Results tagged ‘ Awards ’
Whether Arizona locks up the division, or even the wildcard, Bob Melvin is a near lock for National League Manager of the Year(MotY). A more interesting question is whether he deserves it or not, but first let’s support the notion the hardware is his.
First, your team doesnt have to have the best record, or even make the playoffs, to win the MotY. Tony Pena won in 2003 with Kansas City, after missing the postseason, as did Nathanial Showalter the following year with Texas. In 2006, Joe Girardi proved not even a winning record is required. Baseball writers, especially recently, appear to be weighing underlying considerations more heavily than in the past.
Like how well you’ve fared against preseason expectations. Has your team raised eyebrows with their performance and by how much? Not internal expectations, or those of a few sabermetricians – but the expecations of sportswriters and the general public. Another consideration is whether a manager has overcome debilitating in season obstacles, like injuries or unusual off field distractions.
With that in mind, let’s look at Melvin’s competition. Tony LaRussa has dealt with the most jarring off field issues, as well as the loss of Chris Carpenter, and may indeed be the league’s best manager. But he’s won the award several times and his Card’s really havent exceeded preseason expectations – not his fault, being defending World Champs and all – they just havent. And other NL contenders are rife with injured aces (Pedro, Unit, Schmidt, Sheets – do we even mention Prior and Wood anymore?).
The Mets, Phils, Cubs and Padres all expected to do well this year back in March – even Ned Yost’s Brewers were a sexier preseason pick than the Diamondbacks. Arizona was a consensus middle of the division selection. Yet, with four weeks remaining, no NL team has more wins. And it’s not just that. It’s the way they’re winning.
They’ve won starting half a dozen first or second year players, who for the most part, escaped national radar (see Joe Girardi, above). They’ve won despite the absence of even a remotely ‘superstar’ position player. Melvin’s unremarkable bench leads all MLB in pinch hit home runs. Most eye opening is the inexplicably huge gap between Arizona’s actual W/L record and the "Expected" W/L (derived from actual runs scored and yielded).
While this provokes lusty disagreement as to whether the gap is primarily due to strategy or luck, there’s a growing perception that Melvin has taken a not terribly good team and helped mold it into a pesky, solid bunch a year or two before its time. No one in the NL has more wins. No one. Steering an unusually young team that wasnt supposed to be that good and leading the league in wins? Joe Girardi didnt do that. No other manager has done that. Not this year. Not in the National League.
Last year, we were ahead of the curve on Brandon Webb’s Cy Young Award (see Cy Young Central tab, at right), so lets take a look at some seasonal things, maybe some items that fall by the wayside during the media crush of a scoreless innings streak to get a headstart on this year’s race. After all, the CY Award is supposed to be a seasonal recognition.
Run Support Among Some Top NL Cy Young Award Candidates
Harang CIN 6.16
Hamels PHI 6.08
Penny LAD 5.93
Zambrano CHI 5.36
Peavy SDG 5.19
Oswalt HOU 5.00
Smoltz ATL 4.74
Young SDG 4.27
Webb ARI 4.14
There’s a handful of others one cant totally count out yet, like Noah Lowry, Ted Lilly, El Duque or a closer somewhere, but these are the main guys right now. Did I lead with Run Support to make a case for Webb?
Yes and no. Yes in the sense that, despite his 13-8 record, I suspect he’s one of the two or three best pitchers in the league(again). And no in the sense that, despite his well publicized scoreless streak, I honestly dont feel he’s been #1.
At least not yet.
He leads the league(again) in innings pitched, which at his level of performance is significant. This isnt Livan Hernandez or Wilbur Wood. Or for that matter, this year’s ERA leader, Chris Young, who has thrown 54 fewer innings than Webb. That’s the equivalent of six complete games, or seven to nine typical starts that San Diego has had to rely on a fifth or sixth starter instead of one of the league’s best pitchers. Webb’s quantity advantage is considerably slimmer over the others, seven of whom are within twenty innings of the leader.
Let’s contrast quantity with "quality".
