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
Bad Luck Division
The press attention deservedly went to Johan Santana after the Rangers/Twins pitcher's duel on Sunday, but it bears mentioning that Kevin Millwood, who has struggled this season, threw 7 innings of nearly scoreless baseball, allowing only 1 runner to touch home. He got the loss because he had the bad luck of throwing his best start of the year on the same night that the best pitcher in baseball had one of his best games ever.
Season Leader: As sad as Millwood's misfortune on Sunday, Matt Cain sheds no tears for the big sinkerballer. He's had an entire season of heartache, posting a 3.78 ERA with 124 K in 157 innings. His 16 quality starts in 25 attempts puts him in a tie for 8th in the NL. Nevertheless, he's 5 and 13. That's 5 wins, 13 losses.
Good Luck Division
On Thursday, San Diego starter Clay Hensley gave up 6 runs in 5 innings to the R0x0rs at Petco. He gave allowed 10 baserunners and still got the W because the Padres dropped 10 runs on Elmer Dessens and Jeremy Affeldt.
Season Leader: Horatio Ramirez of the Mariners has a 7.38 ERA and is 7 and 4 in only 14 starts. He's only struck out 3.88 batters per nine and is allowing almost 2 baserunners an inning. Do you think he buys Ichiro a steak dinner for every underserved win?
This really is endemic. Bill Bray came in and threw one pitch on Sunday and got the win versus the Brewers. This was pointed out by reader Ethan Stanislawski. I will say in Bray's cause, his one pitch was a pretty critical one for the Reds as he got Price Fielder, who is a very tough out and he stranded a runner on second in the process.
The Rico Brogna Award
Magglio Ordonez collected 8 RBI on the week and while his outstanding work with the lumber all year makes any criticism of him mere nitpicking, this column is here both for large statements and indeed for nitpicking. The Venezuelan hit a modest .250/.300/.357 on the week, which doesn't help the team's cause very much.
Season to Date: Jason Bay is tied for 10th in the NL with 79 RBI and is "on pace" to end the year with 106. However, he's hitting a meager .253/.328/.424.
The Harmon Killebrew Batting Average is for Wussies Award
Russ Martin Hit .240 this week, but 2 of his 6 hits were home runs and he walked 4 times, to give him a .240/.367/.480 line.
Season as a whole: A .400/.500/.800 week has Lance Berkman's line up to .268/.378/.474. It isn't the elite Berkman that we're used to, but he still has 24 dingers and 72 walks, which makes him a pretty valuable player.
The Rey Sanchez Batting Average is all I've Got Award
Tad Iguchi hit .296 on the week, but his .321 OBP and .370 SLG only nets him a .691 OPS. Pass.
Season: Delmon Young has a .290 BA, but only 21 walks and 9 home runs in 486 at bats for a .290/.320/.407 line.
The Steve Balboni Award
Jeff Francoeur's 9 whiffs in 21 at bats negated his otherwise worthy work by holding down his average. 2 homers, 2 walks, and a steal are nice, but a .190/.261/.476 line is subpar for a right fielder.
Leader: Brandon Inge has a very good glove at third and he has 37 walks in 393 at bats, but his 130 strikeouts have been a drag on his numbers and by extension, the Tigers numbers. .242/.317/.389 isn't helping them hold off the Indians.
3 True Outcomes Alert!!!
Adam Dunn reigns with 4 HR, 8 BB, and 5 K in 20 at bats.
Leader: Ryan Howard retains last week's title. He's up to 33 HR, 79 BB, 149 K in 474 plate appearances.
This Week's Dumbest Thing Ever/Some Brief Draft Signing Deadline Notes
I really, really dislike the Andrew Brackman contract from the Yankees. I don't so much dislike the pick itself or the money involved. Money is just money, and Brackman is probably worth the last pick in the first round. He has talent. He's just much, much, much too raw to get a Major League contract. He's a project at best. He has very little real domination in his track record. He has very little experience, messy mechanics, and a possible major surgery in his immediate future. Exactly how many warning lights need to go off here? And he's now on the 40 man roster. If he struggles or recovers slowly from his anticipated trek to Dr James Andrews, then he'll be pushed to the Bronx before he's ready. For players like David Price and Matt Weiters, a Major League contract is a reasonable demand. They're almost certain to be in the Majors in 3 or 4 years and if they aren't, then something very, very, very bad has happened and running out of option years is the least of everybody's concerns. With a project like Brackman or a high schooler like Rick Porcello, it's tempting fate.
