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September 26, 2012

The Lineup Card

Nine Awards that Should Be Given Out

by Baseball Prospectus

‚Äč1. Mike Hargrove Award for the Greatest Amount of Time Spent Between Pitches
This award, given to the player who spends the most time between pitches adjusting his helmet and gloves and pants and anything else that he needs to fix, is named after former Indians first baseman (and manager) Mike Hargrove, who was nicknamed "The Human Rain Delay" for his... skill in the matter. Most pitches are delivered within about 22 seconds of each other, but our winner for 2011 adds about 6.5 seconds to that number. Over the course of nine innings, he might add extra two minutes to the game if he gets four plate appearances. In 2011, the award for the most time between pitches goes to Carlos Pena. Looking back, he also won in 2010 and 2008. Others who were fans of standing around in 2011 were Kelly Shoppach, Victor Martinez, Robinson Cano, Ryan Braun, and Troy Tulowitzki. On the other side of the coin, Michael Borun, Cesar Izturis, and Eric Young Jr. are decidedly in the "let's get this over with" camp. —Russell A. Carleton

2. The Killer Inside Me Award for Belated Return to the Major Leagues
Impressed by the length of a five-year layoff—and by three different players sharing it—you might assume that this award would be shared between Travis Blackley, Lew Ford, and Ray Olmedo, all of whom made their first appearances in the bigs this year since 2007. (Ford has the added distinction of coming to the Orioles from the independent Atlantic League, where he was a Long Island Duck, as he was in 2009, too. Ford also did stints with the Hanshin Tigers in Japan and the Guerreros de Oaxaca in Mexico. And he indirectly provides the name of the award.)

You may have other candidates in mind for the K. I. M. Award—and feel free to stump for them in the comments—but this year it goes to none of the above 2007 vintage bottlings. The hardware belongs to the Tampa Bay RaysRich Thompson, who last appeared in the majors with Kansas City way back in 2004 before his 2012 return to The Show. Thompson gets the nod not only because he outdoes his competitors by three years, but also because his reemergence this season also netted him his first major-league hit. In 2004, he got into six games for the Royals, mostly as a pinch-runner; but in his only plate appearance he grounded into a double play. There’s an extra soupçon of irony there, because Thompson is among the fastest runners in baseball, with 464 career stolen bases in the minors.

Cut to 2012. The Rays lost Sam Fuld early in the year to injury and traded for another speedster after deeming the one they had in Triple-A, Kyle Hudson, unfit to continue the Legend of Sam Fuld (this is sort of like applying to be the next Dread Pirate Roberts and being turned down). Thompson had been a starting outfielder for the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate for the past four seasons (!) before the Rays acquired him in exchange for Hudson. Tampa Bay immediately added Thompson to the big-league roster, and in his first-ever start in the majors, in his second at-bat, he hit an RBI single.

For what it’s worth, the Rays have another bench player laying the groundwork for a similar, two-presidential-terms feat. Stephen Vogt, seeing the first major-league action of his career this season at age 27, has made 23 plate appearances as a Ray without notching a base hit. He’d have to finish the year hitless, then turn 35 before matching Thompson’s finally-got-a-knock eight-year record, but better late than never, right? That is, after all, the spirit in which the Killer Inside Me Award is given.—Adam Sobsey

3. Jeff Ballard Award for Most Effective Pitcher Who Can't Strike Batters Out
The Jeff Ballard Award is given annually to the pitcher who best embodies the spirit of its namesake, a left-hander who in 1989 went 18-8 with a 3.43 ERA for the Orioles despite a paltry 2.6 K/9. The intent is to honor the most effective pitcher who can't strike out batters.

As with any good award, The Ballard is not determined by simply plugging numbers into a formula. There is the matter of interpretation. Do we place more weight on “most effective” or on “can't strike out batters”? Voters historically have fallen into two camps—the Effectivists and the Punchlessies—sometimes with hostility.

This year's two best candidates, depending on whether one is an Effectivist or a Punchlessy, are Twins left-hander Scott Diamond and Blue Jays right-hander Henderson Alvarez:

Player

IP

ERA

K/9

FIP

WARP

W-L

Diamond

153.2

3.69

4.7

3.96

0.3

11-8

Alvarez

175.2

4.87

3.5

5.11

-1.3

9-13

While Alvarez better captures the essence of Ballard's punchlessness, he has not been nearly as effective as Diamond. Falling into the Effectivist camp myself, I must vote for Diamond.

