THT Awards 2012 Season Finale Hitters Editionby John Barten
October 16, 2012
Welcome to the awards.
Please see the week one column for award definitions and explanations.
Joe Carter Award
Hunter Pence drove in 104 runs for the Phillies and Giants, one more than his teammate Buster Posey and good for 14th in the Major Leagues ahead of batters such as Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday, David Wright, and Robinson Cano. Durability and the ability to smack some extra base hits are qualities to be valued in a player, but they were the two signature abilities of Pence this season. The right fielder posted a 103 OPS+ and in order to get to him on the WAR leaderboard at FanGraphs, you have to go to the fourth page among qualified batters because his WAR was only 1.8. He hit .253/.319/.425.
Posey ended the season with an OPS 89 points higher than Pence, a slugging percentage 124 points higher, and with much more defensive value. So how did Pence drive in so many runs? Well that’s a funny story. You see after he was traded from Philadelphia to San Francisco, he was in the lineup every day behind some guy named Posey who posted an OBP over .400.
Hanley Ramirez drove in the second most runs of any season in his career despite posting the second lowest OPS, OPS+, or WAR of his career. It was a bad enough season that the Marlins dumped him for what would have been considered pennies on the dollar just two seasons ago and nobody really thought it was a terrible idea. Hanley drove in 92 runs with a 106 OPS+. He is striking out more than ever, up to 22 percent of his plate appearances. He is walking less than ever, down to 6.3 percent of plate appearances. And he is hitting more ground balls than ever.
Annual THT Awards whipping boy, Delmon Young went .267/.296/.411 for the Tigers and drove in 74 runs
Finally, Carlos Lee drove in 77 runs despite hitting .264/.332/.365 as a first baseman.
Rey Sanchez Award
Michael Young posted a superficially acceptable 169 hits in 651 plate appearances. He actually finished fifth in the American League in singles. Unfortunately, the only other AL leaderboards he can be found on are his ninth in outs made with 476 and second in double plays grounded into with 26. His power has completely disintegrated and his ability to draw a walk was never really that great to begin with. His only remaining ability on a baseball field is to smack a single and that only got him to .277/.312/.370. He was more than a win below replacement.
Jordan Pacheco had a very Coors Field season. First, his road OPS was 232 points lower than his home OPS. Also note that because he only drew 22 walks in 132 games and 107 of his 147 hits were singles and only eight were triples or home runs, his offensive abilities only amounted to a single here and there with little risk of something more dramatic happening. .309/.341/.421 only produced a 91 OPS+ and roughly replacement level ratings by both FanGraphs and Baseball Reference.
Pacheco’s season was reminiscent of some of Juan Pierre’s classic empty batting average seasons, only without the speed. So why not acknowledge the original Juan Pierre’s 2012? .307/.351/.371 qualifies, even in this run-scoring era.
In a season partially spent in the International League, Scott Podsednik did what a Scott Podsednik does. He hit .302/.322/.352 for the Red Sox, absorbing playing time for a team that had nothing better to do with those at bats.
Podsednik wasn’t the only temp filling in for the Red Sox with an empty batting average after the wheels had fallen off. Pedro Ciriaco went .293/.315/.390 in 272 PA.
Harmon Killebrew Award
Adam Dunn rebounded from a nightmare 2011 to put up a pretty good 2012. In doing so, he didn’t dial back the three true outcomes. He cranked it up even higher than ever. He set a new personal high water mark for strikeouts and hit the second highest number of home runs he’s ever produced. He doubled down on his Adam Dunn-ness. .204/.333/.468 was good for a 112 OPS+ and a .348 wOBA.
Chris Carter has the classic Killebrew skill set. He struck out a little more than once per game in eight seasons in the minors. But he also slugged .535 and drew walks in 12 percent of his plate appearances. In 67 games with Oakland this season, he went .239/.350/.514. 54 percent of his hits went for extra bases. He walked in 15 percent of his plate appearances. His OPS+ was 137.
Jose Bautista continued to turn in good performances with sub-.250 batting averages. This year he went .241/.358/.527 in an injury-shortened year.
Mike Napoli went .227/.343/.469 for the Rangers.
It wasn’t quite what Yankee fans were hoping for, but they’ll take .232/.319/.492 and two and a half wins above replacement in center field from Curtis Granderson.
Steve Balboni Award
Drew Stubbs fanned 166 times in 544 PA and ended the season with a .213/.277/.333 line because of it. Making enough contact to allow the rest of his game to make him into an above average player has always been the issue for Stubbs. His skill in center field and on the bases kept him from being below replacement according to FanGraphs. But unless he cuts down on the strikeouts, it will always be a tightrope walk for him as he doesn’t have the power or patience that a Dunn or a Bautista has.
Ryan Howard’s 99 strikeouts in 292 PA were too much to overcome in his season shortened by his recovery from Achilles tendon surgery. He hit a measly .219/.295/.423, good for only a 91 OPS+ and a .303 wOBA. He was a win below replacement.
Brent Lillibridge struck out in 34 percent of his plate appearances. You know how I said that Stubbs had some struggles overcoming a problem with contact? Lillibridge had a much bigger problem as he doesn’t have the secondary skills that even Stubbs has and he went .195/.250/.274.
Three true outcomes
Dunn gets the nod here in what was the most obvious award I can remember. His 41 home runs were surpassed by only four other batters and his 105 walks and 222 strikeouts led baseball by comfortable margins. His strikeouts were the second most ever in a season, trailing only Mark Reynolds’ 2009 all time record by one. The opposing defense had nothing to do with 56.7 percent of his plate appearances.
Granderson finished tied for second in home runs with 43, tied for 14th in walks with 75, and second in strikeouts with 195.
Pedro Alvarez posted a 30-57-180 TTO line in 586 PA.
