What a remarkable week in baseball that was. On consecutive days the Twins scored 32 runs in a double-header and then the Mets/Astros, Angels/Yanks, and Red Sox/Tigers combined to play 3 games totaling 43 innings. Not to get all Jason Stark on you, but one of the beautiful things about baseball is that you really never do know what to expect. Every so often, something will happen that you've never seen before.
Sorry about being late this week with the awards. I took some liberty given that there were no games on Monday. I also got called into work early on Tuesday, which pushed me back by about 12 hours. So with that in mind, let's dig in.
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
In Friday's wild 20-14 game, Scott Baker allowed 7 runs in 5 innings and still got the win. Easiest award of the week.
Bad Luck Division
John Lackey and Roger Clemens combined for 16 innings of work with 14 strikeouts, 10 hits allowed, 1 walk, and 1 run each on Saturday. They had the misfortune of facing each other and they both got no decisions. The fact that Scott Baker gets a win while Lackey and Clemens got nothing makes one question the existence of a just God. Well maybe not question God, but at least it should make you want to chuck this archaic statistic in the lake.
Edwar Ramirez on Friday night blew the save in his second career ML appearance. He allowed an inherited run to score and added another run that he had the decency to have charged to his own bill. Well, the Yanks offense bailed him out with 3 runs and got him his first (undeserved) win.
The Rico Brogna Award
There aren't any really egregious examples for this award this week, so I'll go with an admittedly timid nomination of Alex Rodriguez's .200/.259/.480 performance. The fact that he hit 2 home runs and drove in 7 runs on the week is to his credit, but a .259 OBP hurts the team. He didn't kill his team with his performance, but he gave back as much as he gave.
Season to Date: The fact is Sammy Sosa's been the winner here for most of the year. He's still in the lead with 63 RBI and a meager .245/.296/.451 line. I'm tired of beating up on him right now though. So let's cite Jeff Francoeur of the Braves, who is tied for 19th in baseball with 58 RBI, but hitting .289/.329/.434 while batting 5th or 6th and playing right field everyday.
The Harmon Killebrew Batting Average is for Wussies Award
Ken Griffey Jr had an odd week. He only collected 4 hits, but 2 of them were doubles and a third was a home run. He also walked 8 times for a .200/.429/.450 line.
Season as a whole: Part of the reason why Lance Berkman qualifies for this award is because he started very slowly. He was drawing walks left and right, but not hitting for power or average. He's been on a roll lately, doing all 3 of those things and helping his team, though since they're playing host to Craig Biggio's farewell tour it doesn't seem like they want much help. Anyways, Berkman's batting average is still down at .263, but because of the walks and his late power streak, his OBP/SLG is at .389/.450.
The Rey Sanchez Batting Average is all I've Got Award
Vlad Guerrero heads a field that is weak in this category as well. He hit .292, but walked only once and his only extra base hit was a double for a .320 OBP and .333 SLG.
Season: Juan Pierre is hitting .282, but his inability to draw a walk or hit even a few doubles gives him this dubious distinction. A .311 OBP and a .338 SLG helps the other team do its job.
The Steve Balboni Award
Josh Willingham might have had a nice week had he not struck out 10 times in 24 at bats. He smacked 2 bombs and walked 6 times. Hey Josh, I can call you Josh, right? Shorten up the swing a bit with 2 strikes. Good things are happening here, but .125/.300/.375 doesn't help your team as much as you'd probably like.
Leader: Everything is in place for Dan Uggla to be one of the best second basemen in the National League. But even through 35 walks, 32 doubles, and 17 homers, something is holding his OPS down at .805. That something is the 96 times in 361 at bats he's been rung up on strikes. It's hard to bat for a decent average with that kind of a K rate. And it's hard to post outstanding OBP and SLG figures when your BA is dragging you down. You have to have Bondsian BB and HR rates.
3 True Outcomes Alert!!!
Jim Thome collected 4 homers, 6 walks, and 8 whiffs in 28 at bats. That's over half of his plate appearances.
Leader: Adam Dunn is no surprise here. He has an astounding 105K, 24 HR, and 45BB in his 357 plate appearances. That's a TTO rate just shy of 49%.
This Week's Dumbest Thing Ever
ESPN's "Who's Now" features, which have been polluting SportsCenter recently. This is just unwatchable. It's the kind of content-free programming that has turned SportsCenter into less of a highlight show and more of a news magazine for people who care less about sports than about celebrity culture. As a sports fan, I really just want to know what happened in the games. I don't really care to see some talking heads discussion whether Shaq is more culturally significant than Michael Phelps. I really don't care about that and if I did find myself wondering that, I'd probably find a bridge to jump off. I really, really wish they'd just show me the highlights and shut the hell up about inane, irrelevant debates. And let's not even begin to get into the notion that the debates are staged, with people like John Kruk being shoved by producers into positions they don't really believe in to create an actual debate where there really is none. Sometimes I really hate the MTV of sports.
First Half MVP's
AL: I hope I'm wrong, but Alex Rodriguez may be cruising into a situation where he is denied an MVP award that he deserves because of factors beyond his control. Voters hate to vote for players who don't play for a playoff team and at this point the Yankees have a tough road ahead of them if they do want to get there or even if they want to get close. They're 10 games behind the Red Sox in the division and 8 and a half behind the Indians in the Wild Card. If they don't make a nice comeback in the second half, then ARod may be far enough behind that beat writers who already don't like him will have another reason not to vote for him in the MVP race. Anyways, at this point he does lead the AL in OPS and VORP. He's the best thing the Yanks have going for him. On the plus side for ARod, second place Magglio Ordonez is in for a little regression in the second half as his .367/.446/.604 line is very heavy on batting average.
NL: Chase Utley is a second baseman who hits like a first baseman and I always like that. .325/.401/.571 is amazing for a middle infielder. Utley's only competitor for the title right now in my mind is Hanley Ramirez, who is hitting .331/.388/.538 as a shortstop in a pitcher's park. Barry Bonds would enter the discussion, but the gap in position and playing time is too significant at this point.
Least Valuable Player
AL: Ryan Shealy was a decent player in his brief debut with the Royals. He did some things that made me nervous, such as walking 15 times in 210 at bats and striking out in almost a quarter of his at bats, but I was cautiously optimistic as his Minor League track record was generally quite good. He was a bit old for a rookie, but players like Morgan Ensberg and Josh Willingham have become regulars at similar ages and had more than their share of big league moments. At this point, Shealy has hit .221/.286/.308 as an everyday first baseman. He's now mercifully on the DL and my fellow Royals fans are starting to write him off, wondering if current Omaha Royal Craig Brazell, who is the same age as Shealy and hitting .315/.344/.661 in the PCL is the guy we all thought Shealy was last year, capable of hitting for power and average.
NL: One of the biggest culprits in the decline of the Cardinals this season has been Adam Kennedy, who was signed to be a competent placeholder at second base. Instead, he has collapsed along with his new team's record, hitting an anemic .210/.280/.252.
This Week's Completely Made-Up Award
The Irrational Exuberance Award goes to the ESPN announcers covering the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, who said "This could be the greatest moment in the history of American sports." I just really don't know where to go from there. I'll just say that I don't get "competitive eating".
I should add that I'm not neccessarily against competitive eating as a sports or pseudo-sports activity. I just don't get the appeal of it.
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.