keyboard_arrow_uptop

In the excitement of the Twins/Tigers finish to the season and the quick run-up to the playoffs, I never published my Internet Baseball Awards ballots. Despite the late date-the BBWAA awards will be announced between now and Thanksgiving-these ballots do reflect only regular-season performance.


Most Valuable Player

In ranking players for MVP, I use Runs Above Replacement Player, Value Over Replacement Player, pitcher rates, and the defensive statistics Plus/Minus (from Bill James Online) and Ultimate Zone Rating (from FanGraphs). In very close cases, I will consider the relevance of a player’s season to a pennant race; this was not a factor in the 2009 balloting.


American League

1. Joe Mauer
2. Zack Greinke
3. Derek Jeter
4. Ben Zobrist
5. Evan Longoria
6. Roy Halladay
7. Felix Hernandez
8. Franklin Gutierrez
9. Jason Bartlett
10. Justin Verlander


Honorable Mention
: Mark Teixeira, Carl Crawford, Adam Lind, Shin-Soo Choo, Kevin Youkilis

Mauer didn’t have the fantastic defensive season he did a couple of years ago, but he didn’t need to to be the league’s most valuable player. He was the best hitter in the circuit, leading in OBP, SLG, EqA, and RARP, and missing the EqR crown by just a few runs, all while playing 138 games and catching 109 of them. He was so much better than Jeter that he swamped the playing-time argument, leading the AL in VORP by nearly 20 runs. Only Greinke came close to Mauer’s value, and he fell short by a few runs.

The better question is how the Rays could have two of the top five, and three of the top nine-most of their infield!-and four of the top dozen players in the year, and nevertheless be so disappointing in the final standings. I didn’t believe Ben Zobrist’s numbers would hold up, but they did: third in VORP, second in RARP, and he was one of the best defensive second basemen in the league when he played there. I slid him below Jeter because the metrics are probably overcrediting him as a “second baseman” when he made just 81 starts there. Longoria moves up on defense, just as he did a year ago. Gutierrez jumps onto the ballot thanks to his glove as well; he was the best defensive player in baseball, coaches and managers be damned. You can throw everyone else into a hat; Bartlett was fifth in RARP, to my surprise.


National League

1. Albert Pujols
2. Hanley Ramirez
3. Chase Utley
4. Prince Fielder
5. Tim Lincecum
6. Adam Wainwright
7. Chris Carpenter
8. Pablo Sandoval
9. Ryan Zimmerman
10. Troy Tulowitzki


Honorable Mention:
Ryan Braun, Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, Matt Cain, Jair Jurrjens

I tried to conjure up a rationalization for Utley, and had he had the ridiculously good defensive season of 2007, perhaps he could have caught Pujols. In 2009, he slots in below both the best player in baseball and a possible heir to the throne. Ramirez is developing in a fairly normal fashion, with more power and less speed, and he’s improved his defense enough at shortstop for him to stay there for a while. I believe these three players have been the top three in the league for three years running, which seems like a level of consistency in that category we don’t usually see.

The three starting pitchers belong in those spots, and could go in most any order. Zimmerman and Tulowitzki slide up onto my ballot on the basis of defense, which is the same reason why Braun doesn’t make the top ten; he was terrible this year. Kemp’s metrics were surprisingly unimpressive given how much we talked about him this season, and his defense didn’t make up for that. Really, after Utley, you can throw a lot of players into a pile.


Cy Young Award

For the most part, I use VORP, SNLVAR, and category rate stats in making this ballot.


American League

1. Zack Greinke
2. Roy Halladay
3. Felix Hernandez
4. Justin Verlander
5. Jon Lester


Honorable Mention:
CC Sabathia, Andrew Bailey

Greinke was just that much better than the next two guys, and the fact that he did it with absolutely disgusting defensive support is the biggest tertiary factor here. Halladay slides ahead of Hernandez by virtue of the competition he faced and the defense behind the two pitchers; they’re essentially tied by the metrics, and Halladay deserves a bump for an AL East schedule and not having Franklin Gutierrez et al behind him. Verlander is a clear fourth-best choice, and Lester over Sabathia is a pure strikeouts play.


