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 ‘wade miley’ tag
With the first couple of Spring Training games in the books, its fitting that Tom Boswell did a Monday morning chat on 2/25/13.
Here’s how I’d have responded to the Baseball-specific questions he took. As always, questions are edited for clarity and I write here before reading his response so as not to “color” my answer.
Q: Given that the Nats know almost every player making the roster out of Spring Training, do the players/coaches approach the 6 weeks differently?
A: Good question; I was taking with someone about this exact topic this weekend. The 25-man roster is essentially already solidifed; perhaps the only question remaining is whether or not Henry Rodriguez makes it onto the team or does the team carry a second lefty reliever (Bill Bray?). So I think the answer has to do with looking more at the AAA talent, looking at minor league FA signings like Micah Owings and Chris Snyder to see if they’re going to be better options than the guys we already had slated at AAA. And the coaching staff gets to look at up-and-coming guys like Anthony Rendon, Zach Walters, and the like. Boswell reiterates what I said here, naming other ML signings of interest like Chris Young, but also says that this ST has a lot of “wasted time.”
Q: I’ve spent the offseason reading Ball Four to help get my baseball fix. Do you have a sense about how different things are now?
A: It has been a while since I read Jim Bouton’s seminal baseball book Ball Four. But the season he chronicles (1969) happened before a number of rather important moments in Baseball history. Expansion, divisional play, the Designated Hitter, the aftermath of the Curtis Flood and Andy Messersmith decisions (aka, Free Agency) and of course the massive increase of money in the game (both from a revenue stand point and from a player salary stand point). One thing that seems certain to have changed; players can now earn enough in a season to be set financially for life. And, the players union’s power is now such that players have the upper hand in a lot of negotiations with the league and the owners when it comes to labor unions. Boswell notes that managers, coaches and GMs are far “smarter” now than they were in the Bouton era.
Q: How the Nats will do at the gate this year?
A: The season ticket base is back to where it was in 2005 apparently, broaching 20,000 season tickets. The team averaged 29,269 fans last year. Clearly the attendance seems set to rise significantly. I think they’ll average 35,000 a night if they continue to be a first-place club. Boswell agrees, noting that the team also has a couple of very marketable stars to help with attendance.
Q: Other than obvious injuries, are there any things that can happen in the first quarter of the year that you would find to be troubling?
A: I’d be troubled if Danny Espinosa started off slow. I’d also be concerned if we saw significant regression out of our WBC participants Gio Gonzalez and Ross Detwiler, confirming my fears. But the most important factor may be the performance of Dan Haren: is he the 2012 Haren or the 2009 Haren? If he approaches 2009 version, this team may be set for the season. Boswell notes they have a tough early schedule, that winning 98 games is tough, and that we should be patient.
Q: Gio Gonzalez; did he or didn’t he?
A: I think the prevailing opinion in the sport now seems to be that he did NOT take or receive PEDs from the Miami clinic, and that he was an unfortunate bystander. His passing a surprise PED test given two days after the scandal seems to have also bolstered his case. Boswell agrees.
Q: Are the Nats a 98 win team again, or was last year a fluke?
A: Barring a significant injury in the rotation, I think the Nats are easily a 98-win team and perhaps better in 2013. Statistical WAR “proof” offered in this space back in January, and that was before the LaRoche re-signing and the Soriano pickup, both of which marginally should improve the team a few wins. Most national pundits that I’ve read think the same thing, that this team could win 103 games. The various estimator stats out there (Zips, Pecota, etc) the team much closer to 90 wins, but those predictors are by and large incredibly conservative. Boswell also says it comes down to health of the rotation.
Q: How would you rate the Nats starting rotation, spot by spot, compared to the rest of the Major Leagues?
A: Spot by Spot, its hard not to think that each of our guys are each at least in the top 5 by position in the league. Drawing from my Rotational Rankings post from January 7th, 2013, I’d say that:
- Strasburg is clearly among the best arms in the game (in the discussion along with Verlander, Kershaw, and Hernandez). He’s not as accomplished as this group of course, but his talent is unquestionable.
