THT Awards

Welcome to the awards.

For award definitions and background on the column itself, please consult the Primer.

All weekly stats are for the period of Monday, July 20 though Sunday, July 26. All season stats are through Sunday.

This week’s proof that assigning wins and losses to a pitcher is an arcane practice that must stop

Good Luck Division:

Nick Blackburn and Gio Gonzalez were owned by Matt Holliday and Justin Morneau with 18 combined runs allowed between the two of them. They escaped their own ineptitude with matching no decisions because they faced each other. Jose Mijares actually took the loss despite being merely poor rather than disastrous, yielding one run on three hits in an inning and a third.

Bad Luck Division

Rich Harden and Joe Blanton had the misfortune of facing each other as they each shut down the opposing hitters, posting seven frames with only one run allowed each. They got matching no-decisions in a game that took 13 innings to reach a conclusion.

Brett Cecil’s day was ruined by Scott Downs, who inherited a 1-0 lead and allowed two runs on two walks, a double, a triple and an error. Cecil had effectively shut down Cleveland for seven innings, striking out nine and scattering 11 baserunners.

Clayton Richards was victimized by a Bobby Jenks blown save on the same day after providing the White Sox with eight on-run innings on four hits and seven strikeouts.

Zack Greinke was brilliant against the Rangers, striking out 10 in seven innings. His only sin was giving up a Marlon Byrd solo shot. I would also say something about Scott Feldman putting up a classic ASADIIFP performance with eight scoreless, four-hit innings with only two strikeouts.

A brief Mark Buehrle note

I feel obligated to talk about the Buehrle no-hitter. But I have a couple of handicaps to worth with here. First off, I have not watched it. I was at a Prospect League game in downstate Illinois at the time. And also through the quirk of scheduling, I will be five days behind the curve when this article posts. With those two things in mind, I fear that I have nothing informative and original to say about the game itself.

That being said, because of the standard subject matter of the column, one might say that the game conforms to the any sufficiently advanced defense is indistinguishable from pitching principle. But the fact of the matter is unless a pitcher strikes out 16 or 18 batters, then a no-hitter or perfect game is almost definitionally a confluence of a lot of luck and a lot of skill. And if you did rack up that kind of a strikeout total, you would be pushing any kind of pitch count limit you might be on or wear down and lose a slice of that brilliance. So I say we take that luck factor as a given and use this event as an excuse to talk about Buehrle himself.

I think Buehrle flies a bit under the radar when it comes to the national scene. He has a kind of quietly consistent excellence that usually bores the sports media to tears. He is deathly boring for ESPN or talk radio jocks to cover because he doesn’t have flashy accomplishment. He’s finished in the top five of Cy Young voting only once. He only has eight shutouts and 24 complete games in his 288-start career. This is his seventh season with an ERA in the threes. His two down seasons were a 4.24 and a 4.99. He’s rarely bad. He’s simply really, really good.

He also isn’t in the media often because outside of his absurd truck, there’s nothing particularly interesting about his life when he is off of the mound. He has never picked fights with Jay Mariotti or Phil Rogers. He doesn’t get in trouble or monopolize every microphone in a 10-mile radius.

Retroactive Review: Ace
Looking back at some of Justin Verlander's most interesting moments.

I forget where I heard it, but I remember a radio show or a podcast a while ago where the host and the guest were weighing possible 300-game winners playing today. The guest threw out Buehrle’s name as a guy who might age well and find his way into contention for 300. He currently stands at 133 wins as a 30-year old, so that is plausible. Clearly, the odds are not terribly good, but any bet on a pitcher outside of a couple of years from now is a weak proposition.

What I find interesting is that if he keeps up his current performance for the next 10 seasons and ends up right in the neighborhood, he would be his generation’s embodiment of the criticism that has dogged Mike Mussina, where a Hall of Fame case could be made for a very good pitcher for a very long time, but one who lacked the high peaks that you find in a Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson or Johan Santana.

