Time to hand out the hardware… (AL Winners)

The close of each season is a great time to reflect. When game 162 goes final, it’s another year in the books. There’s no doubt in my mind that 2008 was a season unlike any other, for a host of storylines and pennant races that made it an historic season. Now we get to focus on what players defined the season and make a few award-winning predictions. Here are the American League’s lucky recipients.

American League Most Valuable Player

Dustin Pedroia – While you can make the point that the line-up certainly helps, you must also take a close look at the diminutive second baseman and notice one important factor. He can flat out hit. Just look at this stat line:

AVG

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SB

OBP

SLG

.326

157

653

118

213

54

2

17

83

20

.376

.493

No, he isn’t going to lead the league in homers and RBI, but I’d give him a fighting chance at a slew of other categories. Those 20 stolen bases come against only one time being caught, so well rounded would be a great way to sum up Pedroia’s game. While the little man doesn’t always get his due, I believe 2008 may be a year that line of though gets thrown right out the window.

Runner Up: Josh Hamilton – It’s probably one of the greatest redemption stories in all of sports. And it is also one that is still being written on a daily basis. Overcoming personal demons to become a one-man wrecking crew for the up and coming Texas Rangers, Hamilton lead the AL with 130 and just five homers off the pace with 32. Speaking of homers, I don’t know too many people that will be forgetting that showcase Hamilton provided in Yankee Stadium during the All-Star festivities.

American League Cy Young Award

Cliff Lee – There are candidates who enter each season with the potential to take home the Cy Young award, whisking through the season and cutting down opponents on the way to a 20-win season. If I’d asked you to compile a list of these names last March, then I seriously doubt the inclusion of Cliff Lee on anybody’s manifest.

Then out of nowhere, Lee climbs off the scrap heap and back into the Indians plans for the season and well beyond. Without boring you with any further anecdotal quips about reclamation projects, here is Lee’s work this season:

W

L

ERA

G

GS

CG

SHO

IP

BB

SO

WHIP

22

3

2.54

31

31

4

2

223.1

34

170

1.11

So maybe I will insert those tales of woe that defined Lee’s 2007 now. This amazing Cy Young season comes just one year after he found himself back in the minor leagues and saddled with a 5-8 record and a 6.29 ERA. Refinements to his mechanics and the ability to attack the strike zone can be heralded as the top reasons for the renaissance that occurred here. Lee walked just 34 batters this season as opposed to 36 in 97.1 innings a year ago. His performance made it easier for the Tribe to trade away last year’s Cy Young award winner, CC Sabathia

Runner Up: Francisco Rodriguez – I guess 62 save seasons just don’t go as far as they used to. What am I talking about?! That record setting effort certainly isn’t lost on this humble baseball scribe, but K-Rod’s work doesn’t come as a complete shocker like Lee. In other words, his established track record of ninth inning dominance made him a prime candidate to take a shot at Bobby Thigpen’s record. Well, he can check that one off his list now. Besides, that saves record is going to make him a very rich man this off-season, with or without a Cy Young trophy.

American League Rookie of the Year

Evan Longoria – This guy is going to be a superstar. With the emergence of the Ray as a force what was perhaps baseball’s toughest division to win (if your team isn’t located in Boston or New York), Longoria will serve as Tampa Bay’s version of David Wright. Who knows, he might even be better. Stat line, please:

AVG

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SB

OBP

SLG

.272

122

448

67

122

31

2

27

85

7

.343

.531

Runners Up: Jacoby Ellsbury & Alexei Ramirez

Manager of the Year: Joe Maddon – Was there any question about this one? The Play-offs have been a great time to catch up with the stories that Maddon and the Rays next goal was supposed to be finishing about the .500 mark. I’d say the boys from Tampa Bay can set a new goal next season. How about repeating as AL East Champions? It truly came from nowhere, but the mind behind the Rays’ success deserves all the kudos in the world for this transformation. The cast of amazing young talent may be the power driving this post-season run, but the man behind the wheel did an amazing job this season. 

 

Tune in for the National League next time.

Till then,

G-Mc

 

 

4 Comments

K-Rod is the most overrated player in baseball. The Save is a bad statistic because it tries to measure a skill rather than report what happens. More often than not, saves correlate with opportunities than they do with skill, which defeats the purpose of the statistic in the first place. I started examining the best 5 closers in the AL. I picked K-Rod, Joe Nathan, Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon, and Joakim Soria for this study. You could argue that those 5 aren’t the best 5 closers in the AL, but it’d be a tough argument. I compared their WHIP, ERA, IP, K, BB, HR, H, W, L, Sv, and BlSv.

