Saturday, December 22, 2007

Baseball's Dundy Awards for 2007

Welcome to the annual Outsiders Look Dundy Awards. I will reflect on what happened in Major League Baseball during the year - not only checking in with the season, but also the off season - giving out award for instances which a performance was either the best or worst. The 2007 MLB season may have been one of the most exciting in recent memory. In the middle of May most had written the New York Yankees off, worse yet, almost everyone outside of Denver had written off the eventual NL champs up until the second or third last week of the regular season. We had one of the most prestigious records in all of professional sports broken, multiple milestones, and yet another Roger Clemens un-retirement. We had a major scandal involving Jason Grimsley and the closing of a 22 month investigation into baseball's involvement in steroids. All in all, the year 2007 provided some excellent baseball and plenty to discuss.

Leading off with the Best team of 2007. This team will be rated both with their success on the field as well as in the front office. Recently, the NL West has been one of the worst divisions in baseball. Arizona and Colorado seem to be perpetually rebuilding. Los Angeles and San Francisco do just enough each off season to keep filling their ballparks and San Diego had put together a strong enough nucleus to take advantage of the weak division. However, in 2007, things began to shift. The rebuilding efforts in Arizona and Colorado finally came full circle giving both teams an extremely promising and talented young core. Both the Rockies and Diamondbacks fell in the bottom six in overall team payroll, averaging approximately $500,000 per win - contrast that with division rivals the Dodgers and Giants whom spent approximately $1.3M per win and the Yankees and Red Sox whom spent $2.1 and $1.5M respectively per win.
But that isn't it even half of the reason that the Colorado Rockies are my pick for best team in 2007. Rather, their run to close out the season which included a 6 and 1 record against San Diego (3 and 0 at Petco Park), only 8 loses the entire month, an 18 and 4 record against the division (only 3 games of which were against the lowly Giants) and a 13 and 1 record to push themselves in a single game elimination game with division rival San Diego for the wild card birth. If you missed that, the Rockies had to more or less play perfect baseball for half of a month, adding a loss or two down the stretch would have taken them out of the playoffs and subsequently the world series.
As I mentioned, the Rockies had to play perfect baseball down the stretch to simply have a chance at the playoffs. In the teams wild card playoff game against San Diego, the Rocks were within one strike against one of the most accomplished closers of all time from being eliminated. But as per the Rocks season closing run, they managed to scratch out another win and make the playoffs. Riding high, the Rockies made an incredible run through the NL side of the playoffs winning every game they played. Unfortunately, the run ended swiftly as the Rockies were manhandled by the Red Sox and ousted from their first ever trip to the world series.

How about we turn the tables a little? The Worst team of 2007. This is a tough call, do we go with a team like the Pirates, who were just altogether terrible without having much hope for the future? Or a team like the Orioles who spend like a winner but play like the Pirates? No, I'm going with the team that also owns the Biggest Choke Job of 2007, thats right, the New York Mets. A double Dundy! The Mets, had the $1.3M per win payroll, that seems to be consistent with non-playoff teams. The Mets were essentially the anti-Rockies, deciding that the last two weeks of the season did not matter. From September 16th onwards, the Mets won a total of 5 games compared to 10 losses - this against not one team with a record above .500. The Mets also managed to throw away 5 games against the lowly Nationals, including 3 at Shea. But to make matter worse, the Mets did this while team ace, Pedro Martinez, had returned from injury and by all measures, pitched some pretty solid baseball. The combination of choking and spending is what puts the Mets as 2007s Worst team.

Continuing, the Best individual performance of 2007 goes to Justin Verlander's June 12th start against the Milwaukee Brewers. The starting pitcher of the Detroit Tigers whom at 24 became one of the youngest pitchers to throw a no-no, doing so against a team that had not been no hit since 1994 in front of splendid defensive play.
(Update 12/29/2007 - 11:50am) I received some justified flak for this award as I have been hard on Verlander up to this point. Why Verlander's no hitter instead of Garrett Anderson's 10RBI? Or Buchholz or Buehrle's no hitters? Well, Buehrle's no hitter was an impressive feat for a team who's season was meaningless. Buchholz's no hitter is hardly the third or forth most impressive story in Red Sox nation. And while a no hitter is extremely lucky, 10RBI's is that much more fortunate. So I decided on Verlander as the best individual performance as this will undoubtedly be the highlight of any Tiger fans 2007 while also being an excellent individual performance.

