If you are new to the awards, see Week 1's column to see the award definitions.
This Week's Proof That Assigning Wins and Losses to a Pitcher is a Silly Practice that Must Stop
Bad Luck Division
Derek Lowe held the red hot Rox to two runs over seven innings, allowing only five hits and no walks. He got the loss because Josh Fogg and the Colorado pen shut out LA.
This Season's Worst Luck: Gil Meche had a very nice season, with a 3.67 ERA and 23 quality starts in 34. But the KC offense didn't give him much help as he went 9-13.
Others of note:
Ian Snell was much the same story as Meche, going 9-12 despite a 3.76 ERA and 22 QS in 32 tries.
Matt Cain went 7-16 with a 3.65 ERA and 22 QS in 32.
Good Luck Division
Andy Pettitte on Saturday threw 5 innings, allowing 9 runs to the Orioles, striking nobody out. He got the win because Daniel Cabrera got lit up for 7 by the Yankee offense and his bullpen tacked on another 4 for good measure.
This Season's Lucky Dog: It's certainly Horacio Ramirez, who was awful this season, to the tune of a 7.16 ERA and a -22.8 VORP. He walked more than he struck out. He allowed 1.85 baserunners per inning. He only gave the Mariners 9 quality starts in 23 attempts. Yet still, fortuitous run support made him look like a perfectly average starting pitcher at 8-7.
Others of note:
Noah Lowry, who wasn't bad as measured by ERA at 3.92, but he went 14-8 despite only giving the Giants a quality start in half of his 26 times out. The Giants should probably look to sell high on his ERA and wins given that he too posted extremely pedestrian peripherals, striking out 87 and walking 87 in 156 innings.
I talked about Claudio Vargas's talent for this kind of luck earlier this summer. He has a 43 and 38 record despite having a higher than average ERA (92 ERA+) and batters have hit .272/.342/.481 against him. Well, overall this season Vargas went 11-6 with a 5.09 ERA but some of that came in relief. As a starter, he went 10-4 with a 5.04 ERA and 9 quality starts in 23.
Sunday night Huston Street blew a 1 run lead but Kurt Suzuki had his back and gave him his 5th win of the year.
The Wes Littleton They Call that a Save? Award
Thursday Jamie Walker logged a save throwing a perfect ninth. He was protecting a three run lead with the feared Ray Olmedo, John McDonald, and Matt Stairs lineup core batting.
With the way that bullpens are used these days, I really don't have much of an issue with the "closer" being the third or fourth best pitcher in a bullpen. They're rarely used in situations where they have to get somebody out of a jam. The setup men usually get that job. But it merits mention that Ryan Dempster and Joe Borowski are both significantly outclassed by the less famous members of their bullpen. With Borowski, he posted an AL leading 45 saves while Rafael Betancourt and Rafael Perez did his heavy lifting for the most part and when arbitration time comes, they should be paid like the guys with the flashy save totals. With Dempster it was Carlos Marmol with the quality work. While ERA is a lousy way of judging relievers, closers who have ERA's of 5.07 (Borowski) and 4.73 (Dempster) usually lose their jobs in short order.
Also of note is the guy who this award is named after. Bask in the glory of the most ridiculous save ever recorded.
The Rico Brogna Award
Troy Tulowitzki racked up 7 RBI in the season's final week, featuring 2 home runs. But he only hit .185/.214/.481.
Season Winner: Jeff Francoeur, who drove in 105 runs despite only producing a .782 OPS as a right fielder. That breaks down to a .293/.338/.444 line. In 642 at bats, he hit 19 home runs and only drew 42 walks. The walk total is an improvement on the 34 he had collected in his previous 908 career at bats. And his 40 doubles are a good sign, but that's only good for future projection. He still needs to improve his power and selectivity as he was just simply an average right fielder this season.
Francoeur's teammate Andruw Jones hit .222/.311/.413 with 94 RBI. It's good to hit behind Chipper Jones, Edgar Renteria, and Kelly Johnson.
