You can probably tell from the title I’m less than enthused with the postseason awards in Major League Baseball. Some of them were dead on, but a couple – yikes! There was a basic misunderstanding of the definition of “valuable” in one case, and in another, a misunderstanding of the definition of the word “season”.
Before we get to the egregious errors, let’s look at the good to okay choices. We’ll start with the Managers of the Year. The NL absolutely got it right with Joe Maddon of the Cubs. All he did was steer the perennially inept Cubbies to 97 wins in the ultra-competitive NL Central, and on to the NLCS. Terry Collins of the Metropolitans and the Pirates’ Clint Hurdle would have been fine choices as well. Yeah, yeah, Mike Matheny actually finished second in the voting, I know. Listen, everybody knows the Cardinals are destined to win 95 – 105 games and make the postseason. Matheny did a great job, but it was exactly what was expected of him. It certainly isn’t fair, but he’ll only make news if the Cardinals either win the Series, or finish with 90 losses. Anything else is old news.
In the American League, Jeff Bannister took the top honor for his Texas Rangers, beating the Astros’ A.J. Hinch. While he did take the Rangers from worst to first, Texas had huge injury problems in 2014. Yes, they lost Yu Darvish at the start of this season, but they at least were able to field a team. I would have given the nod to Hinch. Houston was way under the radar for 2015 (although one unnamed writer and friend nailed it – a tip of the cap to the Green Monster). While the Rangers had a remarkable season, the Astros were an even bigger surprise. The fact that the Blue Jays’ John Gibbons took the Jays back to the playoffs for the first time in 22 years, yet only placed fourth in the voting tells you it’s all about expectations. Great job by Bannister – I just think Hinch was better.
The rookies. I have no arguments with the choice in either league. Kris Bryant was the unanimous choice, and rightly so. If there were 347 statistical categories, he would have led all rookies in 346 of them. Let’s face it, Noah Syndergaard has what is hands down, the best nickname. There are some great young players in the NL – a lot just on the Cubs, for that matter – but Bryant was clearly the best.
In the American League the voting wasn’t nearly as clear-cut, as Houston’s Carlos Correa edged fellow shortstop Francisco Lindor by just 15 total points. The Tribe have a real prize in Lindor who gets to everything, but Correa has a hell of a glove too. Damn, there are some great young shortstops in the game now – especially when you consider that neither of these guys won the Gold Glove, thank you very much Mr. Alcides Escobar. Correa is a beast at the plate as well; it sure will be fun to watch him for the next twenty years.
On to the pitchers and the Cy Young award. Dallas Keuchel of the Astros beat the Blue Jays’ David Price, largely by taking 22 first place votes versus Price’s 8. Their stats are remarkably similar:
Keuchel ERA 2.48, WHIP 1.017, SO/W 4.24. Add in 216 K and a 20-8 record. Now for David:
Price ERA 2.45, WHIP 1.076, SO/W 4.79. 225 K and a record of 18-5.
Price of course started the season with the Tigers, and he kicked it into high gear once he moved to the contending Jays, as he improved all his numbers and went 9-1 for the AL East champs. One thing I would note is Keuchel’s home/road splits: at home, Dallas was 15-0 with a phenomenal 1.46 ERA, while on the road he was 5-8 with an ERA of 3.77. At home he was Jake Arrieta (more on him in a bit), while on the road he looked a lot more like Erasmo Ramirez. Yes, you do have to win at home just like on the road, and 15-0 is pretty damn strong, but I have a hard time giving the award to a guy who was an also-ran for half his team’s games. I’d give it to Price, who pitched great everywhere (and was even better on the road than at home).
The AL award is a minor quibble compared to the debacle in the National League. Calm down, Cubs’ fan, I’m not knocking Jake. Lets look at the basics first:
Arrieta ERA 1.77, WHIP 0.865, SO/W 4.92. Toss in 236 K and his 22-6 record.
Greinke ERA 1.66, WHIP 0.844, SO/W 5.00. Greinke had 200 K and went 19-3.
Just as in the Junior Circuit, the writers liked those 20 wins. It can certainly be argued that Arrietta was at his best when the Cubs needed him most, in the last couple of months of the season. Jake was nothing short of sensational, of course, as his ERA for August and September was 0.41. No, I didn’t forget to multiply by nine, smartypants; that’s his ERA for the last two months of the season. In those two months, Arrieta gave up a total of four earned runs. In two months. In twelve starts. He struck out 89 hitters while giving up just 14 walks and 41 hits. He was as untouchable for those two months as anyone has ever been.
But. (Yeah, you knew that was coming, didn’t you?) But, the season doesn’t start in August. Yes, it certainly matters where you finish, not where you start, but you can’t just ignore his first 21 starts. Those games count in the standings too, you know. Arrieta was a damn fine pitcher then too, other than his mediocre May (ERA of 3.99, WHIP of 1.200). He just wasn’t the best pitcher in the league.
That would be Zack Greinke. We’ve already seen that other than wins, Grienke had the better stat line overall. Grienke’s worst month was August, as he posted an ERA of 2.45 with a WHIP of .939. Read that again – that was his worst month, and he still went 4-1. He bounced back (laughable, isn’t it, bouncing back from a 2.45 ERA) to go 5-0 in September/October with an ERA of 1,87 and a WHIP of .831. Not as great as Arietta’s close, but he had the Dodgers in position to win virtually every game.
And I’ll add this: Arrieta pitched in 12 games in which he received two or less runs from his offense, and went 5-6 in those games with an ERA of 2.37. Greinke had 15 starts with two or less runs in support, and went 5-3 with an ERA of 1.37. In fact, Greinke’s worst ERA was posted in the nine starts in which the Dodgers gave him six or more runs to work with. His ERA was 3.13, and he went 8-0. Pitching in a pinch, anyone? Grienke did the job all year long, while Arrieta was untouchable for two months. Greinke deserved the award more.
And now we reach the big one, the MVP. The American League is up first, where they got it right. Let’s look, shall we?
Donaldson .939 OPS, 8.8 WAR. He led the AL in runs and RBI, popped 41 HR and played a solid 3B too.
Trout .991 OPS, 9.4 WAR. Mike led the league in slugging, also hit 41 HR and played a stellar CF.
While the overall stats give the nod to Trout, I would like to take this opportunity to point out this is not the Silver Slugger award, nor the Gold Glove; it’s for the Most Valuable Player. And in my mind, if your team missed the playoffs, it doesn’t matter how well you played. I’m not saying your efforts shouldn’t be rewarded – I’m not Rickey refusing Kiner a raise, telling him we could have finished last without you – but the point of baseball is to win. And if you didn’t win, you simply weren’t as valuable as the best guy on the team that did.
Which brings us to Bryce Harper. I’m not even reviewing his stats; we all know he had a terrific season. So what? His team was picked to win their division, and they stunk. As Mr. Rickey would say, they could have finished last without him No, I’m not punishing him for the failure of his teammates. Awards are not rights, and the name of the award is not Best Overall Player; the key word is valuable. And there is no value in finishing seven games out of first. He was the unanimous winner; so what? Does anyone think Andre Dawson was the most valuable guy in the game in 1987? Hell no. The Harper pick isn’t nearly as bad, but again, how is coming in seven games out valuable? Best player, easily.
The real MVP has already been mentioned. That would be the rookie Kris Bryant. He solidified 3B, turned in an OPS of .858 and a WAR of 5.9. Oh, and his team made the postseason.
I may be wrong – but I’m not.