Nationals Baseball: What to watch - Award Races

Thursday, September 06, 2012

What to watch - Award Races

For me, the season is "over" now. The NL East is won, so we should just pack it up and get in some much needed reading before October, right? Oh ok, you want to watch baseball because the Nats are really really good or something. So what can you focus on, other than "don't get hurt" on as they beat up on teams like Cincinnati Chicago? (me - Must have been thinking ahead to the NLCS) One thing is the award races . 

OK not this one. Don't even bother. The Nats may have as strong a 1-7 as anyone, but it's balanced.  Werth might be the best hitter but he's only played 53 games. Ian is arguably the most complete player this year but he's only played 105 games. Zimm is the face, is also complete, but he spent months slumping so he'd need a moster September to get the numbers he needs. LaRoche has played the most with good hitting but it still hasn't been great, he's had his shares of slumps, and most people would rank him the 4th or 5th most important offensive player on this team right now.

It's McCutheon's to lose, assuming the Pirates stay in the playoff hunt.  .345, 24 HRs, 93 RBIs.  If they crash then it's wide open but still no Nats. I'd bet on Posey then

Recently this award has opened up to be more than "who had the most wins" but it hasn't opened up that much.  Wins are still important, with ERA, Ks, IP and let's say WHIP as a generic stat of general dominance, factored in.  When Felix pulled off his Cy Young year with 13 wins, he led the league in ERA and IP and was second in Ks (by 1) and WHIP. Plus no one else was right behind Felix in all these but with substantially more wins.

This means ZNN is out. He has only 9 wins and he's really not in the Top 10 in any list except ERA and BB/9.  Detwiler and Jackson are non starters.  Here are the current challengers, including Gio and Stras, with W/L record and ERA, K, IP, and WHIP rank  (Yes I know K and IP will go together but voters aren't going to go down to K/9, which favors Stras and Gio, unless they are really stuck on who to vote for)

Cueto : 17-7, 1st, >10th, 4th, 9th
Dickey : 18-4, 2nd, 2nd(t), 2nd, 2nd,
Gio : 18-7, 7th, 3rd, >10th, 6th,
Strasburg : 15-6, 6th, 2nd(t), >10th, 7th, 
Cain : 13-5, 8th, 9th, 6th, 3rd,
Lohse :  14-2, 4th, >10th, 8th, 5th 
Kershaw :  12-8, 3rd, 1st, 1st, 1st

I'm thinking Dickey.  Strasburg has been very good but is just one of this pack and will drop in some of these with the loss of those last starts. I don't think Lohse or Cain have a Felix type case going on.  Kershaw might, but Dickey is basically right behind him and has 6 more wins. Cueto has the WAR fans (thanks to pitching in a much less pitching friendly home park) but anyone that compares Dickey and Cueto and does the first level dig down that I did would have to go with Dickey.  Gio has an outside shot but he'll need to finish strong and hope for Dickey to fall back because right now R.A. is beating Gio across the board.


Bryce almost played himself right out of the award talk, but with his recent hot streak (.333 with 7 homers, 4 doubles and a triple in the last 18 games) he is right back in it, though still probably in 3rd place. Leading the pack is probably Todd Frazier.  His line of .289 / .347 / .531 18HR 62 RBI beats Bryce's line  .259 / .330 / .449 17 HR 47 RBI stat for stat. You could argue that Bryce smokes Frazier on the basepaths (13 steals to 3) and in the field*, but I'm not sure voters will see it that way. Frazier has also been seen as more integral to his teams' success that Bryce. 

The other possibility is Wade Miley.  14-9, with a 2.90 ERA.  164 IP, 117 K and only 30 BB. (WHIP 1.123).  He's good but he isn't THAT good that voters feel they have to vote for him. I do believe that he can make that case though. He'll never get the Ks he needs but with a couple good starts and some luck he could be top 3 in ERA, top 5 in WHIP, and have 17 wins by seasons end. That's hard to ignore.

