THT Awardsby John Barten
April 11, 2009
Welcome to THT's weekly awards. For award definitions and background on the column itself, please consult the Primer. All weekly stats are through Thursday, April 9.
This Week’s Proof That Assigning Wins and Losses to a Pitcher is an Idiotic Practice that Must Stop
Good Luck Division:
Brandon Webb and Aaron Cook set the tone for their teams in Monday’s opening day tilt between Colorado and Arizona by combining to allow 12 runs in six and a third innings of work. The two teams hit eight home runs altogether, four of which were relinquished by the starters. The guy who ended up with the loss was Jason Grilli, who actually did a comparatively good job of holding the Snakes down by allowing just one run in two frames. In a game where the combined ERA of all pitchers was 9.00, a guy with a 4.50 got the loss and a pair of starters who combined for a 17.05 ERA were let off the hook.
Ricky Nolasco actually received a win for his six-inning, five-run effort. One would hope that he thanked Hanley Ramirez, Emilio Bonifacio, and Jorge Cantu by buying them a steak, or drinks, or washing their cars or something.
Ted Lilly: Five innings, five runs, four home runs, eight hits, one win.
Bad Luck Division:
Gil Meche spun a gem of a game on Tuesday, with seven innings of one-run work, including six strikeouts and no walks. But it was all undone by Kyle Farnsworth, who made this particular Royals fan engage the facepalm. Meche gave the Royals a .401 WPA. Farnsworth gave it all back with a -.593 WPA.
Dan Haren didn’t do too poorly either, going seven, striking out nine, walking nobody, and allowing one run on three hits. But Haren was outdueled by Ubaldo Jimenez.
Gavin Floyd held the Royals down for seven innings, allowing only two runs while striking out seven and only giving up a baserunner per innings. He received a loss because Zack Greinke, Juan Cruz, and Joakim Soria were perfect.
Kyle Davies and John Danks received matching no decisions because just happened to pitch against each other. They combined for 13 K’s and 12 baserunners in 13 scoreless frames. Bravo to them. Boo to the win/loss system.
Vulture alert! Vulture alert!
Joe Martinez didn’t exactly light things up, allowing two baserunners per inning. He got the win, but was arguably the worst performer the Giants threw out there on Tuesday.
At least Martinez worked multiple innings and didn’t squander a lead. BJ Ryan did that, only to be bailed out by Aaron Hill.
Doug Brocail threw a grand total of two pitches and got the win over the Astros.
The Wes Littleton Award
George Sherrill saved a game against the Yankees on Wednesday when he entered with one on and two out in the bottom of the ninth, allowed that inherited runner to score on a Mark Teixeira double, and got the win when Hideki Matsui popped out to end the game. He contributed a .014 WPA.
Please Hold the Applause
There are basically three ways to get mentioned in this section. The first is to do what Scott Downs did: come in for an exceptionally brief amount of time in a game and walk away with a statistical pat on the back. Downs threw one pitch and only one pitch in a Jays victory that ended with a final score of 12-5. When he took the mound, Toronto was sitting on a four run lead with two out in the bottom of the eighth with runners on first and second.
The second way is to generally stink, but enter with enough of a lead that you can have a one-game ERA over 18 and walk away with a hold. Case in point, Chris Ray only recorded one out, walked one, allowed two runs on two hits including a home run, and managed to do all of this in a mere eight pitches. And he still received a hold for his efforts because he entered with a three run cushion.
The third and probably my, um, "favorite" is the ridiculous concept of a pitcher getting a hold and a loss in the same game, as Brandon Morrow did this week.
Any Sufficiently Advanced Defense is Indistinguishable from Pitching
Let by Jair Jurrjens, the Braves shut out the Phillies despite striking out a runner every three innings. They walked four and yielded six hits. That is some very fortuitous luck on balls in play.
I would like to say a few words about the Nick Adenhart tragedy. My thoughts are somewhat disjointed even now, but please bear with me.
I’m somebody who has said that the deaths of public figures are not more important than the deaths of people who aren’t famous. And we do tend to pay extra attention to tragedies that involve celebrities and even the relatives of celebrities; possibly at the expense of other tragedies that occur every day. As sad and as unnecessary as the loss of Adenhart is, it is easy to forget that other young and talented people were killed in that same crash.
And this particular brand of misfortune is not particularly rare. Chances are that nearly 100% of our readers went to high school with somebody who died before their 25th birthday in an automobile accident. It is the leading cause of death among young people. They are too early in life for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke to take out more than a handful of them.
We should, and for the most part we do, make every effort that is practical to decrease the risk of auto accidents by improving safety features, road laws, and driver education. But as long as our society primarily gets from point A to point B by riding in self-propelled steel boxes, we will have a non-trivial percentage of our population killed in gruesome accidents like Adenhart's.