Some may advocate Twins right-hander Alex Burnett, who has put up nice numbers out of the bullpen despite fanning fewer than 4 batters per 9 innings. Relievers technically are eligible, although it would take an especially impressive performance to get me to swing that way.

Rick Camp over Larry Gura in 1980? Maybe. Dan Quisenberry over Rick Honeycutt or Scott McGregor in 1983? I could see it. Shigetoshi Hasegawa over Brian Anderson in 2003? Yeah, I'd have to go with Hasegawa.

But to be clear, Burnett is no Hasegawa. So I'm sticking with Diamond. Well done, lad, and be mindful of the cliffs. —Geoff Young

4. Rollie Fingers Award for Best Facial Hair
Baseball history is replete with warriors who, much like Samson prior to his haircut, drew their prowess from their hair. Rather than flowing locks, most baseball players (with some notable exceptions) tend to focus their follicular efforts on their facial hair. In honor of these mustachioed men, these bearded behemoths, these hirsute heroes, I'd like to announce the nominees for the Rollie Fingers Facial Hair of the Year award.

Nominees were gathered through an extremely scientific process, whereby I asked my Twitter followers for suggestions. Without further adieu...

Jayson Werth

Derek Norris

Jordan Norberto

Delmon Young

Brendan Ryan

 

Clearly the headshots we have of Delmon Young and Brendan Ryan don't do their mustaches justice. Go ahead and search for some recent images and bask in the glory of their decisions to stop shaving. I'll wait here for you.
 
OK, everyone back? Great.
 
Deciding between such excellent contenders was tough work. The judges (my 3-year-old twins and I) agonized over the decision, but at long last, we unanimously decided on Jayson Werth. Well, I decided. They wandered off to watch "Pound Puppies."
 
So congratulations, Jayson Werth. In addition to your millions of dollars and a trip to the playoffs this year, you can proudly say you've been honored for the best facial hair in baseball in 2012. Now go cut your hair, you damn hippie! —Dan Turkenkopf

5. Torii Hunter Award for Unnecessary Jumps at the Wall to Rob Home Run Balls
Sometimes flash is necessary for an outfielder when it comes to robbing a home run at the wall. Torii Hunter stealing a home run from Barry Bonds in the 2002 All-Star Game comes to mind. It's often difficult for an outfielder to know exactly when a jump attempt might be useful, so they jump anyway, just in case. That's more than understandable. Sometimes, though, flash is just flash. Having watched more than 4,500 home runs so far this year, I've seen more than my share of outfielders making completely unnecessary leaps for certain-home runs. Mike Trout has done it a few times recently, but we cut him some slack because he has also robbed at least three home runs, too. If you're that good at taking balls away at the fence, you keep trying.

Instead, the 2012 king of unnecessary wall grabs is Baltimore's Adam Jones. He's a good defensive center fielder and is often quite fun to watch, but every now and then he gets a little too wild at the wall. When Josh Hamilton had his four home-run game in Baltimore, for example, Jones made two different over-enthusiastic wall jumps in hopes of robbing a home run. He even almost injured himself on one.

It's a lesson that might need to be re-learned every now and then: Sometimes you just have to acknowledge that the batter beat you. —Larry Granillo

6. Ben Sheets Award for Best Pitchers with Losing Records
Cy Young voters aren't quite so obsessed with wins anymore, as they proved by giving the award to 13-12 Felix Hernandez in 2010. But a pitcher with a losing record is, I suspect, still de facto eliminated from the competition, no matter how good he is. Since 2000, there have been just four starting pitchers who received even a single vote in losing seasons: Mike Mussina, Ben Sheets, and Kevin Millwood got a third-place vote apiece, and Tim Lincecum managed to finish sixth last year, thanks to the expanded five-pitcher ballots.

So that means Cliff Lee won't get much consideration. On Sunday, he struck out 11, walked nobody, allowed one earned run but dropped to 6-8 on the year. He leads the NL in strikeout-to-walk ratio. He hasn't walked more than one batter in a game since June, and his WARP this year is tied for second in the National League. He's the National League's Nolan Ryan Award winner.