National League

1. Tim Lincecum
2. Adam Wainwright
3. Chris Carpenter
4. Matt Cain
5. Jair Jurrjens


Honorable Mention:
Javier Vazquez, Dan Haren

Sometimes there are lots of right answers, and this is one of those times. The top three pitchers in the league are basically tied in value, and you can find reasons to order them in just about any way. I went with Lincecum’s strikeouts and then Wainwright’s innings, and I’m not going to argue with anyone who concludes differently. With all due respect to the other names mentioned above, however, a ballot that includes anyone but those three guys in the top three is in error.


Rookie of the Year Award

The Rookie of the Year awards are based on performance, not potential, even on the margins.


American League

1. Elvis Andrus
2. Andrew Bailey
3. Rick Porcello


Honorable Mention:
Gordon Beckham, Jeff Niemann, Ricky Romero, Brad Bergesen, Nolan Reimold

One BP staffer, Christina Kahrl, had a BBWAA ballot for this award this season, and when she called me to talk about it, I pushed pretty hard for Beckham. In retrospect, I feel that was a mistake. Bailey and the starters, as well as unnamed guys like Bergesen and Romero, had more VORP, by 10 runs, than the position players did. Beckham was worth about two wins with the bat and much less with the glove. Andrus’ glove pushes him atop a crowded list, Bailey was the one pitcher who had a truly great season, and Porcello is basically a stand-in for a field of fourth starters. No one stands out strongly from this crowd, and as many as nine or 10 players might get BBWAA love.


National League

1. J.A. Happ
2. Tommy Hanson
3. Randy Wells


Honorable Mention:
Andrew McCutchen, Chris Coghlan, Garrett Jones

Happ was far and away the best rookie in the league by value, with the next four guys being close. Had McCutchen shown good defensive numbers, he could have edged out one of the starting pitchers instead of winding up fourth on my virtual ballot. Coghlan’s poor start and fish-out-of-water defense hurt him. Perhaps the real surprise is that Wells was just as valuable as Hanson. Voting for Happ and Wells ahead of McCutchen and Coghlan is illustrative of the main point above, however, that Rookie of the Year voting has nothing to do with future upside potential.


Manager of the Year

The criteria for this award are murky at best. For my part, I like to see some evidence that the manager had some effect on the team’s play, and wasn’t actively hurting the club.


American League

1. Mike Scioscia
2. Ron Washington
3. Joe Girardi

Scioscia managed around roster turnover, injuries, and aging, not to mention the death of his fourth starter. This was a different Angels team, by personnel, but Scioscia handled it deftly. There’s an argument for giving him this award every year, but in 2009 he was clearly the most deserving guy. Washington was nearly fired in 2008, but he gets credit this time around for what may simply be a player-development bump. Girardi is something of a default third choice; he sifted through a lot of relievers to get to the good ones, and his team won 103 games. It’s him or Ron Gardenhire, whose contributions to the Twins seem largely mythical. Don Wakamatsu may deserve some credit, although Seattle too looks more like a front-office success. There are a number of good managers in the AL, but few had good years.


National League

1. Bobby Cox
2. Tony La Russa
3. Jim Tracy

The Braves had an astonishingly weak collection of position players, yet they won 86 games and were probably one of the five best teams in baseball on the day the season ended. Cox played the hand he was dealt. Given the success of Jurrjens, Vazquez, the relievers, it’s worth asking if all of the credit we long gave Leo Mazzone shouldn’t be at least in part shared by Cox. Cox squeezed a lot of value from his position players, and while some people felt he overworked his top three relievers, he did get an awful lot of value from them. Similarly, La Russa leveraged the best player in baseball and four other contributors to a division title, with a comparable question of how to divide credit between the manager and pitching coach. Tracy presided over four months of great baseball and made some lineup decisions that helped it along. He gets docked here for the partial season and for regular-season-not postseason-tactical missteps. Like the Yankees under Girardi, the Rockies sometimes won games in spite of their skipper.

I’m comfortable with both of my selections atop each league’s ballot. After that, I’m flailing a bit.

