Friday, November 3, 2017

2017 AL Awards and full season All-Stars

2017 AL Awards:

Hello again my JITH friends. What a season we just witnessed, even if it didn't go according to plan for our beloved Blue Jays. The pennant races didn't have much in the way of suspense, but the postseason...Oh my! Four of the seven series went the distance, with more than enough drama for baseball die-hards and casual fans alike.

There's an incredible amount of young talent in the game doing amazing things. Don't believe me? Just look at the World Series. Joc Pederson, Enrique (Kike) Hernandez, Corey Seager, and Cody Bellinger are all 25 or under on that Dodger team. Don't forget about Julio Urias who's hopefully on the way back from injury, and Alex Verdugo and Walker Buehler who had cups of coffee in 2017. For the Astros, you've got Alex Bregman, Lance McCullers Jr., and Carlos Correa in the 25 or under category. Joe Musgrove looks like a decent support piece, and Francis Martes and Derek Fisher debuted this year as well. A.J. Reed has struggled so far in the big leagues, but was a top 100 prospect the last two years. That's just two teams. There seems to be young talent everywhere. It's a great time to be a baseball fan, and call me a punch-drunk optimist, but I think it's going to be a great time to be a Blue Jays fan once we can get through the next year or two.

Keep in mind with these awards, that they are based on the regular season only. Nothing that happened in these fabulous playoffs counts towards them.

There are a couple of reference points to consider as well when looking at these awards. This was my first half AL Awards and All-Stars post with stats through July 2nd, 2017. A lot changed in the second half. This was my first ever JITH post and outlines some of the stats I look at when considering these awards.

As always, there are ten slots for the MVP, five slots for the Cy Young Award, three slots for the Jackie Robinson Award (Rookie of the Year), and three slots for the Mariano Rivera/Trevor Hoffman Award (Reliever of the Year - in this case it's the Mariano Rivera Award because this is the American League). I picked 32 players (7 SP, 5 RP, 20 position players) for each league's year end All-Star teams, and while I didn't confine myself to the mid-season fan balloting because these are year end All-Star teams, I did confine myself to the minimum one player per team in each league rule. For players that played for more than one team in the regular season, I went with the team they were on when the first half ended. Alright, let's get to it.


       1. Mike Trout, CF, LAA
       2. Corey Kluber, SP, CLE
       3. Aaron Judge, RF, NYY
       4. Jose Altuve, 2B, HOU
       5. Chris Sale, SP, BOS
       6. Jose Ramirez, 3B/2B, CLE
       7. Mookie Betts, RF, BOS
       8. Carlos Correa, SS, HOU
       9. Justin Upton, LF, DET/LAA
     10. Nelson Cruz, DH, SEA

Alright Jackson, that tears it! Somebody swapped out your crazy pills and pain killers for stupid pills! U R DUM! At least hear me out OK? The top four in this top ten are IMHO the only players who should wind up in the top three finalists when they are announced on Monday at 6 pm. I have Mike Trout over Corey Kluber by a sliver over Aaron Judge by a sliver over Jose Altuve by a sliver, and then a huuuge drop off to Chris Sale. Then there's another sizeable drop off to Jose Ramirez and the other four players at the bottom, who are bunched up together quite closely. It's so close between the top four that if the real life vote goes in reverse order, I wouldn't bat an eyelash, but that's the order I see them in.

Let me also address the whole games played issue, as there could be some questions as to what the hell Mike Trout and Carlos Correa are doing in this list given that they started just 114 and 109 games respectively. I'll address it with another question. Why is it that we penalize players who get hurt, and boost up players who are acquired more than halfway through the season (J.D. Martinez in the NL for example)? Most of the time, the players who get hurt play far more games for their teams than the players who are acquired more than halfway through the season, so why do we do it? J.D. Martinez started in just 61 games for the Diamondbacks this year, and he might get more MVP consideration than maybe Trout and most likely Correa. Why is that? Players have very little control over either scenario (particularly in this era of competition where seemingly everyone is in peak physical condition), so let's just stop it with this nonsense OK? Yoenis Cespedes received MVP votes in 2015, despite only starting 54 games for the Mets, while (in the wayback machine) Rick Sutcliffe won the 1984 Cy Young Award despite making only 20 starts and pitching to just 602 batters.

Mike Trout was well on his way to the best season of his career, which is really saying something because...well, so far you're witnessing someone who's Cooperstown bound, and he just played in his age 25 season. Mercy! He led the AL in OBP (.442), SLG (.629), IBB (15), REW (5.91), and led MLB in OPS (1.071), OPS+ (187), wRC+ (181), and WPA (5.58), and finished 3rd in fWAR (6.9) and 5th in bWAR (6.7). You may disagree with me, but I think his injury time is what made this such a close race, and had he been healthy, he would've won in a landslide (like he should've last year), but I still think he eked it out in the end.

