It’s been quiet around here...too quiet. We’ll fix that. Below are our staff’s picks (our preferences, mind, not predictions) for the 2012 regular season awards, noting the ridiculous and possibly culturally insensitive but totally necessary shortening of Jason’s name:
|David Temple||Michael Clair||Chip Buck||Jason Woj'ski||Bill Parker||Mike Bates||Cee Angi|
|AL MVP||Abstain||Mike Trout||Trout||Trout||Trout||Trout||Trout|
|NL MVP||Buster Posey||Posey||Posey||Posey||Posey||Ryan Braun||Posey|
|AL CY||Justin Verlander||Verlander||Verlander||Verlander||Verlander||Verlander||Verlander|
|NL CY||Cliff Lee||R.A. Dickey||Clayton Kershaw||Gio Gonzalez||Gonzalez||Dickey||Dickey|
|NL ROY||Bryce Harper||Wade Miley||Harper||Harper||Harper||Harper||Harper|
|AL MOY||Bob Melvin||Buck Showalter||Showalter||Melvin||Showalter||Showalter||Showalter|
|NL MOY||Davey Johnson||Johnson||Johnson||Melvin||Johnson||Johnson||Johnson|
So the totals, not that you’re not capable of figuring them out for yourselves:
AL MVP: Trout wins, with six of seven votes and one spineless Petyr Baelish (see Temple’s comment below).
NL MVP: Buster Posey wins with six of seven votes. TCM picked Ryan Braun, and is wrong and stupid.
AL Cy Young: Verlander wins unanimously.
NL Cy Young: an eleventh-hour entry by Cee settles the tie in favor of Dickey over Gio.
AL Rookie of the Year: Trout, obviously.
NL Rookie of the Year: Harper gets six of the seven votes. Because he was the best rookie. Mike Clair explains his choice of Wade Miley below, but I’m going to disregard that and continue to assume it’s really because he’s a Miley Cyrus fan.
Managers: Showalter wins 5-2; Johnson wins unanimously, if you ignore Jason (as one always should).
Commentary/arguments/excuses of drastically varying lengths follow:
MVP: Buster Posey. I had a strong inclination to give this to Ryan Braun, but Posey’s defensive value (or at least the value he provides at his given defensive position), puts him over the edge. It’s kind of crazy that a guy can be both the comeback player of the year, and the MVP. That’s quite a lot of ground to cover. (Honerable Mention: Braun, Chase Headley)
CY: Cliff Lee. This is part sympathy vote, part educational vote. This isn’t just a “WINS DON’T MATTER!” argument. Lee had a pretty fantastic season amidst being a part of a punchless, aging Phillies staff. He struck out 8.83 batters per nine innings (a 2nd all-time mark for his career) while walking 1.19 batters per nine. That’s .37 better than the next best pitcher. Since 1901, twopitchers have had seasons with a K/9 rate greater or equal to 8.83, and a BB/9 rate less than or equal to 1.19, while pitching at least 200 innings. Cliff Lee is one of them. If not for an abnormally high HR rate, he could have put up some crazy numbers this season.
ROY: Bryce Harper. The kid is a stud, and he’s going to get better. Say what you want about his personality, but I acted WAY WORSE when I was 19. I promise.
MOY: Davey Johnson. Since these are regular-season awards, Johnson gets the nod from me here. People expected the Nats to be good this year, but very few expected them to be this good. With a solid core of players coming back next season, it’ll be interesting to see if Johnson can recapture that magic.
MVP: Abstain. There is a great baseball war on the horizon. I can see it germinating. The old school and new school will clash for one final battle to the death. It may not happen today or even anytime soon, but it is going to happen. Winter is coming.
And when one of the factions finds you, and they will find you, they will test your allegiance by asking a simple question; “Cabrera or Trout?” In the interest of self-preservation, I am withholding my vote from all written record, so that I may align with whatever side ends up being my captors. I may be a coward, but who will feed my dogs if I am dead? [Editor’s note: I am saving this blog post as evidence of his failure to recognize and support his One True MVP. ¡Viva la Revolución!]
CY: Justin Verlander. I could throw numbers and comparisons at you, but this is the second-easiest choice this year. Verlander is the best pitcher in baseball, and it’s really not all that close. I don’t know how long he can keep it up, but it’s so fun to watch at this moment.
ROY: Mike Trout. Oh, brother. 10 WAR. 10. In 139 games. I just…blerg. I so wish I was an Angels fan, you guys.
