Saturday, January 5, 2008

2007 Awards Show - American League

Despite TV writers being on strike, I imagine I can muster up some creativity and as promised, supply my 2007 baseball awards. Click here for the NL awards.

When selecting who will win the awards, I take into account several factors. The first, is how a player performs in respect to their position. For the record, I am not going to pick a player who performed at a high level at a brutal position, but wasn't even in the top 5 or 10 in 'win' stats.

The second criteria is 'Win' stats? The Hardball Times owns a stat for this, as does Baseball Prospectus; called Win Shares Above Bench (WSAB) and Value over Replacement Player (VORP) respectively. I will reference these stats in and out of my writings, for the most part, utilizing both.

Next, I will look at exceptional play of a player. A streak, a record, or really something they did on an individual level to lift the team to higher levels. That is not to say a player from a losing team can not win an award, although admittedly, those players are at a slight disadvantage.

Lastly, I do take into account salary and the players surrounding-something you will notice with my AL Cy Young award.

MVP - Alex Rodriguez
It's not difficult to win the MVP on my ballot. I will simply pick the best player in baseball. Certainly I could pick through the numbers and tell you things that you already know, such as the fact that ARod hit for a slugging percentage 18 points higher then the next player in the American League, but what you may not know is that Rodriguez's slugging percentage was nearly 150 points higher then the closest AL third baseman.

Also in Rodriguez's favor, was a stat I like, called Equvialent Average(EQA). EQA takes into account all facets of hitting, including park factors and running. Obviously Rodriguez was the leader in EQA as he was in so many categories this season, but what really sticks out, is the margin to which he demolished his competition here. ARod put up a .340 EQA, and while Ortiz was only 2 points behind him, the closest AL third basemen was Chone Figgins at .289. (Runner Up: M. Ordonez)

WSAB - 26 (1st in the AL)
VORP - 96.6 (1st in the AL)

Rookie - Jeremy Guthrie
There is debate as to whether or not Guthrie was a rookie this year. Baseball Prospectus has him listed among their "VORP for Rookie Pitchers" and who am I to argue? The service time and innings pitched looks very close, although I am uncertain how much September playing time takes this into account-if anyone does know, feel free to correct me.

Guthrie, somehow, did not receive a single vote in the ALs Rookie of the Year voting. Possibly the BBWA were confused as to his eligibility, possibly it was yet another instance where the BBWA failed to recognize true value. In terms of WSAB, Guthrie ranked higher then all of those who received votes, logging 9 and being tied for 17th among pitchers. Not only this, but Guthrie also ranked higher in BPs VORP, netting 38.2, the highest total of any rookie in either league.

My stat of choice for pitchers is The Hardball Times' Exected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP). Essentially, this statistic takes into account the numbers that a pitcher is directly responsible for, looking at variables such as fielding and ball park. In any event, Guthrie had a relatively mediocre xFIP, however, so too did his fellow rookie pitchers. (Runner Up: H. Okajima)

Manager - Joe Torre
This does seem unfair, how a manager with the highest paid talent can be graded on the job he does versus two teams who faired better in the standings, yet had lesser payrolls-and in one instance, a fraction of a payroll. High paid talent also brings experience. Experience, often times, brings leadership. So why Joe Torre?

To start, Torre manages in the leagues biggest market for the leagues most successful all-time franchise. These two factors have led the fans to feel as though it is their right to be winners. However, when there is heat for the manager to be fired in the middle of May, yet he leads his team to the playoffs, thats a pretty good job in my opinion.

In addition to this, the Yankees were one of the best teams in the American League from May 1st on. They were, the best team in the Al East from May 1st on, despite being the worst team prior to this point (in terms of wins and winning percentage). Obviously Torre had an easier road to go down then Sam Perlozzo, but he still managed to right the ship. (Runner up: E. Wedge)

Executive - Mark Shapiro
I won't go at length here as I am not entirely thrilled with the job Shapiro did for the 2007 season. That is, given the award is for the 2007 season, the moves the managers makes that have direct impact on the 2007 season should be the ones that are directly inspected. However, he was, in my opinion, the best of a bad bunch in 2007.

What moves did he make? Shapiro's major league signings included Nixon, Dellucci, Foulke, Borowski and Hernandez. To be fair, each one of them was a failure in terms of cost and what they brought to the team. Shapiro also made a trade for Josh Barfield, which, as per the free agent signings, turned out to be a waste.

However, despite all of this, the Indians managed to win the Central and tie for the best record in the AL. The move Shapiro made for Kenny Lofton also proved to be a nice spark plug and veteran leadership down the stretch. Although, I must admit I am on the fence in terms of not making other moves. That is, it was both a good and a bad thing that he did not make a big splash in the trade market.

Cy Young - Fausto Carmona
I had made the decision to pick Fausto prior to the gem he threw that I attended in Cleveland (watch the video!). Was Carmona the best pitcher overall in the American League? I can admit he was not such. However, in my opinion, the Cy Young award is not simply awarded to the pitcher who had the best statistics, rather, it is awarded to the pitcher who was not only most valuable to his team, but would have been to any other team. With that in mind, where would the Cleveland Indians been without Carmona and his incredible season? My guess, is they would have been a handful of game behind the Detroit Tigers. But I will take this a step further, was there a better #2 pitcher in the American League this season? The Indians got what they expected out of Sabathia, likewise the Tigers with Verlander, the Red Sox with Beckett, the Twins with Santana, etc.

How about the numbers? Carmona finished the season with an xFIP of 3.99, good for 11th(t) in the American League. However, only three pitchers finished ahead of him in both xFIP and Innings Pitched, two of whom did not make the playoffs and all of whom would be considered the ace of their respective staffs.

How about the 'Win' stats? Carmona finished second in both WSAB and VORP, finishing behind teammate and staff ace CC Sabathia in both categories. Although one could argue, that had Carmona started the season in the rotation, having equal amount of starts as Sabathia, he would have surpassed him in both of those categories-keep in mind, Carmona's first start was 3 days after Sabathia's second. In fact, according to The Hardball Times' WSP, which is a rate version of WSAB, Carmona led Sabathia.

Another factor I take into consideration, although admittedly skewed by luck, is how a player performs down the stretch. That is, their post all star numbers:
Carmona: 2.26 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 6.4 K/9
Sabathia: 2.76 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 7.6 K/9
Beckett: 3.10 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 9.4 K/9
Lackey: 3.14 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 7.1 K/9
Santana: 4.04 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 10.1 K/9
Haren: 4.15 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 8.8 K/9

As I stated, this is not the most accurate way of grading a pitchers performance. However, what this does show is that among the aces of the American League, Carmona best served his club when it mattered the most.

There are reasonable arguments for any of the 5 aces I mentioned, I have no issue with the BBWA giving the award to Sabathia, he was a horse and the Indians needed him. However, I think more then any of these other pitchers, Carmona's season was a major factor in leading his team to the playoffs. His gutty performance against the Yankees also did not hurt.

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