Breaking Balls: Jed’s picks for Cy Young and MVP
Well, folks, it’s that time of year when I tell you which players should win the big awards for the season. Yeah, I’m doing this earlier than I probably should, since there’s still a week and half left to play. But, the truth is I’m feeling very emotional right now because I’ve gone through a pretty rough couple of weeks and I want to get this out of the way.
First, since I am a Red Sox fan, it has been very stressful watching them go from being a lock to make the playoffs to suddenly being a complete disaster because their pitching is a mess. As the saying goes — the wheels have come off the cart. Also, we broke an axle and the donkey pulling us along has a severe digestive disorder. I am quite sure that those of you who disliked my Braves/Yankees collapse article a couple of weeks ago are laughing it up right now about me jinxing the Red Sox. Well, I can assure you this dreadful turn of events has not kept me up late at night trying to figure out why in hell I would spew out such a foolish and obviously jinxy article.
Next up in my turmoil, my fantasy baseball team “Confederacy of Dunces” is also suffering an epic collapse. Two weeks ago, I was almost certain to finish a solid second place. And then the cart thing happened. For those of you who don’t know what fantasy baseball is, it’s kind of like Dungeons and Dragons, but with baseball players. You build a “team” of active players to compete statistically against a league of fellow enthusiasts based on the real-life players’ performances.
It’s pretty fun. And chicks think it’s very cool and ultra sexy if a guy does this. I’ve been playing fantasy baseball for about 15 years — again, mainly because the babes just can’t resist — and I have never seen a collapse like this. I’m stuck in fourth place and I won’t be winning any money. I’m a pretty spiteful person and there are certain players who I will never ever ever forgive.
That makes two collapses with which I’m very personally and intimately connected — and both happened right after I wrote that stupid article. You can stop laughing now. Oh, it’s so hilarious. You are a horrible human being. How can you live with yourself? What kind of sick and twisted mind would blatantly laugh at the suffering others?
[Editor’s note: You, Jed] [Note to editor: How dare you, sir!] [Editor’s note: You know what they say about glass houses, Jed.] [Note to editor: Yeah, duh. Don’t walk around naked.]
All that said, I’m a professional and I will set aside my personal issues and rise to the task at hand.
When it comes to the season awards, there are only two that I really care about: the Most Valuable Player Award and the Cy Young Award. The National League and the American League get one of each, so today we’ve got to power through four awards. There are other awards, including rookie of the year, manager of the year, comeback player of the year and the always controversial mustache of the year, but we’ll leave those to someone else.
Every year, as with any arbitrarily assigned award system, who should win and who will win hardly ever match up. Steve Carrell has never won an Emmy Award for the role of Michael Scott on “The Office.” How does this happen? Sometimes people have poop for brains. You just never know. There are no rules about voting for these arbitrary awards other than who qualifies for them. And there’s no penalty for stupid voting.
There is, however, apparently a penalty for smart voting. Two years ago, ESPN.com’s Keith Law got deluged with insults and nasty remarks when he voted Javier Vazquez higher than a pair of St. Louis Cardinals’ pitchers in the Cy Young Award. His one vote may have been the difference between Tim Lincecum winning over the Cardinals’ Chris Carpenter. “Everybody knew” that the Vazquez vote was wrong. But when you looked at some of the more advanced statistics, the vote was quite logical. However, most people don’t care too much about “logical” when it comes to stuff like this — at all. I remember an online chat Keith (or Mr. Law? — I don’t know, he doesn’t seem like a mister, but we’re not buddies, whatever) was having and one commenter who disagreed with his vote argued succinctly: “Your an idito.” [sic]
Anyway, let’s get this over with. For the record, I’m using www.FanGraphs.com for all the conventional and advanced statistical data, and my eyeballs, which I have used to see things.
American League Cy Young
Most of the public and the media think this is a slam-dunk: Justin Verlander of the Tigers. He’s had an awesome season and he’s won 24 games — five more than anyone else. However, “wins” is one of the dumbest stats to measure a pitcher with. He didn’t win the game. The team won the game. The pitcher still needs his teammates to score runs and play defense. You don’t see people going around saying, “Gosh, that Cardinals game was amazing last night. Nice win for first baseman Albert Pujols.” Even if Pujols hit three home runs, he still needed the rest of the team to pitch and play defense. (Man, I really love saying Pujols.)
Setting aside wins, Verlander’s numbers are still very impressive — almost the best in the league. That honor goes to CC Sabathia. Most people don’t know this, but CC’s advanced numbers are actually better than Justin’s. CC is a Yankee, so I am biased against him. However, he’s also a fat guy, so I am biased in favor him. So, it comes down to this: CC is very much a part of my “Confederacy of Dunces” fantasy baseball debacle. His past two pitching performances alone dropped me from second to third place.
