Pouliot’s postseason award picks: National League

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There’s still one more American League game on Monday, so we’ll have to wait on those selections, which will probably be a bit more controversial than these. Here are my NL award picks for 2013:

NL MVP

1. Andrew McCutchen
2. Paul Goldschmidt
3. Clayton Kershaw
4. Yadier Molina
5. Carlos Gomez
6. Andrelton Simmons
7. Matt Carpenter
8. Shin-Soo Choo
9. Hunter Pence
10. Ian Desmond

The injuries make a real mess of this list. I think Hanley Ramirez, Troy Tulowitzki and Molina were the NL’s three best players when they were on the field this year. Alas, only Molina played enough to be included in the top 10. David Wright and Carlos Gonzalez also would have cracked the list had they put in full seasons.

I picked Molina over Buster Posey last year, and I had him on top again this year until his 15-day DL stint in August. That was enough to drop him behind McCutchen, who ranked first in Fangraphs WAR and was in a dead heat with Gomez atop the Baseball-reference WAR list. I have fairly limited faith in WAR, but it follows my own reasoning in this case. It’s not even as though McCutchen is getting a lot of credit for his defense in either system; he’s rated as a bit above average in both, but not as anything special. Which is pretty much how I view him. While McCutchen should and will get the MVP award, it’s Gomez who deserves the Gold Glove.

Goldschmidt was the league’s best hitter, but not by enough of a margin to make up for McCutchen’s defensive value. Kershaw had a wonderful season, posting the lowest ERA of any pitcher since 2000, but the Dodgers were a mere 19-14 in his starts. It puts quite a dent in his MVP argument that the Dodgers were just as good when he wasn’t on the mound.

I don’t think I’ve ever put anyone on an MVP ballot strictly for defense before, but Simmons deserves it. He’s the Braves’ MVP, though Freddie Freeman and Craig Kimbrel will get more support in the actual vote. And if he takes the same sort of step forward offensively that he did this season, he may well be the NL’s best player next year.

Choo over Joey Votto further down the ballot may seem an odd choice for a stathead to make — Votto does have the better numbers — but Votto was surprisingly crummy on defense both according to my eyes and the stats. Choo may have been, too, but the Reds knew that going in; he’s a corner outfielder miscast in center. Choo improved considerably out there after a rocky start and wasn’t nearly as much of a liability as expected. I’m not sure what Votto’s excuse was.

NL Cy Young

1. Clayton Kershaw
2. Adam Wainwright
3. Cliff Lee
4. Matt Harvey
5. Jose Fernandez

There isn’t much explanation needed for first place here; Kershaw led the league in everything except wins. Lee’s late charge made it close for second place; B-ref WAR says he was the clear No. 2, while Fangraphs much prefers Wainwright. Wainwright threw 20 more innings with essentially the same ERA and allowed seven fewer homers. That’s good enough for the No. 2 spot in my book.

After the top three, the three best pitchers were clearly Harvey, Fernandez and Zack Greinke, with the caveat that those guys all finished in the 170-180 IP range. None of the 200-inning starters really compare, though Mat Latos was closest.

NL Rookie of the Year

1. Jose Fernandez
2. Yasiel Puig
3. Hyun-Jin Ryu
4. Julio Teheran
5. Shelby Miller

The Marlins’ original plan was for Fernandez to throw 150-170 innings. That they let him hit and slightly exceed the high end there just barely gets him the nod over Puig here. He ended up second in the NL with a 2.19 ERA and third with a 0.979 WHIP. Puig never stopped making an impact in his 104 games, but his recklessness on the basepaths and with his big arm did cost the Dodgers and take away some of his value.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.