Sunday, November 17, 2013

Baseball Awards: AL edition

Unlike the NFL and NBA, Major League Baseball does not have an end of seasons all-star team, or the All-MLB team.  Partly because of this, we rely on end of season awards when judging Hall of Fame careers.  But we should stop.  So, I'm unleashing the all-AL 2013 team.  At the end, I'll say who I would have voted for MVP and Cy Young.  So, this should be fun.

The roster breakdown will be as follows:
C: 2
1B: 2
2B: 2
3B: 2
SS: 2
OF: 6
SP: 6
RP: 3

Catchers: Pretty clearly, the starter for the team should be Joe Mauer of the Twins.  He leads all of the catchers in the AL in fWAR, wRC+, wOBA, OBP, and AVG.  The real intrigue is who will be the second catcher on the roster.  The three players I'm focusing on are Jason Castro, Salvador Perez, and Carlos Santana.  Perez leads the other candidates in defense and was just slightly better than average at hitting.  Meanwhile, Castro was 30% better than average at hitting and better than Santana at fielding.  Albeit, he is slightly worse than Perez at defense.  Most of Santana's value comes from his bat.  He is second among AL catchers in OBP, wOBA, and wRC+.  But he's not much of a fielder, according to the numbers or by the eye test.  Ultimately, my choice for the second catcher is Jason Castro from the Houston Astros.
Starter: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
Reserve: Jason Castro, Houston Astros

First Basemen: Much like the catcher position, it's pretty obvious who the starter should be.  This time it is Chris Davis.  He led his position in most major offensive categories, including a quadruple slash of .286/.370/.634/.421.  He had a monster offensive season.  If it wasn't for a couple of other players in the league, Davis would have been a clear choice for the MVP.  The choice for the reserves are between Edwin Encarnarcion, Mike Napoli, and Eric Hosmer.  Encarnarcion had the best offensive season of the three, creating 45% more runs than average compared to Napoli at 29%, and Hosmer at 19%.  Napoli had a better defensive season, according to UZR, but according to the eye test, Hosmer is a much better defender.  It's tough to quantify defense.  But Hosmer's value at the plate was fueled by a BABIP of .335.  His batting average was .302.  His OBP is 17 points lower than Encarnarcion's and his wOBA is 38 points lower.  Even accounting for Encarnarcion's bad defense, it's hard to say that Hosmer had a better season than Encarnarcion.  For the reserve position, I'll take Encarnarcion's offense over the eye test of Hosmer at first base.
Starter: Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles
Reserve: Edwin Encarnarcion, Toronto Blue Jays

Second Basemen: Finally, we can have a little more room for discussion about who the best player is, at the position.  We have four players to decide between: Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia, Ben Zobrist, and Jason Kipnis.  In terms of offensive production, Robinson Cano outperformed the other three.  He created 42% more runs than average compared to Kipnis at 30%, and Pedroia and Zobrist both at 15%.  But Zobrist and Pedroia provided considerable value on defense.  Zobrist, a former shortstop, has always done well at 2B according to the numbers, but just with the eyes, Pedroia looks like the better defender.  Even according to UZR, Pedroia was the slightly better defender.  Pedroia also got on base at a .372 clip, which was second in second basemen, only behind Robinson Cano (.383).  Cano was not a terrible defender, posting a positive UZR, combined with his offensive prowess, makes him the choice as the starter.  As for the reserve, it's a tough one between Kipnis, Zobrist, and Pedroia.  Pedroia's overall contributions as a hitter and defender make him the choice.
Starter: Robinson Cano, New York Yankees
Reserve: Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox

Third Basemen: This is the toughest choice in the American League, I believe.  Miguel Cabrera followed his Triple Crown season in 2012 with one of the greatest offensive seasons, ever.  But he is a trainwreck at 3B.  Well, that's not true. He's not quite that bad.  But he's just terrible at playing defense, especially compared to Manny Machado, Evan Longoria, Josh Donaldson, or Adrian Beltre.  Cabrera's skillset just doesn't include good defense or good baserunning.  The other candidates are obviously better defenders and baserunners than Cabrera.  But Cabrera's offensive season is just too good to ignore.  The choice for the reserve is the real tricky one.  Donaldson had the better offensive season even ignoring the ballpark effects of playing in the blackhole of the Oakland A's stadium.  But the eye test tells me the following: Evan Longoria is the slightly better defender, Machado is one of the best defenders at 3B, and Beltre has consistently been a fantastic defender.  None of them had nearly as great as offensive seasons that Donaldson did, except Beltre.  But Beltre's ballpark has to be taken into effect.  Once you do that, you see that Longoria and Beltre had equivalent offensive seasons.  Donaldson, clearly, still had the better season.  Beltre is aging and perhaps his defense is sliding, as well.  Machado was just an average hitter, but his defense was phenomenal.  I place Beltre at the bottom of this list because his defense is starting to slide.  Machado is next.  While his defense was great, his offense was just not even close to the offensive seasons of Longoria or Donaldson.  I think Longoria is the superior defender to Donaldson but according to the numbers Longoria was not significantly better than Donaldson at defense.  Donaldson's all-around game is good enough to make him the reserve choice for the AL end of season all-stars.
Starter: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
Reserve: Josh Donaldson, Oakland A's

