Welcome to the awards.
All stats are still for the games starting Monday, May 2 ending Sunday, May 8. If you are a new reader, reference the week one column for category explanations.
This week we cover the season leaders in the hitting categories. Next week we’ll take a swing at the pitching categories.
This week’s proof that assigning wins and losses to a pitcher is an archaic practice that must stop
Good luck division
Ryan Vogelsong allowed five runs on five hits in four frames, striking out two, walking four. He was matched in horror by R.A. Dickey, who gave up six runs in six. Neither starter was held to account by way of a loss.
Chris Volstad and Kyle Lohse combined to allow 10 runs in 11 innings on 13 hits, three of which were homers. They walked five and struck out two. Their performances came against each other so they each got off scott free.
Javier Vazquez has a fork sticking out of his back. He also gave up six runs in five and two thirds, striking out only two, walking two, and getting smacked around for eight hits. Chris Carpenter looks less done than Vazquez, but he had a terrible game, giving up a run for each of the six innings he threw. Neither got the loss, though that may have been justified given that Cards reliever Eduardo Sanchez walked two and gave up a two-run bomb to Mike Stanton in a third of an inning.
Bad luck division
Brandon Beachy and Shaun Marcum combined to allow two runs on nine hits in 13 frames, striking out 17, walking two. They each received a no decision for their troubles.
Justin Masterson and Tyler Chatwood combined to throw 15 innings, allowing two runs between them on 11 hits, walking five, striking out 10. The game went into extras and neither starter figured into the decision.
Bronson Arroyo also had a good start thrown away by his bullpen. Arroyo went seven and a third, allowing one run on seven hits, striking out three. Francisco Cordero allowed two runs, punctuated by a walkoff Kosuke Fukudome single.
In a week where I was unsure if we would actually get a vulture win, Fernando Rodney did what Fernando Rodney does and blew the save versus Cleveland, only to watch his teammates come back and pepper Joe Smith, handing Rodney the win. If we had actually had a week with no vultures, it would have been a more rare occurrence than a week with two no hitters, at least in my experience in writing this column.
No-hitter analysis part one
In a way the Francisco Liriano no-no feels like low hanging fruit that has already been covered a thousand different ways by two thousand different outlets and writers. The fact that a lot of traditional analysts are willing to come out and say that this was a really flukey game that in no way proves that Liriano is back on track from his disaster of a month is nice to see given that what I’m doing here is making points like that every week.
And it seems obvious. The guy struck out only two of the 30 batters he faced, and he walked three times that number of batters. He somehow managed to walk Juan Pierre three times! He only had 12 swinging strikes out of 123 pitches. It seems obvious that he was ridiculously lucky. He was lucky he didn’t allow a half-dozen hits and three or four runs, let alone a no-hitter.
Liriano is far from the worst pitcher to ever throw a no-hitter. But this might in fact be the least impressive performance that has yielded a no-hitter.
Wes Littleton Award
The first batter Carlos Marmol faced was Matt Kemp, which is a difficult task. But he was protecting a three-run lead and the bats behind Kemp were Juan Uribe and James Loney, who have .297 and .233 OBPs respectively. After those two were Rod Barajas and Aaron Miles. I guess this is a roundabout way of saying that almost any three-run save against the Dodgers is going to be a candidate for a Littleton.
No-hitter analysis part two
Justin Verlander was clearly more dominant than Liriano when he no-hit the Jays. He posted a 90-game score and pounded the zone, walking one batter. Still, he only struck out four and as we have talked about in the past, any no-hitter or near no-hitter relies on a large amount of luck. Balls in play have to find gloves.
No-hitters are weird creatures. Justin Verlander is a very good pitcher. It is strange that he and Mark Buehrle have the same number of no-hitters as Roy Halladay. And it is strange that his second no-hitter came in a game where he didn’t strike out a bunch of guys. But that is the nature of the thing. No-hitters aren’t perfect barometers of sustained pitching skill. They are statistical oddities that mark brief moments of brilliance and/or luck.