Delmon Young collected 93 RBI with a .288/.316/.408 line.
Sammy Sosa had 92 RBI with a .252/.311/.468 line.
The Harmon Killebrew Batting Average is for Wussies Award
Kevin Fransden of the Giants only hit .261 on the week, but with 5 walks and a homer in 23 at bats for a .261/.393/.391 week.
I'm giving it to Jack Cust over Pat Burrell in a photo finish. Cust hit .256/.408/.504 with 105 walks and 26 home runs in 395 at bats while Burrell hit .256/.400/.502 with 114 walks and 30 round trippers in 472 at bats. They're similar numbers and I'm more certain that Burrell will be able to sustain that kind of production. But that's projection for next season and Cust's numbers came in a park that is much more hostile to hitters than Citizens Bank Park.
Other Deserving Candidates:
Ryan Howard at .268/.392/.584. More on him later.
Paul Konerko at .259/.351/.490
Jason Varitek isn't posting flashy power hitting numbers, but .255/.367/.421 from a catcher is still very nice.
The Rey Sanchez Batting Average is all I've Got Award
Melvin Mora hit .276, but provided little else with a .290 OBP and a .310 SLG.
Delmon Young was a runaway winner at .288/.316/.408. All of the things I said about Jeff Francoeur apply here. With 13 home runs and 26 walks in 645, he has to develop more secondary skills. I think the power is on the way, but I'm not as positive about the selectivity. Regardless, a .723 OPS from a right fielder is not pushing the Rays towards contention.
Nomar Garciaparra with a .283/..328/.371 line and 7 HR, 31 BB in 431 AB
Jeff Francoeur at .293/.338/.444
Aaron Miles .290/.328/.348
Pudge Rodriguez at .281/.294/.420 had power, but was an OBP sink.
The Steve Balboni Award
Jonny Gomes struck out 8 times in 13 AB on his way to a .154/.333/.462 week. There was a lot of good happening there with a home run, a pair of doubles, and 4 walks. But it was drug down by the K's.
This is another close one as Gomes edged out Josh Fields. Gomes hit .244/.322/.460 with 126 K in 348 AB. The good he did was limited by his batting average being drug down by his bloated K rate. 20 doubles, 17 homers, and 35 walks made for a good isolated slugging percentage and laid the foundation for an acceptable OBP. But it just didn't happen.
Others Matching the Criteria:
I mentioned Josh Fields, who is the official runner up. He had a similar season to Gomes with 373 at bats and 125 whiffs, but a healthy amount of power with 17 doubles and 23 bombs with 35 walks for a .244/.308/.480 line. Needless to say, the rookie needs to work on making more consistent contact.
Brandon Inge K'ed 150 times in 508 AB for a .236/.312/.376 line.
Andruw Jones struggled to the tune of 138 K in 572 AB and .222/.311/.413
Alex Gordon stumbled badly out of the gate but picked it up later. His numbers still paint a picture with 543 AB, 137 K, .247/.314/.411
Sammy Sosa was mentioned earlier, but his main problem was making contact, especially against RHP. 412 AB, 112 K, .252/.311/.468
3 True Outcomes Alert!!!
Rickie Weeks collected 4 homers, 5 walks, 9 strikeouts in 28 at bats.
Jack Cust was truly impressive, posting 26 homers, 105 walks, and 164 K in a measly 507 plate appearances for a 58.2% TTO figure. And while I like Cust and I'm extremely happy to see him succeed, I sincerely think that he's one of the leading candidates for next year's Balboni unless he cuts down on the strikeouts at least a little bit. He struck out in 32.3 percent of his plate appearances while Ryan Howard, who set the all time single season record, struck out in 30.7%.
Others worth mentioning:
As my mother would say, speaking of the devil, Ryan Howard had 199K, 107 BB, 47 HR in 648 PA for a 54.5 percentage.
Old TTO standby Adam Dunn did not disappoint with 165 K, 101 BB, 40 HR in 632 PA, 48.4%.
