Fan Interference’s 2009 MLB Awards, Part I

October 5, 2009

Because of those no-good Tigers and Twins, Major League Baseball’s regular season is not yet over. That will not, however, stop me from divulging my choices for the recipients of baseball’s most prominent awards. The official announcements will be trickling out over the next couple weeks, but in the meantime, here’s who should win.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: AMERICAN LEAGUE

mauerJoe Mauer, C, Minnesota Twins

I spent much of this season unceremoniously slamming anyone that suggested an alternative to the Twins’ catcher. I believed my position to be fairly solid; catchers that hit .364/.442/.586 with exceptional defense simply do not exist. Because of this, it was especially hard to accept the RBI-centric arguments for players like Mark TeixeiraMiguel Cabrera, and Kendry Morales. In recent weeks, however, I wavered in my commitment to Mauer’s candidacy. Specifically, I took a long and hard look at pitcher Zack Greinke’s numbers and wondered why, exactly, I felt compelled to select a position player over a pitcher. You could easily argue that Greinke was worth just as many wins as Mauer this season, but ultimately, Mauer gets the edge because of the physically demanding nature of his position, and his ability to man it virtually every day. Mauer’s 2009 wasn’t quite Mike Piazza’s 1997, but boy was it close.

Runner-up: Zack Greinke, P, Kansas City Royals

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: NATIONAL LEAGUE

pujolsAlbert Pujols, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals

Joe Mauer’s emergence means that Pujols is no longer clearly the best player on the planet, but the Cardinals’ first baseman was fairly obviously the best player in the National League this year. His traditional statistics (.327 average, 47 homers, 135 RBI) will appeal to the old-school voters, while his objective dominance (.443 OBP, .658 SLG, 11.4 WARP) will win over the statistically-inclined. He was the heart of a lackluster Cardinals lineup all season long, even playing great defense and stealing 16 bases. He’s the clear choice for the award, and barring an unlikely-but-still-possible-because-it’s-the-BBWAA infatuation with Prince Fielder, he should win it handily.

Runner-up: Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies

CY YOUNG: AMERICAN LEAGUE

greinkeZack Greinke, SP, Kansas City Royals

This is the most obvious selection of the eight major awards, and also the biggest test for the infamously stubborn voters. The voters, who traditionally love meaningless statistics like wins and flawed ones like ERA, must resist temptation after temptation in order to settle on Greinke. The bait includes a 19-game winner on a 103-win team (C.C. Sabathia), a 19-game winner with a sub-3.00 ERA (Felix Hernandez), a 19-game winner that led the league in strikeouts (Justin Verlander), and the prospect of a lifetime achievement award being given to closer Mariano Rivera. But the evidence in support of Greinke is overwhelming: a league-leading 2.16 ERA in 229.1 innings, 242 strikeouts, 51 walks, six complete games, and an unbelievable 11 home runs allowed. If the voters don’t pick him, the process is even more broken than I ever imagined. But I think they’ll get it right.

Runner-up: Roy Halladay, SP, Toronto Blue Jays

CY YOUNG: NATIONAL LEAGUE

lincecumTim Lincecum, SP, San Francisco Giants

This race couldn’t be more different than its American League counterpart. While the road to truth is fraught with temptation in the junior circuit, the truth itself is pretty murky in the weaker league. There’s only one big winner here, and that’s the 19-game-winning Adam Wainwright, who is absolutely a viable candidate. Then there’s a drop-off to the 17-game-winning Chris Carpenter, who has certainly been spectacular but hasn’t thrown 200 innings. Then there’s 16-game winner Jorge De La Rosa, who clearly isn’t deserving. Finally, we get to the challenging cluster that includes Lincecum, Javier Vazquez, Jair Jurrjens, and Dan Haren. Quite honestly, you can make a strong argument for each of these pitchers. Lincecum gets the nod, however, because of his incredible 261 strikeouts in 225 innings, his 2.48 ERA, and his incredible ability to keep the ball in the park (10 HR allowed all season).

Runner-up: Javier Vazquez, SP, Atlanta Braves

Coming tomorrow: Rookies of the Year & Managers of the Year


Nashville, Here I Come

May 6, 2009

nashville-skyline-11

I promise I won’t continue to inundate this space with continual references to my fifth and sixth graders, but some moments are too noteworthy to pass up.

Today, a sixth grader asked me if I thought Roy Halladay is the best starting pitcher in baseball. I briefly mulled it over, and decided that no, he isn’t, but he’s awfully close. Overhearing the question, another boy proclaimed Halladay’s absolute superiority and cited his 20 wins last year as evidence. The initial sixth grader paused, considered the possibility, and then with genuine thoughtfulness said “I don’t know, I guess I don’t see wins as a better stat than ERA. Tim Wakefield won 20 games one time with an ERA of 5!” It turns out that this is more or less correct. In 2007, Wakefield won 17 games with an ERA of 4.76. I’m now searching the internet for printable adoption papers. But mostly, I’m just heartened. 

