With baseball's awards season having just finished and the Presidential election just a few weeks behind, I thought it would be prudent to see how the awards voting broke down along the electoral map. Why would I do such a ridiculously silly thing? Because I finally get to play the Wolf Blitzer/Nate Silver combo that I've always wanted.
Right before heading to their giant mansions and speed boats that can also turn into underwater compounds for the weekend (I don't really understand the lifestyle of the rich), the Red Sox signed David Ross to a 2 year, $6.2 million contract. You may not find that particularly noteworthy in an offseason dominated by Josh Hamilton's contract demands and Walt Weiss' managerial hiring, but that's because you haven't been paying enough attention to Mr. Ross. In a league where 30 teams have to field a starting catcher, Ross may very well be better than half of them, but hasn't been given the playing time to prove it.
The end of the baseball season has passed. They are no games to watch today, nor will there be for many more days to come. We fill the time by “rosterbating,” fantasizing about what our favorite (or any) teams will do this offseason to make their squad better. There will be debates in bars, emails exchanged, and a slew of articles written on these subjects. We are forever looking forward, for that is the only place optimism lives. I however, find great joy in the past. I use the offseason to catch up on the mountain of baseball books I purchased during the offseason, but never got around to reading. I try to learn more about players and managers and teams and seasons that I was not around for, or was too young or careless to properly observe. I thought this would be a good thing to share (note: I also thought this would be a good excuse to start writing more). So I’m starting a little project called Lost Seasons. I’m not sure where it will lead, but I’m excited to find out.
Lost Seasons Pt. 1 – Ron Hunt 1971
ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian wrote a piece this past year about getting hit by a pitch. I encourage you to read the whole thing yourself. It gets a bit flowery (as Kurkjian is wont to do), but it’s full of great quotes from players regarding getting plunked. Here are a few:
“It's like getting hit with an uppercut but without boxing gloves on.” – Mark Reynolds
“I thought I had been shot with a gun.” – Eric Hinske
“That's the worst pain I've ever felt on a baseball field…” – Adam LaRocheno comments
With the free agency period now in full swing, marking the start of the "Hot Stove season" (originally called the "Ha Stowe season" after Harriet Beecher Stowe's love of a good baseball rumor), I thought it would be time to give you, the internet baseball consumer, a rundown of the important dates that are coming up. Set your iCals and cancel your therapy appointments, this is the only social calendar you'll need:
This following is a special message from:
Jermaine Van Buren
Wes Polk Chamberlain
Ulysses Franklin "Frank" Grant
Arthur "Jocko" Conlon
Grover Cleveland "Pete" Alexander
Grover Cleveland Lowdermilk
William McKinley "Max" Venable
Ted Roosevelt Lilly
Taft "Taffy" Wright
Charles Woodrow "Swamp Baby" Wilson
Charlie "Slim" Harding
Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma "Buster" McLish
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Wieand
Truman "Tex" Clevenger
Big Jim Clinton
Bullet Joe Bush
Go vote, sucker. Let freedom ring.no comments
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.
Dear Friend and/or Loved One of a Baseball Fan,
As you may be aware, the Major League Baseball season is about to culminate in the World Series, baseball's biggest event. While it is a joyous time, with the top two teams squaring off against each other, it also marks the end of baseball for the winter. In life, there is death, et cetera et cetera. While many fans have no problem transitioning back to civilian life once that final out is recorded, it is difficult for some to say goodbye. To make life as easy as possible for both you and the baseball fan in your life, I thought you should know some important information.
While your baseball fan is excited to spend time with you once again, please know that it's hard to break habits that have accumulated over the last six months. You may notice them checking phantom scores on their phone while the two of you are out to dinner or you may hear them shout during a funeral service,"The stupid MLB.tv app isn't showing any games!" This is all part of the healing process and it is with your patience that they will get through this trying time. Many have found that speaking in soothing, calming voices, much like one would use when talking to a baby bird or pet rabbit work best. While it may be trying, do your best to not get angry. This will only send the baseball fan into a shame spiral, setting their recovery back into an endless series of Mark Prior-esque rehabilitations.
