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Staff Predictions on the 2012 AL Awards

Yesterday we revealed the staff’s predictions for the American League and the World Series. Today it is the staff’s picks for the AL individual awards.

AL MVP:

Matt B: Robinson Cano Mike P: Jose Bautista Fish: Robinson Cano Mike D: Miguel Cabrera Matt S: Prince Fielder Delia: Robinson Cano Brian: Robinson Cano

Robinson Cano was the leading vote getter among the staff. Myself, Brian, Fish and Delia will think hitting in the 3 hole will help him put up even more fabulous numbers. I think his protection going from Nick Swisher to Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira will help him see better pitchers than he saw last year. The other votes were split among Cabrera, Fielder and Bautista. Mike D sees no reason why Cabrera won’t be able to pound out another MVP season, while Matt S. thinks his teammate Fielder will put on a show. Those two teammates may have to deal with their votes canceling each other out. If the Jays do not make the playoffs it may be tough for Bautista to win with so many great players in the AL. The surprise I think is no votes were put in for Albert Pujols.  

AL ROY:

Matt B: Brett Lawrie Mike D: Matt Moore Matt S: Matt Moore Mike P: Matt Moore Brian: Matt Moore Delia: Yu Darvish Fish: Matt Moore

Matt Moore is the majority choice among the staff for very good reason.Moore threw 7 shutout innings in Game 1 of the ALDS against a potent Rangers lineup. That has everybody excited about him this year. I choose Lawrie to be a little different and because I think he will put up a very nice year. Lawrie hit .293, with 9 HR’s, 25 RBI, and a .953 OPS in 150 AB’s last year. He also had a big spring training. Delia is the only one going with the most experienced rookie Yu Darvish. 

AL CY Young:

Matt B: Jered Weaver Matt S.: CC Sabathia Delia: Justin Verlander Mike D. Justin Verlander Fish: CC Sabathia Brian: Matt Moore Mike P: Matt Moore

The first thing that jumps out at me the most is the bold picks by Mike P and Brian for Matt Moore to win the AL CY Young as a rookie. Despite his great talent, winning the CY Young as a rookie would be amazing, especially pitching in the AL East. In 1981 Fernando Valenzuela became the first and only rookie CY Young award winner, so Moore winning would be historic. Sabathia and Verlander tied Moore with 2 votes. Fish has Sabathia over Verlander because he thinks Sabathia’s BABIP will go down from .318 while Verlander’s will go up from .236. He also does not like Verlander’s defense behind him. Matt S. thinks the new rotation will take pressure off Sabathia. Mike D and Delia are sticking with Verlander until he proves otherwise. I was the only one to give Weaver a vote because of his improved team and him getting to face Oakland and Seattle so much.         

AL Manager of the Year:

Matt B: Mike  Scioscia Mike P: Joe Maddon Delia: Joe Girardi Matt S: Joe Maddon Brian: Mike Scioscia Fish: John Farrell Mike D: Mike Scioscia

Manager of the year usually comes from a surprise team that makes the playoffs. However, with so many strong teams in the AL not many surprises are being selected outside the top 6 teams. This makes predicting manager of the year this year very difficult. Scioscia is the leader among the staff with 3 votes and is Maddon 2nd with 2 votes. Delia was the only one to vote for Girardi. I think being the manger of the Yankees gives him no chance. If he did not get consideration last year when the Red Sox were projected by seemingly everybody to beat the Yankees than he never will.

Tell us your predictions in the comments.     

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AL is Loaded

Despite the National League winning the last two championships, the American League has always been considered the dominant league. That gap has widened even further this offseason. Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, two of the NL’s biggest slugger’s, have gone over to the AL and will make the competition ever fiercer. Also, the Yankees got what most people would consider a number two starter in Michael Pineda to further bolster the team that led the AL in wins last year.  There are likely six teams that will fight for four playoff spots, without considering a surprise team cropping up.  With the addition of the second wild card team winning the division will be of utmost importance for the Yankees.

