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There are still a couple of weeks left to play in the season, and the wild card races are getting pretty intense as we watch each night to see which teams in the American League want it the most and which teams in the National League don’t want it the least.
Just as I did last year, I’m not going to bother to wait until the end of the season to decide who should win this year’s major awards because, with this little time left, there’s not really anything that can happen that would change how I feel. And if something does happen, like some player going crazy and hitting a dozen home runs or a pitcher throwing back-to-back perfect games, then I will be comforted by knowing that they did so only because I wrote this column.
As a Red Sox fan, this season has been over since the first week – actually since the moment they hired Bobby Valentine, but we had to wait for the first week of games to see if he was as toxic as everyone thought he would be. He was.
It doesn’t matter if the Red Sox are out of it or if my hometown Dodgers refuse to score any runs. Because, above all, I am a baseball fan. So, I’ll watch just about any team playing baseball. You can sometimes catch me watching some insignificant game between the Tigers and Twins, just because I enjoy the game so much. (No, you’re the one with a problem! I can quit whenever I want!)
Before the season started, I wrote a column with my predictions about which players would win these awards, and I think it’s safe to say that they were spot on. Even I am surprised by the precision of everything in that column considering all of the freakish randomness involved in baseball. [Note from Editor: Jed, this is the Internet. All of your columns are still online and easily referenced.] [Note to Editor: Oh, crap. Wait. What about my Google Search History?] [Note from Editor: That is still safe.] [Note to Editor: Whew! Is it too late to just delete this paragraph?] [Note from Editor: Sorry, no. It’s the Internet.]
Okay, so maybe I wasn’t very accurate or even particularly close at all in any of the predictions, but you don’t see me going to your job and making fun of that spreadsheet you were “sure” was going to enhance market resources in domestic and foreign markets.
If there has been one common theme in this year’s baseball season, it’s been injuries. We’ve seen everything from sore hamstrings to blown-out elbows to Adrian Gonzales hurting his back greeting a kid. Just about every team has been stricken with an unusual number of injuries this year, and this has had an impact on the number of players in contention for the awards.
Obviously injuries have an affect on the quantity and quality of a player’s production. A batter like Matt Kemp missed a bunch of games because of injuries, and now that he’s back, his performance is way down because of lingering effects from his injuries. Reduced performance affects many of the “counting stats” in baseball – these are the statistics that are “counted” (accumulated) over a season like runs, hits and home runs, and would not include statistics like batting average.
Counting stats have been used for decades by writers and fans to determine the awards process because they can be a quick look guide to compare players’ production and part of earning an award is being out there for enough games that you created more value than the guy you’re being compared to. If you miss half the season, your counting stats will be lower and you aren’t winning any awards.
Some of these counting stats are used in the fantasy baseball world. For those of you who still don’t know what fantasy baseball is, it’s kind of like The Sims, 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. And you get to give your team whatever name you want, like The Green Monsters or Balls of Fury or Who Has the Runs? My team is named “Confederacy of Dunces” – based on the humorous book of the same title. It tells people that I am a man of intellect with a twist of self-deprecation that informs them I am not one to be trifled with.
In the real world, counting stats have some value, but there are other more advanced numbers that tell us better how well a player has performed. If he scores 100 runs, that’s great. But in most cases someone else was responsible for making him score, so we can’t really give players all the credit for scoring a run. However, we can give him all the credit for getting on base in the first place.
When it comes to the season awards, there’s only two I care about: the Most Valuable Player Award and the Cy Young Award for the best pitcher. The National League and the American League get one of each, so we’ve actually got four awards here. The other awards, like for Rookie, Manager, Comeback Player and the always controversial Mustache of the Year, are interesting but we’ll leave those for another column.
Every year, as with any arbitrarily assigned award system, who should win and who will win hardly ever match up. Many talented actors and actresses have never won awards for their performances and yet, Drew Barrymore won a Golden Globe Award. Yes, for acting!
How does something like this happen? Sometimes people have other agendas or they are voting based on sympathy or popularity. And sometimes people just have poop for brains. There are no rules about voting for these arbitrary awards other than who qualifies for them. And there’s no penalty for stupid voting.
