An Early Look at Comeback Player of the Year

If it seems as though there are a lot of candidates for Comeback Player of the Year, it’s because there are. I don’t usually get too worked up about awards season, but Comeback Player of the Year always seems so vaguely defined that I thought today we would try to take an objective look at it.

I started by looking at players who compiled less than two WAR last season, and have compiled 2.0 or more WAR this season. Then I cross-referenced to find matches, and then looked at the differences between the two seasons, setting the cut off for the difference at 2.0 WAR or greater. Doing so leaves off a few noteworthy candidates that may garner attention — Bartolo Colon (1.8 WAR better so far this year), Josh Beckett (1.7), Pablo Sandoval (1.6), and Ryan Vogelsong (1.5). That leaves me with the following list:


Player ’10 WAR ’11 WAR Diff
Jacoby Ellsbury -0.1 5.0 5.1
Matt Kemp 0.3 4.7 4.4
Melky Cabrera -1.0 3.2 4.2
Alex Gordon -0.4 3.4 3.8
Casey Kotchman -1.5 2.2 3.7
J. Zimmermann -0.2 3.3 3.5
Carlos Beltran 0.8 3.9 3.1
Carlos Quentin -0.1 2.9 3.0
Asdr. Cabrera 0.7 3.6 2.9
Todd Helton 0.0 2.9 2.9
Jhonny Peralta 0.8 3.5 2.7
Ryan Roberts -0.1 2.6 2.7
Aramis Ramirez 0.3 2.7 2.4
Howie Kendrick 1.8 4.1 2.3
Cameron Maybin 0.7 3.0 2.3
Daniel Murphy DNP 2.3 2.3

From here, we can narrow it even further based on the criteria of the award. Fun fact: in addition to the traditional Comeback Player of the Year awarded by The Sporting News, Major League Baseball now also issues one. TSN says the award is presented to the player who “re-emerged as a star.” MLB is a bit more vague, presenting its award to the player who has “re-emerged on the baseball field during a given season.” Either way, it more or less means that if the player had not done something significant in the Majors prior to his down season, he’s not going to win. As a result, we can knock Roberts, Murphy, Maybin and Zimmermann off of the list.

Kendrick, Peralta and Quentin also get bumped at this juncture, as while they have been better in 2011, their 2010 seasons were not superficially bad enough for them to garner attention. This leaves us with five American League candidates — A. Cabrera, Kotchman, Gordon, M. Cabrera and Ellsbury — and four National League candidates — Kemp, Beltran, Helton and Ramirez.

Big things were expected from Asdrubal Cabrera in 2010, but they never panned out, as he expanded his swing zone, and unfortunately, began making contact far too frequently on balls outside of the zone. Sometimes swinging and missing can be a good thing, as this season instead of making contact 80.2 percent of the time on balls out of the zone (which was nearly 14 percent above league average) he has come back down to 70 percent. As a result, he is handling fastballs better and has nearly tripled his previous career high in home runs.

Entering the season, Casey Kotchman, Alex Gordon and Melky Cabrera were all in their mid-20’s prime years, but at the same time, all were facing career extinction. Kotchman is perhaps the most interesting in that he has gone from borderline All-Star who fronted a blockbuster trade package to spare part, only to re-emerge as a productive player. Gordon and Cabrera on the other hand, could become the first teammates to win the award. With all three performing at least three and a half wins better than they did last year all deserve legitimate consideration.

But at the moment, they all pale against Jacoby Ellsbury, both in terms of story and production. Last year, Ellsbury was forced to move positions. Then rib injuries landed on the disabled list three times. It was safe to say that entering the year, expectations for the Oregon native had dwindled. Projections had him getting back to his 2008-2009 seasons, but that sort of production certainly wasn’t expected. And then Ellsbury went out and smashed those modest forecasts. His production has been such that he should be mentioned in not just Comeback Player of the Year discussions, but also Most Valuable Player discussions.