The battle for the Yankees to get into the playoff will probably come down to five teams for three spots as I see the Tigers as a virtual lock to win the AL Central. They won it by 15 games last year and that was without Prince Fielder. In fact if you asked me right now I would say they are the team to beat in the entire AL. I know they will have issues on defense, but when Fielder and Miguel Cabrera hit over .310, with about 35 HR’s, and about 115 RBI each it will not matter as much. They also have a very nice top of the rotation in Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, and Max Scherzer and a very good back end of the bullpen.

The Yankees will in all likelihood be battling the Rays, Red Sox, Rangers, and Angels for the other 3 playoff spots. Right now I would consider the Yankees the favorite in the AL East.  They won it last year with 97 wins and improved more than the Red Sox or the Rays did with the addition of Michael Pineda. I would consider the Rays a close 2nd and the Red Sox 3rd. The Sox have issues all over the diamond right now. Their outfield is a mess right now as Carl Crawford might not be ready to start the year and they still have a hole in RF, even though they signed Cody Ross.  I do not understand them replacing Marco Scutaro with Mike Aviles at SS. They still have issues at the backend of the rotation as nobody knows how Daniel Bard will transform to the rotation.  Their backend of the bullpen is also completely new and will have to prove themselves. Meanwhile, the Rays might have the best rotation in MLB and I like the acquisition of Carlos Pena to provide more power to their offense.  But, the Yankees definitely have the edge over the Rays in offense and bullpen and they are not that far off in the rotation, which I think puts them over the top.                                

If the Yankees were to not win the AL East they will face a stiff competition for the wild card spots and not just from the AL East. Whoever doesn’t win the AL West between the Angels and Rangers will be battling for the wild card spots. The Angels greatly improved themselves with the additions of C.J. Wilson and Albert Pujols. They also have one of the best rotations in the MLB led by Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson, and Ervin Santana.  The Rangers have one of the best offenses in MLB led by Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Mike Napoli, Adrian Beltre, and Elvis Andrus. Yu Darvish will try to replace Wilson in the rotation and Neftali Feliz will make an interesting jump to the rotation. Both of these teams are legitimate threats to the Yankees.

As you can see the AL will be an absolute dogfight this year with all of these talented teams. All of this is subject to change of course with injuries and trades. You also know their will be a surprise team that will compete who I did not talk about. The Yankees have their work cut out for them in the AL this year, but if they play to their potential they should not have much of a problem.

Angels a better fit than Yanks for Wilson


C.J. Wilson had an interest in the New York Yankees, if not for nothing more than to drive up his price. Wilson tried to set up a meeting with the Yankees, but the Yankees denied him.  As a result, the market for Wilson was not as good as he probably anticipated.Wilson ended up signing a 5 yr, 77 million dollar contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Yankees were wise to lay off him, but I do feel as though he is a pretty good fit for the Angels.

I felt as though C.J. Wilson would be vastly overpaid by somebody due to the fact that he was the best pitcher in an extremely weak starting pitching market.  However, his awful postseason hurt him in a major way.Wilson was 0-3 with a 6.82 ERA despite the Rangers making the World Series. I see him more as a number 3 pitcher which is exactly why he was a good fit for the Angels and not the Yankees. With the Angels, Wilson can slide nicely behind Jered Weaver and Dan Haren.  That should limit the pressure on him along with Albert Pujols taking a lot of it.  With the Yankees Wilson would be forced into a pressurized situation as the number 2 starter. He showed last year in the postseason that he may not be able to live up to that. He is not the guy the Yankees are looking for in my opinion, so they made the right decision in not paying a guy they are not sure about into his mid 30s.

I do believe Wilson will have success for the Angels because the fit is a lot better for him.  Some players are not right for the Yankees, but are right for a lot of other places. Brian Cashman has chosen to not to throw out money this offseason and so far he has done a nice job of being patient. Cole Hamels and Matt Cain are much better free agent options next offseason. Cashman does still need to improve the rotation and it will be interesting to see what he does.

Evaluating the AL Cy Young Candidates

Tomorrow, the AL Cy Young Award will be announced. Justin Verlander is the clear favorite in everyone’s eyes, but let’s see how the overall perception of his candidacy matches up with a purely statistical evaluation of the candidates.

