First-quarter awards: NL MVP

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andre ethier followthrough.jpgThrough one-fifth of the season, I imagine everyone would have said Andre Ethier was the National League MVP. However, he is losing ground while on the DL because of a fractured finger. Let’s look at how a couple of systems rank the NL’s top 20 players.
VORP
1. Ubaldo Jimenez – 32.3
2. Roy Halladay – 28.3
3. Andre Ethier – 26.4
4. Livan Hernandez – 23.7
5. Ryan Braun – 22.8
6. Chase Utley – 22.4
7. Tim Lincecum – 22.1
8. Jaime Garcia – 21.4
9. Adam Wainwright – 21.0
10. Barry Zito – 20.7
11. Albert Pujols – 20.2
12. Dan Uggla – 18.8
13. Casey McGehee – 18.6
14. Jayson Werth – 18.4
15. Joey Votto – 18.1
16. Alfonso Soriano – 18.1
17. Tim Hudson – 18.0
18. Roy Oswalt – 17.6
19. Josh Johnson – 17.5
20. Marlon Byrd – 17.0
VORP adjusts for position, but doesn’t try to take defense into account otherwise.
Here’s RAR from Fangraphs, which uses UZR to account for defense.
1. Chase Utley – 26.4
2. Roy Halladay – 23.6
3. Marlon Byrd – 20.7
4. Ubaldo Jimenez – 19.5
5. Tim Lincecum – 18.9
6. Adam Wainwright – 17.8
7. Dan Uggla – 17.7
8. Joey Votto – 17.7
9. Albert Pujols – 17.2
10. Ryan Ludwick – 16.9
11. Ryan Zimmerman – 16.8
12. Alfonso Soriano – 16.8
13. Jayson Werth – 16.6
14. Josh Johnson – 16.6
15. Stephen Drew – 15.9
16. Casey McGehee – 14.7
17. Chase Headley – 14.6
18. Andre Ethier – 14.5
19. David Eckstein – 14.5
20. Ryan Braun – 13.9
Some big changes there. For one thing, UZR is convinced that Ethier has been one of the game’s worst defenders this season and it costs him nearly half of his offensive value. Braun also loses big here, while Byrd and Ludwick get surprisingly large boosts.
Of course, this is the folly of taking a quarter-season’s worth of defensive data and trying to weight it on the same scale as offense.
RAR also rates Halladay’s performance ahead of Jimenez’s, under the theory that Halladay has gotten less help from his defense, but I’m not buying that.
Throwing out the pitchers for a moment, here are the NL OPS leaders:
1. Andre Ethier – .392/.457/.744 – 1201 – 38 RBI
2. Jayson Werth – .324/.404/.634 – 1037 – 31 RBI
3. Chase Utley – .307/.430/.593 – 1023 – 23 RBI
4. Alfonso Soriano – .323/.386/.615 – 1002 – 23 RBI
5. Albert Pujols – .323/.426/.561 – 988 – 29 RBI
6. Joey Votto – .311/.408/.570 – 977 – 31 RBI
7. Ryan Zimmerman – .311/.361/.607 – 967 – 25 RBI
8. Casey McGehee – .325/.395/.570 – 965 – 37 RBI
9. Ryan Braun – .333/.413/.551 – 965 – 30 RBI
10. Kosuke Fukudome – .310/.406/.552 – 958 – 21 RBI
11. Dan Uggla – .291/.377/.570 – 947 – 28 RBI
Worthy of note from that group is that Braun is also making a difference on the basepaths, having gone 9-for-9 stealing bases to date.
I see three serious candidates for NL MVP here, and nicely enough, they’re the No. 1s on the three lists about: Jimenez, Utley and Ethier.
Jimenez has thrown 63 1/3 innings and amassed a 0.99 ERA. He’s won eight of his nine starts, with his lone loss coming in a 2-0 shutout. It’s hard to get much more valuable than that.
Utley has offered the NL’s best combination of offense and defense, and it doesn’t hurt his case that the Phillies have the NL’s best record at the moment.
Ethier not only leads the NL in OPS by a wide margin, but he’s also come up huge in big situations. He’s hit .450 with eight homers in 60 at-bats with runners on and .500 with six homers in 38 at-bats with RISP.
I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the three, but since Ethier has missed the last week, I’m going with Jimenez. Not that I put much stock in it, but the Dodgers have stayed on a roll even without Ethier. The Rockies, on the other hand, are 12-20 when Jimenez doesn’t pitch.
First-quarter NL MVP
1. Jimenez
2. Ethier
3. Utley
4. Halladay
5. Votto

Amanda Hopkins is the first full-time female baseball scout in over 50 years

Associated Press
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SEATTLE (AP) Nearly two years ago, Amanda Hopkins’ phone rang. It was a call she dreamt of receiving, one that broke barriers and made her a part of baseball history.

