Pouliot’s 2014 National League awards picks

27 Comments

There companion to yesterday’s entry on the AL awards winners, here are my choices in the National League.

NL MVP

It’s one thing to vote for a pitcher for MVP. I have no problem doing that. But a pitcher who missed a month of the season? That makes things pretty difficult. Let’s look at the hitters first.

.952 – Andrew McCutchen: .314/.410/.542, 25 HR, 18 SB in 146 games
.950 – Giancarlo Stanton..: .288/.395/.555, 37 HR, 13 SB in 145 games
.931 – Corey Dickerson…..: .312/.364/.567, 24 HR, 8 SB in 131 games
.913 – Anthony Rizzo…….: .286/.386/.527, 32 HR, 5 SB in 140 games
.863 – Yasiel Puig…………: .296/.382/.480, 16 HR, 11 SB in 148 games
.860 – Justin Morneau… : .319/.364/.396, 17 HR, 0 SB in 135 games
.852 – Matt Kemp………….: .287/.346/.506, 25 HR, 8 SB in 150 games

That’s everyone with an .850 OPS and 120+ games played. But let’s add in the catchers:

.893 – Devin Mesoraco: .273/.359/.534, 25 HR, 1 SB in 114 games
.848 – Buster Posey…..: .310/.363/.484, 21 HR, 0 SB in 146 games
.837 – Jonathan Lucroy: .310/.373/.465, 13 HR, 4 SB in 153 games
.832 – Russell Martin… : .290/.402/.430, 11 HR, 4 SB in 111 games

And three other guys worth considering:

.837 – Josh Harrison…..: .315/.347/.490, 13 HR, 18 SB in 143 games
.833 – Carlos Gomez…..: .284/.356/.477, 23 HR, 34 SB in 148 games
.824 – Anthony Rendon: .287/.351/.473, 21 HR, 17 SB in 153 games

That’s the offensive field, in my opinion. I know Jason Heyward and Jhonny Peralta crack the top 10 in WAR because of their exceptional defensive ratings. I’m skeptical in both cases. Adrian Gonzalez led the NL in RBI and thus will be named on several ballots. He’s not one of the NL’s 20 best players, though.

Strangely, McCutchen hasn’t had the narrative on his side this year, even though he’s hit better than he did on his way to MVP honors last year. In 2013, he ranked sixth in the NL with a .911 OPS. This year, he finished first at .952. He doesn’t have big RBI numbers, but then, he didn’t finish in the top 10 in the NL in RBI last year, either. This year, he probably would have had he not missed 16 games. As is, he finished 13th.

Instead, the narrative belonged to Stanton until he was drilled in the head by a Mike Fiers pitch, costing him the final two weeks. Had Stanton ended up playing 15 more games than McCutchen, perhaps one could justify giving him the nod. However, in the end, they both had the same OPS in the same amount of playing time. McCutchen is the more valuable defender and had the better OBP, making the best argument for Stanton being that he played in a gigantic cavern of a ballpark. However, McCutchen’s home in Pittsburgh is just as tough of a home run park for right-handed hitters and has been a worse park for run scoring overall. Advantage McCutchen.

So, that leaves me McCutchen versus the catchers. I favor Lucroy as the best of the bunch. I think he’s the better defender than Posey, and he caught an extra 24 games (Lucroy started 133 games at catcher and 16 at first, Posey started 109 games at catcher and 30 at first). That makes up for Posey’s advantage offensively (though it is greater than OPS suggests, considering the difference in ballparks). Martin was terrific defensively and one of the very few players this year to post a .400 OBP, but missing 50 games makes him a bottom-of-the-ballot option at best.

For what it’s worth, Baseball-reference WAR has Lucroy at 6.6 wins, followed by McCutchen, Stanton and Rendon all at 6.5. That’s a wash. Fangraphs WAR has McCutchen at 6.9, Rendon at 6.6, Lucroy at 6.3 and Stanton at 6.1.

With all due respect to Rendon (it was a terrific season, but it’s still an .824 OPS from a guy who played third base the vast majority of the time), McCutchen and Lucroy are my favorite candidates; the best hitter versus an excellent hitter and excellent defensive catcher. Lucroy ended up eighth in the NL in OBP and 10th in OPS. He hit 53 doubles. He played in seven more games than McCutchen despite doing all of that catching. Only Miguel Montero, at 130 games, rivaled Lucroy in workload behind the plate. No one else started more than 110 games.

But then there’s Clayton Kershaw. Despite not pitching in April, he lapped the field in rWAR, coming in at 8.0. fWAR was closer, as he finished at 7.2 to 6.9 for McCutchen. Kershaw’s 1.77 ERA is historic. He won 21 of his 27 starts, with a 239/31 K/BB ratio and just nine homers allowed in 198 1/3 innings.

I still don’t like declaring a sub-200 inning starter as the MVP, but whether I like it or not, the numbers back it up. And it’s not as if luck factored into Kershaw’s performance; he was simply that dominant. I can’t bypass him.

