Your midseason awards winners, according to WAR

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Here’s how WAR, both the Baseball-reference and Fangraphs versions, rates the top players as of the midway point of the season.

AL MVP (Baseball-Reference)

1. Manny Machado – 4.9
2. Miguel Cabrera – 4.9
3. Chris Sale – 4.4
4. Dustin Pedroia – 4.3
5. Chris Davis – 4.2

AL MVP (Fangraphs)

1. Miguel Cabrera – 5.4
2. Mike Trout – 4.7
3. Chris Davis – 4.6
4. Evan Longoria – 4.5
5. Manny Machado – 4.2

This is Cabrera’s award to lose, even though Davis has put quite the charge on. Both have 202 OPS+s at the moment, though Cabrera’s high OBP makes his line more valuable. B-ref has Machado matching Cabrera in WAR thanks to a huge defensive bonus; it rates him as the AL’s best defender by almost a full win over Dustin Pedroia. No one would deny that Machado is an excellent third baseman, but that’s probably excessive. Also, even though Machado is on a ridiculous doubles pace, he’s no Trout offensively. He’s probably been the AL’s fourth or fifth best player, which is still a massive accomplishment for a 20-year-old.

NL MVP (Baseball-Reference)

1. Carlos Gomez – 5.0
2. Clayton Kershaw – 4.8
3. Cliff Lee – 4.6
4. David Wright – 4.5
5. Matt Harvey – 4.5

NL MVP (Fangraphs)

1. Carlos Gomez – 4.5
2. Adam Wainwright – 4.3
3. David Wright – 4.2
3. Matt Harvey – 4.2
5. Matt Carpenter – 4.1

Both systems are in agreement that Gomez has been the NL’s best player so far. Still, I’m skeptical that he’d even crack the top 10 if the BBWAA held a vote. Obviously, much of his value is tied up in defense; B-ref says only Andrelton Simmons has been worth more with the glove in the NL. Plus, the Brewers have struggled all year. … If the vote were held today, I’m guessing we’d see Yadier Molina come in first and Paul Goldschmidt second. B-ref has Goldschmidt as the NL’s third best position player, while Fangraphs puts him 11th. Molina ranks 12th by B-ref and ninth by Fangraphs.

AL Cy Young (Baseball-reference)

1. Chris Sale – 4.4
2. Clay Buchholz – 4.0
3. Hisashi Iwakuma – 3.7

AL Cy Young (Fangraphs)

1. Derek Holland – 3.4
2. Max Scherzer – 3.4
3. Felix Hernandez – 3.3

Buchholz was the leader for Cy Young honors when he went down. Now it’s probably Scherzer, even though his 3.10 ERA doesn’t crack the top 10 in the league. The 12-0 record would help a bunch, as would the terrific strikeout rate. I figured Yu Darvish would fare better here than he does, but the home runs are hurting him. He’s fifth according to B-ref and sixth according to Fangraphs.

NL Cy Young (Baseball-reference)

1. Cliff Lee – 4.6
2. Matt Harvey – 4.5
3. Adam Wainwright – 4.4
4. Clayton Kershaw – 4.4

NL Cy Young (Fangraphs)

1. Adam Wainwright – 4.2
2. Matt Harvey – 4.2
3. Cliff Lee – 3.5

I’m guessing Wainwright would win the award if the season ended today, and both versions of WAR think he’s just as deserving as Harvey, even though Harvey has the edge in ERA (2.00 to 2.22) and strikeouts (132 to 114). … You may have noticed Kershaw comes in second on B-ref’s MVP list, but just tied for third here. That’s because I’m only using their pitching WAR for Cy Young.

AL Rookie of the Year (Baseball-reference)

1. Jose Iglesias – 2.3
2. David Lough – 1.7
3. Nick Franklin – 1.5

AL Rookie of the Year (Fangraphs)

1. Jose Iglesias – 1.4
2. David Lough – 1.2
3. Dan Straily – 1.1

B-ref rates Iglesias as an above average defender, while Fangraphs says below average. I’m firmly on B-ref’s side here. That said, it’s only a matter of time before he stops hitting and gets overtaken in the race.