Corey Kluber had a transcendent season for a starting pitcher. He did this without winning 20 games, or notching 300 strikeouts, or pitching to an ERA below 2.00. Welcome to starting pitching in the modern era. I know Wince absolutely loathes it, but it is what it is. Within the confines of modern day starting pitching, Kluber absolutely shone and belongs here on the list in my opinion. He led the AL in W% (.818), H/9 among ERA qualifiers (6.2), fewest BB/9 among ERA qualifiers (1.6), finished 2nd in pitching fWAR (7.3), 2nd in pitching WPA (4.26), as well as being tied for the MLB lead in Wins (18), and leading in ERA (2.25), CG (5), SHO (3), ERA+ (a Mariano Rivera-like 202 as a SP!), WHIP among ERA qualifiers (0.87), K/BB among ERA qualifiers (7.36), pitching bWAR (8.0), and pitching REW (4.86). Stupendous is one word for his 2017 season.

There's no getting around it, so let's just get it out of the way. Aaron Judge led MLB in strikeouts with 208. 208! That's a shocking number, which makes what he did offensively all the more improbable. He batted .284/.422/.627/1.049 while leading the AL in runs (128), HR (52), BB (127). He also led MLB in position player fWAR (8.2), and finished second in bWAR (8.1). In addition, he was 2nd in the AL in REW (5.59). He belongs in the conversation for MVP in 2017, but unlike the other three of the big four, I don't think the track record is there yet to make conclusions about what's to come in the future. He still only has 773 MLB plate appearances, and I'd like to see 1,500ish before deciding anything about where he's headed. Excellent 2017, but let's just wait and see what happens before putting him in Cooperstown OK Buck and Tabby?

Jose Altuve paced the AL in hits (204) and MLB in AVG (.346). He also had a remarkable OPS+ (164), and wRC+ (160). In addition, he led MLB in position player bWAR (8.4), and finished second in position player fWAR (7.5). He placed 4th in WPA (3.74), and fifth in REW (4.18). He hit .346/.410/.547/.957 while playing average to above average defense (depending on what defensive metrics you look at) at an up the middle position. Like I said above, any one of these four would make a fine AL MVP, but please nobody outside of these four.

Cy Young Award:

       1. Corey Kluber, SP, CLE
       2. Chris Sale, SP, BOS
       3. Carlos Carrasco, SP, CLE
       4. Luis Severino, SP, NYY
       5. Justin Verlander, SP, DET/HOU

There's not much to add to the paragraph above about Kluber. It's basically Kluber followed by a big drop off followed by Sale followed by another big drop off followed by Carrasco, Severino, and Verlander as far as I'm concerned.

Sale had an excellent season in his own right, and was probably leading most of the way until Kluber rose up and stole it away from him by pitching out of his mind while his Cleveland teammates played out of their minds. Sale led MLB in IP (214.1), K (308), FIP (2.45), K/9 among ERA qualifiers (12.9), and pitching fWAR (7.7). As far as more traditional numbers go, he finished at 17-8, with a 2.90 ERA. An excellent season. A Cy Young caliber season, but for the presence of one Corey Scott Kluber in the American League.

Carrasco (18-6, 3.29 ERA, 3.10 FIP, 226 K, 46 BB in 200.0 IP), Severino (14-6, 2.98 ERA, 3.08 FIP, 230 K, 51 BB in 193.1 IP), and Verlander (15-8, 3.36 ERA, 3.84 FIP, 219 K, 72 BB in 206.0 IP) all had very good seasons, but couldn't match the firepower of Kluber and Sale. For Severino, it was a breakout season following some inconsistency in his first two seasons with the Yankees. Carrasco's been kind of flying under the radar (partly due to this being his first ever 200 IP season), and I think that's going to change following this season. Verlander was just moseying along this year, but really picked it up after the trade to Houston going 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA, 2.69 FIP, with 43 K against just 5 BB in 34.0 IP down the stretch after his August 31st deadline acquisition. Much like he used to reach back for 98+ MPH late in starts earlier in his career, he's now reaching back for something extra in the latter stages of a great career.

Jackie Robinson Award:

       1. Aaron Judge, RF, NYY
       2. Yulieski Gurriel, 1B, HOU
       3. Matt Chapman, 3B, OAK

In the AL rookie of the year category, there's Aaron Judge and then there's everyone else. According to Baseball-Reference, Yulieski Gurriel is still rookie eligible in 2017, but fangraphs does not agree. I'll take Baseball-Reference's word on the matter, along with commentators in the postseason who were talking up his chances of being a runner up to Judge in this category. Despite his dumb, insensitive, racist gesture during the World Series, Gurriel had a very solid rookie season worthy of a spot behind Judge in the rookie of the year voting. He wound up with a .299/.332/.486/.817 slash line, good for a 124 OPS+ and a 118 wRC+. His defense needs work according to the metrics, but he's a solid baserunner, and he wound up putting up 1.8 fWAR and 2.7 bWAR for the year.

Matt Chapman is just about a mirror opposite of Gurriel. A spectacular defender at the hot corner according to all the metrics, he put up a .234/.313/.472/.785 slash line over 326 PA. So he has a lot of pop and can get on base independent of getting a hit. The question is can he hit for enough average? The glove and power will absolutely play at 3B, but will he be able to better the 110 OPS+ and 108 wRC+ of his rookie 2017 season? He managed to put up 2.7 fWAR and 3.6 bWAR for the year, which was basically a half season, so there's a lot of promise there.

