Monday, July 09, 2012

First-half Awards

I figured it was a good time to do one of those obligatory "hand out awards for a half-season of baseball that looks incredibly silly on October 1" type of posts! This needs no explanation, so let's dive in.

American League MVP:
1. Robinson Cano
2. Mike Trout
3. Josh Hamilton's new WAR (rWAR) calculation has Brett Lawrie (.291/.334/.425) leading the AL with a 5.0, giving me pause about using their new calculation, ever. It seems to work better for pitchers than hitters. Trout is second in rWAR and first in FanGraphs calcuation (fWAR), but has played in only 64 games. I have trouble giving an MVP vote to someone who has only played in 3/4 of his team's games the award, even if it's a fake vote for a half-season award. Trout is having an amazing season, though, and if he continues at his current pace while playing full-time, would move into the lead for this award. Choosing between Trout and Bryce Harper for the future is probably a draw at this point. Harper is the better bet to dp something absurd like hit 900 home runs, but Trout does everything well already and is also less likely to miss half a season from getting punched in the face.

Cano gets the award both on merit and because he's really the only excellent player on a first place team. The guy is absolutely carrying the Yankees right now. Notoriously streaky, it will be interesting to see if he can keep it up.

Hamilton has cooled off after his April and May, when he put up a 1.180+ OPS in both months. He still leads the league in home runs, RBI and SLG, and if does that and stays healthy he'll have a good chance to win the real award.

National League MVP

1. Andrew McCutchen
2. David Wright
3. Joey Votto

I'll say this up front - any article you read that has anyone else in the top three is wrong, though a strong case can be made for any ordering. I chose McCutchen first because of the excellent Pirates story. Normally I don't vote for the "story," but the Pirates center fielder has been nearly as good as the other two, and is also doing so with a weaker supporting cast.

David Wright is probably the most under-appreciated player in baseball, which is why it stinks to be a New York Met. He's been the best all-around player in baseball this year, but always seems to be criticized more for what he can't do than praised for what he does. The New York Post will probably call his Hall of Fame induction speech overrated.

Votto is the best hitter in baseball and will likely continue to be. .348/.471/.617? Ho Hum.

American League Cy Young:

1. Chris Sale
2. Justin Verlander
3. Jake Peavy

In the provincial manner of Boston sports reporting, I've read a lot this year about how dumb it was to convert Daniel Bard into a starting pitcher. Some of the arguments are strong, but some are of the "why turn a successful reliever into a starter when you need help in the bullpen" variety. The answer, of course, is that if he's a good starting pitcher, you won't need as much help in your bullpen. Sale has made the conversion much better than the White Sox could have hoped, ranking second in the American League with a 2.19 ERA. That translates into a league best 194 ERA+. It will be interesting to see how he does as the innings pile up, but Sale is the latest successful case in the "make your good relievers into starters" trend that Nolan Ryan (and Mike Maddux) deserves a lot of credit for.

It could be said that Justin Verlander, deserves the nod over Sale due to his 36 additional innings pitched and league lead in strikeouts. To counter, Verlander has given up 17 additional earned runs in those 36 innings, and the strikeout lead is a funtion of that innings lead - he's striking out 8.7 per 9 IP, Sale at 8.6. I'll be honest - I'd be really, really surprised if Sale has better numbers than Verlander when the season ends, but right now he comes out on top.

Peavy gets the nod over Jered Weaver because of his better K rate, and over C.J. Wilson because of his better walk rate. I'm guessing no Angels fans read this blog, but if they did, they probably stopped approximately one sentence ago.

National League Cy Young:

1. R.A. Dickey
2. Matt Cain
3. Johnny Cueto

Dickey's "power knuckler" is the coolest of all things in baseball right now. With two consecutive one-hitters and a start for the NL in the All-Star Game, he's certain to be consi... wait what? Tony LaRussa is starting Matt Cain? You know what? I'll just say it. Tony LaRussa makes baseball worse. Anyhow, Dickey is 12-1, which I don't really care about but will help him, is second to Stephen Strasburg in strikeouts, is fourth in K/BB ratio, and fifth with his 2.40 ERA. There's no pitcher dominating all of these categories, and Dickey is doing it while essentially inventing a new pitch. That's really really cool.

Matt Cain threw possibly the best game ever pitched, which separates him from the herd - there are a lot of NL pitchers who are very close in value. Cain, historically unlucky, deserves some attention.

Johnny Cueto didn't make the All-Star team because they need to take relievers who have higher ERAs than starters in way less innings. I'll put him third out of spite and because there's nobody obviously better.

American League Rookie of the Year

1. Mike Trout
2. Yu Darvish
3. Tommy Milone

I'm told Trout was given rookie eligibility back because of time spent on the disabled list last season. If this is not the case, well... as always, it's good to keep in mind that I have no idea what I'm talking about.

Darvish picked a crummy year to be a rookie. Coming in with unreasonable expectations, he's tied for third in the American League in wins (10), is second in K/9 ratio (10.3) and has an ERA of 3.59. That's very good. His high walk rate means he has put more wear into his 100.2 innings pitched than he otherwise may have, but all other indicators are that he's going to continue to be the very good pitcher we expected him to be.

There's no obvious third place choice, but lots of candidates, including Will Middlebrooks and Yeonis Cespedes. Milone, a favorite of this site for his 59-mile-per-hour slow curveball, gets the nod. Milone is 8-6 with a 3.57 ERA, and an expectedly-low walk rate. It's his 6.0 K/9 rate that's making him an above average pitcher though - Milone is missing more bats than the scouts expected he would.

National League Rookie of the Year

1. Bryce Harper
2. Zack Cozart
3. Lance Lynn

Bryce Harper is really, really good at baseball. His one weakness is that the little hitch his swing does seem to leave him vulnerable to the strikeout. If that is the main flaw of a 19-year old baseball player, we're dealing with a special case.

Cozart is 26 and has a sub-.300 OBP, but he's on here for his defense. It's fair to include him with Alcides Escobar and Troy Tulowitzki among the best defensive shortstops in the National League. Also, you may have noticed that it is no longer 2001 - the average National League shortstop is hitting .258/.312/.385, so the Reds are not giving anything up offensively to get Cozart's outstanding D.

Is Lance Lynn a rookie? He comes up in the rookie reports on every site, but that doesn't seem possible. If he is a rookie, he's a clear choice for the third slot right now. After getting off to an outstanding start, he has slowed lately - he gave up 17 earned runs in 15.1 innings in his last three June starts. Six shutout innings to start July is promising, but as his workload builds, his results may continue to taper off.

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