Thursday, October 11, 2012

2012 BBA Postseason Awards - My Picks

Every year, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance votes on 5 specific postseason awards.  These awards are announced in October, here are the awards and the dates they will be announced.
October 15: Connie Mack Award (Manager of the Year)
October 16: Willie Mays Award (Rookie of the Year)
October 17: Goose Gossage Award (Top Reliever)
October 18: Walter Johnson Award (Cy Young)
October 19: Stan Musial (MVP)

These awards aren't associated with the actual MLB awards, we just do this because we write about baseball quite a bit, and it's a great way to not only publicly enforce our own dedication to writing about baseball (as individuals, as well as an alliance), but also to compare our own collective opinions with those of the actual MLB award equivalents.

You may not know this, but officially, the BBA selections have matched those of the Baseball Writers of America in all but two instances in the past few years or so.  The Goose Gossage award is an exception, as this award is exclusive to the BBA.

For the 2012 Season, here's how I voted for each of these honors.

1. Mike Matheny (NL)
2. Robin Ventura (AL)
3. Davey Johnson (NL)

Avoiding the "filling LaRussa's shoes" cliche, it matters not who Matheny suceeded...he's doing a damn fine job with the Cardinals.  Ventura was such a close second, I almost had to give up and call them a tie.

1. Mike Trout (AL)
2. Todd Frazier (NL)
3. Wade Miley (NL)

My heart has Frazier at the top of this list, but my common sense has Trout running away with this award.

1. Fernando Rodney (AL)
2. Craig Kimbrel (NL)
3. Jim Johnson (AL)

My only regret this season, is that I wasn't following Rodney close enough until recently.

1. R.A. Dickey (NL)
2. Max Scherzer (AL)
3. Gio Gonzalez (NL)
4. Johnny Cueto (NL)
5. Chris Sale (AL)

Both Dickey and Scherzer have been eerily consistent and fantastic this year, if you had to pick two outstanding breakout seasons from each league, they would both be at the top of that list.  Using this as justification for the award from my perspective, this one was nearly a draw at the top spot.

1. Mike Trout (AL)
2. Andrew McCutchen (NL)
3. Miguel Cabrera (AL)
4. Chase Headley (NL)
5. Buster Posey (NL)
6. Robinson Cano (AL)
7. Adam Jones (AL)
8. Yadier Molina (NL)
9. Josh Reddick (AL)
10. Ryan Braun (NL)

Once again, Trout is literally running away with this one.  For me, defense is the primarily unregistered key to the intrinsic variables for an award such as this.  Without proper defense evaluation metrics, you have to watch the player at his position.  Stolen bases don't mean a lot to me, but Trout's presence on the field does. You can't see it in a box score, you have to see it for yourself.  All that aside, what kind of a season can you see for the Angels without Mike Trout as part of it?

Keep an eye on the Baseball Bloggers Alliance website for updates and announcements on these awards.  If you aren't following the BBA feed on twitter, now is the time to rectify that: @baseballblogs


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Big Leagues Monthly - October

The October issue of Big Leagues Monthly is live now!  Lots of great features, an interview with Mike Ferrin  of MLB Radio, and a piece by me on Max Scherzer's breakout season.  Check it out now!

Big Leagues Monthly - October

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

8/21/12 Columbus Clippers 10, Louisville Bats 7

Louisville Slugger Field, Louisville, KY
Game 4 of 4

There aren't many games left in the season, and even with Louisville's recharged infield, sometimes you have to look at the visiting team for noteworthy performances.  You might not expect such from the Columbus Clippers, who are currently 9 games behind the Indianapolis Indians in the IL West Division...despite the fact that the Clippers are the reigning AAA Champions.  Minor League championship titles are, in many ways, a statistical farce, as affiliate club performance bears no indicator whatsoever to their parent club's success now or in the future.  At any rate, I thought I might see a great pitching performance from T.J. McFarland, but this never materialized...instead I saw struggling starting pitchers (from either dugout), clean bullpen performances (from either dugout), and a formidable offensive push (from either dugout).  I also saw front office guys and General Managers.

It wasn't as difficult to single out a player (from either dugout) for their performance in this game as it was to come up with a reason why.  At first glance, Matt LaPorta seemed to be the best candidate, more so because he might be considered the worst candidate at the same time.