At this point he doesn’t have those ridiculous seasons in which he ran away from the rest of the league and posted an ERA in the neighborhood of 2.50. It is fair to ask if that should veto anybody’s hall credentials, but it bears mentioning that Mussina is a good comp for Buehrle at this point. Mussina had 136 career wins at the end of his age 30 season and probably could have seen 300 had he decided to carry on. I am not saying that this is at all likely or reasonable to expect. I am just thinking out loud here and you can tell me how ridiculous and off-base I am in the comments if you like.

Vulture alert! Vulture alert!

Phil Coke squandered the two-run lead he inherited. When the Yankees finished their domination of Dallas Braden, he was gifted a lead, and eventually a win.
Wes Littleton Award

To succeed, all Kevin Gregg had to do was retire Edwin Encarnacion, who currently sits at .202/.331/.372. To fail, he would have had to allow Encarnacion to homer, and then allow Jonny Gomes to follow it up with another blast.

Please hold the applause

Jon Rauch retired two batters, walked Ian Stewart, and let Ryan Spilboroughs triple to drive in Stewart, making a two-run Diamondbacks lead into a one-run advantage. He still was credited with a hold.

Any sufficiently advanced defense is indistinguishable from pitching

Braden Looper scored a victory with seven scoreless, four-hit innings despite striking out only one Milwaukee hitter.

John Lannan would have won the game had Mike MacDougal not blown the save. Nevertheless, he struck out two of the 29 batters he faced. In eight innings, he allowed one run on five hits and a walk.

This week’s dumbest thing ever

As I was flipping through the channels Friday, looking for highlights of Buehrle’s perfect game, ESPNews was covering SEC’s football media day. Evidently the story of the day was that somebody had failed to vote for Tim Tebow as the preseason all-SEC quarterback and reporters were trying find out who had the audacity to do such a thing. Naturally, I was a bit taken aback since I was unaware that anybody anywhere cared about who was named in what amounts to preseason predictions.

As a baseball fan, I would be floored if a single year went by when at least one award didn’t get completely botched by the voters, let alone if the right guy won, only not unanimously. I fail to see how anybody with any measure of sanity could consider this a story worth hours of airtime and breathless attention. There aren’t many areas where I am a foremost world authority. The field of inconsequential, made-up awards with arbitrary definitions is what I do here. I’m not building a framework to convert the upcoming HITf/x tool into a comprehensive defensive metric. Nope, I am here to figure out new ways to poke fun at empty batting averages and pitchers who get saves in 30-3 blowouts. Preseason conference coaches polls are the definition of inconsequential awards with arbitrary definitions.

Joe Carter Award

Raul Ibanez had some bad luck on balls in play, which nuked an otherwise positive week in which he doubled twice, hit a home run and walked four times in 25 at-bats. Still, he hit .200/.310/.400 while driving in eight runs.

Rey Sanchez Award

Travis Ishikawa was seven for 21 with no extra base hits and no walks for a symmetrical .333/.333/.333 line.

Hank Blalock hit .292/.292/.375 in 24 at-bats. That is five singles, two doubles and nothing else in particular.

Harmon Killebrew Award

Blalock’s teammate Andruw Jones had a small 14-at bat sample. But despite zero singles in those 14 at bats, he was very productive with two doubles, a home run, and three walks for a .214/.353/.571 line.

Steve Balboni Award

Jim Thome whiffed 10 times in 22 at bats, negating his home run and four walks with a .091/.231/.227 overall line. Juan Uribe had a similar week, minus the walks, going .208/.208/.333 with 11 strikeouts in 24 at-bats.

This week’s second dumbest thing ever

I watched a few minutes of Jim Rice’s press conference for his Hall of Fame induction. His remarks have made some headlines, notably his observation that metal bats keep young players from learning “fundamentals,” which he narrowly defined as hitting behind the runner and a willingness to sacrifice for the team. What stuck with me was his insistence that major league organizations don’t teach fundamentals anymore, but instead teach on-base percentage. My mind swarms with responses.

