Archive for November, 2010

Picking the Winners: MVP

November 10, 2010

In two of my more recent posts I’ve ventured into the land of guesswork. By trying to fathom what the sports writers were going to do with the 2010 Cy Young Award, I started looking at this seasons awards. Here’s the next to last installment.

As I said in the first post about the 2010 awards, I’m not very good at this, but that’s never stopped me from putting my foot squarely in my mouth before, so why start now. Let me remind you this is my guess as to whom the writers will pick, not my own personal choice for the award. That I keep to myself.

There seems to be something of a growing consensus as to the 2010 MVP Award winners. I’ve looked at a lot of sites, read a lot of writers views on the matter and two names keep coming up. That being the case, I’m a little less concerned that I’m totally out in left field with this pick, unlike both the rookie and Cy Young awards.

NL-Joey Votto. Votto led the Reds in the categories that counted and played a decent first base this season. Votto led the NL in slugging and on base percentage. He was in the top three in home runs, RBIs, batting average, and total bases. Unfortunately so did Albert Pujols. I think that the writers will reward Votto over Pujols because the Reds won the division while St Louis, which was generally favored, folded. In defense of Pujols, the team faded much worse than he.

AL-Josh Hamilton. Hamilton is a great redemption story and that alone will get him some votes. But he also led the AL in hitting, slugging, OPS, and was in the top five in home runs, total bases, and on base percentage. Miguel Cabrera had an equally good year, but I think the combination of salvation and his team winning will put Hamilton in above Cabrera.

A Blessing on Your House

November 8, 2010

The Wagner Card

By now you’ve heard about the latest sale of the T206 Honus Wagner baseball card. According to what I’ve been able to find the brother of one of the nuns of the School Sisters of Notre Dame order left his card to his sister’s (biological not religious) order. They just sold the thing to a card store owner, whose clientele, I’ll wager, increases (Wouldn’t you like to see a real one?). The Sisters (the order, not the biological ones) net take was $220,000. They say they’ll take the money and distribute it to the various good works they sponsor.

I presume most people who care about baseball know the story of the card. According to the accepted version, Wagner, who didn’t approve of smoking, was horrified when a company put his face on a tobacco card for insertion into a pack of cigarettes. He asked them to stop. They did, but a handful of the cards had already gotten out to the public. Approximately 60 known copies, including the one the Sisters just sold, survive and they’re worth a bunch of money.

It would be different today. Today’s Wagner (Which brings up a question. Is there anyone out there today as good as Wagner?) would have asked for a gazillion dollars for the rights to use his mug. If the company didn’t pony up, then he’d demand they not use his face on the card. I’m kind of glad that the real Wagner didn’t do it that way.

Now, Sisters, do me a favor, please. I don’t know what your building or your grounds look like, but how’s about naming something after the brother and something else after Honus Wagner? Seems to be the brother deserves it and Wagner seems like the kind of guy who would approve of your charitable works. And wouldn’t it be great if the Pirates had the sister (biological not religious) of the donor throw out the first pitch at a game? These are the Pirates, so don’t hold your breath.

Evaluating the Giants

November 5, 2010

I guess it’s time I add my congratulations to the Giants on their World Series victory. I have to admit I didn’t see it coming, having picked both Philadelphia and St. Louis to be the NL teams in the LCS. But with that congratulations comes a caveat from someone who studies baseball history. This isn’t the best Giants team to win a pennant. That goes, in my opinion, to the 1962 version.

Check out the starting lineup of game seven of the 1962 World Series. Felipe Alou leads off, Willie Mays bats third, Willie McCovey hits clean up, and Orlando Cepeda is in the five hole. Jack Sanford is on the mound and would have won the Cy Young Award that year if not for a fellow named Drysdale. Juan Marichal had pitched earlier and even Gaylord Perry had played a little in the season (but wasn’t a major factor in the team winning). The team got through a bruising 1962 three game playoff with Los Angeles to get to the Series, then battled the Yankees down to the last out. McCovey’s smash that Bobby Richardson caught ended game seven with crucial runs on base. To me it’s the best Giants pennant winner ever, although others may prefer the Hubbell-Ott teams of the 1930s, or the John McGraw teams of the 1920s and the 1900s.

What this team reminds of most is a combination of the  hitting of the 2002 Angels and the pitching of the 1985 Royals. The ’02 Angels (who just happened to beat the Giants in the Series) were led by the likes of Garrett Anderson, Tim Salmon, David Eckstein, and Troy Glaus. Nice players all, but not great stars. To be honest, I look over the roster and I can’t find a Hall of Famer in the lot. That’s unusual because almost every team that wins a World Series has at least one Hall of Famer around  somewhere. But they’re still a lot of really nice players who did well. Unlike the ’85 Royals, there was no George Brett around.  Take a look at the current World Series winning Giants roster, which also has no George Brett. Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell, Edgar Renteria, and Juan Uribe are all nice players and make teams better by their presence. But there’s not a truly great player there. Much like the Angels the sum of the parts is much superior to the bits themselves.

