Editor’s note: feel free to stop reading now if you don’t want to read 4,400+ words on my fantasy baseball team. I won’t blame you for it. For those of you who do play fantasy, as I made picks I wrote down who I was considering and who was available per each pick to try to give some context for the pick. I’ll insert a “jump” line here so that RSS readers don’t have to see this whole massive post
Archive for the ‘jarrod parker’ tag
I’ve had a good string of predicting MLB’s major Post season awards in this space. In 2010 I went 8 for 8. In 2011 I again went 8-8 in predicting MLB’s awards, though I missed on predicting the unofficial Sporting News Executive and Comeback Player of the year. I don’t have much confidence in going 8-for-8 this year though; the AL MVP seems way too close to predict, and I have no idea how the Cy Young awards will go.
[Editor Note: I write this in phases over the course of the season, and finalized it in early October. After I wrote this piece some of the awards have already been announced; Sporting News announced Comeback Players of the Year last week. I'll put up another post talking about my guesses and which awards I got right and wrong in another article once all awards are announced in November.]
Here’s a sampling of major baseball writers’ and their predictions that I could find ahead of my publishing this article: Tom Verducci, Ken Rosenthal, Bob Nightengale, Jonah Keri, and Jayson Stark. Here’s the Fangraphs.com staff picks, heavily statistically weighted as you’d expect. As you will see, even the national writers are all over the road with their predictions. Here’s HardballTalk’s Matthew Pouliot’s theoreticall ballot, with some contrarian picks. Seamheads’ Andrew Martin has the typical sabre-slanted ballot.
Before reading on to my predictions on 2012’s winners, a statement to prevent arguments in the comments section. These are my guesses as to who will WIN the awards, not necessarily who DESERVES them. Invariably there’s a player who plays on a non-playoff or losing team but puts up fantastic numbers (Matt Kemp for the 2011 Dodgers, perhaps Mike Trout this year) who a number of loud pundits say “should” win the MVP. Well, the fact of the matter is that the current voter base absolutely takes into account the circumstances behind a player’s production, and places more value on batters who are in a pennant race. As do I. The MVP isn’t the “Best Overall Batter Award,” which would end a lot of these arguments (since, the Cy Young essentially is exactly the “Best Overall Pitcher Award” and thus is easier to predict); its the “Most Valuable Player” award, and I agree with many who believe that a guy hitting .370 for a last place team isn’t nearly as “valuable” as the guy who hits .320 and leads a team deep into a playoff race. It is what it is; if we want to change it perhaps the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA, whose awards these are) needs to add a category or clarify their requirements.
Secondly, when considering the Cy Young, invariably there’s one pitcher who puts up comparable numbers to another, but one plays in a weaker division so the same Sabr-focused pundits make their holier-than-thou proclamations about how the voter base failed in their picks. And their points are valid. But this is a prediction piece, not an opinion piece, and the fact of the matter is that current voters are still mostly old-school and put value on things like “Wins” and “ERA,” stats that most Sabr-nerds think are useless in evaluating a pitcher.
So keeping those two points in mind, Here’s my predictions for 2012:
- AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera. Despite the massive amount of internet baseball material devoted to talking about how great a season Mike Trout has had (mostly looking at his WAR values historically), I still see the voter base placing emphasis on three major points:
- Cabrera plays for a playoff team, Trout does not. The fact that the Angels will finish with a better record than the Tigers, or that the Angels clearly played in a harder division? Immaterial to the old-school voter base.
- Cabrara won the Triple Crown. And most Triple Crown winners throughout history also won the MVP. The fact that the triple crown is based on 3 relatively flawed statistics? Irrelevant to the narrative of the achievement itself. It remains an incredibly difficult achievement to accomplish in modern baseball’s era of specialized hitters (Ichiro for batting, Adam Dunn for homers) to hit for both average and power in the way that Cabrera consistently does. (Rob Neyer posted thoughts about this topic, quoting random people on the internet with various takes).
- Cabrera had a monster finish, Trout did not. Cabrera’s OPS in the run-in months was over 1.000 each of July, August and September. Trout peaked in July but was merely above average in the closing months. Your finish matters (as we’ll see in the NL Rookie of the Year race discussed later on).