Mark Reynolds was down in home run rate and strikeout rate, but close to a career high in walk rate, which leads us to his 23-73-159 in 538 PA.
Mike Napoli went 24-56-125 in only 417 PA.
Jonny Gomes went 18-44-104 in 333 PA.
Carter was mentioned in the Killebrew and the reason is because of his 16-39-83 in 260 PA.
Pierre is a constant in the anti-TTO category. This season he smacked one home run, walked 23 times, and struck out 27 times in 439 PA.
Ben Revere is a kind of a Juan Pierre for a new generation. So it makes sense that he went zero-29-54 in 553 PA.
Ichiro’s Yankee Stadium power surge undercuts his candidacy here a little bit, but his nine-22-61 in 663 PA bears mentioning.
Brayan Pena went two-nine-24 in 226.
Pena’s teammate Yuniesky Betancourt went seven-nine-25 in 228 PA. If this is goodbye for the Yuni Bomber, then let it be a joyous goodbye from this Royals fan.
The Nationals won a league high 98 games this season after losing 103 games as recently as 2009. Obviously their 2008/2009 run of horror show teams played a role in their rebound as those two terrible teams yielded back to back number one draft picks and Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper played big roles for this season’s team. But just as importantly, they have developed a lot of supporting players and have acquired a cast of stars such as Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman.
In last place were the Astros, who completely blew up the team and ended the year with 107 losses, the most since the Diamondbacks lost 111 in 2004.
In comparison to the NFL, the much longer season still gives a compressed table. No baseball team will ever lose 87.5 percent of their games like the Rams and Colts did last year. No team will ever win 93.8 percent of their games like the Packers did. The schedule is too long. The sample size is too large. And the differences in the talent levels between the teams is too small. Bad teams beat good teams all of the time and nobody bats an eye. The Marlins lost 93 games, but went nine and nine against the Nats.
The story was similar in basketball, where a season shorted by a labor stoppage still resulted in the Bulls and Spurs winning the equivalent of winning 123 games. Only once in the history of Major League Baseball has a team won more than 75 percent of its games, but in a random year of NBA action, two teams best the 1906 Cubs.
This year in franchise milestones
Since the Phillies made headlines by becoming the first professional sports franchise to lose its 10,000th game back in 2009, we have tracked significant franchise milestone wins and losses in the season finales and highlighted upcoming milestones for the next season. I use the numbers listed by Baseball Reference on their teams page.
The big news was the Cincinnati Reds winning their 10,000th game back in April. They sit at 10,091 wins.
The Twins lost their 9,000th late in the season. Of those, 4864 losses came in the 60 years they were the Washington Senators.
The Marlins and Rockies each won their 1,500th games late in the season.
The Mariners lost their 3,000th as a franchise and stand at 3,043.
2013’s first milestone will come early as the Astros stand at 3,999 wins at this moment.
The most significant will be the Pirates, who are 39 wins away from becoming the seventh team to 10,000.
The Red Sox will win their 9,000th. They are at 8,978.
The Yankees will lose their 7,500th. They are at 7,493.
The only other significant milestone within reach is the 9,000th loss for the Athletics, but that would take a big regression as they need 92 losses to get there.
The last order of business in this subject is distance from .500. The Yankees unsurprisingly are the winningest franchise at 2,369 games over. The only other franchise more than 1,000 above is the Giants at 1,514 over .500.
The team that inspired this feature, the Phillies are still 1,055 below .500. If they won 91 games per season, every season, they would get over .500 late in the 2065 season. In 1947, their record sat at 3,949 and 4,858, or .448. The worst winning percentage for any current franchise is .454 by the Rays.
The Angels and Diamondbacks are the closest to .500. They are each 10 games under. The only teams that are within a season of .500 are Atlanta, who are 33 games over and Toronto, who is 51 games under and would obviously need something historic to happen to see .500.
AL: I am slightly offended by the tactics of the section of the baseball media that backs Miguel Cabrera for MVP over Mike Trout. I am offended because they are stealing what has traditionally been my job. I’m the guy who is supposed to be the stat geek who disregards the entire rest of the game in favor of two or three cherry picked stats. I’m supposed to be the one who doesn’t care about defense and base running.. And the only way you can come to the conclusion that Miguel Cabrera was a better baseball player than Mike Trout is if you completely throw out everything but batting average, home runs, and RBI.
I have a friend I was arguing with this about and I asked him if it would have made a difference if Trout had 186 hits instead of 182 and had beaten Cabrera out for the batting title and prevented him from winning the triple crown. Would he still see Cabrera as the clear MVP. He said he would get back to me and I haven’t heard from him.
My ballot would go Trout, Cabrera, Cano, Adrian Beltre, Justin Verlander, Austin Jackson, Alex Gordon, Joe Mauer, Prince Fielder, Torii Hunter.
NL: Going by WAR, you can throw a dart at the collected masses of Posey, Andrew McCutchen, Ryan Braun, Yadier Molina, David Wright, and Chase Headley and not come out with a bad result. Posey seems like the guy who will win the writer’s vote, but you know we don’t really care who the writers think is the best story of the season. Then again, I think he is likely the best player by a small margin. Braun was great with the bat but doesn’t have the defense value that you find in Posey and especially Molina. By the way, when did Yadier learn to hit like that and how weird is that anyways?
So your mileage may vary but I will put them in this order: Posey, Molina, Braun, Headley, McCutchen, Wright, Aramis Ramirez, R.A. Dickey, Clayton Kershaw, and Ian Desmond.
This year has been great. Thanks for reading and for commenting. The awards will start again next spring.
John Barten writes the THT Awards weekly feature. Please send suggestions, comments, corrections, and input to his email address. Follow him on Twitter at JohnMBarten