In the National League, four strong contenders start with Aramis Ramirez. While Ramirez did hit 25 taters a year ago, not much else went right. Ramirez was an All-Star and finished 10th in the MVP race in 2008, and while he missed a bunch of time in 2009, he was productive when healthy, to the tune of a .392 wOBA. Last year, that all collapsed. His K rate was his highest since his rookie year in Pittsburgh, and he stopped hitting line drives or ground balls — more than 56 percent of his balls hit went for fly balls. As a result, he posted his first below average wRC+ in eight seasons. This season, after a slow start, he has been “Aramis Ramirez” again. And while his season overall may not seem that extraordinary, the difference between his 2010 and 2011 seasons, combined with the narrative from his power binge in late June and early July will likely garner him recognition.

As I mentioned in Monday’s Power Rankings, Todd Helton has once again reclaimed the hearts and minds of Rockies fans with another comeback season. Last season, in posting a 0.0 WAR season, he seemed very much finished, but Helton is hitting the ball with much more authority this year — his line drive rate is nearing his peak from the early aught’s.

As good as those two have been though, they are unlikely to garner the attention that Beltran and Kemp will. Beltran has come back from microfracture surgery on his knee in a big way. Given his injury history, the fact that Beltran has only missed five games almost makes him worthy of the award by itself. But Beltran has been dominant as well as healthy — both his wOBA (.394) and wRC+ (154) marks are seventh-best among all qualified outfielders this season. It’s for this reason that Beltran is slated to be moved sometime in the next week (and in case you’re curious, one player — Darren Daulton in 1997 with Philly and Florida — has won the award while playing for more than one team in the same season).

But while Beltran’s 3.1 WAR difference is nice and shiny, it is dwarfed by Matt Kemp’s 4.4 WAR improvement. To say that Kemp has found new discipline in his age-26 season is an understatement. He is displaying career-best BB/K numbers, a career-best stolen-base percentage and near career-high defensive numbers — certainly his defense is leagues better than his atrocious performance last season. Again, Kemp isn’t necessarily the typical comeback candidate, as he did launch 28 bombs last season, and stole 19 bases, but his performance was widely lampooned last year, and his 0.3 WAR speaks for itself. Manager Joe Torre was so frustrated with him that he dropped Kemp to fifth in the order frequently down the stretch, and on several occasions he hit him sixth and seventh. While no one expected Kemp to be as bad as he was last year, the fact that he has so dramatically turned it around is noteworthy, and like Ellsbury, worthy of not just Comeback Player of the Year recognition, but MVP as well.

It’s still a little early to say that Ellsbury and Kemp should definitively be the Comeback Players of the Year, as there is still two months to go in the season. If the Indians hang on to win the division, and Asdrubal Cabrera leads them to it, he could easily take the hardware. Perhaps Helton will lead the Rockies to another Rocktober, or Beltran will do the same for his new team. Or perhaps Vogelsong’s story transcends statistics and should be rewarded as such. But at the moment, Ellsbury and Kemp look to be the most deserving of the awards.




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Paul Swydan is the co-managing editor of The Hardball Times, a writer and editor for FanGraphs and a writer for ESPN Insider. Follow him on Twitter @Swydan.

103 Responses to “An Early Look at Comeback Player of the Year”

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  1. j bones says:

    The formula here comes up with a pretty good list, but I think it’s impossible not to give Berkman consideration

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  2. j bones says:

    looking at his stats though, I guess his fielding has been killing his WAR for this season

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    • chuckb says:

      Oops to me. You’re right. He’s only ahead of last year by 1 win.

      The funny thing is that he’d probably win the NL voting today and it probably wouldn’t be close even though, in looking at this list, he probably shouldn’t even be in the top 5.

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  3. Metsox says:

    Shouldn’t Berkman be in this conversation?

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    • Jerry says:

      To me Berkman fits in the “Comeback player” mold a little better as he’s put up star numbers in the past and is back on that pace. Many of these guys (Matt Kemp for example) are just young guys who have finally put it all together. That’s not a “comeback”, it’s just a young star coming into his own.

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    • Jerry says:

      Though I think at this point Beltran deserves it a bit more than Berkman in the NL

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    • Jason B says:

      I think Berkman and Beltran will run 1-2 in some order. Possibly Vogelsong rounding out the top 3. (Or Morton, maybe?)

