Saturday, November 5, 2011

2011 MLB Award Ballots

During the 3rd week of November, Major League Baseball will unveil their Major Award winners, as voted on by the BBWA. This is fun to do; we suggest you try this at home. If we could vote on the awards, our ballots would look like this:

AL Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award
1. Michael Pineda, Mariners
2. Jordan Walden, Angels
Photo by Hannah Folsien/Getty Images
3. Eric Hosmer, Royals

Mark Trumbo may very well win this award because he lead all rookies with 29 homeruns. Aside from HR's, Hosmer was a much more impressive hitter. Trumbo made an out in over 70% of his plate appearances.

There were a bunch of pitchers with a case for inclusion. Ivan Nova, Jeremy Hellickson, Al Albuquerque, and most notably Alexi Ogando had fantastic rookie campaigns.

Brett Lawrie, Dustin Ackley, and Desmond Jennings are future stars who didn't play enough games this past season to make it on our ballot. Lawrie is a guy who we hope gets his act together off the field because he produced like a beast after his to the Blue Jays. As an illustration, Brett Lawrie played only 43 games and leads all AL rookies position players in Wins Above Replacement. I'm glad I'm not a Brewers fan because I would surely rather have future seasons of Brett Lawrie than future seasons of Shaun Marcum.

NL Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award
1. Craig Kimbrel, Braves
Craig Kimbrell has been
a revelation in Dixie.
2. Freddie Freeman, Braves
3. Vance Worley, Phillies

From our point of view, Craig Kimbrel would have won the award in either league. The Braves almost swept this ballot for us, as Brandon Beachy of the Braves was a close 4th on our list. Beachy's 10.74 K/9 separated him from the rest of the also-ran starters. We also saw very good pitching from Josh Collmenter, Cory Luebke, and Dillon Gee pitched very well for the Giants, Padres, and Mets, respectively.

I found it interesting to look at their team's records in their starts. Worley and Gee were the best, and Gee's winning percentage is even more encouraging when keeping in mind that his team was well below .500 when he did not start.

Player W-L, Win%
The Phillies #4 starter
Vance Worley 16-5, .762
Dillon Gee 17-10, .630
Josh Collmenter 12-12, .500
Cory Luebke 8-9, .471
Brandon Beachy 11-14, .440

Among NL rookie batters, Danny Espinosa, Allen Craig, Wilson Ramos, and Lucas Duda had very good seasons, but we didn't see enough to rank them ahead of Worley. Espinosa hit 21 homeruns while playing above average second base. Craig had a .366 OBP. Wilson Ramos played behind the plate to the tune of a 2.8 avWAR, and Lucas Duda had a .370 OBP while hitting well in clutch situations.

American League Cy Young Award
This should be a much closer race than people are giving CC Sabathia credit. The Yankee Ace has just slightly better numbers than Justin Verlander in FIP, xFIP, and fWAR, which is mostly from overcoming a higher BABIP and keeping the ball in the ballpark better than Verlander this season. Justin Verlander had better strikeout and walk rates than* Sabathia.

Verlander for Cy Young is the
safest bet out of any of these.
There is also a correlation between a pitcher's stuff and his standing on our Cy Young ballots.

Wins Above Replacement is a nice thing to have, but as people on both sides of the hall evangelize, voters cannot simply follow WAR or Win Share leader boards to fill out their ballots. Here is the American League pitching WAR leaderboard from Baseball-Reference:

Rk Age Tm IP R Rdef aLI RAR WAR ▾
1 Justin Verlander 28 DET 251.0 73 -3 .9 87 8.6
2 CC Sabathia* 30 NYY 237.1 87 2 .9 75 6.9
3 Jered Weaver 28 LAA 235.2 65 8 1.0 61 6.6
4 Josh Beckett 31 BOS 193.0 65 0 1.0 64 6.2
5 James Shields 29 TBR 249.1 83 6 .9 59 6.1
6 Ricky Romero* 26 TOR 225.0 85 2 1.0 61 5.9
7 Doug Fister 27 2TM 216.1 76 -2 .9 55 5.7
8 Gio Gonzalez* 25 OAK 202.0 81 -4 1.0 49 5.0
9 C.J. Wilson* 30 TEX 223.1 89 3 1.0 52 5.0
10 Jon Lester* 27 BOS 191.2 77 0 1.0 50 4.8
11 Felix Hernandez 25 SEA 233.2 99 -1 1.1 43 4.7
12 Jeremy Hellickson 24 TBR 189.0 64 5 .9 43 4.2
13 Justin Masterson 26 CLE 216.0 89 3 1.1 38 4.1
14 Dan Haren 30 LAA 238.1 91 9 1.0 38 4.0
15 Matt Harrison* 25 TEX 185.2 79 3 1.0 42 4.0
16 David Robertson 26 NYY 66.2 9 0 1.7 31 3.9
17 Scott Baker 29 MIN 134.2 50 -3 .9 39 3.8
18 Mark Buehrle* 32 CHW 205.1 93 1 1.0 37 3.7
19 Brandon McCarthy 27 OAK 170.2 73 -4 .9 37 3.7
20 David Price* 25 TBR 224.1 93 5 .9 37 3.7

James Shields had a world class '11. 
We are always open to celebrate or discuss Felix Hernandez, who somehow avoided our top 5.

1. Justin Verlander, Tigers
2. CC Sabathia, Yankees
3. Jered Weaver, Angels
4. James Shields, Rays
5. Dan Haren, Angels

Honorable Mention: Felix Hernandez, Brandon McCarthy, and Doug Fister

Until the last moment, Brandon McCarthy was on the ballot. He lead the AL in FIP, which is enough for serious consideration. Eventually, his lower inning total (170), discounted his achievements.

