Monday, June 13, 2011

If the MLB Season Ended Today...

It’s admittedly way too early to start seriously considering the contenders for end of the year awards (unless you live near Washington DC, in which case Danny Espinosa was apparently awarded the NL Rookie of the Year Award before the season even began), but with more than a third of the season in the books and no other US sport currently doing anything more interesting than threatening to not play again next season, there’s no better time than the present to start looking ahead.

Don’t worry; I won’t bore yourself or myself with discussions of Gold Glove or Silver Slugger Awards.

Statistics as of start of play on June 13th.

AL Cy Young

Favorite: Justin Verlander (7-3, 93 K, 2.89 ERA, 0.94 WHIP)

He’s looked completely lost on the mound at times this season, and he’s beyond on pace to eclipse his career high in home runs allowed in a season, yet he’s averaging just under one base runner and one strikeout per inning. Without a doubt, the no-hitter he pitched on May 7th helps lower the ERA and WHIP considerably, but Verlander is a flamethrower and a workhorse, averaging 115 pitches and 7.1 innings of work per start. For sake of comparison, in his 2010 Cy Young award winning season, Felix Hernandez averaged 110 pitches and 7.1 innings per outing. In my opinion, the biggest thing working in Verlander’s favor is a plethora of future games against the light-hitting AL Central whereas guys like Sabathia and Price deal with the Red Sox, Blue Jays, and each others’ potent offense on a regular basis.

Next Best: Jered Weaver (7-4, 90 K, 2.24 ERA, 0.95 WHIP)

After starting the season 6-0 with a 0.99 ERA, reports of his demise have been greatly exaggerated. Fun fact: The Angels have yet to score more than 5 runs in any game started by Jered Weaver this season, which includes a 1-0 loss in a 10 inning game in which Weaver pitched 9 shutout innings. There are 43 pitchers in the AL who AVERAGE more than 5 units of run support per game. Give Weaver the run support that the Red Sox have given Jon Lester, and he could be 14-0 right now. Of course, this is nothing new for Jered, as he went 13-12 last year despite a 3.01 ERA and 1.07 WHIP for the season. Whether the runs show up or not, if he can keep up his current K/9 and K/BB rates and continue to keep the ball in the yard better than he has in previous years, his name will definitely be near the top of the ballots at year end.

Honorable Mention: Josh Beckett (5-2, 73 K, 2.06 ERA, 1.01 WHIP)

Of all the flashbacks this season (Jose Reyes batting .346, David Ortiz ranking top ten in AL in AVG/HR/RBI, Jason Giambi hitting 3 home runs in one game), Beckett’s start to the season is the one that predominantly leads me to believe that a hot tub time machine took me to 2005. The strikeouts, run support, and relief pitchers haven’t always been there thus far, but it’s hard to overlook 2 earned runs allowed in 21 innings against the Yankees en route to the lowest current ERA in the AL. I would feel a lot better about his chances of winning the Cy Young if he wasn’t walking as many guys as he has been. Thus far, he’s been lucky with those free passes, but over the course of a season, they tend to be costly.

Dark Horse: Alexi Ogando (7-0, 60 K, 2.10 ERA, 0.90 WHIP)

Converted relief pitchers with early success rarely hold up beyond the All-Star Break, if they even make it that long before being shut down for the year. He has been great thus far though; holding opponents to two runs or fewer in ten of twelve starts. If he beats the odds and makes 30+ starts, don’t be surprised to hear his name butchered in AL Cy Young debates.

NL Cy Young

Favorite: Roy Halladay (9-3, 106 K, 2.39 ERA, 1.05 WHIP)

The perennial candidate is on pace to duplicate what he did to win the award last year, and he hasn’t even thrown one of his patented complete game shutouts yet (though he did take two shutouts into the 9th inning before allowing a run). Roy is averaging a strikeout per inning, and 7.5 strikeouts per free pass issued. It seems opposing batters will never figure the 34 year old out. Barring an injury, all other pitchers in the NL are merely battling for runner-up

Next Best: Shaun Marcum (7-2, 83 K, 2.68 ERA, 1.01 WHIP)

Marcum is doing exactly what everyone thought Matt Garza would do this season: go from a solid pitcher in the AL East to an all-star in the NL Central. Apparently we all forgot about that pesky billy goat curse when we made our predictions for Garza, but it seems the only thing keeping Marcum from greatness is a bullpen that has already blown saves in three games that should have increased his win total. Aside from his fly ball / ground ball ratio, the biggest concern surrounding Marcum is his durability. That isn’t to say that he’s necessarily injury prone, but he hasn’t thrown 200+ innings in a season yet in his career, and he wouldn’t have to worry about those aforementioned blown saves if he was capable of effectively throwing more than 100 pitches in a game. If he can avoid permanently destroying his season averages over the course of his next three starts @ BOS, vs. TB, and @ NYY, I expect to see a solid stat line beside Marcum’s name in September, after a second half of feasting on teams like the Astros, Pirates, and Cubs.