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  4. Chris H says:

    I have to think Alex Gordon’s success is more sustainable than Melky’s. Melky’s power numbers are suspicious and he relies too heavily on batting average. On the other hand, Alex is benefiting from a high BABIP, but is beginning to regain his plate discipline he always had.

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    • RC says:

      “. Melky’s power numbers are suspicious and he relies too heavily on batting average.”

      Batting average is a skill.

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      • Alan says:

        no it isn’t, it’s a result of other skills, such as making contact and hitting the ball hard

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      • Sultan of Schwwingg says:

        Per a study run by Carty at THT, BA is not a skill; more like what Alan said. It’s R2 is .18, slightly higher than BABIP (.15)

        Not that I agree with that. Just regurgitating his results.

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      • trw says:

        damn, Sultan, you know too much about baseball.

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      • RC says:

        A weak correlation across the league does not disprove something is a skill.

        Just like a weak correlation with BABIP for pitches doesn’t disprove that Tim Wakefield has a skill that allows him to lower his BABIP.

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      • Sultan of Schwwingg says:

        I never said I agreed that it ins’t a skill, which I believe is beside the point. When Chris said “Melky’s power numbers are suspicious and he relies too heavily on batting average”, I’m pretty sure he was referring to Melky’s poor walk rate.

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  5. Telo says:

    Good list, agree with j bones about Berkman. So crazy to think that Kemp was worth .3 WAR last year… -25 UZR. Yikes.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      That Matt Kemp went from +2.9 to -25.7 to -5 probably says more about UZR than it does Matt Kemp.

      Alfonso Soriano had a UZR of 33.2 in 2007 … that’s just about double Carl Crawford’s best season. Crawford had a -2.4 season sandwiched in between 10.2 and 15.8 seasons.

      It’s tough to take UZR seriously, and as a result … taking WAR with a grain of salt. Any WAR that is heavily influenced by UZR (i.e., very high or low UZR) has to be viewed in the same light as an abnormally high/low BABIP at this point, IMHO.

      ——————————————————-

      Ellsbury is having a very good season, and is absolutely blasting fastballs (14.8 wFB), which is probably due to the combination of his speed and the hitters hitting behind him.

      But, Bartolo Colon is easily the AL comeback player of the year, especially considering the pitching concerns of the NYY, how Colon has pitched, and where the NYY are in the division.

      I think you could basically say the same thing about Berkman. Sure he had 2.0 WAR last year, but most (including many here) were predicting a fall off from that in 2011. He’s an MVP candidate as well.

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      • Misfit says:

        I think too much is made out of year to year fluctuations with UZR scores. Good hitters have bad years at the plate and good defenders have bad years in the field. And sometimes, they can get unlucky in the field too just like they can get unlucky with their BABIP. You mentioned Crawford in your post about UZR, this year he has a .298 wOBA despite having a career mark of .345 but I don’t hear anyone saying wOBA is a flawed stat as a result. The difference is we have easy access to the data that contributes to wOBA. We can look at contact rate, batted ball distribution, and even the “eye test” tends to be more revealing when juding hitting vs defense.

        I think Matt Kemp was a bad defender last year. Maybe not to the extent that UZR rated him, and I find it believable he could be a good defender this year.

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  6. Brian Wilson's Beard says:

    What about Lance Berkman? I know if WAR is considered, he wouldnt be in. But what a great year he’s having.

    There are a lot of worthy candidates for sure, though.

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  7. Dan says:

    Anyone besides Bartolo Colon is a joke (assuming he finishes out the year strong). Dude was completely out of baseball, and was a long shot to even make a roster out of spring training!

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    • Adam W says:

      You could say exactly the same thing about Vogelsong, though.

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      • Yirmiyahu says:

        Except Vogelsong doesn’t really qualify as coming BACK from a previous level of success. Coming back from a different country, yes, but I don’t think that’s what the award is about.

        My issue with Bartolo Colon is that I doubt he’s going to “finish out the year strong” (as Dan worded it) or stay healthy.