- Gonzalez matches up as a top 5 number two starter (other candidates: Greinke, Hamels, Lincecum or Cain, depending on who you think SF’s “ace” is).
- Zimmermann is traditionally underrated but is at least a top 5 number three starter (along with Scherzer, Johnson/Morrow, Bumgarner, Lee and Moore).
- Haren on potential could be the best number four starter in the game, though Buehrle, Miley, and Lynn could also fit in here.
- Detwiler is often mentioned as being the best number five starter out there, and its hard to find competitors (best options: Zito, Romero, Garcia, and whoever Oakland and St. Louis settle upon for their #5 starters).
Boswell seems worried that these five guys can handle the workload all year, only really trusting Gonzalez in terms of repeatability.
Q: What future do you see for Anthony Rendon, and when will he debut in the majors?
A: I have been of the belief that Zimmerman should move to 1B for Rendon at some point. But with LaRoche signed for two years, that won’t happen for a while (2 years, perhaps 3 if we pick up his 2015 option). So now i’m starting to come around to the the possibility of Rendon pushing someone else off their position. The most likely candidate seems to be Espinosa at 2B. Despite having Lombardozzi on the 25-man, Rendon is a higher-potential player. If Espinosa starts slow, and Rendon starts fast, I could see Rendon getting called up in June and starting to get reps at 2nd while Espinosa goes on the DL for his shoulder. Otherwise, a Sept 1 call-up seems in order. Boswell predicts a post-all star game call-up.
Q: Is there any way the Nats can stop Detwiler and Gio from pitching in that baseball ‘classic’? I see a disaster waiting to happen. Luis Ayala was never the same after getting hurt pitching in that thing.
A: There’s no way legally the team can prevent either guy from pitching, since neither suffered any injuries in 2012. And yes I agree (as discussed in this space on 2/11/13) this is bad news for the Nats. Washington has never had a pitcher play in the WBC who didn’t regress badly, and the stats seem to show that most every pitcher who does participate in the WBC pitches poorly the next two seasons (links in my post). Boswell says cross your fingers.
Q: Do you think Bryce has it in him to be National League mvp?
A: Yes I do. MVP voting generally starts with the “Best Player” on the “Best Teams” and creates a short list from there. It is why it is relatively easy to predict the MVPs. If Washington is the best team in the league and makes the playoffs again, and Bryce Harper has a break out season, it won’t be hard to see him getting serious MVP consideration. Now, let me also say that a “Harper for MVP” prediction is NOT the same as predicting that Harper is set to become the best player in the game. That’s not what the MVP measures. If the question was, “Is Harper set to become the best player in the National League” i’d then say, “No, he’s a few years away from that distinction.” Boswell thinks it may be a bit early.
Q: How many wins per year would you estimate a a stellar defense adds to a teams win total over the course of a season?
A: I’m sure there’s a good statistical answer for this, based on the percentage of WAR added by defense. But it seems like a very difficult answer to come by. Boswell says “a few.”
Q: Any reason to think he’s NOT going to be the GM for a long time? Because I can’t think of many others who have done as good a job in all of baseball.
A: I can see no reason for Rizzo not to be the GM for at least the next 4 years. His next big challenge will be dealing with the inevitable payroll demands of Harper and Strasburg (both of whom project to be $25M players) while also keeping a competitive team on the field. 2017 could be an interesting year for this team; Strasburg projects to hit Free Agency that year, and Harper should be in his 4th arbitration year. They already have Zimmerman and Werth at $14M and $21M respectively in the 2017 year, with possibly another $40-$45M out the door to keep Harper and Strasburg. They better start working on the farm system again. Boswell didn’t really answer the question, just mentioned how Rizzo’s options have yet to be picked up.
Q: How is Ramos looking thus far? 100%? Suzuki is a professional and seems to be a good guy, do you get a feel for how well he and Ramos interact? How great would it be to generate some power/runs from the catcher spot this year.
A: I’ve been assuming that the catcher job is Suzuki’s to lose for now; its still early but no word has come out negatively on Ramos‘ recovery. Either way, yes it would be nice to get some production out of the #8 hole. Suzuki was pretty good after he came over here, but Ramos healthy was a middle-of-the-order bat. Boswell suggests that Ramos stop blocking the plate.