NL "Quality" Starts – 2007
Harang, CYoung, Hamels 15
Other pitchers are sprinkled in and out (ie Doug Davis has 16 for example) – this lists just the top CYA candidates. As you can see, Webby doesnt shine quite so brightly. His innings advantage almost hurts him here, in terms of efficiency. Two points, though. Quality starts, while instructive, are also rather arbitrary, in that one can alter IP/Runs Allowed formulae slightly and send these rankings spinning. Second, any QS determination favors pitcher’s parks (much like ERA). That said, this is a valid starting point to discuss how frequently starters help keep their teams in games – and Penny in particular, pitching at an increasingly neutral Dodger Stadium, would seem to have a pretty strong argument in his favor.
Here’s Average Game Score, sort of like quarterback rankings in the NFL:
El Duque 58.4 !!
Lilly, Rich Hill, Maine, Oliver Perez, Gorzelanny
Carlos Zambrano, at 14-9, is falling out of the picture, but there are plenty of other candidates,with good W/L records, to make this an interesting race:
Hudson & Hamels, both 14-5
Peavy & Lilly, both 13-5
This is where Brandon’s eight losses really hurt him. At 13-8, he’s only one win behind the leaders, but even if he finishes with the most wins, or tied for the league lead like he did last year, there’s bound to be a competitor with similar wins and fewer losses, perhaps considerably fewer – someone like Peavy or Penny, or Hudson or Hamels. And I think it’ll be tough not to give one of them the award. Hamels has a considerably higher ERA, but also the best K/BB ratio in the league, and our preliminary look today suggests that none of the other three veterans are a one dimensional fluke.
Put another way, I can see Brandon possibly repeating with nine losses, which would require he finish strongly, whether he breaks Hershiser’s mark or not. Some things would have to break his way against the field, but it’s a potential scenario. I think ten losses will do him in. Even if he gets the record. Even if the Diamondbacks win the division. Maybe even if he beats Peavy or Penny to win the division. I just think ten losses, in this field, will be too big a psychological barrier for voters to overlook, assuming someone like Penny or Peavy finish with, say, seven losses.
(photos courtesy of eastvalleytribune.com, usatoday.com, www.freewebs.com)
Teams at this stage of NCAA men’s hoopla, approach one another much like sexual partners. The first half is foreplay, feeling each other out, as each game assumes it’s unique positioning and rhythm. Teams this good almost always have the passion and experience, that extra trick or gear, that renders blithely going through the motions impossible, and ensures a repetitive tension and release that, quite frankly, gets me off.
My narcotic is Opening Day and the onset of real baseball. Pumping up the offseason is a burgeoning industry drummed up by clubs selling "stuff" and sabermetric think tanks shooting rapid fire predictions. But the offseason is like withdrawl. There’s only so much you can write about essentially nothing; about games you cant see, and extrapolating from others’ first hand written accounts.
Can you help me, Doc? Pleeaassee! I just need to see a baseball game for myself!
So this time of year, much like Pointer Sisters before me , I’m so excited.
Randy Johnson topped out at 92 or 93 MPH yesterday, depending on who you believe, and struck out five Padre doppelgangers in a split squad, sham exhibition at Chase Field.
"There’s a world of difference between how I’m pitching in spring training than the way I was pitching the last two or three months of last year," said Johnson, who won 17 games with the Yankees last season despite back problems
Let’s hope so, because if the gangly one pitches like he did last year, he’ll be worse than either Miguel Batista or Claudio Vargas was – and more expensive. I caught a glimpse of Randy’s performance, and while his control impressed, his delivery looked stiff, compact and cautious. I suppose that makes sense as he’s not quite "there" yet, but I couldnt hep envisioning all the bunts that neither he nor Jackson nor Tracy will field this year.
On a positive note, the Wall Street Journal published extensive preseason predictions from eleven so called experts, six of whom project Chris Young as NL ROY. After yesterday’s 5-2-3 double play with no outs and the bases loaded, let’s just hope Chris makes the team
The Journal didnt amass the most diverse group of pundits, 20 to 30 something bloggers mostly, but it’s still a collection of shrewd, relatively independent baseball thinkers. The elite eleven selected six division winners each, for sixty six projected race outcomes. Diamondback fans should be heartened by their favorites:
Yankees 9 votes
BP’s Joe Sheehan, a respected analyst – at least before today – actually has ‘em winning the World Series. There’s a certain logic to it, as there is for perpetual motion machines, or proving a bumblebee cant fly – but we still admire Joe’s out of the box thinking, even if he’s so far out of the box he needs a GPS device to get back in.
