Monday, November 6, 2017

2017 NL Awards and full season All-Stars

2017 NL Awards:

Hello. I'm back with more baseball content goodness to help chip away at the emptiness of the early portion of the baseball offseason (before it gets fired up, which is coming soon despite any withdrawal symptoms you may be currently experiencing). This time we're looking at the Senior Circuit and who I think should take home the individual hardware for the just concluded 2017 season. Join me after the jump won't you?

Before I begin, a few things to remember about these awards. They are only based on the regular season. Nothing that happened once the postseason bell rang is taken into consideration.

If you want to compare the end of season awards with what I was thinking at mid-season here is that post. If you want to know what stats I put a lot of emphasis on, here is my first ever post at JITH.

The MVP award has ten slots, the Cy Young Award has five slots, and there are three slots each for the Jackie Robinson Award (Rookie of the Year), and the Trevor Hoffman Award (Reliever of the Year). I also put 32 players (7 SP, 5 RP, 20 position players) on each league's year end All-Star teams, and while the mid-season fan balloting was ignored due to it being based on the full season, I did stick to the minimum of one player per team rule. Alrighty then, let's begin.


       1. Joey Votto, 1B, CIN
       2. Giancarlo Stanton, RF, MIA
       3. Nolan Arenado, 3B, COL
       4. Charlie Blackmon, CF, COL
       5. Max Scherzer, SP, WSN
       6. Anthony Rendon, 3B, WSN
       7. Tommy Pham, LF/CF, STL
       8. Kris Bryant, 3B, CHC
       9. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, ARI
     10. Marcell Ozuna, LF, MIA

Don't you know the Dodgers won a hundred and fifty-six bazillion games Jackson? You don't have any on your little list there. Fear not faithful reader, I have four of them in the top 18, but it was my opinion that none were outstanding enough to crack the top ten. Justin Turner came in at number 11, Corey Seager was number 13, Cody Bellinger was number 16, and Clayton Kershaw was number 18. Chris Taylor and Kenley Jansen were also in the top 25, which is plenty if you think about the way they went about things this year. They were a team that got significant contributions from a lot of different players, but none compelled me to put them in the top ten. Six in the top 25 is an indication of a very, very strong team, which is what they were.

Ah, Joey Votto, Brian Kenny's favourite player ("The Prince of Process" as he calls him). You want to make Reds' radio voice Marty Brennaman's head spin like Linda Blair's Regan in "The Exorcist"? You show him this list. Just be prepared for a lot of fists pounding on the table, spittle in your face, old man rage, yelling at the clouds etc etc etc. Marty doesn't seem to get that Joey Votto is not the reason the Reds lost 94 games this year. Pssst! Marty! You might want to look at that absolutely disastrous pitching staff that the Reds trotted out there. You know, the one that gave up 5.36 runs per game, and combined for a disgusting 5.08 FIP in 2017? What's that Marty? What's FIP? Oh, never mind! The upshot of this pretend conversation is that you can't win when your pitching is absolutely horrific, no matter who's on your team. Even one of the greatest players of his generation can't will a team to victory with pitching like that.

Joey Votto had an absolutely phenomenal 2017 season, and would make a worthy selection for the NL MVP award if people can look past that last place team thing. C'mon voters, it's 2017 for cryin' out loud. Let's go! He tied for the MLB lead in games played (162 - extremely durable), and led the majors in BB (134 against only 83 K in an era when we're constantly bemoaning players' inability to put the bat on the ball - over here people!), OBP (.454), IBB (20), and REW (a staggering 6.97), and led the NL in OPS (1.032), OPS+ (168), wRC+ (165), and WPA (4.96). He was also 4th in fWAR (6.6), which was very close to 1st place (6.9), and 2nd in bWAR (7.5), which was very close to 1st place (7.6). This guy just refuses to give a plate appearance away. He's the ultimate grinder. Get it done BBWAA.

Giancarlo Stanton was finally healthy for a full season in 2017, and Oh. My. God. Did he ever go off. He led the majors in HR (59), RBI (132), and the National League in SLG (.631). He also tied for the NL lead in fWAR with Anthony Rendon (6.9), and narrowly led the NL in bWAR (7.6). He was also second to Votto in both WPA (4.84), and REW (5.78). Do you realize that due to his health issues over the years he had never hit over 37 HR before? And he almost hit 60! Whoa!

