Now that BBWAA voters have imposed a defacto “no pitchers allowed” rule on the MVP, it has become a hitting award with unnecessary complications. In light of that, I like the Hank Aaron Award’s stated purpose of simply honoring offense. It takes out all of that “who was more clutch” and “who carried their team” nonsense that the MVP award so frequently dredges up. And the Aaron Award winners were announced yesterday: Joey Votto in the NL, Jose Bautista in the AL.
Votto hit .324 with 37 home runs and 113 RBI, posted a .424 OBP and slugged .600. His season was very, very close to Albert Pulos in most categories. Pujols had 52 more plate appearances, but Votto’s rate stats were a tad higher, mostly due to his batting average. Pujols was probably a tad better, but we’re really splitting hairs to get to that point. With seasons as similar as those two, I don’t think you can really fault going with one over the other.
The choice of Bautista was a little more curious. He hit 54 home runs, drove in 124 and slugged .617. He also took 100 walks, so it’s not like he was totally one-dimensional out there. But even with all of those homers, he was out-slugged by both Josh Hamilton and Miguel Cabrera and got on base at a much lower clip than either of those two. Seems like the voters made the mistake of thinking that Hank Aaron was just about the home runs — he most certainly wasn’t — and gave his namesake award to the biggest home run hitter rather than the best offensive player in the AL.
But let’s not get too worked up about the voters either: the panel consists of Hall of Famers, including Aaron himself, Tony Gwynn, Harmon Killebrew, Willie McCovey, Paul Molitor, Billy Williams and Robin Yount. Oh, and there’s a fan vote too. So no, not exactly a conclave of analysis wizards here. And I don’t have a problem with that.
Cubs starter John Lackey stole the first base of his 15-year career on Wednesday against the Reds. Of course, he spent the first 11 and a half years of his career in the American League, where opportunities to bat, let alone attempt to steal a base, were rare. Lackey entered Wednesday having taken 250 plate appearances, reaching base just 31 times on 17 singles, seven doubles, and seven walks for a .134 on-base percentage. One can imagine the 38-year-old is not exactly the swiftest base runner.
Still, Lackey managed to swipe a bag in the fourth inning. He singled with two outs against Homer Bailey. Then, with an 0-1 count on Ben Zobrist, Lackey broke for second even before Bailey began his windup. Tucker Barnhart stood up to alert Bailey that Lackey was running, so Bailey wheeled around and threw to second base, but Lackey slid into the bag easily safe. It wasn’t a pretty slide, but it did the job.
Lackey, however, was picked off of second base by Barnhart later that inning. Bailey threw a 3-2 fastball wide of the strike zone, walking Zobrist. Lackey had wandered too far off of second base, so Barnhart threw behind Lackey and the tag was applied by Zack Cozart. Lackey was called safe initially. The play was reviewed and the ruling on the field was overturned, ending the fourth inning.
Base Ba’al giveth and Base Ba’al taketh away.
Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge hit another jaw-dropping home run, victimizing Mets starter Robert Gsellman in the top of the fourth game of Wednesday night’s game at Citi Field. Left fielder Yoenis Cespedes didn’t even move. The ball traveled 457 feet and was hit 117 MPH off the bat, according to Katie Sharp of River Ave Blues.
The home run moved Judge’s AL-best total to 37, putting him two ahead of the Royals’ Mike Moustakas. Along with the prodigious dinger total, he has 80 RBI, 90 runs scored, and a .291/.421/.616 triple-slash line in 499 plate appearances. Judge is on pace for 50 dingers. If it holds, that would give him the rookie record for home runs in a season. Mark McGwire currently holds the record, having hit 49 for the Athletics in 1987.