Please hold the applause
Jim Johnson inherited a two-run lead over the Royals when he took over for Jake Arrieta. His time on the bump consisted of a groundout, a single, a double, and an RBI groundout. He was lifted for Mike Gonzalez, who stranded the tying runner on third by retiring the much-improved Alex Gordon. Johnson got a hold for hosting a party that almost ended up costing the Orioles the game.
Any sufficiently advanced defense is indistinguishable from pitching
Lost in the Liriano no hitter, Edwin Jackson was lucky himself, only striking out two of the 29 batters he faced but still only giving up five hits on balls in play. The only run he gave up was a Jason Kubel solo shot. I will say that it is a bit of poetic coincidence that Jackson was the opposing pitcher in the no-no given that he had a no hitter of his own last year where he walked eight and posted a game score of 85, only two ahead of Liriano’s.
Joe Carter Award
Bobby Abreu drove in seven while batting .242/.286/.273 for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Oxnard, Los Alamitos, Norwalk, and greater San Juan Capistrano.
Elsewhere, Hunter Pence plated six with a strange .320/.308/.400 line.
Season: Two high-profile former Red Sox batters are driving in runs, but with horrific OBPs and acceptable but not remarkable slugging percentages.
Adrian Beltre is seventh in baseball, having driven in 26 runners in 134 at-bats. Unfortunately he is batting .239 with only seven walks for a .239/.283/.448 line.
Johnny Damon has driven in 24 Rays in 125 at-bats. Four walks have resulted in an unhelpful .256/.285/.432 line.
Also note Albert Pujols and his 22 RBIs, .248/.322/.421 line.
And Chris Young the hitter has 22 RBIs and is sitting at .213/.257/.475 in 141 at-bats.
Pence is certainly qualified for this category as well. The rare feat of posting a lower on-base percentage than batting average is worthy of notation by itself. Pence collected eight hits, only two for extra bases. He also did not walk in his 26 plate appearances.
Milton Bradley went .313/.313/.375 in 16 PA.
2010 All Star Omar Infante rapped out eight hits, only one of which was for extra bases, that being a double. He also walked once for a .286/.310/.333 line for the Marlins.
Chipper Jones posted a .280/.308/.400 line for Atlanta.
Season: Lets not get ahead of ourselves with the Starlin Castro worship as he is a shortstop batting .300 but with middling power and a free-swinging style that has him at .300/.324/.388, which is still well above average for a shortstop this season, but below immortal.
Melky Cabrera is at .283/.305/.441.
Jhonny Peralta is batting .281/.328/.412.
While Jeter bashing is still in fashion, lets point out that Derek Jeter is currently sporting a .276/.331/.350 line. And Sunday’s explosion was the only reason he even qualifies to get here as his batting average previously would have been too low.
Orlando Cabrera’s line looks a lot like Jeter’s, at .276/.300/.350, and that’s not a good thing.
Harmon Killebrew Award
Four of Drew Stubbs’ five hits went for extra bases. He also walked three times, leading to a solid .250/.348/.550 week.
Mike Fontenot had a good week despite collecting only two singles in 29 plate appearances. That is because he added to those singles by providing one extra-base hit of each variety, by walking seven times, and by going two for two on the base paths. .227/.400/.500.
Given his back-from-the-dead performance up to this point, it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that two of Lance Berkman’s three hits were home runs and he walked seven times in 21 PA for a .214/.435/.643 week.
And while Jeter Christ Superstar looked down on his slugging percentage from on high, Nick Swisher overcame a lack of singles to post a .211/.375/.421 line by way of walking five times in 24 PA.
Season: Troy Tulowitzki is running away with the honor, having posted a .248 batting average thus far, but with 16 of his 30 hits going for extra bases and with twice as many walks as strikeouts. .248/.343/.521 is tasty from a shortstop.
David Wright has a .240/.349/.419 line and is on an eight-for-eight streak on the bases.