Memo to Mark Newman. Gameday is totally screwed up. Pls handle
Often and rightfully regarded as this generation’s most overrated player, Derek Jeter may also be, paradoxically, this year’s most valuable in the American League. Clearly unworthy of the recent, lesser awards on his mantle, Jeter’s broad based skills could conceivably land him the most coveted individual trophy of all.
He had no business seriously vying for, let alone winning, the Hank Aaron Award, established in 1999 to honor each league’s best hitter. It was a slugger’s trophy ( initially a statistical count of hits, HRs and RBIs, later evolving to a media vote), until recently enfranchised fans ignorantly tabbed the 14 homer heartthrob as the first HAA winner ever with less than twenty home runs. Well, thirty, actually. Oh, let’s cut the bull – he’s the first HAA winner ever with less than forty home runs and his selection is preposterous. MLB apparently thought so too, as just prior to last month’s awards ceremony, they coyly redefined Aaron Award criterion from best hitter to best offensive player, deftly deflecting some of the criticism sure to come from the announcement.
The gold glove wasnt warranted either. Michael Young, Jhonny Peralta and others each fielded about 100 more balls than the Yankee captain. That’s a ton of balls to explain away with A-Rod’s range or the NY staff’s propensity for K’s and fly outs – which is league average anyway. Interpreting fielding stats is tricky, but hardly discourages Diamondhacks from likening Derek to Cinderella: frightfully late to the ball.
Even if Jeter clearly isnt the AL’s best hitter, it’s evident that, this season, he was in the top dozen or so. The 97 RBIs are not as remarkable as is often reported, given how many baserunners he’s had on, but it’s still very good, and only Sizemore tallied more AL runs. If the Kalamazoo Kid wasn’t the best, or second best, or third best shortstop, he still provided extra value by hitting .340 while adequately manning a very challenging position. And he is an uncanny, nearly transcendent baserunner, whose seasonal value in that vein exceeds the 30 bags.
Finally, copious intangibles famously ooze from the Kalamazoo Kid like droplets of Driven – furthering his MVP candidacy – and perhaps the need for a clean towel.
To Dye, Ortiz and Morneau, this just plain smells.
To Cinderella, just maybe this smells like…victory.
Despite pitching his worst game of the year on election day, sinker swami Brandon Webb held off a logjam of allegedly comparable candidates to win the 2006 NL Cy Young Award.
The leading vote getters were:
|Voting results ¬|
|Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks||15||7||7||103|
|Trevor Hoffman, Padres||12||3||8||77|
|Chris Carpenter, Cardinals||2||16||5||63|
|Roy Oswalt, Astros||3||3||7||31|
|Carlos Zambrano, Cubs||1||3||6|
|Billy Wagner, Mets||1||1||4|
For all the yammering about how inseparable Webb and Carpenter appeared, it’s worth noting how decisively Webb won the battle of starters, with 15 first place votes to Carpenter’s pair. Carpenter, relentlessly ballyhooed as one of two clear frontrunners, finished third, exactly where he belonged. We were disappointed, however, that Hoffman outpolled Oswalt, most likely one of the league’s two best starters.
A representative ballot, constructed from the above modes looks like this:
First place: Webb(15)
What prevented that order from reflecting the official outcome were twelve rogue voters, who bestowed first place ballots for San Diego’s closer. Maybe they confused the Cy with a lifetime acheivement award, or were too lazy to ferret out distinctions within the tight pack of more valuable starters? Whatever their reasons, if any, to elevate a 63IP pitcher who wasnt even the best reliever on his own team(see Cla Meredith) over a trio of starting horses averaging 225IP, Hoffman jumped all the way to CY runner-up on the basis of these dozen dopes – and actually came embarassingly close to winning the trophy.