Q: If Rendon tears it up after September call-up, what does the Nats 2014 infield look like?
A: Wow; hard not to say Rendon replaces Espinosa like-for-like right now. But, just as Desmond broke out in his 3rd full time season, so could Espinosa. It could make for a log jam. Lets hope for the best, hope for a rebound Espinosa season and a good-problem-to-have situation of having to trade a strength to make way for another strength. Boswell has no idea where Rendon will play if he merits a call-up.
Q: I think the Nats, and Danny Espinosa are whistling past the graveyard if they think a completely torn left rotator cuff will not seriously affect Danny’s play. Your take?
A: A fair assessment. I too believe a torn rotator cuff absolutely has to be affecting his swing, especially from the right side. I think Espinosa should have gotten the thing surgically repaired in the off-season. I wonder how much the team knew of the injury, because when it was reported in the off-season it sure seemed like a surprise. Boswell says its a concern and that Espinosa should take more days off.
Q: Is McCatty working with Strasburg on correcting his inverted W delivery? Strasburg also has footstrike issues, as he tends to plant his foot and then whip his arm, which puts a ton of strain on his shoulder. I’m concerned if he doesn’t correct this, his shoulder will give out this season or next. Are the Nats worried about this? Are they working on cleaning up his delivery at all?
A: I’m beginning to think that this whole “Inverted W” thing is a bunch of BS. Keith Law stated as much when prompted in a chat recently; he says that the problem with the Inverted W theory is that its difficult to “state” with authority that certain pitchers do or don’t have the phenomena. And its true; if you see some shots of Strasburg he has it, in others his arms are more bent behind his back. Its the same with Gio Gonzalez (I can show you stills of him landing with his arms clearly in an “inverted W” position and you don’t hear anyone talking about Gonzalez’s mechanics. The leading inverted-W site on the internet (Chris O’Leary’s page linked here) uses an opportunisitic example set of pitchers with that motion, but I can find plenty of examples of guys who have similar mechanics but zero soft-tissue injury history (on the Nats two quick examples are Drew Storen and Craig Stammen). Meanwhile one of his examples was John Smoltz … who only threw 3400 MLB innings in his career and basically didn’t miss a start until he was 32. Not the best example of proof that his mechanics were somehow “awful.” I think the entire phenomenon is an observation of coincidence, that pitchers get injuries all the time no matter what their mechanics, and that we need to move onwards. Wow; Boswell thinks exactly what i think; these proofs are nonesense.
Here’s a wrap up of the end of season awards. I posted my predictions here in Mid October. The dream of going 8-for-8 is over. Read on for a summary of my predicions versus actual results.
- AL MVP: Prediction: Miguel Cabrera. Winner: Cabrera. Trout 2nd, Beltre a distant 3rd.
- AL Cy Young: Prediction: David Price. Winner: Price.
- AL Rookie of the Year: Prediction: Mike Trout. Winner: Trout, Unanimously.
- AL Manager of the Year: Prediction: Buck Showalter. Winner: Bob Melvin.
- Sporting News AL GM: Prediction: Billy Beane. Winner: Beane.
- Sporting News AL Comeback player of the Year: Prediction: Adam Dunn. Winner: Dunn. Note that there are now also MLB and Players Choice versions of this award, and they do not always agree with Sporting News’ picks. But SN is the oldest version so I’ll continue to guess based on it.
- NL MVP: Prediction: Buster Posey. Winner: Posey. Braun 2nd, McCutchen 3rd.
- NL Cy Young: Prediction: R.A. Dickey. Winner: Dickey.
- NL Rookie of the Year: Prediction: Bryce Harper. Winner: Harper.
- NL Manager of the Year: Prediction: Davey Johnson. Winner: Johnson.
- Sporting News NL GM: Prediction: Mike Rizzo. Winner: Rizzo, who technically came in 2nd to Beane as Sporting News only awarded one Executive of the year award.
- Sporting News NL Comeback player of the year: Prediction: Buster Posey. Winner: Posey.
My Final Prediction results: 7 of 8 of BBWAA awards predicted correctly, 11 of 12 including Sporting News awards.
