The best player is the most valuable

Posted By on November 21, 2011 1:07 pm

This debate happens almost every year at MVP time: can a player be the “most valuable” if his team doesn’t go to the playoffs, or doesn’t even contend? How valuable can you be on a fourth-place team?

Plenty, I say.

I’ve changed my opinion on this recently, but this is where I am now. If you ask a GM what “value” he wants out of his players, it’s to help the team win games. Period. The player who helps his team win the most games is the most valuable. If the team still doesn’t win enough games, that’s the GM’s fault for not having enough good players.

That’s why I’d have voted for Jose Bautista. He helped the Blue Jays win the most games, in my opinion, by being the best everyday offensive player in the league. Justin Verlander and Jacoby Ellsbury and Miguel Caberera were all awesome, but I’d have picked Bautista.

My AL Rookie of the Year ballot

Posted By on November 14, 2011 11:30 am

Now that the winner has been revealed, and I can take some comfort in the fact that most of my colleagues agreed with me, here’s how I settled on my ballot…

I had a very tough time with this award. It went down to the wire. I think a reasonable case could be made for any of four guys: Jeremy Hellickson, Eric Hosmer, Ivan Nova and Mark Trumbo. And that says nothing of two guys–Dustin Ackley and Desmond Jennings–who might actually have been the best rookies, but who didn’t get enough playing time to warrant consideration ahead of players who did it for 120+ games, or 25+ starts. I also thought Jordan Walden, Michael Pineda, Guillermo Moscoso and Jemile Weeks had the type of seasons that easily could have earned them votes most years. Heck, Walden and Pineda could have won the award easily some years.

But this was a tough year to be an AL rookie.

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About that playoff format

Posted By on September 29, 2011 9:44 pm

Ever hear those stories about a guy who misses his flight, and then the plane crashes? He’ll say: “If I hadn’t missed my flight, I’d be dead.” But you don’t ever hear him add: “That’s why I should always be late for flights.”

Obviously, that logic would be silly. The guy knows his absence from the plane didn’t cause it crash. He just got lucky. He could just as easily have missed his flight, and then have his later flight crash.

Anyway, people don’t seem to understand that logic when it comes to debating the proposed extra wild card format in light of what we saw on Wednesday night.

“If we had an extra wild card this year, we wouldn’t have had the greatest night of baseball ever.”

Strictly speaking, that’s true. But let’s not start to think that the current playoff format made Wednesday night’s events happen, or even made them more likely. We just got lucky.

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A second wild card would still be better

Posted By on September 28, 2011 8:53 am

We seem to be headed to a very exciting end to the regular season, with ties atop the wild card in both leagues heading to game 162. It’s tempting to think this is a reason to believe that adding a second wild card would have made for less drama.

But that’s wrong.

What’s the real result we’re all hoping to see this week? Two one-game playoffs, of course. Winner-take-all games are the most dramatic thing in the sport.

If a second wild card was added, and the two were forced to play each other in a one-game playoff (as opposed to a best-of-three, which I’m against), we’d have that every year!

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My AL Rookie of the Year vote: I have a headache

Posted By on September 26, 2011 10:05 am

I don’t think enough publicity has gone to the AL Rookie of the Year race, which is a real barn burner. I’ve got that vote this year, and I can honestly see a case for four guys … and there are only three spots on the ballot.

Jeremy Hellickson has the best ERA among starting pitchers (2.90) and he’s pitched in the tough AL East, doing well against the Red Sox and Yankees, and he’s gotten better as the year has gone on, in a pennant race.

Ivan Nova is 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA for a division champ, and there’s been a fair amount of pressure on him with the issues to the rest of the Yankees rotation. He also pitches in a tough ballpark.

Mark Trumbo has huge counting stats (29 homers and 87 RBIs) and his OPS is .768, which is not bad. He’s been a key offensive contributor on a contender.

Eric Hosmer has the best rate stats (.814 OPS), and his counting stats (19 HRs, 77 RBIs) are pretty good, too. He’s also got an .872 OPS in the second half. He’s certainly got a higher ceiling, prospect-wise, than Trubmo, but that’s not necessarily a part of this award. The only thing that counts against him, albeit not that much, is that his team stinks so he theoretically hasn’t faced the pressure of the other three guys.

Honestly, of all four of these guys, the only thing I feel certain of is that I’d rank Hellickson ahead of Nova. However, I could put the two position players in any order, and I could put the pitchers and position players in any order relative to each other, because it’s sort of apples and oranges when trying to compare them, which is one of the reasons ROY is always a tough vote.

If I wanted to throw Jordan Walden, a closer, in there, then it’s apples, oranges and bananas.

And I haven’t even mentioned Jemile Weeks, Guillermo Moscoso, Michael Pineda or Dustin Ackley, who are all having very good rookie seasons. (Just noticed, nice year for rookies in the AL West.) So has Desmond Jennings, in half a season.

Three more days to think about it.

The Giants’ underrated missing piece

Posted By on September 2, 2011 8:40 am

Through all the talk about why the Giants’ offense has fared so much worse this year than in their championship season, I think one name has been conspicuously absent: Pat Burrell.

It seems like most Giants fans understand the obvious impact of the loss of Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez and the struggles of Aubrey Huff and Andres Torres, but it doesn’t seem like anyone ever mentions how much the Giants miss what Burrell did last year.

You know what position produced the highest OPS on the team last year? Left field. Burrell may have spent only four months with the Giants, but he had 18 homers — including seven that gave the Giants a lead — and a .872 OPS. (In almost the same playing time, the deified Posey hit 18 HRs with an .862 OPS.)

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Myth of Moneyball

Posted By on August 26, 2011 10:00 am

Been spending a lot of time over the past month putting together a special Moneyball section in Athletics magazine. If you are an A’s fan, or even if you are just interested in the book and movie, I recommend you give it a look.

The main piece of the package tells the true story behind those 2002 A’s, who overcame the loss of Jason Giambi and won 103 games on a shoestring budget. The Hollywood version of the story — as best as I can tell, from the trailer — seems to be a real underdog tale. I heard the phrase “island of misfit toys” in the trailer, no doubt in reference to guys like Scott Hatteberg and Chad Bradford, who were cast off by other teams before the A’s scooped them up.

The movie’s producers want you to believe that’s why the A’s were so good. But, actually, that’s what I call the Myth of Moneyball.

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