Daily Dose: Hamels, Phillies keep rolling

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Last week I wrote about why Cole Hamels’ disappointing win-loss record and bloated ERA misleadingly showed a big decline compared to last season when in reality he’s been nearly as good with just a lot less luck. Hamels was nice enough to make me look smart Tuesday night, hurling a complete-game, two-hit shutout for a 1-0 victory over the Giants.
Even with that masterful outing Hamels is still just 8-8 with a 4.26 ERA, but as noted last week nearly all of the underlying numbers that make up his performance are just as good and in some cases better than they were last year. He’s every bit the same stud as last season, Cliff Lee is 5-1 with a 1.80 ERA since joining him in the rotation, and the Phillies have now won 15 of 20 games.
While the defending champs look awfully scary after building a large enough lead to coast down the stretch, here are some other notes from around baseball …


* Monday’s trading deadline nearly came and went without any big action, but just as the clock was about to strike midnight the Dodgers made a pair of moves to pick up Jim Thome and Jon Garland for the final month. Thome is obviously a big name and put up big stats for Chicago with 23 homers and 74 RBIs in 107 games, but there’s no designated hitter in the NL and he hasn’t played first base regularly in years.
Immediately after the trade was announced Monday night Thome explained that he’s not physically capable of being anything more than an emergency option at first base and general manager Ned Colletti later confirmed that he’s being brought in strictly to serve as a pinch-hitter and possible DH for the World Series. That crushes Thome’s fantasy value while leaving James Loney’s mediocre upset intact.
* Along with sending marginal prospect Justin Fuller to the White Sox to get Thome as a bench bat the Dodgers also shipped a player to be named later that’s believed to be Tony Abreu to the Diamondbacks for Garland and enough money to cover his remaining 2009 salary and $2.5 million buyout for 2010. Abreu is an intriguing player now that he’s healthy again, but at that price the move was a no-brainer for L.A.
Garland recovered from a rough first few months to post a 3.45 ERA over his last 12 starts, but at 29 years old he’s well established as merely an innings eater. Garland is 8-11 with a 4.29 ERA and 83/52 K/BB ratio in 168 innings overall, has had an ERA under 4.20 just once since 2002, and features one of the worst strikeout rates in the league. Not a bad pickup for the Dodgers, but not worth much for fantasy teams.
AL Quick Hits: Carlos Carrasco was rocked in his MLB debut Tuesday, allowing five hits and a walk to the first six batters he faced … Michael Young will undergo an MRI exam after leaving Tuesday’s game with a strained hamstring … Sean Rodriguez will be a nice AL-only sleeper next season after coming to the Rays as the player to be named later for Scott Kazmir … On a related note, Andy Sonnanstine rejoined the rotation Tuesday in Kazmir’s old spot … Grady Sizemore may choose to have elbow surgery before the end of the year to guarantee that he’ll be ready for 2010 … Jose Guillen returned from the disabled list Tuesday after sitting out since mid-July with a torn knee ligament … Adam Jones exited Tuesday’s game with an ankle injury that looked relatively serious … Ken Griffey Jr. missed Tuesday’s game with a sore left knee … Carlos Pena blasted his MLB-leading 39th homer Tuesday to go along with just 38 singles.
NL Quick Hits: David Wright returned from the disabled list Tuesday after two weeks on the sidelines thanks to a Matt Cain beaning … St. Louis has reportedly extended closer Ryan Franklin’s contract through 2011 … Nate McLouth (hamstring) is slated to begin a rehab assignment Thursday at Single-A … Jose Contreras will make his Rockies debut Saturday … John Maine (shoulder) has begun a throwing program in the hopes of pitching again this season … In an effort to keep his workload in check, Mat Latos will be shut down for the year after making one more start Saturday … As expected, Jason Giambi joined the Rockies as a bench player Tuesday … Arizona acquired Kevin Mulvey from Minnesota as the player to be named later from Friday’s trade for Jon Rauch … Kyle Lohse (groin) threw a 40-pitch simulated game Tuesday and reported no problems … Johan Santana (elbow) and Oliver Perez (knee) both underwent successful surgeries Tuesday morning by the same doctor.

Who Should win the Rookie of the Year Awards? Who Will?

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 05:  Corey Seager #5 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts to his three run homerun for a 6-0 lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks during the fifth inning at Dodger Stadium on September 5, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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With the regular season ending on Sunday and most of the playoff spots locked up, there’s really only one big thing left to argue about: postseason awards. So let’s spend some time looking at who should win each of the four major awards and who will win them. Which are often totally different things. Next up: The Rookie of the Year Awards

This is a whole heck of a lot easier than the MVP and Cy Young Awards, that’s for sure. It’s a two horse race in the AL and a one-horse race in the NL.

Who should win the AL Rookie of the Year Award?

It seemed like Tigers starter Michael Fulmer would be the no-brainer choice for a good long while, as his low ERA and solid performance helped carry the Tigers when their starting pitching wasn’t doing them any favors. But then the Yankees called up catcher Gary Sanchez at the beginning of August and all he’s done since then is hit .303/.378/.672 with an astonishing 20 homers in his first 51 games. Fulmer has continued to be solid — he’s just short of qualifying for the ERA title, but does have the league’s lowest ERA at 3.06 — but Sanchez has been spectacular.

The MVP and Cy Young Award require full season contributions. Not everyone takes the Rookie of the Year Award quite as seriously, it seems, and are thus more willing to entertain smaller samples of excellence over large samples of solid work when it comes to the award. That’s how Bill and I think about it anyway, giving the nod to Sanchez’s historic two-month run. Ashley, however, favors Fulmer’s larger volume of work. You can’t really go wrong with either choice:

Craig: Sanchez
Bill: Sanchez
Ashley: Fulmer

Who will win the AL Rookie of the Year Award?

