With the amount of scorn I've heaped on ESPN, you might expect me to fire away at the exhibition in decadent, self-reverential celebration that is the ESPY's. You won't find it here though. Far be it for me to throw somebody else under the bus for inventing "awards" to hand out in an effort to make yourself look important. So I guess I'll have to sit this one out.
This week is a challenge. With the abbreviated schedule, many of the "competitors" for the awards kind of run together. Sample sizes in the 25 at bat range are bad enough, when teams only play 3 games in a week, samples go down to the 10-15 range and things start getting really dicey. It's hard to differentiate some of these things on a normal week. So with that disclaimer being said, let's get into things.
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
Shaun Marcum allowed 5 runs (3 earned) against the Red Sox but still walked away with the W.
Tim Wakefield has won 4 games where he allowed 4 or more runs.
One odd thing about Wakefield, he has 18 starts and he has yet to record a no decision.
Bad Luck Division
Mark Buehrle threw a complete game on Friday, allowing 2 runs on a pair of solo home runs. The White Sox got shut out by the Orioles. The Sox lineup only had 3 real threats in the lineup with Thome, Konerko, and Dye.
Season: Matt Cain is 3-10 with a 3.53 ERA. Seriously, 3 wins. Just let that digest for a few seconds before moving on to the next item.
They're just screwing with me now. A couple weeks after Ryan Bukvich got a win in relief after throwing exactly one pitch, it's happened again on Sunday. This time it was Luis Vizcaino with the same "achievement". 1 pitch, 1 win. It's insane.
The Rico Brogna Award
Dmitri Young provided the Nats with 6 RBI on the week in only 12 at bats, but only managed to hit .250/.286/.417 on the week.
Season to Date: It's been a couple of weeks since I took Sammy Sosa to task and then got an earful from angry Ranger fans. I'll still fire away though. On the RBI leaderboard, he's surrounded by Miguel Cabrera (.326/.398/.598 in a pitcher's park), Gary Sheffield (.311/.418/.568), and Russ Martin (.317/.387/.498 as a good defensive catcher). At .244/.294/.451, he's not in that league.
That being said, he does have his uses and a contending team in the AL would be well served to look up the Rangers and see if they could get a good price on him. He's smoking lefty pitchers to a tune of .284/.321/.535 while struggling against righties, .216/.250/.411. He's a platoon DH at this point in his career. There's value there if you can match him up with a lefty bat that is useless against southpaws, but it's not the kind of value that his most ardent proponents will credit him with.
The Harmon Killebrew Batting Average is for Wussies Award
How do you bat .214 and still be a positive contributor to your team? You do what Jim Thome did this week and draw 4 walks and give the fans a souvenir (in 14 at bats).
Season as a whole: Nick Swisher has been competent with a .256/.391/.435 batting performance. His batting average isn't wonderful, but his 64 walks in 301 at bats is a major plus. I also expect his batting average to rise a bit with his K rate being within reasonable bounds (64 of `em).
The Rey Sanchez Batting Average is all I've Got Award
Marlon Byrd hit .308 on the week, but managed only one double and no walks in his 13 at bats, giving him a .308/.308/.385 line.
Season: Delmon Young is a wonderfully talented young player and I'm confident that he has many productive years as a major leaguer ahead of him. But his largely empty .289 batting average isn't getting it done. In 360 at bats, he has only 15 walks, 21 doubles, and 9 home runs for a pedestrian .289/.318/.422 line.
The Steve Balboni Award
Jack Cust is going to have weeks like this. He hit .100/.308/.100 with 7 K's in 10 at bats.
Leader: With a .261/.380/.563 line, Ryan Howard is having what would be a very good season by anybody's standards. But he's striking in 31 percent of his plate appearances (102 times in 268 AB). It's hard to get into a coulda, woulda, shoulda debate, but the difference between last year's MVP caliber season and this year's very good one is just batting average on balls in play. He was very lucky with balls finding gaps between outfielders last season and that luck has evened out a bit this year. Hitters who strike out 180 plus times a season don't hit .300. Regression should have been predictable, especially since all of his rate stats look remarkably like 2005.
This all being said, I'm officially retiring Howard from this category. At a certain point this award is about hitters who have a hard time being acceptable ML players because of their K rates. Some players like Howard and Dunn just are what they are plugging the holes in their games might just screw with their strengths just as much, if not more. There's nothing inherently wrong with 3 true outcomes players, even if batting average routinely makes them vulnerable to criticism by some fans and writers. They are what they are, and that's pretty damned good. I'm fine with that.
3 True Outcomes Alert!!!
Ryan Braun launched 2 long balls, walked 4 times, and struck out 4 times in 13 plate appearances.
