Posts Tagged ‘Baseball Bloggers Alliance’

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Next week, the Baseball Writers Association of America’s submission for the 2014 class of the Baseball Hall of Fame will be revealed, and while it is certain to not be a second consecutive shutout, what is still quite hazy is who how many supplicants will be allowed into the membership in Cooperstown.

While that picture is steadily building more and more momentum, as more and more ballots are beginning to be revealed, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance has jumped out the gates and revealed whom they feel is worthy of the induction into baseball’s most exclusive (or perhaps more fittingly, elusive) club.

A group of 91 online writers assembled to follow the same requests that are made of the BWAA: a full ballot of all the eligible Hall of Fame candidates, with a maximum of 10 votes per ballot and a minimum of none. The results were revealed on Monday morning, and for the second consecutive year, the results were quite diverse, however at least showed one solid consensus.

What’s coming up is not my vote as a member of the Alliance; I will explain that in full next week. Rather, it is a summary of what this year’s BAA vote reflects, shows in comparison from last year and what, if any, forecasting it provides for what’s to come next week.

The Results

Here is what the final vote showed by the numbers of the full candidate listing:

Greg Maddux—94.51%

Frank Thomas—80.22%

Tom Glavine—75.82%

Mike Piazza—72.53%

Craig Biggio—70.33%

Jeff Bagwell—64.84%

Barry Bonds—60.44%

Roger Clemens—59.34%

Tim Raines—54.95%

Edgar Martinez—41.76%

Curt Schilling—39.56%

Mike Mussina—32.97%

Alan Trammell—30.77%

Jack Morris—25.27%

Mark McGwire—21.98%

Larry Walker—17.58%

Jeff Kent—15.38%

Lee Smith—14.29%

Don Mattingly—9.89%

Fred McGriff—8.79%

Rafael Palmeiro—7.69%

Sammy Sosa, Moises Alou, Eric Gagne, Luis Gonzalez, Sean Casey, Kenny Rogers, Richie Sexson, J.T. Snow, Armando Benitez, Ray Durham, Jacque Jones, Todd Jones, Paul Lo Duca, Hideo Nomo, Mike Timlin all received less than 5% of the vote and would be dropped from the actual ballot as a result.

The In-Crowd

The easy pick of the year ran away with it, and that was Greg Maddux. The 360 game, four-time Cy Young winner picked up 94.5% of the vote, which is about as strong of a showing as could be expected, yet still seems to be a low total in all reality. There is reasonable rumbling that Maddux could be the first unanimous selection in the history of the vote, and while that seems to be slightly far-fetched, the number that the BBA showed is surprising. There is no strike against Maddux’s career, nor any achievement that he did not conquer. And since he is without a doubt making a one-and-done appearance on the ballot, this is the only time to see how his impact will be felt in the forum.

After Maddux, Frank Thomas had the strongest showing, topping 80% of the vote in his first appearance. The two-time American League MVP, member of the 500 home run club and career .300 hitter should be expected to make such as strong showing. There have been some questions about whether he will make it in on the writer’s upcoming vote, with concerns levied against his status as mostly a designated hitter, the mid-career production/healthy swoon he dealt with, as well as the unavoidable suspicion of association as hitter who made his bones in the mid-90’s. But the showing for Thomas is one of a fair level in many regards, and could be the closest to the actual vote showing between the BWAA and BAA this year.

The third and final player that met the 75% required threshold was Glavine, who is perhaps the greatest #2 pitcher of all-time. Despite spending much of his prime as the second bullet out of the chamber for the loaded Braves rotation, Glavine twice won the Cy Young Award himself and was the World Series MVP in Atlanta’s sole victory during their run. Glavine barely slid over the line, and he is likely to be the most borderline candidate of the year next week as well. He hit the 300 win mark, which is virtually assures that he’ll reach the Hall much sooner than later, and it is tough to argue against him the first time around either. Perhaps the fact that he finished with a career ERA over 3.50 (high by most HOF standards) and carries the stigma of never having been “the man” for his team drops him down some. It will be an interesting showing for if Thomas or Glavine has the better showing among the premier first-timers this year.

Just A Bit Outside

Of the members that came up short, the continued divide among the opinion of performance enhancing drug users remains clear. Both Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens kept similar representation on their second ballot as they did a year ago, however both are headed in different directions currently. Bonds dropped from 62% to 60.4% this year, while Clemens also saw a two percent gain up to 58%. Bonds finished fourth last year, but drops to seventh this season, while Clemens sees his place drop to eighth, despite the stronger showing.

A year ago, Jeff Bagwell was the only player that gained 75% vote required, but surprisingly drops down 12% this year and into the sixth place on the ballot. He is no doubt a victim of a much more impressive ballot, as well as a more spread about cast of veterans as well. Tim Raines also fell into this category, coming up 8% lower than he did a year ago and dropping out of the top 5 after an encouraging showing in 2012.

