Jed Rigney is an award-winning filmmaker who also fancies himself a sportswriter. His next film“Nowhere Girl” is available online and Video on Demand on October 13. His views expressed here are not necessarily those of TTFB (or any sane person, really).
After 24 weeks of grueling day-after-day competition, there’s less than a week left to play in the season, and I have returned from my hiatus to bring you my important baseball insights so that you might better understand the baseball season and the impending playoffs.
Some of you may be thinking that I have only come back so that I can plug my upcoming movie release of “Nowhere Girl” – available online and Video on Demand on October 13. I guess, that’s just the sort of cynical world we live in these days and I’d probably be more offended if it wasn’t 100 percent true.
Please do check out my movie. Not now, of course. You’re busy … reading this important baseball article … that will still be here when you get back. Anyway, let’s see if we can leave this unpleasantness behind us and get back to the baseball stuff.
Over in the American League, the Houston Astros spent the first four months of the season delighting everyone with their rags-to-riches story and then decided to crap the bed for the last four weeks and let the Texas Rangers pass them, as well as giving the Los Angeles Angels and Minnesota Twins a shot at the final Wild Card spot. I’m sure it’s been brutal for Astros’ fans but they’ve really done the league a favor, because otherwise all the playoff spots would have been decided with essentially two weeks left. All the National League playoff teams have been decided, though I guess there’s still some jockeying for home-field advantage.
With all these meaningless games going on, as usual, I’m not going to bother waiting until the end of the season to decide who should win baseball’s major awards.
This is the point in this article where I usually make fun of people for incorrectly valuing certain baseball statistics when deciding who deserves these awards. But I’m not going to. I have my opinions for each award that I’ll explain below, and while my opinions are better than other people’s, they are still entitled to their opinion, no matter how backward, archaic and ridiculous. I don’t know, maybe I’m getting friendlier in my old age and I just want to promote harmony among my fellow man. Or maybe I just don’t want to offend any potential viewers of my film “Nowhere Girl” – available online and Video on Demand on October 13. (What? You want to watch the trailer? Who am I to say no to my fans? Enjoy!)
When it comes to the season awards, there are only four that anyone cares about: AL and NL Most Valuable Player Awards and AL and NL Cy Young Awards for the best pitchers. The other awards, like for Rookie, Manager, Comeback Player and Least Terrible Umpire, are interesting, but we’ll leave those for another column by another writer (possibly on another site).
Every year, as with any arbitrarily assigned award system, who should win and who will win hardly ever match up. There are no rules about voting for these awards other than who qualifies for them. And as with most things in America, there’s no penalty for being stupid.
Anyway, let’s bang these out. In addition to explaining how my choices are right and how everyone else’s choices are wrong, I will also be making up new nicknames for all of this year’s choices. Because this is important.
For the record, I’m using www.FanGraphs.com for all the conventional and advanced statistical data – and also my eyeballs and ear-holes, which I have used to perceive things.
American League Cy Young
Last season, this award went to the Cleveland Indians’ little-known Corey Kluber. He’s had another really good year, but this season’s Cy Young contenders are Chris Sale, Dallas Keuchel and David Price. They’ve all had very good seasons, and that means this award will be steeped in arbitrariness.
Price has been dominant all season, playing for both the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays – not at the same time, of course, that would be impossible and probably against the rules. Though it would almost certainly win him the Cy Young and MVP Awards. He came over to the Blue Jays at the trade deadline and has been the ace Toronto needed to push them ahead of the Yankees. So, basically, he did the opposite of what Johnny Cueto did with (or “to”) the Royals.
Keuchel has been a big part of the Astros success this year. He has been out of his mind at home – even though that’s a very hitter-friendly park – and somewhat pedestrian on the road where his team as a whole has been pretty darn awful. Sale’s advanced stats push him right to the top among this year’s best performers, and he’s been striking out everyone this year, but maybe that’s a defense mechanism he set up to prevent the White Sox fielders from getting their buttery hands on the ball.
And the award goes to … David “Increasing His” Price
American League MVP
After winning this award three years in a row (with two of them accidentally being given to Miguel Cabrera), Mike Trout started off the first four months of the season cruising to his fourth MVP. Then he hurt his wrist. For those of you who don’t know, that’s the thing that connects your hand to your arm. Baseball players use it to help generate bat speed and power.
