Of the nine teams with the biggest win total improvement, eight made the playoffs. Only the Twins improved to double-digit games and still failed to make the playoffs.

Now, here are the biggest win total declines from 2014 to 2015:

-20 Athletics
-16 Tigers
-15 Orioles
-14 Brewers
-13 Nationals
-13 Angels
-12 Braves
-12 Reds
-11 Mariners

Not surprisingly, a whole lot of those teams have changed managers, general managers, or both. And a couple more may still do so before the offseason gets underway. Oakland retained manager Bob Melvin despite an MLB-high 20-win dropoff and just promoted Billy Beane from general manager to vice president of baseball operations.