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      • jim says:

        good thing they’re in different leagues and could thus both win one of the two awards per league then, huh

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  8. Pauly D says:

    Adam Lind put up – .7 WAR last year and is up to 1.8 WAR so far in 2011. He missed 4 weeks so he hasn’t crossed the 2 WAR threshold, but he could put up a big finish and be under consideration

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  9. Charlie Morton's Electric Stuff says:

    Obviously, I’m a little bit disappointed the (first place!) Pirates’ Charlie Morton didn’t get at least an honorary mention in this article. He doesn’t quite reach the 2 WAR threshold yet, but I heard his name being thrown around a little bit in the CPOTY conversation until his recent “slump” (where he actually improved his FIP, a major concern up until that point, but fell victim to tons of groundballs finding holes). I know his dreadful numbers last year were widely misleading (7.57 ERA compared to a 4.11 xFIP), but he has a legitimate chance to shave 4 runs off his ERA this year, which will resonate with the more traditional-minded voters. At the very least, he’s a great turnaround story-a guy with promise who navigated some very rough waters to have a rebound year.

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    • Paul Swydan says:

      Certainly if Morton finishes strong and the Buccos win the Central he will deserve some consideration. But I don’t think he would win based on the whole previous level of excellence part. Morton has never been a “star.”

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    • Chris says:

      Except despite whatever “promise” he might have had, he was never any good in the majors, so he’s not really returning to a former level of greatness. In that sense, he’s kind of Iike Jordan zimmermann, just nowhere near as good, which is why he doesn’t qualify.

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  10. Dylan says:

    It’s a shame that only stars get looked at, because Beltran isn’t the most impressive comeback on his own team. Beltran put up .8 WAR last year in just 64 games as a CF playing without athleticism, leading to a poor fielding performance that made him look bad, but that would obviously be better this year, even if he stayed in center. Moving him to right just escalated that. In September, he put up a triple-slash of .321/.365/.603, that was his comeback, this year is just a continuation of that.

    Murphy, on the other hand, looked just about done. Wright was going to play 3rd, Emaus was at 2nd with Tejada or Turner backing him up, Ike Davis was playing 1st, and Murphy was out. He played only 11 minor league games in 2010. He looked completely done, yet he’s come back this year and been a productive player. To me, he’s the Mets comeback player of the year, and should be a legitimate contender for the award.

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    • Max says:

      Murphy was “looked at.” He was removed from the conversation by the author because the award is generally give to players who are re-emerging. The key prefix there is “re-.” What exactly is Murphy coming back from? 1.0 WAR his rookie year, 1.1 the next year, in the minors last year. A good story of an emerging useful player, but not what the award in question is meant for.

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      • Dylan says:

        I meant looked at by voters.

        In the minors last year? He played only 11 games, he missed the rest of the season with two injuries.

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  11. jim says:

    you mention ellsbury, but not pedroia? i mean i get that he had more than 2 WAR last year, but was only in 75 games; he’s been in 93 so far, and has 1.9 more WAR (3.3 -> 5.4) in my mind, they’re definitely co-candidates.

    also those two, other than jose bautista, are why the ‘a-gone for MVP’ talk is ridiculous, he’s not even the most valuable player on his own team.

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    • Sam says:

      Last year wasn’t exactly a bad year for Pedroia, in fact it was quite good until he got hurt. It’s just that he has turned it up to eleven this year.

      And the A-Gon for MVP talk wasn’t crazy before the All-Star break, because at that point he WAS the most valuable. And he, Ellsbury and Pedroia are all pretty close. If Ells and Pedey cool off for a week and A-Gon goes on one of his many tears (4 hits last game, maybe it’s starting?), he could easily be most valuable again soon. I’m not advocating A-Gon for MVP; I would actually MUCH prefer seeing Ells get it if SOMEHOW Bautista got the enormous snub, but just making the point clear that it’s not exactly that A-Gon has had a BAD season. It’s just he doesn’t stand as far apart as Bautista does.

