Welcome to the awards.
For award definitions and background on the column itself, please consult the Primer.
All weekly stats are for the period of Monday, April 20 though Sunday, April 26. All season stats are through Sunday.
This week’s proof that assigning wins and losses to a pitcher is an idiotic practice that must stop
Good Luck Division:
Bad Luck Division
Barry Zito’s first good start of the year was a gem. He blanked the Padres for seven frames before yielding to his bullpen. The pen held up its bargain as well, keeping the priests off the board for another three innings. But Chris Young was impressive as well, holding down the San Francisco hitters for seven of his own scoreless innings. Both starters received no-decisions.
Young has two no-decisions in four starts. They are exact opposites, one being the aforementioned owning of the Giants. The other was a seven-run drubbing in Philly.
Vulture alert! Vulture alert!
The Wes Littleton Award
With a three-run lead, a runner on second, and two out in the ninth inning, Ryan Franklin faces Gary Sheffield, pinch-hitting for Ramon Castro. And if he failed to retire Sheff, the pitcher’s spot was up next in the lineup.
Please hold the applause
Any sufficiently advanced defense is indistinguishable from pitching
Bronson Arroyo and two relievers struck out but three Astros batters, but allowed the same number of runs. Adding to the flukish nature, two of the runs were on back-to-back solo shots in the sixth inning by Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee. So on balls in play, they allowed one run on nine hits and two walks in nine innings, while fanning only three.
What is more surprising, that the Yankees defense, even for one night, was solid enough to hold a team to three runs when the pitching staff strikes out only one batter, or that it prompted me to look it up and the Athletics, featuring Jack Cust and Jason Giambi, are all the way down in 11th in the AL in strikeouts, with only eight more than the Angels?
I used to have an expression that I used when a defender with poor range made a dramatic play on a ball that a player who really was a plus defender would have made look routine. I called it a “Berkman” after a weird tendency to notice a surplus of Lance Berkman diving stops on Web Gems. Well, courtesy of Raul Ibanez, you’ve been Berkman’d. Anybody who had any business roaming the pasture would have been waiting under that ball, wondering what he should get his wife for Mother’s Day.
The Joe Carter Award
Season: With 15 RBI, Mark DeRosa is tied with among others, Adrian Gonzalez, who is batting .323/.436/.662, the white hot Kosuke Fukudome, who is at .371/.481/.661, and .373/.415/.627 Robinson Cano for 20th in the majors. His .195/.271/.338 looks very out of place in that company, even with the acknowledgement that they will come down to earth and DeRosa will hit better than he has up to this point.*
*For the sake of my roto team and Cleveland’s playoff hopes, he had better do so.
The Rey Sanchez Batting Average Is All I’ve Got Award
Marlon Byrd hit .313/.333/.375 in 16 at-bats. That was five singles, a double and one walk.
Season: I am late to the party bashing Carl Crawford, but with a .295/.333/.372 line, he has picked up right where he left off last season. This is not good. He has yet to hit a home run and he is not drawing walks. If you fail to do those things, then you have to hit for a very high average, not just a pretty good average. Otherwise, you are costing your team a lot on offense.
Here are two examples of varying degrees of luck on balls in play, one good, one bad.
On the good side, Fred Lewis* has struck out 20 times in 55 at bats and is still managing a .345. He sports a .543 BABIP. You know, I am not Bill James and I don’t play him on TV, but I’m pretty sure that is likely to come down by at least 200 points.
*Whose name indicates that he should be playing left field for the 1939 Giants instead of the 2009 squad
On the down side, A.J. Pierzynski has struck out three times in the same number of at bats as Lewis and he is batting .235. I grant you that Pierzynski is about as slow as you would expect of a 32-year-old catcher with more than 9,000 innings of squatting under his belt to be. But I would have to think that would be a pretty abnormal percentage for anybody who doesn’t require the use of a walker.
The Harmon Killebrew Batting Average Is For Wussies Award
Jim Thome hit one single all week. But he did hit two home runs and a double, and he drew five walks in 17 at-bats.
Nate McLouth hit .235, but walked four times and ended the week at .231/.409/.462.
Lastly, Chase Utley hit .227.370/.500 with a pair of bombs and four walks.
*Hat tip to the suggestions that were sent to me. My personal favorite was El Gato de Crimen from reader Steve. The Crime Cat is a nice touch.
Mark Teixeira is not usually considered for this as he hits for a high average. But largely thanks to a .214 batting average on balls in play, his average is sitting at .218. Still, he has drawn 13 walks and hit three home runs for a .218/.380/.418 season total.
The Steve Balboni Award
This one belongs to teammates Chris Dickerson and Edwin Encarnacion. Dickerson whiffed 13 times in 22 at bats on his way to a .136/.240/.227 disaster of a week. Encarnacion did worse, striking out 11 times in 26 at-bats, but hitting .115/.207/.115.
Season: B.J. Upton is off to a very poor start in 2009. Strikeouts have played a major part, as he has struck out 17 times in 45 at bats. .156/.296/.200 is not getting it done.
Three True Outcomes alert!!!
I mentioned Jim Thome in the ‘Brews. Here he is again. Add nine Ks to his two homers and five walks.
This Week’s MVP
AL: For the second time in three weeks, this goes to a set of teammates. This time it is Red Sox corner infielders Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis. Youk hit .389/.593/.833 with eight walks, two doubles and two home runs in 18 at-bats. And Lowell hit .455/.455/.909 with four doubles and two bombs in 22 at bats for streaking Boston.
Season: Zack Greinke leads baseball in WPA. He allowed his first run this week thanks to Mike Aviles and is owning AL hitters, leading in strikeouts and strikeouts per inning. Opposing batters are hitting a meager .186/.239/.245 off him.
NL: Albert Pujols was great as usual. .474/.500/1.000 is very impressive.
Season: Pujols is simply off-the-charts good. He is special. He is hitting .343/.471/.716. I’ll just cherry pick one stat from his line. The guy has seven home runs and four strikeouts. He has drawn four times as many walks this season as he has amassed strikeouts.
Small sample size warning
For the second season in a row, Brandon Inge is off to a torrid start, going .323/.423/.694. At the end of April 2008, he was the proud owner of a .257/.374/.446. He ended 2008 back down to earth at .205/.303/.369.
This week’s comments question
With college baseball’s regular season entering the home stretch, how much of it do you watch, either in person or on television? I’m already thinking it is a bit of a trick question, since for much of the season I have had trouble finding much of it on TV even with CSTV, ESPNU, the Big Ten Network and local Fox Sports. I would have liked to have been able to see more of it, but it isn’t very available, at least not in the way that college hoops and football are.