Friday, July 18, 2014

American League Midseason Award Winners and Predictions

With the second half of the MLB season set to start today, bloggers legally have to get their midseason predictions posted before any game action.  Since I am a law-abiding citizen, I will follow suit.  In March, I made award predictions and I stand by them, unless I was wrong, and then I will change them.  This is very serious stuff, so let's just get into it. 

Rookie of the Year

March Prediction - Nick Castellanos
Current Favorite - Jose Abreu
New Prediction - Danny Santana
Real New Prediction - Jose Abreu

I'm going to come right out and say that I didn't pick Abreu because I didn't want him to be good.  I really don't care for the White Sox and I didn't want to admit that Abreu was a smart signing and that he would help them win games.  I also did not want to select Masahiro Tanaka because he spurned the powerful Twins for the less famous Yankees.  However, if I had picked with my head, I would have selected one of those two. 

Instead, I chose Castellanos and he currently has a .701 OPS.  I do maintain that he is still the tallest of the three and that should count for something.  He only has 23 home runs fewer than Abreu, so he's within shouting distance.  Well, at least his defense rates very poorly. 

I really want to pick Danny Santana going forward but that would be lunacy.  I think he can come back and have a fun, flashy second half, but Abreu is going to blow the rest of the rookies away.  He's going to hit 40 home runs, it's really more of a question as to whether he gets to 50.  Tanaka is hurt, so he'll likely fall out of the race, but his first half was so strong that he may still come in second in the voting. 

Cy Young Award

March Prediction - Felix Hernandez
Current Favorite - Felix Hernandez
New Prediction - Felix Hernandez, POTUS

Obviously, Felix Hernandez cannot be elected United States President.  He is not old enough or born in the United States-y enough.  However, the way he has pitched this season, you have to wonder if we'd make an exception.  With Tanaka is injured, Hernandez is the heavy favorite.  Chris Sale and Mark Buehrle are in the mix, but Hernandez is the man. 

Let's take a few minutes to recognize Hernandez's ridiculous career.  2014 would be his third season with an ERA+ over 170, meaning he was 70% better than a league-average pitcher.  Here's the list of active pitchers who have had an ERA+ of 170 or better with at least 200 innings pitched in the American League:
  • Zack Greinke - 2009 - 205 ERA+
  • Johan Santana - 2004 - 182 ERA+
  • Hernandez - 2010 - 174 ERA+
  • Justin Verlander - 2011 - 172 ERA+
  • Hernandez - 2009 - 171 ERA+
Note the only guy on that list twice and therefore, the only guy with a shot at making it a third time. 

Hernandez has started at least 30 games in each season since 2006, with the only exception in his career being his rookie year (2005) when he was 19 years old.  Four pitchers have made at least 250 starts since 2006:  Verlander, James Shields, Jered Weaver and Hernandez. 

Since 2009, Hernandez has thrown 1302.2 innings and has an ERA of 2.77.  In the American League.  Here's a list of AL pitchers who have thrown over 1300 innings since 2009:
  • Hernandez - 1302.2 IP
  • Verlander - 1301.0 IP
That's it.  Verlander's ERA is 3.23 over that span. 

Hernandez hasn't allowed more than a hit per inning since 2007.  In fact, he's allowed just 8.1 hits per nine innings over almost 1700 innings since 2007.  Here's a list of AL pitchers who have thrown over 1500 innings and have a H/9 lower than 8.5:
  • Felix Hernandez
  • Justin Verlander
Hernandez has struck out 1264 batters and walked just 335 in 2009.  Here's a list of AL pitchers with at least 1200 strikeouts and fewer than 350 walks since 2009:
  • Felix Hernandez
Hernandez has given up just 85 home runs since 2009.  Here's a list of AL pitchers who have thrown over 1100 innings and allowed fewer than 100 home runs:
  • Felix Hernandez
His strikeout rate has improved in each of the last seven seasons.  His strikeout-to-walk ratio has improved in each of the last seven seasons.  I could go on and on and on and on and on...

Of course, none of this justifies his selection for the Cy Young in 2014, but I can back that up too!  He leads the AL in pitcher WAR.  He's second in ERA to Chris Sale (2.08 for Sale and 2.12 for Hernandez), but Felix has thrown almost 50 more innings.  He has started the most games in the AL, he's second in innings pitched, his strikeout and walk rates are 7th in the AL, he's 6th in K/BB ratio, his H/9 is 3rd, his HR/9 is 2nd, he's third in wins, 1st in winning percentage, and he has the lowest FIP. 

In summary:  he's good.


March Prediction - Mike Trout
Current Favorite - Mike Trout
New Prediction - Mike Trout, with one hand tied behind his back

While at the All-Star Game on Wednesday, a guy behind me (wearing a Tigers hat) said that Mike Trout was overrated.  I feel I reacted appropriately:

Seriously?  There's simply no way to make that claim without being the most jealous or moronic person on the planet.  Based on other things said during the game, I'm leaning toward moron.

When Miguel Cabrera won back-to-back MVP awards in 2012 and 2013, I would have selected Trout both times.  But, I would never have made the claim that Cabrera wasn't almost equally deserving.  In fact, in both years, I felt the race was extremely close and that either player was a good selection.  Even the biggest Cabrera fan on the planet has to admit that Mike Trout is anything but overrated. 

