Joe Mauer Is AL MVP… I Guess

Joe Mauer is going to win the American League MVP Award today. How do I know? I know because ESPN.com did a poll of its elite baseball minds: 20 votes for Joe Mauer. One for Mark Teixeira. One for Derek Jeter.

Who voted for Derek Jeter? Why, Jon Miller, of course.

Any time I’m too damn happy and feel like getting depressed, I flip on Sunday Night Baseball and listen to Jon Miller say the stupidest crap I’ve ever heard a man in broadcasting utter. If Jon Miller thinks Derek Jeter is the MVP, then there is no way in hell Derek Jeter is the MVP.

Steve Berthiaume thinks Teixeira deserves it. He’s an anchor. He knows nothing about anything. He doesn’t deserve a vote (however informal this poll is) and should shut his mouth.

The truth is, I would in fact like Jeter or Tex to reel in the Award. But I’ll have to be realistic on this one. Mauer played Gold Glove defense while having arguably the greatest offensive season for a catcher in the history of the game. Moreover, without Jason Morneau, he more or less single handedly led his team into the playoffs. Had the Twins not won the AL Central, I’d say one of the two Yankees would deserve the Award over Mauer.

But that’s not how it went down. Joe Mauer is the 2009 AL MVP, hands down.

Roy Halladay to the Yankees Sends a Bad Message

I am a Yankees fan. I support their mindset: win at any costs (taken literally). If you have to spend X dollars to do so, do it. But I do not support acquiring Roy Halladay and subsequently signing him.

I cannot stand it when people speak disparagingly about the Yankees buying players, championships, etc. Didn’t Texas buy Alex Rodriguez with $252 million? Didn’t Boston buy Manny Ramirez with $160 million? Johan Santana and the Mets? Alfonso Soriano and the Cubs? You get the picture.

 

All that being said, those are isolated incidents. These teams didn’t pay exorbitant sums to multiple players. The Yankees, on the other hand, have four of the five richest contracts in sports history.

Giving the best pitcher in baseball—and he just may be—a contract upwards of $150 million will sway my opinion of the Yankees. Derek Jeter is homegrown and Alex Rodriguez was traded for (and subsequently given the largest contract ever), so I do not mind those actions. But in the wake of signing CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira, the signing of Roy Halladay would only paint the Yankees in a worse light.

If you’ve read this blog before, you know I support anything the Yankees do. Trading for, and then buying Roy Halladay… that I do not support.

Dan Haren Got No Love

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Dan Haren received one third-place vote for the National League Cy Young Award. And that’s it. He finished fifth, behind Javier Vazquez, Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter and Tim Lincecum.

Haren was 14-10 with a 3.14 ERA over 229.1 innings. He had a 1.003 WHIP (led the League) and a 5.87 SO/BB (led the League). It is not his fault that he pitched for the third worst team in the National League.

Haren was the Cy Young favorite at mid-season: on July 10, he led the majors with 130 IP, 2.01 ERA, .81 WHIP, .189 OBA and a 8.1. SO/BB. A poor second half clearly destroyed those numbers.

But Haren had no support. His offense was terrible, his defense was sub-par and he did not have usually dependable Brandon Webb to take some of the load. He did it all himself (what helped Zack Greinke, as well). Carpenter and Wainwright had each other. Lincecum had Matt Cain. Vazquez had Derek Lowe and Tim Hudson, among others.

I’m not saying Haren deserved to win the Award; Lincecum clearly did. Moreover, Carpenter deserved it over Haren, too. I just cannot believe this guy got one lousy third place vote for his spectacular season.

Zack Greinke Deservedly Wins Cy Young

Zack Greinke took home the American League Cy Young award yesterday, besting Felix Hernandez. I find it very disconcerting that he was not the unanimous choice. Two first place votes went to Hernandez, and one to Justin Verlander. That being said, Greinke won by a very wide margin.

What he did this season was incredible: win a Cy Young for a team with a .401 winning percentage—the lowest such for any AL Cy Young winner. A horrible team, combined with a horrific infield, granted Greinke just 16 wins, the lowest ever for an AL winner.

