Welcome to the awards.
All stats are still for the games starting Monday, April 25 ending Sunday, May 1. If you are a new reader, reference the week one 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
Jordan Smith’s blown save took Yovani Gallardo off the hook following his six-run, five-inning browbeating at the hands of the Reds. Gallardo allowed 13 of the 28 batters he faced to reach base, notable among them were a Joey Votto three-run home run and two doubles to Sam LeCure and Paul Janish. It bears mentioning that LeCure himself failed to make it out of the fifth inning, allowing four runs on six hits and a walk and striking out only two.
Jo-Jo Reyes and Derek Holland were each bombed. Reyes has the excuse of having all of his six runs being categorized as unearned, but he allowed five hits, a walk, a hit by pitch, and a wild pitch so he is not to be let off without blame for the Jays’ loss. Holland at least made it through five, but he allowed five runs on 11 hits, walking three. The bullpens traded leads for a few innings after the starters left and they came away without taking a loss.
Kyle McClellan can send thank you cards to Lance Berkman. The Big Puma saved McClellan’s bacon as the Cardinals starter got the victory despite allowing five runs in five and two thirds to the Astros.
Neither Tyler Chatwood nor Alex Cobb made it out of the fifth inning. They combined to allow nine runs in eight and a third. Chatwood was knocked around with nine hits allowed. The decisions were absorbed by the bullpens.
Bad luck division
In a classic pitcher’s duel that went into extra innings, Joel Pineiro and James Shields combined to go 15 innings, allowing two combined runs on 10 hits and two walks. Shields was in line for the win as Kyle Farnsworth blew the save by allowing an inherited run to score (the one run charged to Shields) and depriving him of the victory.
At this particular point in time, holding the Cardinals offense to two runs on three hits and a walk in seven innings should be enough to get you some kind of token statistical acknowledgement. But Brandon Beachy was left out in the cold by his bullpen, which first blew the lead and then lost the game.
In the Sunday night game, Chris Young and Cliff Lee threw a combined 14 innings, giving up one run on 10 hits, striking out 12, walking five. Young had out-dueled Lee until his bullpen let him down and the game went into extras.
Brian Fuentes did what Brian Fuentes is known for. He entered the game for Oakland tasked with protecting a one-run lead. He allowed a run on a Bobby Abreu double, blowing the lead. Cliff Pennington’s triple followed by Conor Jackson’s groundout gave him the vultured win.
Koji Uehara pulled a similar trick. The Orioles bullpen had been leaking since Jeremy Guthrie left the game having thrown six shutout innings. Uehara gave up a two-run home run to Kevin Youkilis, taking away Guthrie’s chance at the victory. The Baltimore offense scored a run off Daniel Bard in the next half-inning to hand Uehara an unvirtuous victory.
Somebody named Cody Eppley also picked up the win in a game where he blew the lead, that being the Holland/Reyes twin shelling. I would be more forgiving to him than the rest though because he pitched two frames against the Jays.
Wes Littleton Award
Francisco Rodriguez’s sixth save of the season was one where he was protecting a three-run lead with Alex Cora, Roger Bernadina, and Danny Espinosa up. Bernadina reached base so he faced Rick Ankiel, which didn’t add much risk to the party given how Ankiel has hit for the least few years.
Please hold the applause
Jim Johnson faced eight batters, walked two and allowed a two-run home run. He was charged with two runs and he allowed another inherited run to score, which was charged to Jason Berken. Still got the hold.
Any sufficiently advanced defense is indistinguishable from pitching
A.J. Burnett is not a pitcher you tend to think of when you think of this category. Nonetheless he struck out two of the 28 batters he faced and still allowed only one run on three hits to the White Sox.
Joe Carter Award
Stephen Drew drove in eight runs in 27 at-bats, which tied him with Lance Berkman for second in the NL for the week. He only produced one extra-base hit though and was caught in his only stolen base attempt, culminating in a .208/.321/.333 line.
Curtis Granderson drove in six, but he didn’t give the batters trailing him in the lineup many opportunities to drive him in with a .250/.296/.458 line.
Alberto Callaspo collected five singles on the week in 21 plate appearances. That’s the foundation of a good week, but it can’t be the whole thing, and unfortunately for Halo fans, it was. Callaspo only smacked one extra-base hit, a double, and he only walked once for a .300/.333/.350 line.
David Ortiz went .292/.320/.333 in 25 PA.
Angel Sanchez went .286/.318/.333.
Seth Smith was .286/.333/.286 in 15 PA.
Vladimir Guerrero’s only contribution past six singles was a home run. .280/.280/.400.
And Julio Borbon was a Perfect Sanchez with four singles, no doubles, no walks, and a .286/.286/.286.
Harmon Killebrew Award
Justin Smoak is a nice posy-hype guy, which he showed this week by smoking two homers, a double, and by drawing four walks in 26 plate appearances. .227/.346/.545.