What Bryce does have though is that he's Bryce. The media is obsessed with him and every little thing he does.  If he's close I think he'll win by sheer force of personality.  I'd still rank him third right now, but maybe even just one more hot week will close the gap enough.  If in 10 days Frazier is hitting .285 with 19 homers and 65 RBI and Miley is 15-9 with a 2.95 ERA and Bryce is hitting .268 with 20 homers and 55 RBI? I think that's enough to make it a toss-up.

Manager of the Year 

People don't think alot about this but Davey has as good a case as anyone. The Nats are the best team in the league and were 80-81 last year. Who else has a shot?  Dusty Baker has the Reds fighting for that top NL spot and they were a middling 79-83 last year. Thing is he was also the manager in 2010 when they were 91-71 so do you give the guy an award because his team is much better this year under him, if just last year they were disappointing under him? I don't think so.  No, Dusty only comes in if the Reds get hot and the Nats go cold.  Otherwise the competition is Clint Hurdle.  The Pirates were 72-90 last year and are close to being in the playoffs this year. If they do it, I think he wins it.  If they fall well short - like 5 games out - I think it's Davey's.  Something inbetween? A last week knockout? Tough to call but I think the Pirates continuing terribleness will give Hurdle the edge.

*We've talked about this once or twice but fielding stats are best used as a guide looking over multiple years. Looking at one year of fielding stats is kind of like looking at 50 games of hitting. So is Bryce a "great" fielder? Don't know yet. Won't be sure for a couple years. We do know he's fast and has a fantastic arm, so he could be one. But we also know he's not the best reading balls off the bat. It's kind of a funny thing here. A lot of baseball fans love to say "The preponderance of stats lie! My eyes tell me how a guy fields!" but with Bryce it's the opposite "My eyes tell me he's not super-great but if this smattering of stats tell me otherwise, I'll believe it!"  Really it goes to show you that this isn't about belief in stats, it's about backing up what one wants to believe. 


ags said...

Harper, how do you predict the rest of the playoff races panning out? I think the Pirates do beat out the Cards for a WC, despite history. Who do you see as the top seed in the AL?

PS - I think you meant to say the Nats are beating up on teams like Chicago, not Cinci.

WiredHK said...

My only disagreement is with your Manager of the Year handicap. I think this one currently has an edge for Davey. The Pirates have 72 wins. If they play .500 ball the rest of the way, they finish with 85 wins. That's feasible and shows an improvement of 13 games from last season. The Nats, on the other side, won 80 games last year. If they play at .500 ball the rest of the way, they finish with 97 wins -- an improvement of 17 games from last year.

That's a larger improvement of wins and a challenge for the overall best record in the NL and MLB. They'll win the division going away and possibly secure homefield advantage throughout.

The history of bad baseball is completely equal for both the Bus and Nats, so I cannot see that as a factor at all in Hurdle's favor. These teams are both feel-good stories, but what the Nats are doing puts the Pirates to shame.

It's going to be a reasonably close race, but Davey wins this one rather handily in the end unless the Nats swoon and the Pirates catch major fire.

CzarKing said...

I'd say that Davey is pretty much a lock to be Manager of the Year but I agree with Harper on his analysis of all the other awards.
Despite knowing deep down he shouldn't get it, I think my unfounded optimism has me thinking Bryce will still win ROY just because he has "it".

blovy8 said...

I think LaRoche looks like a solid candidate for Comeback Player of the Year. I agree that Davey ought to be Manager of the Year, too. Can't argue with the other picks yet, though it does seem close enough that the next 25 games will still matter, especially if Harper's hot streak lasts a while.

Harper said...

age - AL is a mess - so many ways it could reasonably go. If you forced my hand I'd say Rangers(#1), Yanks, White Sox division, Tampa and Oakland WC.

NL the divisions are clear (Nats (#1), Cincy, SF) and ATL seems set up ok, the last WC though... Let's say LA.

Of course everyone seems to play eachother down the stretch so this could all look stupid in a week.

