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:
David Huff was saved from a loss by Clayton Richard and D.J. Carrasco, who combined to walk eight on their way to getting pounded for nine runs. Huff went four and a third, allowing eight runs on 11 hits.
Season: Jamie Moyer has wins in four starts that do not qualify as quality starts, leading him to an 8-6 record despite an awful 5.99 ERA.
Bad Luck Division
Season: Lately I’ve noticed a lot of people sharing my beat. That is fine by me. More attention on the ridiculous nature of pitcher wins and losses, the better it is as far as I am concerned.
In the first half, there are a lot of good candidates for this award. One who is interesting, in this sense and genrerally, is Joel Piniero. Piniero has always been a pitcher who has avoided walks, averaging fewer than three for every nine innings pitched in his career. This season, he has simply decided never to walk anybody, averaging less than one free pass for every nine frames. He has also upped his ground ball rate and leads the league in preventing home runs. With only 48 strikeouts in 115 innings, he has turned into one of the most extreme command pitchers in the game. I won’t say that he is the best candidate on the list, though, despite the fact that he has a 7-9 record and a 3.20 ERA, since he has allowed 10 unearned runs. Some of that blame falls on the defense behind him. But when you never strike anybody out, you are more vulnerable to defensive shortcomings. No soup for Piniero.
Javier Vazquez seems to me to be a better candidate with a .229/.270/.342 line against him, the highest strikeout rate since he was playing his home games in Montreal, and seven quality starts with a loss (three) or a hold. His ERA is under three and he has a 6-7 record in 18 starts.
Vazquez’s teammate Jair Jurrjens* is an equally qualified claimant with 12 quality starts in 19 tries, three losses and three no-decisions in starts with at least six innings thrown and two or fewer runs allowed. And he is 7-7 despite being sixth in the NL in ERA and he has limited opposing batters to a .243/.315/.370 line.
Zach Duke is one pitcher people don’t seem to be talking about, but he is a great candidate with an 8-8 record. Five of his eight losses have come from games in which he posted a quality start.
You can also bring in the 6-6 James Shields, who has 3.42 ERA, or Doug Davis and his 3.41/4-9, or 3.22/8-7 Yovani Gallardo. But the most appalling miscarriage of justice is Cliff Lee, who is a miserable 4-9. He has taken the loss in six quality starts and no-decisions in five more. Typical of this is the game Lee pitched this past week where he went a strong seven innings, allowing three runs on five hits, striking out eight, walking two. He lost because Edwin Jackson held the inept Cleveland offense to one run in his seven frames.
A brief Jonathan Sanchez note
Jonathan Sanchez’s no-hitter was a big surprise, but not as big as some would have you believe. I heard multiple announcers call it “THE most unlikely of no-hitters,” which is pure nonsense. All no-hitters are unlikely. And some very unmemorable pitchers have thrown them. Sanchez meets that standard.
But this isn’t some organizational soldier who has mediocre stuff and got lucky one night. Sanchez has his problems and he had just been booted from the rotation because he had struggled for much of the season. But he has great stuff and has struck out a batter per inning in his career. Preventing hits has not been his greatest challenge. He struggles with his command, but has the talent to be this kind of dominating starter.
If you hadn’t noticed, Sanchez has been a favorite of mine since his time in the minors.
Vulture alert! Vulture alert!
Wes Littleton Award
Jason Frasor entered the game against the Yankees protecting a four-run lead with two out in the eighth. He proceeded to walk Derek Jeter, giving Jeremy Accardo a run he hadn’t planned on. Then he allowed two more runs in the ninth to make it a one run lead before Eric Hinske finally stopped Frasor’s suffering by striking out.
Season: Brian Fuentes has not been bad. He’s been pretty good. But he hasn’t been anywhere near the best although he leads the majors in saves. He has imploded in ugly fashion three times and ranks 30th in WPA.
Please hold the applause
In that extra-inning game that was a continuation from May where Joel Hanrahan got a win when he was no longer a member of the team that actually won, Julian Taveras managed to get a despite allowing three runs on two hits and a walk.
