Posts Tagged ‘Miguel Cabrera’

Nine Random Thoughts on the 2015 Season (Country Music Version)

October 8, 2015
Albert Pujols as a Cardinal

Albert Pujols as a Cardinal

As baseball plays nine innings in a game, it seems reasonable to look at the just concluded regular season by noting nine more or less random aspects of it to the tune of some Country Music titles and lines.

1 Back in the Saddle Again.  There were a lot of team surprises this season for fans who hadn’t seen their team win in a long time. The Mets and Rangers, who’d done good work earlier in the century returned to prominence. No one expected them to win their division, but here they are getting ready for playoff games. Same is true of the Astros, who only a couple of years ago were the worst team in MLB (and just broke a six year run of losing seasons). And while we’re at it don’t forget the Yankees weren’t supposed to be very good this year (and Joe Girardi will still get no credit). You could say that the AL playoff game might have been the surprise game of the year. And my son is happy to see his Twins get above .500 for the first time in a while.

2. He’ll Have to Go. Last season Matt Williams was National League Manager of the Year. This season he got fired. Strange how that works, isn’t it?

3. Don’t Worry About Me. It was great to see the return of Albert Pujols to something like his old self. OK, it was only for half a year, but it reminded us just how good Pujols was in St. Louis and why Anaheim paid so much to get him.

4. Please Help Me I’m Falling. What happened in Detroit and in DC? Both were picked to do well and both collapsed. Detroit could at least argue that the players who weren’t hurt got old. Washington couldn’t argue that. Considering everything, including picking up Papelbon, the Nationals gave an entirely new meaning to “choke.”

5. With Every Heartbeat I Still Think of You. Although no one ascended to Mount Rushmore heights, a lot a milestones were reached this season. David Ortiz picked up his 500th home run, Albert Pujols slugged his 560th, Clayton Kershaw became the first pitcher in 10 years to notch 300 strikeouts, Zack Greinke’s ERA was Gibsonesque (is that a word?), Ichiro Suzuki got within one halfway decent season of 3000 hits (and he pitched an inning), and Alex Rodriguez, like Suzuki, got within one season of a milestone. In Rodriguez’s case it’s 700 home runs (stated without reference to steroids and without intending to spark debate about either Rodriquez or steroids).

6. Trailers for Sale or Rent. I don’t remember a trade deadline that was so meaningful to so many. Hamels, Cespedes and Tulowitzki were key to the championship runs of the Rangers, the Mets, and the Blue Jays. And Latos was one of the things that came close to costing the Dodgers their shot at a pennant. There have surely been more meaningful deadlines but I can’t remember any recently. Feel free to correct me if you do remember a recent one.

7. Am I That Easy to Forget?  Miguel Cabrera is one heck of a ballplayer, isn’t he? He just won his fourth batting title and no one noticed. The four wins puts him in some elite company.  Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Rod Carew, and Wade Boggs are the only American Leaguers with more than four batting titles. Cabrera’s home run total was way down this year and maybe his period as a power hitter has come to an end, but he can still hit. Of course there are a lot of other superior ball players giving the game a try right now. One of those is Adrian Beltre, and you can also say a lot of the above about him. His home run total was also down, but try and imagine the Rangers in the playoffs without him.

8. One by one, they’re turning out the lights. If all those players who reached, or got within reach, of the milestones mentioned in #5 above, have gotten to those milestones, it means that we’re seeing the end approaching for a number of truly fine players (Kershaw and Greinke excepted–they’re still in mid-career). That’s a shame. All of them have given fans wonderful (and sometimes not so wonderful) memories. For some it’s a short wait for a call from Cooperstown. For others it’s a longer wait and possibly a call that never comes. But you gotta admit, they were and are great to watch.

9. Poor, Poor Pitiful Me. This has been a year of absolutely dominant pitchers. Sometimes you can’t help but feel sorry for the hitters. And you know, Dodgers left-handers whose last names start with “K” are pretty good, aren’t they?

On to postseason.

A Year’s End 9 Inning Celebration

December 31, 2013

So the year is ending, is it? Well, good riddance to bad rubbish. In many ways 2013 was a lousy year. The weather, the politics, the expenses, my wife broke a leg (which is now healed fine). But baseball provided some good moments. Here, in honor of nine innings and in no particular order, are some moments, both good and bad, that I remember.

1. The Dodgers made the playoffs and promptly hashed it. If you’re a Dodgers fan like me, this is a good sign.

2. The Miguel Cabrera/Mike Trout controversy stayed around. Isn’t it great that there are two players this quality in the Major Leagues today so we can debate the meaning of greatness?