Discussion (here’s a link to all the 2012 post-season BBWAA voting with totals from Baseball-Reference.com, plus i’ve included links to the voting and ballots where I could below).
- AL MVP: Cabrera wins over Trout; let the internet wars begin! The only thing that surprised me here was the relative landslide victory Cabrera had; he got 22 of the 28 first place votes, far more than I thought he’d get. This result shows what a lot of holier-than-thou bloggers need to wake up and understand; the MVP is NOT the award for the best player. Clearly these people (often rather rudely) do not understand the difference between stats-based analysis and context. Trout played for a 3rd place team; had he never played for the Angels this season … they still would have finished third. Like it or not, voters start their MVP lists by grabbing the best player on the playoff teams, and adjust accordingly. The solution to these arguments may be to create a hitting version of the Cy Young so that Trout can get his deserved due for his fantastic 2012 season.
- AL Cy Young: Price wins in a very close race over Justin Verlander, who had almost identical (and slightly better) sabremetric numbers to his dominant Cy Young last year and was the odds-on favorite of the Sabr-nerd crowd to win. I predicted Dickey not because he was inarguably the better pitcher; I predicted he’d win because voters sometimes like to give these awards to the fresh new candidate, and I saw that happening here. Price and Verlander split the first and second place votes almost down the middle, except for one random first place vote that went to Fernando Rodney. The Rodney vote, combined with both Los Angeles voters giving 2nd place votes to Jered Weaver, is the margin of loss for Verlander. Still, this was the closest Cy Young voting race in the history of the award.
- AL Rookie of the Y ear: No doubt here; Trout becomes just the 8th unanimous RoY pick in baseball’s history, and deservedly so. Yoenis Cespedes second, Yu Darvish third.
- AL Manager: My first miss on BBWAA awards in three years. The criticism of this award is that it is less about who actually manages their team the best; it really is given to the team that “surprised” baseball pundits the most. In retrospect, for all the reasons I predicted Billy Beane would get the executive award I should have given more thought to Melvin winning the Manager award. Showalter’s Orioles certainly surprised, and you can squint and say that their record in one-run games is entirely on the manager. But there’s no mistaking that the Athletics out-played their potential far more distinctly than the Orioles did.
- AL Executive: No surprise that Beane picks up this award, after flipping 3/5s of his rotation, signing the cuban defector Cespedes and getting Josh Reddick in trade, putting together a team that I thought could lose 110 games but instead won the AL West over two of the most bally-hoo’d teams in the majors. For all the people that chastised Beane for Moneyball, he has risen again after his early career success.
- AL Comeback player: I really struggled to pick a winner, thinking that Dunn’s pseudo-rebound from 2011’s disaster was a good enough example, and I got lucky. SN picked Dunn while other AL comeback awards out there went to Fernando Rodney.
- NL MVP: Posey takes this race in a landslide, getting 27 of the 32 first place votes. I’m really glad to see Braun get 2nd place despite the stigma surrounding his negated PED test last off-season; he won my “Modern Triple Crown” and was the best hitter in the league. Chase Headley gets deserved recognition and a 5th place vote. Several Nats got votes as expected, but none were factors in the race itself.
- NL Cy Young: this race wasn’t as close as I thought it may be, but Dickey beats out Clayton Kershaw for many of the same reasons Price beat out Verlander. Our own Gio Gonzalez comes in a close third; as it turns out, one reporter in St Louis completely left him off his ballot, purportedly because Gonzalez didn’t broach 200 innings. Which makes no sense, since this same reporter gave his 5th place vote to a reliever. *sigh* I hate hypocrites
- NL Rookie of the Year: Harper won a very close race over Wade Miley and for good reason; on September 1st you would have said that Miley was the easy RoY candidate. A strong finish combined with Harper’s narrative and probably some east-coast bias gave him the award. One writer completely left Miley off his ballot, but that wouldn’t have made a difference in the voting totals in the end. Another side note: have you ever even heard of the two Washington BBWAA chapter members?
- NL Manager: Johnson picks up the “manager of the most surprising team” award relatively easily; there really weren’t any other contenders once Pittsburgh collapsed mid-season.
