Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Awards Week

Well, they started handing out this season's hardware yesterday, and it's time for a rambling essay on what I think of the voting and the players. They started with the Rookie of the Year awards.

In the AL, Bobby Crosby won the prize with Shingo Takatsu and Daniel Cabrera coming in second and third respectively. Crosby deserved the award. He played good defense, and his hitting was very valuable to the A's. He hit .239/.319/.426 with 34 doubles, 22 home runs, 58 walks, and 141 strikeouts in 545 at bats. A lot of fuss is being made about his becoming the player with lowest batting average to win a ROY, but let's cut through the crap. Batting average is a terrible way to judge a hitter. The .319 OBP could use some work, but it doesn't counteract his fringe Gold Glove caliber defense at a crucial position and close to 60 extra base hits. I voted for him in the Internet Baseball Awards. He's a great bet to continue to be a very good player, especially as his batting average bumps up a little bit, pushing his OBP into a more attractive territory. I expect that the next few years will see him consistently post lines in the .270/.340/.500 territory.

Takatsu came in second, and is a reasonable enough choice. He was a lights out reliever all season, allowing under a baserunner per inning, striking out more than 7 per 9 IP, and posting a 2.31 ERA in 62 1/3 innings. He's 35, so he is unlikely to get any better, and is likely to decline from here on out. He's still a pretty damned good reliever. I voted for him to come in third.

Daniel Cabrera came in third and I don't buy it. I voted for Zach Greinke. The only comprehensible reason to vote Cabrera ahead of Greinke is the won/loss record of each. Greinke was clearly the better pitcher, but had fewer wins and more losses than Cabrera.

Greinke: 145 IP, 3.97 ERA, 100 K's, 26 BB's, 112 ERA+, 8-11
Cabrera: 147 2/3 IP, 5.00 ERA, 76 K's, 89 BB's, 96 ERA+, 12-8

This decision will only look worse with time. Cabrera's peripheral stats foretell a future where he fades into oblivion. You cannot survive in Major League Baseball as a pitcher who walks more batters than you strike out. It just doesn't work that way. The voters were saved from an embarrassing gaffe by Takatsu and Crosby. If Cabrera had beaten out Greinke for the award itself instead of 3rd place, then this would be widely seen as a really embarrassing moment for decades. Then again, the writers screw up at least a couple of awards every year. This would be a drop in a pretty sizeable bucket.

In the NL, Jason Bay won the prize, followed by Padres teammates Khalil Greene and Akinori Otsuka.

Bay had a great year, hitting .282/.358/.550 with 24 doubles, 4 triples, 26 home runs, 41 walks, and 129 strikeouts in 411 at bats. I don't expect him to improve much from here, but this is no fluke, and he should be able to repeat the performance as long as he can stay off the DL.

Greene shot through the minor leagues like a bullet after a very accomplished career at Clemson. He hit .273/.349/.446 while playing half of his games in the caverous confines of Petco Park. Like Crosby, he played great defense and competently filled a lineup spot for a playoff contender. He slugged 31 doubles and 15 home runs with 53 walks and 94 K's in 484 at bats. He's not a front line star, but he'll be a steady regular for a decade, maybe making an all star game or two if he has a hot first half.

Otsuka was the NL version of Takatsu. He dominated NL hitters to the tune of a 1.75 ERA, 87 K's, and 26 walks. He's 32 years old now, so like Takatsu, this is likely as good as it gets for him. I predicted him as a darkhorse candidate for the ROY, and I wasn't far off. He would have needed some save opportunities to get more votes, but in terms of performance, you couldn't have asked for much more than what he gave.

In the IBA, I voted for 1. Bay 2. Otsuka 3. Greene, so I don't have a big problem with how the awards were given. Nobody in the NL got stiffed in the ROY voting the way that Randy Johnson is likely to get stiffed today.

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