THT Awards First Half Extravaganza

Welcome to the THT Awards First Half Extravaganza.

For award definitions and background on the column itself, please consult the Primer.

All season totals are through the July 17. As mentioned last week, there are no weekly hitting awards this time. This is the special first half awards edition. We’ll still have game awards on the pitching side.

This week’s proof that assigning wins and losses to a pitcher is an idiotic practice that must stop

Good Luck Division:

In Rich Harden’s Cubs debut, Kevin Correia got smoked by the North Sider offense. He allowed seven runs in 3.2 innings, walking four and giving up nine hits. He was let off the hook by Carlos Marmol, who didn’t even get a blown save because it wasn’t even a save situation when he entered. What kind of sense does it make to get a demerit when you blow a one-run lead with the bases loaded, but you get no blown save when you throw away a five-run advantage?

Season Leader: Vicente Padilla has thrown 107 innings with a 4.70 ERA, 5.45 RA. He’s allowing batters to hit .271/.346/.471 against him and he’s only striking out 5.95 per nine innings. He’s allowing a homer per start and walking 3.52 per nine. He’s only produced quality starts in half of his 18 starts. And he’s 50th in the AL in Pitching Runs Created. Despite all of this, he’s won 10 games and lost only five. Thank you Josh Hamilton, Milton Bradley, and Ian Kinsler (more on them later).

I asked my good friend Adam Morris to comment on Padilla’s luck. Here’s what he had to say.

If you look, he had a great ERA until his last two starts inflated it … but even then, his peripherals were crap, and his FIP was over 5 while his ERA was under 4.

What was interesting about this, though, was that a lot of it had to do with his LOB%. Padilla was doing great with RISP, and he was doing great to the first batter of an inning. In a nutshell, it seemed like he’d get an out, maybe two, to start an inning, mess around and walk a batter or give up a hit or two, and then bear down and get out of the inning. He’s someone who has long had a reputation for having focus issues, and that would seem to correspond with that problem. But look at his ERA before the last two starts and his thoroughly mediocre K and walk rates, and he’s even more deserving of that award.

Runners up: Kyle Kendrick is just plain lucky. He has a 4.47 ERA, a 5.16 RA, he’s striking out only 4.04 per nine. And batters are hitting .287/.344/.443 off of him. He’s produced quality starts in 10 of his 19 games. He’s 8-3 courtesy of 7.39 runs of support per start.

Lastly, Livan Hernandez doesn’t play for a team with an elite offense, but he’s 9-6 in spite of a 5.44 ERA and a .342/.368/.506 line against.

Last year’s winner was Horacio Ramirez, who was dumped by the Mariners, which is evidence that even Bill Bavasi can figure out that going 8-7 isn’t sufficient evidence of skill when you have 7.16 ERA. He’s only pitched 12 innings for the Royals out of the pen.

Bad Luck Division:

Matt Cain and Jason Marquis combined for 14 innings, where they struck out 13 and allowed only six hits. They got matching no-decisions.

Season: I actually have more here than I can really fit. Several top starters are getting awful run support. Most of them are overcoming it. Roy Halladay in particular has had several games where he went the distance, allowed a very minimal number of runs, and still walked away with the loss. He’s 11-6, but he should be doing better than that.

The leader in the clubhouse is Aaron Harang, who is getting a pitiful 2.93 runs of support per outing, leading to his 3-11 record. He’s been a league average pitcher at 4.76 ERA, 4.98 RA. Still, he’s had bad luck in the field with FIP saying he should be in the low 4’s (4.23).

Felix Hernandez also gets some recognition as he’s only 6-6 but has allowed 3.35 runs per nine (2.95 ERA), and he’s generally been a very, very good pitcher. But an offense saddled with as much dead weight as the Mariners offense has been this season is not going to give you much to work with.

Others with claims are Jake Peavy and John Danks, who are near the top of every leaderboard other than won/loss record. Danks is 7-5; Peavy is 7-4. Neither is getting even four runs of support.

Last year’s winner was Gil Meche, who has gone backwards with his actual performance, but his 6-9 record looks a lot like his 9-13 of 2007.

Vulture alert! Vulture alert!

Pedro Feliciano retired one batter in the eighth inning after he walked Brad Hawpe. Thanks to Damian Easley, he walked away with a win.

Russ Springer threw three pitches. Thanks to Franquelis Osoria’s meltdown, he came away with a win.

Sean Green blew the save against the Royals by allowing an inherited runner to score. He got the win anyways.

Jamey Wright got the blown save/win couplet as well. In that game, the two starters combined to allow 12 runs. Wild 12-11 shootouts are likely to produce unworthy winning pitchers.

The Wes Littleton Award

Add Steve Shell to the list of pitchers who have offered up a preposterous “true Littleton.” He protected a 10-run lead for three innings and got a save.

Season: C.J. Wilson has had some stretches where he’s been awful. Because of this, he owns a 5.66 RA and only two win shares. But he has 22 saves under his belt.

That sounds a lot like last year’s winner, Joe Borowski, who was released by the Indians not long ago. Borowski was living proof that you don’t have to be very good to preserve two- and three-run leads in the ninth inning.

Please hold the applause

Fernando Rodney threw two pitches for the hold.

Aaron Heilman allowed three runs in two-thirds of an inning and still got a hold.

Any sufficiently advanced defense is indistinguishable from pitching

Justin Duchscherer is leading baseball with a 1.82 ERA. He’s only striking out 5.47 per nine. A .200 BABIP is unsustainable and it is better than anybody else who has pitched at least 60 innings this year.

Another name on the BABIP leaderboard is Gavin Floyd, who has shaved 86 points off the figure this season. I’m not calling him a complete fluke, but from 2007 to 2008, his K rate fell and he’s walking more batters.

The Joe Carter Award

Jose Guillen is easily the leader right now. He’s “on pace” for 112 RBI. His 65 is fourth in the AL. Nevertheless, he’s hitting .270/.295/.462.

Also deserving mention: David Murphy, who has 60, but is hitting .276/.317/.466.

Checking back in with last year’s winner: We’re all undoubtedly familiar with Jeff Francoeur’s first-half struggles and subsequent (albeit very temporary) demotion to the Magnolia State. It looks a lot like stagnation to me with more than a touch of bad luck on balls in play as his K, BB, and HR rates look pretty close to where they were last season. It still bears mentioning that even though he’s hitting a pathetic .234/.285/.375, he’s driven in 44 runs.

The Rey Sanchez Batting Average is all I’ve Got Award

Jose Lopez of the Mariners has been atop the list for a pretty sizeable chunk of the season, mostly courtesy of his 14 walks in 373 at-bats. Otherwise, his .298 batting average and .412 slugging percentage would be tolerable for a second baseman. As it stands, even with that good BA, his OBP is undercutting his contributions at .318.

Runners up: Alex Rios has lost almost exactly a century off of his SLG as he’s only produced four home runs in the first half. .285/.337/.401 is just not getting it done in a lineup that needs him to step forward and be a star as Vernon Wells continues to be similarly underwhelming at .287/.329/.449

Checking in on Delmon Young: Last year’s Sanchez winner is back in the saddle with a .286/.330/.386 line, with three homers and 21 walks in 339 at bats. He’s officially stagnating. And as an outfielder, he’s hurting the Twins.

The Harmon Killebrew Batting Average is for Wussies Award

Adam Dunn will never hit for a lofty average. But he’s always an asset with his power and patience. .228/.381/.544 isn’t conventional, but it’s pretty nice to see if you’re a Reds fan.

Jack Cust and Carlos Pena lead the list of also-rans. Cust was last year’s winner. Cust is at .229/.374/.442 and Pena .234/.340/.438.

The Steve Balboni Award

Chris Young takes over for Ryan Howard, who isn’t looking as bad now that he’s had enough hot streaks to rejoin the legion of productive baseball players. Young has struck out 95 times in 377 at-bats and is only hitting .228/.296/.401 for the Diamondbacks. With 13 bombs and 36 walks, he’d be doing alright if he could manage a reasonably good batting average. But he’s not there right now.

Jack Hannahan is a fill-in for the perpetually disappointing and fragile Eric Chavez. He was plucked out of Triple-A last season and pulled a reasonable .278/.369/.424, but he hasn’t been able to replicate that in 2008 as he’s only swinging .226/.322/.338 with 78 whiffs in 266 at-bats. When you don’t have power, you need to make contact and lots of it. Of course what could be going on is that he’s overmatched to the point where he’s letting every borderline pitch go by while swinging weakly at the no-doubt strikes. Regardless, he can’t strike out in 30 percent of his at-bats and be a productive player in the long term.

Jonny Gomes was last year’s “honoree” and he’s actually improved his contact rate to where he’s only striking out in 26.6 percent of his at bats. That’s the good news. The bad news is that his batting average is all the way down to .185 and it’s crippling him as .185/.292/.395 isn’t going to cut it from a left fielder or designated hitter.

Three True Outcomes Alert!!!

Ryan Howard has dominated this category so far. With 28 home runs, 48 walks and 129 strikeouts, he’s leading baseball in two of the three.

Adam Dunn has 27 home runs, 70 walks and 100 strikeouts in 373 plate appearances.

Last year’s winner was Jack Cust, and he’s still going strong with his 18 homers, 39 free passes and 114 strikeouts.