On the positive side, my favorite PICK in this draft is the Braves taking Jason Heyward at number 14. Heyward is one of my favorite players in this class, combining advanced skills with a very high ceiling. He has athleticism and raw power with contact ability and a good idea of what he's doing at the plate. I would have rather had him than 5 of the guys taken in the top 10.
This Week's MVP
AL: Jack Cust hit .409/.533/.864 in 22 at bats.
Season: ARod hit .360/.467/.400 on the week to bring him up to .304/.411/.623 in 451 AB on the year.
NL: Chris B. Young has had a couple of huge weeks interspersed in a season full of very challenging weeks. .393/.433/1.036 with great defense is one hell of a week. He smacked 11 hits, 3 of which were doubles and complimented by 5 homers. He drew a pair of walks and stole a base.
Season: The Fish have what I think are the two most valuable players in the National League this season. Hanley Ramirez is hitting .339/.392/.574, leading the league in batting and generally wrecking havoc, collecting stats in every category. Doubles, triples, homers, steals. Meanwhile, a few feet to his right, Miguel Cabrera is hitting .330/.409/.606. But even with these two, the Fish are currently 14 ½ games out in the NL East. Why is that? Well, there are 3 main reasons behind it.
- The pitching, which was a strength last season, allowing the 12th fewest runs in the Majors, has become a liability as injury and regression have taken their toll. They current rank 28th in runs allowed and have walked more batters than any team in baseball.
- The defense behind the pitchers has been a weakness as well. According to Baseball Prospectus's Defensive Efficiency rates, they rank 29th in turning batted balls into outs. This might be seen as 1A since much of their difficulty with pitching is exacerbated by their porous defense. Ramirez and Cabrera here are partially culpable here as they're among the worst defenders at their positions this season, as are secondbaseman Dan Uggla and left fielder Josh Willingham. By and large, this team isn't going to make the kind of mistakes that lead to embarrassing SportsCenter highlights, but rather they are loaded with defenders who just don't cover a lot of ground relative to league norms.
- They've had a certain number of massive liabilities in the lineup, chief among them catcher Miguel Olivo, who is hitting a putrid .237/.254/.379. Among other issues have been Marlin catchers, hitting a combined .266/.345/.413, center fielders (.268/.326/.374), and right fielders (.236/.329/.405).
This Week's Completely Made-Up Award
The Helping His Own Cause Award goes to rookie pitcher Micah Owings of the Diamondbacks, who single-handedly beat the Braves despite throwing less than 80 pitches on the night. By now you already know that on Saturday night, he smacked 2 home runs, a double, and a single, driving in half of the Diamondbacks 12 runs on the night. I confess that I had to work at 4 AM on Sunday, so I didn't watch the game. The first time I heard about his feat was at 3:15AM when I was watching ESPNews. They expressed shock that Owings was able to hit for power, not realizing that he was a very good two-way player at Georgia Tech and Tulane before becoming a full time pitcher after being drafted by the Snakes in the third round in 2005. He plowed his way to a .719 SLG as a junior at Tulane as a first baseman. I was going to blast away on the anchors for not doing basic research before they went on with the story, but I watched the morning SportsCenter a few hours later and the oversight was at least partially corrected with the highlights of the game mentioning that he was a very good hitter in high school. No mention of his college career, but I can forgive that since the basic premise being that he was a good amateur hitter remaining intact.
On the subject of good hitting pitchers, Owings has the talent to be one of the better ones out there. Among those who are cited as being historically proficient hitters, I'm surprised to learn that Greg Maddux, who was widely hailed for his stick, is a modest .173/.193/.208 hitter in his career. In truth, Mike Hampton is probably a much better example as the prototype pitcher with a good bat, as he is/was a .242/.292/.354 career hitter. The other players who are noted as being proficient hitters right now are Dontrelle Willis, at .214/.262/.319 (he's even having a down year at the plate; .159/.245/.273), Carlos Zambrano at .219/.228/.356 (obviously power, but no patience), and Livan Hernandez at .233/242/.317. For sense of perspective, the average Major League pitcher is hitting .145/.177/.181.
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.