Honorable Mention: Jair Jurrjens (8-2, 46 K, 1.82 ERA, 1.00 WHIP)

I would be remiss to not at least mention the current league leader in ERA. After opening the season on the disabled list, Jurrjens has been disabling batters left and right, recording a quality start in each of his 11 starts thus far. Despite his torrid start, I worry about his low strikeout rate and his ability to stay on the field, having endured three trips to the DL since May 2010.

Dark Horse: Jonny Venters (4-0, 3 SV, 0.44 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, 9.52 K/9)

They don’t give NFL MVPs to defensive players and they don’t give Cy Young awards to relief pitchers, yet every season, some idiot argues that we should consider voting for Ralph Nader anyway. This year, I am that idiot. I realize the sample sizes and situational pressures are completely unrelated, but Mariano Rivera’s career postseason statistics are 0.71 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 7.02 K/9. You can see Venters’ numbers in those categories above. The southpaw looks and pitches exactly like Billy Wagner, but because he’s only getting the occasional save on days off for Kimbrel, no one is giving him any love. From May 10-25, Venters appeared in 10 games, allowing 0 hits over the course of 12 innings. He has allowed one earned run in 38.2 innings of work since April 3rd. His ground ball / fly ball ratio is 4.06; by comparison, sinker baller Derek Lowe’s G/F is 1.46. When pitching on 0 days rest, opposing batters are 2 for 47 against him with 18 strikeouts. Can I stop gushing yet? There’s no way he’ll win the award, but there is something seriously wrong with the state of fantasy baseball when this guy is only owned in 60% of leagues. (For the record, I am playing in two leagues this season, and Venters is the only guy that I have on both of my teams; and in one of those leagues, I may or may not be in first place thanks in part to drafting the rare “Closer Handcuff” of Venters and Kimbrel.)


Favorite: Adrian Gonzalez (13 HR, 60 RBI, 1 SB, .392 OBP)

The Red Sox have been such offensive juggernauts lately that you could easily make an argument for Ortiz, Pedroia, Youkilis, or Ellsbury in this spot, but I think the award has to go to Gonzalez. The power didn’t start showing up for Gonzalez until a month into the season, but since Opening Day, it’s been clear that the move from Petco to Fenway was going to be a beneficial one. Dude was a Triple Crown threat in the most pitcher friendly park in all of baseball over the past few seasons, but now he has a legitimate shot to do what no one has done since 1967 if he keeps taking advantage of that short wall in right field.

Next Best: Jose Bautista (21 HR, 42 RBI, 5 SB, .489 OBP)

Ignoring the theories that his recent power surge is the result of less strictly enforced drug testing policies in Canada, Bautista is on pace to do less than he did last year when he finished 4th in the AL MVP voting. The batting average is significantly better than it was last year, but oddly enough, considering he’s still leading the majors in home runs, the power numbers are slightly down by comparison. Unfortunately, until they re-align the leagues and get rid of the division format, the Blue Jays have no shot at making it to the playoffs, and MVPs don’t play for losing teams. If they did, Alex Rodriguez would have won a few MVP awards when he was hitting 50+ home runs per season for the last place Rangers.

Honorable Mention: Curtis Granderson (20 HR, 47 RBI, 10 SB, .353 OBP)

The Grandy Man is projected to finish the campaign with 50 home runs and 121 RBI, which would surpass his previous career highs in those categories by the 20 home runs and 47 RBI that he already has this season. You can’t even really “blame” his success on the friendly confines of the new Yankee Stadium, as his home/road splits are nearly identical. You can’t even argue that he’s seeing the ball all that much better, because he’s on pace to strike out just as often and walk just as rarely as he usually does. It’s not even as if he’s just getting really lucky this year, because his batting averaging on balls in play isn’t even .300. It might just be his year.

Dark Horse: Paul Konerko (16 HR, 52 RBI, 1 SB, .390 OBP)

Konerko finished 5th in the voting last year, and he’s having a slightly better season this time around. Unless you’re a fan of the White Sox, you probably have no idea that he will likely surpass both the 2000 hit and 400 home run totals for his career this season, and at the young age of 35, Konerko currently has a higher batting average than he has ever finished a season with in the past. It’s highly unlikely he’ll sustain the numbers he’s currently putting up, or that they would even be MVP worthy anyway, but in the midst of all this Jeter 3000th hit garbage, I wanted to point out another guy who’s about to hit some milestones.