The way I see things, these are the top two candidates in the NL and then there's quite a drop off. Because they were on "losing" teams though, they may not get much traction in the voting. As I've said many times, team record shouldn't matter, but the reality is that it does. Therefore, this race will be wide open, and I have no idea who will show up in the top three slots. It's anybody's guess really. If you have to take it from a winning team, please let it be three of Arenado, Blackmon, Scherzer, and Rendon. I'm sure some Cubs, Dodgers, and Diamondbacks will crash the party though, so who knows where this one's going to go. I think it is the most interesting individual awards race this offseason.

Charlie Blackmon's an interesting case. He led the majors in PA (725), R (137), H (213), 3B (14), and TB (387), and won the NL batting title with a .331 batting average.  

Max Scherzer put together another fantastic season, but may not get recognized for it in the MVP category due to a paucity of pitching wins (16). Ugh. He led the NL in CG (2), K (268), WHIP (0.90), and had the lowest H/9 of any ERA qualifier in the majors (a staggering 5.7). He also led the NL in both fWAR (6.0), and bWAR (7.2), along with leading NL SP in both WPA (4.14) and REW (4.36). That's quite dominant, but will it be dominant enough?

Anthony Rendon might be the most underrated player in baseball. He tied for the lead in fWAR with Stanton and that was about it for leading in categories. He does everything very well though. As we've seen from HoF voting, sometimes those guys can get overlooked (*Cough, Larry Walker, *Cough, Cough). Let's hope he gets some recognition this time around.

Cy Young Award:

       1. Max Scherzer, SP, WSN
       2. Stephen Strasburg, SP, WSN
       3. Zack Greinke, SP, ARI
       4. Clayton Kershaw, SP, LAD
       5. Gio Gonzalez, SP, WSN

In my mind, it's Max Scherzer, sharp drop off, Stephen Strasburg, another drop off and then Greinke, Kershaw, and Gonzalez. We've already looked at Scherzer in the MVP discussion, so let's have a look at the others here.

Will this be the year that Strasburg finally gets some recognition? He certainly warrants top five status (I say top two of course), but will he get it with just 175.1 IP? His ERA (2.52) is much more in line with his FIP (2.72) this year, so it may happen, but the lack of innings may hold him back. He led the NL in FIP, but is the voting block well versed enough in the advanced metrics to notice? He also had the lowest HR/9 (0.7) in MLB.

A really nice bounce back year from Greinke in his second year in the desert. He had strong showings in fWAR (3rd - 5.1), bWAR (4th - 6.1), and decent WPA (2.82) and REW (2.72) showings. The more traditional stats show a 17-7 record with a 3.20 ERA and 215 K vs 45 BB. He had a really nice year playing in an absolute launching pad of a home park, and it's nice to see him back where he belongs - in the discussion for the Cy Young Award.

Kershaw's always in this discussion somewhere. We're just used to talking about him a little closer to the top. He was filthy dominant again, but perhaps the lack of innings (175.0) dropped him down a bit from previous lofty heights. He tied for the MLB lead in wins with 18, led the NL in ERA (2.31), ERA+ (180), and K/BB (6.73). He did have his highest FIP (3.07) since 2010 thanks to lots and lots of HR (23, which is extremely un-Kershaw like). Unfortunately for him and the Dodgers, this longball trend continued into the postseason, which may just be a blip. We'll have to keep an eye on it in the coming years.

Gonzalez is the one we're not used to seeing here, except in 2012 when he finished 3rd in RL Cy Young voting. He was extremely solid this year (15-9, 2.96 ERA, 188 K vs a league high 79 BB) despite having a FIP close to 4 (3.93). He had a high strand rate (81.4%), which may indicate a future correction, but if we're talking about 2017, maybe he deserves some credit for how he pitched when men were in scoring position. It's been shown that this is not something that carries forward as a skill, but within the 2017 season, he did rather well at it, and that kept his run prevention up there with some of the better pitchers in the game as illustrated by his 2nd best in the NL bWAR (6.5)

A little diversion here. This one's for poster Baji Kimran. He wanted to see LVP (Least Valuable Player) and Cy Yuck Awards in the AL post, so I'll throw some names out there for you to chew on in this NL post.