Shortstops: It gets ugly quick for AL shortstops.  According to fWAR, the second best shortstop was Jhonny Peralta, who missed 50 games due to a suspension related to Biogenesis.  That's not enough to eliminate him in this running.  But, Peralta has not been a great defensive shortstop for years, yet somehow his UZR was fairly high.  Even despite how I feel about his defense, Peralta had the best offensive season for shortstops in the AL.  The second best offensive season from shortstops was performed by Jed Lowrie.  His defense was sub-par compared to the others.  Yunel Escobar combined league average offense with extraordinary defense to lead shortstops in fWAR.  Stephen Drew created runs at a 9% better than league average clip combined with fairly good defense.  J.J. Hardy was slightly below average offensively but played great defense.  Alexei Ramirez has not been a good hitter since he came into the league but plays a great defensive shortstop.  I would choose Stephen Drew as the starter for having a good all-around season.  For the reserve spot, I am partial to choosing Jed Lowrie for his superior offense.
Starter: Stephen Drew, Boston Red Sox
Reserve: Jed Lowrie, Oakland A's

Outfield: Mike Trout is an obvious choice for one of the Outfield starting spots.  Trout led the American league in fWAR.  He was second in the league in creating runs for any position.  He got on base at a .432 clip, second highest in the league, behind Miguel Cabrera.  He was a great base runner, stealing 33 bases an his overall speed contributing to wins.  All of that combined with his defense and his offensive contributions coming in a pitcher's park, makes him an obvious choice as a starter at this spot and MVP candidate.  The other two starting spots are a little more complicated.  The choices are not nearly as obvious.  You can choose between Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino, Colby Rasmus, Jose Bautista, Adam Jones, Coco Crisp, Brett Gardner, Desmond Jennings, Austin Jackson, and Alex Rios.  I'll take a look at them in a table highlighting what I look at.

Name
OBP
SLG
wOBA
wRC+
BsR
Def
fWAR
ISO
Jacoby Ellsubry
.355
.426
.343
113
11.4
12.0
5.8
.128
Shane Victorino
.351
.451
.353
119
3.0
19.5
5.6
.156
Colby Rasmus
.338
.501
.365
130
1.2
12.9
4.8
.225
Jose Bautista
.358
.498
.372
134
1.8
-0.5
4.2
.239
Adam Jones
.318
.493
.350
118
6.2
-4.9
4.2
.208
Coco Crisp
.335
.444
.339
117
6.1
-0.5
3.9
.183
Alex Gordon
.327
.422
.326
103
4.8
1.6
3.4
.156
Brett Gardner
.344
.416
.335
108
2.6
1.3
3.2
.143
Desmond Jennings
.334
.414
.330
112
5.1
-3.7
3.1
.161
Austin Jackson
.337
.417
.332
107
5.6
-1.8
3.1
.145
Alex Rios
.324
.432
.330
103
7.8
-3.3
3.1
.154

My second choice for the starter's role is Colby Rasmus because of having the fourth best offensive season according to wRC+ and the third best defensive season. of an outfielder.  This is mainly due to his slugging.  The final starter is Shane Victorino.  Victorino had the second best defensive season by an American League outfielder and the 7th best offensive season, according to wRC+, in his first year in Boston.  

For the reserves, I'm choosing the all-around talent of Jacoby Ellsbury.  He combined an above-average offensive season with great defense and great baserunning.  Ellsbury had the 4th best OBP, 13th best offensive season, according to wRC+, and the 4th best defensive season.  Jose Bautista is my second reserve.  His offensive season was one of the best in the league for outfielders.  His fWAR was hurt by the fact that he only played 118 games.  The final spot is for Adam Jones.  While Adam Jones's defensive numbers are pretty bad, he looks like a better defender than his numbers suggest.  His OBP is low for my liking but basically I'm choosing between a number of flawed outfielders and I'd choose Adam Jones as the final reserve because of his overall offensive numbers and the defensive numbers might deserve to be higher.

Starters: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Colby Rasmus, Toronto Blue Jays
Shane Victorino, Boston Red Sox

Reserves: Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox
Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles

Starting Pitchers: Let's go to a table to see.