This crash was the most socially unacceptable type of crash, caused by somebody arrogant and irresponsible enough to be intoxicated while driving. Regardless, think of this as a basic reminder to just be courteous and cautious while behind the wheel.
Having said all that, it does feel different to sports fans when an athlete dies while he is still active. On one level, fans feel cheated and saddened that they won’t get to see how the guy’s career will end up, how the story will turn out. We’ll never know if Adenhart’s start the other night was the gateway to him harnessing his command and becoming a consistently excellent starter year in and year out, or if he would be an occasionally brilliant, but ultimately flakey starter whose weaknesses often made him frustrating to watch.
On another level, fans grab onto particular players, especially ones on the teams we root for. We often hold onto those players as adopted friends and family. They are "our" guys. To this day Carlos Beltran is one of my favorite players despite moving on to a team that I have little interest in. There are likely many Angels fans who had already grown very attached to Nick during his rise through the minor leagues.
I am not sure how to wrap this up, so I will simply say that I and the rest of the Hardball Times staff express sympathy to anybody and everybody touched by this. All too often, real life creeps into the pastime that usually gives us happiness, contentment and inspiration.
The Joe Carter Award
Aubrey Huff has the same number of RBI's (four) as total bases. He is tied for 19th in baseball for most RBI, but he has a negative Win Probability Added and is hitting a meager .189/.308/.364.
The Rey Sanchez Batting Average is all I’ve Got Award
A’s catcher Kurt Suzuki rapped out four hits in his 13 at bats this week. All were singles, and he drew no walks for a punchless .308/.308/.308. Teammate Nomar Garciaparra had a similarly low wattage week, going three for ten with no walks and no extra base hits.
The Harmon Killebrew Batting Average is for Wussies Award
Ken Griffey Jr managed to eke out two hits in his 13 plate appearances, but one of them went over the fence. He also chipped in by walking three times for a .200/.385/.500 week.
The Steve Balboni Award
Casey Blake struck out seven times in 15 plate appearances for the Dodgers, neutralizing a week in which he hit a home run and drew a pair of walks, rendering his line a pathetic .077/.188/.308.
Also note the Red Sox' Jed Lowrie, who struck out in exactly half of his 12 PA for a horrific ..091/.167/.091.
Now That’s a Weird Line
The much maligned Jason Varitek had a weird week, punctuated by a .000 batting average on balls in play. He did not strike out in 12 plate appearances and his only two hits were home runs. That left him with a .167/.167/.667 line. As a 36-year-old catcher, Varitek is slow, but he's not that slow. Of course, he will also strike out at some point this season, so he has that going against him.
3 True Outcomes Alert!!!
Three true outcomes demigod Carlos Pena had a week for TTO aficionados to savor, with a home run, three walks, and five strikeouts in 13 plate appearances, a well-rounded effort for the guy who I think needs a nickname. I don’t believe in recycling nicknames, otherwise Andres Galaragga’s Big Cat moniker would be fitting. So let’s challenge the THT nation to come up with something.
This Week’s MVP
AL: Blast me as a complete, pathetic fanboy if you wish, but in a short week, I am giving this credit to the top three starters of the Royals. Gil Meche, Zack Greinke, and Hiram Davies can share the credit. They were all spectacular against the White Sox. As I write this, Royal starters have allowed 0.45 runs per nine innings. That wasn’t earned runs. That was runs. They have thrown 20 innings, striking out 21, allowing 13 hits and five walks. They have allowed only a single run.
I am currently savoring this because Sidney Ponson and Horacio Ramirez will probably ruin my weekend.
NL: The Reds offense has been pedestrian at 3.3 runs per game, but Joey Votto cannot be faulted for his contributions. The guy was out of his mind in the first three games of the season, batting .538/.571/1.000. He has Cinci’s only two home runs, 42 percent of their total bases, and a full third of their hits. He leads the NL in Win Probability Added at 0.64. Oh, and he is still a pretty decent glove at first base. All in all, he was remarkably good this weekend.
Small Sample Size Warning
This is likely unnecessary, but I feel the urge to blurt it out anyway. Based on what has happened this season, we have learned nothing. Most teams have played three games so far. That sample size is absolutely, totally, 100% meaningless. Yet if you turn on your local talk radio yacker or log onto a message board, you will find people fretting or rejoicing over the how a team or player has performed thus far. Don’t listen to them. Grab them by the collar, give them a gentle shake and remind them that the Royals currently are alone atop the AL Central while scoring two runs per game. And anytime you can honestly say something that strange, the only thing that you can take away from the season this early is that it sure is fun to watch a sport where so many weird things can happen.
This Week’s Comments Question
Who is your favorite dark horse MVP candidate?
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