We're calling it the Nolan Ryan Award in honor of Ryan's 1987 season, in which he won the ERA crown but finished 8-16. We could just as easily call it the Ben Sheets Award, as Sheets in 2004 had the highest ERA+ for a losing pitcher in the post-WWII era. Sheets' season was actually considerably better than Ryan's was, as Sheets struck out 264 batters and walked just 32 in 237 innings. And Sheets' season was actually more badly overlooked than Ryan's, as Ryan finished fifth in Cy Young voting, which is about where he should have finished. But in a few years, nobody will remember who Ben Sheets was. Which, actually, is a shame. People should know who Ben Sheets was! So upon further reflection we're going to name this the Ben Sheets Award after all. Cliff Lee and Jake Peavy, who I didn't talk about but who is also having a fine losing season, are your 2012 Ben Sheets Award winners. —Sam Miller

7. The Mark Fidrych Award for the Greatest Attendance-Boosting Pitcher
I don’t know the reason for it, but one of the most-cited works in introductions to sabermetrics seems to be one in which Bill James debunks the fact that Nolan Ryan put more people in the stands than any other pitcher of his day. About one year ago, I explored the subject in The Hardball Times Annual 2012 and, after taking care of the effect of a lot of stuff that can influence attendance, I came up with a different answer—a debunk of the debunk. The Ryan Express is responsible for the highest number of extra tickets sold in a pitching career.

However, on a single-season basis, no one has ever done what Mark “The Bird” Fidrych did in his rookie campaign. According to my estimations, roughly 200,000 extra seats were filled in his 29 starts of 1976, only because he was standing on the mound (or kneeling over it). Thus, I propose The Bird Award for the greatest attendance boosting pitcher. Unfortunately I don’t have a nominee for the 2012 recipient, because:

  1. The year is not over yet, and
  2. I would like to further refine the algorithm I used last year.

I’ll be back on this during the offseason!

A note for the aspiring candidates: If you want to bring home the Fidrych Award, you have to win a lot of games. If you want to stand head and shoulders over the competition, you also need to perform some kind of odd stuff (talking to the ball doesn’t hurt). —Max Marchi

8. Nomar Garciaparra Award for Most Annoying Between-Pitch Routine
Aside from Mike Hargrove, Nomar Garciaparra had perhaps the most distinctive and—to me—annoying between-pitch routines in baseball history. It has been a while since Garciaparra took a hack in the majors, so as a refresher, this was his ritual: Take a step out of the batter's box, do the sign of the cross, adjust the right batting glove, then the left, re-adjust the right batting glove (he couldn't get it right the first time?), re-adjust the left batting glove, step back in the batter's box (finally), touch the brim of his batting helmet, and finally prepare to take a pitch. It didn't matter if he had swung at the previous pitch; Garciaparra just really, really had to make sure his batting gloves were still, indeed, on his hands.

I didn't have anything against Garciaparra as a player, but the routine always drove me nuts, particularly when a slow pitcher was on the mound. The ability to drive a person insane, regardless of the length of a ritual, is a true gift worthy of recognition. That's why, by my completely unscientific poll of myself, I am awarding David Ortiz with the most annoying between-pitch routine. Ortiz doesn't spend nearly as much time adjusting his gloves as his former teammate; instead, he steps out of the box, spits into each hand, then claps before stepping back in. I can't help but cringe each time Ortiz comes to the dish due to his unhygienic routine, which has been called out by health officials, and it launches him to the top of the competition of the non-Hargrove between-pitch annoyances. —Stephani Bee

9. Ryan Theriot Award for TOOTBLAN
It started out as an in-joke among Cubs fans, premised on the fact that watching Ryan Theriot run the bases is about as pleasant as walking in on your parents while they're engaging in carnal activities. So Cubs blog Wrigleyville 23 came up with a way to measure this: times Thrown Out On The Bases Like A Nincompoop—TOOTBLAN, for short. Shorter, at least. It's a measure of all the wonderful baserunning outs you can scrounge up while not actually being caught stealing. Theriot has taken himself out of the running by not actually being on base enough to get thrown out while on them. But Edwin Encarnacion shows up with 10 glorious, infuriating TOOTBLANs after a search of the play-by-play records for the year, making him the winner of the Ryan Theriot Award. —Colin Wyers

24 comments have been left for this article.

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