Pitchers: Tyler Glasnow of the Pirates, Bartolo Colon of the Braves, Amir Garrett of the Reds, Bronson Arroyo also of the Reds, Tom Koehler of the Marlins, Matt Harvey of the Mets, Matt Moore of the Giants, Vance Worley of the Marlins, Jered Weaver of the Padres, and Chris Flexen of the Mets.

Position Players: Alexi Amarista of the Rockies, Ryder Jones of the Giants, Stuart Turner of the Reds, Jose Lobaton of the Nationals, Jose Peraza of the Reds, Allen Cordoba of the Padres, Michael Saunders of the Phillies, Jeff Mathis of the Diamondbacks, Luis Torrens of the Padres, and Aledmys Diaz of the Cardinals. Have at it Baji et al. Not bothering with salary info. More interested in a high level of suckage to qualify for this dubious honour.

Jackie Robinson Award:

       1. Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, LAD
       2. Rhys Hoskins, 1B/OF, PHI
       3. Jose Martinez, 1B/OF, STL

Cody Bellinger arrived at Chavez Ravine in the last week of April, and took control of the Jackie Robinson Award race and didn't let up. He finished with a .267/.352/.581/.933 slash line, good for a 142 OPS+, and a 138 wRC+ across 548 plate appearances. He belted 39 HR, and knocked in 97, scored 87 runs, and only hit into 5 GDP. He's a shoe-in for the 2017 NL Jackie Robinson Award, and it should be unanimous, much like the AL selection should be.

Rhys Hoskins did not arrive in Philadelphia until part way into August, but boy did he ever make the most of his 212 plate appearances. He demonstrated a tremendous ability to get on base and hit for crazy power as he had a slash line of .259/.396/.618/1.014, good for an OPS+ of a staggering 165, and a wRC+ of 158. He hit 18 HR and knocked in 48 RBI, despite only playing in 50 games. Yikes! It is only 212 plate appearances so we'll need to wait and see what adjustments are made to counter his tendencies (as we do with all rookies, or have we forgotten about Kevin Maas, Bob Hamelin, and even further back Joe Charboneau, among others?). That's quite a smashing debut though.

It looks like Jose Martinez was with the Cardinals from the get go this year, but they were careful with their use of him, limiting him to 307 plate appearances in 106 games, which suggests he spent some time on the bench. He slashed .309/.379/.518 across those 307 PA, which was good for a 134 OPS+ and a 135 wRC+. Martinez had 14 HR and 46 RBI in about a half season's worth of plate appearances.

You could swap out Martinez for his teammate SS/2B Paul DeJong if you wanted to. DeJong would be a pretty good choice for this list as well. Other players that had solid rookie seasons, and deserve mention: SP German Marquez of the Rockies, 1B Josh Bell of the Pirates, SP Kyle Freeland of the Rockies, RP Josh Hader of the Brewers, SP Luis Castillo of the Reds, and OF/2B Ian Happ of the Cubs.

Trevor Hoffman Award:

       1. Kenley Jansen, RP, LAD
       2. Corey Knebel, RP, MIL
       3. Archie Bradley, RP, ARI

Kenley Jansen was an absolute beast this year. He was 5-0 with 41 SV (with just one blown save), a 1.32 ERA, a 1.31 FIP, 14.36 K/9, 0.92 BB/9 (for a ridunkulous 15.57 K/BB ratio - WHAT?), and 0.66 HR/9, across 68.1 IP. He had the top pitching WPA in the NL (5.33), to go with the top fWAR (3.5) among NL relievers, and also finished with a very solid bWAR (2.9), and a solid REW (2.19). Corey Knebel of the Brewers pushed him hard for it, but in the end I have to go with Jansen for the 2017 Trevor Hoffman Award.