Otherwise, the top of the ballot has been a case of the tortoises instead of the hares. Mike Piazza had the steadiest carryover from 2012 to 2013, has he improved from 69% to 72% and remained within the top five overall. Craig Biggio, who had the best showing of any returning candidate from the BWAA ballot, where he appeared at 68.2%, came up short again on the blogger vote, but saw a 1% increase from a year ago.

Of other note is the extreme decline of Sammy Sosa’s sentiment (a 17% drop off), Edgar Martinez cornering his own market once again (a repeat at 41%) and a not-so surprising marginal face-off between Curt Schilling and Jack Morris once again.

Of the first timers that will remain represented, yet were not meet election criteria, Mike Mussina had the best showing, but was at only a paltry 32% vote.

What Does It All Mean?

In the end, there has not been a regular strong correlation between the BBA and BWAA vote. The BBA put in Jeff Bagwell last year, yet Andre Dawson did not meet the approval of the bloggers when he did so for the writers in 2010. Yet simulataneously, both entities agreed on the exclusion, then inclusion of Roberto Alomar in 2010 and 2011, respectively and the induction of Barry Larkin in 2012.

The writers have been much harder on the PED involved players all the way to a nearly 30% difference in opinion on Bonds and Clemens between the group. Mark McGwire hasn’t topped over 25% for either entity either.

The shared sentiment on marginal and guilt association has blurred the lines of achievement on both ballots, but one similarity that is likely to carry over with both this year is simple: the debates of years past will no doubt continue to carry into the years to come in regards to cautiously awarding final greatness in Cooperstown—whether virtual or reality.

For more on the Hall of Fame and baseball’s Decision Day in real time, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

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One of the great debates of any year is what exactly is “most valuable”. Does it mean the player with the best numbers, the one that made the most irreplaceable difference or the best player on the best team? Every year there is a case for each type of candidate for the award, however in this year’s National League, there is more variety than ever before.

There are the candidates with the raw power numbers, as well as those with the balance of impact across the board. In the same vein, there are the engines that pushed the league’s best teams, as well as those that had major seasons, but couldn’t quite pull their team along with them. Also, there were those that made major impacts on the pennant chase, but did so around injury. Yet then, there were those that had such a unique touch across the board, which numbers alone can’t quite account for it all.

Yes, it was a grab bag year from the National League’s best, but in the end, the most all-encompassing impact comes from the player who’s impact simply blanketed not only every game he participated in, but also the rest of the fortune of not only his club, but the approach of every team that faced them.

2013 Stan Musial Most Valuable Player—Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals

World Series - Boston Red Sox v St Louis Cardinals - Game Three

The Numbers: .319, 12 HR, 80 RBI, 161 hits, 68 runs, 44 2B, 3 SB, .836 OPS, 5.7 WAR

What Yadier Molina brings to the St. Louis Cardinals simply crosses over just what he does at the plate or how many snap throws he makes on would be base runners. Because it could be argued that there is a player that impacts the game in more ways than Molina does, but it would be a losing debate. Ranging from what could be the finest glove in the game, to the game’s best quarterback behind the plate and concluding with a bat that carries its own weight as well, there’s literally nowhere to escape Yadi’s grasp.

If you are a raw numbers guy, Molina is not your man. Likewise, for the mathematical baseball crowd, he won’t be thrilling either. Yet, for a dye in the wool baseball guy, Molina had a season that was of epic proportions. This was not always the case, but now Molina has become among the more consistent hitters in the game. He finished fourth in the NL batting average, second in doubles and struck out a mere 55 times in 541 plate appearances. With runners in scoring position, he turned it up to a .373 clip.

Behind the plate, he was once again the measuring stick for all catchers, throwing out 43% of the few runners that challenged him on the bases and allowing a paltry three passed balls in over 1115 innings caught. One of the toughest feats in sports is to quantify the value of a catcher in calling a game, but it was there in-between the lines that he had his defining impact. Tasked with a pitching staff that lost three of its projected Opening Day starters in the first half of the year, as well as its first two closers shortly thereafter, he worked wonders behind the plate. By the end of the year, he made a staff that deployed 12 rookies across the year into a 96-win team, who finished in the top five in NL ERA and opponent average against. By their own acclimation, the success of Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha and Trevor Rosenthal was tied to “throwing whatever Yadi put down.” And all of this was a bonus to stellar return to form that Adam Wainwright authored following his lead as well.

The individual numbers at the plate do tell a great story, yet in the terms of “most valuable” the story can go far beyond one component of man’s year. And Yadier Molina touched more parts of the success of the National League’s best team than any other, and in that, he defined every definition of the award’s purpose this summer. Those 96 wins say more about what Molina pulled off than the average, RBI and Gold Glove say combined. Sometimes, less truly is more–especially in the ultimate game of inches.