Just one look at the voting disparity between Trevor and Billy Wagner, who shared distinguished but hardly distinguishable seasons, illustrates what a sham Hoffman’s second place showing is. Each closer blew five saves with comparable ERA. Hoffman converted his extra opportunities(5) but Wagner threw 14% more innings – they’re basically the same pitcher. So, if you’re claiming Hoffman’s 63IP of 2.00ERA is worth more than 220IP of 3.00 ERA, doesnt intellectual consistency(if not common sense) compel you to also vote for Wagner second or third? Yet bozos who picked Hoffman barely gave Wagner the time of day. They wrote a bunch of starters in behind Hoffman, essentially ignoring Trevor’s virtual twin.
Behind every great team on the diamond, lurking in the shadow of baseball superstars, live the role players who sacrifice for their team in often unrecognized effort.
That’s the credo for MLB/Holiday Inn’s Look Again Player of the Year Award. Independent sports blogs are having fun with the fact that, other than the Mets Jose Valentin (and possibly one other player?), the balance of thirty underappreciated team contributors all appear to be white. Is this coincidence, or are racial stereotypes(ie white players work harder, or are more selfless, than black or Latino players) inappropriately reinforced by these selections?
At the moment, Diamondhacks is too lazy to examine every roster for more colorful alternatives, but just our local nominee caused us to ‘look again’. What exactly are Eric Byrnes’s qualifications for this particular award ?
He’s no superstar, yet to characterize Byrnes as lurking in the shadows or "unrecognized" by fans(as opposed to Bob Melvin) is quite a reach. Byrnsie, who emerged as the darling of Dbacks broadcasters and was the subject of the team’s best received promotion(The Eric Byrnes ‘Dirty’ T-Shirt), couldnt lurk in a shadow if you put him in a box and closed the lid. Since his highly visible postseason gigs on ESPN and FOX, the continued claim that Byrnes is under fans’ radar has become a contradiction in terms. Johnny Estrada was just as valuable at his position, with considerably less fanfare.
Who better exemplifies this award’s composite virtues than Orlando Hudson, who is arguably more valuable than Byrnes, and exudes similar heart and positive attitude sans Eric’s signature flamboyance? Hudson had more sacrifice flies and sacrifice hits than his blonde haired Anglo counterpart, who often swings from the heels and rarely gives himself up at the plate. Byrnes famously ‘sacrifices’ his body, whether circumstances warrant it or not, which bolsters his gung ho image more than his effectiveness.
In short, Hudson is as valuable and team oriented as is Byrnes, decidedly less theatrical, and would seem to be a more apt candidate for this particular recognition. What aspect of Hudson’s player profile possibly makes him take a back seat to Byrnes here, given the award’s alleged criteria?
Brandon Webb didnt have to win today, or pitch characteristically well, to lay claim to the 2006 Cy Young Award. He led Roy Oswalt by enough of a slim, but measurable, cumulative margin in Wins, Win%, ERA and IP that even a subpar Sunday effort would not remove Webb from frontrunner status. Essentially, he needed to avoid pitching his worst game of the entire season.
Where this leaves the race is anyone’s guess. Have at it. Here’s how we think the candidates ought to shake out.
As we’ve argued at length on this blog, strong cases can be made against most of the top candidates. Carlos Zambrano had great numbers but enjoyed better run support and bullpen support than any other Cy contender, despite pitching for a last place team. He’s out.
Chris Carpenter had basic numbers about as good as any starter – but he fades rather badly once you look behind the component stats. The only starting contender to pitch in an advantageous park, supported by a good hitting team, you can count the quality teams Carp pitched against all year on one hand – and still have a finger left over. He pitched eight times against the Pirates and Cubs. When the Cards needed him most, he failed, despite five runs of support – twice. The more one examines his 2006 record, the less it impresses. Out.
Trevor Hoffman is arguably the league’s best closer, to which we say, "Congratulations, but what does that have to do with the Cy Young Award?" Since when do guys who throw 65 innings deserve, or win, the Cy. Answer: Never. It’s generally understood that someone who throws 230 innings with an ERA of 3.00 has accomplished much more for his team than one with an ERA of two in just more than a quarter as many innings.