3. Biogenesis. Who ever heard of them? I wish the whole PED issue would just go away, but I know it won’t.

4. Mariano Rivera did finally go away. That’s the wrong kind of going away. Never a Yankees fan, but it was a joy to watch Rivera perform. He was good, he had class, he had style. Name five other players you can say all that about.

5. The Red Sox won the World Series. OK, I’m not a BoSox fan either, but they’re a good team, a good organization, and David Ortiz is one heck of a hitter.

6. Clayton Kershaw proved why it’s now alright to mention his name in the same breath as you mention Sandy Koufax’s.

7. Albert Pujols proved mortal again. I hope it’s not the end of the line for the finest first baseman I ever saw.

8. Mike Matheny got his Cardinals to the World Series. Finally he can begin to move out from under Tony LaRussa’s shadow.

9. The Hall of Fame put in Deacon White and Jacob Ruppert, both of which I’d been pushing for, but left out everybody else except an ump and three managers. Are you kidding?

Hopefully, you have your own list of nine. These are mine. May you have a better 2014 than you had a 2013.

2012 Awards: MVP

November 1, 2012

Lefty Grove, 1st AL winner of the modern MVP Award holding the 1931 MVP trophy

Part three of this series looks at the MVP award.

NL–There seems to be a building consensus that this is Buster Posey’s award. OK, fine by me. Posey led the NL in average (and tied for first in sacrifice flies), was second in OBP, fourth in slugging, and sixth in RBIs. That’s a good enough season, but it’s not overwhelming. Ryan Braun, in particular, had an equally fine season. I know he will be punished for the steroid allegations. But remember he beat those and without reference to how he did  so, he is to be considered innocent. That won’t matter, he’ll still be stiffed. Melky Cabrera has the same problem, although there’s no question of his guilt. So I have no real problem with Posey winning, but if that’s the most valuable season in the Nl, then it wasn’t a great year for individual play in the NL (as opposed to great team play). Having said that, if I had a vote, it would go to Posey.

AL–Nearly everyone agrees this is a two-man race: Miguel Cabrera vs Mike Trout. I have no idea which will actually win, but my guess is there are enough traditionalists voting that the Triple Crown will push Cabrera over the top. I would vote that way myself.

There seem to be two arguments for Trout. One revolves around the stat WAR. In researching this post I read everything I could find on WAR that explained how it worked, what it showed. I found two problems with it. First, there seem to be two versions of the stat and I’m supposed to bow down before the baseball god that WAR has become when I don’t know which version to bow before? Gimme a break. Second, most of those articles included a sentence that went about like this, “WAR is flawed, but…”. And it’s the word “flawed” that bothers me. In the last half-dozen or so years WAR has become the queen of stats. Lead in WAR and you’re somehow a baseball god. But if experts admit it’s flawed why use it more than any other stat (all of which are flawed) as the be-all, end-all of statistics? This is not an indictment of WAR as a statistic, but an indictment of the idea that because someone leads his league in WAR, or average, or OBP, or OPS+ or God knows what else, that it automatically qualifies him for MVP. 

Another part of the WAR argument is that a 10.7 WAR is so rare that it merits an MVP. Any feat that is particularly difficult to accomplish must be worth more than one that’s at least a bit more common. If you buy that argument, then you vote for Cabrera. Trout is tied for 20th (with Willie Mays and Ted Williams) on the yearly WAR list (according to Baseball Reference). Know how many times someone won the Triple Crown in the entire 20th Century? Try 13 (and two more in the 19th Century). Apparently it’s harder to win the Triple Crown than it is to post 10.7 WAR.

The other argument for Trout deals with his impact on his team.The argument goes like this.  His team was floundering. They were supposed to be good, but they were having a rough time. So they brought up a player to fill in a key defensive position and the team went nuts, putting up winning numbers. That’s a good story, but it’s also the story of Pete Kozma at St. Louis, of Marco Scutaro at San Francisco and to some extent Brandon Inge at Oakland. No one (including me) has any of the latter three in the debate over the MVP. At least Kozma, Scutaro, and Inge helped their particular team to the playoffs. My point is that Trout did indeed provide a  spark to his team but so did other players. If your premise is that Trout showed up and helped a floundering team and that’s the sole reason you want Trout as MVP, it’s just not enough in my eyes. Trout may have been a better player than either Kozma or Scutaro, but I’m not sure he was more valuable. I understand that both Kozma and Scutaro were in the other league, but I  want to make the point that just revitalizing your team may not be enough to make you the MVP, especially if someone has great numbers and a winning team.

