Welcome to the awards.
All stats are for the period of Monday, April 26 through Sunday, May 3. All season stats are through the 3rd. 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
Dana Eveland and Josh Beckett were the starters in a slugfest at the house formerly known as the Skydome. Fifteen runs in six innings later, neither of them took the loss. The pitcher credited with the win was Scott Schoeneweis, whose name I almost spelled correctly without looking it up and who definitely could be in the vulture category today courtesy of getting the win despite allowing an inherited runner to score before finishing the inning and subsequently opening the next inning with a solo home run allowed.
Randy Wells collected the win despite yielding five runs on eight hits in six innings against the Diamondbacks. The bullpen held down the fort while the Rodrigo Lopez and a couple of relievers got smacked around by Kosuke Fukudome and Alfonso Soriano.
In a game in which the starters combined to pitch three innings and a reliever gave up seven runs before being yanked from the game, the loss did not go to any of those three pitchers, nor to the reliever who gave up two runs and blew the save.
Bad luck division
Given my status as a Royals fan and a dedicated Zack Greinke fan, I simply threw up my hands this week. The guy has consistently been undermined by the impotence of his teammates. In his first game, he handed his team seven scoreless frames, striking out five, walking nobody. He left with a two-run lead that his bullpen squandered before there were two outs recorded in the following inning.
One of the things that made that game especially aggravating was the refusal to use one of the best relievers in baseball in a situation in which Josh Rupe, Robinson Tejeda and Bruce Chen were completely incapable of retiring anybody in a lineup that is second to last in the American League in runs scored and 11th in OBP. They make outs if you let them. But there Joakim Soria sat, watching Chen walk in the losing run. The next time he pitched was two days later when he needed work and the Royals were down by 10 runs. True story. I will say it a thousand times before any movement happens, but the way that bullpens are currently managed seriously needs to change.
In the second, even more egregious example, Greinke threw an 87-pitch complete game, yielding one run on an Evan Longoria solo home run, one of only four hits he gave up. Again he walked nobody. This time the Royals offense was shut out by Wade Davis and three Rays relievers.
Not to give anything away for next week when I roll out the season leaders in the pitching categories, but Greinke is 0-3 with an ERA just above two and a quarter. He has watched as the Kansas City bullpen has blown leads in half of his six starts and the offense has scored a total of 16 runs in all of those games combined. If this isn’t enough evidence to warrant killing off wins and losses as a statistic of note, I don’t know what will be.
I usually do not use minor league games for the column, but this is a bit of a special circumstance. Cedar Rapids no-hit the Kane County Cougars. The starter, Fabio Martinez-Mesa, got a no- decision because he ran up against his pitch count and was removed after the fifth inning, having struck out nine and walked four. The opposing pitcher, Ian Krol, (who grew up a half hour from the Cougars’ home park) had a better performance than his no-hit opponent, going six scoreless, striking out five, walking none and giving up only three singles and a double. He received no credit or blame as well.
Wes Littleton Award
Please hold the applause
One week after I referenced the rare occasion that somebody could get a hold and a loss in the same game, Rupe did it. The truth is that he pulled off the trick some 18 hours after the column was posted, in the first Greinke game that I referenced above. If you forget, the reason you can get both is because the rule for the hold is simply that you enter and leave the game with the save situation intact. The loss is given to you if the run that puts your team behind is charged to you.
Then, on Thursday, Darren O’Day did the same thing when Dustin Nippert allowed an inherited runner to score. And David Robertson did it against the Yankees in a game i n which Scott Linebrink got a blown save and a win, thus blowing everybody’s mind.
Any sufficiently advanced defense is indistinguishable from pitching
We are kind of used to this kind of thing coming from Livan Hernandez. One strikeout in seven innings with one run on six hits allowed. His teammate Luis Atilano now has the same number of strikeouts in his career as he does wins.
Tim Hudson induced 12 groundball outs in six and two thirds, so you might be allowed to excuse him for striking out only one of the 25 Astros he faced. Then again, they are Astros batters, so maybe we shouldn’t give extra credit to the pitcher for inducing weak grounders.
Mitch Talbot walked three times more batters than he struck out while going on to beat the Angels. Note that the Halos are 20th in baseball in strikeouts and 28th in walks. So it isn’t particularly easy to get them to do either one.
Small sample size theater
Austin Jackson is hitting .367/.420/.495 while leading the AL in strikeouts. His BABIP? .527.
Joe Carter Award
Last year’s super rookie Matt Weiters drove in six runs, hitting .150/.261/.300 in 20 at-bats.
Reid Brignac also drove in six. He went .222/.263/.389.
Season: Shane Victorino is sixth in the NL with 22 RBI. He is slugging .456, but getting on base at an anemic .275 clip.
Carlos Quentin has driven in 17 runs in 81 at-bats, but overall is struggling to the tune of .173/.313/.383.
We have a quartet of hollow averages with Alex Rios hitting .294/.294/.353, Michael Bourn at .292/.292/.375 with two steals and two times caught stealing, Kevin Kouzmanoff at .292/.292/.292 and Jeff Keppinger at .286/.286/.333.
Season: Yuniesky Betancourt has come down from a fast start and is hitting .277/..292/.372 wit only one walk and two home runs.
