Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Who wins the awards?

This isn't about who should win; there's still plenty of time for me to rant and rave about that. But based on what we know of those wacky, zany voters and their rationalizing, usually wrong-headed tendencies, if the season ended today, who would win? I think it's a tighter field than normal for at least four of the six main awards, so it's an interesting question right now. Here are my guesses:

NL MVP: Albert Pujols, Cardinals.
Might as well start with the easy one, huh? It's impossible to make an argument against Albert, even one of the silly irrational not-at-all-individual-performance-based arguments people often try to make. As I said yesterday, a competing D-Backs team might throw Mark Reynolds into the mix, and a slide out of contention by the Cards might throw just about everybody into the mix, but for now, this is Al's to lose. He leads the league in games played, runs scored, home runs, RBI, OBP, SLG, and OPS, OPS+. He's fourth in batting average--currently 21 points behind Hanley, but a triple crown is about as much in play right now as it's been in 40 years. I don't believe anybody could screw this one up.

AL MVP: Jason Bartlett, Rays.
And then right away it gets interesting. WAR will tell you it's one of Bartlett's teammates, Longoria or Zobrist. But neither has a high batting average--they're just stellar offensive and defensive players, that's all. Longoria does have the high RBI total (2nd in the league), but he'll have to get that average above .280 to have a real shot. Next on the WAR list is Joe Mauer, and note that WAR doesn't give catchers any credit (or demerits) for defense, because of the difficulty measuring it; Mauer is universally hailed as a very good or great defensive catcher, so that would probably have bumped him up to first. But he missed a month, and might win a batting title but won't hit 35 HR or rack up 100 runs or RBI. His teammate Justin Morneau is hitting well over .300, near the top in HR and RBI, and legitimately the second-best hitter in the league after Mauer, so he probably wins if the Twins win the division...but I'm sitting here watching them get blowed up by the Royals, and I don't think that's likely.

So I'm going with Bartlett (actually the fourth Ray in WAR, also behind Carl Crawford). We know the writers love him; he's one of those scrappy little guys, and the Tampa writers voted him Rays MVP last year, when he was just plain terrible. This year he's hitting .340 with a 142 OPS+, 11 homers and 21 steals, and he's perceived as a great defensive shortstop (though UZR thinks that passed him by two years ago). Dustin Pedroia took the award last year with less (superficially) impressive credentials than that. If the Rays fade, I think the Yanks' Mark Teixeira takes it.

NL Cy Young: Tim Lincecum, Giants.
This should be another easy one. Lincecum has a 2.20 ERA and also leads in complete games, shutouts and strikeouts. But Adam Wainwright and Johan Santana both have 13 "wins" to Lincecum's 12, and Wainwright has a pretty ERA too. If one of those two somehow gets to 20 wins and Lincecum is at 16 or 17, they'll steal it from him (which would be a kind of poetic justice if it were Santana, since Colon stole one from him in exactly the same fashion in 2005). Luckily, that's not likely at this point. Lincecum's teammate Matt Cain has a shot to take it, too, but probably only if Lincecum falters or is injured.

AL Cy Young: Josh Beckett, Red Sox.
The league's two best pitchers, Halladay and Greinke, pitch for teams that aren't likely to get a lot of wins from here on out, though they're both very much still in the race for this award, especially Halladay. Beckett already leads with 13 "wins," pitches for a pretty good team, and has a solid ERA. If he picks up 5 more "wins" I think he takes it. It's pretty open, though. Verlander, Buehrle and even Sabathia have outside shots.

NL Rookie of the Year: Dexter Fowler, Rockies.
There are some pitchers who have really strong claims to this award, but it takes a lot for them to give it to a pitcher, and none of those guys has been a full-time starter all year. Fowler has been up all year, and he's played almost all of the Rockies' games. He's got a respectable batting average and OBP, and he's stolen 26 bases, including 5 in one game early in the season. I think he takes it, though pitchers J.A. Happ of the Phillies and Tommy Hanson of Atlanta have solid claims.

AL Rookie of the Year: Jeff Niemann, Rays.
The AL has no Dexter Fowler. No rookie has played enough that they would currently qualify for the batting title, and none of the ones who have played significant time have played particularly well. The White Sox' Chris Getz has a .268 average and 18 steals in 20 tries, but...well, ew. The Rangers' Elvis Andrus has been phenomenal, but it's all defense, and the voters don't know from defense. Niemann walks too many and strikes out too few for a guy who looks so much like Randy Johnson, but he has 10 "wins" and a good 3.73 ERA. He and the Jays' Ricky Romero (also 10 and a 3.66, but I feel better about Niemann for some reason) probably have the best shot.

So really, five of the six are pretty much up in the air right now, or so it looks to me. Tell me what I'm missing...


  1. Commentary:

    NL MVP: Nobody can screw this up? What about the guys who voted for Edinson Volquez for ROY last year?

    AL MVP: I've got to think that Mauer's early charge, and the press it generated, will have a lot of carryover effect, especially since Jason Bartlett doesn't get a lot of national press. Pedroia won last year essentially because his awesome-for-a-middle-infielder season happened in a Red Sox uniform. I look forward to Mauer finally breaking through, after getting boned in the past.