Opinions like USA Today’s Bob Nightengale’s exemplify the bulk of the voter base right now. A few years ago the writers were smart enough to award Felix Hernandez a Cy Young with nearly a .500 record by recognizing more of the advanced metrics in play, but the Cy Young’s definition is a lot more specific than that of the MVP.
This is nothing against Trout; the Angels were 6-14 when he got called up and finished 89-73. That’s an 83-59 record with him, a .584 winning percentage that equates to 95 wins, which would have won the AL West. Trout was the undeniable MVP for me nearly all season. You hate to say it, but when the Angels faltered so did Trout’s MVP candidacy.
The rest of the ballot? Adrian Beltre and Robinson Cano get some typical “best player on best teams” votes. I’d give Josh Reddick some top-5 votes too.
- AL Cy Young: David Price, by virtue of his 20 wins and league leading ERA, will squeak out the win over last year’s winner Justin Verlander. The statistical crowd will point out that Verlander was just as dominant in 2012 as he was in 2011 (when he unanimously won), and that his significantly higher innings total and lead in Pitcher WAR should get him the award. However, as with the AL MVP you have to take into account the voter base. Price won 20 games, that he pitches in a tougher division, that he beat out Verlander for the ERA title. Plus, and I hate to say it, but Price is the “sexy pick,” the guy who hasn’t won before. Verlander is the known guy and sometimes you see voters being excited to vote for the new guy. Its kind of like the Oscars; sometimes an actor wins for a performance that wasn’t the best as a way to “give it to the new guy.” Certainly this contributed to Clayton Kershaw’s victory in 2011 and we may see similar behaviors again. There might even be an east coast voter bias in play. Jered Weaver, Chris Sale, Jake Peavy, and Felix Hernandez all get some top-5 votes, possibly finishing in that order behind Price and Verlander.
- AL Rookie of the Year: Mike Trout, in what should be an unanimous vote. He could (if the MVP vote goes the way many thinks it should) become only the 3rd player ever to win both the MVP and the RoY in the same year (Fred Lynn and Ichiro Suzuki being the others). In the conversation: Yu Darvish (who certainly did not have a BAD year, but drifted mid-season), Yoenis Cespedes (who would win it in most years), Matt Moore (my preseason guess; I’m still shocked he displayed virtually none of the dominance of the 2011 post-season during his 2012 season), Will Middlebrooks (who made Kevin Youklis expendible within just a couple of months of arrival), and amazingly Tommy Milone (who was nearly unhittable in his home stadium and continued his performance from the Nats in the end of 2011). A couple other names in the conversation: Scott Diamond and Jarrod Parker.
- AL Mgr: Buck Showalter should get this this award for taking a team that should be a .500 ballclub based on pythagorean record and put them in the playoffs for the first time in a decade. I also think he wins because of east coast bias, since certainly what Bob Melvin and the Oakland A’s pulled off is nothing short of fantastic. Robin Ventura may have gotten some votes had the White Sox held on, but may be the 3rd place finisher.
- (Unofficial “award”): AL GM: I almost hate to say it, but Billy Beane. The A’s were supposed to be awful this year, having traded away most of their starting rotation (as explained further in this Aug 2012 post here) and let most of their hitters walk. Instead they acquire a couple of good pieces from Washington, sign the exciting Cespedes to go with a few bottom-barrel FAs, and overcame a 13-game deficit to win the powerhouse AL West. A great story.
- (Unofficial “award”): AL Comeback Player of the Year: It has to be Adam Dunn, right? How do you go from the lowest qualifying average in history to career highs in homers and not get votes. Jake Peavy may get some votes after two injury plagued seasons, but he was pretty decent last year and isn’t exactly coming out of nowhere like Ryan Vogelsong did last year.
Now for the National League:
- NL MVP: Buster Posey’s strong finish, combined with his team’s playoff run and his playing catcher gives him the nod over his competition here. For much of the season I thought this award was Andrew McCutchen’s to lose, but his fade and Pittsburg’s relative collapse from their division-leading mid-season costs him the MVP. The rest of the ballot? Ryan Braun may be putting up MVP-esque numbers but the fall out from his off-season testing snafu will cost him votes (both in this race and for the rest of his career unfortunately). Johnny Molina getting some press too, for many of the same reasons as Posey. Joey Votto probably lost too much time to be really considered, but remains arguably the best hitter in the league.