- NL Executive: Rizzo’s Gio Gonzalez trade, Jackson signing and Harper call-up all led to a 17-game improvement and the major’s best record, earning him 2nd place in the overall executive award voting (to Beane) and thus the highest ranking NL executive.
- NL Comeback player: Posey was really a no-brainer, and won the award as expected.
I’ll say this in conclusion; the Trout-Cabrera arguments were the most one-sided, rude and biased I’ve seen yet in the whole “new school” trend of baseball writing. Even more ridiculous than the Jack Morris antagonists. And I’m thankful that, after today, I won’t have to read one more “Why Trout is the MVP” article.
Just as an FYI, I’ve created a link to a spreadsheet of key events, dates and deadlines for this coming MLB off-season. A quick summary of those dates is listed below. With the new CBA and new rules regarding contracts and options, I still have some guesses as to when the exact date for some contract specific items are. Feel free to comment/provide feedback if you know the exact date.
Bolded/Italicized Events are post-2012 season awards, official or otherwise.
|Date||Event||Nats Specific Impact|
|Oct 19th, 2012||MLB Comeback Players of the Year AL and NL||Adam LaRoche possibly getting some votes?|
|Oct 23rd, 2012||Sporting News Comeback Players of the Year AL and NL||Dunn, Posey winners|
|Oct 25th, 2012||Fielding Bible Awards given|
|Oct 28th, 2012||Roberto Clemente Award given||Zimmerman nominated|
|Oct 28th, 2012||Last actual day of 2012 World Series; official end of 2012 season||n/a|
|Oct 29th 2012||Official start of FA period (12:01am the day after the last game of the WS)||LaRoche, Jackson, Burnett, Gonzalez, Duke, DeRosa|
|October 30th, 2012||Rawlings AL & NL Gold Glove Announcements||Desmond, LaRoche are finalists|
|Nov 1st, 2012||Team and player options must be decided three days after the end of the World Series. 10/31/11 at midnight||LaRoche, Burnett have options from the Nats.|
|Early November?||Clubs have to re-set their 40-man rosters, moving all 60-day DL players back to active. Happened in the past about 11/9. May be changed date w/ new CBA|
|Nov 2nd, 2012||5pm: Deadline to make Qualifying offers for your own Fas (average of top 125 salaries or $13.3M for 2012). 5 days after end of WS||Nats likely to make Qos to both Jackson and LaRoche, neither of whom is likely to take the deal and thus guaranteeing the Nats draft pick compensation if we lose both guys.|
|Nov 2nd, 2012||HoF “Veterans Committee” releases ballot. Officially announced12/3/12|
|Nov 3rd, 2012||5 days after WS ends: Free agent filing period and exclusive negotiating window ends at 12:01 a.m. ET. Free agents can sign with any team.||LaRoche, Jackson, Burnett, Gonzalez, Duke, DeRosa|
|Nov 3rd, 2012||Free Agency granted to all eligible Minor League free agents (5 days after the end of the WS). Eligibility done on service time; 6 years ML service for college draftees or 7 years ML service for HS draftees or free agents under the age of 18.||http://www.baseballamerica.com/blog/prospects/2012/11/minor-league-free-agents-2012/ has full list; notable names include Arneson, Pucetas, Severino, VanAllen|
|Nov 4th, 2012||Wilson Defensive Player of the Year awards, given by MLB to best defensive player on each club.||Adam LaRoche wins the award for the Nationals.|
|Nov 5th, 2012||MLBPA announces “Players Choice” awards: Player of the year, Comeback Player of the year, etc||No Nats awarded MLBPA’s version of the BBWAA awards.|
|Nov 7th, 2012||BBWAA Award Nominees announced on MLB networks|
|Nov 7-9, 2012||GM Meetings, Palm Springs, California for 2012||Rizzo may be laying groundwork for big FA signings.|
|Nov 8th, 2012||Last day for players to accept arbitration from current club.||Would the Nats offer arbitration to its Fas?|
|Nov 8th, 2012||Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Awards||LaRoche, Desmond likely candidates.|
