Wednesday, January 25, 2012

2011 Richie Ashburn Awards

Last year, I invented the "Richie Ashburn Award," dedicated to those rare players who have an on-base percentage higher than their slugging percentage. These players are rare because they can work deep counts and consistently get on base despite the fact that the player doesn't have such significant power that a pitcher would be disinclined to throw him strikes. Richie Ashburn was the master of this. Despite hitting only 29 home runs in his entire career, he led the National League in OBP four times. In 1960, he led the league with a .415 OBP and drew 116 walks despite not hitting a single home run, along with only 16 doubles and 5 triples.

I created some rules last year for a qualification for an Ashburn Award, which I'll review here.

1. The player must have an OBP higher than his SLG. Close doesn't count. Sorry, Alberto Callaspo (.288/.366/.375).

2. The player must have an OBP above. 350. Sorry Adam Dunn (.159/.292/.277). The award isn't given out just for being uniquely terrible. 

3. The player must have at least 400 plate appearances. I almost wanted to cheat and bring this number down in order to acknowledge Mets backup middle infielder Ruben Tejada (.284/.360/.335 in 374 PA). However, arbitrary rules are arbitrary rules. Still, a 21 year old middle infielder with a .360 OBP can probably expect some more playing time in the future. I can't even make the obligatory "unless he's stuck playing for the Mets" joke here, because Sandy Alderson is competent. 

That's it. Three simple rules to gain an Ashburn Award. With power numbers dropping around the majors, you figure there'd be quite a few players of this type, right? 

Wrong. We congratulate Jamey Carroll, our one and only winner of a 2011 Richie Ashburn Award. While playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Carroll had a 2011 line of .290/.359/.347.

Jamey Carroll - April 4, 2011
Credit: Cbl62 via Wikimedia Commons

This is Carroll's second consecutive award, and the third time he's met all qualifications in the last four years - in 2009, he missed because the Cleveland Indians gave him only 358 plate appearances.

I discussed Carroll's career in some detail in last years post, but I need to reiterate that it's nice that Carroll has gotten a run of playing time in his 30's. After not debuting until after his 28th birthday and not having a year with 400 plate appearances until his age-32 season, Carroll now has 3439 career PAs.

Carroll signed a two-year, $6.75 million contract with the Minnesota Twins back in November, where he will be a tremendous upgrade, even if he regresses some. Twins' second basemen had a .228/.278/.332 line in 2011, the worst in the American League in average and OBP, second worst in SLG. By contrast, only the Red Sox, led by Dustin Pedroia, had a higher team OBP from their second basemen than Carroll's .359. Indeed, that .359 number outpaced American League regulars Ian Kinsler (.355), Ben Zobrist (.353) and Robinson Cano (.349).

So congratulations to Jamey Carroll on his award, and on the Minnesota Twins for identifying such a valuable player at a position they desperately needed to upgrade.

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