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, June 29 though Sunday, July 5. All season stats are through Sunday.
This week’s proof that assigning wins and losses to a pitcher is an arcane practice that must stop
Good Luck Division:
Rich Hill should be thanking Oscar Salazar and Justin Masterson for his fortuitous no-decision. It isn’t often that you get blitzed for nine runs, seven earned in three and a third and you still walk away without a loss.
A reader named Phil passed along a note about the Joba Chamberlain meltdown on Sunday afternoon, correctly noting that; “Sooner or later a pitcher has to take responsibility after an error.” Well said. And Chamberlain certainly didn’t endear himself to the Yankee faithful, following a Cody Ransom error in the fourth by going fly out, RBI double, two-run single, two-run homer, single before getting yanked (no pun intended) by Joe Girardi.
Nevertheless, while I may make occasional notes about unearned runs being only partially undeserved by the pitcher of record, Chamberlain was let off the hook by the Yankee bats after getting run from the game. Only three of the eight runs on his watch were “earned,” but Chamberlain gave up nine hits, including a pair of doubles and a pair of home runs while striking out only one of the 21 batters he faced. He was not good at all. But he was not the losing pitcher. That was B.J. Ryan
Bad Luck Division
Yovani Gallardo spun a gem against the Mets, but his own offense was shut out. Gallardo struck out 12, walking two and allowing one run on five hits. But he walked away with his fifth loss of the year, his third in which he allowed three or fewer runs.
Somebody get Jason Hammel some good luck. His eight innings of one-run ball lowered his ERA to 3.90, which I shouldn’t have to tell you, people, is very nice for a guy who spends half of his time in Coors Field, humidor or no. But the shutout that Clayton Kershaw and three relievers threw sent Hammel’s record down to 5-4.
Vulture alert! Vulture alert!
Brian Bruney vultured a win away from Chamberlain early in the week. Frank Francisco got a gift in the form of a walk-off Hank Blalock two-run shot which took him off the hook for blowing the save. And Francisco Rodriguez robbed fellow Mets reliever Brian Stokes. Jason Motte joined the party. And Freddy Dolsi in extra innings.
Wes Littleton Award
I have already fired away at Brian Fuentes this year. He has been good (not great), but has been dealing with a lot of non-critical situations. He had another one on Monday when he was protecting a three-run lead against Taylor Teagarden, Chris Davis and Elvis Andrus. Teagarden currently owns a .289 OBP, Davis a .256 and Andrus a .323. Since they have a cumulative OBP significantly less than .333, the odds were against the Rangers even getting a man on base, let alone scoring three runs. And that is against an average pitcher. That isn’t even factoring in the .320 OBP against that Fuentes sports, which is better than league average (as one would hope for a closer making $8.5 million this year), making the chances of a rally even more remote. This was not a situation that required the Angels’ best reliever.
Please hold the applause
Any sufficiently advanced defense is indistinguishable from pitching
Joe Carter Award
Russell Branyan collected seven RBI in 25 at-bats for the Mariners. He also failed to do much other than the home run he hit; his line was a meager .200/.241/.360.
Nick Markakis also drove in seven and hit
With 55, Aubrey Huff stands ninth in the AL in RBI, 14 spots ahead of Miguel Cabrera, who is slugging exactly 100 points higher than Huff. But he is 51st in the junior circuit in OPS at .774. Huff’s .268/.333/.440 line is very unspectacular and a better indicator of his talents.
Elsewhere, I have kept vigil over James Loney’s RBI total, and it is still abnormally high, but he has fallen down the leaderboard, currently tied for 27th in the majors with 51. At .280/.346/.395, he’s still largely punchless.
Rey Sanchez Award
Alex Rios provided the following in 20 at-bats; five singles, a double, a walk and a caught stealing. If you are particularly gifted at math, you may already have figured out that he ended up with a .300/.333/.350 line, which would be low but acceptable if he happened to be a Gold Glove caliber shortstop. Coming from a right fielder, it isn’t much of an accomplishment.
Season: At .286/.316/.411, Vladimir Guerrero should be scaring a lot of Angels fans. At .280/.306/.411, this should be what Braves fans expected from the aging former Angel, Garrett Anderson.