Any sufficiently advanced defense is indistinguishable from pitching
Jerrod Washburn shut out the Orioles while striking out three batters, yielding only one hit and walking nobody. Only one of the 25 balls hit into play found open pasture. That is lucky.
Season: Scott Feldman is still in the hunt as his .240 BABIP has enabled him to post a 3.83 ERA and an 8-2 record while striking out 4.3 batters per nine innings.
Also Jarrod Washburn is notable here: His aberrant 2.96 ERA is greatly aided by a .248 BABIP given that he has struck out only 5.8 per nine.
Weird box score of the week
On Monday, the Indianapolis Indians walked 14 Louisville hitters in a 15-1 home loss. The seventh was a nightmare, with Donald Veal, Jason Davis and Ty Taubenheim combining for 10 walks and four wild pitches in an eight-run inning. They allowed only one hit, and that was a single. That is a rough day at the office.
Joe Carter Award
Nick Swisher drove in six in 22 at-bats, but with five singles and a double being his only contributions to the hit column, his slugging percentage was a sickly .318.
Also, Eliezer Alfonso drove in five, mostly on a three-run home run in the Padres’ lone win of the week, but that was his lone positive contribution offensively as he was completely overpowered, striking out 11 times in 21 at bats and getting worked over to the tune of .190/.227/.333.
Rey Sanchez Award
I was convinced that Gary Sheffield was going to be a huge problem for the Mets, but he has been good this year, hitting .283/.382/.478 and staving off the eventual collapse of his skills. This week was nothing like the rest of the season with Sheff going .300/.333/.350 in 20 at-bats.
Mark Teahen was very close to those numbers, going .310/.333/.379.
Harmon Killebrew Award
Shin-Soo Choo tested how low your batting average could be while still carrying positive value overall, if only in a small sample size. He went without a single in 19 at-bats. He slugged two doubles and a home run while chipping in six walks for a stupefying .158/.360/.421 line.
Steve Balboni Award
Mark Reynolds has been walking a tightrope all season, having taken over the ML lead in strikeouts from the departed Chris Davis with 123 in 325 at-bats. But he has gotten away with the abysmal contact rate with a .335 batting average on balls in play, by drawing 44 walks, and by smoking 24 home runs. It didn’t work out that way this week as he struck out 12 times in 24 at-bats while failing to homer. And his batting average was too low for his walks to make up for, ending with a .125/.300/.167 line.
Three true outcomes alert!!!
Russell Branyan was an all-around TTO force with a pair of home runs, eight walks and eight strikeouts in 23 a- bats.
This week’s MVP
AL: The six doubles Dustin Pedroia slapped did a lot of damage, but he didn’t stop with that. He provided another six hits, including a home run and a triple for a .462/.500/.885 week.
NL: Consider this a semi-small sample size warning. When Ryan Ludwick woke up on Monday, he was in possession of a pedestrian .242/.313/.439 line. When he went to bed Sunday night, he had a much more respectable .264/.333/.496 line. That is 97 points of OPS in seven games. A single .481/.531/1.605 week can change the look of a player’s season even as late as July. Ludwick smacked eight extra base hits in 27 at-bats and walked four times.
Most Valuable Pitcher
AL: I am going with Zack Greinke here, though he has slipped a bit recently. He leads the AL in ERA and only Justin Verlander and Jon Lester have struck out more batters. Batters are managing only .245/.277/.346 against him. And he leads all of baseball (pitchers and hitters) in Wins Above Replacement and leads all pitchers in WPA.
NL: The two finalists as far as I am concerned are Tim Lincecum and Dan Haren. I will go with Haren. His 2.01 ERA in is ridiculous given the home ballpark. Opposing hitters are going .189/.219/.311 against him. He is leading NL pitchers in VORP, Pitching Runs Created, and WPA.
The awards will take next week off due in large part to the shortened schedule created by the All-Star Game.