Before we start today, let's take a moment to talk about Josh Hancock. I mentioned the Virginia Tech tragedy a couple weeks ago and I have sad news to talk about again this week. I never knew Hancock. I never met him. I hear he was a nice guy and a good teammate. I'm more than willing to take those people at their word. The way I knew Hancock was as a player I watched on TV and read about in scouting reports, boxscores, and recaps. There are only 3 ways I know to pay tribute to Hancock. 1) wish the Cardinals organization, their fans, and Hancock's family the best and offer my condolences, 2) to wear a Cardinals hat this week, and 3) to talk about Josh Hancock the player.
Hancock came up through the Red Sox system as a starting pitcher throwing in the low 90's with a curve and a change. None of his 3 pitches were overpowering, but none of them were liabilities either. He was traded to the Phillies for Jeremy Giambi. He spent most of his time in that organization doing decent work for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In fact he threw more innings as a Red Baron than as anything else in his pro career, a combined 273 IP with a 3.92 ERA. After going to the Reds, they used him as a starter for a brief time, where he was around league average, putting up a 4.45 ERA, but with K/BB rates that were less stellar than that. The Reds released him during spring training in 2006 for reporting to camp overweight. The Cards picked him up and it paid off for them. They used him as a long reliever and he put together his best season, throwing 77 quality innings. Over the course of his career, his peak velocity had dropped off a bit, but he had refined his curveball to be a pretty decent out pitch. Last year he showed better command and showed improved K/BB rates and his best home run rate for any decent sized sample he had since he spent those 2 seasons in the S/W-B rotation.
I often talk to friends about how much I'd like to see teams make a partial return to the 4 man rotation, having 4 full time starters and 2 or 3 true long relievers who trade off the responsibility of starting games when the team has a dire need. Hancock would have fit that role fairly well. He gave the Cards quite a few outings like his final one, where the threw 3 solid innings out of the pen, striking out 2, allowing 1 run on 2 hits and a walk. He'd give you some solid innings, nothing spectacular, but solid. Every team could use a couple of relievers like that. So here's to Josh Hancock. Wherever you believe he might be tonight, whatever team he's playing for in the afterlife baseball league, he's getting guys to pop out weakly to the third baseman in foul territory.
If you are new to the awards, see Week 1's column to see the award definitions.
This Week's Small Sample Size Warning
Last week I mentioned how much of an effect Mark Buehrle's no hitter had on his stat line. On Wednesday afternoon Willy Taveras went 5 for 6, raising his batting average by 67 points and adding 116 points to his OPS.
This Week's Proof That Assigning Wins and Losses to a Pitcher is a Silly Practice that Must Stop
Good Luck Division:
Bubba Wells gave up 5 runs in 5 innings off 8 hits (5 for extra bases) and a pair walks, striking out a pair of Snakes. Nevertheless he was gifted a W as Randy Johnson hit the wall allowing 4 runs in the 4th inning of his first start this season. You can't spin this thing. David Wells got lucky.
Dontrelle Willis has 6 starts under his belt, 5 wins and only a single loss despite carrying a 5.35 ERA. I don't know what if anything is wrong with him. He's still striking out a healthy number of batters (31 in 37 IP), so he may just be hit-unlucky. It might be a job for somebody who is better at this kind of diagnostic work, like any one of my co-bloggers here at BTB. I really can't tell you whether he's really been this bad or if it's just another candidate for my small sample size warning note. Nevertheless, he has 3 quality starts and has received a win in starts where he allowed 5, 5, 3, 3, and 2 runs respectively. That's some good run support.
Bad Luck Division:
Last week there were some marginal candidates, but very few that really stuck out in this category. This week there's a bountiful harvest of potential choices. Wednesday alone provided a duel where Jake Peavy struck out 16 Diamondbacks in 7 scoreless innings and Brandon Webb induced enough worm-burners to hold the Padres scoreless in 8 frames. Neither got a decision as Trevor Hoffman blew it for Peavy and my fantasy team(s). Add in the pathetic A's offense getting shut out while Joe Blanton gave Oakland a complete game, allowing 2 runs on 6 hits and a pair of walks. Sometimes there is no justice in the world.
Your leader in the clubhouse: Ted Lilly: 6 quality starts, 2 wins, 2 losses, 2 no decisions.
