THT Awards: 2013 season finale (Part 2)

Welcome to the awards.

Please see the week one column for award definitions and explanations.

Joe Carter Award

Brandon Phillips had 552 plate appearances in 2013 batting fourth in the Reds lineup. Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto batted first and third for the Reds all season and finished first and second in the National League in on-base percentage, second and fourth in all of baseball. That tends to give one a lot of opportunities to drive in runs. Phillips drove in 103 with a batting line of .261/.310/.396. He tied with David Ortiz for 10th in baseball with those 103 RBI. Ortiz hit .309/.395/.564.

The highest RBI total for a player who ended up grading out as below replacement level was Adam Dunn, who ended up with 86 RBI and a 0.02 WAR. Somehow, his glove has gotten to the point where he grades out as negative 20 runs at first base in only 644 innings in the field. Combine that with a 103 OPS+, and you have a below average player. Dunn hit .219/.320/.442 in 607 PA.

Matt Wieters drove in 80 runs and while he didn’t share Dunn’s proclivity for costing his team runs in the field, grading out as a very good defensive catcher, he did cost his team runs at the plate. Weiters hit .235/.287/.417.

Matt Dominguez finished second on the Astros with 77 ribbies. He hit a putrid .241/.286/.403 but stayed in the lineup, finishing behind only Jose Altuve on the team in plate appearances with 589.

Rey Sanchez Award

Ben Revere finished 22nd in average among those qualifying for a batting title. He hit .305/.338/.352 in his 336 PA. Only 12 of his 96 hits went for extra bases and he walked all of 16 times. He was worth less than a win above replacement and he was at or below replacement in batting and fielding. His positive value came from base running.

Brayan Pena went .297/.315/.397 in his 243 PA for the Tigers. He walked in only 2.5 percent of his plate appearances.

Alexei Ramirez collected 181 hits in 674 PA, a career high. He also continued to play an excellent shortstop. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the decline in his power continued with him only smacking six homers. This is a player who hit 21 home runs in his rookie year and slugged .430 in his first 440 games. Add that to an impatient approach and you have a .284/.313/.380 line.

He is a likeable guy and a fun player to watch, but Altuve hit .283/.316/.363 in 672 PA.

Nick Markakis hit a remarkably toothless .271/.329/.356, good for an 86 OPS+.

A.J. Pierzynski hit .272 with 17 home runs, which is pretty good for a catcher but he had a walk rate that was among the worst in recent memory at only 2.1 percent of plate appearances. This led to a .272/.297/.425 line.

Erick Aybar was mostly harmless to opposing pitchers at .271/.301/.382 in 589 PA.

DJ LeMahieu hit .280/.311/.361. Only six percent of his plate appearances ended with an extra base hit and only 4.4 percent ended in a walk. His OPS+ was 75.

The end feels near for Michael Young’s major league career. Young hit .279/.335/.395 in 565 PA.

Harmon Killebrew Award

Lucas Duda reached base via hit only 71 times in 384 PA, but 31 of those 71 hits were for extra base hits and he chipped in 55 walks along the way for a .223/.352/.415 line.

Nick Swisher posted a .246/.341/.423 in 634 PA, good for a 117 OPS+.

Through all of the strikeouts, Chris Carter ended up with a .223/.320/.451 line.

Matt Joyce hit .235/.328/.419 in 481 PA for the Rays.

Chris Iannetta posted a .225/.358/.372 for the Angels in 399 PA.

Pedro Alvarez’s batting average and OBP are rough to look at but 36 home runs do a lot for a player’s value. In 2013, .233/.296/.473 still adds up to a 116 OPS+ or a .330 wOBA.

Steve Balboni Award

Among batters with at least 200 PA, Brett Wallace had the highest strikeout rate at 36.5 percent of plate appearances. His teammate Chris Carter has the pop and the patience to make that work, but Wallace does not, going .221/.284/.431.

B.J. Upton struck out 151 times in 446 PA and ended the year hitting .184/.268/.289.

Juan Francisco and Tyler Flowers finished third and fourth in strikeout rate behind the two Astros. They hit .227/.296/.422 and .195/.247/.355 respectively.

The floor dropped out from under Dan Uggla. He has always carried high strikeout rates but this season he didn’t do enough to counteract the effect they had on his batting average and it ate his offensive value whole. He went .179/.309/.362, which isn’t good enough.

Jason Kubel struck out 92 times in 290 PA and went .216/.293/.317.

J.P. Arencibia struck out 148 times and posted a wretched .194/.227/.365 line in 497 PA. He has plenty of power but he will never be able to leverage that into production if he insists at offering to every breaking ball in the dirt.

Three true outcomes

Chris Davis led baseball with 53 home runs, drew 72 walks, and finished second in baseball with 199 strikeouts in 673 PA.

Dunn went 34-76-189 in the TTO categories this year in 607 PA.

Darin Ruf accumulated only 293 PA this season as he started the year blocked by Ryan Howard. But he made up for lost time with 14 home runs, 33 walks and 91 strikeouts.