The Rest

2. Andrew McCutchen-Pirates: .317, 20 HR, 84 RBI, 185 hits, 97 runs, 31 2B, 27 SB, .911 OPS, 8.2 WAR

Another whose impact was bigger than his numbers showed, the numbers were lower in several areas for The Cutch than they were a year ago, but his 2013 effort led the Pirates back to prosperity. Along the way, he finished in the top 10 in three in the NL in hits, on-base percentage and hit .339 after the All-Star Break.

3. Paul Goldschmidt-Diamondbacks: .302, 36 RBI, 125 RBI, 182 hits, 103 runs, 36 2B, 15 SB, .952 OPS, 7.0 WAR

Goldschmidt gave the stat sheet the Thanksgiving turkey treatment all summer, leading the NL in RBI, tying for the circuit lead in home runs and finishing in the top three in four other categories as well.

4. Matt Carpenter-Cardinals: .318, 11 HR, 78 RBI, 199 hits, 126 runs, 55 2B, 3 SB, .873 OPS, 6.6 WAR

Carpenter’s breakout season provided the spark to the Cardinal punch. He led the NL in hits, runs and doubles, as well as double plays turned in his first season at second base.

5. Freddie Freeman-Braves: .319, 23 HR, 109 RBI, 176 hits, 89 runs, 27 2B, 1 SB, .897 OPS, 5.5 WAR

Freeman was perhaps the most underrated player in baseball this season. Along the way, he finished third in both RBI and average, and was elected to his first All-Star Game.

6. Clayton Kershaw-Dodgers: 16-9, 1.83 ERA, 236 IP, 232 Ks/52 BB, 3 CG/2 SHO, 0.92 WHIP, .195 BAA

7. Hanley Ramirez-Dodgers: .345, 20 HR, 57 RBI, 105 hits, 62 runs, 25 2B, 10 SB, 1.040 OPS, 5.4 WAR

8. Joey Votto-Reds: .305, 24 HR, 73 RBI, 177 hits, 101 runs, 30 2B, 6 SB, .926 OPS, 6.4 WAR

9. Allen Craig-Cardinals: .315, 13 HR, 97 RBI, 160 hits, 71 runs, 29 2B, 2 SB, .830 OPS, 2.3 WAR

10. Jayson Werth-Nationals: .318, 25 HR, 82 RBI, 147 hits, 84 runs, 24 2B, 10 SB, .931 OPS, 4.8 WAR

Here it is, the full run of the CHEAP SEATS’ Baseball Bloggers Alliance Award rundown—the Award Tour.

Stan Musial Most Valuable Player Award

National League—Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals

American League—Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

Walter Johnson Pitcher of the Year Award

National League—Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

American League—Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers

Connie Mack Manager of the Year Award

National League—Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates

American League—John Farrell, Boston Red Sox

Willie Mays Rookie of the Year Award

National League—Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins

American League—Wil Myers, Tampa Bay Rays

Goose Gossage Relief Pitcher of the Year Award

National League—Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves

American League—Koji Uehara, Boston Red Sox

The week here in the CHEAP SEATS has been dedicated to chronicling the best of the best from 2013 Major League Baseball season. Now at the end, it is time for business to pick up, because now its time to get down to an award that’s named for simply the most dominant pitcher of all-time.

While Cy Young gets a rightfully respectful nod in the award that bears his name, he was simply no Walter Johnson. The Big Train won 476 games, while carrying a 2.17 ERA and an untouchable record of 110 shutouts. Basically, if there’s going to be an award given for a flash of pitching excellence, the honor of association should be with him. And this season, while the best pitcher in Johnson’s former league of affiliation did not record a single shutout, there was nobody else that oppressed AL lineups nearly as effectively as he did.

2013 American League Walter Johnson Pitcher of the Year: Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers

MaxScherzer_Image

The Numbers: 21-3, 2.90 ERA, 214.1 IP, 240 K/56 BB, 0.97 WHIP, 0 CG/0 SHO, .198 BAA

Perfection.

It is not something that meets the pitching mound often, yet when Max Scherzer reached his 13th win, and had not yet suffered his first loss, it was clear it was beyond time to pay attention to the special summer he was authoring. When he took the mound to start the All-Star Game in July, it was clear he had stepped out of the shadow of Justin Verlander and was not only the best arm in Detroit, but he had become among the best in all of baseball.

Gone were the days where high pitch counts and careless fastballs curtailed his clearly superior fastball and biting slider combo. This summer, while he more effectively unleashed his change-up, he evolved from a strikeout pitcher only (he’s topped 230 K’s the past two summers) and had become among the stingiest arms in the game, as he was one of only two pitchers to allow less than one runner per inning in baseball. This control over the game allowed him to become one of three pitchers to ever post a 19-1 record.