WiredHK - Two things - (1) the recent history is bad for both, probably worse for the Nats but the last 20 years are decidely in favor of the Pirates sucking more. You're talking about a team that last sniffed .500 in 1999 and hasn't been there since 1992. The Natspos have hit .500 in 2002, 2003, and 2005 to start. The Nats won at least 80 games last year, the Pirates won at least 80 games... in 1992. They have the psychological sucking edge

(2) I think a lot of people will give more credit to the team around Davey than the team around Clint.

Czar - Well don't say he shouldn't get it just yet. He can make up that groung (or make it close enough).

blovy8 - LaRoche could do that. Posey has a shot (didn't suck like LaRoche but did miss most of last year and is AWESOME this one). And I bet Burnett will get his share of votes. Jason Heywad too if he can finish strong.

Donald said...

In terms of ROY, I agree that Frazier is the front runner and that Harper has some ground to make up. It's still possible that he does that, though, if he stays hot. The other thing in Harper's favor may be the energy with which he plays. I haven't seen enough of Frazier to know if he's similar, but I suspect not given the national media attention that Bryce receives. Harper's base running, and in particular, taking two bases on routine singles has the potential to change the game.

Working against Harper may be his notority and image. He's polarizing and there may be voters that won't vote for him just because they don't like him.

Of course, this is all moot unless he stays hot and closes the still sizeable gap.

WiredHK said...

Harper - you're splitting hairs, in my view (and, at a really micro level). Both teams have been really bad and for a long time. The Expos/Nats last made post-season play in what, 1980? The Pirates made it since then (had some very good teams in the late 80s/early 90s, right with Bonds, Bonilla, etc?). The point is, both have been bad and not nearly in the competitive discussion for a long time or very much in their histories. Beyond that, who's diving into the "just how bad" argument in order to pick a MOY winner this year? Nobody.

Your second point may or may not be true (I don't think much was expected from either of these squads at the start of the year, nor was the Nats talent considered superlative by any stretch).

But, it's a tick ironic you point to the Nats superior talent under the post within which you pretty much prove we have no real standout talent that is carrying Davey and the Nats to said heights, right? :)

Both guys have done a great job this year (though I suspect the Bucs are fading fast). But Davey is the MOY, barring a meltdown, and I don't think you'll find many who see it as Hurdle's race to lose.

LetsGoNats said...

I think one other aspect in Bryce Harper's favor is the fact that he is 19 years old and Frazier is 26. so if Bryce continues his hot streak and the numbers are close a lot of people will give it to Bryce Harper because he is more of an actual rookie in a lot of peoples eyes.

Donald said...

Not sure what criteria people use to decide MOY other than overall improvement and how much better the team performed over expecations, but the fact that the Nats are where they are after all the injuries speaks in Davey's favor, I think. If the Bucs continue to fade and miss the playoffs, that will be a pattern two years in a row and will lose him a lot of votes. I'd say Davey's the front-runner at this point but it's still dependent on how the rest of the season plays out.

Pig.Pen said...

Personally, I don't get all of the Todd Frazier love. He's been very good as a rookie and has filled in for Votto admirably, but he plays in Coors field light and gets to hit against NL Central pitching. What really gets me about Frazier, and Trout for that matter, is that he's not really a rookie. Frazier spent more than 45 days on Cincinatti's active roster last year and nearly reached the 130 AB requirement with 112 last year, either of which should disqualify him from the award. Still, what he's done at age 26 is far less impressive to me than what Harper has done at age 19, even before you consider defense and baserunning.

Still, since we all know how much Dusty Baker loves the veterans, Frazier will probably find his place on the bench now that Votto has returned.

cass said...

I think Harper is right on people giving credit to the team more for the Nats. People will credit the Nats winning to 1) Strasburg, 2) Harper, 3) The Rotation Other Than Strasburg, 4) Davey.

I think Davey absolutely deserves it, though, and that he has a good shot at getting it. But he's not a lock.

blovy8 said...

Wired makes a good point, it may be that McCutcheon will be seen as the guy carrying that team as much as Hurdle managing it.

Harper said...

Donald - Bryce makes an impression no one else does which is why if he gets in Frazier ballpark offensively he could take it. And there is time to do this.