Anyway, let’s bang these out. This year, I’m going to add a little flair. Last year, I mentioned that Clayton Kershaw really needed a nickname to help his candidacy. I suggested “The Thighmaster.” It didn’t stick, but he won the Cy Young Award, so we’re going to hand out some new nicknames for all of this year’s choices.
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 was a slam dunk win for Detroit’s Justin Verlander. I tried to make an argument for the statistically (advanced statistics) equal CC Sabathia from New York, but every other stat screamed Justin’s name from their metaphoric mountain tops. A few weeks ago, this year’s race was much closer with Verlander in the lead and Seattle’s Felix Hernandez in hot pursuit. And then Felix went and took a big dump on the mound in four consecutive games.
Tampa’s David Price and Chicago’s Chris Sale have some nice numbers this season and both have four more wins than anyone else being considered. But they’ve also pitched 30 less innings each. That’s about four full games’ worth of pitching less than the two frontrunners in this category. And that’s kind of a lot of value.
And the award goes to … Justin “V for Vendetta” Verlander.
American League MVP
This is just about the easiest choice for an award the league has had in a while. Anaheim’s Mike Trout is only 20 years old and he’s currently the best player in baseball. By almost every statistical measure available in the world he walks away with this award. But, Jed, what about Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera and his RBIs? What about getting a CAT scan? You’re saying that because when he got hits there were more people on base in front of him to drive in, Miggy is more valuable. He is not a wizard. Also, the award is for most valuable “player” and part of “playing” is defense and baserunning. Trout excels at these while Cabrera is a liability at both.
Kudos to the Yankees’ Robinson Cano for getting himself into the top three – very nice season – but a tier below Cabrera who is a tier below Trout. Trout should win the award unanimously, but Detroit writers get two votes and Detroit writers are notorious for being homers – because they love their team and they love not being murdered.
And the award goes to … Mike “Slippery When Wet” Trout.
National League Cy Young
As I mentioned earlier, last year Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw won this award in a close call with Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay. By the numbers, it probably should have gone to Halladay, but Kershaw came out on top probably because some voters get swayed by young superstars on the rise. This year has been a different story. Halladay has shown definite signs of getting old. I hope he reaches out to Derek Jeter in the offseason and find out where he buys his youthful exuberance. Kershaw actually leads the league statistically this season, but a lot of factors point towards him losing out to other guys who have “better stories.”
Washington’s Gio Gonzalez gives up more walks than you’d like but he has wins and strikeouts in his favor and he’s part of the Nationals’ “story” of getting to the playoffs for the first time. There’s New York’s R.A. Dickey who had excellent numbers and a nifty “story” as well with his dancing knuckleball and a breakout season that no one ever saw coming on a terrible team. The Reds’ Johnny Cueto has been excellent all season, but no one outside Cincinnati is really paying attention. When all the statistics are so close it becomes a question of who’s got the best story that will get repeated over and over in the media.
And the award goes to … R.A. “Or Are You Not A” Dickey.
National League MVP
Similar to the NL Cy Young, last year’s winner didn’t really have the best numbers. Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun won over Los Angeles’ Matt Kemp. And then there was that whole mess about the positive PED test for Braun and then the rumors the drug test was a false positive because of his herpes medication. Do any of us really need to have this much information about someone we aren’t getting naked with? Braun actually has the superior numbers this season, but there are probably enough people who are pissed about the PED thing – regardless of the loophole he found to get out of it – that he won’t get the votes to win.
A few weeks ago, I thought Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen was going to run away with this award. He has had a tremendous season and is truly one of the league’s best and brightest stars. However, his production has tailed off recently and the team is in a tailspin. The guy who is a real surprise for this award is San Francisco’s catcher Buster Posey. The second half of his season has been historically good and he plays one of the toughest positions on the field. He also has a great “story” after coming back from being knocked out for the season last year in a stupid collision at the plate. He also doesn’t have PED rumors or herpes or whatever.
And the award goes to … Buster “Strike A” Posey.
If these choices I’ve made here 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 please comment below and explain to me why I’m wrong.
But please keep in mind that 1) these awards are arbitrary – what might be right for you may not be right for some, and 2) please don’t use 2,000 words like me, Jed “The Pig-headed, Self-righteous, Know-it-all Sports Writer” Rigney.