MOY: Bob Melvin. This is a very tight race between Melvin and Showalter, but I go back to my performance vs. expectations argument like I did with Davey Johnson. No one expected the O’s to almost win the AL East, but they weren’t picked to come in last by a lot of folks. The A’s were left for dead in March. And who could blame them? Their roster read like a veritable Who’s That? of baseball. There is a strategy in fantasy baseball called “stars and scrubs,” where you basically spend big on studs and fill the rest in with cheap nobodies. Oakland employed the “scrubs and scrubs” method and got away with it. They won the God-damned AL West. And this was after they lost starting pitchers to brain injuries, oblique strains, and PED suspensions. They also had to suffer through 511 plate appearances by Jemile Weeks. Jonny Gomes was their 5th most valuable hitter, for crying out loud. I know a bit of their success probably comes from luck and chance, but I have to believe Melvin had some, if not a lot, to with it.
MVP: I'm not going to lie. Despite my SABR affiliation, heavy usage of Fangraphs, and the WAR tattoo I have on my ass, I found myself wavering at the end of the season simply because of the emotional impact of batting average, home runs, and RBI. I'm sorry, but because that's how I was raised, my heart was pulled towards Cabrera's case-- kind of like when a movie that you hate but your Dad loves comes on TV and you watch until the end. Fortunately, my mind took hold of my heart and told me, "Son, defense and baserunning are just as important as smashing dingers. Even if we don't know how to box and display them properly."
When it came to the National League, it was much more difficult as Ryan Braun and Yadier Molina each made compelling cases, but Posey was just so good, combining power, average, defense, and adorableness into one hell of an MVP package.
Cy Young: Because of how good Justin Verlander was last year, people tended to ignore him this season at their own peril. Besides having a fastball that could rival the gods and a curveball that defies physics, Verlander stepped up his game by dating Kate Upton. Some guys have all the luck. He also lead the league in innings, strikeouts, and ERA+. You know, all good things.
In the NL, I may be showing my bias, but dammit, when I can legitimately vote for a knuckleballer, I'm going to do it. Dickey was 20-6 on a terrible team with a 2.73 ERA, striking out nearly a batter an inning while walking only 2 per 9. He also lead the National League in innings and strikeouts while throwing the weirdest pitch a human will ever see. You can give me all the facts you want for Gio Gonzalez or Clayton Kershaw and I just can't be persuaded.
ROY: Do I even need to defend my AL Rookie of the Year vote? If you were to tell me that Trout was birthed from Zeus' loins, I would be less surprised than when I pull up his Baseball Reference page and just gaze at all those numbers. He's beautiful and I'm in love.
Meanwhile, my NL vote would be very different if I was giving it to the rookie who will have the best career. Even though Harper will soon become a superstar and even Todd Frazier could be that hitter who hangs around for a decade and people are always saying, "Oh yeah, that guy," that's not how the award was set up. Though he may not have the better of careers, Wade Miley outperformed them all this year. Pitching nearly 200 innings with a sub 4 xFIP is a great asset for any team to have and its even more impressive from a rookie pitcher.
Manager: I'm never quite sure how I'm supposed to vote on managers. Because when a manager is doing his job well, we tend not to think of them and really, their greatest ability is probably in the clubhouse, handling issues that, again, if they're doing their job well, we never find out about. That said, Buck Showalter, either through luck, intelligence, or pure tenacity, put together an amazing bullpen that pushed the Orioles to the brink of the ALCS. That's impressive.
The National League is murkier. There were no true surprise teams and Davey Johnson was certainly involved in plenty of scandals of his own making (Maddongate, lack of knowledge during the Strasburg situation, etc), but he was the elder statesman for the team with the best record in the National League. That's usually enough to carry the vote. Plus, while he was gifted with a fantastic team, he did have a precocious 19 year old and the pitcher of a generation getting shut down early. Presumably Johnson was able to handle these issues well enough to stop them from becoming a distraction. Unless that's why the Cardinals came back in game five. In which case, I dunno man, just flip a coin or something.
AL MVP -Mike Trout. Look, I know it's trendy to pick Miguel Cabrera on the back of his amazing triple crown season, but choosing anyone but Trout is ridiculous. First of all, Cabrera didn't carry his team to the playoffs. He lead the team with the seventh best record in the AL to the division title in the weakest division in baseball. Trout's Angels actually had one more win than Cabrera's Tigers, but finished third in a very tough race. Still, even if you look at just the stats, there's no way Trout wasn't more valuable. Forget WAR for a second because you don't need it to prove this point. Trout was a significantly better base runner and defensive player while playing a premium defensive position AND he was Cabrera's equal in terms of overall ability to create runs. No, he didn't drive in 139 runs like Cabrera, but that's an unfair comparison. It's impossible to drive in that many runs while hitting leadoff and batting in front of Erick Aybar and Alberto Callaspo. The rational, smart choice is Trout.
NL MVP - Buster Posey. He's a catcher that produced a .406 wOBA, played solid defense behind the plate, and seemed to handle the pitching staff very well. Slightly edges out Ryan Braun for me. Very close.