Carlos Pena had 142 K, 103 BB, 46 HR, 612 PA, 47.5%.
And newcomer BJ Upton fell short on the walks (65) and wasn't quite up with the others guys in the power category (24), but still managed 154 K in 548 PA for a very respectable 44.3%.
Say Hi To Parity
I haven't noticed anybody else mention this, but that could be because I'm still catching up on my reading after being out of action late last week and early this week while on vacation and in preparing for the above categories, but this season we had a very small difference in records between the best team and the worst team in baseball. The Indians and Red Sox each won 96 games and lost 66 while the Rays went the inverse 66 and 96, a mere 30 game gap. That's a .185 spread covering all 30 teams.
I was curious about this, so I did a very unscientific little survey of these spreads since the 1995 season and this year had both the "worst" wins leader and the "best" last place club for that period. It behooves me to mention that last year was close in that the win figures were 97 and 61 respectively for a 36 game spread, still not bad and down significantly from the 58 game spread we saw in '03 and the 54 in '04. The highest spread in that period was the 60 game gap between the 114 win 1998 Yankees and the 54 win Marlins of that same campaign.
Out of curiosity, I looked at how baseball stacked up with the NFL and NBA in this respect. I took a look at the least 13 full seasons in each league. The answer is an education in the power of sample size as the average spread between the worst and best records in baseball was a .277 gap. The most was .370.
The NFL had an average spread was a staggering .716, an 11.45 game gap. The biggest single season gap was 13 games (twice) for a .813. And the smallest was 10 games for a .625.
The NBA wasn't quite as bad as they have an 82 game season. The average gap was 47.2 games for a .576 differential. The most extreme was 57 games, .695. The least was 40 games, .488.
Clearly the 162 game schedule pulls teams much, much, much closer to .500 than the 16 game season in the NFL and significantly closer than the 82 game NBA calendar. This probably doesn't tell us anything about what league has the most parity and it's likely that I made a number of stupid errors that could be sniffed out immediately by somebody more savvy with an Excel spreadsheet than I. This was literally done in 15 minutes with a couple of scrap pieces of paper and a pocket calculator. But it is a fun piece of information.
Here are some more notes on the close standings of 2007. Every team in baseball was within 15 games of .500. Percentage-wise, this is like every team in football finishing between 9-7 and 7-9.
This Week's MVP
AL: David Ortiz had a smoking final week with 4 doubles, 3 HR, and 5 BB in 17 AB for a .647/.727/1.412 line.
Alex Rodriguez has owned this award for several months now. Any writer who doesn't vote for him is either letting personal grudges get in the way, isn't voting at all because he/she is trapped at the bottom of a ravine just out of sight of the passing highway traffic above, or is too dumb to actually fill the thing out. He posted the highest OPS of his career at 1.067 and his best OBP. The statistics speak for themselves .314/.422/.645, 96.6 VORP. He was clearly the best player in the game, the best hitter in the game. He still won't win some people over no matter what he does in the postseason, but it doesn't really matter much anymore. He is who he is and people will love him or hate him because of it.
Others on my ballot, though not necessarily in this order, but in the general ballpark:
Magglio Ordonez had a career year, driven mostly by the unrepeatable .363 batting average he posted. But it's nice to see him do this kind of work after being a very good player for a long time. Even as a Royals fan I've always liked him, both because he was the epitome of steady production for my fantasy team and because it's a pleasure to watch him work at the plate.
Jorge Posada was another player having a late career peak season when we expected a small, incremental decline. .338/.426/.543 isn't going to happen next year, but it's a nice crowning achievement in a wonderful career.
David Ortiz has spoiled us. We're now used to seeing excellence from him, so .332/.445/.621 doesn't really show up on our radar for most of the season.
Curtis Granderson hit .302/.361/.552, was a gold glove caliber fielder in center, and was 26 for 27 stealing bases.
Ichiro Suzuki .351/.396/.431. He's had either 48 or 49 in 4 consecutive seasons. That's weird. Anyways, he made for a good center fielder.
