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, July 27 though Sunday, Aug. 2. 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
John Smoltz had a similar game to Parra, picking up his second win of the season despite allowing five runs in six frames including a pair of two-run home runs and learned the joys of having the Red Sox lineup on your side.
Bad luck division
Matt Cain and Zach Duke gave their respective teams seven and nine scoreless frames. Duke was criminally lucky on balls in play, having struck out only one batter, but when you get that luck, you usually expect to get the win. But in that respect, both he and Cain were unlucky. Neither received credit for a win, nor obviously blame for a loss as Randy Winn ended the contest with a walk-off single in the 10th.
Jeff Fulchino got the win in a game that I also could have cited in the good luck division. After Ryan Dempster imploded for six runs in five frames, Wesley Wright and Fulchino allowed three runs each to the Cubs. Angel Guzman allowed another run and the rout was on with Jeff Stevens, Aaron Heilman and Jeff Samardzija all doing their part to ensure an Astros (and Fulchino) victory.
Sergio Romo relieved Barry Zito, and he did his job, stranding two inherited runners with a strikeout of Andrew McCutchen. Zito had done good work up to then and with five and two thirds innings of one run ball with six strikeouts, he probably deserved credit more than Romo.
Matt Thornton blew the save by allowing a solo shot to Nick Swisher and got saved himself by Dewayne Wise. His cross-town rival Kevin Gregg also walked away with a blown save and a win against the Marlins. And add Greg Burke of the Padres to the list for his performance against Milwaukee.
Wes Littleton Award
Andrew Bailey had saves in games on back to back days he allowed runs. Both were against the Red Sox. That’s a nine ERA in two games in which he raised his ERA by about a quarter point. But he got the statistical pat on the back and will have a slightly higher figure for his agent to point to when it comes time for his first arbitration hearing in a couple of years. Another opportunity on Friday was a three-run save in which the first out was Joe Inglett, who currently carries a .473 OPS.
Please hold the applause
Any sufficiently advanced defense is indistinguishable from pitching
In his last start as a Mariner, Jarrod Washburn struck out only one of the 27 Blue Jays he faced. He also had a 6/13 ground ball/fly ball ratio. And he was punished with only one run on five hits and three walks.
Just relaying from my younger days, I kind of wonder if cutting out the liquor meant fewer 2 a.m. trips to White Castle and Denny’s for LenDale White.
Joe Carter Award
If this felt like a very offense-friendly week to you, rest assured it was, especially in the AL, where batters slugged 30 points higher than they have this season overall. Major league hitters as a whole slugged 20 points higher than normal. This led to some odd batting lines, like the one Angel Pagan put up for the Mets, driving in six runs with four extra-base hits, but with a disastrous .207 OBP.
Jermaine Dye (.200/.231/.440), Felipe Lopez (.242/.286/.303), Scott Podsednik (.222/.250/.259), Carlos Guillen (.182/.333/.318) and Alex Rios (.200/.200/.280) all drove in five runners, the same number as Mark Reynolds, who slugged .947, Andre Ethier, who hit a very nice all-around .300/.400/.567, and Melky Cabrera, who did more than just hit for the cycle, going .346/.393/.769.
Honorable mention for Ben Molina, who despite 52 ribbies, has been an offensive sinkhole for the Giants with his .269 OBP.
Rey Sanchez Award
Gerardo Parra was credited with seven hits in six games, which is a nice start to a pleasant and productive week, but only one of those seven was of the extra-base variety and he failed to walk in 22 at-bats, adding up to a pretty forgetful .318/.304/.364 week.
Season: Parra is a 22-year-old rookie who jumped up directly from Mobile, so he can be forgiven a little bit, but he is hitting a rather weak .274/.313/.415.
Still, Parra is just a runner-up. Vladimir Guerrero has dominated this year, with his .290/.319/.415 being damning evidence of steep decline.
Quick question, as two players who entered their primes as players with skill sets generally regarded as good bets to age well, Vlad and Andruw Jones sure have taken on steep falls. I realize that the plural of anecdote is not data, and tendencies are just tendencies and not universal truths, but isn’t it weird that guys with athleticism and good performance records and lots of “young player skills” have fallen off this much? Talk amongst yourselves in the comments.
