11th and Washington

11th and Washington: November 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Was Rollins even the Phillies' MVP?

This isn't me. I'm not whining here or spitting out sour grapes (or whatever that lame phrase is). Yeah, I thought Jimmy Rollins had an amazing year and seemed to be there in so many clutch situations for the Phillies down the stretch, but he's not even the MVP of the Phillies. That would be Chase Utley, in my mind. But Utley was overlooked because he didn't have the numbers, because he missed a month.

But for those of you into WARP and VORP, this might be interesting.

Personally, I think Rollins won because:

1.) He has a big mouth. He said in January the Phillies were the team to beat, and despite one of the NL's worst pitching staffs, they were.

2.) He plays shortstop.

3.) Voters might have filed their ballots before the final day of the season, and therefore missed Matt Holliday's central role in the Rockies' surge. True, they would've also missed the Mets' collapse, but I don't think Rollins' case was built around that as much. Ryan Howard won last year without the Phillies' reaching the postseason.

What the article also illuminates is the changing definition of "valuable," led by the new and innovative ways of looking at performance and statistics. Batting average and home runs (and wins and ERA) don't tell the whole story anymore, but so long as the voters are two sportswriters in each league city who have been on the baseball beat for two decades, those statistics are going to be the ones that carry the weight. They aren't going to look at VORP or WARP or ballpark factors (and I checked -- Holliday's and Rollins' numbers on the road were pretty similar; both were helped a bit by their home parks but also held up well in the gray unis).

At least with the MVP, "valuable" is part of the definition. The Cy Young Award carries no such caveat, so in some years, the wrong guy wins just because his team reached the postseason or his offense produced a lot of wins. And don't get me started on the Heisman, which has completely lost its luster and meaning and probably hasn't been the same award since they moved the ceremony from the Downtown Athletic Club to Midtown. The Heisman, by definition but not in name, is for the "most outstanding college football player." Not "the most outstanding or valuable player[you could even insert quarterback/running back here] on the best team." Troy Smith wasn't the most outstanding player last year; Darren McFadden was. The most outstanding player this year isn't necessarily a quarterback who throws for 3,000 yards and 30 TDs and leads his team to a BCS game; it's Tim Tebow, the first player IN HISTORY to score 20 TDs each passing and rushing. Or, as ESPN Magazine argued, it's perhaps LSU DT Glenn Dorsey. Sure, Tebow may be a product of Urban Meyer's system, but he still executes against some tough competition -- particularly some fast defenses. I wouldn't knock Colt Brennan (last year) for throwing 58 TDs because of the system (though I would question the competition).

Anyway, enough with the football. I got carried away there. It'll be interesting to see over the years if the baseball awards continue to be based on home runs and wins (Troy Tulowitzki was the most impressive NL rookie in 2007, because he played the field so much -- significantly so -- better than Ryan Braun, who had the worst fielding season for a third baseman in something like 80 years). Or will the new stats -- kind of like the "new math," whatever that was -- take hold and change the way we look at players. When you look at Rollins' OPS -- which seems to be the new stat most accepted into the mainstream -- he was way down at No. 22 in the NL. The top nine were legitimate MVP contenders: Chipper Jones, Prince Fielder, Holliday, Albert Pujols, Howard, Utley, Miguel Cabrera, David Wright and Hanley Ramirez. Ahead of Rollins were guys like Pat Burrell, Corey Hart and, even with him, Jeff Kent.

To end this on a more even note, when you use the question, "Where would [the team] have been without [the player]?" Rollins and Holliday come out pretty closely. Rollins started all 162 games and set a Major League record for plate appearances because the Phillies had no other shortstop. In a pinch, Abraham Nunez would've played there, but he's not much of a shortstop anymore. Rollins also set a Major League record for at-bats in a season because he doesn't walk enough and makes a lot of outs. So if you took him away from the Phillies, they had no shortstop, but you also only took away an .875 OPS.

But if you took Holliday away from the Rockies, you're taking away a 1.012 OPS, not to mention an NL-best 142.2 runs created (Rollins had 133.4, fifth in the league).