Steve Balboni Award
Adam LaRoche struck out in half of his 22 at-bats, leading to a .227/.280/.318 week.
Brandon Inge whiffed nine times in 21 at-bats. .130/.280/.238
Season: While it is tough coming up with enough flashy OPS’s to fill out the Killebrew category, the Tigers lineup alone gives us two exceptional candidates for the Balboni. The first of those is Austin Jackson, with 45 strikeouts in 134 at-bats, which has his batting line at .224/.283/.336. His middling secondary skills aren’t enough to overcome the bad batting average that inevitably comes from having that kind of a strikeout rate.
Teammate Ryan Raburn has struck out 43 times in 118 at bats for a .229/.273/.398 line. That isn’t going to cut it either.
Elsewhere, Adam Dunn’s strikeout rate has gone from being high to out of hand, sitting at 36 in 96 at-bats. Meanwhile his power is on the blink and his .167/.308/.302 is killing the White Sox.
Also, let’s just acknowledge that Bill Hall doesn’t belong in an everyday lineup anymore; 37 strikeouts in 104 at-bats, .221/.281/.317 is just bad all around.
Lastly, Pedro Alvarez isn’t doing much for the Pirates, with 34 strikeouts in 99 at-bats and an anemic .212/.278/.283 line.
Three true outcomes
Carlos Peña is an old hand at these matters. Three home runs, four walks, and seven strikeouts in 24 plate appearances is something we have all seen from him.
Berkman’s two-seven-three in 21 PA qualifies for recognition.
And although he is missing a category, I would be remiss if I failed to mention Mark Reynolds and his zero-eight-nine in 28 PA.
Season: Drew Stubbs was a TTO star back in college. This had many, including myself, wondering if he would be able to make enough contact to be a competent big leaguer. He has done well so far this year. His TTO credentials are impeccable, with six homers, 16 walks, and 39 strikeouts in 146 PA.
Ryan Howard is a bit of a fixture here and does not disappoint, going seven-13-38 in 145 PA.
Howie Kendrick is going against everything that he has done in his career and is becoming a TTO type of batter, with a six-13-37 performance in 159 PA.
Mike Stanton is a young batter like Stubbs who has always struck out and hit home runs with regularity. Five-10-33 in 116 PA is getting it done from that angle.
Alberto Callaspo went zero-zero-one in 24 PA. That is impressive.
Miguel Tejada was impressive himself, with a .zero-one-one in 27 PA.
Season: A.J. Pierzynski is putting the ball in play. You can say that for the guy. However, with a .226/.252/.274 line, that is about all he is doing on offense. One-three-five in 113 PA is impressive even if his performance is not.
Magglio Ordonez is similarly struggling at the plate, but he is at one-seven-nine in 102 PA.
This week’s MVP
AL: Erick Aybar had his best week ever, smoking 13 hits in 34 PA, going .406/.429/.563 for the Halos. Three hits were doubles and one was a triple. He also chipped in a pair of walks and was four for four on the bases.
Season: Jose Bautista leads in WAR according to both the Fangraphs and Baseball Reference formulas. He leads the AL in OPS by 284 points. He is second to Curtis Granderson in home runs, leads in walks, batting average, OBP, SLG, and is second in WPA. He has pounded out 16 extra base hits and has struck out only 17 times. He has walked 30 times, a full quarter of his plate appearances. That is all just a longer way of saying that he has been ridiculously good, the best player in baseball by a good margin. His .352/.521/.773 is Bonds in his prime good. In the run scoring atmosphere of 2011, it might be more impressive than the Bonds feats.
NL: Like fellow shortstop Aybar, Jose Reyes went off at the plate, finding his way to 11 hits in 29 PA. He managed to make two of them doubles and four triples. That’s right, Reyes hit four triples in a week. He also walked four times and was two for two on the bases. .440/.517/.840 is one hell of a week.
Season: Joey Votto is proving his own breakout 2010 performance was no fluke. The first baseman is hitting .333/.464/.542.