But the rest of Greinke’s stats were undeniably incredible: a 2.16 ERA over 229.1 innings, with a 1.07 WHIP and 4.75 SO/BB. Hernandez, despite his three more wins, had an ERA of 2.49, a 1.14 WHIP and a 3.06 SO/BB. His more wins were a product of his playing for a better team: the Mariners finished above .500: .525.

How could you not give it Greinke?

Verlander’s ERA was 3.45. Already, he is not deserving when compared to Greinke (and even Hernandez). His WHIP was 1.18, and he completed half as many games as the winner. But, he did strike out 10.1 batters per nine innings and lead the League in strikeouts with 269. Regardless, he pitched for a playoff contention team: he had offense. Greinke had to do everything by himself.

The Royals won just 17 of his 33 starts. Nobody came close to deserving this award more than Greinke, and rightfully so.

Tim Lincecum to Win 2009 NL Cy Young

It’s not even a debate: Tim Lincecum outright deserves the 2009 National League Cy Young award.

He finished third in innings pitched at 225.1, behind Dan Haren with 229.1 and Adam Wainwright with 233. That being said, each of those pitchers started more games than Lincecum.

He finished second in ERA to Chris Carpenter. He was 2.48, Carpenter was 2.24. Lincecum started four more games than Carpenter. Anything can happen in four starts: Carpenter’s ERA might not have necessarily finished above Lincecum’s but odds are it certainly would have been higher than 2.24.

Nobody came close to Lincecum in strikeouts (261). The next closest was Javier Vazquez at 238. Lincecum, along with teammate Matt Cain, led the League in complete games (four). Batters hit just .206 off Lincecum; .226 on Carpenter.

Statistically, it’s not close: Lincecum is the winner. Moreover, he pitched for a poorer offense in the Giants than say the Cardinals, for example. He couldn’t rely on the likes of Albert Pujols or Matt Holliday to bail him out in the seventh inning; he had to do everything himself.

It will be a crime if he does not win his second Cy Young award.

A Case for John Lackey

John Lackey is the obvious premiere pitcher on the free agent market this winter. Although he is 31 years old, he is going to command quite a contract.

A few knocks on Lackey:

He has a career WHIP of 1.31. He has tossed just 163.1 and 176.1 innings the past two in 2008 and 2009, respectively. He won 19 games in 2007 but otherwise has never won more than 14 games in a season. And, more politically, he has made just one All-Star team and received Cy Young votes just once.

But Lackey is a bulldog; we all saw him yelling at manager Mike Scioscia against the Yankees when he was being taken out. Moreover, he averages 219 innings for every 34 starts. So, if healthy, you can pencil him in for 200+ innings a year.

Alas, that’s the thing: Lackey has not been healthy—51 starts over the last two seasons. And he’s already 31. Do you really want to give him a five-year deal for around $15 million a year?

You have to. Lackey does not put up jaw-dropping numbers on a yearly basis, but he gives you remarkable consistency. He eats innings and, although he gets hit hard, he keeps his team in the game. And he’s post-season proven.

This guy is going to get paid. Whichever team does it will be richly rewarded.

Curtis Granderson Is No Team’s Answer

The Detroit Tigers have made it very clear that they are willing to trade centerfielder Curtis Granderson. The speedy lefthanded hitter is coming off a year in which he made his first All-Star team despite hitting just .249/.327/.453; his OPS was .780. He did slug 30 homeruns and steal 20 bags, but he struck out 141 times and drew just 72 walks—not a great ratio for a guy who should be leading off.

But that is what has become apparent with Granderson: he is not a leadoff hitter. He’s a mid-level power hitter. And he can steal a little.

And he can’t hit lefties for his life. Last year he hit an abysmal .183/.245/.239 with an OPS of .484 off southpaws. Yes, his slugging percentage was actually lower than his on-base percentage: first time in the history of forever.

The Yankees, Angels and Cubs are rumored to be going after him, with the Yankees leading the charge. They should stay away, however. If they were to make a deal for Granderson, they would have to work out a platoon situation in which he would sit against lefties. You cannot send him up there with a .183 average.

