Table of Contents

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

My 2008 Awards post

If I had a 3-player ballot for MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year, this is how I'd vote. This is based largely on these data. Numbers are all given in runs.

AL MVP
1. Grady Sizemore - 64 RAR, +9 fielding, +2 position adjustment = 76 total value

His team's 0.500 season may have been a disappointment, but Sizemore had a spectacular season. Not only was he an effective offensive force in the pitching-heavy AL, but he played outstanding defense at a premium position. 745 plate appearances batting leadoff in 157 games also helps his cause--playing time matters. Sizemore's 76 total runs above replacement level is a good 1.5 wins better than the next closest player on a playoff team.

2. Alex Rodriguez - 60 RAR, +7 fielding, +2 position adjustment = 69 total value

Rodriguez had a monster year from a rate standpoint relative to the rest of his league. This is also the first year in recent memory (iirc) that he's shown an above-average fielding contribution from the hot corner. But he missed half of May with an injury, and that probably cost him his title this year. Again, playing time matters.

3. Tie @ 61 RAR: Joe Mauer (44 RAR + 7 field + 10 posadj) & Dustin Pedroia (50 RAR + 9 field + 2 posadj)

You can make a legitimate argument that either of these guys should be get the #2 slot instead of Rodriguez, simply because they were so important to teams that made the playoffs (or, in the Twins case, missed the playoffs by a single game). But I'll stick with the stats-based ranking, mostly because I think Sizemore is the AL MVP and so it's kind of a moot point.

Mauer seems to be drastically underappreciated by the press, who focus on his teammate Morneau (who, incidentally, I have ranked 46th in the AL thanks to poor defense at an offensive position). But Mauer, who provides outstanding offense and defense at the most challenging position in baseball, was clearly their best player...and arguably the third most valuable in the league.

Pedroia must continue to generate a huge collective shrug from scouts for his crazy-long swing, but the guy clearly can hit. And he can pick it in the field too, while proving to be quite durable over his first two seasons.

If I have to pick one, I'll go with Mauer, who has a full win lead in WPA over Pedroia.


NL MVP

1. Albert Pujols (89 RAR, +20 field, -11 posadj = 98 total value)

His team may have faded down the stretch, but Albert continues to be the standard against which all hitters are judged. The guy's an absolute beast as a hitter (led all of MLB in RAR), and is perhaps the top defensive first basemen in baseball. If you could forecast that a player would be worth ~100 runs above replacement this year, he would have been worth ~$44 million/year on the free agent market. That's ridiculous.

2. Chipper Jones (66 RAR, +14 field, +2 posadj = 81 RAR)

Chipper had an amazing season that like Rodriguez's in the AL was hampered only by a brief time on the disabled list. His '08 numbers indicate that he has been a top fielder this season, and he kept his OPS above 1.000 all season long. Another strong season or two, and he's going to make a pretty strong argument for the Hall of Fame.

3. Hanley Ramirez (69 RAR, +3 fielding, +7 posadj = 80 RAR)

Total value-wise, Ramirez essentially tied Chipper. But I don't trust his fielding numbers, because they've been so positively dreadful up until this season. If they're a small sample size effect (fielding stats need several seasons to stabilize), and he really hasn't improved, he probably should be kicked out of the top spot, giving the #3 position to the eternally underrated Chase Utley. But I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt, at least until I see the 2008 Fan's Scouting Report numbers for Ramirez.

Crossovers

Manny Ramirez: 35 total value in the NL + 21 total value in the AL = 56 runs.
Mark Teixeira: 39 total value in the NL + 36 total value in the AL = 74 runs.

I tend to think that the MVP awards (like all of these league-specific awards) need to be based on specific contributions in a given league, but Teixeira's season puts him in the upper eschelon of players, and might have netted him an MVP award if he'd been with the Angels all year. Manny's defense continues to hamper his value, as usual.


AL Cy Young

1. Roy Halladay (82 RAR, 74 FIP-RAR)

It's been a two-horse race all year long, but in the end I'm giving the award to Roy Halladay. He led MLB in both RAR and FIP-RAR this season, and that pretty much is the definition of a Cy Young winner in my book. He also led all starters with more than 150 innings in BsR/G. His FIP wasn't quite as good as Lee's this year, but he pitched 23 more innings. That's more than two games when he was on the mound for the Jays, and that's ultimately what pushes him over the top. Dominant season. Again.

2. Cliff Lee (70 RAR, 70 FIP-RAR)

What a freaking improbable season by Lee. He went from battling for a starting job to the second-best season of any pitcher in baseball. There's already been a lot written about him, and there probably would be a lot more this offseason if the Indians had made the playoffs. But this year he saw huge upswings in his strikeout rate, huge decrease in his walks, and even his gb% went up by a good 10% this season. He turned 30 years old on August 30th...so is he a late bloomer, or a one-time flash in the pan? I really have no idea. I guess that's why we have Marcels.