Elsewhere, fellow middle infielder Howie Kendrick is hitting .281/.326/.371 in 89 at-bats.
Harmon Killebrew Award
Aaron Hill hit only three singles in 24 at-bats, but two doubles, a home run and eight walks pushed him into a .250/.438/.458 week.
Another second baseman, Alberto Callaspo went .250/.345/.500.
Season: Mark Reynolds is picking up right where he left off in 2009, hitting .241/.368/.586. I will have more on him in a moment.
Adam Dunn, a guy made for this category has slugged four home runs, worked 18 walks, and has struck out 28 times, leading to a very conventional Adam Dunn line of .233/.371/.465.
Steve Balboni Award
What happens when you strike out 12 times in 17 at-bats? Will Venable found out first hand that you end up hitting .118/.250/.118.
Rickie Weeks fanned a staggering 15 times in 30 a- bats this week, going .125/.222/.219.
Season: Justin Upton’s pending stardom would be better served if he cut back on the strikeouts. His 36 in 98 at-bats would seem to be a contributing factor in his disappointing .224/.321/.388 start.
Lyle Overbay has fanned 28 times in 87 at-bats and stands at .184/.287/.345.
Drew Stubbs’ ability to make contact has always worried me. It is not reassuring that he has whiffed 27 times in 78 a- bats thus far and is hitting .179/.286/.269.
Three true outcomes
I mentioned Rickie Weeks a moment ago. He smacked one home run, walked four times and struck out 15 times in his 30 at-bats.
Colby Rasmus went one-six-10 in 22 at-bats.
And he isn’t the guy I would expect here, but Overbay went one-four-seven in 17 at-bats.
Season: And here is where Mark Reynolds re-enters the picture: Hs he has gone nine-16-31 in 87 at-bats.
And certifiably big dude Kyle Blanks is at three-10-32 in 72 at-bats.
Season: Eckstein is off to a one-three-two start in 85 at-bats for the Padres.
A.J. Pierzynski has gone oh-three-five so far in 73 at-bats.
Neither here nor there
One of the naming conventions in European soccer that I like is the aversion to over-generalized place names in team identities. In American sports we have a tendency to go broad and call a large number of teams by the name of the state instead of the specific city that the stadium is located in. So when you have a team whose stadium is in the suburbs, it is called by the larger metro name or by the name of the state, like the Florida Marlins or the Tampa Bay Rays. Sometimes even when the team is in the central city, it goes go by the name of the state, such as the Colorado Rockies.
European teams tend to go the opposite direction. When there are a dozen teams in the English Premier League from the London metropolitan area, none call themselves London. Instead you have the name of a neighborhood or suburb, or a reference to the team’s origin. There is precedent here in the states only at the minor league level, where you have suburban teams like Round Rock, Rome and Newark; a major league team would go by Austin, Atlanta, or New Jersey.
I will grant you that some metro teams over there end up with variations like Manchester United and Manchester City, Inter Milan and AC Milan, etc. And I will also grant you that the attempts by MLS to co-opt European naming strategies to American teams has come across as pretentious and hollow. But if I never had to hear Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim again, I would be a happy man. So don’t be alarmed if you occasionally see me refer to the St. Petersburg Rays or the Arlington Rangers.
Violating my own small sample size warnings
I don’t know what to make of Paul Konerko’s hot start. He obviously won’t slug .790 all season and EVERYTHING is subject to small sample size rules, but there are some indicators in the small sample that make me wonder if some of this is a basic career year.
For instance, while he is way above career norms in home runs per fly ball and the rate probably will come down closer to his career rates, I wonder if the big jumps in his walk rate and strikeout rate are sustainable. And his .194 BABIP is preposterous and might offset some of the losses in his other rate stats. I’m not the right analyst to tell you for certain what conclusions should be drawn, but I know I think it should be on everybody’s radar to regularly check where his season goes. It would be a pretty dramatic turnaround after his slow decline of recent years down from his peak in 2005 and 2006.
This week’s MVP
AL: Robinson Cano won the week with six extra base hits and a .440/.481/1.000 line.
Honorable mention has to go to Austin Kearns, who is back from the dead, hitting .440/.517/.880 this week and .373/.431/.880 this year overall.
Season: With a .387/.433/.763 start, my only complaint about Cano is that he should stop trying to steal bases. He is not good at it. I suppose with only 42 attempts in his career, he doesn’t try very often, but he is two of four this season and 19 of 42 in his career and he doesn’t seem to be getting any faster. He should get a solid stop sign from now on.
NL: Andre Ethier smoked three doubles and four home runs and drew three walks in 26 a- bats for a .385/.448/.962 week.
I wanted to point some attention at Kosuke Fukudome, who turned the trick out not striking out, but drawing seven walks, and smacking two home runs on his way to a nice little .364/.517/.727 week.
Season: Roy Halladay is my choice for MVP so far, having five quality starts in six tries. He has complete games in half of his starts, and two have been shutouts. He is ahead of his career-best walk rate and better than his career averages in home runs per nine innings and strikeouts per nine. His 1.47 ERA and 2.33 FIP are exceptional. Hats off to him. He is on fire.