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October 23, 2000

My IBA Ballot

Our Staff Makes the Call

by Michael Wolverton

(All next week, we'll be bringing you the winners of the 2000 Internet Baseball Awards. This week, we'll be running some ballots submitted by the Baseball Prospectus staff, along with their commentary. We begin the series today with Michael Wolverton.)

AL Player of the Year

  1. Pedro Martinez, Boston
  2. Alex Rodriguez, Seattle
  3. Jason Giambi, Oakland
  4. Carlos Delgado, Toronto
  5. Nomar Garciaparra, Boston
  6. Manny Ramirez, Cleveland
  7. Troy Glaus, Anaheim
  8. Darin Erstad, Anaheim
  9. Bernie Williams, New York
  10. Carl Everett, Boston

Alex Rodriguez had a monster season, putting up some of the best offensive numbers in the majors while playing Gold Glove-caliber shortstop, but it was only good enough for second place this year. Pedro Martinez had one of the most valuable pitching seasons in history, valuable enough to make him the clear winner over Rodriguez in my opinion.

People will notice who's not on this list as much as who is on it. It's not that I believe designated hitters--in this case, Edgar Martinez and Frank Thomas--should be ineligible for the Player of the Year. I do think that they should pay a big penalty for playing that "position". My personal philosophy is that they should be treated as if they were worse than the most damaging defensive player in the league. Doing so--deducting, say, 20 or 30 runs from their offensive production levels--is enough to knock Martinez and Thomas out of the Player of the Year picture.

NL Player of the Year

  1. Jeff Kent, San Francisco
  2. Randy Johnson, Arizona
  3. Andruw Jones, Atlanta
  4. Vladimir Guerrero, Montreal
  5. Barry Bonds, San Francisco
  6. Kevin Brown, Los Angeles
  7. Brian Giles, Pittsburgh
  8. Gary Sheffield, Los Angeles
  9. Chipper Jones, Atlanta
  10. Edgardo Alfonzo, New York

I could probably be convinced that any of the top three people on my ballot is the NL Player of the Year. It's tough to decide exactly where Randy Johnson fits among the position players, or how much weight to give Andruw Jones's otherworldly defense. But it's hard to argue with Jeff Kent in the top spot. He put up monster offensive numbers in a pitchers' park while playing a solid second base.

The thing that people can and will argue with is the omission of Mike Piazza. I don't think Piazza was one of the NL's ten most valuable players for three reasons:

  • As fine a hitter as he is, he wasn't close to being the most productive hitter in the league this year. Clay Davenport's Runs Above Replacement ranks 12 NL hitters ahead of Piazza, four (Kent, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and and Gary Sheffield) by 20 runs or more.

  • Piazza is a poor defensive catcher, by reputation and by numbers. Piazza was 16 for 126 (12.7%) in throwing out would-be basestealers this year, 1 for 40 in August and September. That's not a typo: one for forty. Those are staggering numbers, especially considering that the Mets' pitching staff is heavy with left-handers who can hold runners, Al Leiter excepted.

  • I believe the defensive importance of catchers is generally overstated by media, fans and major-league managers. In other words, I think that measures that compare hitters only to others at the same position, such as Runs Above Position or VORP, tend to overrate catchers. I won't go into a long defense of this belief here, but see Keith Woolner's article on catcher handling of pitchers for some evidence.

AL Pitcher of the Year

  1. Pedro Martinez, Boston
  2. Mike Mussina, Baltimore
  3. David Wells, Toronto
  4. Bartolo Colon, Cleveland
  5. Derek Lowe, Boston

I voted for the Player of the Year Award according to Support-Neutral Wins Above Replacement (SNWAR), mixing in a token reliever. I think Pedro Martinez will probably win the BBWAA vote, but it will be interesting to see whether David Wells and Tim Hudson--and their 20 win-seasons--receive any support.

NL Player of the Year

  1. Randy Johnson, Arizona
  2. Kevin Brown, Los Angeles
  3. Greg Maddux, Atlanta
  4. Gabe White, Colorado
  5. Tom Glavine, Atlanta

Randy Johnson isn't the runaway winner like he was last year, but his first half was good enough to keep Kevin Brown from catching him in the second half.

I'm not going to say for certain that the extra leverage of Gabe White's innings outweighs Tom Glavine's huge advantage in quantity of innings, but sticking White on the ballot in there makes things a little more interesting than just relisting the Support Neutral Wins Above Replacement standings.

AL Rookie of the Year

  1. Mark Redman, Minnesota
  2. Terrence Long, Oakland
  3. Mark Quinn, Kansas City

It wasn't a great year for rookies in the American League; you could make a case for any of these three guys as the Rookie of the Year. (I believe Kazuhiro Sasaki and Ben Molina are a notch below them.)

Mark Redman didn't have the roster time of the other two, but he did a lot with the time he did get, putting up a fine Support Neutral record of 10-7. The other two were basically average offensively for their positions.

NL Rookie of the Year

  1. Rich Ankiel, St. Louis
  2. Rafael Furcal, Atlanta
  3. Chuck Smith, Florida

Rick Ankiel was 2.0 wins better than the average starter according to Support-Neutral Value Added, while Rafael Furcal was 1.4 wins (about 14 runs) better than the average shortstop offensively according to Runs Above Position. It gets closer when you consider Furcal's defense, but I'll give Ankiel the nod.

Chuck Smith may not get any votes at all from the BBWAA, but he's arguably had a better season than the more famous guys (Mitch Meluskey, Matt Herges, Jay Payton and Adam Eaton). Besides, giving him the #3 spot gives me a chance to take a pot shot at Rangers' GM Doug Melvin for giving Smith away.

Michael Wolverton can be reached at mjw@baseballprospectus.com.

Related Content:  Managers Of The Year

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