But pitching-wise, the 2010 Giants remind me very much of the 1985 Royals. Lincecum, Cain, Wilson have their counterparts in Bret Saberhagen, Danny Jackson, and Dan Quisenberry. Both teams feature quality pitching that goes deep down the staff.  They both have two-time Cy Young winners (Lincecum and Saberhagen) and first-rate relievers (Wilson and Quisenberry). The second and third spot pitchers are better than average for both teams.

Unfortunately for Kansas City, the staff didn’t hold up. Arms went, other parts of the anatomy failed, wildness took over, and in Quisenberry’s case disease took him early. That’s a precautionary tale for anyone ready to assign long-term greatness to the Giants. Maybe the arms will hold up, but maybe they won’t. Whichever the case, congrats to the 2010 version.

RIP Sparky

November 4, 2010

MSNBC’s website just announced that Sparky Anderson died today. He was a Hall of Fame manager who retired as the third winningest manager in MLB history. He was also the first manager to win the World Series with a team from both leagues. He led the 1975-6 Cincinnati Reds to back-to-back championships, then took the Detroit Tigers to the 1984 title. He was 76.

RIP Sparky.

Picking the Winners: Rookies

November 3, 2010

Brad Komminsk

So the unimportant voting is finally over and the nation swings Red. Now we can get on to finding out how the really important voting went. Who won all the MLB awards?

As with the previous post I’m going to project who I think will win one of the awards. This time I’m going with the Rookie of the Year Award. Again, this is who I think the writers will pick, not who I think should win (although sometimes I agree with the pick).

AL-Neftali Feliz. I think the combination of 100 MPH fastball, 40 saves, a division title for a team that hadn’t won anything in a while, (remember all votes are in before the playoffs start) and his age will give Feliz the AL Rookie of the Year Award.

NL-Buster Posey. OK, here I’m going to admit that I may be projecting my own choice. This one could easily be wrong. I think it’s a two-man race with Jason Heyward and I think the writers will ultimately pick a Posey over a Heyward. First, Posey plays a harder position. Second, Heyward had a weak September and some of these voters don’t remember all the way back to last week, let alone to June. Third, the Giants win their division and Atlanta is the wild card. I’m not sure how much difference that makes, but it may be a deciding factor is some voter’s mind.

And finally (and I’ve put this in a different paragraph for a  reason), Heyward was a mild disappointment. Remember the first few weeks of his time in Atlanta? He was touted as the second  coming of Henry Aaron. That happens a lot. Every time the Dodgers come up with a left-hander who’s any good “He’s the next Koufax.” Well, no, he isn’t. When the Yankees get a new catcher who’s worth a damn “He’s the next Berra.” No, he isn’t. In Atlanta the next great thing is “The next Hank Aaron.” Well, no he isn’t. So, at the risk of nagging, just stop it. Quit already. The pressure put on a player to live up to that hype is enormous and it’s also unfair. I remember when Brad Komminsk was the next Hank Aaron. He never even got close. I remember they hung that tag on David Justice. Justice won a Rookie of the Year Award and hit the World Series winning homer in 1995, but there was always an aura of unfulfilled promise about him because he was supposed to be Hank Aaron and he just wasn’t. I’m afraid the same thing is going to happen to Heyward too and that would be a shame and grossly unfair to the man.

Picking the Winners: Cy Young

November 1, 2010

Barring a rain out, the World Series ends this week and baseball goes from games to votes. I guess that’s appropriate as election day is tomorrow. So in the spirit of those two events, I thought I’d weigh in on who I think will win this season’s baseball awards.

First, a couple of comments. I’m really bad at this. Mostly I get them wrong, but I’m trying to figure out who a bunch of writers are going to pick. Which is the second point. As a rule the writers don’t have a clue about this kind of thing, so it’s difficult to second guess them. I’m doing the Cy Young first so I’ve got to figure out who the writers will pick based on a handful of observations and a lot of looking at the papers (or internet). One thing I’ve noticed about these guys (and almost all are guys–I suppose there’s a gal in there somewhere) is that they seem to have no concept of the new sabermetric stats. They think WAR is what’s going on in Afghanistan and that WHIP is what you put on pumpkin pie (or alternatively goes with chains). So that means they put an extraordinary emphasis on the traditional stats of Wins, Strikeouts, and ERA. Those aren’t bad stats to use, but they’re not all-inclusive. For that matter, no set is all-inclusive, but it seems to me that the more you look at, the better picture you get.

So here we go:

NL: Roy Halladay. This one I think is easy and I’m fairly confident I got it right.

AL: C. C. Sabathia. This one is a bit more dicey. But because the three triple crown stats were split among three pitchers I think the writers will go with the combination of most wins and leading a team to the playoffs to reward Sabathia with this year’s award.

I’m not saying either is the best choice, but only that these are the choices I think will be made. Agree? Disagree?