The 2008 MLB Awards Bonanza

I finally got around to it. My apologies to those of you (read: no one) who waited with bated breath.

Last year’s debates about the awards led to some controversy but hopefully we have all learned a lesson (which is: I’m always right) and can traverse through this year’s awards intelligently. I’m talking to you again, BBWAA. Last year’s bonanza was fun, especially when I was told “forget ur format and just watch the games” and “to say your format is flawed is an understatement.”

To preface the bonanza, I’ll quote my methodology explained last year:

I make heavy use of Sabermetrics, and light to no use of “traditional” statistics like wins and losses, saves, batting average, and the like.

In addition, I intentionally do not take into account the player’s team and whether or not they have been in contention. It is my belief that a player’s contributions on a failing team are worth just as much, if not more than another player’s contributions on a winning team. This is a debate that always pops up around this time of year, so feel free to try to change my mind on it.

In other words, you can wrap [nerd] [/nerd] tags around my article. Let’s go.

American League Most Valuable Player: Milton Bradley

I really had a tough time deciding the AL MVP. There are basically five choices: Alex Rodriguez, Dustin Pedroia, Grady Sizemore, Joe Mauer, and Bradley. I had gone into writing this article expecting to pick Sizemore, but a close look at the statistics leads me to pick Milton Bradley.

Milton Bradley had the best offensive numbers — and the best differential between his OPS and the average OPS for hitters at his position — out of the quintet but gets points taken from him for being a DH. He also ranked behind three of the other four in WPA. Those are the only arguments that can really be made against Bradley, however. Bradley had the highest PMLVr (which undervalues walks, benefiting only Sizemore), which is somewhat surprising considering the DH is the most offense-heavy position because the player doesn’t have to play defense. Maybe Jose Vidro has something to do with it.

The top five:

  1. Milton Bradley
  2. Joe Mauer
  3. Alex Rodriguez
  4. Dustin Pedroia
  5. Grady Sizemore

National League Most Valuable Player: Albert Pujols

This is really, really easy. He had, by far, the highest VORP in the Majors and he’s an extremely good fielder as well. The only hitter remotely close to him in OPS is Chipper Jones (who’s also very close to him in PMLVr) at a good 70 points behind, 1.114 to 1.044.

There’s nothing to debate — Pujols is the NL MVP. It will be a sad sight if he gets shafted on the award for the second season in a row (and you feel for him even more when you look at his 2002-04 seasons and then realize that Barry Bonds put up even better numbers).

The top five:

  1. Albert Pujols
  2. Chipper Jones
  3. Lance Berkman
  4. Hanley Ramirez
  5. Jose Reyes

American League Cy Young Award: Cliff Lee

I really wanted to give the AL Cy Young to Roy Halladay because he was my pre-season pick to win it, but Lee has slightly better numbers.

2008 American League Cy Young: Cliff Lee vs. Roy Halladay

Halladay’s pitched about 23 innings more (thanks in part to 5 more complete games) but overall has been slightly inferior to Lee. A 0.06 difference in WHIP isn’t that much to tip the scale in any way towards Halladay.

The top five:

  1. Cliff Lee
  2. Roy Halladay
  3. Jon Lester
  4. Mariano Rivera
  5. John Danks

National League Cy Young Award: Tim Lincecum

Johan Santana made a late push to put him neck-and-neck with Lincecum, but the Giants ace’s peripherals give him the nod.

2008 NL Cy Young: Tim Lincecum vs. Johan Santana

The FIP is what really clinches the deal for Lincecum, but the K/9 is very impressive.

The top-five:

  1. Tim Lincecum
  2. Johan Santana
  3. Ryan Dempster
  4. Cole Hamels
  5. Dan Haren

American League Rookie of the Year: Mike Aviles

This is not a contrarian pick, believe it or not. Mike Aviles has been slightly more valuable than Evan Longoria. They’ve both close offensively: Aviles’ 116 OPS+ and 35.0 VORP to Longoria’s 130 OPS+ and 39.3 VORP, but Aviles has been the best defensive shortstop at a more demanding defensive position. Additionally, Aviles has a greater differential between his OPS and the average OPS at his position (POS OPS in the following chart), .140 to .106.

2008 American League Rookie of the Year: Mike Aviles vs. Evan Longoria

The top-five:

  1. Mike Aviles
  2. Evan Longoria
  3. Armando Galarraga
  4. Denard Span
  5. Joba Chamberlain

National League Rookie of the Year: Geovany Soto
This one’s not particularly difficult. The only real competition Soto has is Joey Votto but Soto is a catcher and Votto is a first baseman. However, the difference between Soto’s OPS and the average at his position is almost five times higher than Votto’s.