There’s a growing idea that the win is an overrated statistic for measuring the effectiveness of a pitcher, and to a certain extent, there is some truth to that. Yet Scherzer’s fantastic 2013 saw him factor into the decision in all but eight games he started, and the Tigers as a team turn in a 25-7 record on days he took the mound, with him personally being credited with 23 of them. That’s the type of dominance that proves it’s still all about the W, especially when it so often is tied to one man’s impact. And nobody made the impact more often than Scherzer did this summer.

The Rest:

2. Yu Darvish—Rangers: 13-9, 2.83 ERA, 209.2 IP, 277 K/80 BB, 1.07 WHIP, 0 CG/0 SHO, .194 BAA

The irony is that Darvish, who carried a perfect game through 26 outs and saw another no-hit bid end in the seventh inning, didn’t finish with a single complete game or shutout. But what is clear is that he was the most oft-dominant AL pitcher this season; his 277 strikeouts were the most in the league in 14 years.

3. Bartolo Colon-Athletics: 18-6, 2.65 ERA, 190.1 IP, 117 K/29 BB, 1.17 WHIP, 3 CG/3 SHO, .264 BAA

The continually evolving Colon put up the most shockingly effective season of his career at age 40. Colon posted the lowest ERA of his career throwing fastball’s 90% of the time, and keeping batters off their bases. He won 11 games in the first half, and tied for the AL lead with three shutouts.

4. Koji Uehara—Red Sox: 4-1, 1.09 ERA, 74.1 IP, 101 K/9 BBs, 0.57 WHIP, 21 Saves/13 Holds, .130 BAA

Uehara’s dominant season transcended just the confines of relief work, and made him the most effective pitcher in all of baseball. His impact on the year was more properly honored in the Goose Goosage Award summary.

5. Hisashi Iwakuma—Mariners: 14-6, 2.66 ERA, 219.2 IP, 185 K/42 BB, 1.01 WHIP, 0 CG/0 SHO, .220 BAA

There may not be a more infuriating pitcher in all of baseball than Iwakuma. He throws at least five different pitches that he combines with a deceptive motion and precise control. He finished second in the AL in ERA.

6. Anibal Sanchez—Tigers: 14-10, 2.57 ERA, 182 IP, 202 K/54 BB, 1.15 WHIP, 1 CG/1 SHO, .229 BAA

7. Chris Sale—White Sox: 11-14, 3.07 ERA, 214.1 IP, 226 K/46 BB, 1.07 WHIP, 4 CG/1 SHO, .230 BAA

8. Felix Hernandez—Mariners: 12-10, 3.04 ERA, 204.1 IP, 216 K/46 BB, 1.13 WHIP, 0 CB/0 SHO, .242 BAA

9. Ubaldo Jimenez—Indians: 13-9, 3.30 ERA, 182.2 IP, 194 K/80 BB, 1.33 WHIP, 0 CG/0 SHO, .239 BAA

10. Justin Masterson—Indians: 14-10, 3.45 ERA, 193 IP, 195 K/76 BB, 1.20 WHIP, 3 CG/3 SHO, .222 BAA

Award season continues on the next few days here in the CHEAP SEATS, as the season’s past raps and the one to come gets its shine…

Wednesday: NL/AL Goose Gossage Relief Pitchers of the Year: Koji Uehara & Craig Kimbrel

Thursday: Willie Mays Rookies of the Year” href=”https://cheapseatsplease.wordpress.com/2013/11/07/the-award-tour-2013-nlal-willie-mays-rookies-of-the-year/”>NL/AL Willie Mays Rookies of the Year: Jose Fernandez & Wil Myers

Tomorrow: NL/AL Connie Mack Managers of the Year

Monday: NL Walter Johnson Pitcher of the Year

Tuesday: AL Stan Musial Most Valuable Player

Wednesday: NL Stan Musial Most Valuable Player

Yesterday, I took a look at the complete voting results of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance’s annual Hall of Fame ballot, and the results were, as imagined, all over the place. Six players received totals of over 50% of the vote, but in the end only Jeff Bagwell topped the 75% margin of vote that would qualify for the Cooperstown.

In a year like 2011, that would be admirable, but this year’s ballot is like none other. There’s a 354 game winner, an owner of three seasons with better than 60 home runs, a former owner of the single-season home run crown and the current holder of that distinction, as well as 762 total, the most in the history of the game.