Still close, but Holliday seemed more valuable to me.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Managers lay a golden egg

You'd think that the managers and coaches would have a better grasp of the finer aspects of the game. It's the more casual fans and lazy sportswriters who are overwhelmed by the sexiness of home runs and wins. But in this new age of baseball -- of Moneyball and trendy new stats providing a more accurate look than the old standbys, such as batting average -- maybe the old-school on-field guys just can't keep up with the "new math."

I didn't scour the NL Gold Glove Award winners when they were announced the other day. I got my text alert that David Wright and Carlos Beltran had won, and left it at that. But looking at them now, there's one oversight that stands out -- and probably foreshadows similar awards results down the road, though that may not be the case because of the different voting groups. In the NL, there's nothing to complain about in the awards for Russell Martin, Ryan Zimmerman's accomplishments. And Derrek Lee doesn't seem to be quite the glove man that Todd Helton is, but that's not even the biggest upset in the doling out of the awards, in my mind.

Look at shortstop, where Jimmy Rollins won the award for some reason over Troy Tulowitzki. It's not even that close. In seven fewer games and nearly 70 fewer innings, Tulo trounced Rollins in total chances (834-717), putouts (262-241, with Rollins' number buoyed by having a Gold Glover in Utley at second base) and assists (561-479). Plus, he made the same number of errors in more than a hundred more chances. And though his fielding percentage was just .002 better than Rollins', Tulo still put up a better mark with a lot more opportunities -- opportunities for mistakes. It's even more impressive when you see the young Rocky's advantage in range factor and zone rating.

So I can only guess that Rollins' bat, his East Coast location, his possition as the prohibitive favorite for NL MVP (which he'd win over another deserving Rocky, Matt Holliday) and his mouth made the difference -- all of which have nothing to do with fielding ability, which is what the Gold Glove should be. (The Rockies' postseason sweep of the Phillies wouldn't have played a factor, because the coaches and managers most likely cast their ballots in the final days of the regular season.)

I fear the same fate will befall Tulo when the NL Rookie of the Year AWard is announced, though it won't be as big a "mistake." Ryan Braun, the likely ROY, is certainly deserving. I just think Tulo had a better all-around season, while Braun attracted attention for his homer binge more than anything else. If the ROY is like the Heisman, Tulo will benefit from the Rockies' late-season run to the playoffs, when he emerged as Colorado's leader and drew some attention his way for being a better well-rounded player.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Surely some not-so-free agents

If money were no object, some team in baseball could potentially add nine future Hall of Famers to its roster this offseason, including what is obviously a baseball first: available sluggers who have reached the 700, 600, 500, 400 and 300 home-run plateaus.

First, the possible -- not all probable -- Hall of Famers: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine, Andruw Jones, Mike Piazza, Mariano Rivera, Alex Rodriguez, Curt Schilling and Sammy Sosa. I'm not going to go into here the debate about whether Jones and Schilling are Hall of Famers, just like I'm not bothering with the technicality that Clemens hasn't filed (and could very well retire) and that Sosa's election to the Hall is very much in doubt.

And the homers:

Bonds, 762
Sosa, 609
A-Rod, 518
Piazza, 427
Jones, 368

Even in such a weak free-agent class, some video-game roster finagling could still produce a pretty competitive team. Obviously age is a factor in the real world, but not on the Xbox -- particularly if you turn off the injuries. A rotation consisting of Clemens, Glavine, Schilling, Kenny Rogers and Livan Hernandez would pile up some wins. Todd Jones or Eric Gagne could close. First base would be a problem -- Doug Mientkiewicz and Ryan Klesko seem to be the only options, unless you count Julio Franco -- but Kaz Matsui is there at second, David Eckstein at shortstop and A-Rod, obviously, at third. Or go with A-Rod at short and Pedro Feliz at third. The outfield has options from Bonds, Jones, Sosa (left to right) to an all-center lineup of Jones, Torii Hunter and Aaron Rowand, or some other grouping. Mike Piazza, Paul Lo Duca and Jorge Posada are there to catch.

But the team would probably have a payroll of $300 million, a tenth of that spent on A-Rod alone.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,