There are two candidates who it is difficult for Diamondhacks to make a strong case against. One is Roy Oswalt. Roy was only 15 and 9, and didnt pitch against as arduous a schedule as Webb or Zambrano, but it was still considerably stronger than Carpenter’s. He tossed more quality starts, 25, than any other candidate, despite pitching in a homerdome – where he didnt give up homers. He pitched on the road in the NL Central bandboxes – and didnt give up homers there either. Most significantly, Oswalt received considerably less run support than Webb or Carpenter.
The other strong case is Webb. It wasn’t easy to find quality opposition in this year’s National League, but Webb found more quality teams to battle against than any CYA contender. Five starts against San Diego, two each against the Mets and Phils, and one apiece vs the Dodgers, A’s and Cardinals. Just one start each against MLB’s dregs: Tampa Bay, the Pirates and Cubs. He pitched in one of baseball’s best hitter’s parks. Despite these disadvantages, he tied for the league lead in Innings and Wins and was second in adjusted ERA, just behind Oswalt.
Readers have come to expect confident declarations on such matters from Diamondhacks, so in conclusion, here are the things we are most confident of:
1. Roy Oswalt and Brandon Webb were the best pitchers in the National League.
2. Chris Carpenter has no business finishing any higher than third in the balloting.
3. Trevor Hoffman has no business finishing any higher than fourth in the balloting (behind Carpenter and possibly Zambrano).
We know, we know, you need an answer.
That is our answer. Vote for Oswalt. Vote for Webb. After Brandon’s meltdown, we cant truthfully say who had the better overall year between them. It doesnt matter which one wins. It’s not important.
The important thing is not to vote for anyone else.
It’s uncanny, almost comical, how Brandon Webb’s superlative season has been upstaged and undermined. When Brandon went 8-0, the talk of the town was quickpickin’ Bronson Arroyo. After settling (declining, if you prefer) into the role of one of the league’s two best starters, Webb took a back seat all year to Chris Carpenter, even into mid September, when Webb led Carp in Wins and Quality Starts as well as ERA and Run Support, adjusted for dramatic differences in park factor and schedule strength.
Now, the late buzz understandably follows Roy Oswalt, despite the fact Webb has pitched better(.156 BAA, 0.64 WHIP, 2.23 ERA) in September than any Cy Young contender, including the red hot Astro stalwart.
Locally, Webb quietly twirls masterpieces obscured by twin towers. One is the elongated shadow of Randy Johnson, who’s standard none of today’s NL best can match. To many Diamondbacks fans, Brandon is "no Randy Johnson". They’re right – but neither is Roy Oswalt or Chris Carpenter. The other shadow is cast, not by Curt Schilling, but by Luis Gonzalez. This week, every time Gonzo approaches the plate, catches a ball on the run, or wiggles his butt, a standing ovation ensues for the enormously popular face of the franchise. This will be triply true tomorrow, on the last day of the season, slated to pay homage to 2001′s departing heroes – Luis, Counsell and most likely, Miguel Batista.
So, Webb will be aiming, again, for his league leading 17th victory and ostensibly the Cy Young Award, barely noticed amidst Sunday’s nostalgic love fest. And as he faces the playoff bound Padres for the fifth time this year, Bob Melvin is faced with a conundrum. Fifty thousand fans will fill Chase Ho Park to see Counsell and Gonzalez play one last time. Woody Williams, Sunday’s starter, owns those two as much as a pitcher can possibly own a pair of veteran hitters. And Melvin wants to field his best lineup to help his unheralded ace win.
Brandon Webb’s Cy Young quest, and the interests of fans and veteran heroes will be pitted against each other. Barring a miracle, someone will get shortchanged Sunday.
We certainly dont want reporters blindly allied with the home team, but we do expect journalists to pursue a healthy allegiance with facts, in an effort to produce truthful impressions and crystalize public perception. Instead, what we tend to find in the local papers and online, are lazily researched articles that reinforce established, superficial impressions – and do little justice to Webb.