Texas Rangers savant Jamey Newberg is taking orders for the new The Newberg Report, 2010 Bound Edition. If there’s one organization whose prospects you want to go deep on, it’s the Rangers’, and Jamey’s 11th annual book does just that. Need another reason? BP’s Kevin Goldstein wrote a foreword for it. What, you need another reason? OK… the book sells for $25, but if you tell Jamey that BP sent you, he’ll give you the Early Bird discount price of $23. Click the link and find out what all the hype-about the Rangers, and Jamey Newberg-is about.

You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe
BallparkFan
11/16
You wrote "Christina Kahrl had a BBWAA ballot for this award this season, and when she called me to talk about it, I pushed pretty hard for Beckham. In retrospect, I feel that was a mistake." If you influenced her vote, Joe, and if her vote made a difference in the final outcome in an extremely close race, would it cause you to do something differently in the future? The real-life implications of Player A being named ROY rather than Player B are disproportionately huge. Just curious if that has given you any second thoughts about how you provide your own inputs since you are in a position of some influence?
irablum
11/16
yeah, they sure made a difference in the lives of some of their past winners, like Pat Listach, Ben Grieve, Scott Williamson, Jason Jennings, Angel Berroa. On the other hand, some truly great players have been named ROY like Mike Piazza, Albert Pujols, Derek Jeter, etc. In fact, I would simply say that there's almost no correlation in winning ROY and future performance. Sure the last few AL ROY's have been good, but there have been some stinkers before that. In this years crowd, on the NL side, no one stands out. On the AL side, I think Andrew Bailey's kind of a flash in the pan, Elvis has a chance to be around for a while, and Rick Porcello and Gordon Beckham as well. We'll just have to see. Personally, I root for the best rookie on my team, as long as there's a legitemate chance he can win. Which mean's Go Elvis!
DrDave
11/16
I think it's safe to say that both Pat Listach and Angel Berroa got a lot more second (and third and fourth) chances than they would have had without the hardware on the mantel.
collins
11/16
Not to mention Bobby Crosby
Oleoay
11/17
In the past, there has been little correlation between ROY winners and future success... but I wonder if that will hold true as sabremetrics comes more to the forefront of voters minds...
jsheehan
11/18
No. I get mad enough at myself for getting something wrong that whatever the effects are for my doing so aren't going to make a difference.
DrDave
11/16
No quibbles with your ballot, Joe, but I think you might be selling Zobrist a bit short. FanGraphs has him as the top WAP in the majors this year, half a win ahead of Pujols. That's because he was 20 runs above average (UZR) as a part-time outfielder, in addition to being 22 runs above average as a second baseman. Overall, Gutierrez beat him out as most valuable defender in baseball, but Zobrist was the only player even close. Throw in the "opportunity value" of his ability to play everywhere and make either half of a platoon while doing it, and it was an outrageous year. Will Zobrist ever come close to a season like this again? Almost certainly not; but there's a lot of evidence that he did actually do it this past year.
royalsnightly
11/16
Brett Anderson says hello.
ccweinmann
11/16
This is what happens when you base an award on on "performance, not potential, even on the margins".
subodh186
11/16
Joe, I like your perspective towards choosing the All-Stars where you choose the guys who have good career lines, instead of those who have had a good couple months. I wonder what you think of a similar approach where you consider the overall likelihood of a ROY-candidate's skillset translating into a good major league career. Rob Neyer forwarded a link to an article by Tommy Bennett in his blog to this effect as well. http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2009/11/16/1159607/rookie-of-the-year-and-the
drmboat
11/16
Re: Cox overworking his top relievers - I'm pretty sure these guys were fragile with injury histories BEFORE they joined the Braves, so in reality Cox was even more amazing that he figured out a way to work both Gonzalez and Soriano in enough to help the team.
lunatic96
11/16
It's not that there was a problem with the amount of times Cox used his relievers, it's that he repeatedly used BOTH Gonzalez and Soriano when the Braves were up by 3+ runs.
ScottBehson
11/16
Joe- I have a Q's about the IBA's. Are these just BP subscribers voting, or is it a larger pool? FWIW- I think all of our "pet issues" come out in the downballot voting- you really went heavy with pitchers and defense, while I didn't do so, but all your picks and reasoning are solid.