WiredHK - I don't know. Could we be dealing with a Nats fan / not Nats fan thing here? Because the impression I have and I get from my friends (who are a motley crew of fandom) is "The Nats - oh yeah they've been bad the last few years" and "The Pirates - they've been bad FOREVER!" Maybe its because the Nats feel much more like an expansion franchise than a continutation of the Expos.

How much does that matter? I don't know. But there has to be some psychological edge of taking the ALWAYS loser to the playoffs.

The Nats have shown themselves to be filled with good offensive talent and great pitching. The Pirates come across as McCutcheon and a bullpen.

You make a decent counter though. I still say playoffs = MOY for Hurdle, but you might have talked me away from Hurdle if they are close but don't get in.

LGN - Didn't think of that but it probably matters a little bit. I think most if not all of the non-offensive stats swing toward Bryce which is why he only need be close

Donald - That's probably about it. Both have improved a bunch but most thought the Nats had an outside playoff shot this year. No one pegged that for PIT. While it may seem unfair I think the playoff v non-playoff expectation gaps trumps a "maybe playoff" best team in the league gap (for the voters)

PP - there has to be some limit right? You can't have a guy called up in Sept take 10 meaningless cuts and then say - too bad you're not a rookie anymore! Or maybe you can. I don't know. They set 130 so you've gotta roll with it.

As far as impressive or not - now we're talking opinion, like what constitutes "valuable" which frankly is the fun part.

Yes, Baker could kill this all with his love of vets. Votto fine, even Ludwick's been good, but Rolen is a corpse.

cass - You're forgetting Rizzo - he puts his face out there enough to steal some (deserved) spotlight

blovy8 - certainly possible. It'll be curious to see what happens if they miss by a game or two. Do they give no credit to McCutheon or Hurdle? Possible.

Wally said...

I also am surprised that Davey isn't the obvious choice for MoY. Team has never had a winning record, and they go on to the best record in baseball (maybe). Usually doesn't get more complicated than that. I agree that he doesn't hold that prohibitive favorite spot, but it seems like in most years, he would.

As for RoY, what is the criteria? Best season by a rookie, or some combination of stats with 'which rookie would you pick if you could have anyone'? Bryce clearly wins the latter, and if the advanced stats get more play, he wins the first too (highest NL rookie WAR on Fangraphs; .5 WAR more than Frazier). Admittedly relying on defensive value which may be SSS.

My bet is that if the numbers hold relatively constant for the rest of the year, Bryce wins.

Froggy said...

Fun game to be at, especially when the hockey game broke out in the 5th and 6th.

If the voting was now Harper gets RoY based on the triple in the 1st and bowing up against Castillo in
the 6th. And no one runs on balls hit his way as they don't want to get thrown out by a teenager.

Haven't seen much of him, but I don't think Frazier influences a game like he does.

Davey is MoY. No brainer.

Donald said...

I agree with Froggy re: RoY, though I think Harper has to narrow the statistical gap some more. But the 1st inning epitomizes what Harper does -- taking an extra base on a ball hit to the left side and then scoring on a simple infield grounder.

He brings that electricity that can change a game. Not sure if Frazier has that.

Donald said...

BTW -- not to look too far ahead, but next Wednesday in NYC should be fun -- Strasburg's final start against R.A. Dickey.

Pig.Pen said...

@Harper That's the thing, they do set a limit and that limit is 130 AB's, which Frazier didn't hit or 45 days on the active roster, which Frazier did hit. Trout eclipsed the AB limit, but baseball somehow allowed both players to be considered rookies again this year.

As for value, Frazier is sitting at 2.8 fWAR, while Harper is at 3.4 fWAR. Frazier is at only 2.0 rWAR while Harper is at 3.7. That's a pretty big gap to account for, especially after you factor in age and previous MLB experience.

Harper said...

PigPen - Remember it's by September 1st.

Like I said for the WAR - to buy that you have to put a lot on a season of fielding stats, which nobody, even stat guys, like to do.

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