Tag: awards


Who should win the National League MVP award?


My assumption is that Joey Votto will be named National League MVP when the award is announced this afternoon, as his monster season combined with the Reds making the playoffs for the first time since 1995 will likely have him atop most of the 32 ballots cast by Baseball Writers Association of America members.

However, based strictly on his performance–rather than some combination of his performance and his team’s success–it’s not quite as clear if Votto was actually the best player in the league.

Consider the following comparison between two MVP candidates:

                PA     AVG     OBP     SLG      OPS    HR    RBI    RUN
Player X       700    .312    .414    .596    1.011    42    118    115
Player Z       648    .324    .424    .600    1.024    37    113    106

Which of those two players was the most valuable? Player Z had a slightly higher batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS while performing better in high-leverage situations, but Player X came to the plate 52 more times and had more homers, RBIs, and runs while playing better defense. I think they’re close enough that there’s really no “right” answer, yet I’m fairly certain that Votto will be the runaway winner when the voting is announced in a few hours.

Player X is Albert Pujols.

Player Z is Joey Votto.

Carlos Gonzalez is also very much in the mix, but his numbers aren’t quite as jaw-dropping as Pujols’ or Votto’s, as he trails them by 37 and 50 points of OPS despite calling Coors Field home for half his games. Gonzalez had a tremendous season, but a .974 OPS in Colorado just isn’t as impressive as a 1.011 OPS in St. Louis or a 1.024 OPS in Cincinnati. And sure enough, Gonzalez hit .380 with a 1.161 OPS at Coors Field compared to .289 with a .775 OPS on the road.

I tend to think Pujols’ extra 52 plate appearances and superior defense at first base give him the edge over Votto, but it probably wouldn’t be all that difficult to convince me Votto should be the pick and ultimately the difference between them is so slight that it’s impossible to say with any kind of certainty either way.

Keith Hernandez and Willie Stargell were named co-MVPs in 1979 and if ever there was another year for the award to be split between two equally deserving candidates this is probably it, but I suspect Pujols has a better chance of finishing third than first. His excellence has almost become routine at this point and the Cardinals underperformed as a team despite his MVP-caliber season, and those two factors are likely more than enough to break any sort of performance-based “tie” in the voters’ eyes.

Votto and Pujols were the MVPs of the National League this year, but only Votto will get the award.

Gardenhire tops Washington for AL Manager of the Year

Image (1) gardenhire.jpg for post 6304

Ron Gardenhire finished runner-up for Manager of the Year in five of his first eight seasons as the Twins’ skipper, including each of the past two seasons. Today he finally claimed the award for the first time, receiving 16 of 28 first-place votes to top Ron Washington of the Rangers and Joe Maddon of the Rays.

Gardenhire led the Twins to their sixth AL Central title in nine seasons, winning 94 games despite losing closer Joe Nathan to Tommy John surgery in spring training and cleanup hitter Justin Morneau to a concussion in July.

He was the only manager named on all 28 ballots cast by Baseball Writers Association of America members. Washington received 10 first-place votes, while Maddon and Cito Gaston received one apiece. Voting was conducted at the end of the regular season, so the Twins being swept by the Yankees in the first round and the Rangers advancing to the World Series were not factors.

I’m far from the world’s biggest Gardenhire fan, but the notion that he could be deemed the second-best manager in the league five times in eight seasons without ever actually winning the award always struck me as fairly absurd and perhaps more than anything reinforced the idea that there’s really no clear, established criteria for picking a winner.

Did he do a better job than Washington or Maddon or Gaston or Francona? I don’t think anyone really knows the answer to that, but Gardenhire won 94 games minus two of his stars and certainly deserved the award as much as anyone this season. Mostly, though, it’s a tough award to really argue about objectively.

Neftali Feliz beats Austin Jackson for AL Rookie of the Year

World Series Giants Rangers Baseball

Rangers closer Neftali Feliz topped Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting, receiving 20 of 28 first-place votes cast by Baseball Writers Association of America members.