Giancarlo Stanton went 24-74-140 in 504 PA.

Carter posted a 29-70-212 in 585 PA.

Alvarez went 36-48-186 in 614 PA.

Paul Goldschmidt was one of the best hitters in baseball and he did it with a 36-99-145 TTO line in 710 PA.

The anti-TTO

In 416 PA for the Marlins, Placido Polanco hit one home run, walked 23 times, and struck out 31 times.

Juan Pierre is a regular here. This season he joins his teammate Polanco by posting a one-13-27 in 330 PA.

Norichika Aoki was the hardest player in baseball to strike out this season. He went eight-55-40 in 674 PA.

Marco Scutaro went two-45-34 in 547 PA.

Jeff Keppinger wasn’t good, but he went four-20-41 in 451 PA.

Aybar went six-23-59 in 589 PA.

Parity watch

The Astros did not threaten the 1962 Mets and the 2003 Tigers in the quest to be the worst team since World War II. With 111 losses, they slot in with the next crop of teams including the 2004 Diamondbacks, the 1996 Tigers, the 1964 Mets, and a bunch of fresh expansion teams.

The Marlins also lost 100 games, which makes the bad in a more ordinary way than we had feared when they tore up the roster and started fresh. It helped having Giancarlo Stanton and getting a crazy great year from Jose Fernandez to go with positive contributions from Nate Eovaldi and a competent bullpen. Incidentally, despite the ups and downs this franchise has shown its fans, this is only the second time in history the Marlins have lost 100 games. The other was the horrific 1998 team that followed the 1997 World Series title and the subsequent tear-down of that roster.

Meanwhile, no team won 100 games. The 2011 Phillies remain the last team to do that. Before that was the 103-win 2009 Yankees squad that feels like 100 years ago. Melky Cabrera as a Yankee? Jorge Posada slugging .522? Mark Teixeira smacking 85 extra base hits? Johnny Damon?

Hideki Matsui launched 28 bombs. I can’t believe that was only four years ago.

If you are a fan of parity, you probably loved this season, with the Yankees dynasty years breathing their dying breath and New York finishing six and a half games out of the Wild Card, facing the reality of being without Mariano Rivera, the imminent demise of Derek Jeter as an asset, the possible loss of Robinson Cano to free agency, and the aging CC Sabathia.

Meanwhile, Cleveland made it back to the playoffs and the faced the Rays. Oakland repeated its performance from last year, winning 96 games. The Royals missed out on the playoffs but posted their first winning record since 2003. Most notably the Pirates won 94 games and ended a 20-season playoff drought. Major market teams like the Cubs, White Sox, Phillies and Mets are at various stages of retooling, retrenching, or rebuilding.

The usual routine with this feature is to compare the final records in baseball to that of the NBA and NFL. In the NBA, the Miami Heat finished with the best record and won the championship. At 66-16, they won the equivalent of 130 games in a baseball schedule. On the other side, the Orlando Magic went 20-62, the equivalent of a 40-122 in baseball.

In the NFL, the Denver Broncos and the Atlanta Falcons each went 13-3, the equivalent of a 132-30 record in baseball. The Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars each went 2-14, which would be like a baseball team going 20-142. That is ugly.

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.

The Red Sox won their 9,000th game early this season.

The Reds played their 20,000th game

In June, the Pirates won their 10,000th game. They are at 10,055 at this moment. Should they lose 75 games next year, they will be at 10,000 losses. This season they passed 20,000 games played, ending at 20,119.

When they do get to 10,000 losses, they will find the Cubs there waiting for them. The North Side squad enters next year with 9.976 losses.

Amidst the gnashing of teeth over the state of the Astros, they won their 4,000th game as a franchise.

The Rangers won their 4,000th game.

The Royals and Brewers played their 7,000th games

Next year’s likely milestones include the Tigers winning their 9,000th game. They sit at 8,921 wins.

Detroit’s neighbor to the southeast, Cleveland, is currently parked at 8.931 wins.

The Dodgers will join the club of teams that have played 20,000 games. They are at 19,958.

Even if they have poor seasons, the two current New York teams will pass win milestones, with the Yankees poised to become the eighth team to win 10,000 games, becoming the first American League team and the first team founded after 1900 to pass the mark. They are at 9,947 wins. The Mets have a less-celebrated win mark to pass; they are stationed at 3.959 wins.

Early in the season, the Athletics will lose their 9,000th game. They are at 8,974 losses.

Toronto has several milestones in its near future. The Jays are 33 games away from 3,000 losses. They are 98 away from 3,000 wins, which probably means it is on the to-do list for 2015 instead of 2014. And they are 128 games from 6,000 played.

Best Player

AL: At the All Star break, I was asked who I would have picked between Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout. I said I would pick Cabrera narrowly over Trout. I am leaning toward Trout now. The debate feels so last year, but it seems like it is likely to go the same way as last year with Cabrera getting the hardware from the MVP voters and Trout getting the nod from the majority of the sabermetric community.