I had no idea Gerardo Parra possessed the secondary skills to post a .222/.391/.500 week with five walks, a homer, and a triple.
Joey Votto didn’t have a banner week in the batting average department and the slugging percentage isn’t eye opening, but drawing seven walks in a week will do some good things for an offense. .227/.414/.409.
Steve Balboni Award
There were a lot of people who thought that Austin Jackson was way over his skis last year, benefiting from a supremely flukey BABIP as he was striking out way too often to sustain the .293 BA he posted despite 170 strikeouts. That seems to have caught up with him all at once this season as he has struck out 37 times in 108 at-bats, leading to a .194/.269/.269 line. This week was an exclamation mark on that record with 10 strikeouts and a .200/.286/.200 line for the struggling Tigers.
Because of the skill set he carries around, Jonny Gomes will post weeks like this week’s .111/.200/.111, 8K, 20 PA.
This year’s Austin Jackson might be Dexter Fowler. The Rocky outfielder is posting acceptable hitting lines while striking out 35 times in 99 at-bats and not demonstrating any kind of power. This week he fanned eight times in 21 PA and ended up at .176/.364/.353. He might be able to keep it up for a while given that he is walking more than Jackson ever has shown a willingness to do, but he really should consider trying to make more consistent contact.
Three true outcomes
Luke Scott smacked three home runs, walked twice, and struck out three times in 20 PA.
Carlos Santana went three-for-seven in 23 PA.
Jose Bautista is missing a category, but two-11-one in 31 PA is impressive.
Adrian Beltre went zero-one-zero in 28 PA, which I think sounds bizarre and very against type.
Placido Polanco is a much more expected zero-one-one in 28 PA.
This week’s MVP
AL: Ben Zobrist is the easy and deserving choice. .440/.444/.960 with five doubles and two home runs while almost single-handedly demolishing the Twins will go a long way. And he is from central Illinois. That always earns extra points from this judge.
I hate myself for not writing about the Rays earlier this year when they were in the basement. I was planning on writing a small item about how despite their record, I still had picked them as the AL Wild Card representative for a reason and that reason is because I think they could be the best run-prevention team in the league and have been missing their one offensive star. I also think their most glaring offensive flaws (1B, DH) can be more easily cured than the biggest weaknesses of most other teams, especially given that they also have one of the deeper farm systems in the game. If they take themselves seriously as a contender for a postseason spot, I think they stand a decent chance of making it. It isn’t like the Yankees and Red Sox have demonstrated themselves to be flawless teams, both having aging lineups and problems in their rotations. Of course now I look like a guy who just jumped back on the bandwagon. Sometimes my own tendency to put off things until next week comes back to bite me.
Honorable mention to utility player turned unstoppable machine Jose Bautista, who rode his 11 walks to a .350/.594/.800 week. He has 30 walks against just 16 strikeouts on the year. His career numbers are 350 and 566 respectively.
NL: I explained to my Cardinal fan uncle this week that thus far St. Louis has me all turned around with my expectations going into the season. I saw them as a stars and scrubs lineup that was already missing one star, had another that was fragile, and another that the manager hated and might look for excuses not to play. When you build your team around a select few star players and fill in around those guys with the likes of Skip Schumaker, David Freese, and a bunch of guys that are best described as “just a guy” or “a warm body” and you lose some of those stars, bad things are likely to happen. Just ask that to the Twins.* But here we are, and guys like Kyle Lohse, Kyle McClellan, and the undead Lance Berkman are carrying them to the top of the standings while Albert Pujols is having his worst stretch of hitting we’ve seen. At any point in the season where a team with the Royals current starting rotation is in second place in their division, small sample size warnings go without saying. But Lance is looking very much the same guy he was in his prime. I had mostly left him for dead, expecting him to be a failed experiment. With a .458/.480/.833 week, he is sitting at .398/.456/.753. Best of luck to him. He has always been a favorite of mine going back to when I grabbed him in a keeper league back when he was blocked by Jeff Bagwell.
*The Twins’ collapse this year is starting to look more and more real. They truly are a stars and scrubs roster with almost all of their stars either injured or terrible, with no signs of righting themselves any time soon. They have to have the Joe Mauer/ Justin Morneau/ Joe Nathan/ Francisco Liriano core healthy and playing well. They can’t rely on Brian Duensing to carry their rotation and they have to have enough offense to counteract the damage you do when you give Alexi Casilla an everyday role. Right now that just is not happening. The bottom half of the lineup they trotted out on Sunday as they were getting swept by the Royals was unspeakably bad with Casilla, Drew Butera, Rene Tosoni, and Luke Hughes making you want to cover your eyes. That’s before getting into the shaky proposition that is Danny Valencia or the continuing disappointment of Denard Span.