If you are new to the awards, see Week 1's column to see the award definitions.
This Week's Small Sample Size Warning
Justin Verlander's no-no constituted a majority of a 14 inning scoreless streak. 14 innings of work dropped his ERA from 3.44 to 2.79. That's 14 innings that transformed him statistically from one of the 10 best starters in the AL into a leading Cy Young candidate.
This Week's Proof That Assigning Wins and Losses to a Pitcher is a Silly Practice that Must Stop
Good Luck Division
On Sunday, Tim Wakefield beat the Giants even though he allowed 5 runs on 8 hits in 5 and 2/3 innings.
Season Leader: Bartolo Colon has a 6 and 2 record even though he's suffering through a pretty awful season, with a 5.73 ERA.
Bad Luck Division
On Saturday, Carlos Zambrano gave the Cubs a complete game 2 hitter, allowing only a single and a solo home run and he still got the loss in the now infamous brawl game. He still got the loss as Chris Young and the Padres bullpen was brilliant, or the Cubs offense was terrible, either way works when talking about how Zambrano got hosed.
Season Leader: Gil Meche has 15 starts this season. 11 of those have been quality starts. In those 11, he's received the loss twice and has 5 no decisions. In 2 of those, he's allowed NO earned runs.
I can't denigrate Luis Vizcaino's performance on Saturday, but let's be clear, he got the win based mostly on luck. He relieved the struggling Tyler Clippard after Clippard had given up 5 runs in 3 and a third innings. Vizcaino did good work, getting Clippard out of a jam, stranding 2 runners and pitching a scoreless 5th before being lifted for Scott Proctor. In the meantime, the Yankee offense scored 4 runs off Tom Glavine and Scott Schoeneweis. Let's be clear, Vizcaino did his job, but if Alex Rodriguez and company had decided to wait for a couple of innings to bombard Glavine, it would have been Schoeneweis to get the win. The point here is that it's all arbitrary.
The Rico Brogna Award
Felipe Lopez hit .211/.318/.421, but drove in an impressive 6 runs on the week.
Season to Date: Sammy Sosa is 11th in the Majors in RBI's with 51 and 97th in OPS and 158th in OBP.
The Harmon Killebrew Batting Average is for Wussies Award
Bobby Abreau did alright with his 21 at bats this week, drawing 5 walks, smacking a triple and a homer, and even going 2 for 2 on the basepaths. Who cares that he hit .237 when his OBP was .407 and his SLG was .476.
Season as a whole: Ryan Howard has been a candidate for both this award and the Balboni all season. The awards overlap a bit. Both probably apply. He's hitting a mere .232, dragged down by 67 whiffs in 177 at bats, but he's walked enough (43) and hit enough homers (14) to be an asset at first base (.377/.514).
The Rey Sanchez Batting Average is all I've Got Award
Kevin Youkilis hit .292/.320/.375 as a first baseman. `nuff said. Hand him the trophy (Note: We don't have the budget for real trophies)
Season: Tony Pena Jr. is hitting a respectable .280, but he's only drawn 6 walks in 239 at bats on his way to a meager .280/.302/.372. He truly is the spiritual successor to Rey Sanchez in KC.
The Steve Balboni Award
Ryan Howard wins this week's Balboni with a .200/.286/.480. If he hadn't struck out 11 times in his 25 at bats, his 3 walks and 2 bombs might have led to a pretty nice batting line.
Leader: When did Brandon Inge turn into Troy Glaus lite? .254/.351/.455 looks a lot like what I'd imagine Glaus would do if you bled some of the air out of his tires. Nevertheless, he's smacked 11 homers and drawn 27 walks in his 209 at bats, but his 58 strikeouts have held down his batting average more than a little bit.
3 True Outcomes Alert!!!
Here's another weird one, Ryan Langerhans hit .294/.478/.706 this week with a pair of home runs, 6 walks, and 7 strikeouts in 17 at bats. See also: small sample size warning.
Leader: Pat Burrell has 8 home runs, 53 walks, and 48 strikeouts in 194 at bats this season on his way to a .211/.382/.387 line. See also: Balboni Award.
This Week's Dumbest Thing Ever
On Thursday, I was catching some scores on ESPN News and they showed the highlights of the Padres/ Rays afternoon game. At the end of the package, anchor David Lloyd cited a statistic thusly: "The Padres don't have a .300 hitter in their lineup. I guess offense is overrated. The Padres are first in the NL West."
Normally this kind of thing is a throwaway line for me, but the Fire Joe Morgan in me just cringed at the numerous ways in which this statement is wrong.
-The Padres play in the most extreme pitcher's park in baseball and that will naturally hold down their offense.
-Offense is not batting average. Offense is scoring runs, and a lot more than batting average goes into that. Home runs, walks, doubles, that kind of thing.
-Not having one batter in principle isn't evidence that an offense is a malignancy on a team's chances of competing. There have been some very good offensive teams that merely had 8 guys who didn't suck. Having 8 guys who hit .285/.350/.500 would make for a pretty decent lineup.
