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. 17 through Sunday, Aug. 23. 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
Jorge De La Rosa gave up six runs in six frames and walked away with a wild Coors-aided 14-11 win. This kind of thing happens when you play at altitude. But that doesn’t keep it from being a very lucky win.
Bad luck division
Barry Zito received a no-decision and Bronson Arroyo a loss when they faced each other. Zito threw six scoreless, striking out four. Arroyo allowed one run in eight frames, dipping below .500 with his season record at 11-12.
On Monday, the White Sox chased Brian Bannister, scoring seven runs in as many innings. And he avoided being dinged with a loss. But that would be burying the lead because of the reason he walked away with a no-decision: Scott Linebrink managed to blow a three-run lead on a pair of walks (to Royals hitters no less) and a pinch-hit, three-run bomb by Mike Jacobs. Still, because of Roman Colon and John Bale, the Royals found a way to hand the lead back to the South Siders and give Linebrink a cheap victory. Sometimes it is simply embarrassing to be a Royals fan.
Another Royals come-from-behind effort can be highlighted here. Joe Nathan blew a tight one-run save with a Brayan Pena solo shot in the ninth. The Twins retook the lead in the 10th and Nathan got the win.
Wes Littleton Award
I am unmoved by the degree of difficulty exhibited by Matt Capps when he was protecting a three-run lead against the Reds in Pittsburgh. First up was Wladimir Balentien as a pinch hitter. Jonny Gomes, Chris Dickerson and Drew Stubbs followed. Capps still managed to make it interesting, with a Dickerson single and a Ronny Cedeno error. But he pulled it out.
Capps’ .034 WPA isn’t blowing anybody away. He had the lowest leverage index of any Pirates pitcher in the game. But he is the official “savior.”
Please hold the applause
Joel Hanrahan and Jesse Chavez each got a hold for their efforts against the Brewers. Hanrahan came in first with a three-run lead, alternating a pair of walks with a pair of outs. Then Chavez allowed one of the two base runners he inherited from Hanrahan to score on a Prince Fielder single. Neither pitched well.
Any sufficiently advanced defense is indistinguishable from pitching
Chad Billingsley strikes out a lot of batters—149 so far this year. But he struck out only one Cardinal on Tuesday. The defense behind him allowed him to throw six innings, allowing two runs on three hits.
A few hundred words on draft bonuses
Every year we see a fair number of pieces decrying the bonuses that amateur players get in the draft. Words like “shocking” and “out of control” are thrown around. Red flags are thrown. And teeth are gnashed. This year is no exception. With Steven Strasburg being the big prize and with the general trend being that more and more attention is being paid to the rule four every year, the temperature of the outrage is at a higher point than usual.
Don’t listen to any of it. If financial ruin is at hand for baseball teams (it is not), the draft will be among the least of its causes. Much the opposite: Even with “record” bonuses being handed out, the draft is among the best values in the sport. It is a cost-saving vehicle, not a cash drain. Developing young players is insanely profitable.
Most teams spend somewhere between six and nine million dollars per year on bonuses. That is for all the players they sign. If they can produce so much as one average major league player, a Mark Teahen, they at least break even, probably even come out ahead by way of having six cost controlled years.
Legitimate star drafted players save teams tens of millions of dollars. I would go as far as to say that given the $15 million the Nationals are now committed to paying Strasburg, to pay for himself he needs to be only a slightly above-average major league pitcher, a Scott Baker or Braden Looper. He doesn’t need to be Tim Lincecum.
Now that ignores the opportunity costs and PR costs that would be a side effect of him falling short of the massive expectations and his No. 1 overall pick status. But from a purely financial standpoint, he is one of the best values in baseball. Asking for him to be limited beyond what he’s already lost by virtue of his current paltry negotiating power seems beyond the point.
One theme that emerges when you talk about draft bonuses is what players “deserve” and what they have “proven.” This is a red herring. Whether you are talking about free agents or draft picks or even contracts with concessions companies, teams view deals as an investment, not as a reward for past deeds. Contracts are an investment in the future of the organization and a wager on what the player will do in the future. “Deserve” has nothing to do with it.
With these bets, sometimes the team wins. Often, teams lose, but when you get beyond individual players and look at drafts as a whole, the teams almost always come out way ahead. Being able to pay one of your regulars less than a half a million dollars is a pretty nice way to hold down expenses, even if you have to pay two or three million up front.
