No notes tonight (although congrats to the Twins on a nice win) -- I wanted to finally get my thoughts on award winners and All-Stars out tonight. There's nothing particularly groundbreaking here in the way of analysis, but if you haven't been following things closely you might be surprised at just who has good numbers so far this season. Without further ado (and a few days late), here are my thoughts on the first two months of the season:
It's obviously extremely early, and when the end of the season rolls around the names that I've listed below almost certainly won't be at the top of the respective awards voting. Nonetheless, it's kind of fun to just take a look at where we'd be if the season ended today.
AL CY Young
The best numbers in the AL so far this year have mostly been put up by some unexpected names. For me, I can't get past the guy who leads the league in ERA -- Cliff Lee of the Indians. The ERA title and Cy Young don't necessarily need to go to the same guy, but when you see that a guy has a 1.88 ERA (entering today's games), a 0.96 WHIP, an 8-1 record, and a 57-10 K-BB ratio, it's pretty impressive. The next best ERA belongs Daisuke Matsuzaka at 2.53, which is a pretty significant difference. If Matsuzaka was significantly better somewhere, I could justify favoring him over Lee for this -- but he doesn't. Matsuzaka doesn't have a loss, so I guess he's better there -- but he has a higher WHIP to go with that higher ERA, more walks, fewer strikeouts, and thanks to his injury, fewer innings pitched. There's simply no justification for putting him ahead of Lee.
NL Cy Young
Like the AL, the NL is filled with some unexpected names at the top of the Cy Young charts. Somewhat surprisingly, Johan Santana isn't yet quite on that list -- his 3.20 ERA is 10th in the league, and he's not at the top of any of the other major categories. He's been very good (and very important to the Mets), but he isn't in the running for the Cy Young (once again, I say "yet!").
So who is on the list? It's hard to ignore the Reds' Edinson Volquez, who has a stunning 1.46 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP in 68.0 innings, a 7-2 record, and an 83-36 K-BB ratio. Fellow youngster Tim Lincecum of the Giants is the next closest in ERA at 2.23, with a 1.27 WHIP, 78-32 K-BB ratio, and 76.2 innings under his belt. Usual suspects Carlos Zambrano (Cubs) and Brandon Webb (D-Backs) are right behind Lincecum, and Webb's 10 wins are impressive. Still, how do you get past Volquez's raw stats? At this point, he has to get the nod.
I'm not even going to bother mentioning more than one name here -- this award belongs to Josh Hamilton of the Rangers, who has a .329 batting average, 1.005 OPS, 17 homers, 67 RBI's, and just 37 K's in 243 AB's. I don't have a clue what to say to those numbers -- they're just stunning. If he keeps this up for long, he'll have such a lead by the end of June that no one will even have a chance to catch him.
Talk about a fun race! The winner right now would have to be the Astros' Lance Berkman, who has a .382 average, 1.213 OPS (ridiculous!), 17 homers, 48 RBI's, 33 K's in 212 AB's, and 10 steals for good measure. His closest competition is Atlanta's Chipper Jones, who is hitting a remarkable .409 with a 1.141 OPS, 13 HR's, and 38 RBI's. Perennial contender Albert Pujols of the Cardinals is also in the mix with a .362 average, 1.122 OPS, 14 homers and 39 RBI's. Finally, how could I not mention the Phillie's Chase Utley, with his .325 average, 1.092 OPS, 21 homers, and 53 RBI's. Really, this should be great to watch -- these are four great players who actually have a chance to keep their numbers high (although I have to imagine they're going to fall off a bit before the end of the season . . . don't they?).
AL Rookie of the Year
Based on qualified rookies, at this point there are a couple of pitchers and a couple of position players with a shot. Twins pitcher Nick Blackburn is at least in the running, with a 3.32 ERA and 1.38 WHIP to go along with a 41-14 K-BB ratio and a 4-3 record in 76.0 innings. Oakland's Greg Smith has a 3.56 ERA and 1.20 WHIP to go with a 53-24 K-BB ratio and a 3-4 record. I actually like Smith's numbers a bit more than Blackburn's for this slot.
However, both pitchers probably fall behind outfielders David Murphy (Texas) and Jacoby Ellsbury (Boston) in the pecking order. Murphy has a .292 average and .807 OPS to go with 7 homers and 39 RBI's, while Ellsbury has a .284 average and .792 OPS with 28 steals in 31 attempts. Ellsbury's steals numbers are impressive, and since his average and OPS are close to Murphy's, I actually am inclined to give the nod to Ellsbury for now. Of course, there's a significant expectation that Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria will take it from them both by the end of the year -- for now, however, I find it hard to believe that a guy who is hitting .237 belongs at the top of the list.
NL Rookie of the Year
I like the Atlanta's Jair Jurrjens, who has a 3.45 ERA and 1.38 WHIP with a 5-3 record and 51-30 K-BB ratio, but those numbers probably aren't good enough to get him above two Chicago Cubs position players. Outfielder Kosuke Fukudome has a .305 average and .843 OPS, proving clearly that he has had no trouble transitioning to the big leagues. Meanwhile, catcher Geovany Sato has a .293 average and .944 OPS with 10 homers and 39 RBI's. I also can't leave this category without mentioning Blake DeWitt of the Dodgers, who has a .293 average and .815 OPS with 5 homers and 29 RBI's. Give me Sato for now -- but watch out for Jay Bruce of the Reds, whose early numbers are just silly. He has plenty of time to get into this conversation.
AL Manager of the Year
This has to be Tampa Bay's Joe Maddon, doesn't it? The Rays no longer have the best record in the league, but you have to think that Red Sox manager Terry Francona and Angels manager Mike Scioscia have easier jobs than Maddon does, trying to keep all that young talent on the right track. I'd like to give an honorable mention to Ron Gardenhire for keeping the Twins in contention despite a number of issues we are all familiar with. The same could be said for Ozzie Guillen, but considering the things that come out of his mouth I'm inclined to think the White Sox are winning in spite of, not because of, him. I just don't think you can give this to anyone other than Maddon.
NL Manager of the Year
I like Chicago's Lou Piniella here, but until a couple of days ago I would probably have gone with Florida's Fredi Gonzalez. I don't have as good a grasp of this race as the AL race, but if I had a vote I'd be comfortable going with Sweet Lou.
Yeah, right . . . it's hard enough to project these at the end of the year, what with the relatively meaningless defensive statistics we have. I'm not going to make the effort here.
When it gets closer to All-Star break, I'll actually give my picks for the whole team, along with detailed explanations. For now, I'm just going to give you the players I'd pick to be starters. Sadly, these picks have very little to do with who the fans will be voting in, more than likely!
Starter - Cliff Lee (CLE)
Closer - Mariano Rivera (NYY)
C - Joe Mauer (MIN)
1B - Justin Morneau (MIN)
2B - Ian Kinsler (TEX)
3B - Alex Rodriguez (NYY)
SS - Michael Young (TEX)
OF - Josh Hamilton (TEX)
OF - Carlos Quentin (CHW)
OF - Manny Ramirez (BOS)
Starter - Edinson Volquez (CIN)
Closer - Billy Wagner (NYM)
C - Bengie Molina (SFG)
1B - Lance Berkman (HOU)
2B - Chase Utley (PHI)
3B - Chipper Jones (ATL)
SS - Miguel Tejada (HOU)
OF - Ryan Ludwick (STL)
OF - Nate McLouth (PIT)
OF - Aaron Rowand (SFG)
Labels: All-Star Game, Award Winners