MLB awards Part II: The Big Lebowski of sabermetrics

You're entering a world of pain.

You're entering a world of pain.

By Jake McCormick

I’ve recently found out that I really, really like The Big Lebowski. This sentence has never been spoken before, but John Goodman looks better and better every time I watch it. How else could you describe a character that pulls a gun over a bowling dispute while at the same time correctly predicting the Tara Reid kidnapping scheme throughout the movie? The latter is a subtle point that took a couple of viewings to notice, but that’s part of what makes any movie so good. In a connection honoring the abstractness of the Coen brothers, Walter Sobchak in the sports world is Bill James; a man also considered the Don Corleone of sabermetrics. James has stood by his way of analysis over the years, and gradually more and more mainstream baseball minds have taken note. Below is a key briefly explaining each of the statistics I used in determining postseason awards through sabermetrics. There are almost 100 different stats I could’ve compiled, but these proved to be the easiest measurements of production. Enjoy!

Hitter’s key:
VORP: Value Over Replacement Player, or how much a hitter contributes compared to a replacement average fielder, below average hitter
Runs created: The number of runs a hitter contributes to his team
WAR: Wins Above Replacement, or the number of wins a hitter brings to a team above an average replacement
RAR: Runs Above Replacement, or the number of runs compared to a below average replacement

Pitcher’s key:
VORP: Value Over Replacement Player, or how much a pitcher contributes compared to a replacement average fielder, below average pitcher
DIPS: Defensive Independent Pitching Statistics, or a pitcher’s effectiveness based on any play that does not involve a fielder
WAR: Wins Above Replacement, or the number of wins a pitcher receives above the average starter (ex. 5-5, .500)
SNW: Support Neutral Wins, or the number of wins expected from a pitcher with league average run support

American League

MVP

joe-mauerJoe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
91 VORP, 127.5 runs created, 8.2 WAR, 81.6 RAR
The AL MVP is the hottest debate for postseason awards, but sabermetrics paint an interestingly easy picture of who should win. Mauer’s VORP is 18.2 points above his closest contender, Derek Jeter. Surprisingly, or not so surprisingly to the 12 people that watch the Tampa Bay Rays, Ben Zobrist comes in third, while Mark Teixiera didn’t break the top 10. He ranked .1 point above Mauer in runs created, but finished 11th in both WAR and RAR. Mathematically, Mauer was much more valuable to his team than Teixiera and Jeter, thus he deserves the MVP that he should’ve won three years ago.

Honorable mentions:
Ben Zobrist
Derek Jeter
Mark Teixiera

Cy Young

Zack Greinke, Kansas City Royals
88.3 VORP, 2.49 DIPS, 9.4 WAR, 22.5 SNW
Greinke is a no doubter for the Cy Young. He was 13.2 points above his nearest competitor for VORP (Felix Hernandez, 75.1) and his 22.5 Support Neutral Wins make up for the fact that he played on a bad team with an offense that couldn’t match his lights out performances on the mound. Greinke’s WAR was 1.2 wins above his closest AL counterpart (Justin Verlander, 8.2), and nearly any sabermetric stat you look at paints a big picture of how truly dominant Greinke was this year.

Honorable mentions:
Felix Hernandez
Roy Halladay
Justin Verlander

Rookie of the Year

Andrew Bailey, Oakland A’s
36.5 VORP, 2.56 DIPS, 2.4 WAR
If sabermetrics does anything, it surely levels the statistical playing field for rookies. Bailey had the highest VORP out of all rookies at 36.5, and the closest offensive player in the Al was the Orioles’ Nolan Reimold at 20.8. Bailey’s 2.56 DIPS and 2.4 WAR were the best of any closer in BOTH leagues. That should give you an idea of how truly important he was to the little success the A’s had in 2009.

Honorable mentions:
Jeff Neimann
Rick Porcello
Nolan Reimold

National League

MVP

PujolsAlbert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
98.3 VORP, 158.6 runs created, 8.4 WAR, 84.3 RAR
A 12-year-old girl screaming at a Justin Bieber concert is the only lock bigger than Pujols for MVP. He led all of baseball in VORP and runs created, and only Zobrist edged him out in WAR and RAR. Just like evolution’s existence, I don’t need to waste your time explaining obvious facts about Pujols. The only surprise entry in this race is Chase Utley, who could fix the Liberty Bell with pine tar, make the best Philly cheesesteak out of his own glove, and hit five home runs in a World Series and still go unnoticed outside of Pennsylvania.

Honorable mentions:
Prince Fielder
Hanley Ramirez
Chase Utley

Cy Young

Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants
69.8 VORP, 2.48 DIPS, 8.2 WAR, 20.4 SNW
Like Greinke, Lincecum played on a team whose understanding of run support was dyslexic in nature. His 2.48 DIPS, one above Greinke’s 2.49, gives you an idea of the filthiness that is his pitching repertoire. Lincecum’s VORP was only 1.1 points higher than Chris Carpenter, but his WAR was highest in the NL and 2.6 higher than Carp’s. The NL race for the Cy Young is much closer, but Lincecum clearly has the best makeup, statistics, and the only publicized MLB pot bust in the last year. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t really have a problem with the best pitcher in the NL celebrating that fact with something that is obviously not a performance enhancing drug. Hell, it makes it even more remarkable if you think about it.

Honorable mentions:
Chris Carpenter
Adam Wainwright
Javier Vasquez

Rookie of the Year

Chris Coghlan, Florida Marlins
34.5 VORP, 2.3 WAR, 22.5 RAR, 88.1 RC
This was a dead heat between Coghlan and Phillie pitcher JA Happ (46.7 VORP), but Happ’s case started cracking when I first looked at his 4.38 DIPS. That isn’t terrible, but it serves to demonstrate how he had an excellent defense behind him at Citizens’ Bank and he doesn’t have good enough “stuff” to completely take over a game without the eight guys behind him. Coghlan had a higher WAR (2.3) than teammate Jorge Cantu (1.6), and was tops among rookies in runs created and RAR. It’s also hard to argue against a guy who had 500 at-bats through his first full season.