First, I created 8 different categories with 2-3 stats per category:

Each category was worth a certain percent out of the total 100. Command, stuff, and durability were valued the highest, which was 15% each. The outcome of all these categories was added up for each pitcher, giving each a score. Scores were given based on the percent above average, for each pitcher’s stat. The 5 main candidates are C.C. Sabathia, Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver, Josh Beckett, and James Shields. Here are their point values (percent above/below average) for each stat:

fh

a

b

c

d

e

f

g

As you can see above, those are the point values by stat. Below, are the averaged scores for each category:

Since this is a Yankee blog, we’ll trace Sabathia closely throughout the evaluation.

As far as command goes, Justin Verlander had the best. His K/BB and BB/9 numbers were simply outstanding, outshining the second-best, Jered Weaver by 1.6 points, which is a lot. Sabathia was right behind Weaver, but still slightly above the average of the five starting pitchers.

According to the statistics, C.C. Sabathia in fact had the best stuff this season. So any time analysts talk about Justin Verlander’s tremendous stuff, we know that statistically speaking, C.C. Sabathia had the better stuff. Although his K/9 wasn’t the greatest, he manufactured plenty of ground balls, which is also a sign of “stuff”. In addition, he surprisingly got more swing-and-misses than Verlander. James Shields was close behind Sabathia’s 5% above average, for Swing-Miss%, at 4%.

Although “winning” has become significantly less important in statistics, it still has significance. To please the sabemetricists, I added WPA, win-probability-added to the stat pool for “winning”. Leading this category, of course, was Verlander with 1.9 points. The competition wasn’t even close; Jered Weaver scored 1.5 points lower at 0.4. Despite Sabathia’s 19 wins, his number of losses, along with his lower WPA, resulted in a below-average “winning” score.

Now we’ll move to an un-organized category I called Run Allowance. This was basically to find a spot for ERA and FIP, two very important stats. Verlander and Weaver were the front-runners here with 1.0 and 0.6, respectively. CC was right-on average with a score of 0.0. His stats were quite skewed, as his FIP was the same above average, as his ERA was below average. Maybe xFIP should have been added to the mix, but I’m sure the end result would be similar.

Another example of this “skewed-ness” is CC’s batted-ball category. His BABIP was quite a bit sub-par, while his HR/9 was the best of the five pitchers. This gave him a mere 0.1 points, possibly because of some bad BABIP luck. I find it ironic that the #2 of this category, Justin Verlander, had a worse HR/9 than Sabathia, when the first was pitching in Comerica Park, and the latter at tiny Yankee Stadium. Angels’ pitcher, Jered Weaver led the category with his solid performances in both BABIP and HR/9.

The next category I used was “Pitching Quality”. This enveloped the stats- Quality Starts Percentage, WHIP, and Average Game Score (devised by Bill James). Sabathia did not fare too well here at all, with -1.4 points. He was by 0.8 points, the worst in this category, especially in QS% and WHIP. Like usual, Verlander led this category, with 1.2 points followed by Jered Weaver and James Shields. Beckett remained in between Shields and Sabathia with -0.6 points.

In “Value”, which encompasses WAR (wins-above-replacement) and RAR (runs-above-replacement), CC really came back into the race. He tied Justin Verlander for first  in the category, with 2.4 points. The two out-valued the others by at least 2 points, which was substantial.

The last category, Durability, essential for an ace, was much closer. For the first time, Rays’ #1 James Shields led, with 1 point. Close behind were Verlander with 0.8, and Sabathia with 0.2 points. Beckett was the least durable, and really, the least horse-like, at 3 points behind the leader of the category.

TIME FOR THE FINAL RESULTS:

These are completely according to the statistical evaluation:

1st Place ~ Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers | 10 points

2nd Place ~ C.C. Sabathia, New York Yankees | 2 points

3rd Place ~ Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | 0.6 points

4th Place ~ James Shields, Tampa Bay Rays | -2.5 points

5th Place ~ Josh Beckett, Boston Red Sox | -10.6 points

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