-As I write this, the Padres stand in the middle of the pack in the NL in run scoring at 9th out of 16 teams. Not great, not shabby, especially given my first point.
-On the extremely rare cases in which a team overcomes a poor offense to be a real contender, those teams are likely to look a lot like the Padres, who are lapping the field in preventing runs, with 2 stud pitchers in Jake Peavy and Chris Young, and more than half of their lineup could be viewed as plus defenders, anchored by catcher Josh Bard, shortstop Khalil Greene, shortstop Marcus Giles, center fielder Mike Cameron, and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. The fact that it is POSSIBLE to overcome a poor offense in being relevant in no way justifies an overstatement as large as saying that offense itself is unimportant.
Lloyd should give a call to his old co-worker Brian Kenny, who would set him straight on matter such as this. I always liked Kenny because he was one of the most accepting of all mainstream media people to sabermetrics. He always had great discussions with Joe Sheehan and Rob Neyer when they came on. I miss him on the Hot List.
This Week's MVP's
In lieu of the regular awarding of least valuable players for the AL and NL both for the week and cumulative, here's a random sampling of some players who are absolutely carrying their teams' chances of doing something meaningful this season on their backs. They may or may not be THE most valuable players in baseball, but they're on the ballot.
Chase Utley has turned into an absolute stud. This isn't a news flash. He did hit a robust .309/.379/.572 last season and .291/.376/.540 the year before. Still, with a .320/.397/.572 line, he's highest ranking only up-the-middle player in OPS in baseball (9th overall) and unlike Jorge Posada, who immediately follows him, a major regression doesn't seem imminent.
This might be a breakout for Casey Kotchman, who has always had solid contact hitting skills and an outstanding glove at first base. Still, after making a career out of disappointing in the Show and getting injured faster than anybody this side of the similarly skilled Nick Johnson, seeing a .333/.411/.556 line from this former top prospect is startling.
Justin Morneau shouldn't have been the AL MVP last season, but he was very, very good and he's showing it wasn't a fluke, hitting .280/.355/.568 on the season. With Joe Mauer injured and the rest of the non-Tori Hunter lineup alternating between adequate and awful, if the Twins continue to sink behind the Indians and Tigers this season, one person you won't be able to blame is Morneau, who outside of batting average is putting up a carbon copy of last season.
We're all witnesses for a nice season for Victor Martinez, who is hitting .323/.381/.454. Having a catcher who can hit like that is how you get away with zeroes from third base and both outfield corners and still manage to keep up with the Tigers.
Least Valuable Players
Same thing goes for this category, only these guys are murdering their teams' chances of contending.
Jacque Jones is pathetic this season. In the past, he's at least been a league average corner outfielder (or close to it) with a good glove, but a pronounced platoon split. In 196 at bats this season, he isn't hitting ANYBODY, stumbling his way to a .235/.294/.332 line.
I had high hopes for Stephen Drew. I wasn't the only one either, as a coveted talent out of college with a Major League contract and a 4 million dollar bonus, the Diamondbacks certainly had some expectations. He was rated the number 5 prospect in the game by Baseball America in 2006, the guys at Baseball Prospectus were a little less enthusiastic, but still ranked him number 19. So it's fair to say that just about everybody is at least a little surprised that he's hitting .233/.294/.335.
Failing similar expectations and holding ML bloodlines is Cleveland anchor (and not in a good way) Josh Barfield, who is hitting a mere .258/.287/.346. I've been worried about his discipline for years, and with just 8 walks in 248 at bats and strikeouts in almost a fifth of his plate appearances, that seems to be a big issue. I'm not sure where his power went.
The up-the-middle duo of A.J. Pierzynski and Juan Uribe is hitting .243/.289/.406 and .212/.278/.337 respectively. Tad Iguchi isn't helping things much by not hitting for any kind of power (.354 SLG), but at least he's getting on base at a league average .331 clip. The less said about center field, the better. I have an idle question here. If this continues and the White Sox end up with 73 wins, how many people are going to apologize to Nate Silver after calling him everything short of a pedophile when PECOTA's projections were released?
Most Valuable Pitcher
You know, I'm having fun with this special recognition day thing. I think I'll continue with the pitchers.
It's really weird how Jeremy Guthrie is pitching like an ace when he has nothing like this anywhere in his statistical record. It's no stretch to say that I'm skeptical. It's possible that he's become a better than league average pitcher by tightening up his command and getting some extra break on something, but I haven't done that much research. Any Orioles fans out there who does have an opinion on the matter? Maybe a manic depressive Indians fan who has been watching from afar? Anyways, raise your hand if you expected a 2.57 ERA with a .210/.252/.321 cumulative line against.
Another one for Agents Mulder and Scully is Oliver Perez, who after 2 season of cleverly disguising himself as a gas can, has rediscovered himself to the tune of a 2.93 ERA, 8.24 K/9, and a .205/.281/.341 line allowed.
John Lackey is leading baseball with 10 wins and he's been outstanding, but Kelvim Escobar is kicking ass as well with a 2.97 ERA, 7.57 K/9, and a .231/.289/.312 line against.