The Rico Brogna Award
Miguel Olivo hit .227/.261/.409 but drove in 7 runs on the week, or should I say weak...
Season: Carlos Lee has driven in 22 runs for the Astros, but his .290 OBP has been a millstone for the Astros offense.
The Harmon Killebrew Batting Average is for Wussies Award
Adam Lind had a nice week for a rookie despite hitting only .250. 2 of his 5 hits went into the bleachers and he walked 5 times in 20 at bats to give him a line of .250/.385/.550
Season as a whole: All hail Rickie Weeks, who has a line of .247/.343/.516. He has 4 doubles, 3 triples, 5 homers, and a measly 11 singles in 93 at bats. Add to that the fact that he's 5 for 5 swiping bases and he's walked 11 times and you have a damned fine batting line for a middle infielder.
The Rey Sanchez Batting Average is all I've Got Award
Jason Kubel hit .276/.300/.379 in 29 at bats while playing left field for the Twins. Not good despite a superficially acceptable batting average.
Season: The same could be said for Wes Helms all season. Third basemen who hit .284/.326/.333 are a drag on an offense.
The Steve Balboni Award
Ryan Howard gets the Balboni award this week thanks to his 10 K in 23 at bats. .217/.333/.391 would have trended a bit higher had he put the ball in play a bit more often.
Clubhouse: Dan Uggla is second in baseball with 30 strikeouts. His extra base pop is enough to keep him from being a complete zero in the lineup, but 30 strikeouts in 101 at bats is enough of a drain on his BA to pull his line down to .228/.298/.446.
Kevin Kouzmanoff needs a hug. .091/.091/.136 in 22 at bats this week.
Season: Mike Cameron: 100 AB .190/.268/.230 with 28 strikeouts. Ouch.
3 True Outcomes Alert!!!
Barry Bonds only struck out twice this week, but he walked nine times and hit a pair of home runs.
Leader: Grady Sizemore has 104 plate appearances on the season with 5 HR, 21 BB, 25 K. That's 51 times in 104 times at the plate where the defense has not been involved.
This Week's Dumbest Thing Ever
Not to get off topic here, but the only way the interminable first round of the NFL Draft should ever take 6 hours and 8 minutes is if the league expands far enough to give Decatur, Illinois its first franchise since the Staleys moved north for the 1921 season. Trim back the time allowed for each pick to 10 minutes tops. I think 5 would be better. I like Mel Kiper and I love Ron Jawarski, but enough is enough.
This Week's MVP's
AL: Magglio Ordonez is on fire: .571/.654/.1.095 with 5 BB, 1 K, 5 2B, 2 HR in 21 AB. That's sick.
NL: What got into Alex Gonzalez? 25 AB, .520/.538/.1.040, 2 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR
AL: ARod holds on with season numbers: .355/.415/.882
NL: Bonds is hitting .362/.525/.828 with 8 home runs, 20 walks, and only 9 strikeouts in 58 at bats. With Bonds and ARod dueling it out, if you close your eyes, it feels like 2001 again.
This Week's Completely Made-Up Award
I give the "Where's The Beef" award to Lance Berkman, Todd Helton, Pat Burrell, and David Wright. These 4 hitters are usually power hitters. Everything else seems to be in order. None of them are striking out at a rate worthy of the Hacktastic or Balboni prizes. Heck, all 3 of them are hitting enough singles and drawing enough walks to be assets to their teams. But none of them are hitting home runs this season.
Berkman: 2 HR, 83 AB, .253/.404/.337
Burrell: 1 HR, 69 AB, .304/.456/.420
Helton: 1 HR, 82 AB, .390/.523/.512
Wright: 0 HR, 85 AB, .259/.388/.329
It's still the small sample size portion of the season, so I'm pretty sure 90% of this is random chance. The only one that I really buy into is Helton, who has seen declines in his ISO for several years now. Still, everyday I look through boxscores and in my best Vince Lombardi voice I ask "What the hell is going on out there?"
Here's Where You Come In
I need your help. Please drop me a line nominate players for awards maybe entire team for awards. Make up your own award. Point out something stupid that your local color commentator said during a recent game. I can only watch so much baseball in a week, even with the miracle of MLB.TV. I have to use you as a crutch.