- NL Cy Young: R.A. Dickey was the mid-season choice, was challenged late but his 20th win combined with his fantastic ERA for a knuckleballer makes him the winner. Amazingly, Dickey has pitched most of the season with a torn abdominal muscle, making his season accomplishments even more impressive. Johnny Cueto makes a great case, leading the playoff-contending Reds, but he slightly sputtered down the stretch. Clayton Kershaw quietly had a fantastic year, leading the league in ERA, but as we saw with David Price above, I think the voters like to vote for the new guy. Kershaw got his Cy Young last year; this year is Dickey’s time. Other names in the top-5 mix: Matt Cain, Cole Hamels, Gio Gonzalez and perhaps even Jordan Zimmermann (who got some mid-season attention by virtue of his excellent July). I have a hard time giving the award to a reliever, but the numbers Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel are putting in as the closers of Cincinnati and Atlanta respectively may be enough to at least appear in the top-5. Lastly, the odd case of Kris Medlen; his WAR puts him in the top 10 despite only having 12 starts. Is this enough to give him some votes? Maybe some 5th place votes here and there. But look out in 2013.
- NL Rookie of the Year: Bryce Harper, who won his 2nd rookie of the month in September, finished incredibly strong and took advantage of late-season fades from his two biggest competitors to win this award. The National media buzz on Harper/Trout was never greater than during the season’s last month, and while games in April count the same as in September, the lasting impression is made by he who finishes strongest. Wade Miley has a great case but I think falls short. Cincinnati’s Todd Frazier has had a great season and was beating Harper’s numbers across the board, but he sat once Scott Rolen came back and faded down the stretch. Milwaukee’s Norichika Aoki has had a nice season at age 30, coming over from Japan. I don’t think guys like this (or Darvish, or Ichiro Suzuki for that matter) should qualify as “rookies” but rules are rules. Anthony Rizzo, Wilin Rosario, Matt Carpenter, and Mike Fiers also put up good rookie numbers and may get some 5th place votes.
- NL Mgr: Davey Johnson. Nobody had the Nats winning nearly 100 games. Had the Pirates not collapsed perhaps we’d be talking about Clint Hurdle. Don Mattingly had somewhat of a transitionary team playing great early, but the mid-season influx of high-priced talent, and their subsequent collapse costs him any support.
- (unofficial award) NL GM: Mike Rizzo, pulling off the Gio Gonzalez trade, signing Jackson in a deal immediately lauded as a great move and quickly putting together a team that looks to be 15-20 games improved over 2011. We thought they’d be in the mid-80s in wins; who thought they could be pressing for 100??
- (Unofficial “award”): NL Comeback Player of the Year: Buster Posey. He went from a season-ending injury to an MVP season. In other years Adam LaRoche may get some looks here, but not in the face of what Posey has been doing for San Francisco. Lastly I had Johan Santana on a short list for this award until he was lost for the season in the aftermath of his 134 pitch no-hitter on June 1st. At at point he was 3-2 but with a 2.38 ERA. He finished the season 6-9 with a 4.85 ERA and was shut down on August 17th. Are we sure that no-hitter was worth it?
As we have already seen in the playoffs thus far, predicting these coin-flip games, or predicting the outcome of individual games, is usually fool’s gold. The first four games of the playoffs featured four Road-team wins. You can argue that the higher-seeded teams in the divisional series are “better” than the home teams and this was to be expected … except that we’re talking about divisional winners/90+ win teams all around. So far, the results have been surprising.
What’s also been tough this year is the lack of “announced” starters. The Tigers seem to know exactly who they’re throwing for all 5 games of the series … but nobody else does. Baltimore’s only announced starter (Jason Hammel) hasn’t pitched since September 11th and they have a handful of guys to pick from. In last year’s version of this post I was able to do match-up analysis. This year i’ll just look at the breadth of the starters to see who has an upper hand.
- Washington’s likely starters: Gonzalez, Zimmermann, Jackson, Detwiler
- St. Louis’ likely starters: Wainwright, Garcia, Carpenter, Lohse
I’ve already talked at depth about this series in my previous post. Just looking at starters, its hard not to see the Nats as the favorite. Our Ace Gonzalez goes twice in the series, St. Louis doesn’t hit righties as well. Carpenter could be a difference maker.