I think probably LF Andrew Benintendi of the Red Sox breaks through to grab a runner up spot in the real world vote, but he came up short for me. Other rookies worth mentioning are 1B/RF Matt Olson of the Athletics, RF Mitch Haniger of the Mariners, LF/1B/DH Trey Mancini of the Orioles, and LHSP Jordan Montgomery of the Yankees.

Mariano Rivera Award:

       1. Craig Kimbrel, RP, BOS
       2. Andrew Miller, RP, CLE
       3. Chad Green, RP, NYY

These three relievers were absolutely electric for their respective teams this year, both from a peripherals standpoint, and from a run prevention standpoint. Kimbrel was 5-0, with 35 SV, a 1.43 ERA, 1.42 FIP, 16.43 K/9, 1.83 BB/9, 0.78 HR/9 across 69.0 IP. He had the top pitching WPA in the AL (4.33), and had the 5th best pitching REW (2.70). He also paced AL relievers in both fWAR (3.3) and bWAR (3.6).

Andrew Miller has been an absolute force recently and this year was no different. He was 4-3, with 2 SV, a 1.44 ERA, 1.99 FIP, 13.64 K/9, 3.02 BB/9, 0.43 HR/9 across 62.2 IP. He was 3rd in the AL in pitching WPA (3.57), and 8th in pitching REW (2.48). He also posted a solid 2.3 fWAR and an excellent 3.1 bWAR.

Unlike the other two, Chad Green came seemingly out of nowhere to put up video game numbers this year. He had a 5-0 record, with 0 SV, a 1.83 ERA, 1.75 FIP, 13.43 K/9, 2.22 BB/9, 0.52 HR/9 across 69.0 IP. He had a solid fWAR (2.4), bWAR (2.8), WPA (1.89), and REW (2.72) to go with those insane peripherals and run prevention numbers.

American League All-Stars:

Starting Pitchers:

       Corey Kluber, CLE
       Chris Sale, BOS
       Carlos Carrasco, CLE
       Luis Severino, NYY
       Justin Verlander, DET/HOU
       Marcus Stroman, TOR
       Ervin Santana, MIN

Relief Pitchers:

       Craig Kimbrel, BOS
       Andrew Miller, CLE
       Chad Green, NYY
       Alex Claudio, TEX
       David Robertson, CHW/NYY

Position Player Starters:

       C: Gary Sanchez, NYY
     1B: Jose Abreu, CHW
     2B: Jose Altuve, HOU
     3B: Jose Ramirez, CLE
     SS: Carlos Correa, HOU
     OF: Mike Trout, LAA
     OF: Aaron Judge, NYY
     OF: Mookie Betts, BOS
     DH: Nelson Cruz, SEA

Position Player Reserves:

       C: Mike Zunino, SEA
     1B: Eric Hosmer, KCR
     2B: Jonathan Schoop, BAL
     3B: Josh Donaldson, TOR
     SS: Francisco Lindor, CLE
     SS: Elvis Andrus, TEX
     OF: Justin Upton, DET/LAA
     OF: George Springer, HOU
     OF: Steven Souza, TBR
     OF: Khris Davis, OAK
      UT: Marwin Gonzalez, HOU

As is usually the case with these things, there are snubs. To my way of thinking, I see four obvious ones. Avisail Garcia had a breakout year for the White Sox, but unfortunately he was cut along with Josh Reddick of Houston, when Steven Souza and Khris Davis were added to the roster due to the one player per team rule. Andrelton Simmons of the Angels lost out by being the fourth SS on my list, and Brian Dozier was replaced by Jonathan Schoop of Baltimore in order to adhere to the one player per team rule. It's not that Souza, Davis, and Schoop were chumps by any means. All three had excellent seasons. I just think Garcia, Reddick, and Dozier were slightly better, but rules is rules.

There are also the hometown snubs of course. Or "You spelled Justin Smoak and Roberto Osuna wrong". It's my opinion that Abreu and Hosmer both overtook Smoak in the second half, as Smoak had a bit of a slide that his first half greatness allowed him to hide behind. Osuna's a much tougher nut to crack. If you look at his peripherals, he flat dominated, yet his run prevention numbers suggest otherwise. I'm not willing to put it all down to cluster luck, as in his case his fastball went from 97ish to 92-93ish for about six weeks from late July to early September. When big league hitters are gearing up for 97, and suddenly they're getting 92-93, you get what happened during that stretch: rockets hit all over the yard. His line drive rate in that stretch was 26%, whereas for the whole year, it was 17.8%, and I think it was more a case of expected results than bad cluster luck. Don't get me wrong. I think Roberto Osuna can, and will at some point in the near future, be the best relief pitcher in the game. I just don't think he was top five in the AL in 2017.

So that's my story. Who've you got in these categories? Let the discussion begin.