Trout hit .323/.432/.557 in 716 PA, Cabrera went .348/.442/.636 in 652. Everybody seems to acknowledge that defensive metrics are at best approximations of fielding value, but everybody also seems to agree that Trout is a spectacular defensive outfielder and Cabrera is a lousy defensive third baseman. It also bears mentioning that Trout ranks among the most valuable base runners in the game, while Cabrera is a poor base runner.

If you forced me to bet on what player would come in second in the BBWAA voting, I would probably say Chris Davis with his 53 home runs, ahead of Trout. It isn’t an outrage if that happens, but it would be nice to see Josh Donaldson get a nod of respect if for no other reason than he isn’t likely to have this season again and Davis just might. If you split this up to be another Trout/Cabrera, you run into the same kind of juxtaposition in which 135 points of slugging is the main thing that catches the eye. Donaldson was a very good hitter and a very good fielder at third base while Davis was a poor defensive player at a less demanding position.

Filling in the rest of the ballot is Robinson Cano, who continued to be a great player while the Yankees collapsed around him. Manny Machado was a good hitter and a truly great fielder. Evan Longoria was Evan Longoria and Evan Longoria was healthy all year, which is a good thing. Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia all hit well and fielded well for the Red Sox. Max Scherzer will probably find his way onto some ballots and he isn’t out of place there.

NL: I think Andrew McCutchen will win the writers’ ballot and it will be nice to see the conventional wisdom of the writers line up with the conventional wisdom of the sabermetric community, especially when McCutchen is such a joy. He’s a clearly excellent player, going .317/.404/.508 with tons of defensive and base running value. He is the guy scouts dream of when they draft a five-tool player, a guy who does virtually everything you can think of a baseball player doing, and ll of it well.

Clayton Kershaw might just come in second and I can’t argue with that.

I had no idea Matt Carpenter was going to be the best player on the Cardinals this season. Here he is, posting a .318/.392/.481 and playing a serviceable second base.

I mentioned Goldschmidt above. He hit .302/.401/.551.

Votto posted a .305/.435/.491. The criticism that he doesn’t hit for enough power to be an upper tier first baseman is dumb.

Carlos Gomez, Troy Tulowitzki, David Wright and Yadier Molina slot in here in some order. Hanley Ramirez should be mentioned somewhere. While Yasiel Puig got all the press, the driving force behind the Dodgers resurgence was the resurgence of Ramirez, who posted a .345/.402/.638 in 86 games.

As always, I have had fun this season. It actually went more smoothly than any season I can remember. I look forward to next April when we will do it all over again. Thanks for reading and thanks for your comments.

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Comments

  1. dave said...

    Thanks, John, this is one of my must-read columns every week.  I love the fact that, despite the reality that the internet is bloated with often-repeated facts, your column has details I haven’t seen anywhere else.  And they are details that I really dig!

    If you want more work to do, I’d love to see a section spotlighting relievers who pitch more than an inning or something similar – you did a bit of that in “things John likes” at the beginning of the year and every time I saw a reliever throw 2.1 shutout innings or what have you I thought of THT Awards and the potential of a Goose (or Golden Goose, maybe for 3+ innings?) award . . .

  2. David said...

    Wieters – hard to believe that someone with 22 HR and 79 RBI could be costing his team runs, but I did a little more surfing, and yes, and more than just barely.  Maybe you should do more cumulative type columns throughout the year.  At least to me, it seems easy to dismiss some of these weekly awards as too random, and too statistically insignificant to reflect a player’s actual worth.

    Thanks for another great year.

  3. dennis said...

    John,
    Thanks for another great season of commentary and for putting baseball into perspective.  I think your campaign to diminish the value of pitcher wins and losses is slowly taking hold among the talking heads as well as the baseball public.  Keep up the good work.

    Dennis

  4. John Barten said...

    Dennis: Thanks. I’m not sure how much of that happening is me and how much is simply the tidal forces pushing the game in that direction, of which I am an infinitesimally small part of.

    Dave: Thanks to you too. That’s exceedingly kind. I started the column way back when because it was something I wanted to see and nobody was providing it.

    I did like doing the usage-based stuff, but I stopped doing it because it was something I just didn’t have the time or skills to do on a consistent basis. I still might drop it in from time to time, but it’s not something I can easily go out and find in a span of time that it can just drop into the research I do weekly for the column. I have to go through a lot of games with a fine toothed comb.

    David: Thank you (again). When I started this, I did running updates every week. That became repetitive and cumbersome so I opted to just document a larger swath of the weekly oddities and make the yearly catchups a two-time thing per season, at the ASB and the end of year recap. I’m not promising anything, but I might tinker a bit next season and see if I can drop in a note within the weekly notes that player A is trending a certain way for the season. It probably wouldn’t be an increase in the number of articles that are dedicated to running updates for everything, but definitely an attempt to keep the Weiters’ of the world from sneaking up on me the same way it did for me this year (something we obviously share).

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