There will no doubt be considerably more debate about Buster Posey topping Jason Heyward in the NL, but the AL version is also worth arguing over because “Feliz or Jackson?” really boils down to a debate about the value of closers.

With a 2.73 ERA, more strikeouts than innings pitched, and a .176 opponents’ batting average Feliz was the most dominant rookie, but does that make him the best or most valuable rookie?

Feliz threw only 69 innings and faced a total of 269 batters. Jackson batted 675 times and also caught the equivalent of 130 innings worth of outs with his glove in center field. And while Feliz converting 40-of-43 save opportunities is impressive, the average big-league closer typically converts about 85 percent of ninth-inning save chances. And as we saw in the playoffs, Feliz was rarely used in high-leverage spots when there wasn’t a save to be had.

I tend to think closers are generally overrated, as too many people see a big save total and seemingly lose sight of what the job actually entails, which is getting three outs with a lead of 1-3 runs. Most decent relievers can do that 80 percent of the time, most good relievers can do that 85 percent of the time, and most great relievers (like Feliz) can do it 90 percent of the time.

Meanwhile, the Tigers got 675 plate appearances of above-average hitting and 1,256 innings of outstanding center field defense from Jackson, who easily beat Feliz in value-based stats like Wins Above Replacement. None of which is to suggest that Feliz was anything less than great, but rather that it’s tough for a pitcher to have more value facing 269 batters than a position player has batting 675 times and logging 1,256 innings at a key spot defensively.

After all, if Feliz dominating for 269 batters is enough to make him the Rookie of the Year, shouldn’t Indians stud catcher Carlos Santana get similar consideration for posting an AL rookie-high .868 OPS in 192 plate appearances while also catching 340 innings? Santana didn’t appear on a single ballot, but was nearly as effective as Feliz on a per-play basis and probably had a major hand in more plate appearances than the Rangers’ closer.

Feliz was dominant for 69 innings and racked up 40 saves to catch the voters’ collective eye, but in terms of actual runs prevented and produced for a team in all phases of the game Jackson would have been my pick. He hit .293 with a .345 on-base percentage in 675 plate appearances atop the Tigers’ lineup, stealing 27 bases and scoring 103 runs, and also played Gold Glove-caliber defense for 1,256 innings in center field.

Feliz was about as good as someone can be for 69 innings and is far from a poor Rookie of the Year choice, but Jackson was more valuable.

Vladimir Guerrero’s undeserved Silver Slugger award

World Series Rangers Giants Baseball

Admittedly no one really cares about the Silver Slugger awards, so I’m not sure why I care enough to write about them, but Vladimir Guerrero being the pick at designated hitter is pretty clearly the wrong choice.

Guerrero had a good season, hitting .300 with 29 homers and an .841 OPS, but he just wasn’t the best DH in the league.

Compare his numbers to our Mystery DH:

               G      AVG     OBP     SLG     OPS    HR   XBH    RBI
Mystery DH    145    .270    .370    .529    .899    32    69    102
Guerrero      152    .300    .345    .496    .841    29    57    115

Mystery DH out-produced Guerrero by 25 points of on-base percentage, 33 points of slugging percentage, and 58 points of OPS. He also had three more homers and 12 more total extra-base hits.

Oh, and Mystery DH is David Ortiz.

So why did Guerrero win the award over a guy who topped him in OBP, SLG, OPS, homers, and extra-base hits? Well, the Silver Slugger is voted on by managers and coaches and the two categories that Guerrero topped Ortiz in are batting average and RBIs, which are obviously the epitome of mainstream numbers and the bastions of shallow analysis.

Beyond that Guerrero started hot and cooled down the stretch, while Ortiz struggled in April and then got hot. All of which means Guerrero spent most of the season with good-looking numbers and Ortiz spent most of the season building his numbers up after a bad start, likely shaping the perceptions of their respective seasons.

Again, no one really cares and it’s not a big deal, but the award still went to the wrong DH.