    I like the other picks though (I think Romero might be more likely for AL ROY, but I admit I may have an anti-Tampa bias).

  2. I have to admit, I know almost nothing about the NL ROY you mention. Dexter Fowler? What about Casey McGehee? I know he probably has no real chance, but he's having a pretty decent season himself. In fact, outside of maybe the steals (and I don't know much about Fowler's defense), McGehee is putting up better numbers. Do people outside of Milwaukee even know anything about him?

    Not that I think he's the leading ROY candidate. For that, I think it's probably Hanson or Happ, like you said. They seem to get a pretty decent amount of recognition.

    And I think I've gotta go with Doc in the AL Cy Young right now. His win totals should be good enough (17-18 wins, right?) as long as someone like Beckett doesn't put up 22.

    Good stuff, though.

  3. I think you're forgetting about Cris Carpenter for Cy Young. Sure, numbers are great, but if you want to give it to the best pitcher, that would be Carpenter this year. His time on the DL will probably end up disqualifing him, but he's been the best this year.

    Also, I guess I missed it, but isn't Sandoval a rookie this year?

    And don't forget Cody Rasmus. Could be a clean sweep for the Cards, just like the playoffs and the Series.

  4. TCM- welcome back again! I mean, individual voters can screw it up (though arguably, not voting for Albert this year might be even worse than voting a non-rookie ROY). I just don't see how the majority could go anywhere other than Albert. And when Blyleven and Bremer don't even mention Mauer as their MVP, I don't think there's any prayer the writers figure it out.

    lar- McGehee has been awesome and I considered mentioning him, but Fowler has almost twice the PA. If they both play every day and McGehee stays just as good, then maybe. I know about Fowler because of those five steals in one game, and also because he's on my fantasy keeper league team. :) I hadn't even checked, but UZR hates his defense. Not that the voters will consider that.

    Ron- no, Sandoval had 145 AB and 154 PA last year (the limit is 130 of one of those, don't remember which). Otherwise he'd be even more obvious than Albert. I definitely considered Carpenter, but he's a good five starts behind everybody else. I'd still go with Lincecum (whether we're talking "likely" or "deserving"), but I'd pick Carpenter #2 myself. Maybe by the end of the season those five starts don't look so big anymore.

  5. You know, I'd say that, with Hardy being sent down, Casey should be getting the everyday ABs he deserves but they did bring up Escobar, so who knows what they're going to do. Fowler's extra ABs definitely helps his case but, if Casey can get up to ~110 games and ~400 ABs, then I think it ends up being a wash. The voters don't necessarily expect a ROY winner to play 140 games, you know? And you're right - Braun winning the ROY over Troy Tulowitzki is pretty much all you need to know to show that defense doesn't matter.

    I still don't think Casey can get the award, but it'd be nice to see him get some consideration.

  6. Very interesting.

    NL MVP- Pujols definitely wins it if the Cards make the playoffs, but don't forget that big months from Hanley Ramirez or Chase Utley that push their respective teams into the playoffs could be serious threats if the Cards fall out. It would take BIG months from them, but I think it's possible and I wouldn't argue too terribly much unless Pujols also continued his gigantic production so far.

    AL MVP- I think Tex is in the lead right now as the guy who "stepped up in the big spotlight". But if the Rays make the playoffs, I can't see anyone beating Longoria.

    NL Cy Young- Lincecum is the clear winner here, and it's not even close. With all due respect to Carpenter (though I love him getting some love from Ron), Lincy's FIP is 1.96 while Carpenter's is 2.85. That's an incredible difference, and Carpenter doesn't really hold a big edge anywhere. The one guy I wish people would talk about is Javy Vazquez, but even I'll admit that Lincecum is the winner here. Great seasons from Vazquez and Carpenter, but the Cy Young is about the best and that belongs to Lincecum.

    AL Cy Young - If the Red Sox fall out of the playoffs, then I think Verlander gets it. Greinke (2.24 FIP and .7 better than Halladay) deserves it, but you're right in that the voters won't give it to him in all likelihood. It's unfortunate.

    NL ROY - I think Rasmus has a bit more fanfare than Fowler, but I think it will go to one of the pitchers you've mentioned. I think it's up to who has the best last month and a half, and if the Braves overtake the Phillies with a strong finish from Hanson, I don't think the voters will pass up Hanson. Rasmus deserves it, but I'm betting Happ (beneficiary of the Halladay hoopla) or Hanson (Olney's love-child) win it.

    AL ROY - Brett Anderson has a chance, but he's out in Oakland not getting noticed. Nolan Reimold could also get some consideration, but he's in Baltimore not getting noticed and he apparently doesn't play very good defense, though most scouting reports say he's actually a good outfielder. Won't argue with Niemann, but Anderson should probably be it.

    Of course, there's still lots of time left. I had Carlos Quentin pegged as the MVP in August, but we know what happened. Gotta wait a bit longer.