Honorable mentions:
Andrew McCutchen
JA Happ
Colby Rasmus

MLB awards Part I: Traditional stats vs. Sabermetrics

Brewers Twins Baseball

By Jake McCormick

Only following one train of thought to the extreme in politics and life pulls you further towards the edge of reality. In the baseball world, the spectrum is divided with sabermetricians and Bill James on one side and traditional stat geeks with Ken Rosenthal on the other. Think of them as baseball’s tea parties and anti-war protests. Instead of act under the false assumption that a majority of people approve of either stat method wholeheartedly, I’m writing a three part series focused on both sides, then a combination of sabermetrics and traditional stats, in order to determine the best possible choices for MLB seasonal awards.

“Part I: Traditionalists tea party like there’s no tomorrow”

American League

MVP

Joe Mauer – Catcher, Minnesota Twins
.365 BA, 29 HR, 98 RBI, .444 OBP, .587 SLG
Mauer may not have put up video game numbers in home runs and RBIs like the three first basemen listed above, but he was the first catcher in the history of the MLB to lead a league in batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage. He still managed to post career highs in home runs and RBIs after missing the first month of the season. All the players above were catamites to their team’s success, but Mauer was surrounded by more no-names than a steak section of the grocery store and still managed to put up monster numbers.

Honorable mentions:
Mark Teixiera, 1B New York Yankees
Miguel Cabrera, 1B Detroit Tigers
Kendry Morales, 1B Los Angeles Angels

Cy Young

Zack Greinke – SP, Kansas City Royals
16-8, 2.16 ERA, 242 K, 1.07 WHIP, 6 CG
Unlike the MVP, the Cy Young typically doesn’t require a successful team for recognition. Greinke will be the poster boy for this philosophy when the final ballots are cast, as he led all leagues in ERA, was second in the AL in strikeouts, but finished seventh in wins on a bonafide Bad News Bears to which he was Tatum O’Neill. If Greinke were playing on any team other than the Royals, and I mean ANY team, he would’ve tallied at least 21 wins on the year.

Honorable mentions:
Felix Hernandez, SP, Seattle Mariners
CC Sabathia, SP, New York Yankees
Justin Verlander, SP, Detroit Tigers

Rookie of the Year

Blue Jays Athletics BaseballAndrew Bailey, CL, Oakland A’s
6-3, 83.1 IP, 26 Sv, 1.84 ERA, 91 K, .88 WHIP
This may be a bit unconventional as a Rookie of the Year choice because pitchers aren’t playing every day, whereas position players must continue stating their case throughout more than 100 games. Bailey is a closer on a bad team, but does the ROY award need to go to a player who hits below .270 on a similarly bad team? Bailey made the All-Star team, and anyone in the closer’s position does deal with the most pressure to record three outs. He was first in the AL in innings pitched and strikeouts from closers, was second in the league in closer ERA, and ninth in saves.

Honorable mentions:
Gordon Beckham, 3B, Chicago White Sox
Nolan Reimold, OF, Baltimore Orioles
Jeff Niemann, SP, Tampa Bay Rays

National League

MVP

Albert Pujols, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals
.327 BA, 47 HR, 135 RBI, .443 OBP, .658 SLG
This is the biggest no-brainer choice for an award since Gigli swept the Razzies. Pujols faded a bit throughout the second half of the year, but his slump is any normal player’s hot streak. Pujols finished third in batting average, first in on-base percentage, first in home runs, and third in RBIs. If you finish within the top three in the four major statistical categories of traditionally measured success, can you even consider anyone else? The Terminator followed up his 2008 MVP season with a sequel with more action and a much better ending.

Honorable mentions:
Prince Fielder, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers
Hanley Ramirez, SS, Florida Marlins
Ryan Howard, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies

Cy Young

tim-lincecum1Tim Lincecum, SP, San Francisco Giants
15-7, 2.48 ERA, 261 K, 1.05 WHIP, 4 CG
My favorite pitcher that should be in line for his second straight Cy Young. He was tops in the NL in strikeouts, second in ERA, and fourth in WHIP. He led the league in complete games with four, and two of which were shutouts. Lincecum was the workhorse of a team that came in 13th in the league in runs scored, whereas the Cardinal twin dragons Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright had the benefits of a seventh ranked offense and the Terminator at the helm. Lincecum also came in third in innings pitched and had less “off” days than Charles Manson’s insanity.

Honorable mentions:
Chris Carpenter, SP, St. Louis Cardinals
Adam Wainwright, SP, St. Louis Cardinals
Javier Vasquez, SP, Atlanta Braves

Rookie of the Year

Chris Coghlan, OF, Florida Marlins
.321 BA, 162 H, 9 HR, 47 RBI, 31 Doubles, .390 OBP
Coghlan is the antithesis of the Andrew Bailey case, but can you really argue with 504 at-bats and a .321 batting average, both of which led all MLB rookies? He also led all rookies in on-base percentage and doubles, the second being achieved with half his games in a pitcher’s ballpark. Coghlan seemingly came out of nowhere, but having him batting in front of Hanley Ramirez should be scary for anyone. Being an unfortunate Milwaukee Brewer fan, I would’ve loved to give this award to Casey McGehee for his scorching second half performance, but his fluid-filled knee prevented him from raking consistently all year.

Honorable mentions:
JA Happ, SP, Philadelphia Phillies
Casey McGehee, 3B, Milwaukee Brewers
Tommy Hanson, SP, Atlanta Braves

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