Knebel, outside of a hideous 4.74 BB/9 rate, was excellent as well. If he learns to tame that wildness, the sky's the limit for him. He's already fantastic as it is, but he could be even better. He should be just coming into his prime as he will be 26 next year. His age 25 season saw him go 1-4 with 39 SV, a 1.78 ERA, a 2.53 FIP, 14.92 K/9, 4.74 BB/9, and 0.71 HR/9 across 76.0 IP. He had the number two pitching WPA in the NL (4.15), to go with the number two bWAR (3.6) among NL relievers (just behind Archie Bradley who was at 3.7), and a very solid fWAR (2.8), and a solid REW (2.33). He also set the record for most consecutive games with at least one strikeout to start a season at 45 games, which is pretty crazy when you stop and think about it.

Archie Bradley was a starter over his first two MLB seasons, comprising 34 GS. I think he found his niche in 2017, and who knows, maybe he'll eventually become the Diamondbacks closer as incumbent Fernando Rodney will probably be departing as a free agent this offseason (if he doesn't retire following his age 40 season). Bradley's age 24 season was a real coming out party as he went 3-3 with 1 SV, a 1.73 ERA, a 2.61 FIP, 9.74 K/9, 2.59 BB/9, and 0.49 HR/9 across 73.0 IP. As mentioned above, he had the top NL bWAR (3.7) among relievers in 2017, along with a solid fWAR (2.1), WPA (2.51) and REW (2.53). Excellent bullpen debut and he'll still only be 25 when 2018 rolls around.

National League All-Stars:

Starting Pitchers:

       Max Scherzer, WSN
       Stephen Strasburg, WSN
       Zack Greinke, ARI
       Clayton Kershaw, LAD
       Gio Gonzalez, WSN
       Robbie Ray, ARI
       Aaron Nola, PHI

Relief Pitchers:

       Kenley Jansen, LAD
       Corey Knebel, MIL
       Archie Bradley, ARI
       Brad Hand, SDP
       Felipe Rivero, PIT

Position Player Starters:

       C: Willson Contreras, CHC
     1B: Joey Votto, CIN
     2B: Daniel Murphy, WSN
     3B: Nolan Arenado, COL
     SS: Corey Seager, LAD
     OF: Giancarlo Stanton, MIA
     OF: Charlie Blackmon, COL
     OF: Tommy Pham, STL

Position Player Reserves:

       C: Buster Posey, SFG
     1B: Paul Goldschmidt, ARI
     1B: Freddie Freeman, ATL
     2B: Chris Taylor, LAD
     3B: Anthony Rendon, WSN
     3B: Kris Bryant, CHC
     3B: Justin Turner, LAD
     SS: Zack Cozart, CIN
     OF: Marcell Ozuna, MIA
     OF: Bryce Harper, WSN
     OF: Cody Bellinger, LAD
     OF: Michael Conforto, NYM

Before I get to snubs, a couple of points. If you want to flip-flop Contreras and Posey and make Posey the starter and Contreras the reserve at catcher, it's no skin off my nose. They're very close together to me, so it's kind of poh-tay-to, poh-tah-to, but if it bothers you, switch it. Also, technically Cody Bellinger was more of a first baseman than an outfielder, and Chris Taylor was more of an outfielder than a second baseman, but they did start more than a handful of games where I put them, and the metrics seem to indicate that they didn't look out of place there. Second base was a bit of a dog's breakfast in the NL this year, so that's why Taylor's where he is, and the corner infield positions were absolutely loaded, so offloading Bellinger to the outfield made sense to me.

There are three snubs that I can see. Anthony Rizzo was left off as there was an absolute glut of corner infielders in the NL, plus I had to make sure Freddie Freeman stuck as he was the only worthy Brave in my view, and a team's gotta have two catchers as well. I guess Rizzo's lack of positional flexibility got him in the end because I was able to punt Bellinger to the outfield in order to help ease the congestion at the corner infield spots, and Freeman had to be there as noted above. Christian Yelich also was left off because well, you've gotta have catchers on a baseball team. Chase Anderson of the Brewers was replaced by Aaron Nola of the Phillies as Nola was the only Phillie that made sense to be included on this team to me.

So there you have it. My 2017 NL Award Winners and full season All-Stars, with a little LVP and Cy Yuck on the side. Who've you got in these categories?