Here’s two examples of the lukewarm coverage:
From The Republic’s normally reliable Bob McManaman, entitled " Webb, Carpenter battle for Cy Young till end ":
The pitching statistics between Webb and Carpenter, the 2005 Cy Young winner, are virtually identical.
One writer with an NL Cy Young vote told The Republic he is waiting until the final game because "it’s just too close to call.
And our favorite:
The biggest difference might be that Carpenter is pitching for a winning team.
With the Diamondbacks out of the postseason picture, Webb’s final starts won’t include pressure-packed dependency.
To be fair, McManaman’s effective love letter to the Cards’ ace was filed before Carpenter’s latest and greatest meltdown, and Bob appears to finally be putting at least one foot on the Webb bus today, but we still find his comparitive analysis seriously lacking. All things considered, is it really a hardship for Carpenter to pitch on a winning team, in a pitcher’s park, against demonstrably weaker opposition all year long? Poor fellah – all that "pressure packed dependency", dontchya know. And then there’s carefree and *** Brandon, apparently so very lucky to pitch for a last place team, in a bandbox, against some of the league’s stiffest competition. Why, it’s no wonder he leads the league in Wins and ERA with all those advantages.
Then there’s this rubbish from diamondbacks.com, remarkably filed after last night’s games:
Webb, who finds himself locked in a neck-and-neck battle with the Cardinals’ Chris Carpenter for the National League Cy Young Award, wound up with a no-decision, but still may have strengthened his case for the award.
May have strengthened his case? Neck and neck after last night?
If diamondbacks.com is to be believed, Webb (23 quality starts), is fortunate to be mentioned in the same sentence as the Combustible Cardinal(19 QS), let alone be granted the by now obvious tag of most deserving CYA recipient.
Contrast these milquetoast conclusions with those of Rich Draper, the Giants’ beat man covering the same game. His sister recap concentrates on Matt Morris and Moises Alou, which is perfectly fine. Apart from a Mike Stanton quote about the high caliber of Brandon’s stuff, here’s Draper’s sole Webb reference:
Arizona’s Brandon Webb, the NL’s top candidate for the Cy Young Award with a 16-7 record, held the Giants to only three hits over seven frames, including Pedro Feliz’s third-inning double.
Perhaps Draper understands about season long park effects and strength of schedule? Or maybe he’s watched Carpenter sink like a fiery zeppelin out of the Cy Young runnning? Maybe he’s spent more than 10 minutes researching the contextual issues?
Thanks to Draper and others, Giants fans see Webb as clearly as a sunny day on the bay.
Relying on Phoenix reporters, however, one wouldn’t have the foggiest.
There’s no denying that today’s start by Chris Carpenter is an important one for his team. Numerous factors help explain how the Redbirds find themselves in the position they do today, including the fact that Carpenter was the league’s best home pitcher this year and has helped his teammates, the NL Central’s best, to the top spot in baseball’s weakest division.
Another reason why today’s game has such gravitas, however, is because the Cardinal’s ace failed to hold the Bird’s archrival to four runs or less in last week’s "big game". (You remember – the one that was supposed to prove Chris was the league’s best pitcher.) In fact, Carp is 1-2 in four starts against the weak hitting Astros, with a 4.35 ERA this year.
Another reason why today’s game has any import at all for the Cardinals is because their ace has a 4.70 ERA in fifteen starts away from Busch. The Cardinals would already be setting up their rotation for the playoffs if "the league’s best pitcher" had a road ERA below four.
Another reason, or a related reason, why today’s game is more critical than it might otherwise be is because the Cards’ ace has managed just nineteen quality starts to date, less than a dozen other starters have managed, including all the top Cy Young candidates, most of whom pitch in hitter friendly parks.
Nonetheless, in 2006, Chris Carpenter has established himself as one of the best starters in the National League. He has also proven, however, that he is not as good as either Brandon Webb or Roy Oswalt.
How many do overs is Chris Carpenter entitled to on the big stage to "prove" to the world that he is something he’s already clearly demonstrated he is not?
The National league’s best pitcher.