Tuesday, January 8, 2008

2007 Awards Show - National League

"The decisions we make in Washington have a direct impact on the people in our country, obviously."—New Albany, Ind., Nov. 13, 2007

I was looking at calendars this afternoon and stumbled upon one of 'Bushisms', obviously. Anyways, as promised, here is my 2007 baseball awards. Click here for the AL 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.

Warning: NL East fans, flick your TVs back to ESPN.

MVP - David Wright
There is a definite argument for a handful of other players here, and I actually have changed my mind on this given where I originally stood with my vote for Matt Holliday. However, the numbers don't lie-nor are they artificially inflated by a home ballpark. Before I get into too much detail about David Wright, I just want to remind everyone that he was only in his age 24 season this year. Another scary factor, he is showing steady improvement across the board, oh and he just joined the illustrious 30/30 club.

Now to the statistical David Wright. How about 4th in the National League in Equvialent Average(EQA) at .329. 2nd in VORP at 81.1 and 1st in WSAB at 21. Against his contemporaries, only Chipper Jones could hold a candle to him, and even then, Chipper is tough to find in the WSAB category-attesting to the reason I choose to use multiple statistics when comparing players.

(Runner Up: J. Rollins)

Rookie - Troy Tulowitzki
I am sick of hearing about the kid too, and it wouldn't surprise me if baseball created a "Sophmore of the Year" award just for Tulowitzki. Also, I prefer Hunter Pence, as a player to build around and as a player whom I envision as having a superior major league career. In fact, save an injury to Pence and a late call up to Ryan Braun and none of us would have to deal with hearing "Tulo! Tulo! Tulo!"

However, we are still talking about a kid who put up the 3rd best VORP among National League rookies at 37.8 and the second best WSAB at 12. However, if you are following along with me, you will have noticed that Tulowitzki trails a fellow rookie in both categories. Yes, Ryan Braun. However, I feel that the amount of time that Braun missed was too much to allow him to win the award over a player who went April to October.

Additionally, the fielding. Tulowitzki ranked as the best fielder in all of baseball in terms of The Hardball Times' Fielding Win Shares. Tulowitzki's 10.9 was worth just under a win more then Braun's 1.5. And to be honest, 1.5 is a pathetic total.

(Runner Up: R. Braun)

Manager - Clint Hurdle
Alright, I think I can be honest with the readers now, I really don't follow the National League. I won't claim too. With the Indians and other American League happenings, combined with the little time I spend with other sports, as well as the rest of my life leaves me with little time to look at teams with which I will essentially never see.

In any event, as I wrote in my Dundy Awards column,
"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."
Being the manager of a team that does all of that is reason enough to win manager of the year in my books.

(Runner Up: C. Manuel)

Executive - Josh Byrnes
Similar to Mark Shapiro, much of the movement that Byrnes did for the Diamondbacks to compete in 2007 was done well before the 2007. He was also in charge of what was a very fortunate team, one whom Baseball Prospectus states actually deserved only 78 wins.

In any event, whoever Byrnes sold his soul too obviously worked. The extent of Byrnes' 2007 resume includes extending Eric Byrnes, giving a full time job to youngsters Chris Young, Stephen Drew, Justin Upton and Conor Jackson. Despite the struggles of all four of these players at times, Byrnes did not do anything harsh and pull the trigger to bring in veterans with playoff experience.

The biggest acquisitions Byrnes made was in acquiring Randy Johnson and Doug Davis. RJ, while healthy was very effective, while Davis provided what he was brought in to provide, middle of the rotation stability. Similar to the patience Byrnes showed with his young hitters, he did not make a big splash to acquire an aging veteran arm for the stretch. I suppose the best moves Byrnes made, were the moves he didn't make.

(Runner Up: K. Towers)

Cy Young - Brandon Webb
I have already received some heat for this decision, and that is justifiable. Brandon Webb did not lead the NL in any of the triple crown pitching categories, whereas Jake Peavy actually won the NL pitchers triple crown-being only the second pitcher to do so in the National League since 1990.

Statistically, the two were very close. Webb, however was superior to Peavy in the pitching stat that matters the most in my opinion-Exected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP), which as I mentioned in the AL Awards show, is my statistic of choice. Webb posted an NL low 3.35 while Peavy, had nearly as awesome of a season at 3.46.

However, Webb did not beat Peavy in every Sabermetric statistic. In fact, Webb trailed Peavy in both 'Win' stats, scoring a 66.1 to Peavy's 77.0 in VORP and a 17 to Peavy's 18 in WSAB-although this number is slightly misleading in the National League, as it gives credit towards a pitchers hitting. In which case, Webb is worth 2.4 Pitching Wins more then Peavy.

Although, this is where opinion takes over. The Cy Young Award is not, in my opinion, simply given to the pitcher who had the best statistics, rather, it is given to the pitcher who had the best season. Involved in this, is what that pitcher did for his club as well as impressive personal feats. As you know, the Diamondbacks made the playoffs and the Padres were unable to win their wildcard play-in game. Webb and Peavy were both the ace's of their respective rotations, however, Webb's value to his team was substantially more as the the next best pitcher on his team posted 12 fewer pitching win shares, compared to Peavy, whom had Chris Young trailing by only 10. Could you imagine the Diamondbacks with Doug Davis as their ace?

In addition to this, Webb went on a memorably streak after the all star break, posting 3 consecutive shutouts, going 42 innings without allowing a run.

This run also coincided with what is the most important time of year for major leagues. It is the time when they are either proving to be contenders or pretenders. As I suggested for the American League Cy Young award, the post all star statistics are vital for a pitchers case in the Cy Young balloting. Here is what Webb and Peavy did during that time period:
Webb: 2.56 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 7.03 K/9
Peavy: 2.93 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 9.95 K/9

While both pitchers had incredible post all star lines, Webb was admittedly the superior pitcher.

Through considering the numbers and the value to the pitchers respective teams, it is obvious that Webb is the appropriate choice for the NL Cy Young award. Although, I am able to accept a case for Peavy, I just feel as if his season was not as impressive, nor as valuable as Webb's.

(Runner Up: J. Peavy)

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