Unless Trout truly does tie his right hand behind his back, he's going to win his first MVP award in 2014.  The Angels appear to be a playoff team, so he can't get a bogus knock for that.  His numbers are outrageous and since he's been an outrageous player since his first game, there's no reason to think he'll slow down. 

Oddly enough, I distinctly remember people openly worrying about Trout this season.  On May 19, Trout was hitting "only" .263/.358/.509.  People were seriously wondering if a guy with an 870 OPS was starting to decline.  At age 22. 

Well, those days are gone.  He now leads the league in OPS+, total bases and WAR, the metric that we might just need to rename "Troutiness."  Trout leads baseball with a 5.5 fWAR (and rWAR for that matter).  Only four AL players are even in Trout's WAR stratosphere: 
This WAR dominance is despite the fact that his defense only rates as "average."  His offense is so dominant that he doesn't need defense to dominate this catch-all statistic.  Trout has produced 26 WAR since 2012, and I don't need to tell you that he's the leader in that category.  However, only two players (Robinson Cano and Andrew McCutchen) surpass 18 WAR over that span and neither of those guys reaches 20 WAR. 

In summary:  he's good too.

League Champion

March Prediction - Tampa Bay Rays
Current Favorite - Oakland Athletics
New Prediction - Oakland Athletics

Not all predictions are good.  I thought the Rays would ride their awesome pitching to a World Series in 2014.  I saw it as a last stand of sorts, with David Price likely being traded after the 2014 season.  I was wrong.  Matt Moore went down early, their young starters haven't quite put it together, their bullpen has been poor (especially with Grant Balfour's Australia-sized walk rate), and Evan Longoria is not the MVP candidate he typically is. 

That said, if their pitching can improve, they could get back in the race.  The AL East is kind of sucky and the Rays' pitchers appear to be the victims of some bad luck.  Even so, I'm hitching my wagon to the Oakland Athletics.

The A's have an MVP candidate in Josh Donaldson.  They have an excellent lineup with a manager who is willing to put his players in the best position to score runs and win games.  They have four starters who currently have an ERA+ better than 120.  They have three relievers who currently have an ERA under 2.15.  They might have the best closer in baseball, as Sean Doolittle currently has a strikeout-to-walk ratio over 30. 

The A's have the most balanced team in baseball and I think they win the AL and the World Series in 2014.  The AL West is a monster division, home to three realistic playoff teams, the AL MVP and AL CY Young winner.  It would be very fun to see the A's, Angels and Mariners all make the playoffs despite the fact that they have to play each other seemingly every other day.  That's all the predicting I can do right now; I hope you got your fill.  Have a great weekend, everyone!


  1. Three things -

    1. The sustained level of success King Felix has had since 2007 or so is very, very impressive. He is the best argument out there for those that support de-emphasizing wins as a pitching statistic, but that being said, now that he actually has some run support (see below), he will finally win 20+ games. His dominance reminds me of that of Sandy Koufax in the mid 1960's.

    2. Trout is the finest player in baseball right now, hands down, no doubt. Couldn't agree more. However, if I had an MVP vote, I'd give it to Robinson Cano of the Mariners. Last year, the Mariners won only 71 games. This year at the All Star Break, they've won 51, and will surely win well more than twenty more games. The Mariners have basically the same cast as last year, except with a new manager and one key new addition - Cano. He's not as good as Trout, no doubt (poetry!), but without Cano, the Mariners probably would not be in the playoff conversation today. Without Trout, I believe the Angels still would be. I guess it's just a question of exactly what MVP means.

    3. Living in the East Bay, I watch a lot of A's baseball, go to 8-10 games every year, and they are my second favorite team (or even 1B, perhaps). They are a lot of fun to watch. I am worried about them in the second half, however. Their offense in the first half thrived on drawing walks and then following them with big hits. Opposing pitchers over the past couple of weeks have wised up to this, and haven't been giving up the walks. The A's have still won several of these games, but have become reliant on home runs and opponents' fielding errors to get runs across the plate. Also, of late, it has felt like all of their hitters save for Stephen Vogt and Brandon Moss have been mired in deep slumps. They have the deepest starting rotation in all of baseball, with two very capable Big League starters in Triple A should any injuries occur (Milone and Pomerantz), so that part of the equation is fine, but I'm not sure they'll stay ahead of the Angels. The Angels are bound to cool off a bit, but aren't going to stop hitting any time soon.

    1. I actually thought about picking the Angels for the AL and the WS, but ultimately, I prefer the A's pitching. I think the two best AL teams are in California, and I'm not sure any other team is all that close.

      I agree that Cano has been very valuable, but I'm not sure the Mariners would be as good as they are without Kyle Seager's emergence this year. He was good last year, but now he's fantastic. Oddly, he might be the second best Seager down the line, as his little brother Corey could be even better.

  2. The state of California baseball is better than it ever has been. It looks very likely that four of the five California MLB teams will be in the playoffs.

    I do believe that both of those Seagers are better than Bob Seger.

    As for the A's, they sure hit well today. The Angels are really keeping pace with them - it's amazing to watch - and as Tony LaRussa said the other day, this pennant race will really benefit whomever emerges victorious, as they'll have been in playoff mode the entire way down the stretch and in the right mode once the postseason hits.

    1. I think there is a better than decent chance that two California teams play in the World Series. I think that four of the five best teams in baseball are in California (Washington being the fifth).