2008 NL Rookie of the Year: Geovany Soto vs. Joey Votto

The top-five:

  1. Geovany Soto
  2. Joey Votto
  3. Jair Jurrjens
  4. Hiroki Kuroda
  5. John Lannan

American League Manager of the Year: Joe Maddon

Maddon is an easy choice since he took a team that was expected to finish third or fourth (although an improvement over previous years) to American League Eastern Division champions. It was the first time in franchise history the Rays had finished higher than fourth place and with more than 70 wins (they had 97), and they had 31 more wins this season than they did last season.

There’s no great way to measure exactly how much a manager influenced his team so there’s a lot of subjectivity here. Maddon could simply just be the guy at the helm while all this happened, and may not have had a whole lot to do with it, but there’s just no way to prove it either way.

The Rays went from worst to first and that’s quite an accomplishment.

National League Manager of the Year: Lou Piniella

Lou’s only competition here is Charlie Manuel, but his team won 97 games in a tougher division that included another 90-win team in the NL Wild Card-winning Milwaukee Brewers. Additionally, the Cubs were the class of the National League almost all season, sporting the best offense and the second-best pitching staff. The Phillies, by comparison, were third and fourth respectively, and played in a relatively easier division.

American League Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award: Mariano Rivera

Everyone is talking about Francisco Rodriguez but he’s a bum compared to Mo. Rivera’s season was bananas. 308 ERA+ and a 0.665 WHIP while averaging more than one strikeout per inning and converting 39 out of 40 save opportunities? He and Lidge were far and away the class of the relievers.

The top-three:

  1. Mariano Rivera
  2. Joakim Soria
  3. Joe Nathan

National League Rolaids Relief Man of the Year: Brad Lidge

Is there any other choice? His season was actually not as impressive as Rivera’s but had a great 229 ERA+ and led all relievers (including Rivera) in WPA while having a perfect save record: 41-for-41. He was a big part of the reason why the Phillies had the league’s best relief corps.

The top-three:

  1. Brad Lidge
  2. Carlos Marmol
  3. Brian Fuentes

American League Silver Slugger Awards

Format: Name (PMLVr)

C: Joe Mauer (.293)
1B: Kevin Youkilis (.252)
2B: Ian Kinsler (.243)
3B: Alex Rodriguez (.322)
SS: Mike Aviles (.207)
OF: Shin-soo Choo (.280)
OF: Carlos Quentin (.261)
OF: Josh Hamilton (.222)
DH: Milton Bradley (.375)

National League Silver Slugger Awards

C: Brian McCann (.299)
1B: Albert Pujols (.497)
2B: Chase Utley (.240)
3B: Chipper Jones (.487)
SS: Hanley Ramirez (.362)
OF: Ryan Ludwick (.265)
OF: Carlos Lee (.252)
OF: Matt Holliday (.246)
P: Carlos Zambrano (.886)
Gold Glove Awards: I’m not going to bother with handing them out because there’s a lot of debate over which metrics are most accurate, and there’s no great way to prove any of it. Personally, I use RZR and OOZ, which you can find at The Hardball Times, but others think UZR and +/- are better, but UZR isn’t published and you have to pay to access +/- on Bill James Online.

As usual, you have the freedom to comment below and tell me why I’m wrong and/or to list your own picks.

Catharsis: From the Brew Crew to the Blue Crew

In four NLDS games, the Phillies have disposed of the Milwaukee Brewers with relative ease. Three of the four games saw strong starting pitching from Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, and Joe Blanton (combined 23 IP, 3 ER, 1.17 ERA) with great support from the bullpen (10 IP, 4 ER, 3.60 ERA). The offense wasn’t impressive (3.75 runs per game) but did enough to back up the pitching.

Picking the LVP — the Least Valuable Player — of the series is easy: Corey Hart. He was 3-for-13 in the series with 4 strikeouts and grounded into a double play that helped Brett Myers escape a tense first inning in Game 2. To add insult to injury, he made a base running gaffe in Game 3 where he was too aggressive rounding first base on a single to right field and Jayson Werth threw a laser to first baseman Ryan Howard who tagged him out.

Picking the MVP of the series is a bit harder. Shane Victorino was 5-for-14 with a home run (yeah, that grand slam off of C.C. Sabathia), five RBI, and three stolen bases. Pat Burrell came into Game 4 0-for-8 but went 3-for-4 with two dingers and four RBI in the Phillies’ 6-2 win in the clincher. Cole Hamels pitched eight shutout innings in Game 1, Myers pitched 7 strong innings giving up only two earned runs, and Blanton threw six strong innings giving up only one earned run.

In general, the Phillies’ starting pitching was the MVP, but if you have to award it to one person, Victorino’s the winner.

The Phillies advance to the NLCS for the first time since 1993; the Dodgers advance to the NLCS for the first time since 1988.

Stay tuned for a preview of the Dodgers-Phillies NLCS preview at The Hardball Times. Once again, I’ll be collaborating with John Brattain. And sometime between now and the weekend, I’ll have my picks for the regular season awards posted.