Monday, October 10, 2011

Some Awards Banter

As much as I was looking forward to the end of the regular season this year I have to admit, I've actually kinda missed being able to check up on the Twins everyday. I don't miss the feeling of loss after loss, but I miss the day-to-day. Fortunately, this year's MLB playoffs have been REALLY good and have been filled with major market schadenfreude which has been medicine for my weary baseball soul. I'm very pleased with the 4 teams that remain and I was really happy for Milwaukee fans who saw their baseball team snatch a Game 5 victory from the clutches of defeat in winning their first playoff series since 1982. I was born in 1983 so to think that in my entire lifetime, the Brew Crew hadn't won a playoff, this is big. I really like their team too, the combination of power and hustle, scrap and confidence,...and their swagger is undeniable. I like their rotation, I like their bullpen and if they go on to win the World Series, I think I might even have a smile on my face.

Anyway, I didn't put my pen to paper to write about the post-season, plenty of others are writing much more meaningful pieces. The purpose of my piece today is more obligation, but calling it 'obligation' gives it the wrong connotation. As a part of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA) we are asked to cast our votes every year for various awards and then those votes are compiled amongst all the blogs in the network and the network as a whole comes out with it's winners. This has already been done for manager of the year (Connie Mack Award) which you can check out here. For my part, I'd like to take on a couple of Awards, notable the "Walter Johnson" Award (honoring the best SPs) and the "Stan Musial" (honoring the MVPs). Since we are a Minnesota Twins blog, we vote for the American League winners of these awards.

Walter Johnson Award - Best Starting Pitcher (AL)

The Walter Johnson Award uses a 5-3-1 point system so we are supposed to vote for our 1st, 2nd and 3rd place vote getters which makes this whole process a little more interesting if you ask me.

1st Place: Justin Verlander (5 points)
I've trolled my Yankee followers on Twitter a little bit lately suggesting that Verlander was a 'no doubt' winner of this Award despite the fantastic, but under appreciated season that Yankee ace CC Sabathia had. That said, Verlander had a super-human season and I don't see you could give the award to anyone else. First, the vitals:

24 Wins (not really important, but hey, it's a lot of wins for a single-season)
2.40 ERA - Lead the AL
0.920 WHIP - Lead the Majors
2.99 FIP - 4nd in the AL
3.12 xFIP - 2nd in the AL
251.0 IP - Lead the Majors
250 Ks - Lead the Majors

4.39 K/BB ratio - 2nd in the AL
2.84 SIERA - Lead the AL
5.14 WPA - Lead the Majors
7.0 WAR - 2nd in the AL

The argument for Verlander is pretty convincing. He helped his team run away with the AL Central crown, he was dominant from start to finish, and he lead the Majors in a few of the more important measures of pitching success.

2nd Place: CC Sabathia (3 points)
I already alluded to it earlier but this should come as no surprise. CC actually was worth 7.1 WAR this season which was. 0.1 more than Verlander and also out-pitched Verlander in FIP (2.88) and xFIP (3.02). Pro-CC people will argue that it should be taken into consideration that CC also pitches in the AL East and is therefore facing tougher opponents on a more regular basis. I would say that's a legitimate point, but who a pitcher faces is nothing that the pitcher can determine so what division a given pitcher is in cannot be used as criteria for an award. CCs reward for a great season will be either a) 5 more seasons at $23M per in New York or b) a HUGE free-agent deal somewhere else.

3rd Place: James Shields (1 point)
I'm going out on a limb a little for my 3rd place selection. What I am most impressed with about Shields season was all of the complete games...11 of them to be precise, which led all of Major League Baseball. For a guy who had never been a dominant pitcher, Shields had a breakout year of sorts winning a career-high 16 games with career bests in ERA (2.82), IP (249.1), WHIP (1.04), Ks (225), and WAR (4.9). I will say that Shields had an awfully "lucky" season considering his BABIP was .258 while his career average for that category sits at (.299). That will occasionally happen with ground-ball heavy pitchers though and for this season, it no-doubt worked in Shields' favor.

Stan Musial Award - AL MVP

Here is my list of my top 10 with a general discussion at the end.

1. Curtis Granderson (13 points)
2. Jacoby Ellsbury (9 points)
3. Miguel Cabrera (8 points)
4. Ian Kinsler (7 points)
5. Dustin Pedroia (6 points)
6. Jose Bautista (5 points)
7. Justin Verlander (4 points)
8. CC Sabathia (3 points)
9. Alex Gordon (2 points)
10. Ben Zobrist (1 point)

If I'm going strictly off of WAR (Wins Above Replacement) values, then Ellsbury wins this award running away...but in considering "valuable-ness", Granderson gets my nod. The Red Sox were/are absolutely loaded with talent. Among the WAR leaders, the Red Sox have 3 of the top 9 players (Ellsbury, Pedroia, A. Gonzalez). The Yankees are also loaded with talent, but not to that degree having only 2 players in the top 13 (Granderson & Cano). In a year in which A-Rod was not himself and Teixeira was streaky, Granderson was the constant producer setting career highs in Runs, RBIs, HRs, BBs and OPS all while committing only 3 errors in the field all year next to a dozen highlight-reel catches. Granderson's 7.0 WAR pales in comparison to Ellsbury's 9.4, but to me Granderson was more valuable in the sense that his team really needed his production to win.

I had a couple pitchers on my MVP ballot, though to be clear I would not have put them anywhere near the top. I've talked about this before (mostly on Twitter) but I feel that the MVP award name should be changed to Best Offensive Player. Keep the Cy Young Award as "the best pitcher" and make MVP the best hitter award. "Value" is to subjective and I don't think great offensive seasons should be ignored, much like Alex Gordon's was, simply because the player is stuck on a bad team. In the same way that the team a given pitcher plays for should not factor into the discussion for the Cy Young Award, the team a hitter plays for and whether or not that team makes the playoffs should not factor into their selection as the best hitter.

Anyway, that's enough pontificating for now. I hope to post more regularly here this off-season. My job has changed a bit in the sense that I have less and less time to blog about the Twins, but I am going to try my hardest to keep the discussion going here. It should be an exciting off-season!

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