So as far as I am concerned, more power to the players. They’re a valuable commodity and I don’t begrudge them for trying to maximize their return in what might be the only contract they ever sign as a professional baseball player.
Joe Carter Award
Delmon Young is back to his old tricks. He drove in eight runs this week while hitting a paltry .207/.233/.483. The slugging was all right, but the rest of it was a mess.
Having a similar week was Ryan Howard, who I haven’t been mentioning anywhere in the awards for the last couple of months. Howard also drove in eight runs with a weak .222/.276/.481 line.
Season: Jose Lopez has driven in 75 runs this year, but has walked only 17 times and is hitting .271/.297/.450. Jose, we love the power, but take a pitch every now and then. Please. Getting on base matters.
His .229/.323/.444 line is weighted down by the slowest of starts, but given that he has hit .263/.353/.564 since June 1, I don’t expect to see David Ortiz here at the end-of-the-season review. Still, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about him briefly with 75 RBI and those pedestrian rate stats.
Rey Sanchez Award
With seven singles, Orlando Cabrera had little trouble hitting for average this week. The problem was that he didn’t do much else with the stick, hitting .290/.294/.387.
Season: Adrian Beltre has hit only five home runs and has drawn only 11 walks in 338 at-bats this season, carrying a .275/.304/.382 line. Let’s not elaborate on other things he is notable for in 2009.
Moving on, at .284/.313/.435, Garrett Anderson is still and always will be Garrett Anderson.
Orlando Cabrera isn’t a one-week wonder in the Sanchez. He is hitting .282/.314/.377 and has drawn only 27 walks in 504 at-bats.
Harmon Killebrew Award
Ryan Zimmerman smacked five hits in 22 at-bats. Those five broke down as one single, one double, one triple and two home runs. He also walked five times. .227/.370/.636 is an idiosyncratic line, but it gets the job done.
Mike Napoli was Mike Napoli, hitting .214/.353/.429.
Season: Dan Uggla is an easy choice as a second baseman who is hitting .240/.349/.442 with 22 bombs and 69 walks.
Steve Balboni Award
Clete Thomas earns this one by striking out 10 times in 19 at-bats and generally being overwhelmed at .211/.286/.211.
Chipper Jones had an interesting line this week at .050/.310/.050. That was one single in 20 a- bats with eight walks and eight strikeouts. He also stole a base, which is something I am not sure I would like to see if I were a Braves fan, given his age and injury history. I would almost rather see him play it conservative on the bases.
Season: Chris Davis may be returning to Arlington, but chances are good that no matter how much he learned on his Oklahoma City refresher course, he probably can’t salvage his 2009 numbers: 114 strikeouts in 258 at-bats will sabotage you no matter how much power you show and no matter how good your defense at first base. His .202/.256/.415 is a Marianas Trench-sized hole to dig yourself out of.
Three true outcomes
Jack Cust makes his usual appearance with three homers, five walks and four strikeouts in 14 at-bats. But I don’t usually expect to see Brian Roberts here with four bombs, five walks and five home runs.
Season: It is hard to beat Mark Reynolds, whose 38 home runs, 61 walks and 170 strikeouts rank second, 32nd and first respectively in the majors. He is almost a lock to set a new strikeout record for a season.
This week’s MVP
AL: Brian Roberts makes it here as well as the TTO. He is having a good year (.295/.362/.480) in what has been a pretty good career. This is his seventh year as a regular and he just ticks away solid campaign after solid campaign. You can say all of the things I said about Mark Buehrle a few weeks ago about Roberts. He is the kind of quiet, professional excellence without the drama that will get you noticed on SportsCenter.
Roberts hit .379/.471/.862 this week with three stolen bases in addition to the four home runs and five walks that I mentioned above. Well done.
NL: Jayson Werth had the best week of his life (don’t call me out on that if you look it up and it turns out to be the second best. It was just an expression) with eight extra base hits, five being balls that went over the fence in a .440/.481/1.160 slaughter of NL pitching.
Season: Albert Pujols is in a world by himself among NL players. But that really is no surprise since his .317/.441/.665 is merely one of his better years rather than a staggering display that is shocking the world like Mauer’s explosion.