ST. LOUIS — Major League Baseball just announced the winners of the 2013 Hank Aaron Award. It’s Miguel Cabrera in the AL and Paul Goldschmidt in the National League.
The award is intended to honor the best offensive performers in each league. Which, given that the MVP Award has become almost exclusively the province of hitters and given that the MVP voters have had the habit of not including defense in proper proportion, it’s a defacto hitting award too, but let’s leave that for another day.
We’ll also leave advanced metrics at the door, as the Award is voted on by a special panel of Hall of Fame players led by Aaron, with a fan voting component added on for good measure. This is not the stuff of WAR leaders and the like.
If we are looking at offense and offense alone, and if we are looking at more traditional metrics, it’s hard to go wrong with Cabrera in the American League. He had another fantastic year, hitting .348/.442/.636 with 44 homers, 137 RBI and 90 walks. He led the league in average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS and OPS+. Same with Goldschmidt in the NL. He hit .302/.401/.551 with 36 homers, 125 RBI and 99 walks. He led the NL in homers, RBI, slugging, extra-base hits, OPS and OPS+.
Each of these two will be contenders for the MVP Award, with Cabrera likely the favorite in the AL. Advanced metrics will matter there a bit more, but probably not enough to carry the day for those who look better under said metrics’ illumination.
Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.
More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.
Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)
It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.
Twins’ right-hander Nick Burdi is set to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, the team announced on Friday. Burdi made 14 appearances for Double-A Chattanooga before succumbing to a torn ulnar collateral ligament and is not expected to make his major league debut until mid-2018 at the earliest. A UCL tear doesn’t always require Tommy John surgery — less severe cases can be treated with platelet-rich plasma injections, for example — but Twins’ chief baseball officer Derek Falvey told the press that surgery was unavoidable as Burdi had sustained a “full thickness tear” in his elbow.
Entering the 2016 season, Burdi was widely considered a top ten prospect in the Twins’ system. His exceptional velocity and potent fastball-slider combo made him a fearsome relief option as he came off of his first season in Double-A Chattanooga in 2015. During the 2016 season, however, the 24-year-old experienced a significant setback after a bone bruise cut his season short in late July. Prior to Friday’s diagnosis, he appeared to be staging an impressive comeback with the Chattanooga Lookouts this spring, decorating his efforts with a sparkling 0.53 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 10.6 SO/9 over 17 innings.
It’s a tough break for the Twins, whose farm system was ranked 21st in the league by Baseball America. “Obviously he’s proven when he’s healthy he’s an absolute premium prospect, and the Twins are treating him that way,” Burdi’s agent, Matt Sosnick, told Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press. “We just want to make sure everything we do ultimately leads to the goal of getting him back on the field as quickly as he can.”