1. Kershaw
2. McCutchen
3. Lucroy
4. Stanton
5. Posey
6. Rendon
7. Rizzo
8. Gomez
9. Harrison
10. Martin

NL Cy Young

After Kershaw, both Johnny Cueto and Adam Wainwright ended up with identical 20-9 records. Cueto edged Wainwright for second place in ERA, 2.25 to 2.38. Cueto also struck out 242 batters in 243 2/3 innings, compared to 179 in 227 innings for Wainwright. FIP will say Cueto was lucky to give up so few hits, but Cueto has always been that “lucky.” He’s No. 2 for me.

I’m not sure Jordan Zimmermann would have taken fourth on my ballot prior to Sunday’s no-hitter, but he might have. Afterwards, it was an easy call. That leaves the last spot for either Zack Greinke or Cole Hamels. Hamels beat Greinke in ERA 2.46 to 2.71. They threw the same number of innings. Greinke had an extra nine strikeouts and 16 fewer walks, but he gave up five more homers. Greinke also allowed an extra four unearned runs. Hamels gets the nod.

1. Kershaw
2. Cueto
3. Wainwright
4. Zimmermann
5. Hamels

NL Rookie of the Year

The American League got most of this year’s rookie talent, much like the NL’s big advantage with the Puig-Jose Fernandez class last year.

1. Jacob deGrom
2. Billy Hamilton
3. Ken Giles

This was Hamilton’s award to lose all year long, but he gave it away by hitting .200/.254/.257 after the All-Star break. DeGrom made just 22 starts, but he was terrific in them, posting a 2.69 ERA and striking out 144 in 140 1/3 innings.

The third spot goes to either Giles or Arizona’s Ender Inciarte, a superb defender who hit .278/.318/.359 in 418 at-bats while playing center and left. Giles, meanwhile, did a nice Dellin Betances impression once he got his chance, finishing with a 1.18 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 45 2/3 innings.

John Henry tries to justify the Red Sox’ trade of Mookie Betts

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Red Sox owner John Henry issued a lengthy statement to fans today trying to explain and justify the team’s trade of Mookie Betts. It’s a master class in distortion that will, in all likelihood, make no one happy.

Henry starts by talking about “challenges.” The “particularly challenging” offseason the Red Sox had, the “extraordinary challenges” the Red Sox faced, and the front office’s handling of these “challenges.” He goes on to talk about how he knows the “challenges” affect the fans and how he sees it as his job to protect the organization from these “challenges.”

There’s a lot of passive voice here, and at no point does Henry note that the primary challenge at play here was the team’s decision to cut payroll and get it below the Competitive Balance Tax threshold. It’s just a thing that happened to the Red Sox, apparently. They had no agency in this at all.

For what it’s worth, the team keeps denying that the CBT was the motivating factor:

This is laughable, of course, given that Henry himself began the Red Sox’ offseason by specifically saying the team needed top do just that. His exact words from late September:

“This year we need to be under the CBT . . .  that was something we’ve known for more than a year now. If you don’t reset there are penalties so we’ve known for some time now we needed to reset as other clubs have done.”

Three days later, Kennedy himself said it’d “be difficult” to keep both Betts and J.D. Martinez and accomplish that goal. When that all went over like a lead balloon with the fans Henry and everyone else tried to walk it back, but you have to be an idiot not to see what happened here:

  1. Owner demands team get under CBT;
  2. Team president says it’ll be hard to do that without one of the superstars leaving;
  3. Martinez declines to op-out of his deal;
  4. Betts is traded.

They can cite all the “challenges” they want, but they traded Betts in order to slash payroll and they slashed payroll simply because they wanted to, not, as we and many others have demonstrated, because of any compelling reason.

Instead of talking about that, Henry spends the bulk of the statement talking about how baseball’s financial system — free agency, basically — requires teams to make tough choices. Henry:

In today’s game there is a cost to losing a great player to free agency — one that cannot merely be made up by the draft pick given. . . . we felt we could not sit on our hands and let him go without getting value in return to help us on our path forward.”

Losing a player to free agency stinks, but nowhere in the entire statement does Henry mention that the Sox could’ve, you know, not lost Betts to free agency next November.

Nowhere does he note that the Sox had a full year to talk to Betts about a possible extension nor did he mention that the Sox — who print money at a faster rate than anyone except the Yankees — could’ve bid on him in free agency too. He simply does not allow for the possibility that a 2021 Boston Red Sox team could’ve done what the 2020 Washington Nationals did, for example, and sign one of their big, would-be departing free agents in Stephen Strasburg. Nor, for that matter, does he allow for the possibility that they could do what the 2019 Washington Nationals did with their all-but-certain-to-depart superstar in Anthony Rendon: hold on to him in his walk year and win a damn World Series. Guess it was a “challenge” to go into all of that.

Of course, as we’ve seen across baseball this past week, it’s really, really hard to explain something when you don’t want to admit the facts and accept the consequences of it all. That’s maybe the toughest challenge of them all.

The full statement: