Thursday, October 4, 2012

BBA Awards for 2012

Yay! Its awards time. As a member of the Baseball Bloggers Association, I am presenting my ballot for the American League winners of these awards. A couple of them are really easy.

Connie Mack Award (manager of the year): Bob Melvin
While I think Robin Ventura is a good choice, and certainly as both a Mariners fan and Red Sox hater, I should cast a ballot for former Mariner Bobby Valentine, I have to go with Bob Melvin. It pains me. I didn't think he was given much of a chance here, in Seattle, and its painful to see the A's be so successful year. The way he managed to take that club and juggle it into contention with so many one-run wins, that's managing in my book. That is all about putting people in the right spot at the right time, and keeping a giant sack of egos focused on one goal when they all have other agendas. Hats off to Bob Melvin.

Willie Mays Award (rookie of the year): Let's see, who could possibly be Rookie of the Year? Oh, yeah. I had told all my friends into fantasy sports to draft Mike Trout. I thought the Angels would play him, and I felt he had a chance to have a really good year in that lineup. Of course, he blew up just as Pujols came back to form. I think that was May 7. But Trout, wow. Even if I don't like WAR, the fact that he has one over 9, at 10.7 in the end, as a rookie, or at all, is astounding. He's just a spectacular ball player. He's got a bright future, but if Trout doesn't cut out/down the K's, he's in for a sophomore slump. If he does get more control of that, look for his OPS to climb over 1 next year and for him to move down the lineup in 2 years. As Pujols fades, Trout and Trumbo make a productive 3 and 4 holes for years to come.

Goose Gossage Award (top reliever): Boone Logan
Now, I know the obvious choice is Jim Johnson, and I'm pretty sure he'll win. I was also thinking Balfour deserves consideration, so does Soriano. In fact, there are better setup guys, and one's who had a better year. This may be the only vote Logan ever gets for anything. But, I think we need to start recognize middle relief and setup for the contributions it makes to the game. Consider this vote to be in that direction. Logan appeared in 80 games, winning 7, losing 2, and got 1 save in 4 opportunities, with 3 blown saves. He usually came in during the 7th inning, had 64 runners on base when he got there, and only 23% came in to score. Logan had 23 holds. Nothing glamorous, just solid pitching. But the number that sticks out to me is the large number of games and the number of runners on base. Other good ones I considered like Benoit and Thornton didn't have nearly that number of runners on base when they came in. Logan was putting out fires all year.  There is the obvious argument against making this gesture, that if he were better, he would be closing. I think that misses the point. He's not the closer, Soriano is, well, he's the placeholder really.  Either way, it doesn't matter,  lets evaluate the  pitcher based on effectiveness at function, and the importance of that function within the system that is the pitching staff. Starter and Relievers. If you have a pitcher who is highly effective at coming in the game with runners on and shutting that down, that is as valuable as a closer who starts the ninth and finishes the job. Really, it takes a whole staff anymore, and the setup guys are as important as the closer and starter anymore. Logan was highly effective at keeping the Yankees in games they were on their way to losing. This is very much a paradoxical, quizzical pick. The kind one makes to start an argument. Was Johnson better as a closer than Logan was as a setup man?  I wouldn't argue Logan is a better pitcher, or ever will be. What I will say is Logan had a difficult job, and did it very well. The key here is the large number of games he had a presence in. 80. 45 of the them the Yankees won. In 55 games he pitched on 1 or fewer days rest. He only gave up runs in 16 appearances. I did not take ERA into consideration here. I simply looked at the reliever as a binary form of success, yay or nay. What I see is a pitcher who came into 42 games with runners already on base, and he kept his team in a position to win, and then handed the ball over to the next guy.

Walter Johnson Award (Cy Young): David Price
 22 starts with 7 innings or more pitched and 3 runs or less earned.

Stan Musial Award (MVP): Miguel Cabrera
So the big choice here: do we go with Cabrera's Triple Crown, or take Trout because of his amazing performance in more advanced stats. For me, its easy. Cabrera moved so Fielder could be signed, and whatever he gave up by being at 3rd, he more than made up for at the plate, and yes, he won the Triple Crown. Clubhouse guy giving up his position, and frankly, he did better than expected at 3rd. Now, the Triple Crown. Its more real than the Neuheisel Northwest Championship. Like it or not, baseball is by nature a nostalgia machine. The Triple Crown does mean something. You go to the ballpark, people know what it means, and that counts for something. Fans connect to that. And the history. Look at the names. More than anything this year, this year will always be remembered for Cabrera. That Cabrera did this in the American League is even more amazing. He's a great hitter, and furthermore, where is Detroit without him? Who knows, you can't know. But what you can know is that Cabrera got on base and drove in runs. Really, the two guys are neck and neck, back and forth across various stats. But what I think gives Cabrera the real edge is the number of games in which he contributed to a win. Not a WAR number, but just look at the actual number of games each player was involved in that led to a win. Then look at the total number of games in the year that they actually made an offensive contribution towards.

For me, an important factor in evaluating a player is how many games they actually contribute to offensively, starting with getting to first, next getting a run in any way across the plate. Its a key number, because I like to see the best players contributing to the most games in a season. Is a .400 hitter good if he plays half the games? Well, only if you have him for the right half. Jeter led the AL this year, getting to first base in 146 games, followed by Fielder with 144. Adam Jones was at 141. Cabrera was in the top 10, at 136, Trout is further down the list at 123. Now, this award is for the Most Valuable Player, so I think every game in which you do not contribute should somehow not count towards a positive valuation. I'm sorry, but if you are in less than 75% of your team's games, I don't care how good you are, you're not showing up 25% of the time. If it doesn't, then Mazeroski is the greatest ball player of all time, and Ruth should be remembered for a failed attempt at stealing. The grind matters. Not being there matters. It doesn't matter if its out of your control, being there matters. Yes, that does mean there's only 22 guys in the AL who I would even consider qualified then, but that's life. Its the MVP award after all, it should be a little selective. Of those folks, Cabrera is 2nd in Times On Base with Error included, 1st in Batting Average, 3rd in OBP, 1st in SLG, and first in OPS. First in RBI's. He got on base more than anyone, and he drove in the people he found there as well. More than anyone else. And he had that high level of productivity across a greater number of games than the other people one could consider. Here's a link to the people I considered for this award:

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