Welcome to the awards.
All stats are for the period of Monday, April 19 through Sunday, April 25. All season stats are through the 25th. For award definitions, see this year’s primer.
This week’s proof that assigning wins and losses to a pitcher is an arcane practice that must stop
Good luck division
Dan Haren was crushed by Cardinal bats to the tune of seven runs in six innings. He allowed nine hits, three of which were home runs. He got an ugly win because Kelly Johnson and his friends owned Kyle Lohse. Interestingly, both starting pitchers drove in a run off of each other. I don’t know how unique that is, but it struck me as something that would happen infrequently.
If it weren’t for Darren Oliver, Tim Wakefield would have an ugly six-run, six-inning, five-walk loss on his record. However Oliver blew the save for Colby Lewis and Wakefield walked away with a no-decision, though it appears he may have lost his rotation spot.
The struggling pitchers match-up of Chad Billingsley and Homer Bailey went badly. It went very badly. It went 12 runs in eight and a third combined badly. Billingsley’s game score was a wretched 25. Still, the fact that they did this against each other, coupled with meltdowns from relievers Nick Masset and Ramon Troncoso, saved the starters from receiving a loss.
Bad luck division
It wasn’t a no-hitter, but Jonathan Sanchez pitched brilliantly for the Giants, allowing one run in seven innings to the red hot Padres (who knew?), striking out 10. But he got the loss. He now stands at 1-1 with an ERA under 2, a K per nine over 12 and a half, and an OPS against under .450. That’s an indictment of the Giants offense.
Chad Billingsley has had a rough start to 2010. He has been consistently beaten up by opposing lineups. He finally gets something going against the Nats, going six solid innings, allowing one run on four hits and two walks, striking out five and what happens? He gets the loss because Scott Olsen and a pair of relievers shut down the Dodgers offense.
I don’t know whether I should include a game that was called after five innings. If so, Tommy Hanson has an argument as he allowed one run in five innings, holding the Mets without an extra base hit. He still got the loss as the Braves failed to score before the game went into the books.
Fernando Nieve blew the save on the very first batter he faced when Marlon Byrd’s single allowed a runner inherited from Jonathan Niese to score. After Nieve did that, the Mets lineup bashed a trio of Cub pitchers for five runs, handing Nieve the win.
Wes Littleton Award
I was out at Victory Field when I saw the score of the Milwaukee/Pittsburgh beatdown and I was excited at the chance that we might have another true Littleton, emulating the inspiration for the name of this category. I was even more excited when I saw that Milwaukee had pulled starter Randy Wolf after only six innings. But alas instead of giving one reliever three innings and the save, they gave a trio of pitchers an inning each. As the author of this column I felt cheated. And if you are wondering whether this was just a roundabout way of rubbing it in that I watched Aroldis Chapman pitch this week and odds are that you did not, well, yeah. It is.
I’m not saying that Aaron Heilman was blazing through the Phillies lineup in the ninth inning. He did yield a walk, a steal and an RBI single. But Chad Qualls getting called in with a three-run lead, a runner on first with two out was a little more than was probably needed and it doesn’t conform to my definition of what a save really represents.
Please hold the applause
It is unclear how broadly you would have to define the term help to determine whether Josh Rupe actually helped the Royals on Wednesday. He entered with a one-run lead and gave up a leadoff single and then a sacrifice to put the runner at second. That runner was allowed to score by John Parrish, who was brought in to relieve Rupe.
Rupe really did nothing to benefit the Royals but he still got a hold because technically although he was charged with the tying run, his team was still ahead when he exited the game. Hypothetically, if he had left two men on base who would have gone on to score, he would have been on the hook for the loss, but still would have had his hold. That happens from time to time and is one of my favorite logically inconsistent statistical oddities in the game.
Ramon Ramirez ran into some major problems in the ninth against Baltimore, allowing a home run and a double, getting charged with two runs in two-thirds of an inning. Papelbon had a relatively easy job, retiring two with a three-run lead and one man on so I could put him in the Littleton category. But Ramirez gets the attention in this game because of the ungainly stat line accompanying his hold.
Jason Frasor entered Friday’s game with Tampa protecting a two-run advantage. The play by play from there goes: walk, stolen base, fly out, groundout advancing the runner, RBI single, stolen base, walk. Then he was replaced by Kevin Gregg, who made the final out of the eighth to get the Jays out of the jam that Frasor had put them into. Frasor got a hold despite being comically ineffective.