For comparison of the WAR values from Fangraphs, CC is 1st, Verlander 2nd, Haren 3rd, Jered Weaver is 5th, Felix is 7th, and McCarthy is ranked 10th. C.J. Wilson was ranked 4th, and I swear to you he wasn't anywhere near our top 5 even before his unflattering postseason.

AL Manager of the Year Award
Unless they win a pennant or the Manager of the Year award, people won't usually remember any specific seasons in someone's managerial career. It's a shame because it's not an easy job, and I think even more than three people really stood out in both leagues this year. Joe Girardi has several critics, particularly for his assumed dependence on his binder. He is rarely praised, as many believe the manager of the New York Yankees, with the #1 payroll in all of North American professional sports, should be able to field a winner. This year, Girardi deserves recognition for winning the AL East with a patchwork starting rotation that relied heavily on Ivan Nova, Bartolo Colon, and Freddy Garcia. Perhaps more of the credit should go to Brian Cashman for being a wise shopper and hitting it big with low-cost free agents.

Cleveland's on the right track, right?
1. Manny Acta, Indians
2. Jim Leyland, Tigers
3. Ron Washington, Rangers

It's so difficult to really know who's doing a better job managing between any two managers, let alone a handful of professionals who are at the top of their sport. Maybe it's because I'm a lowly Cubs fan, but my opinion is that what Manny Acta did, in changing the culture in Cleveland, from a young clubhouse, to a winning clubhouse was the most exceptional of all. Their front office surprised me by letting Grady Sizemore go last week. He's a 29-year old homegrown star who apparently doesn't have structural damage in his knee, and they let him walk rather than exercise a 1-yr/$9 million option. That doesn't sound like a winning culture to me.

Jim Leyland impressed a lot of people all over again managing his Tigers to the playoffs thisn season after the Miguel Cabrera DUI circus and often surviving with a pedestrian bullpen.

It's tough to pick Washington ahead of Girardi, and in fact, I'm not so sure that I should have. Ultimately, I think he did a great job keeping them winning after losing Cliff Lee. Weaker teams would have sensed their window of opportunity closing, while the Rangers played consistently good baseball and won the division comfortably.

NL Manager of the Year Award
Maybe it's something psychological in my head about having Yankees and former Yankees just fall short this year, but Don Mattingly was the honorable mention for our NL ballot this season. He did a good job keeping a hopeless team, dealing with an ugly and public divorce, above .500. Yet, he did it with what may have been the best Player (Kemp), the best Starting Pitcher (Kershaw), and the best Reliever (Jansen) in baseball last year.

It's always better when TLR doesn't drive.
1. Tony LaRussa, Cardinals
2. Kirk Gibson, D'backs
3. Clint Hurdle, Pirates

Not much needs to be said about the run the Cardinals went on just to win the Wild Card. The sixty-five or so Braves fans that are out there are still shaking their heads. The D'backs and Pirates surprised the Senior Circuit in 2011. Arizona triumphed in the NL West, and Kirk Gibson's relationships with his players were revered. Although the Pirates faded to 4th place obscurity, they were in 1st place as late as July 25th. Their incredible run this Summer ignited a competitive fire in young Pirates fans that they had never felt before.

National League Cy Young Award
Clayton Kershaw was the pick I had in mind before looking at any numbers. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Zack Greinke actually ranked higher when I did an ineffective exercise comparing K/9, BB/9, HR/9, xFIP, and SIERA. After looking closer at batted ball and pitch value data from Fangraphs, we settled on the following:

1. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
2. Cliff Lee, Phillies
3. Roy Halladay, Phillies
4. Zack Greinke, Brewers
5. Cole Hamels, Phillies

Honorable Mention: Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain

Let's get out on that limb and say the Phillies are going to be good again next year.

American League MVP Award
1. CC Sabathia, Yankees
2. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
3. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
4. Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox
5. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox
6. Evan Longoria, Rays
7. Justin Verlander, Tigers
8. Curtis Granderson, Yankees
9. Ian Kinsler, Rangers
10. Alex Avila, Tigers

Honorable Mention: Dustin Pedroia and Robinson Cano

Isn't it possible to win the MVP as a pitcher, yet not be the best pitcher in his league?

I think value is determined by a player's production and circumstances. CC Sabathia metaphorically carried the Yankees to the postseason. In a league where every competitive team has three or four prototypical #1 and #2 starters, the Yankees won their division primarily because of the big man.

National League MVP Award
1. Matt Kemp, Dodgers
2. Ryan Braun, Brewers
3. Prince Fielder, Brewers
4. Lance Berkman, Cardinals
5. Justin Upton, Diamondbacks
6. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
7. Joey Votto, Reds
8. Jose Reyes, Mets
9. Albert Pujols, Cardinals
10. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

Honorable Mention: Michael Morse and Andrew McCutchen

How about those Dodgers, with a potential MVP and Cy Young Award winner, but no owner. I know at least one Diamondback fan who will take offense to Justin Upton's spot on the list. It is a tough list to fill out. This season, the National League had so many fantastic performances. For instance, Joey Votto had about the same year as he had last year, when he won the MVP Award, but I can't place him above 7th this year. It's also funny to look back now, after the World Series, and imaging Albert Pujols not being #1 on this list. Alas, all ballots by the BBWAA were due before the postseason began.

Just for fun, let us know how you would you fill out your ballots.

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