NL Rookie of the Year (Baseball-reference)

1. Hyun-Jin Ryu – 2.5
2. Julio Teheran – 2.4
3. Shelby Miller – 2.3
3. Nolan Arenado – 2.3

NL Rookie of the Year (Fangraphs)

1. Shelby Miller – 2.2
2. Marcell Ozuna – 2.1
3. Evan Gattis – 1.8

Yasiel Puig is making a glorious charge here. B-ref had him at 2.1 and Fangraphs has him at 1.8 after a measly 26 games. Fangraphs, for what it’s worth, rates him as a bit of a liability both defensively and on the basepaths to date, no doubt because of his overaggressiveness.

The 2017 Yankees are, somehow, plucky underdogs

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There’s a lot that has happened in the past year that I never, ever would’ve thought would or even could happen in America. Many of them are serious, some are not, some make me kinda happy and some make me terribly sad. I’m sure a lot of people have felt that way in this oddest of years.

There’s one thing in baseball, however, that still has me searching my feelings in a desperate effort to know what to feel: The New York Yankees are the postseason’s plucky underdogs.

This is not about them being lovable or likable — we touched on that last week — it’s more about the role they play in the grand postseason drama. A postseason they weren’t even supposed to be in.

None of the three writers of this website thought the Yankees would win the AL East or a Wild Card. ESPN had 35 “experts” make predictions back in March, and only one of them — Steve Wulf — thought the Yankees would make the postseason (he thought they’d win the division). I’m sure if you go over the plethora of professional prognosticator’s predictions a few would have the Yankees squeaking in to the postseason on the Wild Card, but that was nothing approaching a consensus view. Their 2017 regular season was a surprise to almost everyone, with the expectation of a solid, if unspectacular rebuilding year being greatly exceeded. To use a sports cliche, nobody believed in them.

Then came the playoffs. Most people figured the Yankees would beat the Twins in the Wild Card game and they did, but most figured they’d be cannon fodder for the Indians. And yep, they fell down early, losing the first two games of the series and shooting themselves in the foot in spectacular fashion in the process. Yet they came back, beating arguably the best team in baseball and certainly the best team in the American League in three straight games despite the fact that . . . nobody believed in them.

Now we’re in the ALCS. The Astros — the other choice for best team in the American League if you didn’t think the Indians were — jumped out to a 2-0 lead, quieting the Yankees’ powerful bats. While a lot of teams have come back from 0-2 holes in seven game series, the feel of this thing as late as Monday morning was that, even if the Yankees take a game at home, Houston was going to cruise into the World Series. Once again . . . nobody believed in them.

Yet, here we are on this late Wednesday morning, with the Yankees having tied things up 2-2. As I wrote this morning, you still have to like the Astros’ chances given that their aces, Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander, are set to go in Games 5 and 6. I’m sure a lot of people feel still like the Astros’ chances for that reason. So that leads us to this . . .

It’s one thing for no one to have, objectively, believed in the Yankees chances. It’s another thing, though, for the New York Yankees — the 27-time World Champions, the 40-time American League pennant winners, the richest team in the game, the house-at-the-casino, U.S. Steel and the Evil Empire all wrapped into one — to officially play the “nobody believed in us” card on their own account. That’s the stuff of underdogs. Of Davids facing Goliaths. Of The Little Guy, demanding respect that no one ever considered affording them. If you’re not one of those underdogs and you’re playing that card, you’re almost always doing it out of some weird self-motivational technique and no one else will ever take you seriously. And now you’re telling me the NEW YORK FRIGGIN’ YANKEES are playing that card?

Thing is: they’re right. They’ve totally earned the right to play it because, really, no one believed in them. Even tied 2-2, I presume most people still don’t, actually.

I don’t know how to process this. Nothing in my 40 years of baseball fandom has prepared me for the Yankees to be the David to someone else’s Goliath and to claim righteous entitlement to the whole “nobody believed in us” thing.

Which, as I said at the beginning, is nothing new in the year 2017. I just never thought it’d happen in baseball.