I know others will tell me I’m wrong (they’re entitled to make a mistake 🙂 ). But that’s my position. I’d vote for Cabrera and I hope the MVP voters do also.

One question about WAR about which I couldn’t find an answer. Is the replacement level player pool recalculated yearly? For instance in 1924 that level would include a guy named Gehrig. Today it wouldn’t. Does that make a difference?

Top of the World

October 18, 2012

Triple Crown winner Chuck Klein with a bunch of bats

So far I’ve said little about Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown. I tend to worry more about old-time baseball than about the current season, but congratulations are certainly in order. With Detroit still alive in the playoffs he has a chance to do something that’s only been done twice.

Over the years a hitting Triple Crown has been accomplished 16 times. Only twice has the Triple Crown winners team also won the World Series. Here’s a quick review of each Triple Crown winner and where his team finished.

1878–Paul Hines won the Triple Crown for Providence. They finished third in the National League.

1887–Tip O’Neill won the Triple Crown for St. Louis of the American Association (a major league at the time). The team finished first and played a 15 game postseason series against Detroit of the National League (sort of a  primitive World Series). They lost 10 games to 5.

1901–Napoleon LaJoie won the Triple Crown for the Philadelphia Athletics. They finished fourth in the fledgling American League.

1909–Ty Cobb won the Triple Crown at Detroit. The Tigers dropped the World Series to Pittsburgh in seven games.

1922 and 1925–Rogers Hornsby won the Triple Crown while with St. Louis. The Cardinals finished third in 1922 and fourth in 1925. Hornsby became the only player to win a Triple Crown and hit .400 in the same season. He did it both times.

1933–both leagues had a Triple Crown winner (only time that’s happened). Chuck Klein won the NL Triple Crown for the seventh place Phillies, while Jimmie Foxx won the AL Triple Crown for the third place Athletics. As a bit of trivia, both Triple Crown winners played in Philadelphia.

1934–Lou Gehrig won the Triple Crown in one of the few years the Yankees didn’t finish first. They finished second.

1937–Joe Medwick won the last NL Triple Crown for the Cardinals. They rewarded him with a fourth place finish.

1942 and 1947–Ted Williams won the Triple Crown in both seasons. His Boston team finished second in ’42 and third in ’47.

1956–Mickey Mantle became the second Yankee Triple Crown winner and first Triple Crown winner to have his team (the Yankees) win the World Series.

1966–Frank Robinson became the second (with Baltimore). Robinson also became the first (and so far only) black player to win a Triple Crown. 

1967 –Carl Yastrzemski won the Triple Crown with Boston, but the Red Sox lost the World Series in seven games to the Cardinals.

Pitching Triple Crown winners are both more common and have won more frequently. Here’s a list of the pitchers who won both the pitching Triple Crown and the World Series (1800s version or modern version): Tommy Bond in 1877 (there was no postseason play that season but Bond’s Boston team took first place in the regular season), Charles Radbourne in 1884, Tim Keefe in 1888, Christy Mathewson in 1905, Walter Johnson in 1924, Lefty Grove in 1930, Lefty Gomez in 1937, Hal Newhouser in 1945, Sandy Koufax in both 1963 and 1965.

All that indicates that winning a Triple Crown (either variety) is no predictor of success in the postseason. Still, I think I’d rather win one than not.

2011 AL MVP

October 5, 2011

If you haven’t already done so, take a second and head over to the On Deck Circle blog (listed at right). Bill Miller has a fine, well reasoned article looking at the 2011 candidates for the MVP in the American League. He concludes it should be Miguel Cabrera.

Now here’s the thing. I agree with him on who should win. But I have this feeling that Cabrera won’t win. I look for him to come in third or lower. I think, in this post-steroids (I hope) era, Cabrera’s off field problems will weigh against him.  I also don’t think the writers will simply overlook Curtis Granderson of the Yankees. He plays for the most famous and important team in the AL and this season he was their best player. I think that will get him votes and I look for him to come in second. But I believe the winner will be Justin Verlander of Detroit. The last time a pitcher won the AL MVP was Dennis Eckersley in 1992. The last starter to win it was way back in 1986 when Roger Clemens won, and before that go back to 1971 when Vida Blue won. And the National League is even worse with Bob Gibson being the last winner in 1968. There have been worthy candidates in other years (Steve Carlton in 1972 comes to mind–he finished fifth), but the general comment has been “but they’ve got a Cy Young Award for pitchers”, as if a pitcher cannot be “most valuable” to his team. I think this year Verlander’s season has been so outstanding the writers will take the opportunity to rectify this.

With any kind of luck I’ll be wrong, but I won’t hold my breath.

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.