Welcome to the awards.
All stats are for the games starting Monday, May 16 ending Sunday, May 22. If you are a new reader, please reference the week one column for category explanations.
This week we cover the season leaders in 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
Jon Lester was abused by the Cubs lineup to the tune of five runs in six innings on 12 hits and two walks. But the Red Sox lineup gave him more than enough support and he walked away with a very ugly win.
David Price had a rare bad game, yielding five runs to the Yankees on six hits in five innings. A.J. Burnett struggled more, getting charged with six runs in five and two thirds. Burnett really imploded in the sixth inning, allowing two-run home runs to Sam Fuld and B.J. Upton and an RBI single to Matt Joyce. Price got a no-decision. He would have been in line for the win had he managed to stay in the game an inning longer than he had.
Ryan Dempster and Ricky Nolasco combined to allow 10 runs in 11 frames on 17 hits and four walks, striking out eight. Because each starter contributed the five of the 10 runs, neither received the loss. The two bullpens allowed only two runs in seven innings combined so it wasn’t just a good day for hitting.
Sean O’Sullivan’s luck on balls in play predictably crashed and burned. He was bashed for seven runs in four and a third, allowing eight hits and walking four. A dramatic comeback by the Royals offense took him off the hook for the loss.
Bad luck division
Not only was Derek Holland betrayed by Neftali Feliz in that Feliz blew the save, the run that Feliz allowed was the only one charged to Holland in the game. Holland had thrown eight shutout innings, besting Luke Hochevar, who was a tough luck no-decision himself having allowed one run in eight and two thirds on six hits and two walks. But Feliz allowed the run and it wiped out Holland’s chance at the win, which went to Greg Holland, who is of course no relation.
Wandy Rodriguez limited the Braves to five hits in eight scoreless innings. Derek Lowe tossed seven innings with only one run against him. When Mark Melancon allowed solo home run Brian McCann, it ensured that both pitchers would receive no-decisions.
Cole Kimball received his first career win as a result of his first career blown save. Kimball allowed an inherited run to score on an Andrew McCutchen triple. Danny Espinosa’s two-run shot during the next half-inning gave the Nats a lead that they would maintain.
Wes Littleton Award
I appreciate the Padres using Mike Adams for more than an inning when he got the save. And it is true that he had two men on base in the eighth when he entered the game, but he was protecting a four-run lead against a lineup that pinch hit with Kelly Johnson’s 561 OPS, had Chris Young’s .272 OBP leading off, and the desiccated remains of Melvin Mora batting second.
Please hold the applause
Jeremy Accardo entered the game with one out, runners on first and second, and a four-run lead to protect. He got Dustin Pedroia to fly out for out number two. So far so good. He followed up by allowing a single and a double, yielding two three runs, the two inherited and one of his own. He got credit for the hold.
Any sufficiently advanced defense is indistinguishable from pitching
You will have to do a lot of research to find more than one or two games with a sequence of base running blunders as egregious as what the Royals gave the world on Wednesday. The first batter Neftali Feliz faced upon entering the game in the bottom of the ninth was megarookie Eric Hosmer, who promptly tied the game with a solo home run. The second was Jeff Francoeur, who Feliz walked. Ned Yost called upon Jarrod Dyson as a pinch runner. Dyson then succeeded in getting picked off for out number one, an ugly blown play where he broke early for second and was a sitting duck when Feliz threw to first. After that Feliz walked Billy Butler walked on four pitches. So clearly Feliz is struggling mightily. Yost subbed in Mike Aviles as his second pinch runner of the inning. Butler is notoriously slow so this is a reasonable idea, one that has been executed often this season. But Aviles repeats Dyson’s mistake and is out number two on the second pitch of Wilson Betemit’s at-bat. Betemit strikes out looking at the end of a seven pitch at-bat.
I don’t honestly remember a more self-destructive inning of base running. In a game where a run will win the game and the pitcher is having a hard time doing anything right, you push things and not only hand the other team two outs, but erase two base runners. The Royals would have probably won the game in that inning if they had just avoided doing anything stupid. With runners on first and second and no outs, you score a run more than 60 percent of the time. Given that the pitcher you are facing has given up a home run and two walks, the standard run expectancy matrix is likely on the low side of your chances. When your opponent is trying to hand you the win, don’t stand in his way.
Joe Carter Award
Kelly Johnson drove in seven runs in 28 at-bats. The underlying performance was abysmal. Johnson struck out in a third of his at-bats, failed to walk even once, and ended the week at .214/.241/.393.
J.J. Hardy collected six ribbies and went .111/.167/.222 for the Orioles.
Alex Gonzalez was truly impressive this week, going .269/.296/.269 in 27 PA. That is seven singles, no extra-base hits, and one walk.
Alfonso Soriano was .273/.304/.318 in 23 PA.
Adrian Beltre provided a lot of hits this week, but not much in the way of power or patience. Adding to his six singles in 31 plate appearances were only three extra-base hits, all doubles, and one walk. He ended up at .300/.323/.400.
Justin Morneau hit .276/.300/.414 in 30 PA.
You might say that offense is down
Of the 186 batters who qualify, 16 have an OPS over .900. Just two years ago in 2009, that number was 27. In 2001 there were 13 batters who qualified with an OPS over 1.000.
Harmon Killebrew Award
Firstly, let’s just point out that it was very sad week with the passing of Harmon Killebrew. I was too young to have seen him play. I wish I could have. He was a great player and one of the forefathers of the current offensive philosophies in the game today. He was a great power hitter in an era where it was tough to be a hitter of any variety. Best wishes to him, his family, and the Twins organization.
Lance Berkman had an odd week and I feel it is appropriate to mention him here even though he did not hit for power, which is normally a prerequisite for the honor. Nevertheless, the Big Puma had two hits in 16 plate appearances this week and managed to help his team. He did that by drawing seven walks.
Steve Balboni Award
Adam Dunn had made more appearances here than normal this season. This week he fanned 12 times in 29 PA, ending up at .120/.233/.160 for the White Sox. As an aside, does anybody have the context of his caught stealing from this week? I didn’t happen to notice it until I started looking at stat lines from the week and noticed he was 0-for-1 on the bases. I wondered if he really was sent on an attempt to steal or if it was a blown hit and run or something of that sort. Ozzie is crazy, but is he really that crazy?
Three true outcomes
Ryan Howard smacked a home run, walked four times, and struck out nine times in 27 PA.
Miguel Olivo went one-six-eight in 25 PA.
Mike Stanton was three-two-seven in 24 PA.
Juan Pierre went 27 PA with no true outcomes.
This week’s MVP
AL: Kevin Youkilis not only had hits in half of his at-bats, more than half of his hits went for extra bases. He also walked in 18.5 percent of his plate appearances and two and a half times more often than he struck out. .500/.593/.950 is a good week, even if what I saw of his glove work was unimpressive.
NL: How fun is it that Yadier Molina was the best offensive player in the NL this week? That was a rhetorical question. Molina rapped out 13 hits in 26 PA. On Sunday alone he walked and came a home run shy of the cycle. .565/.615/.783.