This would make for a banner group, a Hall of Fame class worth of stand with the greats of the inaugural group. However, it will not be, because of the either direct proof or general assumption of the usage of performance enhancing drugs; PEDS. And now, on the morning of the pending announcement of the 2013 Hall of Fame class (or lack thereof), it’s time to evaluate not the credentials that got them here, but why the numbers fell against them in the predictive ballot…and what will be revealed in a few hours.

Like it or not, facing Bonds means facing a lot of truths about the era he headlined.

Like it or not, facing Bonds means facing a lot of truths about the era he headlined, as well as what is to come in Cooperstown’s future.

Barry Bonds (62%): Let’s get into the biggest debate right away: Bonds. The all-time home run king, both career (762) and season (73). The discussion on Bonds is the absolute hottest to debate of them all, because nobody is more polarizing as a figure in the moment or more constant of a reminder of what the era represented. He’s the ultimate divider mark, but as well as a unique validity debate: was he really already an HOFer before his late season launch took off? This debate is complete equator on what side of the debate you’re one, and what qualifies or disqualifies a player with PED suspicion. Here’s the Bonds breakdown:

Pre PED (1986-2000, with all-time standings):

.288 avg (422) 445 home runs (38), 1299 RBI(110), 460 steals(48), 2010 hits(265), 423 doubles(139), 3 MVPs, 8 Gold Gloves

Post PED (2000-2007, with final standings)

.322 avg (232), 317 home runs (1), 697 RBI(4), 54 steals(33), 925 hits(32), 178 doubles(14), 4 MVP, 2 Batting Titles

These are some pretty startling differences, without a doubt. Especially with the all-time home run mark, which is one of the most beloved marks of greatness in the cultural world, he’s hurt folks. But what’s important to note is that he would have hit the all of the great marks regardless, and regardless of the road (assumptively) taken to be the biggest impact player of the 00’s, he was the BEST player of the 90’s as well. That’s food for thought, and that’s why he will begrudgingly work his way in one day.

Roger Clemens (56%): As soon as I saw Bonds’ number, I immediately scanned for Clemens’ name next. To see the parallel between their vote for public opinion purposes alone is interesting. Clemens has had two startling differences in his walk; Bonds never declined, but Clemens did. After his phenomenal start, winning 136 games from 1986 to 1992, he couldn’t top 11 in a season for a the next four. However at that point he won 71% of his games, and another 149 games, starting at age 34. Tough sell, but there was a precedent for his success. What hurts his image is how much time he spent in court, and being run down in the world. It will be a tough sell, but also, his early effort would, and should carry him.

Mark McGwire (35%): I list McGwire here briefly to set up the final point in the controversy caravan. McGwire was the first test dummy for what’s about to become a multiple car crash shortly, and he’s not even gotten close on any measure of Hall of Fame eligibility and any point of being listed. He was a prolific and steady home run hitter early, but then became an iconic one later. However, perhaps the biggest mark of McGwire’s impact came after his career, when he became the only member of the 500 home run club to admit that he used PEDs in his career…which netted no bump in support at all. This both disproved the now-dispatched notion of the benefit of admitting involvement for forgiveness, as well as the point of perhaps strengthening the fight of players to withhold their truth.

The vote for Sosa spells out the diverse difference in opinion on the era.

The vote for Sosa spells out the diverse difference in opinion on the era.

Sammy Sosa (21%): The most substantial indicator of a division in opinion was the number attached to Sosa. Not sure the reasoning behind everybody else’s, but the general discussion on it aligns with my view: he was the most blatant violator of all. He went from a good player to an amazing one in the course of one winter. He jumped 30 home runs in one year, from 1997 to 1998, reaching 66 that summer and maintaining at least 49 round trippers for the next four years.

 

The situation around Sosa is that he is the direct sign of the raising effect that steroids can have on a player. His performance is the true distortion that PEDs can have in taking a player from the middle to the top. Sosa’s impact does bring on the right way to look at the era; judge it individually and with some rational approach. It’s not hard to break the difference between the right lane and the wrong one here. The blanket approach really doesn’t HAVE to apply, especially in the increasingly philosophical over sporting based world of professional baseball “remembrance”.

And it begins…

Yesterday, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance released the results of its annual membership Hall of Fame vote. And if the turn out from this one is anything like what will be released for Cooperstown on Wednesday, then it is going to be a hell of a debate going on soon. Because when all of the dust settled, the results were, for me at least stunning.

Let’s get a look at this thing, the players I threw on my ballot for will be in bold. Here are the full results of the BBBA 2013 Hall of Fame ballot:

 

Jeff Bagwell 76%

Craig Biggo 69%
Mike Piazza 69%
Barry Bonds 62%
Tim Raines 62%
Roger Clemens 56%
Edgar Martinez 41%
Alan Trammell 40%
Mark McGwire 35%
Curt Schilling 34%
Dale Murphy 32%
Larry Walker 32%
Jack Morris 32%
Lee Smith 25%

Kenny Lofton 21%
Sammy Sosa 21%
Don Mattingly 18%
Fred McGriff 15%
Rafael Palmerio 15%
Bernie Williams 4%
David Wells 4%
Sandy Alomar 3%
Julio Franco 1%

On the most star studded, yet highly morally debated HOF ballot ever, in the end, there was just one man standing…

Jeff Bagwell 76%

Bags walked the line between the steroids era and the consistent, natural domination as well as anybody.