And the Angels have to be crazy to consider this deal. With Torii Hunter locked up and the re-signing of Bobby Abreu, they are fine. They should simply focus on retaining Chone Figgins, who is an overall better player.

In fact, that’s who the Yankees should be going after.

Matt Holliday Is Really Not A Complete Player

With Matt Holliday now officially a free agent, agent Scott Boras is touting him as a ‘complete player,’ worthy of a Mark Teixeira-like contract. Boras calls him one of “less than 30 franchise players” in the majors. He might be one of the 30 best hitters in baseball, but he is by no means a franchise player.

Did you know Holliday has hit 30 homeruns just twice? He has driven in 100 runs just three times?

Holliday, who has spent most of his career in Colorado, is a career .351 hitter at home; .284 on the road. Not a terrible average by any means, but it certainly shows how Colorado has affected his overall numbers.

If you look at his splits, his batting average does not change much by month or game situation. He is a well-rounded, clutch hitter. He’s just simply not a complete player, to use Boras’ language. He’s not a great fielder and he doesn’t draw many walks. Yes, he doesn’t strike out that much for someone with his power, and he is indeed capable of stealing bases, but he is definitely a flawed player in several respects.

During his time in Oakland this past season, he saw his power drop: despite a .284 average, he hit 11 homeruns in 93 games. When traded to St. Louis, he hit 13 in 63. This says one of two things: Holliday either does not play well for losing teams or he does not hit well in the American League.

So who is going to cough up $20 million a year for this guy? All the teams that can afford him, for the most part, already have a ‘franchise player.’ And a lot of these teams are in the AL. And some of them are rebuilding and may endure a sub-par season.

Holliday is not a franchise player. He is a backup. He should stay in St. Louis and play second fiddle to Albert Pujols.

Roy Halladay Back on the Market

Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos will be attending the winter GM meetings shortly and will inevitably listen to offers for, arguably, the best pitcher in the game. The Blue Jays marketed Roy Halladay heavily this past summer, but asked the world for him and ended up passing on several deals.

So it would be reasonable to think that Toronto will lower its demands over the winter in order to ship off the right-hander. But that would be foolish.

Now is the time to ask for the world and subsequently hold on to Halladay. Wait until the 2010 trading deadline when a team in contention is more willing to give up top prospects and major league-ready players for the likes of Halladay.

The Blue Jays ace is a game changer; he is one of the most durable pitchers in baseball and his services should not come cheaply. That being said, the Jays must be smart. They can get a lot for him, but they must do it at the proper time.

Alex Rodriguez Reinvents Himself

Following yesterday’s 8-5 Yankees victory, Alex Rodriguez discussed his home run in the post-game press conference. He said how it was a big hit for the team and got them going. He then went on to discuss his approach at the plate, saying that just “keeping things simple” has revolutionized his mindset.

We’ve heard it all year; how A-Rod would always try to get the big hit. He would put the weight of the world on his shoulders. Instead of passing the buck to the next guy and accepting a walk, he would swing at pitches out of the zone or pop up on pitches he would normally drive up the middle or out of the park.

But all that has changed. Evidenced by his success this post-season, this is a new Alex Rodriguez. Both on the field and off.

He no longer gives Derek Jeter-type answers to questions: ‘We’re just taking this one game at a time and hopefully we’ll come out on the winning side.’ No. Now he answers questions honestly and actually gives information. He discusses his mindset, his emotions, his happiness. He is sincere. And by being sincere and forthright with the media, he has humanized himself.

We want him to succeed. We want him to be happy. We understand that he is a flawed person just like everyone else. He has made tons and tons of mistakes (opting out of his contract during the World Series, performance-enhancing drugs, etc.), but he has tried to make amends. By changing how he handles his life off the field (as he says, getting rid of people in his inner circle who constantly talked in his ear) and straightening out his priorities, he has become a more complete player on the field. He is a shining example of how one’s personal life can affect his professional life. He is a new man.

He is no longer a $250 million-plus contract that can’t stay out of the tabloids. He is now the best player in baseball, once again.