Welcome to the awards.
This week we kick off our coverage of the freak show that is baseball’s statistical outliers and remind you what the strangely named categories represent.
All stats are for the period of Sunday, April 4 through Sunday, April 11. All season stats are through April 11.
This week’s proof that assigning wins and losses to a pitcher is an arcane practice that must stop
Good luck division
Derek Lowe was knocked around by the Cubs for five runs in six innings, allowing the same number of home runs as he accumulated in strikeouts. He got the win because three relievers tallied one scoreless inning each and because Jason Heyward and Brian McCann pummeled Carlos Zambrano.
Brandon Morrow and Brad Bergesen each had plenty of trouble, combining to allow 10 runs in nine and two thirds. Morrow walked five and Bergeson allowed merely eight hits. Their mutual inadequacy coupled with Mike Gonzalez’s failure to retire the Jays without incident let the starters off the hook.
Bad luck division
Dallas Braden was spectacular, holding the Mariners to one run on four hits, striking out 10 in seven innings. He didn’t get the win because the A’s offense could only get one run off Ian Snell. Bronx boogeyman Edwar Ramirez as Kanekoa Texeira yielded the game winning run on a Mark Ellis single in the tenth.
Jered Weaver was very good against Oakland in his second start of the week, striking out seven, allowing one run on four hits and a walk. Scot Shields took the win away by allowing a run in the eighth.
Bronson Arroyo and Brad Penny combined for 15 innings, allowing two runs on 10 hits and five walks, striking out 10. The sad part of a pitcher’s duel is that at least one of them will walk away with nothing to show for his effort. This time both received no credit and no blame. See also Ricky Romero and C.J. Wilson. Wilson can blame the ongoing implosion of Frank Francisco for his misfortune.
It really was considerate of Hideki Okajima to open the year with some of the best vulture fodder you are likely to see. It really was a remarkable performance, illustrating all that is wrong with traditional pitcher metrics. He entered the game with runners on second and third, nobody out, and the score knotted at five. After an RBI groundout, a single, a walk and a GIDP, he left the Red Sox in a two-run hole, yet no dings against his own ERA because the runs that scored were inherited baserunners. The Boston bats proceeded to make mincemeat out of Chan Ho Park and Okajima got the win. So if you’re looking at traditional metrics, he ended the day with a 0.00 ERA, a 1-0 record, and no idea that he had a really terrible appearance.
Jeremy Affeldt blew the save and got the win, not that my fantasy team really minds. Leo Nunez followed suit by allowing two inherited runs to score, one on a walk, and the other on a balk. Tyler Clippard also blew a save via inherited runs and got the win thanks to some fortuitously timed run support. Trevor Hoffman’s blown save/win was just about as ugly as you’re likely to see.
Wes Littleton Award
This award is for the most ridiculous save of the week, earned either because the pitcher had a preposterously easy job to do or he did it poorly and managed to eke out a save.
This week was as bad a week as I can remember for the Littleton. There were some games where the closer made it mildly interesting by giving up a run or by walking a couple of guys, but nobody really stood out. This is the first time I can remember that being the case. The closest thing I have to complain about is Tyson Ross’s three-inning save against the Mariners. Having personally watched the game, I can say he didn’t look especially good. The results were defensible. He entered protecting a one-run lead and allowed only one run, that on a solo shot to Juan Rivera. But while he was in the game, the Oakland lineup scored five runs and by the end, it would have required a herculean effort of suck to blow that lead.
Again, I’m not in love with the example because Ross did a reasonable job and the context was changed while he was sitting on the bench waiting for his turn to go back out. But it is kind of ridiculous that he got a save in what ended as a very low leverage situation.
My only alternative was courtesy of Matt Capps, who protected a three-run lead in the ninth, facing Rod Barajas, Angel Pagan and Jose Reyes. Usually, that is only strong enough an example to be my third or fourth choice, getting a brief mention and maybe a Fangraphs link.
Please hold the applause
Any sufficiently advanced defense is indistinguishable from pitching
This blatant, yet thus far fruitless attempt to get an eponymous law that I can call my own is a basic spitball attempt to highlight some pitchers who were lucky or unlucky on balls in play.
Scott Feldman struck out three Toronto batters in seven innings, a rate of less than four per nine frames. Nevertheless, he allowed only three runs on five hits, and all three runs were the result of a pair of home runs (obviously not balls in the field of play). So it seems safe to say that the Rangers defense did good work behind him.
Fausto Carmona somehow managed to strike out one batter, walk six, give up a home run, and yet allow no other hits. That’s right, six innings, 24 batters faced, six walks, no singles, doubles or triples. I am speechless.
From the offices of the London Daily Fail.
The Hardball Times has acquired a struggling British tabloid. We retained only one staff member, Nigel Studeman. This week Nigel wanted me to bring the Royals’ Opening Day debacle to everybody’s attention. Although he is new enough to baseball that he still calls ground rule doubles “boundaries” and I constantly have to remind him that home runs are not automatically worth six runs, even he was able to notice what a “bloody disgrace” the Kansas City club was on Monday.