Bags walked the line between the steroids era and the consistent, natural domination as well as anybody.

Now Bags wasn’t a surprise. He was one of the most consistent offensive players of his decade era, and had a strong showing on the ballot a year ago. He has a perfect blend for a constant showing on a ballot in today’s era: strong numbers (449 homers, 1529 RBI, 488 doubles, .297 average), some hardware (’94 MVP, ’91 ROY), as well as being the all-time face of a successful franchise, mostly due to his effort in the Astros. He jumped up from 41.7% on his first ballot in 2011, to 56% a year ago. If he jumps up another 15% this year, he’ll be standing right outside the 75% requirement door, and if he gets more votes due to sentiment against voting for others, he’ll crash the dance this year.

 

But moving along to rest of the ballot, here’s a few of the most interesting cases:

Craig Biggio (69%), Tim Raines (62%), Jack Morris (32%), Rafael Palmeiro (15%)

For the life of me, I can’t understand the issue against Biggio. He was never an MVP or World Champion, but there were very few that any better at second base than he was. He was a heart guy, which played hard (which would think to be a big plus for the moral, “soul of the game” voters. As far as surface level numbers, he’s a guarantee there: 3,000 hits (and didn’t get them by hanging around just to hit the mark either), 4 Gold Gloves, 7 All-Star Games and even the obscure honor of being hit by the most pitches ever. If anything he has more claim to being the “greatest Astro” of all-time.

Raines has had some of the strongest sentiment of any player in the last year. Last year he showed up on 57% of BBBA ballots, and on 48.7% of BBWA ballots, a strong enough showing to get others to sit up and pay attention to what he did. However, he’s been out of the game long enough that there’s a strong enough decision on his place that he won’t make a huge year-to-year jump, but is coming out the gates strong enough to take make the way in within the next five years or so.

It seems that either you’re a Jack Morris guy or you aren’t. I voted for Morris, but I later regretted the decision. He is the definition of the really great player, that isn’t Hall-worthy immortal. And apparently, there were more than a few people that saw this the same way. He showed up on 66.7% of BBWA ballots a year ago, while only 32.19% of BBBA ballots, and returned with the same number this year.

The case for Palmeiro isn’t looking good. He was as steady as anybody of his time, and hit two of the magic numbers of 3,000 hits and 500 homers, but was crushed by his involvement in the PED disaster. He showed up on 12.7% of BBWA ballots last year, and it’s hard to see that number not going lower this year.

 

The tornado of agendas around the players on the ballot could stretch the candidacy of players like Schilling out for a long time.

The tornado of agendas around the players on the ballot could stretch the candidacy of players like Schilling out for a long time.

As for the future, it’s going to be tough for Edgar Martinez to pull up his standing, just due to the stance on the validity of the DH’s true value, much in the same way it has been for Lee Smith to justify the impact of the save. With the ballot bringing on Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas and Tom Glavine next year, followed by Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez in 2014, the fringe votes are going to get tougher to get. Even while all of those guys will be no doubters, it will divide the crowd on the moral vote (Bonds, Clemens, McGwire) and the “he deserves it” crowd (Raines, Morris, Trammell) even further.

It will stretch out the candidacy of Schilling, Walker and Edgar even further, while the guys that make a strong case out the gates, such as Biggio and Piazza, will be wildly interesting to watch. As for the Bonds and Clemens case, it’s either all in or all out, and those are voter numbers that may not change much, if ever, from year to year.

As for controversy, oh there’s a ton of that to address still, and I’m going to wait until the big day to make that statement. So tomorrow in the CHEAP SEATS, we talk Bonds, Clemens, Piazza, Sosa and the slights of all slights. Stay tuned.

 

For more on the Hall of Fame saga as it unfolds, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

Can a one-man race have two people in it? Because if that can be allowed, the 2012 American League was the perfect example it with its most valuable player push. Early on, not only was there no doubt that Josh Hamilton was the best player in baseball, it was beginning to get to the point that it was time to talk about his half-season in a historical context. However, he hit a low point mid-season that opened up the door for another sensational talent to grab his place in the spotlight.

Mike Trout’s season needs no introduction, and I won’t give it another one here. But his non-stop all-around performance was so immense; it may have taken the shine from Hamilton’s effort anyway. He turned in one of the great campaigns in Major League history and made the biggest immediate impact on baseball since Ichiro and Pujols both arrived together in 2001.

