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.
Josh Hamilton is not and never was a key part of the 2017 Texas Rangers plans. He was in camp and under contract and had at least a chance to make the team, but the Rangers fate as a ballclub did not depend on him. It would merely be nice for them if he revealed that he had a bit left in the tank and if he could, like a lot of other superstars in baseball history, give them one last season of decent production in part time play as a matter of depth and flexibility.
As such, this development is more unfortunate for Josh Hamilton and those who root for him than it is for the Rangers as a club, but it is unfortunate all the same:
That’s the fourth surgery he’s had on that knee in less than two years and the 11th knee surgery he’s had overall in his baseball career. It’s sad to say but safe to say that Hamilton’s days in baseball are numbered if not over completely. At some point an athlete’s body can only take so much.
Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.
I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.
As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.
There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.