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  12. delv says:

    Except for guys like Berkman who changed positions, I’m not sure it makes sense use a measure that includes defense. It’s unlikely defense ability has changed much over the course of the year except in certain unique situations (eg. Kemp, guys like Alexei from ’09 to ’10). More importantly, though, UZR shouldn’t really be use to make those kinds of claims (3-yr minimum for validity). Using a position-adjusted wOBA might be preferable.

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    • fredsbank says:

      why does no one understand UZR? 3 years isnt needed for validity, 3 years is needed for PREDICTIVE validity. the single seasons of UZR are still what happened.

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      • KJOK says:

        Actually, this is not at all correct. A 1/2 year of UZR is not an accurate measure of what happened defensively this season- it’s an estimate.

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      • Hank says:

        UZR is not what happened, it is a model… the zones (as well as the breakdown of batted ball speed) are not that fine that it is accurately representing what is happening on each specific play… however over time the location and batted ball speeds evens out which is why it is a useful metric when the sample size is large enough

        You are talking about the probability of an out on a ball in a rather large zone with I think 3 batted ball speed classifications and 2(?) runner speed classifications and comparing it to what happened on the actual play…. however every ball in that zone is not the same probability of an out (think one edge of the zone vs the other)

        Consider the actual starting position of the fielder is not factored in at all in UZR (except shifts) – a team that aggressively (and smartly) positions fielders (Rays?) may get a bit of an artificial bump in UZR by having their players in better starting locations. Also consider that there are the same # of outfield zones in every park regardless of OF size… yes there is a park correction to account for this, but again this is gets back to modeling and approximations, as opposed to what actually happened.

        Finally components like ArmR, ErrR and DPR are not always what actually happened, they are approximations.

        Why do people continue to propagate the UZR is what happened meme?

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      • jim says:

        “That is because it is not measuring something that is categorized, like a coin flip which either comes up heads or tails, or BA, whereby a player either gets a hit or he doesn’t, or even simple Zone Rating, where a fielder either fields a ball within his zone or he doesn’t. Now, to some extent we are measuring something which is categorized, even though I just said that we aren’t. It is just that it is not particularly evident. For example, if we report that Jeter’s BA was .334 last year, we can look at his last 3 years’ BA or his career BA and declare that he is not likely a true .334 hitter, but there is no doubt about the fact that he hit .334 last year. We can even go to the video of all his games, and say, “Yup, he definitely hit .334 last year.”

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      • Hank says:

        Jim – UZR is not simply measuring wheher a guy made the play it is assigning it a value based on a MODEL which determines the probability an average player makes it…

        The problem is the part about the average player making that play is a very crude approzimation as the zones are big, thebatted ball classifications are coarse, it ignore where the fielder started, and it gives a very rough grade to the speed of the runner.

        If UZR was simply measureing play mad play not made, you could say it is what happened, but it’s subtracting off an approximation on top of that.

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      • Hank says:

        Jim.. sorry reading comprehension problems on my end…

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      • Bronnt says:

        I agree with your frustration, and I feel it too, Hank. And I’m becoming even more upset with WAR as a result, since they basically took one of the parts of UZR I trust the least and added it into the WAR formula via BsR. The reliability of WAR is not what I would like for it to be.

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    • Blue says:

      Defense really shouldn’t be included at all.

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  13. MikeS says:

    Now I understand, Adam Dunn is setting himself up for this award next year.

    Right?

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  14. Romodonkulous says:

    “MLB is a bit more vague, presenting its award to the player who has ‘re-emerged on the baseball field during a given season.’”

    Under this definition, I gotta believe guys like Vogelsong and Colon are gonna qualify under loose MLB standards.

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    • Lyle says:

      I think Vogelsong and Alex Gordon are the clear choices, although I wouldn’t be shocked by Colon. Vogelsong’s story is just too good to overlook.

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  15. Carlmart says:

    Jeff Francoeur is the obvious choice for CBPTY. The man exemplifies all that is good about baseball. Plus he is putting up some absurd numbers this year in terms of HRs and RBIs and the guy has an absolute cannon for an arm, so you know his defense is top notch. Sure he has had a couple of down years, but Frenchy has come back with vengeance this year and deserves the award hands down. He plays the game the right way and all his teammates love him and thats why Francoeur should take home this award.