Harmon Killebrew Award
Dan Uggla did pretty well for a man with only one single to his name this week. He made up for his lack of one-base hits with a pair of bombs, a double and five walks in 21 at-bats. .190/.346/.524 looks odd, but it gets the job done.
Season: A prolonged slump has taken the leader for much of the year, Carlos Pena, out of the running at least temporarily with a .214/.345/.489 line, which is still a positive contribution, especially when factoring in defensive value, but for now, I like a pair of catchers here.
Chris Iannetta is hitting only .230, but with enough power and patience to push the second and third categories of his line to .340/.452, which even at altitude is a nice contribution to a healthy offense.
At sea level, Jason Varitek has been resurgent in his 270 at-bats, batting .233/.346/.448, his best slugging percentage since 2005.
Steve Balboni Award
Mike Jacobs did what Mike Jacobs does. In 18 at-bats, he smacked a home run, struck out nine times, and did pretty much nothing else. Striking out in half of your a- bats has consequences. Those consequences for Jacobs came in the form of a .167/.211/.333 line.
Season: Chris Davis hasn’t played a game since June, but he is still tied for third in the AL in strikeouts, which tells you a lot about how he got to .202/.256/.415.
If you would like a nominee who isn’t currently earning his living in the PCL, the man brought in to take the spot that was formerly occupied by Balboni himself, Mike Jacobs, is giving the people of Kansas City a season that approximates the original Balboni in his worst seasons, with 92 whiffs in 287 at-bats. His 14 home runs haven’t been able to save him from his awful .216 batting average. His walk rate, good by his standards with 29 free passes, needs to be a lot better than it currently is to get his OBP up to even his terrible career rate of .314. And his defense was bad enough that Billy Butler is picking up the vast majority of playing time at first base. At the heart of the problem is his strikeout rate, especially his strikeout rate versus lefties, standing at 29 in 82, leading to a .195/.267/.280 line against southpaws.
All in all, he is hitting .216/.292/.408 and making Dayton Moore look foolish.
Three true outcomes
Mark Reynolds had a TTO kind of week, showing up strong in all three categories, with four home runs, three walks and 11 strikeouts in 19 at-bats.
Special attention should go to Jack Cust, who despite going homerless, had a great TTO week with a staggering 13 walks and 10 strikeouts in 20 at-bats.
Season: Mark Reynolds is wrestling this thing away from Carlos Pena, ranking second in baseball with 30 home runs, 31st in walks with 52, and running away from the pack in strikeouts with 143, on pace to break the record for whiffs in a season.
This week’s MVP
AL: I am happy that Kendry Morales put up a week like this because it gives me an opening for a mea culpa. You see, coming into the season, I was a doubter of the Angels in large part because I thought Morales would be wholly insufficient at first base and would go a long way toward dragging down an offense that was already going to give more at-bats to Maicer Izturis, Gary Matthews Jr. and Erick Aybar than normally would be prescribed by your doctor. But on all but the Matthews point, the players I pointed to as liabilities have proven to be assets and the Angels are the highest scoring team in baseball.
Morales has been a key contributor with 53 extra base hits already and smacking the ball around at a .299/.350/.581. This week, he was on fire, with five home runs punctuating a .423/.464/1.077 week. I’ve been wrong plenty of times before. I’ve rarely been this wrong about a player. I sincerely thought the Angels bordered on negligence by not getting at least a reasonable option in case Morales fell flat on his face.
Season: What happens when you have a Gold Glove-caliber catcher who hits .355/.426/.592? You get Joe Mauer, the fairly obvious candidate for MVP at this juncture. He has only seven home runs in the last two months compared to his 11 in May, so it looks like that power spike might well have been a small sample size anomaly. But he is still has a lead built up that will take some continued slugging by the surprise of the year Ben Zobrist (currently .298/.409/.573) to be beaten.
NL: This week, Josh Willingham had one game in which he did something that got him a lot of attention. I am sure you know by now that Willingham smacked two home runs in one game. The rest of his week wasn’t bad either and he ended with a .435/.519/.913 line in 23 at-bats.
Season: I shouldn’t even have to mention that Albert Pujols is a man walking among JV softball girls. With 81 and 42, his walks are tantalizingly close to being double his strikeouts. He leads baseball in home runs and is hitting .314/.438/.661.