So, the award goes to Justin Verlander (and I will be trading away CC in the offseason).
American League MVP
This one is a tight race that’s going to go down to the end of the season. But, waiting that long would mean delaying this article and at this point clearly I’m not concerned with any sort of professionalism. There are quite a few candidates for this one, so let’s just start eliminating them and we’ll see what we wind up with.
The first to go is the aforementioned Verlander. Yeah, sometimes a great pitcher deserves to win the MVP also, but not this year. Miguel Cabrera has been an offensive machine all year for the Tigers, but his defense stinks like that milk I spilled in the back seat of my car and forgot to clean up. Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez have been excellent on offense and defense for the Red Sox — too bad they can’t pitch — but they aren’t the best players on that team, so they’re eliminated. Curtis Granderson is having the best year of his career, but his defensive numbers are strangely awful — he’s not even the best center fielder on his team, so we have some lovely parting gifts for him.
That leaves Jose Bautista and Jacoby Ellsbury. Jose out-performs everyone in the batting categories. However, we’re talking about the most valuable “player” here and we must factor in defense and baserunning. According to FanGraphs, Ellsbury’s overall numbers are just slightly better. It’s almost too close to call , so there’s really only one way to decide …
The award goes to Jacoby Ellsbury (clearly the best-looking of all the candidates).
National League Cy Young
Like the American League, this one is really just between two guys: the young Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers and the seasoned veteran Roy “Doc” Halladay of the Phillies. The Phillies also have Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels with nice seasons, but Doc is the standout. The other three playoff teams besides the Phillies (Braves, Brewers, Diamondbacks) don’t really have much to offer in this race. Daniel Hudson and Ian Kennedy are worth an honorable mention in Arizona — and probably Zack Greinke in Milwaukee. But they are not even close to what Clayton and Doc have been doing.
Looking at the usual numbers, these two are very, very close. It’s almost weird how similar their numbers are. But if we look at the advanced stats, Doc surges out in front — way out in front. The old guy with the cool nickname is still the best in the league and it looks like the kid will have to wait another year. I really wanted to give this award to Kershaw … so, I will.
The award goes to Clayton Kershaw (whose offseason assignment is to get a cool nickname like “the Thighmaster” or something).
National League MVP
Also like the American League, this category has a lot of guys to choose from. So, I guess that makes me The Bachelorette and it’s time to hand out that final rose. But, first, let’s vote some dudes off the island. (Yes, I’m aware I just mixed reality show metaphors — get over it.) The first two guys we kick out are the Brewers’ Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder — awesome offensive firepower. Defense much? No. The next guy to go is Justin Upton of the Diamondbacks. He’s the complete package and up until a couple weeks ago I thought he was the favorite to win the award and then he just fizzled out — helping to sink my Confederacy of Dunces team in the process.
Strangely, the Phillies, who have the best record in baseball, don’t really have anyone worth mentioning here — except maybe Doc. Their offense hasn’t been very good. “But, Jed, what about Ryan Howard? He leads the league in RBIs.” I don’t think we should give anyone an award just because the players who bat before him get on base a lot. Unlike Hollywood, I want these awards to go to people who earn them on their own merit. Howard’s overall offensive numbers are soft and his defensive skills are just about as bad as an alive person’s can possibly be.
We are down to two players: Joey Votto of the Reds and Matt Kemp of the Dodgers. “But, Jed, how can the MVP be a player from a team with a losing record?” It’s true the Dodgers and Reds won’t make the playoffs this year, but without Votto, the Reds are the Houston Astros — treading water in a sea of unwatchable awfulness.
Since we don’t really know what goes on in the clubhouse and who is the best leader and who gives the best pep talks or who gives the best back rubs, all we can do is look at the results on the field. Offensively, both of these guys provide about the same value. Defensively, Votto gets the edge. Kemp just doesn’t seem to have center field figured out. He probably would be a heck of a left fielder. Kemp’s a slightly better baserunner than Votto. So, once again, I must rely upon an arbitrary measure and give my final rose to the player I feel is not only most valuable to his team, but also to my Confederacy of Dunces team.
The award goes to Matt Kemp (though I feel I’m getting very close to receiving a restraining order).
If these awards really mean a lot to you and you are outraged that I would pick Player A over Player B for the Cy Young or that Player X who I didn’t even mention in the MVP race should have been mentioned, please keep in mind that 1) there are still a bunch of games left in the season so these things can switch and, more importantly, 2) I don’t care.