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    • Richie Farmer says:

      Most of the time, a good troll makes me laugh. The issue, however, is that you are not a good troll.

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    • ToddM says:

      Truly. Just not an impressive effort. You’ve got to suck the audience in with a little “well, maybe that’s only a little crazy” before you Back to the Future-style dump a truck of manure in your post.

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  16. AustinRHL says:

    I think that voters for the Comeback Player award lean heavily towards four overlapping types of players.

    1. Old players who looked finished the previous year.

    2. Players who have come off of a major injury that severely limited their time in the prior year and/or looked potentially career-ending.

    3. Players who stunk it up in the majors when they were younger, disappeared for some period of time while pitching in a different country or in the minors, and then came roaring back.

    4. Highly touted prospects who started to look like busts after a couple of seasons in the majors.

    Based on this, Berkman (first category), Colon (first/second category), Vogelsong (third category), and maybe Ellsbury (fourth category) look like the strongest candidates to me.

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    • Romodonkulous says:

      Plus…let’s get REAL — if Colon continues to successfully contribute towards another Yanks vs BoSox showdown in the standings and Vogelsong ends the season near the league-lead in ERA, you’re more than likely looking at a TON of “extra credit” points.

      Ellsbury is the other guy w/ “extra credit” potential…if he keeps this up, the “Comeback Player of the Year Award” could end up being something of an MVP consolation prize.

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  17. David says:

    If the season ended now, I am certain Beltran would win it. The award has a strong bias towards older candidates. Which makes sense from a media perspective at least; when an older player has a bad year or an injury, the vultures start circling and people start muttering dark words about decline.

    Comeback Player of the Year is given to guys in their 30′s having a season that reminds one of their prime or have had really serious injuries that looked perhaps career ending. So, it will be Beltran.

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    • TK says:

      I agree 100%. Writers don’t look at WAR. “Comeback” to a lot means that you come back from injury or being out of baseball (MLB that is). Beltran came back from a major surgery and has been great when most thought he would not. That and he was an amazingly good player before. Ellsbury is coming back from growing pains. Kemp is coming back from what? This is more a breakout than a comeback (though his 2010 was down, he never was this good before).

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    • chuckb says:

      Ummm…Berkman?

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  18. Temo says:

    Please don’t reward Melky for not being a fat ass.

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  19. Greg says:

    Okay….if Pablo Sandoval’s and Ryan Vogelsong’s WARs are below 2.0 this season, I simply have NO faith in this stat at all. To think that a AAA pitcher would win only 2 fewer games than Vogelsong is ridiculous. Someone tell me if I’m reading this article wrong….

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    • Romodonkulous says:

      Vogelsong’s fWAR is correct — unfortunately — but that is the peril of using predictive factors such as FIP to calculate a Pitcher’s fWAR. Apparently, Vogelsong is only worth 1.5 more Wins on an Offensively-starved team that wholly relies on the strength of it’s pitching, than your basic league-average Pitcher.

      Sandoval’s fWAR (1.6) is the differential between his accumulated 2010 figures (1.7fWAR) and his current standing (3.3fWAR).

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      • Ari Collins says:

        FIP is not a predictive stat, though. It describes what a pitcher has done himself, not what his fielders have done. Taking out the fielder’s contributions isn’t just helpful in predicting the pitcher’s future, it’s a better analysis of the value the pitcher has given his team than counting the fielder’s contributions to the team as the pitcher’s.

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      • Romodonkulous says:

        Ari-

        go back and read FanGraphs’ own definition of FIP:

        “Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) measures what a player’s ERA should have looked like over a given time period, assuming that performance on balls in play and timing were league average.”

        Two key words words/phrases there: “should have” and “assuming”.

        Assuming ANY hypothetical standard, when not innately present, is the basis of predictive function.

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      • Ari Collins says:

        My bad. I thought FIP only stripped out the fielder’s contributions; taking the sequencing out does, in fact, make it stop describing what actually happened.