So, Trout actually had a bad month. And that was all Josh Donaldson needed to sneak into the MVP discussion. Donaldson has been an offensive and defensive powerhouse for the Toronto Blue Jays. He hasn’t had any bad months and his numbers are almost identical to Trout’s. Sure, he’s got more runs and more RBI, but he plays on a team with Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Russell Martin. How the heck is Trout going to score as many runs with Albert Pujols and … um … Johnny Giavotella, Taylor Featherston and Aloysius Macmanus? Okay, I made up that last one, but those other two are completely real.
Trout is back to destroying the ball on offense and this could go right down to the last game of the season. Did you see that walk off home run Donaldson hit this weekend? Did you see that home run Trout climbed the wall to steal?
The Blue Jays are going to the playoffs and the Angels are fighting for a spot. Normally I don’t really value team performance for an individual award, but let’s say it accounts for one percent. Well, that one percent might just be the difference. If the Angels do make it, it’s basically a coin flip. Trout is the better player but that terrible August still happened. Award voters tend to vote against repeat winners, so Donaldson also has that advantage. I just don’t know.
And the award goes to … Josh “Or maybe Mike Trout” Donaldson
National League Cy Young
Before we get started on this one, let’s be very clear about something: Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball – this year, this decade. Also, he is just 27 years old so he’s going to keep dominating for years to come.
That said, just because someone is best at something does not necessarily mean they will always have the best results. Writer Steven Bochco brought us classic TV shows “NYPD Blue,” “LA Law” and “Hill Street Blues,” but he is also the individual responsible for “Cop Rock.” I’m not saying Kershaw is having a “Cop Rock” season, but I guess it’s more like that episode of “NYPD Blue” where we all saw Dennis Franz’s butt.
His advanced numbers are out far superior to everyone else this season. Kershaw, not Dennis Franz. However, the results just haven’t been there for him. A combination of shaky defense, bad luck and dubious managerial decisions by Don Mattingly have conspired to dirty up Kershaw’s game-to-game results.
The two pitchers who have really been great and had great results this season are Zack Greinke and Jake Arrieta. Both of these guys are worthy recipients. They both have insanely low ERAs. If we’re going off of recency bias, Arrieta has only given up four earned runs in his last 11 starts. That’s crazy. But what’s crazier is that he still has a higher ERA than Greinke.
Greinke has been just what the Dodgers needed all season to offset how terrible Mattingly is as a manager. He’s been their “set it and forget it” starting pitcher. However, Arrieta’s Chicago Cubs surprise emergence as a playoff contender should be enough to win him the award, since the Dodgers were essentially a foregone conclusion with their $300,000,000 budget.* (*Note: Not a Jed Rigney joke; this is real.)
And the award goes to … Jake “Thanks Kershaw” Arrieta
National League MVP
For the last few years, the winner of this award could’ve been any number of guys who had very good years for their teams. This year it’s all Bryce Harper. He has been, by far, the best player in baseball all season. The rest of his team fell apart with a confluence of under-performance, injuries and Matt Williams’ curious game management. But Harper was ferocious.
He went into the season being voted “most overrated” in a poll of current players and then shoved that poll right up everyone’s posterior. When he was drafted as the first pick in the first round by the Nationals a few years back, this is exactly the player that everyone thought he could be. He is 22 years old. Hold onto your seats because he is going to be wreaking havoc for years to come.
“Uh, but, Jed, he’s got an attitude problem.” “He’s not a team player.” “He doesn’t play the game the right way.” Yeah, I’ve heard all that crap before, but I can guarantee you that when he’s hitting those monster home runs, every man on that team would gladly kiss him on the mouth in front of their parents.
“Didn’t you see him and Jonathan Papelbon fighting and choking each other on Sunday?” Yes, I did. And I guarantee you that if Harper had hit a home run instead of popping up, Papelbon would’ve thrown him against the wall and French kissed him instead.
What’s that? You want me to mention some other candidates? Okay, Paul Goldschmidt and Joey Votto have also had nice seasons that would be worthy of award consideration in a Harper-less world.
And the award goes to … Bryce “And so it Begins” Harper
If these choices I’ve made make you angry and you are flabbergasted that I would pick Player A over Player B for the Cy Young or that I had the audacity to not even mention Player X in the MVP race, then I want you to know that I’m dead wrong and I can only hope it doesn’t stop you from checking out my new film “Nowhere Girl” – available online or Video on Demand on October 13.