These two hogged the spotlight for 90% of the year, with Adam Jones, Derek Jeter and Adrian Beltre all making their bids to crash the party as well. However, while this was going on, there was another perennial threat that was putting together his dominant year….only at a new level. There were rumblings about what he was on the verge of, and then it became clear that while the attention was on the coasts, history was going to be made in the middle, and Miguel Cabrera rightfully pulled the great MVP heist in many years.

In my final ballot for the Baseball Bloggers Alliance award season, the Stan Musial Award for AL MVP goes to an effort that was much in the vein that both Stan’s career and place in history have stood. An excellent effort, that was largely missed looking every else, until the last second.

 

2012 AL Stan Musial Award—Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

Much of the greatness of Cabrera has been slow to be realized. Somehow, he’s carved out a niche where he is among the most feared hitters in the game, but still not the most recognized. Perhaps because he hasn’t won an individual award, has bounced around a few positions and/or was so young when he won his World Series with the Florida Marlins, that it seems like a different career. But there will be no doubt that his place in the game will be not only properly noted now; it will be respected throughout history. Because in becoming the first Triple Crown winner in 45 years, and the first undisputed one in 46, he resoundingly took his place as the best hitter in the world.

But while winning the Triple Crown is the biggest feather in his cap, it’s not what definitively seals him as the MVP of the year. It’s that he was quietly the most clutch player in baseball over the season’s last two months. The Detroit Tigers were on the verge of being the most disappointing team in baseball, from an existing expectation standpoint. In July and August, he hit .344 and .357 respectively, then turned on his power stroke in September, clubbing 10 homers in the season’s final month. He put the team on his back, and kept moving faster and faster up both the standings and League Leader boards.

In the end, the Tigers won the Central and Cabrera won his second consecutive batting title, hitting .330. In the process he set a career high in RBI with 139, and jumped his final hurdle to baseball immortality when he hit his 43rd homer, ultimately finishing with 44. Outside of his key, star-aligned numbers, Cabrera also added 205 hits and 40 doubles, while his .999 on-base + slugging percentage lead the AL as well. All of this effort pulled him into immortality, the Tigers back to October has well.

And now, the name of Miguel Cabrera (who is only 29 as well), must be mentioned on equal tier with the bests of Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Joe Medwick, Frank Robinson and Carl Yastrzemski. And whether it takes five or another 45 years to pull off the three crown trick again, that’s a mountain where he’ll never be looked over again.

 

The Best of the Rest

2. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels: All that’s needed to understand how good his year was is that the precocious AL leader in steals, runs scored and Wins Above Replacement had such a strong debut it cast doubt over the validity of the Triple Crown as being the measuring stick of absolute excellence.

3. Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers: If Hamilton’s first half (.308/27/75) would have carried over to the second half, the wall of immortals Cabrera joined would have had Hamilton’s name on it instead.

4. Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers: When Hamilton wilted, Beltre stepped up. He hit .334 in the second half and still remains as the best corner glove in baseball.

5. Robinson Cano, New York Yankees: It’s tough to be the best Yankee, and get the notice that you deserve. But yet again he reached a new personal high, hitting 33 home runs and adding 48 doubles and 196 hits as well.

6. Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles: The leader of the Orioles great surge through the year and played in every game of the year, setting new career highs in hits, doubles, home runs, average and runs scored.

7. Derek Jeter, New York Yankees: How do you follow up a year where you join the 3,000 hit club and top the career Yankee hits list? Come back and rack up a league leading 216 hits at 38 years old, the second highest total of his career.

8. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers: He didn’t have the complete transcendent year he had in 2011, but Verlander won a ton of crucial games down the stretch and topped the AL in strikeouts for a second consecutive year.

9. Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels: Trout got many of the headlines around the Angels success, but the team still played at its best when he was at his, and he topped 30 home runs for a MLB-record 12th consecutive year.

10. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners: King Felix’s influence was so strong that he made the Mariners the best last place club in baseball all while only contributing every fifth day. He offered a Perfect Game in August and struck out 100 while walking only 14 from June to August.

 

MLB Awards Season in the CHEAP SEATS, recap & preview

October 9Connie Mack/Manager of the Year Award: Davey Johnson & Buck Showalter

October 10Willie Mays/Rookie of the Year Award: Bryce Harper & Mike Trout

October 11—Walter Johnson/Pitcher of the Year Award: Clayton Kershaw & Justin Verlander

October 11Goose Gossage Reliever of the Year Award

October 12—Stan Musial Most Valuable Player Award: Buster Posey & Miguel Cabrera

 

For more on the run through a crazy October, and tomorrow’s big MVP announcement in the CHEAP SEATS, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

The National League was full of clearly dominant teams in 2012, but the guiding hand behind them was ever changing. It was a league that had its statistical batting champ, Melky Cabrera, disqualified via the first official, unofficial asterisk ever issued by the MLB. Saw the best player of his generation in Albert Pujols jump ship from the defending World Champions…and that team produce more MVP candidates than ever before in his absence. It saw the rise of a dead in the water Pittsburgh Pirates team, centered on a diversely talented, if not misfit offering of players.

