Before we start today, I have a plea for media outlets everywhere. No more ugly dog show coverage. Please? I don't need to see what Ren would look like after 5 years of serious meth addiction. And since it seems like one of these freak shows washes up about once every couple months, it probably should trigger Chuck Sheppard's "No longer weird" concept. We've seen it before. The dog looks like an elderly rat. We get it. Now get that ugly thing off my television screen.
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
Good Luck Division
Monday was Mike Maroth's lucky day as he allowed the Nats to score 5 runs on him (4 earned) and still walked away with a W.
Season Leader: Jeff Suppan has won 3 games, has lost 4, and has a no decision since mid-May. In the games he WON, he gave up 13 runs in 18 innings. In his no decision, he gave up 9 in 4 and 2/3.
Bad Luck Division
Joe Blanton and El Duque combined for 15 shutout innings on Saturday and got matching no decisions because they had the statistical misfortune of pitching their respective gems in the same game. Blanton is probably a bit more disappointing because the degree of difficulty involved in throwing up 8 doughnuts on the scoreboard against the Mets is a bit higher than blanking the A's for 7.
If you have to have a loss, consider Greg Maddux on Friday collecting his 207th career loss. Anytime you hold Boston to 2 runs in 6 innings, you have something to be proud of.
Season Leader: Johan Santana is a no-brainer at this point. He's 8 and 6 on the season with a 2.91 ERA. Really he should have won it last week when he was 6 and 6 with a 3.19 ERA. If you hear somebody ask what is wrong with Johan Santana this season, what with a "barely over .500" record, you have my permission to punch that person in the neck.
I have 2 examples today illustrating 2 separate weaknesses of this obsolete statistic. The first one happened on Monday and you probably heard about it as Edwin Jackson somehow injured his finger and had to come out of the game with 2 outs in the 5th, one out away from being in line for the win. He was theoretically 1 pitch away from getting a statistical pat on the bat, but instead Jason Hammel got credit for Jackson's work, or more accurately the good work of Jonny Gomes and Brendan Harris. One pitch is all that stood between one pitcher getting a win and the next guy getting the gold star.
The other example is from Sunday afternoon's Rangers/Astros tilt. Dan Wheeler took the vulture concept to a whole new level. He entered the game with 2 on, nobody out in the 8th protecting a 7-3 lead. He promptly allowed both inherited runners to score, making the score 7-5. He then gave up a 2 run homer to Frank Catalanotto which tied the game at 7. Hunter Pense and Mark Loretta attempted to bail him out by giving the Astros another 2 run lead. Amazingly Phil Garner tempted fate by leaving Wheeler in for the 9th. What does Wheeler do with his new lease on life? That's right, solo home runs for Marlon Byrd and Ian Kinsler. Tie ballgame, 9-9 going into the 10th inning. The Astros score ANOTHER 3 runs putting Wheeler in line for the win AGAIN. This time Garner wakes from his slumber and puts in Chad Qualls, who protects Wheeler's ill-gotten gains with a scoreless 10th. So let's review, Wheeler throws 2 innings, allows 3 home runs, 4 runs, all earned, a couple more inherited runners. And he still gets "credited" with the win. Hell, he only gets one blown save in the whole mess when he in fact blew 2 leads. That is the best (or worst depending on your point of view) example of why this column exists I've found thus far. It's the worst vulture performance of the season.
The Rico Brogna Award
Shane Victorino drove in 6 runs, but managed a meager .217/.280/.304 line in his 23 at bats.
Season to Date: Raul Ibanez is 19th in the Majors with 49 RBI, but he's a corner outfielder hitting .280/.332/.440. That's not a killer. But it's mediocre at best.
The Harmon Killebrew Batting Average is for Wussies Award
Brad Wilkerson posted a .227 batting average on the week, but of his 5 hits, one was a double and two of them were homers. He also added 4 walks for a .346 OBP and a 545 SLG.
Season as a whole: Ryan Howard has hit .257/.386/.550 and stands 17th in MLB in OPS. 30 of his 52 hits have been for extra bases and he's chipped in 44 walks in 202 at bats.
The Rey Sanchez Batting Average is all I've Got Award
So Taguchi hit 73 points higher than Wilkerson, but he drew no walks and hit for little power, posting a .300/.300/.367 line for the Cards.
Season: I've beaten up on Nomar Garciaparra this season, but Sean Casey is at least as bad at producing runs from a corner infield position. .284/.347/.373 isn't getting it done. And when your everyday first baseman has 1 home run all season and it's late June, you need to start evaluating other options.
The Steve Balboni Award
Rookie Josh Fields did some good things this week. He smacked a double and a home run, and he drew a walk, but his 8 strikeouts in 22 at bats played a role in keeping his line a subpar .227/.261/.409. This is probably not a fluke. Fields hit .283/.394/.498 for Charlotte, but he also struck out 60 times in his 205 at bats this season. Last season he actually bested that line, but whiffed 136 times in his 462 International League at bats.
Leader: Adam LaRoche has 8 home runs and 35 walks in 265 at bats, but has struck out a staggering 74 times in 265 at bats for a .211/.306/.366 line.
3 True Outcomes Alert!!!
Here's one I never expected to see here. Joe Mauer hit a pair of bombs, drew 5 walks, and struck out 7 times in his 24 at bats. I don't think of him as a master of the TTO.
Leader: Adam Dunn is THE master of the TTO. 266 at bats, 20 home runs, 37 walks, 97 K. His .271 batting average is bound to come down a bit.