Something has changed. Something is different. Given the general snail’s pace in which societies move, I’m fairly certain the change has happened in me. My engagements, interactions, and communications within the baseball community have mutated. More specifically, they have been truncated – lessened through a conscious effort. I don’t watch the game like I used to. I don’t talk about it like I used to. And, honestly, I’m enjoying it way more than I used to.
My father is a baseball fan, at least until the Packers start playing. He’s a fairly big fan, watching all the Brewers games he can. He watches other teams, too. He likes certain players and likes to watch them play. We’ve had in-game text message chats during the postseason this year. He pays attention. He is also the type of guy that thinks RBI is an important statistic. He’s not dull, that’s just the way he grew up. People cared about those things 40 years ago, and so he does too.
However, the last time I was visiting, we had a discussion about pitcher wins. We must have been talking about Zack Greinke because he loves Zack Greinke. The rest of the details aren’t coming to me. But we had a sincere, honest discussion about the importance of pitcher wins. He laid out his case and I laid out mind. And he actually started to come around. He listened and absorbed what I was saying, and contemplated it with an open mind. I don’t know, nor care really, if he believes in the uselessness of the stat to the extent that I do, but I don’t care. I don’t care if he thought I was full of it. This wasn’t about winning the argument. He listened and responded and discussed. There was discourse. I can’t fully explain how refreshing it was.
I have come to the very sad realization that the more I try to engage with baseball people, the less I wish I had. I tried to engage more on social media (at least by following more people) and by reading more articles and books. Some of it has been absolutely fantastic. I have learned a lot, added many sites to my bookmarks, and have even made some friends in the process. Opportunities to write and be creative have come to me, and I could not be more grateful for that.no comments
It was the top of the ninth, and the Nats were up 7-5. Yadier Molina was at the plate, faced with a situation that most of us dream of being in when we’re kids—down to their final strike with the entire season hanging in the balance.
Every one of the 46,000 fans at Nationals Park was on their feet as they had been since the start of the seventh inning. The crowd was loud, raucous, and energetic in manner that was exponentially greater than anything I’d ever experienced before. You could barely hear yourself think, let alone hear the sound of your own voice. Despite this, I turned to my friend Jeremy, and yelled, “One more strike!” I’m not entirely sure if he heard me or not, but I could tell he knew what I was saying. We were about to witness a Washington baseball team win their first playoff series since the Washington Senators beat the New York Giants to take the 1924 World Series in seven games. It was hard not getting caught up in the excitement.
The funny thing is neither Jeremy nor I were emotionally invested in the game when we got to the ballpark. In fact, we weren’t even planning on going to the game until an early morning text conversation started a hunt for reasonably decent tickets at a moderately crazy price. Believe me it was no easy task.
Despite not being Nationals fans, we felt we needed to be at the game. Maybe it was our mutual love for the game of baseball. Maybe it was a need to be a part of the playoff experience. Or maybe it was just that we wanted to go to the ballpark one last time this year. The reason was inconsequential. As fans of the Red Sox (me) and Cubs (Jeremy), both of our teams are mired in long rebuilding efforts. The Nationals provided us with an escape in our very own backyard.
As we looked down from our seats in section 234, which were situated directly down the right field line, Drew Storen was setting up for the pitch. Anticipation built up to nearly intolerable levels as he waited for him to fire the final nail in the Cardinals coffin. It was a slider, low and away. The count moved to 3-2. Kurt Suzuki fired the ball back to Storen, who quickly set back up. After a long look toward home plate, Storen fired another slider. This one missed badly above the zone. Molina walked. The crowd went silent just for a second before a chorus of boos filled in the silence. Adron Chambers was called in to pinch run.no comments