It was not Zack Greinke’s finest effort (two runs allowed, one earned, “only” four strikeouts in six frames, and he was not as efficient as he usually is, letting his pitch count creep up faster than is normal for him). And it’s hard to be too hard on Willie Bloomquist (though I really wish I could justify it and go ahead with it anyway) for his error that allowed a Tigers run in the first inning. And lord knows anytime you have a lineup that has Scott Podsednik, Yuniesky Betancourt, Bloomquist and Jason Kendall, you should never expect to win the game. You probably would never expect to carry a lead for more than half the game. Still, given those caveats, the Royals were in good position, leading the game when Greinke exited after a Betancourt (!) home run.
But they blew it. They blew it in style, giving Greinke the first no-decision of a season that promises many more where that came from. When they bought in Roman Colon, Nigel called and asked me why they would trust such an awful “bowler” to protect the lead. He’s still learning, but Nigel can look at Colon and know that he isn’t going to collect wickets. And he can tell a poor run rate when he sees one.
Then, when the offense was inexplicably making progress in a futile comeback attempt, the Royals just could not avoid being the Royals. Kendall was thrown out at home, trying to turn an 8-4 game with the one out and bases loaded with Billy Butler at the plate into an 8-5 game with two on and Butler up.
Finally, in the bottom of the ninth with the same 8-4 deficit, manager Trey Hillman decided it was best not to pinch-hit for Betancourt, Kendall and Podsednik. Because why wouldn’t you want a chance to get multiple baserunners in an inning where you need four runs?
From an organization that routinely makes unconscionably bad decisions, this was to be expected. They confuse seniority for competence, tools for skills and reputation for reality. They go into the offseason talking about how they need to improve the fundamentals and they acquire bad fundamental ballplayers. They confuse Podsednik’s speed for actual performance on defense and on the bases. But he has horrific instincts in both places. Their two best defensive center fielders on the 40-man roster are Mitch Maier, who rests comfortably on the bench, and Brian Anderson, who is in the process of becoming a pitcher.
I would go on but I have a feeling that if I did, each paragraph would become a little less coherent and a little more indignant until I just start writing random profanities. So with thanks to Nigel, I will conclude my dissertation on the most palpably futile game of the week.
Joe Carter Award
This award recognizes the hitter with the largest disparity between his RBI total and his overall value.
Yunel Escobar drove in six runs in 26 at-bats. He also hit .192/.222/.269.
Elsewhere Miguel Tejada likewise drove in a half dozen. He was a bit better than Escobar, but that didn’t make him good: .240/.296/.400. Truth be told, he probably can complain heavily about bad luck. In 25 at-bats, he struck out only once. If you do that, you usually hit a lot better than .240.
Shane Victorino rounds out this triple non-threat with five ribbies and a putrid .185/.241/.296 line.
Rey Sanchez Award
This one goes to the hitter with the emptiest batting average.
I like Asdrubal Cabrera. I really do. I can’t deny the fact that his batting average was the only positive for him at the plate—.308/.333/.308 is not good. If you like, you can add in the fact that he was successful in only one of his three stolen base attempts this week.
Cody Ross’s .250 average is a lot lower than what I usually bring up here. But even at merely pedestrian, it really doesn’t reflect the fact that he produced a harmless .250/.280/.250. You could say the same for Jack Wilson’s .261/.292/.304 and Aaron Rowand’s .276/.276/.345.
Harmon Killebrew Award
This is the inverse of the Sanchez, citing somebody who is valuable despite a poor batting average.
Jhonny Peralta fits the description well, collecting just one single in his 20 at-bats, but making up for it by slugging a pair of doubles and a home run and collecting five walks and a stolen base: .200/.369/.450 isn’t half bad
Akinori Iwamura deserves mention too—he hit .227/.370/.450.
Three true outcomes
Nick Johnson is missing a category, but with seven walks and seven whiffs, he can fail to smack it over the fence and still wind up here.
You can have your choice here from among three qualified candidates.
Placido Polanco: 27 at-bats, one homer, one walk, no strikeouts
Derek Jeter: 28 at-bats, no homers, one walk, one strikeout
Miguel Tejada: 25 at-bats, one homer, no walks, one strikeout
Neither here, nor there
This is a small nit to pick, but every year I make it a point to complain about the paltry amount of college baseball on television during the regular season. I am mostly holding ESPN to account, but this also goes for the regional networks and CBS College Sports. I realize that there might be contractual issues and it would likely be low ratings fodder, but I also can’t see rights fees being that unreasonable. ESPN pays a lot of cash for the College World Series. It simply makes sense to me for the network to invest some of its airtime, especially on ESPNU to feed that beast and build interest in the months leading up to the event, rather than wait for the last minute. There are a lot of good rivalries, like Texas versus A&M, Stanford versus Arizona State, Florida State/Virginia, and LSU/Vanderbilt. Added to that, the best games, usually are Friday afternoons and early evenings, when most sports networks are playing reruns of previous basketball games or filler programs that aren’t time sensitive.
Admittedly I am biased as a draft geek who wishes he could see some more games featuring prospects. But I do wish that this coming Friday afternoon I could switch to channel 614 and catch a college game of the week (I nominate Virginia/Virginia Tech) instead of the 100th airing of the Miami Hurricanes football teams of the ’80s and ’90s. I don’t think this is too much to ask.
This week’s MVP
AL: I have said a lot of mean things about Vernon Wells in the last 24 months. So let’s raise a glass to Toronto’s center fielder and his .350/.500/.950 week, punctuated by his four home runs and five walks in 20 at-bats.