Almost immediately, her competitiveness took over.

“She put a sign up on her bedroom door saying, `Stay out, we’re opponents,”‘ recalled her father, Ron Hopkins, a special assistant to the general manager for the Pittsburgh Pirates. “In other words, my bedroom is off limits to you, there is info in here. I got a kick out of it.”

The 24-year-old Hopkins is now about to complete her second year as an area scout for the Seattle Mariners. Her responsibility is the Four Corners area of the Southwest, taking her to destinations like Greeley, Colorado, and Hobbs, New Mexico, two of the more challenging places to get to from her base in the Phoenix area.

She is also the first full-time female baseball scout in more than 50 years, breaking through a barrier that required diligence on her end and willingness by the Mariners organization.

Yet, Hopkins does not view herself through that prism or want to be viewed as a trailblazer. She’s a scout . That’s it.

“I think if anything people are more shocked sometimes when I will go meet with a player in the office or something like that. Maybe they just know, hey the Mariners’ scout is coming in to meet with you today and they walk in and they’re like, `Oh.’ That kind of thing,” Hopkins said. “It’s usually more of like a shocked look. But then they’re more curious, they’re like, `How’d you get into this?’ And they kind of like want a brief rundown of how I got to where I am. All the players, all the coaches, are incredibly respectful to me.”

While she is believed to be the first woman to work as a full-time baseball scout since Edith Houghton in the middle of the 20th century, Hopkins has been around baseball since she was a child.

She traveled with her father to games, regularly making trips to the Alaskan Summer League or the Cape Cod League in summers. She would run the radar gun and pass along the speeds to her dad when she was as young as 8. It was obvious early on she possessed the same critical eye as her dad.

“She learned at an early age the difference between a curveball and a slider. As she got older it just sort of grew on her,” Ron said.

“I’d go out with my dad and they’d be like `Oh what do you want to do when you grow up?’ And I’d tell them, `I want to be a baseball scout,”‘ Amanda said. “It’s like this little girl telling them that and it’s like, `Oh that’s cute. She wants to be like her dad.’ But really, I think it was kind of like she’ll grow out of it. That’s kind of what everyone thought.”

Instead, her passion for the job only grew. She majored in psychology while playing softball at Central Washington University, yet that failed to satisfy her desire to be around baseball.

“The whole time I was in there I wanted to be a baseball scout,” Hopkins said. “And I remember probably my freshman year, sophomore year, I was like I really don’t want to do anything but that. So why am I trying to almost talk myself out of it and find a different path?”

Hopkins served as an intern in Seattle’s baseball operations department in the summer of 2014, but worked mostly with amateur scouting. A year later, she was sponsored by the Mariners to attend scout school and about a month after returning she got the offer.

“I was a little nervous myself because I knew she was going to be breaking a little bit of a barrier and she was pretty young,” said Tom McNamara, who hired Hopkins and is currently a special assistant to the general manager with the Mariners. “I went into Jerry (Dipoto’s) office and I had a lump in my throat and I said, `This is what I want to do.’ And he was all for it. He didn’t even hesitate.”

When she was hired in December 2015, Hopkins was reluctant to talk about her place in baseball history. She wanted more experience as a professional before talking about a career that was just getting started.

“She was down in Arizona in the beginning and I would check on her and finally she said, `Tom, I’m OK. You don’t need to check on me every other day,”‘ McNamara recalled.

Hopkins was part of a panel earlier this week about women in baseball organized by the Mariners. She is starting to get comfortable with the history she has made. But she doesn’t want that to be her entire story in baseball.

“I have so much to learn still. This is such a profession that takes so many years to fully understand and you’re continually learning,” Hopkins said. “My dad, 40 years into scouting, is still learning something every time he goes to the park. So I definitely think that I just want to be the best area scout I can be right now. But I love the scouting aspect of it. I really think that I want to stay in the scouting side of the game.”

Derek Jeter is a Dad

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I’m sure you’ve all been wondering about this — actually, someone in the comments the other day was wondering about it — but the wondering is over: Derek Jeter and his wife Hannah are now the proud parents of a baby girl. Her name is Bella Raine Jeter. She was born yesterday. The delivery, sources within the New York press corps tell me, was “classy.”

You’ll be shocked to learn that the news broke via the Twitter feed of The Players Tribune, which Jeter owns. I eagerly await a ghostwritten column from the baby in the next couple of days. Something like “Being Born Was an Amazing Experience, by Bella Jeter.” Or maybe one of those “Letter to My Younger Selves” feature they do sometimes.

Anyway, congratulations, Captain. Now get to the business of proving your sister wrong.