AL CYA - Justin Verlander. He just edges out King Felix for this nod. Hernandez gets a slight nod on the DIPS side of the equation. Still, Verlander's ERA was 0.42 runs lower despite pitching not only in a slightly better hitter's park, but in front of a significantly worse defense.
NL CYA - Clayton Kershaw. Almost went with Gio Gonzalez here, but Kershaw has the better K/BB ratio, better ERA, comparable FIP, while pitching 28-1/3 innings. Wins be damned, I'm going with the lefty from Chavez Ravine. Also, just to prove I don't care about wins, Cliff Lee would be my third place vote. I really love pitchers with awesome K/BB ratios.
AL ROY - Mike Trout. I picked him as my MVP, who the hell else was I gonna choose?
NL ROY - Bryce Harper. I'm going to side step the obvious clown question joke, and say this. He was a 19 year old that displayed power, speed, and (usually) very good defense in center field. No, he wasn't Mike Trout this year, but he was better than Trout in his age-19 season. That speaks volumes.
AL MOY - Buck Showalter. I almost went with Bobby V (for obvious reasons), but Buck deserves some credit for not only improving the Orioles win total by 24, but also leading them to the playoffs for the first time since 1997. Hopefully now, all of this nonsense about the Orioles not having any chance to win in a division stacked with the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays will stop. It's all about talent...and sometimes a lot of luck.
NL MOY - Davey Johnson. No, they didn't make it out of the ALDS, but Johnson did a hell of a job diplomatically handling the Strasburg situation, nurturing Harper's natural talent, and squeezing the most out of a young team on the rise.
AL MVP: Mike "Ehrman" Trout -- it's not close. Also, I've only found two people who've made the Ehrman-trout joke.
NL MVP: Buster Posey led the National League in VORP for position players by almost 12 runs. It's possible that Chase Headley was 12 runs better than Posey on defense, but it's unlikely. Reports on his defense are good, and catchers can save a <i>lot</i> of runs with the glove.
AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander -- David Price blew the doors off the league in RA9 this year, but Verlander threw the equivalent of three complete games (plus 1/3 of an inning) more than Price did and where Tampa had the second-best defense in the league by Defensive Efficiency, Detroit had the second-worst. <a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=18336">We're talking about almost 80 runs attributable just to catching baseballs</a>, which is enough (if you do some back-of-the-envelope math) to draw the pitchers even in the RA9 department such that Verlander's innings win easily. (And I haven't even mentioned the park difference.)
NL Cy Young: Gio Gonzalez -- nobody leaps to the front for me the way that Verlander does. Stephen Strasburg leads by a <i>lot</i> in FRA but pitched so few innings that he's hard to take seriously. This leaves Gonzalez, Clayton Kershaw, and Cliff Lee, and while Gio had the fewest innings of any of them, he also had the toughest mix of parks and the best FIP.
AL ROY: Mickey Trout.
NL ROY: Bryce Harper had a .291 TAv with good outfield defense, significant value on the bases, and nine triples.
AL MOY: Bob Melvin because there's no way to pick this and I'm an A's fan.
NL MOY: Bob Melvin because there's no way to pick this and I think Bob Melvin should get two trophies.
I’ve written at length about both MVP races (AL, NL). I don’t feel strongly about most of the rest. I think Verlander and Gonzalez were probably the two best pitchers, though I’ll be thrilled if Dickey wins (and I think he probably will). I think any attempt to anoint anyone other than Harper as NL ROY indicates that you’re measuring Harper against the expectations of Harper, rather than against the other rookies in the NL -- Harper was clearly the best. I’ll echo what Michael C. said about managers.
Apparently, I'm the only guy not to pick Buster Posey, so I need to explain why I'm not part of the hive mind, according to Bill. The top candidates in the NL are all very tightly bunched, less so in rWAR than in fWAR. It's certainly fair to think that catchers get screwed by WAR, and to point out that Ryan Braun is not a good defender, for all his athleticism. But Posey spent a significant amount of time at 1B (29 starts), an even less valuable position than LF, and played far less than Braun did over the course of the season. That, plus my innermost desire to say "screw you" to the PED police, led me to choose Braun, who had a better year this year than last, for NL MVP.
It's interesting that a few of these awards could go either way. Of course, Cabrera/Trout gets the most attention, but there's a good case for David Price to finish just behind Verlander, for Clayton Kershaw to be right on Dickey's heels, and for Harper to potentially lose to Wade Miley, with Todd Frazier just behind them. I don't get excited for these awards, not even a little bit, but I do sort of enjoy the backlash when something unexpected happens, and I look forward to the Twitter melee that ensues with a) Cabrera wins b) a reporter in Texas wastes his vote again on Michael Young.