LaPorta flew out to CF in his first PA of the game in the 2nd, was walked by Tim Gustafson (and scored) in the 3rd, and presented the inning-ending GIDP to second base in the 5th, facing Nick Christiani.  Where Matt broke out (more or less) was a run walked in (by Nick Masset, more about him in a moment) in the 7th inning and a crisp 2-RBI single to the shortstop to add 2 more insurance runs for the Clippers in the 8th.  The 'run walked in' was the last of a 3-run inning; if you are looking for game-winning RBIs, you would have to accept LaPorta's claim to all 3 of them.

I don't follow the Cleveland Indians much, but it's safe to say that LaPorta is a player who is pretty much enjoying (for lack of a better term) a significant level of "goat status" for Cleveland fans.  Part of it could be because Matt was one of the key pieces in the CC Sabathia trade of July, 2008, coming from the Brewers organization as a .288/.402/.576 hitter for the AA Huntsville Stars.  At the AAA level, LaPorta was a total bruiser for the Clippers in 2009 (.299/.388/.530 with 17 HR and 56 SO in 393 PA) and brought some of that with him to the Major League club that season.  Not so much during 13 games in May, but in 39 games from late August through Cleveland's 5-game losing streak to end the season, when he was batting .273/.315/.489 with 6 HR and 26 SO in 149 PA.  This was more than enough to find him on the Indians' roster for most of 2010 (110 games) and 2011 (107 games), but as we see so often, his stuff in the Minors just never really translated into the Majors, and after so many years of Indians fans waiting for Matt LaPorta to "happen" in Cleveland, it's starting to look like it really isn't.

I remember the 2010 Matt LaPorta buzz well, as the announcers in this Clippers game I scored that year couldn't start talking about how great he and Michael Brantley were going to be for "Manny Acta's ballclub in Cleveland" over the next few years...

As I'm posting this recap several weeks after the fact, I think it's important to note that as recently as September 19th, as seen in this article, many Indians fans are pretty much fed up with LaPorta's back-and-forth ride in the organization.  The most accurate description (if not the most humble) of LaPorta's career in Cleveland is best summed up by the author TD's statement: "a step slow and a brain cramp."

Hey, he had a pretty good game tonight...but usually does in the Minor Leagues.  My intent here is not to bury LaPorta, but to praise him just for that.  However, my cautionary tale has a message.  A great deal of potential with no results at the Major League level a few years later to show for it is a common story.  It can happen anywhere, and is happening anywhere, right now.  Let's compare Matt's career to a mystery player (who shall not be named) who is indeed spending more time recently in the Majors, but is also very soon likely to be the target of such derision, as a poster child for what's wrong with the team...not the player.

LaPorta's career has been only one year longer (MLB and MiLB combined) than the mystery player's career.  LaPorta's notoriety with his current organization came as part of a high-profile trade, the mystery player was drafted and developed by the organization he plays for today.  LaPorta and the mystery player do play on different teams, but in the very same AL division; both of those teams are finishing this season very much as they did their last...way behind the division leaders, but not quite at rock bottom.  Here are two distinct "upside" guys who are typically better in the Minors than they have been in the Majors.  By comparison, LaPorta is "raking" in the Minors during his career, mystery player isn't...but mystery player is somewhat known for his "raking" in the Minors, but not my that much.  Here, what you see is minor league upside, met with major league downside.  The only real difference between the two, is that the mystery player is selling a lot more T-shirts over the past couple of years than Matt LaPorta is; which means the complaining about the mystery player's MLB struggles is really just beginning.  BTW, LaPorta's career OPS+ is 92, mystery player's is 100.

I don't want to single out a team, a player, or even a group of fans whom I love, but if you knew who this mystery player was, many of you would pelt me with rocks and garbage.  Upside is upside, as baseball fans we have got to remember that when evaluating talent, what really happens next is more often than not a situation where cooler heads will prevail.  These players don't wear crowns, and they don't walk on water...your team's next superstar almost never looks like one after they are mashing the ball, or whatever, in AAA and then get a dose of reality on the MLB field.

And speaking of disappointment...cue the sad trombone for Nick Masset.

Nick Masset hasn't thrown a ball of any kind for the Reds all year after rehabbing from an injury he sustained during Spring Training (this was right after he signed a 2-year deal with the Reds for $5.5 million, avoiding arbitration).  He showed up in Louisville a few days ago as part of his rehab process, and tonight's outing must have been a big deal...not only were there several Reds front office guys leaning over the dugout rail, but GM Walt Jocketty himself was seated with his assistant near the scouting section.  I'm pretty sure these folks weren't here to see Tim Gustafson.

