Jose Valverde was named Major League Baseball’s Delivery Man of the Year today. It’s a fan vote, so take it for what it’s worth. And from where I’m sitting, it’s not worth a heck of a lot. Here’s part of that:
Other relievers receiving votes from the MLB panel this year included John Axford of the Milwaukee Brewers (2-2, 1.95 ERA, 46 SV), rookie Craig Kimbrel of the Atlanta Braves (4-3, 2.10 ERA, 46 SV) and Joel Hanrahan of the Pittsburgh Pirates (1-4, 1.83 ERA, 40 SV).
Note anyone missing there? Anyone who, you know, saved 44 games with a 1.91 ERA and a WHIP of 0.897 and was better than Valverde in just about every category apart from saves? Really, unless Mariano Rivera pulled a John Laraquette and removed himself from consideration due to the unfairness of the competition — or unless dancing around like a loon after a save became a critical component to the award — I’m gonna have a hard time taking this award all that seriously.
All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.
The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.
It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.
It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.
Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