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


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


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