The only categories K-Rod led were HR and K. K-Rod, Papelbon, and Rivera were all tied allowing 4 HR. K-Rod pitched 1.0 inning fewer than Papelbon who pitched 1.1 inings fewer than Rivera. In the K category, K-Rod also tide with Papelbon and Rivera. All 3 closers had 77 K’s. Nathan had 74 and Soria had 66. Back to HR, Nathan and Soria gave up 5. K-Rod didn’t lead the HR Allowed/IP category nor the K/IP or K/9, so he really didn’t even do those things better than any other closer.

Similarly, Francisco Rodriguez was at the bottom of 3 categories: WHIP, BlSv, BB. His BlSv was 7. Nathan had 6, Papelbon had 5, Soria had 3, and Rivera had 1. Not too far off. However, the WHIP category is horrendous. K-Rod’s WHIP was 1.29. Next closest? Papelbon at 0.95. After that? Nathan 0.90, Soria 0.86, and Rivera 0.67. Allowing more than baserunner per inning is not a good thing, especially for 9th inning guys. Part of that is that K-Rod walked 34 men whereas the next closest walked 19. All of these guys pitched a similar number of innings (i.e. within 3.0 innings, all 5 ranged from 67.2-70.2), so these differences matter.

Other categories where he ranks number 4 include ERA 2.24 (2.34 highest, 3 between 1.33 and 1.60), H 54 (58 highest, 3 between 39 and 43), and W 2 (1 lowest, 5 and 6).

Not only did K-Rod pitch worse than any of the other 4, there is sufficient evidence to assume that the other 4 would’ve converted MORE saves than K-Rod if they were in Anaheim this past season.

Giving any award to a sub-top tier pitcher with a wacky delivery and limited pitch arsenal which forces him into a closing role where he converts a large number of saves due to a large number of save opportunity while being out-pitched by other players in the same role as him in the same league as him is downright wrong. People, see beyond that number 62. He’s overrated and certainly not deserving of any awards. Runner-ups for that matter. K-Rod should get no votes for any award. Period.

That is certainly quite a study, but the flawed statistic or system for piling up saves takes a back seat to the fact that the Angels simply used their closer in more ninth inning opportunities than any other stopper. I agree he is not a Cy Young candidate, but his season was record setting nonetheless, and those are the years that attract attention in the voting.

K-Rod walked more guys than any other pitcher who collected at least 10 saves, which feeds into his WHIP of 1.29 – which is a littler higher than the next four closers on the list you mentioned. But if the runners are stranded, then it really doesn’t matter.

With at least 20 more save opps than any of the other closers, it allows for the fact that K-Rod will likely have more blown saves than any of the others as well. Despite that, his save percentage (which I believe to be the only stat that matters) was better than both Nathan and Papelbon.

ERA’s and K/9 are all good and fun, but a relief pitcher’s ERA for the season can be completely knocked off kilter by a couple of bad appearances. Take those out and you can see nearly an entire run come off in just an inning’s worth of work. Allowing 3 earned in a game as a reliever usually costs that pitcher a half point per time. The bottom line is that ERA’s can be deceiving.

How about John Smoltz in 2002? He finished the season with 55 saves and a 3.25 ERA. When he allowed 8 earned runs in two-thirds of and inning during a non-save situation in his second game of the season to the Mets, he effectively said good-by to having that 1-point-something ERA that everyone loves to see on the board when the bullpen door opens. Would you believe that his ERA did not creep under 4.00 until the last week of July and he pitched with a 5.00+ ERA until June 19?

His ERA, had he not been used in the non-save situation? 2.37… right around what K-Rod turned in this season. The bottom-line for me on the entire season that Rodriguez just turned in, is that he converted the most saves of pitcher in any season in history and that in and of itself is somewhat impressive – just not enough to say it was a bigger accomplishment that Cliff Lee’s 22-3 season.

For the second time I agree with each of these awards. Josh Hamilton had a great year and I rooted for him to win the MVP the entire way. In the end Dustin Pedroia was just to good down the stretch. Nice work again.
http://hardballblog.mlblogs.com/

More impressive than Cliff Lee’s 22-3 season is this:

• Ranks 2nd in AL in IP (223.1) • Ranks 1st in AL in ERA (2.54)
• Ranks 9th in AL in SO (170) • Ranks 2nd in AL in WHIP (1.11)
• Ranks 2nd in AL in CG (4)

To have a sub-3 ERA in the AL especially when you have to face 2 playoff-contending teams (Twins & White Sox) and the feared Tigers line-up is incredible. Francisco Rodriguez faced the A’s, Rangers, and Mariners. In addition to benefiting from his large number of save opportunities, K-Rod also benefited from playing the AL West. (AL and NL closers can be treated the same because they’re not facing pitchers in the 9th; AL and NL starters have to be treated differently because the pitcher bats in the NL, almost all of his at-bats will come against the opposition’s starting pitcher).

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