Masset came out of the dugout to start the 7th inning, when the Bats were enjoying a hearty 7-5 lead over the Clippers.  Masset faced 6 batters, allowed 4 hits, walked 2 (including Matt LaPorta's 'run walked in')...allowing every batter he faced to reach base without recording a single out, throwing 27 pitches (14 for strikes) in the process.  Will Ohman was called in to relieve Masset, retiring the next three batters he faced in that inning, but you can be sure Jocketty was less than enthusiastic about Masset's performance, and not so much concerned that the Clippers now had a 1-run lead...thanks to Matt LaPorta's RWI.  On September 10, Masset underwent shoulder surgery that ended the season he wasn't having anyway.

I also heard that Bill Rhinehart was released on Sunday.  More sad trombone.

Photos from the game:

Here's T.J. McFarland warming up.

Ted Power and the infield are having a conversation with Tim Gustafson.

Reds front office guys in the house!

GM Walk Jocketty and his BlackBerry are firing rather nasty messages back home about Nick Masset.

Thanks to Kei, I finally caught this common jumbotron errata...when it's 10:00PM at the game in Louisville, it's actually "no time" if you read this accurately.

This picture isn't from the game, but rather from - if anything, to show you what a good sport Matt LaPorta really is about his so-called disappointing MLB career.  Maybe he's smiling because on paper, he knows he's about as good as the mystery player previously mentioned.

I picked a winner in the Mystery Rookie Card game, a very sexy Jason Heyward 2010 Bowman RC.  The tag says $4, I say "OK, kool."

Kei picked this glorious 2006 Upper Deck Norris Hopper RC.  Not that it makes a heck of a lot of difference to her, but Hopper was originally drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 8th round of the 1998 amateur draft and spent 7 years in the Royals system without any appearance at the MLB level, posting a .717 OPS and playing every position except 1B, C, and 3B in the process.  Hopper was granted free agency in October of 2004 and signed with the Reds in January of 2005.  He re-signed with the Reds not once, but twice December 2005 and December 2008.  Hopper played in 168 games for the Reds in 2006 through 2008, the only MLB experience in his career, hitting .316/.367/.371 in 440 PA, and sporting an OPS+ of 90 (only 2 points lower than Matt LaPorta's career OPS+ of 92).  Here's what is the most interesting thing about Norris Hopper, as far as I'm concerned: he was traded to the Chicago White Sox in June of 2009 for the guy who is the most popular player in Louisville today...Corky Miller.  One month later, the Nationals purchased his contract, then granted him free agency at the end of the season.  He signed with the Brewers in 2010, appearing in 119 games with AA Nashville, and appeared in 79 games during the 2011 season with the Independent League Somerset Patriots, and 20 games in 2012 with the Mexican League Petroleros de Minatitlan.  The case can be made, in many subtle ways, that the Reds won the 2009 trade.

I also couldn't resist picking up this 2010 Bowman Chrome Starlin Castro RC.  I love that guy, in a way that a baseball fan guy loves a baseball player guy.

SCOREKEEPER'S NOTE: I had not one, but two disagreements with the Official Scorer tonight.  Per usual practice, I held my ground on both.

Clippers RF Vinny Rottino (almost as great an Italian name as Valentino Pascucci) hit a soft-chopper to Mike Costanzo in the 3rd; Costanzo (as usual) wasn't playing at his position well and was too far away to field the ball cleanly...he managed to make it to the ball, and had plenty of opportunity to throw Rottino out at 1st, but in his haste to reach, bobbled the ball on the pickup.  Ordinary effort would have resulted in an out, so I scored this E5.  In an effort to apply "home cooking" to award Costanzo with a play he had no chance at (when I felt that he did), the O.S. ruled this a hit.  It was an ERROR.

Bats LF Cody Puckett hit a seeing-eye grounder through the gap between 1st and 2nd base, there was no play by the Clippers' infielders, so I ruled this a hit.  Not as much to my surprise as to my chagrin, the O.S. posted an E for this play.  I did consider, for a moment, that there might have been a play.  I even started to erase my entry on my scoresheet, but I reconsidered and once again, held my ground on this.  Later in the game, I was vindicated and the E was reversed to a hit.

Official Program #4, featuring Didi goodness, they misspelled his name, inside and out!!

Official Scorecard #3, featuring Corky Miller (traded to the Reds for Norris Hopper), and autographed by Corky Miller.

Bat Chat and Gameday Stats

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