Like many other seasons, it came in shifts. At different point throughout the summer a former MVP in Joey Votto put an assault on the all-time doubles record. David Wright made hitting .400 look like easy work. Andrew McCutchen made EVERYTHING look easy all at once. Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday and then Yadier Molina all took shifts in pushing the dynamic St. Louis Cardinals’ offense. Later on, Chase Headley and the defending MVP in Ryan Braun put on a crush to pull their teams up the standings, and their own numbers up the leaderboard.

But in the end, the biggest difference maker was a guy that’s not new to the position, because he’s been doing it since the moment he touched the Majors. He just decided to not be subtle about it this time around, because he played with a sense of urgency that no one else could match.

2012 NL Stan Musial Award—Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants

Over his three year career, no player’s presence has meant more to his team’s place in the game than Posey’s. As a rookie in 2010, his promotion sparked the Giants on run that landed himself a Rookie of the Year, and his club a World Championship. Last year, his season was ended early with a broken leg, which simultaneously tossed San Francisco down into third place for the remainder of the year. Coincidence? Absolutely not.

By definition, a most valuable player is one that is the most indispensable to his team’s success, due to his performance. For Posey, it goes a step further, because of the attitude and presence he brings as the catcher to one of the best rotations in the game. He calls a fantastic ballgame, which propels the entire pitching staff of the Giants to an even higher level than their substantial talent already ranks them. He is a no-nonsense competitor that refused a full-time split arrangement as a first baseman also this season due to the message it would send to his teammates. He’s a gamer, and that’s only half the equation in understanding his importance.

He’s simply one of the most talented catchers in the game when the overall ability behind the plate is quietly approaching an all-time high. Agree with how it came to be or not, his .336 average won him the National League batting title and made him the first catcher to do so since 1942. He achieved this via a ridiculous .433 average vs. left-handers and a .385 second-half average, both MLB bests as well. Along the way he set career highs in every category, including topping 100 RBI for the first time with 24 homers and 39 doubles as well.

However, the most important number of his year? 94, the number of wins the Giants total in recapturing the West with the return of their MVP, and now, the National League’s as well.

 Best of the Rest

2. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers: A year that started with accusations, and late the absolution, of PED use, Braun had a better year than he did in winning the MVP a year before. Even without the protection of Prince Fielder, he led the NL in home runs (41), runs scored (108) and total bases (356).

3. Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals: The best glove in the game added took his offense to the next level as well. He was fourth in the NL in batting average at .315 and topped 20 homers as well. He also threw out 48% of runs that attempted to steal on him, for good measure.

4. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates: He did everything he could to break the Pirates sub-.500 streak. While he couldn’t accomplish that, he did lead the NL in hits with 194.

5. Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals: He inherited the third spot in the Cards’ lineup, and responded by hitting .340 or better in three separate months.

6. David Wright, New York Mets: Health was finally Wright’s friend again, and in response he topped both 40 doubles and 20 home runs, while also hitting .308.

7. Chase Headley, San Diego Padres: You could win a good bar bets by asking who led the NL in home runs and RBI in the second half. The answer is Headley, who knocked in 73 of his NL leading 115 RBI post-ASG.

8. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds: He could have shattered the all-time record for doubles in a season if not mid-season knee surgery. He still finished with 44, tied for second best in the NL despite having 230 less at-bats than the guy he tied with.

9. Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals: His first half was so good (20 homers, 65 RBI) he literally made the loss of Pujols somewhat of a non-factor.

10. Martin Prado, Atlanta Braves: One of the best-rounded contributors in the game, was most essential everyday player in the A. Splitting time between left field and every infield position, he was fourth in hits in the NL with 186 and hit .301 as well.

Later today, the ballot for AL’s Stan Musial Award will be revealed…

 

October 9—Connie Mack/Manager of the Year Award: Davey Johnson & Buck Showalter

October 10—Willie Mays/Rookie of the Year Award: Bryce Harper & Mike Trout

October 11—Walter Johnson/Pitcher of the Year Awards: Clayton Kershaw & Justin Verlander

October 11—Goose Gossage Reliever of the Year Awards: Craig Kimbrel & Fernando Rodney

October 12—Stan Musial/Most Valuable Player Awards: Buster Posey

For more on each ballot and the mania that is October baseball, in real time, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan