Welcome to the awards. Sorry for their being delayed by a day.
All stats are still for the games between Monday, April 11 through Sunday, April 17, despite the delay. Next week will pick up on Monday. If you are a new reader, please reference the season opening column for category explanations.
This week’s proof that assigning wins and losses to a pitcher is an archaic practice that must stop
Good luck division
Felix Hernandez was rocked for seven runs in six innings. The Jays racked up 12 hits against the defending Cy Young winner. Meanwhile, Jesse Litsch was the Jays starter and he did a good job, holding the Mariners offense scoreless for five innings, not that holding Seattle scoreless for five innings is an unthinkable achievement. Somehow the combination of David Purcey, Octavio Dotel, Mark Rzepczynski and Shawn Camp squandered the lead and let Sir Felix of Pugetshire off the hook.
Jeff Karstens and Edinson Volquez were fortunate to have been facing each other as they allowed five and six runs in four and a third and five and two thirds respectively. Neither received blame from the scorer as the bullpens took the decisions. Specifically speaking, the win went to a reliever who threw two pitches.
Bad luck division
It bears mention when a pitcher throws a complete game with only two runs allowed on six hits and a walk. So I present to you Justin Verlander, who pitched well but was denied the win because Alexi Ogando, Darren Oliver, and Neftali Feliz shut out the cats from Detroit.
Dallas Braden gave up one run in six frames, striking out seven, walking two. He was denied the victory as the Oakland offense was shut out until Matt Thornton blew his third save. I have two side notes on the game. One is that Tyson Ross was well deserving of a win in relief as he tossed three scoreless innings, striking out four and allowing only two base runners. The second concerns the other starter in the game and you will see it below in the BABIP category.
John Danks pitched well, giving the White Sox eight solid innings of work, allowing one run on five hits and three walks, striking out seven. Matt Thornton’s fourth blown save stole the victory away and handed it to Grant Balfour.
Jason Vargas threw six and two thirds, allowing one run on five hits and a walk, striking out seven. Chris Ray played the part of Matt Thornton in this particular reenactment, yielding five runs in less than an inning.
Rick Porcello and Brandon McCarthy combined to pitch 12 and a third, allowing one run. McCarthy was in line for the win as Brian Fuentes blew his first save of the season and took the loss. This gave Brayan Villarreal the win despite allowing three runs on three hits in less than an inning of work.
Wes Littleton Award
Tyler Clippard was a recurring theme in last year’s awards, most notably for getting three consecutive blown save/win combos in a four-day stretch. This time he managed to avoid blowing a lead, but it could hardly be said that he helped the Nationals efforts given that he loaded the bases with one out. Two of those runs came around to score on Sean Burnett. Burnett is the reason why this game is listed in the Littleton section: He allowed those two runs to score and added another run in the ninth inning.
Burnett had a five-run lead to work with when he entered the game. He made it a three-run game at the end of the eighth, which became a four-run lead when Alex Cora and Danny Espinosa combined to tally another run for the District of Columbia. Burnett’s run in the ninth made it look from the SportsCenter line like a generic three-run save. Only when you look at the play by play do you notice how much Burnett did to mess the whole thing up but still by way of the silliness of the save rule did he fail in his efforts to sabotage his team’s chances of winning. Can somebody tell me how both Clippard and Burnett ended the game with positive WPA?
Please hold the applause
Rafael Betancourt was touched up for two runs on three hits, including a David Wright solo home run. Is protecting a three-run lead by giving up two runs in one inning really something that deserves positive recognition?
Huston Street was charged with two runs while retiring only one Mets batter. He walked one and allowed three hits, including a Scott Hairston home run. He still was credited with a hold as he inherited a three-run lead and Matt Lindstrom closed it out.
Any sufficiently advanced defense is indistinguishable from pitching
Mark Buehrle was a source of controversy last season, repeatedly popping up here. Some readers thought that his games were a repeatable skill. I differed a bit, noting that while he had consistently good run prevention while also striking out lower than average numbers of batters, the individual examples cited were at the far side of the expected possible results even for somebody who did induce consistent weak contact and that his BABIPs in general weren’t consistently far from normal. Well, in the Dallas Braden game above, Buehrle did it again, going eight scoreless, striking out only one. He helped himself by walking only ne and by inducing 13 groundball outs. Still, two hits on that many balls in play is clearly a good run of luck.
Also, I wonder if any of the Pirates fans who were loudly complaining in the wake of the 2009 mini-teardown are still griping given that Charlie Morton is doing good work and most of the players given away have been exposed as being magic beans, notably the execrable Nate McLouth, the retired Ian Snell, the forgettable Jack Wilson and Adam LaRoche, and current sideshow act Nyjer Morgan. It doesn’t really matter much that Morton is the only real player received who is currently a significant asset and he isn’t nearly as good as his current ERA. The point was always that that group was mostly composed of players who weren’t going to be part of the next relevant Pirates team and that the outrage was far outsized for its real impact.
Joe Carter Award
Carlos Gonzalez drove in eight runs while hitting .250/.276/.393 in 28 at-bats. He carried a 10-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio.
Hunter Pence collected seven RBI while hitting .259/.333/.407, which isn’t terrible, but it isn’t great either. This is especially apparent when you factor in that it is one more RBI than Matt Holliday drove in with his .407/.515/.593 line.
Jamey Carroll posted a perfect Sanchez, going .333/.333/.333 in 30 at-bats.
Alcides Escobar did some nice work in the field, but at the plate, he hit an astoundingly empty .300/.333/.300. He also got caught stealing twice in three attempts.
Carlos Lee singled seven times in 30 plate appearances. That is the good news. The bad news is that a lone double is the only hit he provided of the extra base variety. And he walked only once. .276/.300/.310.
Melky Cabrera was cited last week. He added another week of .273/.261/.318 to his resume.
Harmon Killebrew Award
In a small sample, Jorge Posada hit .214/.421/.643. He had two home runs, five walks and only one single.
Miguel Cabrera smacked a home run, three doubles, and walked six times in 31 plate appearances for a .240/.387/.480 line.
Jose Tabata went .250/.348/.450 with three steals and no caught stealings.
Steve Balboni Award
Adam Dunn struck out 11 times in 22 plate appearance. As a Three True Outcomes style hitter, he will have some weeks like that. Nevertheless, .105/.227/.263 is tough to swallow.
Three true outcomes
Chris Iannetta only had 19 PA this week, but in the course of that sample, he gave the Rockies a home run, seven walks, and four strikeouts.
Andrew McCutchen went one-six-six in 23 PA.
Dunn’s one-three-11 in 22 PA is worthy of notice.
And Pat Burrell gave us a one-four-eight in 21 PA.
Aramis Ramirez runs away with this as he went zero-one-one in 24 PA.
Ramirez’s only competition is Martin Prado, who put the ball in play to the tune of zero-zero-two in 25 PA.
This week’s MVP
AL: This week was Sam Fuld’s moment in the sun: He went .444/.448/.741 in 28 PA. This might have gone to Justin Smoak, who hit .421/.560/.632, but he was given only 25 PA by the Mariners and has less defensive value.
NL: Troy Tulowitzki is good at baseball. His .519/606/1.074 week adequately demonstrates this.