I’ll return to posting on Monday. One of my best friends is graduating from Vanderbilt this weekend, necessitating a triumphant return to Dixie until Sunday night. Until then, fair readers.


Wins : Useless :: Tweenbots : Cute

April 13, 2009

I would just like to issue your semi-regular reminder that pitching wins are a useless statistic. Baltimore Orioles pitcher Koji Uehara proved this once again tonight, by putting together the following line and still getting a win:

  • 5 IP, 7 H, 7 ER, 4 BB, 3 K, 2 HR

So remember, if you are having a baseball discussion with someone, and that person cites wins as evidence for a pitcher’s success or failure, tune him or her out. 

On a significantly less cranky note, you absolutely need to familiarize yourself with Tweenbots and then watch the embedded video. Stuff like this (and Legos!) further reinforce my opinion that New York is the most vibrant, interesting, and imaginative city in the world. Enjoy.


Mike Mussina Belongs In The Hall Of Fame

December 1, 2008

The baseball offseason is a sad time for me. Not only is there no baseball being played, but also the normally steady stream of bad baseball analysis slows to a trickle. With fewer articles and broadcasters to criticize, I have to resort to settling good, old-fashioned baseball debates. Fortunately, there is currently one debate about which I feel quite strongly, and which I will settle for you thusly. 

Obviously, the pertinent debate is whether or not former Yankees’ and Orioles’ starting pitcher Mike Mussina belongs in the Hall of Fame. This discussion interests me for both intellectual and emotional reasons. In the case of the former, I look at Mussina’s potential induction as a referendum on the baseball media’s intellectual growth. As most intelligent baseball fans know, Hall of Fame and awards voters far too often use antiquated, ineffective, or tragically flawed statistics in determining their selections. Statistics like wins, batting average, and RBI historically have been used as barometers of a player’s performance, when a lucid and honest look at those measurements reveal overwhelming shortcomings. Wins are hugely dependent on a pitcher’s run support and the bullpen’s effectiveness. Batting average is an incomplete measure of a player’s ability to not make an out, which is the most important thing a baseball player can do. RBI are dependent on runners being in scoring position, a variable over which the batter has zero control. You know all this, because you are reading our blog, and our blog attracts only intelligent and savvy readers. Right? Right. Mussina’s candidacy will lean more on less-traditional statistics than past inductees’. As such, I’m curious to see how far the baseball media and voters have come in their understanding and utilization of more complete and descriptive statistics. It’ll be like this past election, except not nearly as important and without the global implications. 

My emotional interest in this debate is two-fold. Firstly, I am a Yankees fan, so I am rooting hard for him. Secondly, and more antagonistically, I am extraordinarily tired of and perturbed by the prevailing counter-argument against Mussina’s induction. The knock on Mussina used to be his lack of a 20-win season. With that having been fulfilled, the new knock is invariably some permutation of “he just doesn’t look like a Hall of Famer” or “I just don’t see it.” Take a few moments to reel from the depth of that analysis. If Hall of Famers look like gigantic magenta cephalopods with a slight limp in their fifth tentacle, then no, Mike Mussina does not look like a Hall of Famer. If Hall of Famers are baseball players who have, relative to their peers, distinguished themselves as well above-average over a substantial period of time, then yes, Mike Mussina is a Hall of Famer. Read the rest of this entry »


Michael Kay: Great Baseball Mind, Or Greatest Baseball Mind?

June 24, 2008

Tonight, I was humbled by the overwhelming sports intellect offered by Yankees’ broadcaster Michael Kay. With Yankee pitcher Darrell Rasner on the mound, Kay descends from the pantheon of baseball genius to grace us with this gem (paraphrasing closely):

“It’s funny Kenny [Singleton], Darrell Rasner gets great run support in his wins and none in his losses.”

Consider my mind blown.


Goodbye Cruel World

September 10, 2007

Tonight’s “Baseball Tonight” featured a discussion about who should win the AL Cy Young award. Participants included Karl Ravech, John Kruk, Orel Hershiser (too lazy to look up the spelling), and Steve Phillips. Hershiser nominates Josh Beckett, because he has the most wins. Phillips counters with Kelvim Escobar, also using wins as a primary measurement. Enter Ravech:

Ravech: “We’re putting a lot of stock in wins, guys.”

Kruk: “Why not?”

Special K blows his brains out.


Ya Think?

June 22, 2007

Just check out the title.