As you might know, voting for the Greg Spira Memorial Internet Baseball Awards is well underway, and because I’m special, I have access to a tally of the votes submitted so far. There are two running counts: Those of BP’s readership and those of BP’s staff. The second cohort should be more educated, right? It should have the most rational, defensible votes, should it not?
We'd like to think it should, yes. But we do not live in a perfect world where everybody behaves rationally. This is not the world presented to you in economics class. This is a world filled with knuckleheads and jokesters, even among the most noble subsets. I’m going to pick through the staff’s submissions and single out votes that I don’t agree with or that I find particularly odd. I wish I could put the culprits fully on blast, but the tally is anonymous, so I’ll just guess.
1. Anthony DeSclafani, second place for National League Rookie of the Year
Give DeSclafani credit for this: He showed impressive durability for a rookie by throwing 184 2/3 innings, and he improved his K:BB ratio massively from the first to the second half. But he didn’t improve much else in the second half of the season, as his ERA and batting average allowed both shot up after the break.
DeSclafani finished with a 4.05 ERA, 194 hits allowed in his 184 2/3 innings and a 3.67 FIP. Are those pretty good numbers for a rookie? Was he the best rookie pitcher in the National League this year? Yes, by some measures, but only if you put a lot of stock DeSclafani having pitched a lot. But was he the second-best rookie in the National League? No! DeSclafani wasn’t even the best rookie on his team, I’d hazard to say.
Who was it?
One of our installments of The Trade Game featured hypothetical packages for then-Reds starter Johnny Cueto. Russell Carleton played the role of Reds GM Walt Jocketty in the scenario, and he recognized that one of the packages would end with him starting DeSclafani on Opening Day in 2016. Carleton said this in response to that hypothetical: “…Anthony DeSclafani on Opening Day? Wasn’t he the lead singer in No Doubt?”
While one might think that Russell was being snarky and facetious with that line, I can see his true intent: Everybody loves No Doubt, especially Russell, so his actual tone there was one of breathless excitement. So much breathless excitement, in fact, that he would later put an undeserving Murphy second for N.L. Rookie of the Year on his IBA ballot.
2. Miguel Cabrera, fifth place for American League Player of the Year
Miguel Cabrera had an excellent year at the plate, coming in second in baseball, just behind Mike Trout, with a .413 wOBA. But baseball is not just about what one does at the plate, because if that were true it would be called plateball. (I think. I suppose that home plate is a base, technically.)
In baserunning and fielding, the game’s other two facets, it’s best just to ignore Cabrera. He’s slower than dirt and he mostly played first base and wasn’t exceptionally good at it. My point is that as good as he was hitting the ball, he wasn’t so good as to cancel out his total lack of value in the rest of his game and earn a place as the fifth-best player in the American League. You’ve got Mike Trout, an incredible hitter and excellent defender; Josh Donaldson, an incredible hitter and excellent defender; Manny Machado, an excellent hitter and defender; Lorenzo Cain, an excellent hitter and incredible defender; Kevin Kiermaier, an average hitter but an amazing defender at a premium defensive position; and those are just position players that I can make a case for over Cabrera.
Miguel Cabrera is still a very, very good player. But it’s getting tough to call him great, as this voter would posit.
Who was it?
I’m just going to guess Sussman cast the vote, because he’s the only Tigers fan I can think of on this site. But he doesn’t even follow Miguel Cabrera on Twitter, so I dunno. He’s a curling fan, though, and I imagine Miguel Cabrera would be a damn good curler if he put his mind to it: Great hand-eye coordination; excellent body control for making quick, precise movements; the adequate amount of body fat to keep warm in those cold ice rinks.
3. Devon Travis, fourth place for American League Rookie of the Year
When Travis played, he was awesome — an .859 OPS with legitimate pop and a solid defensive profile at second base — but man, he just didn’t play very much. 239 plate appearances in 62 games didn’t give him much time to make a big impact on the Blue Jays in the regular season, and when all was said and done, Ryan Goins was the one who really made his name at second base. Plus, Travis showed some offensive signs that pointed to impending regressions, like a .347 BABIP and 43 strikeouts to 18 walks.
Billy Burns played more at a more valuable position, Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor were better hitters on the other side of the middle infield and Miguel Sano mashed something serious with an impressive walk rate. Travis was excellent in his limited stint, but it wasn’t quite extensive and convincing enough to merit consideration over those guys.
Who was it?
Now: Go vote. Vote!
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