Carlos Pena was a scapegoat in Detroit, where he was always a passable offensive first baseman. His huge power spike is what we expected when he was a big time prospect in the Rangers organization. If there's a theme to this list, it's that almost everybody here outside of Ichiro will have a hard time duplicating their batting averages, but as long as Pena keeps mashing home runs and drawing walks, he'll be fine, even hitting .260ish.
Victor Martinez isn't a particularly good defensive catcher, but he's still passable most nights and he hit .301/.374/.505.
Grady Sizemore was another key member of the Indians, with a .277/.390/.462 season
Vlad Guerrero is another who has spoiled us with steady production year in and year out, posting a .324/.403/.547 line in 2007.
NL: Prince Fielder didn't quite match Big Papi's rate stats in the 26th week, but he had 2 doubles, 3 HR, and a staggering 9 BB in 17 AB and amazingly went 2 for 2 stealing bases in the season finale.
Season: I'm firmly a David Wright guy and from what I've read, my opinion is stronger in his favor than most of the others I've seen. Jimmy Rollins seems to be the golden boy at this point and I'd be mildly surprised if he didn't win it given the attention that was showed on him in the season's last weekend. There also seems to be a groundswell of support for Matt Holliday, which I think is more grounded in reality than the Rollins fixation, but I still believe in giving the award to the best player in the league and that was Wright.
The reason for this is simple. I think that a guy who hits .325/.416/.546 with half of his games being played in Shea Stadium, 34 steals in 39 tries, and gold glove level defense at third base is preferable to a good (but not great) defensive left fielder who hit .340/.405/.607 for a team based in Denver or a good, but not great defensive shortstop who hit .296/.344/.531 with 41 steals in 47 tries with half of his games in Citizens Bank Park. It's as simple as that. In a way, it's a shame that Chase Utley missed the time he did because he would make for a more compelling candidate than Rollins, hitting .332/.410/.566 as one of the best defensive second basemen in the NL. But the gap in playing time due to his broken hand makes him merely a notable down-ballot entry rather than a challenger to Wright and Holliday.
Don't get me wrong here. Holliday had a wonderful season. And if they do give it to him, it won't be anywhere near as poor a decision as Justin Morneau last year. But I believe that either Holliday or Rollins would be a wrong choice. The collapse of his team shouldn't be held against David Wright.
I mentioned Holliday, Rollins, and Utley. They're all top 10's.
Albert Pujols is actually my #2 in the NL ahead of Holliday. Hitting .327/.429/.568 in a neutral park while doubling as the best defensive first baseman in the game is huge.
Miguel Cabrera and Price Fielder are grouped together in my mind, with Cabrera, who should be a first baseman soon, hitting .320/.401/.565 in an extreme pitcher's park and Fielder, who is a first baseman and will at some point be a DH, hit .288/.395/.618 while playing in a hitter's park.
Hanley Ramirez had an incredible year at the plate, but he's outgrown the shortstop position and he cost his team a lot of runs there. It still doesn't make him any less than a remarkable player.
Lastly we have Jake Peavy, who was certainly one of the ten most valuable players in the NL this season. More on him in a minute.
Other Season Awards
AL: I like Fausto Carmona, groundball machine. I would accept his teammate CC Sabathia or Angel John Lackey as correct answers as well.
NL: I've mentioned it in the past here, but my favorite number for Jake Peavy is his BA/OBP/SLG allowed. .208/.272/.312 is ridiculous.
Brandon Webb posted a 3.01 ERA\ with 194 K, 72 BB, 209 H in 236 IP.
Rookie of the Year
AL: Dustin Pedroia hit .317/.380/.442
Brian Bannister and Jeremy Guthrie
NL: Ryan Braun was a butcher at third base, but he was remarkable with the lumber.
Troy Tulowitzki was the best defensive SS in the NL and not a half bad bat.
Hunter Pense hit .322/.360/.539 and would win this thing in a lot of years.
Thank you for reading this season. I really do appreciate the feedback I recieved through the year and I hope to preach to you guys next year.