First off, I am curious whether Rice believes that he was inducted in the Hall this weekend because of his ability to ground out to second base or because of his peak as a first-rate home run hitter in the late ’70s.

Secondly, I am curious how the ability to get on base at a high rate and provide others with base runners to knock in could be thought of as anything other than a fundamental skill.

Third, I wonder if he really believes that teaching a good sac bunt and teaching the ability to work a walk are mutually exclusive within an organization.

Fourth, as a Royals fan, I feel ripped off since my favorite team seems incapable of teaching either of those skills.

Fifth, this is at least a little more understandable than Joe Morgan’s crusade against the guys with spreadsheets and calculators. At least the sabermetrics set was the core of the anti-Rice movement. The propeller heads often have said that Morgan is underrated by traditional analysis.

And lastly, I wonder how long it will take for somebody to Photoshop a graphic with Jim Rice yelling at those darned kids to stay off his lawn.

This week’s MVP

AL: Michael Young is having a resurgent year, hitting .313/.368/.497 and making me look foolish in the short term for doubting whether he would hit enough to be a positive contributor on an infield corner. His move to third base has been a huge positive for the Rangers defense, allowing Elvis Andrus to ply his trade where Young was a liability last year and putting Young at a position where he could be a solid performer defensively.

Young outdid himself this week, firing off a .500/.560/.864 line for Ron Washington’s troops while they were going 5-1 on the week.

NL: Andre Ethier smoked five doubles and two bombs, and drew five walks, good for a .545/.630/1.045 week.

Special interleague edition: Matt Holliday split his week between the East Bay Athletics and St Louis. He was probably the best player in baseball, going .556/.581/1.037 in 27 at-bats.


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Geoffrey
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Geoffrey

I’m pretty sure that Mark Buehrle’s response when asked about being the next potential 300 game winner, just after Randy Johnson won his was some thing along the lines of, “You’re kidding right? I don’t want to play that long”.

Mike Eller
Guest
Mike Eller

John, thank you for bringing light to the Tim Tebow “controversy.” It’s a story like this that is making me slowly wean away from ESPN. Sometimes their stories become so bad that I feel like I mine as well be watching E! or the Style Network.

Also, prediction: My boy Andy Marte will be your AL MVP next week.

digglahhh
Guest
digglahhh
Beating a dead horse alert: You what else is a fundamental skill that they don’t teach anymore? Serendipitously being drafted by a team that, by chance, plays in a ball park that happens to conform to your particular skill set, thereby egregiously inflating the perceived caliber of your own offensive prowess – but doing so in an era before it became particularly fashionable to scrutinize home/away stats or seek ballpark adjusted numbers. They just don’t teach kids how to do that anymore! Here’s an even better fundamental, embracing the label of “most feared” hitter of your day, even though it… Read more »
Mike
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Mike
As a White Sox fan, Buehrle is my favorite player for a few things you mentioned and a few you didn’t.  He consistently works deep into ballgames which is a valuable skill in today’s game.  He always takes the ball every fifth day.  Most importantly he works fast.  As a fan who watches the whole game, this is so underrated.  Watching baseball is so much fun than watching the grass grow between pitches.  If you blinked, you missed his inning in the All Star game.  A few years back, I was at ganes that Buehrle and Freddy Garcia worked back… Read more »
digglahhh
Guest
digglahhh
For the record, dlreed52, those characterizations of Rice were not mine, but a reiteration of the prevailing consensus of opinion by those charged with the responsibility of electing players to the HOF. Rice had something of a contentious relationship with the media, no? At the very least, he’s been portrayed as such. Now, none of that is necessarily material to his overall character. None of that means that he is mean, ill-tempered, lacking compassion or empathy. Simply, it only means that some members of the media may have held (quite possibly shortsighted or childish) grudges against Rice. Personally, I don’t… Read more »
Greg Simons
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Greg Simons

digglahhh, I was pretty sure I read your comments as you explained that you intended them, and I’m glad you responded to dlreed52 to confirm that.  Very interesting insights regarding the use of the term “feared.”

