Thursday, July 14, 2011
Because not everything has to be groundbreaking or something, dammit. These are just kind of fun.
Here's who I'd vote for for the big awards if the season ended today. I'm flying solo again; TCM and/or Mark can jump in with their own picks if they want to, but I'm just not feeling like a team player.
I'll also throw in who I expect to deserve it by year's end. Not who I think will win, of course -- I've long given up trying to figure that sort of thing out -- but who I think I'd vote for a few months from now.
Today: Jose Bautista (.334/.468/.702, 6.6 fWAR, 6.6 bWAR)
Easiest one first. Bautista leads the majors by a healthy margin in homers, OBP, SLG, and WAR. To get to Bautista's 6.6 fWAR from the AL runners-up's WAR (4.8 by Boston's Adrian Gonzalez and Jacoby Ellsbury), you would have to add in one whole Mark Trumbo or Jeff Francoeur. It's not close.
End of the Season: Bautista. He's too far ahead, and with 7 homers and a .395 batting average in his first ten games of July, he's showing no sign of slowing down.
Today: Matt Kemp (.313/.398/.584, 4.4, 5.7)
This one's a lot trickier. You could certainly make a case for Jose Reyes, Andrew McCutchen, Ryan Braun or Joey Votto. The defensive metrics are split wildly on Kemp (thus the big WAR difference), with FanGraphs' UZR seeing him as terrible (-7.6), BPro's FRAA agreeing with that (-5.7), Plus/Minus Defensive Runs Saved as pretty good (+4), Total Zone as average (+1). I choose to give him the benefit of the doubt there and credit his excellent all-around offensive play here.
End of the Season: McCutchen (.291/.390/.505, 5.1, 5.1). His numbers are just a bit less impressive than Kemp's across the board, but he's had similar across-the-board success at the plate (average, power, patience and speed) and, unlike with Kemp, all the metrics agree that McCutchen's defense has been excellent. I have a hunch that he inches up in the second half while Kemp falls off a bit, and at the end of the day he's the NL's best player. He won't have the faintest chance of winning the award, of course.
AL Cy Young
Today: Jered Weaver (1.86 ERA, 2.39 FIP, 4.7 fWAR, 4.9 bWAR)
Weaver doesn't lead the league in either version of WAR, checking in behind C.C. Sabathia in one and Justin Verlander in the other (he does lead in Baseball Prospectus' WARP, at 3.4). But it's hard to look past that 1.75 ERA, and even if you do, the truth is that he's managed to hold opponents to just five homers in his 140.1 innings, even while batters have put a near-league-high 48.1% of balls in play in the air against him (over a third of which have stayed in the infield). I don't think we know enough to really know how much of that is skill and how much is luck, but if he is that good at limiting homers, I think he's the best pitcher in the AL right now.
End of the Season: Verlander (2.15, 2.72, 4.5, 5.3)
It's neck-and-neck already, and Verlander having the better record of success and being seemingly unbreakable, I like his chances to edge ahead by the end of the season.
NL Cy Young
Today: Roy Halladay (2.45, 2.16, 5.1, 4.9)
It's not quite as much of a runaway as the AL MVP race -- thanks in large part to his teammates Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee -- but, I mean, it's not close. Halladay is the best pitcher alive right now, and you could make a case that he's the best player, period.
End of the Season: Halladay. I'll go ahead and pick him for the end of next season right now, too.
AL Rookie of the Year
Today: Michael Pineda (3.03, 3.17, 2.4, 2.6)
The only other rookie I think you could say is close right now is Alexi Ogando, who has put up very similar superficial numbers, but Pineda's edge of over two strikeouts per nine innings over Ogando's rates puts him ahead. The best rookie position player has probably been first baseman Mark Trumbo (.260/.305/.483), who just hasn't been very good. EDIT: and Ogando isn't actually a rookie; he's listed as such on Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs, but he spent too much time on the roster in 2010. So it's really all Pineda right now.
End of the Season: I picked Jeremy Hellickson (3.21, 4.31, 0.8, 1.5) in the pre-season, and he's got quite a ways to go, but I'll pick him again here. I think Pineda and Hellickson both end up as star starters for years to come, but for some reason get the sense that Hellickson is really going to turn it on in the second half while Pineda will slip just a bit (and then get shut down early for innings-count reasons).
NL Rookie of the Year
Today: Danny Espinosa (.242/.332/.460, 3.3, 2.6)
The batting average isn't pretty, but what Espinosa's doing as a 24 year old rookie probably deserves more attention. He's drawing walks at a pretty good rate, stealing bases at a great clip (12 of 14), playing very solid defense at second base, and, most notably, hitting for tremendous power for a second baseman (16 homers, 15 doubles, four triples).
End of the Season: Espinosa. Braves closer Craig Kimbrel has to be the favorite to win it (writers do love their closers), and he's actually not far from deserving it, but I don't see any reason Espinosa can't keep it going. If anything, given his .279 BABIP, Espinosa's final line could end up looking even better than it does now.