Another pitcher who is doing better than he ever has is Ian Snell, who I watched a couple years ago here in Indy. At the time I liked Zach Duke a lot better as a prospect and said so to all of my friends. For a while that seemed prescient, as Duke hit the ground running while Snell struggled, making small, incremental improvements. Snell finally made the leap forward this year while Duke has deteriorated as HIS command and polish (which were the things I loved about him) deteriorated. I was going to write a full article on this, but it ended up with a wishy-washy conclusion that would have made for an unsatisfying read. The fact is Snell might have been the better prospect all along, but it required improvements in his slider and fastball command and in the game tapes I've watched, it seems like he's almost completely ditched his changeup, which I saw as an issue because I could tell when the change was coming from a side angle 200 feet away with an untrained eye because the arm speed was remarkably different than his slider/fastball arm action. Imagine what professional scouts and hitters though of it. Anyways, Snell is doing great with a 2.63 ERA, 7.34 K/9, and a .226/.292/.347 line. Hats off to him for working hard and developing like he has.
Least Valuable Pitcher
Oh come on, you know the drill by now.
Jeremy Sowers just isn't fooling anybody. 6.93 ERA, 2.74 K/9, .310/.360/.506. He was mercifully given a ticket to Buffalo, which isn't nearly as bad a place to spend a summer as it is a winter.
The rest of this list is entirely comprised of Ranger pitchers.
Robinson Tejeda; 68 IP, 6.49 ERA, 6.62 K/9, .285/.371/.496
Brandon McCarthy; 50 IP, 5.90 ERA, 5.54 K/9, .271/.357/.437
Vicente Padilla; 76 IP, 6.57 ERA, 4.93 K/9, .316/.383/.469
Kam Loe; 70 IP, 6.56 ERA, 5.4 K/9, .310/.361/.477
Kevin Millwood; 54 IP, 7.62 ERA, 7.29 K/9, .332/.401/.555
That's a horror show more terrifying than anything Wes Craven could come up with.
This Week's Completely Made-Up Award
No made-up award this week because I want to spend a few minutes talking about the USGP, which occupied most of the back half of my week. It was amazingly hot, but not even that could detract from an outstanding weekend. 4 days of events. From the Speed TV interview sessions at the Thursday pit walkabout to Friday's practice to Saturday's dramatic qualifying to the best F1 race of the year thus far. Some notes from my weekend.
-Couldn't have asked for a better race. With the Canadian GP and this weekend, it seems like we've had more passes (and better passes) in the last 2 weeks than the entire season coming into North America. Even when there wasn't a successful pass, you had near passes, such as Alonzo pressuring Hamilton and the various battles that took place along the Hullman straight. Stunning action and a testament to what F1 needs more of.
-The first point feeds into the point that Bernie needs to suck it up and renew with Indy for next year and for the foreseeable future. This track provides big crowds, a presence in the biggest market for things such as Mercedes cars, Red Bull, and Panasonic electronic equipment, and the races here are never dull.
-Nico Rosberg looked like he wanted to beat his car into a bloody pulp with his steering wheel and I can't blame him. That's got to be a kick in the delicate parts.
-Ralf Schumacher is officially awful.
-Adrian Sutil, Sebastian Vettel, and Heikki Kovaleinen are NOT awful. In fact they look pretty good.
-I've loved watching Hamilton and I'm as guilty as anybody for hyping him beyond all reason, but the skeptic in me says that all of the stuff that we're saying about him, we've also said about Alonzo, Kimi, and you could make a case that this kind of hype surrounded the horrifically mediocre Button. He's clearly a special driver and somebody who should contend for championships for the next decade if he chooses his ride wisely, but I'm not prepared yet to say that he's "Once in a generation" just yet. Check back with me in a couple of seasons when he isn't driving the fastest car in the field.
-Also on the subject of Hamilton, I really am neither worried, nor particularly interested in how well Hamilton and Alonzo get along. Unless I hear one of them is so malignant that it rises to the level of Eddie Irvine becoming too much of an asshole for anybody to be able to bear working with him without wanting to throw him into oncoming traffic, I'm not really going to find this compelling in any meaningful way. Alonzo is jealous and snipes about getting inferior equipment? Spare me. Race car drivers all have what my brother in law colorfully refers to as "Lead Vocalist Syndrome". They're divas, egos on wheels. They have to be arrogant to work up the nerve to strap themselves into a fighter jet with the wings turned upside down and roll around at top speed a few feet away from a freaking wall, pushing the thing to the last edge of performance. This kind of thing comes with the territory.
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.
Update [2007-6-19 10:19:5 by JM Barten]:I'd also like to add that the rumors about Renault possibly dropping Kovaleinen from their team because of underperformance always were ridiculous. If the team actually was considering such a move based on the first handful of races in the kid's career, then I give them too much credit. Still, it wouldn't have been a good idea regardless of what he did in Montreal and Indy. Not everybody hits the ground in a full sprint like Hamilton and Kubica. Some people actually have a learning curve to overcome before becoming an excellent F1 driver.