This Week's Dumbest Thing Ever
In the wake of Sammy Sosa's milestone 600th home run, there was widespread praise for how he's come back from retirement. I saw some analysis that he's been good this year because he's hitting the ball to the opposite field, because he's made some mechanical adjustments. But I never once heard the actual truth.
Sammy Sosa isn't a very good baseball player at this stage and he's been a contributing factor in the Rangers disaster of a season, not a bright light shining in spite of the dark night. The guy is hitting .246/.305/.467 as a DH for a team that plays its home games in a very friendly ballpark for hitters. That takes a team farther from contention, not closer to it. ESPN.com had an article mentioning him as an all star candidate. But if you're taking a Ranger, you're taking Ian Kinsler, who at .243/.332/.458, is hitting BETTER than Sosa while playing second base. Or maybe you're taking Mark Teixeira, health concerns aside.
Sammy Sosa isn't good and somebody needs to say it. To make the claim that he's an All Star borders on malpractice on the part of sportswriters.
Update [2007-6-26 7:41:49 by JM Barten]:I should mention that the reason he stinks right now is because he's swinging through entirely too many pitches. I've mentioned it many times before, but I normally don't have anything in particular against strikeouts, but when they reach particular levels, it becomes nearly impossible to bat for a decent average and by extension, to get on base at a sufficient rate be an asset to an offense. This is the embodiment of the Balboni award. Sosa is striking out more than once per game and while he's hitting for decent power and drawing an acceptable number of walks, he's not doing these things so well that he can get away with a .243 batting average. So that is the crux of my Sosa argument.
This Week's MVP's
AL: Brian Roberts was a stat sheet stuffer with a .538/.600/.1.00 line. He hit a pair of doubles, a pair of triples, a pair of home runs, stole two bases without getting caught once, and he drew 4 walks.
Season: Alex Rodriguez hit .545/.643/.818, launching him back ahead of Magglio Ordonez and Vlad Guerrero. His season stats are up to .333/.433/.707.
NL: Any time you hit three doubles and four home runs in a week, you know it's probably going to be a good one. Alfonso Soriano did just that and posted a .480/.519/.1.080 week for the Cubs.
Season: Miguel Cabrera leads a relatively weak NL field with a .330/.397/.601 line while playing in a tough park for batters. He gets demerits for being a key "contributor" to a Marlins defense that ranks last in the NL at turning batted balls into outs according to Baseball Prospectus's defensive stats.
Least Valuable Players
AL: Bobby Abreau did his best to counteract ARod's spectacular week with his .125/.160/.208.
Season I've talked a lot about how Jason Kendall is killing the A's. It's all still accurate. He's awful right now in ways that makes Craig Biggio's lurch towards an arbitrary milestone seem downright helpful. But Kurt Suzuki is now up and it seems like between Suzuki and the well publicized requests of the A's for Mike Piazza to get his glove out of storage, things are looking up for East Bay fans. So let's talk about Dioneer Navarro, who has been a crushing disappointment for Rays fans in a season without many really dark points. .180/.247/.264 is a good way to not only forfeit your claim on the future, but to also lose your starting spot by the end of this season. He needs to pick it up and at least rise to the level of merely not good rather than malignant.
NL: Adam LaRoche hit .087/.222/.087. As documented above, he's not having a good season, but at least things were looking better since he left the extended slump that he started the season with. It all came crashing down again this week as he was hopeless.
Season: Adam Kennedy used to be a decent, but unspectacular player. He isn't decent this year. He's been a spectacular liability, hitting .207/.274/.255 in his 184 at bats.
This Week's Completely Made-Up Award
I'm doing things differently with this today. Here's a brief list of things that I've loved so far this season.
Carlos Pena's emergence. He was all but left for dead by several organizations, but with a huge .293/.393/.633, he's been the best first baseman in the AL this season, filling what had been a gaping hole in the Rays roster.
The Brewers offensive core. JJ Hardy hitting for this much power is a surprise, but we all knew that Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Ryan Braun, and Bill Hall could hit. Promoting Corey Hart to full time duty helps a lot as well. This is a damned good team going forward. Defense isn't exactly a strength, but they have a deep talent pool.
Rick Ankiel showing that you can have a second act in baseball. Being able to knock on the door of the Major Leagues as either a hitter or a pitcher is unimaginable for most of us. Having the talent to do so as both a hitter and a pitcher is unbelievable. He should be very proud of all he's achieved and I'm not even going to pretend like I'm not flat out rooting for him. You never want to see somebody melt down like he did. For him to pick himself back up again is something that makes me into a sentimental schmuck sportswriter mentality the likes of which I usually make fun of.
The Mariners weird offensive profile. Ichiro and Kenji Johjima have carried them. Jose Lopez has carried his weight if you adjust for position. They've been getting killed by their DH, 3B, and 1B while RF has been below league average. This is an offense that is backwards, getting solid performances out of up the middle players and getting mediocre or worse from most of the corner spots.
It's great that we had a first round pick from Punxsutawney, PA. There are a limited number of famous or semi-famous small towns in this country, and I don't mean small towns in the sense of small towns like Peoria or Waco or Wichita or Boise, where you'd only think of it as really small if you're from Chicago or LA or NY. I mean small towns in the sense of only a few thousand people live there. You have places like Sturgis and Tombstone. Having a first round talent from one of these places is one of those weird coincidences. My attention to such a thing is probably a leftover from my own youth spent in a town that numbered less that 5,000.
Player blogs. I don't often read them, but I like the concept and encourage players to talk more directly to the public rather than going through the filter of beat writers and on-camera interviews..
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.