R.I.P. Mike Coolbaugh. I was already going to mention that this was the year of the scrap heap slugger, meaning that this year we've seen a lot of players who people had left for dead have come up to the Majors and played well. Coolbaugh strikes me as somebody who might have been able to have a more extended stay in the show. As it is, he only had a couple of cameos. I remember watching him when he played here in Indy.
This week the thoughts of all of us at BTB go out to Coolbaugh's family, the Rockies organization, and to all of the friends that he no doubt made in a long, winding career in professional baseball.
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
John Danks let 5 Cleveland runners cross the plate in 5 and 2/3 on Monday, but got the win anyways because Cliff Lee got pummeled worse, allowing 7 runs in 5 1/3.
Bad Luck Division
Cole Hamels and Shane Youman share the awards this week. Youman allowed 1 run on Sunday to the Astros in 8 frames, but got out-dueled by Woody Williams.
Hamels tossed 7 innings with only a single run to the Padres Thursday (who are a better offensive club than Houston), but Chris Young did him one better, combining with a pair of relievers for the shutout.
Scott Linebrink blew the save for San Diego on Wednesday by allowing 3 runs to the Mets, but he got bailed out by the Padre offense, who scored on Joe Smith to give Linebrink the W.
The Rico Brogna Award
Marlon Byrd collected 7 RBI, but hit .267/.267/.467.
Season to Date: Carlos Lee is 6th in the Majors in RBI with 80, but his .862 OPS is 46th in the bigs.
The Harmon Killebrew Batting Average is for Wussies Award
Paul Konerko hit only .185 this week, but all of his 5 hits were for extra bases (2 doubles, 3 homers), and he walked 5 times for a reasonable .313/.593 OBP/SLG.
Season: Konerko wins the season as well with a .265/.361/.515 line. He has 23 doubles, 21 home runs, 53 walks, and 64 strikeouts in 344 at bats.
The Rey Sanchez Batting Average is all I've Got Award
James Loney turned in a Nomar week after he got a starting gig by way of Nomar getting moved to third base. 8 hits on the week and only one of them was for extra bases. .286/.300/.321.
Season: Juan Pierre is pretty much always a candidate here. .287/.318/.342. He's leading the National League in outs with 326.
The Steve Balboni Award
Tad Iguchi struck out 11 times on the week in 25 at bats, dooming his week to a .160/.267/.240.
Leader: Andruw Jones has been in better form recently, but his 97 strikeouts in 363 at bats on the season are dragging his rate stats down a bit. .215/.320/.427.
3 True Outcomes Alert!!!
Carlos Pena struck out 10 times, slugged a home run, and walked 6 times in 28 at bats.
Leader: Here's your Adam Dunn update. He has 26 home runs, 54 walks, and 120 whiffs in 407 plate appearances this season.
This Week's Dumbest Thing Ever
No dumbest thing ever this week for a number of reasons. For one, this week's column is already going to be pretty lengthily. Secondly, the thing that continues to bug me is the continued contempt the Worldwide Leader has for its viewers. I've taken my fair share of swings at that particular deceased equine. And to be honest, others have done it far more effectively than I ever could.
This Week's MVP
AL: Robinson Cano
Season: ARod still reigns. He's hitting .313/.412/.665. His 186 OPS+ represents what would be a career high if the season ended today. And he has 240 total bases right now after collecting 299 in all of 2006.
NL: Ryan Howard
Season: Chase Utley is still the pick here. But right now I'm going to point out that Chipper Jones is flying below the radar with what is a great season of his own. A .444/.559/.630 week takes him up to .345/.438/.599. He's leading the NL batting race. He's second in the NL in OPS and OBP. He's 4th in slugging. Even if he keeps this up, he probably won't win the crown because of the games he's missed (he only has 287 at bats this year) and because he hasn't been collecting RBI as quickly as the beat writers who vote on the MVP award would like to see. He's actually 5th on his team in the stat.
Least Valuable Player
AL: Pudge Rodriguez hit .059/.059/.059. That's one single in 17 at bats with no walks.
NL: Kaz Matsui had nearly as bad a week, hitting .056/.105/.056.
This Week's Completely Made-Up Award
As I mentioned at the top of the article, I'm officially declaring this the Year of the Scrap Heap Slugger*. A number of teams have been led by players that were well off the radar at the start of the season or who were picked up for little or nothing by their teams. Here's an incomplete list of these successful reclamation projects.