Any sufficiently advanced defense is indistinguishable from pitching
In the game in which he beat Jon Sanchez, Mat Latos received the win despite striking out only two of the 24 San Francisco batters he faced. Only four batted balls in seven frames found pasture. Only one went for extra bases. Petco Park is a great place to be a pitcher but it isn’t that great.
In Luis Atilano’s first career start, he did what we have seen Washington pitchers do many times over the last year or two: ride a very favorable bit of luck on balls in play. Atilano struck out one batter in six innings while walking two.
Anibal Sanchez figured out a way to strand a lot of baserunners, giving up nine hits in six and two thirds, striking out only one, yet getting the win because of the paltry one run that was scored against him.
Joe Carter Award
Shane Victorino, Carl Crawford and David DeJesus all drove in four runs this week. If you drive in four per week, you will end the season with a little over 100 and thus be a Proven Run Producer. Victorino’s week was a little different than that of Crawford and DeJesus. Victorino hit .174/.167/.261. Crawford and DeJesus hit .400/.448/.640 and .300/.417/.600 respectively.
First, thank you for all of the responses last week to my renaming request. Of note, thanks to Paul for running a much better search than I could have. Please go read his contribution in the comments.
Because of those suggestions, I am changing the name to simply the Sanchez Award as the only three hitters with the last name of Sanchez who accumulated over 500 at-bats in their career are all walking, talking examples of how you can get overrated by way of being heavy on the batting average and light on most everything else. Hats off to you guys. My readers are much smarter than I and I’ve said so for years.
It hurts me to put his name here, but Billy Butler really does deserve it. .304/.304/.391 is not a good week for a first baseman.
Alberto Callaspo hit .286/.318/.333 in 21 at-bats.
And finally, Hunter Pence has been part of the problem in Houston all year with a season line of .209/.232/.284. This week he had an acceptable batting average but was in no way part of the solution, going .278/.316/.389.
Harmon Killebrew Award
Ian Stewart rapped out four hits in 18 at-bats. However two of them were doubles, another was a home run, and he chipped in four walks for a .222/.391/.500 total.
Elsewhere Prince Fielder went .238/.407/.429. Much of his contributions were in the form of his five walks.
Steve Balboni Award
Somehow I forgot to run this award for the first two weeks of the season. It honors the player whose abnormally large strikeout rate sabotages his chances of making a positive contribution to his team’s outcomes. Last year Chris Davis was a pretty obvious nominee, since his complete inability to make any kind of contact had cost him his job.
This week we have no shortage of nominees, headed by Ryan Spilborghs, who struck out eight times in 15 at-bats and hit .067/.125/.267.
David Freese fanned in half of his 16 at-bats on his way to .188/.235/.188.
If you are looking for something closer to full time duty, David Wright went .182/.268/.227 with 10 strikeouts in 22 at-bats. And Adam Lind had some things going for him with a home run, a double and three walks, but nine Ks dragged his line down to .136/.231/.318.
Three true outcomes
Joey Votto smacked two homers, walked seven times and struck out six times in 20 at-bats.
Adam Dunn went two-five-nine in 25 at-bats.
And Derrek Lee went one-eight-seven in 27 at-bats.
I mentioned Juan Pierre earlier. He was perfect in avoiding any of the three true outcomes in 24 at-bats.
Coming in a close second was Alcides Escobar, who only had a single walk and a single strikeout in 26 at-bats.
Neither here, nor there
Every other kooky idea and movement has a Facebook group or fan page. If somebody starts a group looking to turn back the clock on reliever usage patterns, I will be there. It isn’t a reasonable short term goal to get every closer into tie games with two on and one out in the seventh but I hope we can at least get past the one inning and one inning only and only the ninth inning standard operating procedure.
Things are going in the wrong direction now with teams not only locking in their closer as a ninth inning and only ninth-inning-in-a-save situation pattern, but now they’re trending toward locking their second best reliever into an eighth inning and only eighth-inning-in-a-save situation pattern. This is out of hand. Don’t do the Jerry Manuel thing and go through a dozen and a half tied innings waiting to get the lead before you use your best arm.
This week’s MVP
AL: Justin Morneau collected six extra base hits and seven walks while not striking out even once in 21 at-bats. .476/.607/.952 is tasty.
NL: Kelly Johnson is having a massive start in his attempt to rebound from a very bad .224/.303/.389 in 2009. His week featured four doubles, four home runs and four walks for a .375/.464/1.042 line, bringing his season totals up to .327/.431/.800. He obviously isn’t going to keep up this kind of pace. But I wonder if it isn’t too early to acknowledge both the power of the stadium formerly known as BOB and that last year was a fluke and that he is who we thought he was a couple of years ago.