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, Aug. 3 though Sunday, Aug. 9. 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
Season: Joe Saunders has six starts this season in which he allowed four or more runs and been let off the hook for a no-decision. If you bump the threshold up to five runs, he still has four games. This is how you get to be 9-7 with a 5.33 ERA.
Bad luck division
I can forgive the six walks that A.J. Burnett issued to Red Sox batters. He struck out six in seven and a third, matching his former Marlins teammate Josh Beckett bagel for bagel. They both ended up walking away with no-decisions.
I just love saying the name Kenshin Kawakami. I hate that he combined with Clayton Kershaw (another all-star of names) for 14 scoreless innings, striking out a man per frame and still walking away with nothing to show for the trouble.
Season: Zack Greinke has three losses and four no-decisions in quality starts. The best pitcher thus far in the AL is 11-7.
Jon Garland is 6-10. He has been nowhere near as good as Greinke, but he has 16 quality starts in 23 attempts and six losses in those 16.
With apologies to Cliff Lee, who still has a ridiculous 9-9 record despite an ERA+ over 150, Randy Wolf has a no-decision or a loss in 10 quality starts this season and another two in which he went five innings and allowed no runs or one run. In his five wins, he has allowed a total of seven runs and never more than two. Despite pitching for the second highest scoring team in the NL (trailing only the Phillies, who play in a much friendlier ballpark for offense), he has had to be practically perfect to get a win. And sometimes that wasn’t even enough.
After Andy Pettitte and John Lester exited the game with some nice lines (14 innings, one run between them), Phil Coke imploded, with two runs in his lone inning of relief, acquiring a blown save. Daniel Bard followed that charge and handed Coke a vultured W.
Wes Littleton Award
Mike MacDougal was protecting a four-run lead against the Pirates when he came into the game with two on and two out in the ninth inning facing Delwyn Young. Even if he hadn’t retired Young, he still would have had Andy LaRoche and his career .638 career OPS up next.
Please hold the applause
I will let you decide who was less deserving of a hold here. Matt Albers was charged with two runs when he allowed two baserunners and sported an in-game ERA of 13.50, or Chris Ray, who allowed both of those baserunners he inherited from Albers to score. The only reason either of them escaped a loss/blown save situation is because Albers had entered the game in the previous inning with a three-run lead. The Orioles scored two insurance runs in the following half inning. And then the Albers/Ray keystone cops show hit the road, turning a four-run lead into a two-run cushion.
Any sufficiently advanced defense is indistinguishable from pitching
Bronson Arroyo took the loss, but was fortunate to escape without more damage to his ERA than what was inflicted by the Giants. He struck out only wo of the 29 batters he faced and gave up only three runs on seven hits. One of the seven hits was out of play in the form of a home run.
Season: It seems fairly obvious that Jarrod Washburn is getting ridiculously lucky on balls in play. He is right at his career average for strikeouts per nine and hasn’t seen a dramatic change in his walk rate or home run rate allowed. But thanks to a .240 BABIP, he is almost a full run under his career ERA.
On the other end of the spectrum, Cole Hamels is having his worst season yet despite the fact that he has maintained his strikeout rate and improved his walk rate and groundball/flyball ratio. The reason is because he is sporting a .312 BABIP.
Joe Carter Award
Scott Hairston (who drove in eight runs) had terrible luck on balls in play with only five hits in 27 at-bats with five strikeouts. Regardless of the cause, his .185/.226/.370 week made him into a millstone the Oakland offense had to drag around.
Rey Sanchez Award
With seven RBI, Martin Prado also qualifies for a Carter mention, but how can you possibly pass up a .303/.294/.394 line in this category?
Harmon Killebrew Award
Evan Longoria collected only two singles in 25 at-bats. But he chipped in three home runs, a double, six walks and a steal for a .240/.387/.640 week.
Division rival Dustin Pedroia had a similar week with half of his six hits being singles, two being home runs, and a nice little .240/.367/.520 line.
Finally, Taylor Teagarden went .235/.350/.647
Steve Balboni Award
B.J. Upton has had a problem all season. Actually he has had several problems which have made him a bit of a square peg in a round hole. He is not hitting for a lot of power with only seven home runs and a modest .124 isolated slugging percentage. But he is striking out like a power hitter, fanning 123 times in 422 at bats. And he is hitting more fly balls, fewer line drives, and fewer ground balls than he has in previous campaigns. Taken with his defense and his 35 steals, we have the picture of a player who is stuck between being an outright speed player and a power hitter. That was reinforced this week with his nine strikeouts in 20 at-bats holding him down to a .150/.227/.150 line, negating the value of his two steals and his two walks.
Three true outcomes
I had to check this three times to make sure there was no mistake. I even went through the box scores with a sheet of scrap paper and a calculator. I simply did not believe that Jason Bartlett slugged two home runs, walked six times, and struck out six times in 25 at-bats.
Bartlett’s 2009 season is one of the greatest examples in recent memory of why we will never really figure this game out. He has almost doubled his career total in home runs. He is only 13 strikeouts away from his career high. His walk rate is above his career average. And he is hitting .336/.393/.528. I don’t get it. I just don’t. If you would have told me in March it would turn out this way, I would have called the authorities.
This week’s MVP
AL: It makes me happy to tout Billy Ray Butler here with a week that many of us Royals fans have known was in his skill set. The big guy hit .538/.563/.962 in 26 at-bats and raised his OPS 48 points. This comes on the heels of a July where he hit .308/.374/.529. Maybe he is who we thought he was back when he was breaking into the majors.
NL: Continuing the theme of silver linings for bad teams, Ryan Zimmerman launched four home runs while going .522/.593/1.217. He teamed with fellow sluggers Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham to propel the Nats to a perfect 7-0 record on the week.
I don’t have a clever way to tie this in, but we are talking about the Nats and it’s the kind of quirky thing that this column thrives on.