Leader: Adam Dunn is the winner and still champion. If this column still exists in 15 years, it will probably be named the Adam Dunn Award. I'm half tempted to call it that right now. He has 25 home runs, 49 walks, and 109 strikeouts. That's 183 TTO's in 372 plate appearances, or 57.7%.
This Week's Dumbest Thing Ever
This Week's MVP
AL: Nick Markakis: 17 AB, .471/.526/.882, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 2 BB, 1 K
Season: ARod still takes the honor with his .310/.407/.654 for the Yanks. But I'm out of things to say about him for now. So I just want to mention that Carlos Pena now qualifies for the batting title with 245 at bats. He's now hitting an insane .294/.399/.624 in his age-29 season, having come into the year with a .243/.331/.459 career line in 1685 at bats. We thought we knew him. With apologies to Denny Green, maybe he isn't who we thought he was. I don't see anything in his current line that streams huge regression coming. On the other hand, there were no big tip-offs indicating that this was coming. I don't know how much of this is for real and how much of it is sheer fluke. I'm just sitting back and enjoying a breakout season by a player who was written off by 4 different organizations and taken off the scrap heap by a team that saw him as a gift to the Durham Bulls rather than a potential keeper.
NL: Aaron Rowand: 13 AB, .615/.666/1.154, 4 2B, 1 HR
Season: It's still Chase Utley here, though the writer's choice at this point seems to be Prince Fielder, who is a more defensible choice than Justin Morneau was last year. I'm still going with Utley because even with the gap in RBI and HR, a second baseman who hits .333/.405/.583 is more standard deviations above what a normal second baseman can do than a .283/.372/.616 hitting first baseman is above a normal first baseman. I'm sorry for butchering that sentence, but you get the point.
Least Valuable Player
AL: Michael Young had one single all week and that's it. 14 AB, .071/.071/.071, 5K
Season: Julio Lugo isn't this bad. Really, he's not. That probably isn't of any solace to Red Sox fans, but neither is the fact that his walk rate (31 in 315 AB) is pretty decent, or the fact that his strikeout rate (43 of those) are within his career norms, nor the fact that he's already stolen 24 bases in 26 attempts. A .210/.278/.305 line is really, really ugly and fluke or not, it qualifies him for this dubious distinction.
NL: David Ross had a similar week to what Young went through, only with fewer at bats. 12 AB, .083/.083/.083, 7 K
Season: Nomar Garciaparra is hitting .270/.315/.327, first as the Dodgers starting first baseman, and now as their everyday third baseman. Say what you want about Wilson Betemit, (.223/.351/.489) but he's at least drawing walks and smacking a home run every now and then. Rarely do so many branches of faulty logic converge into one position battles. Nomar is more famous, better paid, and his batting average is better. Betemit is better is nearly every respect but he's riding the pine for Nomar because Nomar was an all star 5 years ago and is cruising by on his reputation and an empty batting average.
Most Valuable Pitcher
AL: Dan Haren has consistently been the best pitcher in the AL this season. Johan Santana is quickly closing in, but he hasn't caught Haren yet. Haren has thrown 135 innings and the average batter is hitting .209/.262/.329 against him.
NL: This is a tough choice as Chris Young is leading the Majors in ERA, and legitimately so at 1.97. But you know what? I'm still giving it to his teammate Jake Peavy. It's hair-splitting, but Peavy has allowed one more run (total, not just earned) in 10 more innings and he's striking out more batters per inning.
This Week's Completely Made-Up Award
The Are They Registered Somewhere? Award goes to the Phillies. What do you get a team for its 10,000's loss? I think an autographed photo of Joe Carter would just be mean spirited. And I can't afford to give them a third baseman or a couple of middle relievers.
Snide comments aside, the Phillies have had a decent run of late. They haven't been anything special as a franchise over the course of the last 30 years, some good seasons, some bad ones, a couple of World Series appearances. It's been pointed out by a lot of people who are better writers than I that they lost a huge number of games 60 plus years ago. They lost somewhere 2856 games in the 20's, 30's, and 40's combined. That 3 decade span resulted in twenty two 90 plus loss seasons and a dozen 100 loss seasons, including 5 in a row from 1938 to 1942.
Incidentally, I don't remember there being much of a fuss when the Giants WON their 10,000th game. Is this just a new thing that we're going to start watching for? Or is this a one-time story? If this is a trend and we are going to start watching for franchise milestones of this sort, here are some upcoming ones.
Sometime this year the Red Sox will lose their 8000th game (currently 7996) and my Royals should climb up over 3000 wins (2973).
Next year could be a busy one as the Cubs pass 10,000 wins (9948), the Dodgers pass 9,000 losses (8932), the Twins pass 3,000 wins (7933), Milwaukee and the Nats pass 3,000 wins (2888 and 2945), the Rangers pass 4,000 losses (3941), and the Rays blow by 1,000 losses (931).
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.