This season baseball fans were also witness to what many are saying will be the last time, possibly ever! Of course I am talking about the 300 win milestone that Tom Glavine achieved on August 5th at historic Wrigley Field on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. Drink it in San Diego, here is your Dundy Tom Glavine, for Becoming the Last of a Dead Breed.

We also had a handful of other achievements which will be given the Honorable Mention Dundy. Alex Rodriguez, Jim Thome and Frank Thomas both joined the 500 HR club, but unlike 300 wins, this club has lost much of its allure. Alex did so at the youngest age of all time, which leads one to believe that the current home run king may not have as long of a reign as did his predecessor. Continuing with home runs, Sammy Sosa parked #600 on June 20th at the Ballpark in Arlington. Of course, we can't talk records without remembering Barry Bonds breaking the all time home run record which stood for over 30 years. As I mentioned, its reasonable to believe he won't hold it for as long as he predecessor.
Continuing with the honorably mention category is Trevor Hoffman's continued assault on the all time saves board. Hoffman's current total of 524 seems unreachable by any current pitcher and seems like an impossible feat for any future pitcher.

Lets change tones for a moment, the Dundy to the player with the Worst statistical season in 2007 goes to Minnesota's Nick Punto. Punto received a demanding negative 27.1 according to Baseball Prospectus' Vale Over Replacement Player. That means he was worth approximately minus 3 wins versus a player the Twins could have gotten off the scrap heap - well done Terry Ryan.

Thats not fair, but without the bad there would be no good, so heres the good: The award for Most impressive statistical season in 2007 goes to Curtis Granderson for putting together a 20-20-20-20 season. That is, a season with at least 20 home runs, steals, doubles AND triples, joining Willie Mays and Frank Schulte. Doing so for the first time in 50 years (source).

Briefly I will give my Individual awards for 2007 (I will go into more depth at a later date):
American League:
MVP - Alex Rodriguez
Rookie - Jeremy Guthrie
Manager - Joe Torre
Executive - Mark Shapiro
Cy Young - Fausto Carmona

National League:
MVP - Matt Holliday
Rookie - Troy Tulowitzki
Manager - Clint Hurdle
Executive - Josh Byrnes
Cy Young - Brandon Webb

Closing with what I considered to be the Best moment of 2007, that moment in which a lifelong memory was created. How could it be anything other than Barry Bonds breaking the all time home run record? A record that stood for over 30 years was broken this summer by one of the most despised sluggers in recent history-if not all time.

Honorable mention, and arguably the Best story of 2007, was the return of Josh Hamilton. Hamilton was a very exciting prospect when he was drafted in the first round by the Tampa Bay Rays. There has been a lot of writing about Hamilton, so I will keep this brief, his return to baseball and having an impressive rookie season was nothing short of spectacular. Lets hope he keeps his nose clean and lives up to the potential he had as a teenager.

Lastly, the Kicking a Dead Horse award for the 2007 season goes to the Mitchell Report. Much has been said about the Report, including my personal reaction towards it. This story has already been beaten to death and I don't see it finishing up anytime soon as players deny or accept the allegations made from the report.

So that is what happened in 2007 in Major League Baseball. I was asked to write a piece on my favorite sports story from 2007, of which, there were plenty. However I decided to go with a story about underdogs; Boise St. and Appalachian St. football doing what nobody expected. and doing so in dramatic fashion! All in all, 2007 was an excellent year in sports and there was so many exciting stories top to bottom in every league. Feel free to let me know what your favorite baseball story of 2007 was. Enjoy the holidays and thanks for reading.

1 comment:

jon said...

I'm anxiously awaiting the elaboration on your award picks. I just started reading, thought this was a pretty decent blog, and then I read that you think Webb should have been the NL Cy Young winner over Peavy.

And then I cried a little inside.

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