- Oakland’s likely starters: Parker, Milone, Anderson, Blackley
- Detroit’s likely starters: Verlander, Fister, Sanchez and Scherzer
Justin Verlander is as close to unbeatable as there is, again evidenced by his game 1 dominance. (7ip, 3 hits one solo home run). If he’s set to go in game 4, Oakland basically has to win out. The rest of Detroit’s planned starters all sport sub 4.00 ERAs and all of them have at least a 113 ERA+. In fact, how exactly is this only an 88 win team? They have three unbelievable hitters in the middle of their order and plus starting pitching. Max Scherzer and his dominating fastball apparently has recovered enough from a post-game celebration injury and should take the ball in Game 4. Anibel Sanchez has been pretty effective since arriving from Miami in a mid-season trade (is Sanchez an off-season FA target of the Nats for their 5th starter?) and should give the Tigers a great chance to win his game 3 start.
Meanwhile, Oakland has a slew of rookie starters to choose from, all of whom sport sub 4.00 ERAs (the worst season ERA on the staff is Travis Blackley, who may or may not feature in the post-season). Jarrod Parker threw game one and was effective, just not effective enough. I was surprised to see Tommy Milone slated as the game 2 starter (perhaps chosen by virtue of his home/away splits; 2.74 ERA at home, 4.83 ERA away). After that I honestly have no idea who we’ll see. Oakland named 5 starters to its post-season roster, but AJ Griffen was pasted in his last outing and may be a long-man/emergency starter. Brett Anderson is clearly the staff Ace at this point but only returned in late August. Oakland’s been on such a tear though, its hard to bet against them.
Prediction: Verlander already gave Detroit the huge advantage with a game 1 victory. Oakland needs more magic to advance.
- Baltimore’s likely starters: Hammel, Tillman, Chen, Saunders
- New York’s likely starters: Sabathia, Pettitte, Kuroda, Phelps?
Baltimore’s only announced starter as of today is Jason Hammel, who (as noted above) hasn’t thrown in 3 weeks. After that? The Orioles used 12 different starters on the season and at one point demoted 3/5ths of their rotation in a week. They seem set to roll out the above named guys after Hammel, but this leaves out both Miguel Gonzalez and Steve Johnson, who were effective down the stretch. I can’t find a link for Baltimore’s named divisional roster as of the time of this writing; which would have helped.
Meanwhile, looking at New York’s options past the above named three guys, I would initially guess that New York is going to a 3-man rotation for the playoffs. What would you rather do? See three effective veterans going on 3 days rest, or to give post-season starts to the likes of Phil Hughes or Ivan Nova? Freddie Garcia lost his starting spot in September when Pettitte returned but isn’t an option because of how ineffective he’s been all season. Would you give a game-4 start to rookie David Phelps? It seems amazing to me that the highest payroll team in the league can’t find an effective 4th and 5th starter (getting Pettitte out of retirement? Giving Garcia 17 starts after signing him off the trash heap?) and I think it continues to be their downfall (only one World Series appearance in 8 years).
New York swept the Orioles in the first series of the season, split a 2-game set in mid-season, but lost EVERY other series exactly 2 games to 1 on the season. Is there any reason not to think they’ll do something similar in this series? I see a split in Baltimore and then New York struggling to win 2 of 3 in New York. Does Sabathia struggle going on 3 days rest? More importantly, does Pettitte?? He should be on a golf course right now, not pitching in October. It should be interesting to see if New York uses a 4th starter.
- San Francisco’s likely starters: Cain, Bumgarner, Vogelsong, Lincecum
- New York’s likely starters: Cueto, Arroyo, Latos, Bailey
We’ve already seen some interesting mishaps with Cincinnati’s best laid plans; Cueto out with bask spasms after just 2 batters, planned game 3 starter Latos forced into action. Now it looks like Cueto will go game 3, with Bailey either pushed to game 4 or skipped outright since Latos only threw 4 innings in game 1. Or perhaps Bailey goes game 4 with Latos pushed to a possible game 5. Either way, the wild-cards here are Cueto’s health and Arroyo’s effectiveness. If Cueto returns for a game 3 start, with Cincinnati haven already “stolen” a game against SF’s ace, the Giants are in trouble.
Meanwhile, has San Francisco made a decision on its starters? They’ve named all 5 (the above four plus Barry Zito) to the post-season roster with an unnamed player dropping to the bullpen. I think they’ll go with supposed ace Tim Lincecum as the 4th starter despite Zito’s numbers being superior. Meanwhile, Ryan Vogelsong has been vulnerable down the stretch despite good numbers on the season.