Harmon Killebrew Award
The ‘Brew this week gives me an opportunity to talk about the good work Johnny Damon is doing this year. In his age 35 season, he is ahead of his best single season slugging percentage by 35 points and is on pace to beat his personal best for home runs with 16. This week he hit .227, but with six walks, a pair of home runs, and a pair of doubles in 22 at-bats for a .393/.591 OBP/SLG.
Season: Chris Iannetta is hitting only .230, but 19 of his 37 hits have gone for extra bases and he has chipped in 27 walks in his 161 at-bats. Part of the low batting average is bad luck. He does not have the ridiculously high strikeout rate that would indicate that .230 is his natural level. But he is there right now and he is still a catcher hitting .230/.354/.472.
Fellow catcher Jason Varitek has a .238/.341/.481 line.
And who could forget about .231/.364/.534 hitting Carlos Pena?
And two sluggers from the Bronx find their way into the category. Nick Swisher, who is hitting .242/.367/.484, is used to being in this territory. Alex Rodriguez (.244/.412.517) is not. Like Iannetta, you can expect his BA to rise a lot in the second half. His should rise much more than Iannetta’s, though, as he has a very healthy 31 K in 221 plate appearances.
Steve Balboni Award
I mentioned Branyan earlier. He shows up prominently on the radar here as well since he struck out 14 times in 25 at-bats, which means that given the number of times he actually put the ball in play, his five hits constitute a minor miracle.
Elsewhere, former THT Awards hero Jason Bay whiffed 13 times in 25 at-bats on his way to a .080/.207/.120 line.
Season: First things first. It seems as though Chris Davis has finally hacked his way out of a job. We shall see him again. Perhaps next time he will have stopped swinging at anything and everything while maintaining the power that makes him a worthwhile talent in the first place. With 114 strikeouts in 277 plate appearances, he has a way to go. For now, his season line rests at .202/.256/.415
Jack Cust has had some success over the last couple of campaigns for the A’s after being picked up off the scrap heap in a desperation move. But right now he is inspiring his own desperation moves in Oakland with his .224/.315/.408 line being held down under the weight of 84 whiffs in 317 plate appearances.
There is a surplus of worthy candidates with regulars like Mike Jacobs (.222/.300/.399, 75 K, 287 AB) and Alfonso Soriano (.227/.290/.413, 79 K, 322 AB) striking out at paces that they can’t make up for with their secondary skills and young players like Josh Fields (.230/.312/.359, 67 K, 209 AB), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.245/.299/.375, 81 K, 216 AB), and Chase Headley (.230/.311/.371, 72 K, 256 AB) having either already joined Davis in watching other people do the job he once filled or seemingly trying hard to join him soon.
Three true outcomes alert!!!
They did not have the weeks that some past winners have had in sheer volume, but Prince Fielder, Justin Morneau and Marlon Byrd all had well-rounded three true outcome weeks. Fielder slugged three bombs, walked six times and struck out four times. Morneau tied for the week’s lead in home runs with four, walked three times and fanned five times. Finally, Byrd went three-four-five in 20 at bats.
Season: This has been the easiest category for most of the year with Carlos Pena setting a very fast pace. Pena stands at 23 home runs (good for fourth in baseball) 55 walks (seventh) and 104 strikeouts (third).
This week’s MVP
AL: Morneau was out of his mind with 12 hits, half of them for extra bases for a .480/.536/1.040 beast of week.
Season: A couple of weeks ago I was taken to task by commenters (and rightly so) wanting to know why I had left out Joe Mauer. I had written him off as having missed too much time, but his performance thus far has overcome the playing time gap. He has been simply brilliant, batting .389/.465/.648. He is leading the AL in VORP already, and is fifth in RC. And when you take into account his defensive value, he is an easy choice getting easier as very good players like Evan Longoria and Bay slide back to where their rate stats are what you would have expected them to look like going into the season.
Season: I have never found much controversy touting Pujols, but then a 1.200 OPS kind of speaks for itself.
With next week’s article, I hope to give a full midseason update on the pitching awards.