|Nov 9th, 2012||12 Days after WS ends: Players must accept or reject Qualifying Options||LaRoche only Natioanls FA to get a QO.|
|Nov 12th, 2012||AL, NL Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Awards||Harper or Willey? We’ll see if Harper’s great finish gets him the award.|
|Nov 13th, 2012||AL and NL Manager of the Year||Johnson should get the NL manager of the year for the Nats winning 17 more games than 2011.|
|Nov 14th 2012||AL and NL Cy Young||Gio Gonzalez in the discussion but likely to lose out.|
|Nov 15th 2012||AL and NL Most Valuable Player||No real Nats MVP candidates; perhaps LaRoche gets some top 5 votes.|
|Nov 15-18th, 2012||WBC Qualifier #4, Taiwan (Chinese Taipei, New Zealand, Phillipenes, Thailand)|
|Nov 15-19th, 2012||WBC Qualifier #3, Panama City (Brazil, Columbia, Nicaragua, Panama)|
|Mid November, 2012||Sporting News Executive of the Year announced||I think Mike Rizzo is NL GM of the year.|
|Mid November, 2012||Owners Meetings, ? Location for 2012|
|Nov 20th, 2012||Day to file reserve lists for all Major and Minor League levels. In other words, Last day to add players to 40-man to protect them from the Rule5 Draft||A host of rule-5 eligible decisions pending for Nats; Rosenbaum, Karns, Kobernus, Hood, etc.|
|Nov 30th, 2012||Midnight: Deadline for teams to Tender contracts to arbitration eligible players. If not tendered, those players immediately become free agents.||Lannan, Gorzelanny, Flores possible non-tenders here.|
|Early December, 2012||Last day to request outright waivers to assign player prior to Rule 5 Draft|
|Dec 3rd-6th, 2012||Winter Meetings, Nashville, TN for 2012|
|Dec 3rd, 2012||HoF “Veterans Committee” officially releases ballot that was made public 11/2/11.|
|Early December, 2012||Baseball America announces its Executives of the Year|
|Dec 4th, 2012||MLB Balloting results announced for Hall of Fame Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in baseball broadcasting|
|Dec 6th, 2012||Rule 5 Draft. Occurs at Winter meetings||Nats are likely to at least participate in the Rule5 draft, but their draft position leaves them picking last of the 30 teams. A utility infielder or a bullpen arm could be had here.|
|Dec 31st, 2012||Deadline for BBWAA ballots for HoF voting.|
|Jan 9th, 2013||Hall of Fame BBWAA voting announced; the HoF class of 2013.|
|Jan 5-15, 2013||Salary arbitration filing period||Nats could have as many as 10 arbitration cases to settle (but more likely 7 or 8).|
|Mid January 2013||Salary arbitration figures exchanged|
|Feb 1-21, 2013||Salary arbitration hearings (actual hearing date per player picked at random)|
|Mid February 2013||Mandatory Spring Training reporting date for Pitchers and Catchers|
|Mid February 2013||Voluntary Spring Training reporting date for non-pitchers and catchers|
|Early March 2013||Contracts of unsigned players who are not yet eligible for Arbitration may be renewed|
|Mar 2-5, 2013||WBC First Round, Pool B in Taiwan (Korea, Netherlands, Australia, tbd)|
|Mar 2-6, 2013||WBC First Round, Pool A in Japan (Japan, Cuba, China, tba)|
|Early March 2013||First Spring Training Game for the Nats|
|Mar 7th-10th, 2013||WBC First Round, Pool C in Puerto Rico (Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, tba)|
|Mar 7th-10th, 2013||WBC First Round, Pool D in Phoenix (USA, Mexico, Italy, tbd)|
|Mid March 2013||Last day to place a player on unconditional release waivers and pay 30 days termination pay instead of 45 days.|
|Mar 17th-19th, 2013||WBC Championship round, San Francisco, CA|
|Late March 2013||Deadline to request unconditional release waivers without having to pay the player’s full salary|
|March 31st, 2013||2013 Season Opener|
|April 1st, 2013||Traditional Opening Day (Cincinnati)||Nats open at home to Miami|
|April 15th, 2013||Jackie Robinson Day|
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?