Saturday, November 21, 2015

Awards Rewind - The Pirates Perspective

I nailed them: predicted the winners of the Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year, Cy Young, and MVP correctly. This isn't to say that I'm smart; you may have noticed that my prediction that the Blue Jays would defeat the Dodgers in the World Series didn't quite come true. Rather, it's a reflection of how predictable the awards voting has become. And, I might add, how good it's become--I wouldn't have picked all the same winners as the BBWAA electorate, but I don't have a problem with any of the selections. So, well done, all you electors who will never read this and could care less what I think of your selections.

Incidentally, if you want to read an outstanding discussion of one voter's decision process, read this by FanGraphs' Dave Cameron explaining his National League Cy Young Award vote. 

Pirates were shut out of the awards (unless you count Starling Marte's Gold Glove) but had contenders in every category. They didn't really have a chance, though:

  • Jung Ho Kang's season came to an abrupt end on September 17 when a takeout slide by the Cubs' Chris Coghlan tore Kang's knee ligaments and broke his leg. Even before then, he probably wasn't going to beat the Cubs' Kris Bryant for Rookie of the Year. Kang's slash line was .287/.355/.461. Bryant finished at .275/.369/.488 and led all rookies in homers, RBI, and runs scored.
  • Clint Hurdle, who was fourth in the voting, has now managed a team with 20 straight losing seasons since its last postseason appearance to three straight postseasons (albeit via the wild card). The Pirates' 98 wins in 2015 ties the 1908, 1979, and 1991 clubs for the third most in franchise history. But Joe Maddon guided the Cubs to nearly as many wins, 97, and the team's 24-win improvement over 2014 was the greatest in the majors, topping the Rangers' 21-game move.
  • Gerrit Cole emerged as the Pirates' staff ace and one of the best pitchers in baseball. But he really wasn't in the same class (2.60 ERA, 1.09 WHIP) as the triumvirate of the Cubs' Jake Arrieta and the Dodgers' Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw (combined 1.85 ERA, 0.86 WHIP), who were 1-2-3 in the voting. Cole was fourth.
  • Here is the argument for Andrew McCutchen as National League MVP (he finished fifth): He was the best player on a team that made the postseason. Here is the argument for the Nationals' Bryce Harper, the unanimous winner: He was the best player in the National League.
The next vote up is the Hall of Fame. The rhetoric about that will be, as always, over the top. If I could vote, I'd pick the full allotment of ten candidates. Alphabetically:
A couple quick notes here: Yes, I know that Bonds and Clemens used performance-enhancing drugs. Given that I don't have Mark McGwire or Rafael Palmeiro on my my list, I don't ignore drug use. It's just that it's fairly clear to me when in their careers they started to use them, and it's abundantly clear to me that they were Hall of Fame-worthy prior to their use. And I don't think using drugs should automatically disqualify someone; way too many players used them to make that call. Your mileage may vary on this point, of course. As for some of the others...Martinez was an absolutely devastating hitter, and if he's not a Hall of Famer because he was a designated hitter, neither is David Ortiz, and that seems silly. I think Trammell is an easy call and it's a shame that his double play partner, Lou Whitaker, is no longer eligible to be voted in. Mussina and Schilling are much easier calls for me than for the electorate, which gave them 25% and 37% of the vote, respectively, last year (the requirement for induction is 75%). Lastly, of course, there's Tim Raines...

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