Name IP K/9 ERA FIP xFIP fWAR RA9 WAR fWAR/IP RA9/IP
Max Scherzer 214.33 10.08 2.9 2.74 3.16 6.4 6.2 0.0298605 0.028927
Anibal Sanchez 182 9.99 2.57 2.39 2.91 6.2 6 0.03406593 0.032967
Felix Hernandez 204.33 9.51 3.04 2.61 2.66 6 5.1 0.02936426 0.02496
Justin Verlander 218.33 8.95 3.46 3.28 3.67 5.2 4 0.02381716 0.018321
Chris Sale 214.33 9.49 3.07 3.17 2.95 5.1 5.4 0.02379508 0.025195
Yu Darvish 209.67 11.89 2.83 3.28 2.84 5 6.7 0.023847 0.031955
Derek Holland 213 7.99 3.42 3.44 3.68 4.8 4.5 0.02253521 0.021127
James Shields 228.67 7.71 3.15 3.47 3.72 4.5 6 0.01967901 0.026239
Doug Fister 207.67 6.85 3.68 3.27 3.42 4.5 3.6 0.02166899 0.017335
David Price 186.67 7.28 3.33 3.03 3.27 4.4 3.1 0.02357101 0.016607
Jon Lester 213.33 7.47 3.75 3.59 3.9 4.3 3.9 0.02015656 0.018282
Hisashi Iwakuma 219.67 7.58 2.66 3.44 3.28 4.2 6.8 0.01911959 0.030956
Bartolo Colon 190.33 5.53 2.65 3.23 3.95 3.9 5.7 0.02049073 0.029948
Hiroki Kuroda 201.33 6.71 3.31 3.56 3.6 3.8 4.6 0.01887448 0.022848
Jose Quintana 200 7.31 3.51 3.82 3.86 3.7 4.1 0.0185 0.0205
Andy Pettitte 185.33 6.22 3.74 3.7 3.88 3.2 2.9 0.0172665 0.015648
Ubaldo Jimenez 182.67 9.56 3.3 3.43 3.62 3.2 3.2 0.01751793 0.017518
John Lackey 189.33 7.65 3.52 3.86 3.49 3.2 3.8 0.01690171 0.020071
C.J. Wilson 212.33 7.97 3.39 3.51 3.93 3.3 3.1 0.01554185 0.0146
Ervin Santana 211 6.87 3.24 3.93 3.69 3 4.5 0.01421801 0.021327
If you believe in DIPS theory, you might believe that Anibal Sanchez is the best pitcher in the American League.  But I don't believe fully in DIPS theory.  I believe that a pitcher has some control over the contact that hitters make.  But even with that, I think that Sanchez has a much better argument to be the best pitcher in the league, then people give him credit for.  He had the lowest ERA and lowest FIP.  In terms of actual value, he led in fWAR per IP and RA9 WAR per IP.  With that in mind, here are my 6 starters selected:

Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers
Anibal Sanchez, Detroit Tigers
Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers
Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox
Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle Mariners

Relievers:

Koji Uehera 74.33 12.23 1.09 1.61 2.08 3.3 3.8 0.04439661 0.051123 0.04776 35 6
Greg Holland 67 13.84 1.21 1.31 1.68 3.2 3.5 0.04776119 0.052239 0.05 41 4
Joe Nathan 64.67 10.16 1.39 2.26 3.27 2.5 3.5 0.0386578 0.054121 0.046389 39 4
Nate Jones 78 10.27 4.15 2.64 2.77 2 0.1 0.02564103 0.001282 0.013462 23 17
Danny Farquhar 55.67 12.77 4.2 1.86 2.4 1.9 -0.1 0.03412969 -0.0018 0.016167 18 5
Drew Smyly 76 9.59 2.37 2.31 2.99 1.9 2.2 0.025 0.028947 0.026974 17 9
Neal Cotts 57 10.26 1.11 2.17 2.82 1.8 2.6 0.03157895 0.045614 0.038596 21 7
Glen Perkins 62.67 11.06 2.3 2.49 2.61 1.7 2.2 0.02712622 0.035105 0.031115 26 5
Addison Reed 71.33 9.08 3.79 3.17 3.77 1.7 0.8 0.02383289 0.011215 0.017524 33 10
Sean Doolittle 69 7.83 3.13 2.71 3.68 1.6 1.3 0.02318841 0.018841 0.021014 29 10
David Robertson 66.33 10.45 2.04 2.61 2.6 1.6 2.5 0.02412182 0.03769 0.030906 38 5
Ryan Cook 67.33 8.96 2.54 2.74 3.71 1.6 1.5 0.02376355 0.022278 0.023021 28 15
Joaquin Benoit 67 9.81 2.01 2.87 3.16 1.6 2.6 0.0238806 0.038806 0.031343 29 4
Mariano Rivera 64 7.59 2.11 3.05 3.09 1.5 2.5 0.0234375 0.039063 0.03125 37 8
The categories at the end are shutdowns and meltdowns.  The third decimal number is the average WAR/IP.

The three relievers I'm choosing are at the top of the chart above.  The 4th reliever I would have chosen was Neal Cotts. 

Koji Uehera, Boston Red Sox
Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals
Joe Nathan, Texas Rangers

Cy Young Vote:
1. Anibal Sanchez, Detroit Tigers
2. Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers
3. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
4. Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers
5. Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox

MVP:

The MVP vote essentially boils down to how much you value all-around skill over offensive skills.  I don't believe in the general idea that an MVP has to come from a playoff team.  So, I tend to focus on the players who I thought had the best (or most valuable seasons).  My MVP vote would boil down to the below:

10. Colby Rasmus, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
9. Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota Twins
8. Max Scherzer, SP, Detroit Tigers
7. Robinson Cano, 2B, New York Yankees
6. Anibal Sanchez, SP, Detroit Tigers
5. Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays
4. Chris Davis, 1B, Baltimore Orioles
3. Josh Donaldson, 3B, Oakland A's
2. Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Detroit Tigers
1. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim





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