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      • RC says:

        “FIP is not a predictive stat, though. It describes what a pitcher has done himself, not what his fielders have done”

        The biggest factor in FIP is Innings Pitched, which most certainly is as much about what fielders do as it is about what the pitcher has done.

        The idea that FIP is fielding independant is absurd.

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    • trw says:

      agree, just look at Vogelsong’s starts:

      8.0 IP – 1 ER
      8.0 IP – 1 ER
      7.0 IP – 2 ER
      7.0 IP – 1 ER
      6.2 IP – 2 ER
      6.2 IP – 0 ER
      6.1 IP – 0 ER
      6.0 IP – 2 ER
      6.0 IP – 2 ER
      6.0 IP – 0 ER
      6.0 IP – 0 ER
      5.2 IP – 2 ER
      5.0 IP – 1 ER

      5.0 IP – 3 ER
      4.0 IP – 5 ER

      he should be 13-2 if the Giants had any kind of offense. doubtful any other pitcher in MLB could match those starts.

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      • RC says:

        Part of the reason the Giants have no offense, and the Giants pitchers look so good, is they play in an absolutely enormous ball park.

        If he pitched for any other team, he wouldn’t have so many 0 and 1 ER starts.

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      • Cidron says:

        to RC. Not all of those occurred at home. I am sure he posted some of those numbers in bandboxes as well as neutral stadiums too.

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      • trw says:

        i think its HRs that get limited at AT+T, but run production is usually pretty close to league average.

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      • ToddM says:

        There are a number of pitchers that match that general quality and average significantly more innings per start. Vogelsong’s been really impressive, but don’t overstate things… Weaver, Verlander, Shields, Halladay, Hamels are all doing far more for their teams.

        Even factoring out park and endurance, Vogelsong is only 22nd in MLB in OPS allowed. His HR rate is good, but not great (and particularly not great compared to his teammates), and a 1.22 WHIP is not that impressive either (the NL as a whole has a 1.30 WHIP this year).

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      • trw says:

        @ ToddM – yeah, you’re right, several others have a ton of quality starts and go deeper into the game than Vogelsong typically does. btw, you mentioned OPS against which app isn’t Vogelsong’s best stat but i notice he currently trumps Halladay in ERA+ by 174 to 149 and beats Halladay in the neutralized pitching column in BB-Ref also(ERA) 2.27 to 2.71. those prob aren’t the favored stats though. i don’t know too much about the FIP and xFIP kind of stuff.

        if you just go by the gamelogs and award W-L based on and ERA under 4.00, Vogelsong would be 14-2 now, which is what my main point is – he gives you a great chance to win….he is starting to slip a little in his last 3-4 starts though.

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      • ToddM says:

        Guess that depends on how you look at it. Going around 6 innings and giving up an average of 1.5 runs a start as certainly “giving your team a good chance to win”, but certain guys are going over 7 innings a start with comparable ERAs and better peripherals.

        Vogelsong is a great story and gets my vote for WTHDTCF* Player of the year, but the award does usually go to someone that once exhibited at least All-Star status that had been written off as a top player. Berkman looks like that guy this year in the NL.

        *where the hell did that come from?

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      • Jason B says:

        “he should be 13-2 if the Giants had any kind of offense”

        False. Completely false. No pitcher wins all, or even close to all, of their “6 IP, 2 ER” type of starts (of which there are 4-5 listed). Sometimes the other team’s pitcher gives up 0 runs, or 1 run. Sometimes your bullpen gets bombed.

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  20. Terrence says:

    Wow….lotta solid candidates this year.

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  21. TK says:

    Prior to this season, Ellsbury has never put up a good offensive season. His only allstar level WAR season, 2008, was based highly on defense. How can he be CBPTY? He’s really Breakthrough Player of the Year.

    Kemp is closer, but last year was much worse for Kemp because he defense was so bad.

    If we agree that defensive metrix are better used over the course of 3-4 years, then that should be taken into account. Ellsbury was not as good a player as his 5.1 WAR indicates and Kemp was not as bad as his .3 WAR 2010 indicates. Both of these facts make them less deserving players for this award (along with the fact that they’re not coming back from anything.