jsheehan
11/18
IBAs just require a Basic account, not a subscription.
nickcarter
11/17
Garrett Anderson played 135 games in left field for the Braves, Jeff Francoeur played 82 games in right field until he was traded, whereas Matt Diaz (team leader in OPS) started about 30 games until the Francoeur trade. To not put Diaz in sooner and to not replace Anderson with either Church, a minor leaguer or even Kelly Johnson, was a big error in my opinion.
vtadave
11/17
Is this the "Nick Carter" from the Backstreet Boys? Not a big fan of your latest stuff...
JimmyJack
11/17
Hey Joe, Is Clay upset you're not using his defensive stats?
marooner
11/17
Bailey over Mariano Rivera for Cy Young Honorable Mention?
NelsonJohnson
11/18
Ichiro played terrific defense and had the top WPA in the American league, yet you mention neither him nor WPA. Is there some reason that you have decided to reject WPA? I understand that WPA is not the stat of choice to measure ability or predict future performance, but MVP is given for value in the season just ended, not ability or likely future performance.
CurseThis
11/18
NelsonJohnson is right.
jsheehan
11/18
WPA is the fancy-math version of RBIs.
NelsonJohnson
11/18
Not quite, but I take your point. Which is why I don't use WPA in my fantasy draft; it doesn't have as much predictive value as other metrics. If the question is about a player's historical value during a particular game, season or career, however, it is the best offensive metric I know.
DrDave
11/20
WPA is WXRL for batters; the idea dates back to Gary Skoog and Mark Pankin in the late '80s. The problem is that a decent hitter who plays for the 2009 Phillies will have a much higher WPA than an identical hitter who plays for the 2009 Royals. The question is, do you give that hitter credit for the difference when voting for MVP? I can see the argument for saying 'yes' -- he did what he did with the opportunities he was given -- but I can clearly see the argument for saying 'no', if some other player would almost certainly have done even more with those same opportunities. After all, it was the teammates (not this player) who created those extra runs. MVP voting is the only context in which I think WPA can be a useful metric. I'd probably use it as a tie-breaker, myself, but whether to make it primary or secondary is a question of philosophy.
NelsonJohnson
11/20
All good points, thanks. My primary argument is that the question of "value" in MVP voting should be a historical question about impact, not a question about talent or potential. As such, "value" is affected by chance, improbable heroics and a myriad other things that make baseball worth watching, as well as by talent. It may be easier to see the argument in a team context. Assume Team A has two players, X and Y. X has a terrific RARP but very poor WPA, and Y is the reverse. Team A makes the playoffs by only couple games in the standings, more than X's WPA but less than Y's. As a result, you could switch out player X with a replacement-level player and Team A would still make the playoffs, but if you switch out player Y, Team A would not. Who was more valuable, X or Y? The answer seems obvious to me, and it seems equally obvious that WPA should be more than a tie-breaker. If one objects to WPA because of differences among teams, it seems like the answer is to revise WPA, not reject it.
Oleoay
11/21
In your example, I guess the argument would be that the replacement player (and the players who normally bat after Player Y) would still produce some WPA and perhaps enough so the team still makes the playoffs. I really don't know much about WPA but intuitively, I'd find it hard to think Player Y has enough of an individual impact on WPA to be worth "a couple extra games in the standings".
NelsonJohnson
11/22
The point of WPA, or win probability added, is to determine the impact of a player's at bats on the likelihood that the team will win. At each point in a game, one can calculate the likelihood that either team will win. WPA calculates the impact of a player on that likelihood. In other words, WPA is the difference in win expectancy between the start of the play and the end of the play, accumulated over the course of a season. Over the 2009 season, WPAs ranged from 8.24 wins (Albert Pujols) to Vernon Wells (-2.55 wins). Players with terrific RARPs, such as Derek Jeter (2nd in the AL) sometimes have much worse WPAs (about 26th in the AL), and vice versa. And as Yankee fans have been fond of reminding ARod, it's the wins that count, not the gaudy stats.
CurseThis
11/21
Nelson Johnson is right.