Favorite: Albert Pujols (14 HR, 40 RBI, 5 SB, .348 OBP)

See: Pujols, Albert. These next guys have more impressive numbers, but with The Machine heating up over the past two weeks, I refuse to believe that anyone else is the favorite to win the award.

Next Best: Matt Kemp (20 HR, 56 RBI, 14 SB, .411 OBP)

Kemp has cooled off on the base paths as of late, swiping only 2 bags in his past 29 games, but to make up for it, he’s hit 13 home runs in his last 25 games. He’s certainly been the most valuable fantasy player to date, but there’s little hope of him winning the actual award until the rest of the Dodgers start playing well enough to get out of the NL West cellar.

Honorable Mention: Prince Ryan Braun-Fielder (33 HR, 106 RBI, 14 SB, .407 OBP)

It’s virtually impossible to pick between the two. Braun and Fielder have single-handedly (or is it double?) carried the Brewers to victory in 21 of their last 28 games, good enough to take over first place in the NL Central. However, it almost has the feel of the Carpenter/Wainwright for Cy Young debate from two years ago, in which the voters will ultimately decide that if you can’t even convincingly argue which guy is the best player on his own team, it’s even harder to argue that he’s the best in the league. Perhaps I’ll change my tune and flip a coin to pick between Braun and Fielder if the Brewers end up running away with the NL Central, as you can’t very well argue for Pujols to win the MVP if the Cardinals miss out on the playoffs.

Dark Horse: Andrew McCutchen (10 HR, 37 RBI, 11 SB, .385 OBP)

None of his stats compare to Matt Kemp’s thus far, and it’s not as if the Pirates are doing much better than the Dodgers, but if Cutch can finish the season with 30/100/30 totals and the Pirates can miraculously get into the playoffs, one has to assume many would vote for the best guy on the most surprising team. Of all the dark horses, this one is right up there with Jonny Venters, but that doesn’t change the fact that Cutch has been an outstanding five tool player. Also, we can’t rule out seeing him put up second half stats like Beltran in 2005 for an NL contender after the Pirates trade him for 25 cents on the dollar. Personally, I’m rooting for him to win the award so I can brag that I destroyed the 2011 NL MVP at Guitar Hero, while playing behind my back, no less.

AL Rookie of the Year

Favorite: Michael Pineda (6-4, 80 K, 2.72 ERA, 1.04 WHIP)

So long as Seattle remains competitive in the AL West, they might keep letting him toe the rubber well into the second half of the season.

Next Best: Mark Trumbo (11 HR, 29 RBI, 6 SB, .299 OBP)

With Kendry Morales out for the season, Trumbo has done a sufficient job of filling that void; now if only the Angels could get Vernon Wells to hit the ball…

Honorable Mention: Eric Hosmer (5 HR, 21 RBI, 2 SB, .335 OBP)

He didn’t get called up to the big leagues until May and hasn’t done much other than hit for average thus far in June, but Hosmer has shown flashes of brilliance at the plate and already seems to be more worth the hype than Alex Gordon ever was.

Dark Horse: JP Arencibia (10 HR, 34 RBI, .295 OBP)

Everyone loves a power hitting catcher, and the rookie Blue Jay plate protector is tied for the league lead in home runs by a catcher.

NL Rookie of the Year

Favorite: Danny Espinosa (10 HR, 35 RBI, 6 SB, .308 OBP)

Despite my jab at him in the opening paragraph, which was definitely meant to be a jab at the drool-soaked undertones of Nats play-by-play man, Bob Carpenter, Espinosa has some power, some speed, and some range, however it’d be nice to see his batting average gravitate away from the Mendoza Line.

Next Best: Freddie Freeman (6 HR, 25 RBI, 2 SB, .336 OBP)

If he wasn’t a first basemen and consequently supposed to hit for power, people would be more in love with the alliterative Brave.

Honorable Mention: Darwin Barney (1 HR, 25 RBI, 4 SB, .322 OBP)

No power, minimal speed, below average glove, but at least he hits for an above-average average and rarely strikes out.

Dark Horse: Anthony Rizzo (1 HR, 1 RBI, .563 OBP) (2 games)

Tough to win the award when you don’t get called up until June, but I’m certainly interested to see how the kid does, considering the Padres traded Adrian Gonzalez for him.

1 comment:

  1. if only espi could've kept it up.. oh well.