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    • Ian R. says:

      I think Ellsbury’s 2009 qualifies as a good offensive season. He put up a .355 OBP (not great for a leadoff hitter, but acceptable), had a basically league average OPS, and led the league in stolen bases (70, while only being caught 12 times). That said, I’d be in the crowd that characterizes him as a breakout, not a comeback.

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      • TK says:

        That gets into what exactly is “good” and there are reasonable disagreements. No doubt that this year is absolutely outstanding and obviously you agree. I think it would be weird if Ellsbury won.

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  22. Sultan of Schwwingg says:

    Simple question:

    Since MLB.com’s 12 million voters named Ellsbury the Defensive Player of the Year 2 years ago, and Fangraphs thousands voted him worst CF last year, does that mean MLB.com readers are brighter than Fangraph’s because he’s closer to being one of the best than the worst?

    just curious…. :) Remarkable year by the young man. Same goes with Kemp and Beltran.

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  23. Juancho says:

    I see Melky and Gordon as “never-weres” rather than comebacks. As a Royals fan I’m happy with their success, and I believe Gordon has made a real breakthrough and Melky very well may have. But neither was ever a star player, and they’re both about 26-27, too young to be comebacks.

    I assume the guy who suggested Frenchy was kidding.

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  24. Blue says:

    Too many young kids in your “comeback” list. Also you shouldn’t include defense.

    The comeback award is about an older star level player returning to a high level of offensive performance, preferably after that player was thought to be “done.” The clear candidates are:

    Carlos Beltran
    Lance Berkman
    Todd Helton
    Bartolo Colon (maybe)

    Of these guys, the frontrunner right now is Berkman, who came back from the dead to lead the NL in home runs.

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  25. BD says:

    It should absolutely go to Colon. Nobody else came “back” from as far away. Ellsbury is coming back from a rib injury nobody ever thought was career-ending to begin with. To the contrary, everybody — Red Sox players and fans included — thought he should have bounced back from that injury within a few weeks of suffering it. This is theoretically an award for a player’s grit and perseverence in overcoming career setbacks. You want to give that to Ellsbury because of his lousy rib injury?? Please.

    No, it’s definitely Colon. He went all the way to the top in MLB (CYA in ’05(?)), before falling completely off of MLB’s radar screen for the last couple of years. Now, at 38, he’s again among the best SPs in the game. Who else has really made a comparable comeback?

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  26. will says:

    the mlb award seems like it does not require a player to be a star before this season. I would argue that vogelsong and colon win the cpoty for the nl and al

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    • Jason B says:

      Yeah, but who carefully reads the award parameters before voting? I think the voting will look very similar in both cases, and the hardware will almost always go to an old(ish) guy who was either hurt or everyone thought was washed up. Colon might qualify, don’t think RV does (not to take anything away from his accomplishments).

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  27. Cidron says:

    Only problem I see with Colon, (ok, not only) is the voodoo magic surgical procedure on his arm that may give pause to some as they check the box next to his name. They may go on to another name given the unknown of the procedure.

    (no, not saying he is the frontrunner, just sayin that some may not give him that vote for that reason)

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  28. Paul says:

    I thought “comeback” meant someone who was good before, had a bad stretch, and then was good again. Half these guys (Melky, Alex Gordon, Howie K, Asdrubel) were never good before, no matter how much hype they received. So maybe this is a “most improved” list?

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  29. HeiseyOnLife says:

    Berkman should win for league impact and because Beltran’s decline was more injury related as opposed to Berkman who just steadily lost relevance. And WAR should not be used b/c of the ridiculous fluctuation in defensive metrics.

    And I’d pick James Shields over Colon. Shields went from the worst year by far of a consistent career to Cy Young discussion.

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  30. giantsrainman says:

    This award is about story not stats. None on the above list will win. Ryan Vogolsong’s and Bartolo Colon’s stories are just too good and they are both clearly going to win this award in their respective leagues.

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  31. jessedziedzic says:

    You could not be more right on…

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  32. Thank goodness some bloggers can still write. Thank you for this blog.

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