I think the back-end of the Giant’s rotation is a huge question mark, and if the Reds have already stolen a game against Cain, this series may be short.
I’ll admit it; after watching Billy Beane wheel and deal this past off-season, trading away most of his starting rotation and letting most of his FA hitters walk, I was predicting a 55 win season for this team. They were banking on a proposed move to San Jose and I saw these moves as a purposeful bottoming out while playing out the string in Oakland, ahead of a lucrative move to the South Bay. Well, that move seems interminably stalled, and many pundits predicted a near record loss season for this team, especially considering the massive moves that the Angels had made, coupled with the 2-time defending AL champs Texas being in the same division.
Instead, they sit at 56-48 and if the season ended today, right now on August 2nd, the Oakland A’s and their $55M payroll (2nd lowest in the league by a couple hundred thousand dollars) would be the 2nd wild-card and would play the Los Angeles Angels, they of the $154M payroll (and counting, considering this was their opening day payroll and they’ve taken on with the Zack Greinke deal at the trade deadline).
How did this happen? Lets look at the evolution of the Starting Rotation, because what this group is doing is nothing short of amazing.
In 2011, the Oakland had 10 different guys start games for them. Here’s a quick summary (* indicates a left hander on baseball-reference.com pages):
Here’s what happened to each of these guys (good link for trade details from baseball-reference.com here; this link shows the latest trade between Oakland and all other teams but quickly shows all these 2011 deals listed here):
- Cahill traded to Arizona
- Gonzalez traded to Washington
- Moscoso traded to Colorado
- Harden left via free agency, and as far as I can tell he remains unsigned.
- Outman traded (with Moscoso) to Colorado.
- Anderson had Tommy John surgery in June of 2011 and is in the minors rehabbing now.
- Braden had shoulder surgery in April of 2011 and has not pitched since.
They traded or released the starters who made nearly 80% of their starts in 2011. That leaves 3 guys who had any MLB starts last year: Brandon McCarthy, Tyson Ross and Graham Godfrey, a total of 35 starts. To add insult to injury, Oakland traded their 2011 closer Andrew Bailey to Boston last December.
So, what does the Oakland rotation look like this year? Here’s the same data through August 1st:
So, where’d all these guys come from?
- Milone: acquired from Washington in the Gonzalez Deal
- Colon: bottom-of-the-barrel FA signing (1yr/$2M).
- Parker: acquired from Arizona in the Cahill deal.
- McCarthy; signed a 1yr/$4.275M FA deal after accepting arbitration from the team after last year
- Blackley: selected OFF WAIVERS from San Francisco earlier this year
- Ross: homegrown: a 2nd round pick in 2008
- Griffen: also homegrown; he was a 13th round draft pick by Oakland in 2010.
- Godfrey: acquired from Toronto in the 2007 Scutaro deal
Ross and Godfrey got demoted after poor performance, and McCarthy currently sits on the DL, giving Oakland this current rotation: Colon, Blackley, Griffen, Milone, Parker. All 5 guys with ERAs under 3.78 and all with ERA+ of at least 104 and mostly greater than that. And, when McCarthy comes back he’s essentially the best pitcher of any of them. AND, this is all being done with out Dalles Braden and Brett Anderson, two guys who were core components of the 2010 rotation and who would clearly be in the 2012 rotation if not for injury. AND, Oakland just announced today they’re promoting one of their best starter prospects in Dan Straily for a spot start this coming friday.
And, when Braden, Anderson and McCarthy come back, that gives Oakland a major surplus of pitching that can be flipped in the coming off-season for even more prospects and hitting (much as they did this past off-season).
Combine this pitching revolution with the schrewd Yoenis Cespedes signing (who immediately became the highest paid player on the team), the explosion of Josh Reddick (acquired in the Andrew Bailey deal from Boston), unexpected output from DH/FA signee (and ex-Nat) Jonny Gomes and a solid season from Seth Smith (acquired in the Moscoso deal) and you’ve got a team that is producing enough to win. They’re not an offensive juggernaut (mostly ranked 12th-13th in the 14-team AL in the major offensive categories) but you don’t need to score 8 runs a game when you have a staff ERA of 3.47.
As much as Moneyball critics will hate to hear it, I think Billy Beane is your easy choice for AL Executive of the year right now.