Non-Sequitor

Inspired by a popular blog, here are 10 headlines I wish I could write.

1. Brian Kenny and Rob Neyer are made permanent hosts of Baseball Tonight. Steve Phillips and John Kruk are sent to cover the Coastal Plain League.

2. Bill Plaschke to Paul DePodesta: “I’m sorry.”

3. MLB makes statement: We will start paying for stadiums ourselves. Seriously.

4. Baseball stops tracking pitcher wins and losses, RBI, will place less emphasis on batting average. John Barten runs out of material.

5. Hall of Fame to induct Bert Blyleven, Ron Santo and Tim Raines immediately. Will not wait for the voters and/or veterans committee.

6. Royals sweep World Series.

7. Friday expanded to 28 hours. THT Awards become easier to write without neglecting wife, friends, day job.

8. Aramark squeezed out of concessions market by cheap, good, local food fares. Fans can now obtain outstanding BBQ, polish sausages and tacos across the nation.

9. THT writers given press passes and BBWAA voting privileges.

10. Joe Morgan, Fired.

First Half MVP

AL: Ian Kinsler is tearing up the AL to the tune of .337/.397/.548, which would be nice from your left fielder, let alone your second baseman. He’s leading the AL in Runs Created and VORP. The most impressive parts of his performance, aside from his batting average and 14 home runs are his 34 doubles and his 24 stolen bases with only one time caught.

Milton Bradley makes it in as our runner up. On a per at-bat basis, he’s been better than Kinsler, but with 129 fewer at-bats, the production difference is erased. Couple that with the extra value of being able to play an up the middle position, and Kinsler’s lead grows. Still, .316/.440/.610 was more than anybody had reason to expect this season.

Last season’s winner is in the picture for the final season award, but he’s trailing well behind the Texas twosome listed above and also behind Josh Hamilton, the third part of the Rangers trio of terror. His main issue has been the playing time he lost early as he’s posted a .312/.392/.581 with 19 home runs. He’s second to Bradley in GPA but 28th in RC.

NL: Lance Berkman has been in command of this thing for a while now. He’s hitting .347/.443/.653 and leading the NL in OPS, RC, VORP, SLG, and is third in GPA.

Chipper Jones had his chase of .400 take a hit courtesy of a mild cold streak, but he’s still hitting .376/.472/.614.

Hanley Ramirez hasn’t been half bad either, going for .311/.391/.566. And according to RZR and OOZ, he’s been better than he was last year, launching up into the merely below average territory after being the worst shortstop in the NL last season.

Last year’s winner, David Wright, is hitting .284/.380/.505, making a repeat unlikely.

Best Rookie

AL: Evan Longoria is hitting .275/.348/.513 with 16 home runs.

Batters are hitting just .228/.309/.353 against Oakland’s Greg Smith. He’s not this good, but he should be another one of those competent mid-rotation starters that everybody overpays when it’s time to sign one as a free agent.

Last year’s winner, Dustin Pedroia is putting up a year that looks a lot like last year with his .314/.357/.458 line. He also got the starting nod in this week’s All-Star game thanks to the generosity of the Red Sox Nation. Brian Roberts should have been there instead, but in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t the biggest mistake involving Red Sox in the All-Star Game this season.

NL: Geovany Soto is hitting a ridiculously valuable .288/.369/.522 and has a very good defensive reputation. Sounds like a winner to me.

Jair Jurjjens profiles better than Greg Smith. And he’s allowing hitters a .248/.316/.371 against.

Last year’s winner, Ryan Braun is chugging along just fine despite my concerns about his walk and strikeout rates. He’s hitting .286/.324/.549

Best Pitcher

AL: Roy Halladay is limiting batters to a .229/.269/.335 line and he leads baseball in complete games and I don’t mean leading all PLAYERS in complete games. With seven, he has more complete games than any team out there. He has a 2.71 ERA and leads the AL in innings pitched by a margin of 17. He’s probably the most unique player in baseball at this point.

Cliff Lee is a worthy runner up with his 2.45 RA in 124 innings, his .234/.265/.320 line against, and his lead in VORP.

Last year’s winner, Fausto Carmona is on a rehab assignment. He has a superficially good 3.10 ERA, but the underlying performance was all wrong, with more walks than strikeouts. I somewhat like his chances at bouncing back if for no other reason than because of his almost 4-1 groundball to flyball ratio.

NL: Tim Lincecum is tied for the NL lead in quality starts with 16. He’s all alone in first place in PRC, VORP and FIP. Batters are hitting .241/.310/.333 against him.

Last year’s runner up, Jake Peavy has only started 16 games this season. On a per-inning basis, he’s been the best in the NL.

Thanks for joining us this week. We’ll be back next Saturday. Same time, same place.

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