dlreed52
Guest
dlreed52
I was watching the Red Sox on television one afternoon in 1982 when I saw Jim Rice do something I’d not seen either in the fifteen years I’d been following the game or in all the seasons since.  Jim Rice, the former MVP and Hall of Fame outfielder whom digglahhh characterizes as a “mean black man” rescued a small child while everyone else in attendance that day sat frozen in fear and apprehension.  Jonathan Keane, then four years old, was attending the game with his father and brother when, in the fourth inning, he was struck by a line-drive foul… Read more »
dlreed52
Guest
dlreed52
Your response raises a number of points, digglahhh, so in the interest of clarity, I’ll address them separately. You suggest that I feel that Jim Rice is a Hall of Fame-caliber ballplayer and that’s correct but in some ways irrelevant to our discussion.  I’m what you might call an “inclusionist.”  I feel that the Hall of Fame serves as a repository for the game’s history and the more individuals it recognizes and commemorates, the better.  There are probably many players I would consider worthy of enshrinement that you would not.  This, as you say, is a difference of opinion and… Read more »
dlreed52
Guest
dlreed52
(Continued from previous post) Your discussion of race and semantics is a thoughtful one though I’m not inclined to agree with all of your points there either.  I believe the term “sparkplug” is applied to scrappy middle infielders who make up for their lack of power with on-base ability and speed.  Some of these players are Latino, yes, but the term has long been applied to generations of white players.  Eddie Stanky, Marty Barrett, and Ron Hunt come readily to mind.  And the nickname “The Ignitor” belongs specifically to Paul Molitor, a white fellow from St. Paul.  But let’s not… Read more »
digglahhh
Guest
digglahhh
Thank you for the very thoughtful and insightful response. Regarding the “dig,” what can I say…  The medium is key; the internet is the home of snark. I’m snarky, blue, dry, sometimes distasteful, and sometimes hyperbolic. I’m more Will Leitch, less Buzz Bissinger. My being unapologetic for my remark is also rooted in what I’d presume is a differing opinion on how we (should) deal with the history of race within our society. I’m a little confused though as to what reiterations I shouldn’t have brought out – that Rice was considered mean? You don’t particularly contest that. That assertiveness… Read more »
kds
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kds

On the issue of measuring fear of a hitter with IBB’s; has anyone looked at the number of times the hitter ahead of Rice was walked to get to him?
Given his very high GiDP rate I think this might have happened more than rarely.  If I were to try to invent a “fear” statistic I think I would use something like the ratio of a batters IBB’s to that of those batting directly in front of him, adjusted by the quality of those batting behind him.

Dave Studeman
Guest
Dave Studeman

kds, John Walsh wrote about that in the 2009 Annual.  He had a great article about how many times individual batters were “dissed,” meaning how many times they had batters intentionally walked before them, in the Retrosheet era.  No surprise, Jeff Kent led the list with 175 times.  Jim Rice was down the list, though he was still “dissed” 64 times, the same as Cal Ripken and one less than Willie McCovey.

dlreed52
Guest
dlreed52
I appreciate the kind words, digglahhh, and I write these concluding remarks out of respect for your obvious intelligence and the diligence with which you’ve constructed and defended a hypothesis which, alas, I find utterly unconvincing.  I believe you have taken the phrase “feared hitter” out of its historical context and then, having assembled a collection of facts, each of which contains some large measure of truth, asserted that collectively these fact support a contention that the phrase “feared hitter” somehow pertains to race.  You write that you don’t want to “turn this into a discussion about race,” but you… Read more »
John M Barten
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John M Barten
In relation to evaluating whether a guy is worthy of election to the HOF, I really don’t care about personality or any percieved effect it had on his performance. Being the most intimidating hitter isn’t important as far as I am concerned. The only thing that matters to me is the end result of his play. If that intimidation didn’t translate into results, then it isn’t relevant. In terms of his personality off the field, I don’t really care about that good or bad in relation to the HOF and evaluation of him as a player. Him taking care of… Read more »
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