First and foremost is Josh Hamilton. Nobody knew what to expect from the troubled former elite prospect. He hadn't played in years. He had very little in the way of a track record. And nobody knew exactly how reliable he was personally given his history of drug abuse. He's hitting .279/.371/.543 and the Reds only spent a Rule 5 pick to get him.
The Braves deserve a ton of respect for having the guts to use a Matt Diaz/Willie Harris platoon in left. Thanks to the contributions of these two, both of whom were free talent swags, Braves left fielders are hitting a combined .298/.351/.417.
It's a little later than what we thought, but Kaz Matsui has been a passable second baseman for the Rockies, or at least better than what they've grown used to getting from the position at .282/.322/.418.
Jack Cust is hitting a very Adam Dunn-like .259/.391/.556 for the A's years after being a favored son of prospect watchers like myself.
The Nationals pair of Dmitri Young (.340/.395/.520) and Ron Belliard (.305/.352/.429) have been much better than ever could have been expected and cost nothing to acquire outside of their salaries.
I don't know that Coolbaugh could have done anything like this, but I would have liked to have seen if it was possible. Unfortunately one of the side effects of the modern 12 or 13 man pitching staff is that benches have become short and there really isn't much room for pinch hitters and utility subs. There are fewer spots available for these guys.
*Note that I reserve the right to declare next year as the official year of the scrap heap slugger.
Off Topic Discussion of MLS and the Formula One Grand Prix of Europe
In the friendies that the MLS had scheduled against various European powers, most of the focus was on the LA Galaxy/Chelsea matchup that featured a certain midfielder that only played a limited amount due to an ankle injury. To me the more interesting game was Chicago Fire vs Celtic FC on Sunday. Chelsea against anybody from the US isn't a fair fight. Celtic is better than the MLS team it drew this weekend, but the thing that strikes me is that the chances are good that any MLS team could be transported to the Scottish Premier League and they'd be at least an even match with the non-Celtic clubs on hand. Meanwhile, the best teams in MLS would be hard pressed to avoid relegation in the vastly superior EPL.
Here's where I'm going with this. American soccer has two camps of observers. The fanboys tend to be far too enthusiastic and make ridiculous claims about MLS and the US National Team, indicating that they think American soccer is just as good and that it will become a dominant sport here in the states as soon as the results catch up to the talent on hand. That's ridiculous. Similarly ridiculous are the pessimist claims that US soccer is worthless and that it will fade into the night just like it has a number of times in the past. Here's the truth. The MLS is something the US has never had, a soccer league that has a high level of play and is financially and structurally stable. The same things can be said of USA Soccer and the national team(s). Soccer isn't going anywhere and it isn't a joke. It isn't as good as you'll find in the traditional power countries Spain, England, Italy, France, Brazil, Argentina, and Germany. But both the pro league and the national teams are a good match for second tier countries such as Poland, Greece, Denmark, Mexico, and Russia. There's no shame to being the 10th or 15th best national team in the world.
On the Grand Prix of Europe, I have to say that was an amazing race. I really have always liked that Formula 1 races in adverse conditions. In some respects, they're the most exciting and memorable races of all. It scrambles the field, equalizes some of the aero and horsepower differences between the cars and generally makes for a chaotic, thrilling, interesting set of events. That being said, it was a good decisions to red flag the race. Anytime somebody almost tags the safety car, it's time to park the cars for a while and wait out the conditions.
I had fun watching the race, as messy as it was. From the late pass for the lead to the oddity of a Spyker leading the race, to the pre-podium argument during weigh-in, to the impromptu parking lot at the end of the front straight. Anybody who was watching their first Grand Prix race has to be wondering where this has been all his/her life. I did have one complaint though. I think that the rule governing cars being extricated from the gravel traps needs to be revisited. I can see the reasonability of the marshals pushing a car back onto the tarmac if it's a few feet into the kitty litter. But the idea that you can be re-introduced into the field after being 100 feet or more away from the track, far enough that they need heavy equipment to drag your ass out strikes me as ridiculous.
Lastly with F1, it looks like just a week after the US lost its only race, it will soon lose its only native born driver. That's too bad. Scott Speed is an average F1 driver, as is his teammate `Tonio Luizzi. Scuderia Torro Rosso is a fundamentally dysfunctional organization and their drivers are the least of their worries. They won't improve with Sebastian Bourdais. I hope both STR drivers catch on with another squad is short order, be it with a weekly drive or as a tester. They deserve better than the cars they've been saddled with the last couple of years and they deserve better than the way they're being run out of town. My personal preference is for Speed to catch on as the second driver for Williams next season, alongside Nico Rosberg.
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.