3. Ervin Santana (59 RAR, 56 FIP-RAR)

He comes in a fairly distant third, but Santana continues to be a rather overlooked pitcher. A.J. Burnett actually finished just above him in FIP-RAR, but I'll give it to Santana in recognition of his vastly superior non-DIPSy numbers. Some of that might be luck or fielding, but pitchers do have some control over these things.


NL Cy Young


1. Tim Lincecum (70 RAR, 70 FIP-RAR)

Lincecum led the league in both RAR and FIP-RAR, which again makes it pretty easy for me to give him the award* (see note on Sabathia below). How long he'll last is anyone's guess, but I think it's clear that most teams drastically underrated the guy. ... And yes, I'll point out again that the Reds took Drew Stubbs ahead of this guy just three drafts ago. I will probably continue to beat that dead horse until his arm falls off. :)

2 & 3. Tie: Dan Haren (58 RAR, 61 FIP-RAR) & Brandon Webb (66 RAR, 56 FIP-RAR)

I can't decide between AZ's pair of starters. Haren's DIPS numbers are a tad better than Webb's, but Webb had a better BsR/G and threw a few more innings. I always expected that Haren was going to be a quality contributor this season, but I didn't expect that'd he'd be able to be competitive with a guy like Webb. I'd probably still rather have Webb on my team, but that's two Cy Young-caliber seasons in a row from Haren now...and he'll still just be 28 next season.

Crossovers

In case you're wondering, here's C.C Sabathia
RAR: 27 with Cleveland + 50 with Milwaukee = 77 RAR overall
FIP-RAR: 30 with Cleveland + 44 with Milwaukee = 74 FIP-RAR overall

That's essentially tied with Halladay's performance. It's better than Cliff Lee, and better than Tim Lincecum. So, overall, Sabathia is the #2 pitcher of the season. But does that mean that he wins the NL Cy Young? Personally, I'd probably say no, because again it's the NL Cy Young...but it wouldn't take a lot to convince me otherwise.


AL Rookie of the Year

1. Evan Longoria (36 RAR, +8 field, +2 posadj = 46 runs above replacement)

After signing an unprecedented contract extension to start his rookie year, Longoria had a magnificent opening season, despite missing a month to injury. His combination of a tremendous offensive threat and plus defense at the hot corner makes him the cream of this year's rookie class. Between Lincecum & Longoria, that 2006 amateur draft is looking pretty darn productive.

2. Mike Aviles (25 RAR, +6 field, +4 posadj = 35 runs)

While fairly old for a rookie at 27 years, and offensively outperforming anything he'd done prior to this year, Aviles rescued the Kansas City shortstop position with his plus defense and gap power. Not sure that he's a good candidate to continue this next year, but he had a great season and is the #2 rookie in the AL by my rankings.

3. Denard Span (27 RAR, +5 field, - 3 posadj = 29 runs)

It may come as a surprise to much of the media, but according to these data, newcomer Denard Span had a better season than teammate Justin Morneau, and was the #2 Twins position player behind Joe Mauer. Not much power from him, but an 0.387 OBP is acceptable production at just about any position.


NL Rookie of the Year

1. Geovany Soto (31 RAR, +2 field, + 10 posadj = 43 runs above replacement)

Duh. This one's a no-brainer, right? Soto had an outstanding position at the position that is the most difficult to fill on any major league roster. Terrific offense & competent defense puts Soto's name next to Mauer, McCann, and Martin as the elite catchers in the game today. It turns out, though, that it was closer than I expected...

2 & 3. Tie: Jair Jurrjens (33 RAR, 39 FIP-RAR) & Hiroki Kuroda (43 RAR, 39 FIP-RAR)

This pair of pitchers effectively tied for second in the rankings, just edging out the Reds' Joey Votto. If you go by straight-up RAR, Votto ranks ahead of Jurrjens. But I tend to favor FIP-RAR when evaluating pitchers because we're always dealing with relatively small samples with pitchers--even starting pitchers--and DIPS stats stabilize sooner than traditional statistics.

Jurrjens was acquired in the Edgar Renteria trade, and at 22 years old basically took over the role of ace on the beleaguered Atlanta Braves pitching staff. Clearly, that's looking like a bit of a steal.

On the other end of his career is Hiroki Kuroda, this season's top performing Japanese import. While he may not be in the majors for long at 33 years old, Kuroda stabilized the middle of the Dodgers rotation and is as much of a reason as any for the Dodgers' first division title since 2004.