Hard call. I have no idea what voters will do on that quantity/quality calculation. I’ll guess Fulmer, but it’s just a guess. I could just as easily see Sanchez given some quasi-MVP credit for helping the Yankees remain relevant after the trade deadline and throw it his way.

 

Who should win the NL Rookie of the Year Award?

If you say anyone other than Corey Seager, and his .311/.369/.519 26 homer batting line, the state has authorized me to have you taken to a hospital for 48 hours of examination, at which point your competence to reenter society will be gauged. But there is ice cream there.

Craig: Seager
Bill: Seager
Ashley: Seager

 

Who will win the NL Rookie of the Year Award?

If any BBWAA voter lists anyone other than Corey Seager at the top of his or her Rookie of the Year ballot, the state has authorized me to have them taken to a hospital for 48 hours of examination, at which point their competence to reenter society will be gauged. They will not, however, be allowed to have any ice cream because, really, they should know better. They’re professionals.

Jeremy Giambi vs. David Ortiz

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The 2002 Red Sox won 93 games, only to finish 10 games behind the Yankees in the AL West and six back of the lone wild card. They named Theo Epstein the GM that November and allowed him to begin reshaping the team, then led by Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez.

The Red Sox didn’t make any big splashes that winter. Their biggest free agent signing was Ramiro Mendoza, who got $6.5 million for two years. They also signed Mike Timlin and Bill Mueller (who played behind Shea Hillenbrand at third initially). They traded for Todd Walker. They stole Bronson Arroyo off waivers.

What Epstein did totally overhaul was a first base-DH situation that held the team back the previous season. 2002 trade deadline pickup Cliff Floyd exited in free agency, as did disappointments Tony Clark and Jose Offerman.

Brought in was a three-headed monster of underappreciated, high-OBP, Moneyball-type players. First, the Red Sox traded Josh Hancock to the Phillies for Jeremy Giambi, who had just hit .244/.435/.538 in 156 at-bats after coming over from the A’s at midseason. He hit .272/.402/.475 in 684 at-bats total between 2001 and 2002, and he looked like he was still very much in his prime at age 28.

The day after the Giambi trade, the Twins made the move to release David Ortiz. No one pounced, though, and Ortiz remained unsigned for a month before joining the Boston on a one-year, $1.25 million contract. Ortiz, who was entering his age-27 season, hit .272/.339/.500 in 412 at-bats for the Twins in 2002.

While that was going on, the Red Sox were working to bring in Kevin Millar for first base. Millar hit .306/.366/.509 in 438 at-bats for the Marlins in 2002 and was even better the previous season, but he was a poor outfielder and third baseman and the team already had Derrek Lee at first base. So, the Marlins, rather than trade Millar for a player, sold him to Japan for some much-preferred cash. Millar, not realizing that he was a desired commodity around the league, went along with the plan. That’s when the Red Sox broke an unwritten rule and claimed Millar off waivers. It turned into a long ordeal, but the Red Sox were finally able to land Millar in February by buying him from the Marlins.

I remember at the time being most excited about the Giambi acquisition. He couldn’t play defense and he had gotten himself exiled by the A’s for some transgression the previous year, but he looked like an awesome offensive force with his terrific power and ridiculous walk rate. Ortiz was certainly worth taking the chance on, too, but I thought Giambi would be better and leave Ortiz with little to do.

Indeed, Giambi started over Ortiz on Opening Day. However, both got off to lousy starts and Giambi’s playing time quickly diminished. Giambi finished April at .125/.288/.292 in 60 plate appearances, starting only once in the final week of the month. Ortiz came in at .212/.311/.346 in 61 plate appearances.

Both players found their strokes at the beginning of May. For Giambi, though, it amounted to all of about two weeks of success. He peaked with an .828 OPS on May 16. Ortiz’s build was slower, but it lasted. He had a .942 OPS in May, a .961 OPS in June, a .987 OPS in July and a 1.097 OPS in August before plummeting all of the way to .977 in September. He finished 5th in the AL MVP balloting despite playing about half the time the first two months.

Giambi, finding himself more starved for at-bats after Ortiz heated up, landed on the DL in late June with a bad shoulder. At the time, it looked like it might have been a made-up injury to get him playing time in the minors for a spell. It wasn’t. He returned a few weeks later, but he still wasn’t right. He made his last appearance on Aug. 1, going 0-for-3 against the Orioles. He landed back on the DL and then underwent surgery to repair damage in his labrum and rotator cuff.

As it turned out, Giambi never played in the majors again. As he was trying to come back from the shoulder surgery the next spring, he developed back problems. He played in 17 minor league games with the Dodgers in 2004 and nine with the White Sox in 2005. That was it for him, and he was done at 30 years old. In early 2005, he admitted to using BALCO-provided steroids and said that he regretted it. The strength training likely played roles in both his emergence and his downfall, given the breakdown of his body.

Things worked out a little differently for Ortiz…

Ortiz through 2002 (age 26): .266/.348/.461, 108 OPS+ in 1,693 PA
Giambi through 2002 (age 27): .269/.381/.437, 114 OPS+ in 1,549 PA

Ortiz after 2002: .290/.386/.570, 148 OPS+ in 8,387 PA
Giambi after 2002: .197/.342/.354, 81 OPS+ in 156 PA

And those 2003 Red Sox? Well, they won 95 games, which was good enough for the wild card this time. Still, they lost to the Yankees in seven games in the ALCS. They were still one year away.