Tagged: Awards

My 2013 Brewers Team Awards Ballot

Every year the writers who cover the Milwaukee Brewers all season long get together, so to speak, and cast ballots for five team awards.

The awards are under the following five categories:

  • Team MVP (not limited to just hitters)
  • Best Pitcher (in any role)
  • Best Newcomer (someone not on the team last year)
  • Unsung Hero (given to someone who didn’t necessarily get a lot of credit for the job that they did)
  • Good Guy (a true “media” award because this is for someone who is good in the community, clubhouse, etc but also was very helpful and gracious with the media)

In each of the past two years I have taken part in a Brewers blogger balloting in which several of us who actively and consistently write about the Brewers voted for the same awards. I’m still not sure what it says about me, but my top choices in each category have matched the winners of the same as voted on by those voting media members.

We’re likely doing the same again this year, but as it was revealed that the official award winners will be announced tomorrow I figured I’d get my ballot posted here in advance. I also like the chance to explain my selections.

(Sidebar: I continue to hope that BBWAA members will do likewise one day on their personal league MVP and Hall of Fame ballots.)

The balloting is such that we choose three men for each award with more points being assigned for higher ballot position.

Team MVP: Jonathan Lucroy, Carlos Gomez, Jean Segura

Jonathan LucroyI’m aware of two things right off the bat with my selection. I’ll disagree with many of the voters who will look at the season Carlos Gomez had and consider him to be the “best” player where that equates to “value.” I also know that my definition of value isn’t strictly based on best statistical performance and that clashes with many. My relatively succinct explanation though is that the edge that pushed Lucroy past Gomez for the top spot in this category was more than just his offensive contributions. Lucroy posted a .280/.340/.455, 114 OPS+ season with career highs in many of the “counting” statistics (H, R, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, SB BB) due in part to career highs in both games played and plate appearances. But it’s why Lucroy totaled 147 games played and bested his high in plate appearances by 112 that led to my pick for MVP. Lucroy caught four out of every five days, sometimes more, and later in the season got a crash course in playing first base in an attempt to keep his consistently good bat in the lineup. Numbers are nice, and Gomez got the better of Lucroy in many of them, but probably not as many as you think.

In what was an extremely close decision in my mind, I had to give Carlos Gomez a second place finish here. He and Lucroy played in the same number of games and Gomez’s WAR and defensive runs saved and other factors definitely made his case, but Gomez wasn’t a runaway winner by any means and I think Lucroy’s steady presence kept a lot of things on that necessary even keel. Gomez absolutely had his best season in the Majors in 2013 and with a different set of circumstances he maybe wins this award. The numbers speak for themselves though Gomez had a monster first half but then slumped in July and significantly moreso in August. He rebounded in September, and Lucroy’s massive increase in playing time finally caught up to the catcher in September, it seemed, but Lucroy was much more consistent over the long haul the season.

Finally, while pitchers do qualify for this award, I had to recognize the production, surprise, and efforts of Jean Segura with an MVP ballot spot. “Seggy” opened eyes with his powerful first half (really, two-thirds) in which he hit 12 home runs (11 before the All-Star break) and slugged .487 before the break. Despite his youthful exuberence and energy, fatigue eventually set in for Segura who limped to the finish line — literally with a bum hamstring — that saw his batting average dip below .300 and his league stolen base lead disappear in the final series of the season in New York. The Brewers have barred Segura from playing in Winter Ball this off-season so hopefully he can stay fresher longer in 2014. If he does and is able to be more of what we as fans were treated to in April and May, he could very well win this award next year when you consider his defense abilities as well.

Best Pitcher: Kyle Lohse, Jim Henderson, Brandon Kintzler

KyleLohseComing in late in camp, not really facing the level of competition that he needed to ramp up properly for the season, and dealing with injuries throughout the hellacious month of May, Kyle Lohse still takes this crown going away. Peralta had his growing pains. Gallardo struggled throughout the season until late in the year. Estrada missed a ton of time. The fifth starter was all over the place. All that said, Lohse didn’t just win for me by default. He posted a very good season in spite of his awful May (.987 OPS against).

Second place goes to Jim Henderson. He was extremely good in 9th inning Save situations after being thrust into the role after John Axford’s early struggles and again taking over after Francisco Rodriguez was traded to Baltimore. In total Henderson amassed 28 Saves, an ERA+ of 146, and a K/9 ratio of 11.3. It was a promising first full-season performance for the veteran of 10 minor league seasons.

Brandon Kintzler did a remarkable job for the roles he was used in. He was consistently effective and only had a handful of very bad appearances. He also appeared in the second-most games for the team behind only Michael Gonzalez who was sometimes brought in to face just one batter. Kintzler is definitely deserving of this spot and if you find yourself questioning that or not having realized it from the beginning, then that just feeds the fire as to why Kintzler pulled a second-place finish in another award for me.

Best Newcomer: Kyle Lohse, Scooter Gennett, Khris Davis

KyleLohseVsCubsKyle Lohse was a stabilizing force in the rotation most of the season and was the best true newcomer on the roster.  This was an easy selection much like Aramis Ramirez was last year.

Scooter Gennett gets second place because despite his relatively limited playing time he exceeded expectations on multiple levels and put in jeopardy the starting job of an injured veteran. Gennett demonstrated an enormous platoon split, so he’s certainly got plenty of room for improvement at the plate, but he still did enough in 2013 to warrant a significant look in Spring Training next year along with a second place finish for this award in my opinion.

Khris Davis was an obvious choice for this spot for me. He almost took the second place vote but Gennett did more for me. Davis struggled after initially making the 25-man roster out of spring training but certainly held his own once he came back up for the balance of the season after Braun’s suspension. Davis has even pressed the issue of getting his bat into the lineup that Doug Melvin admitted that they’ve had internal discussions about moving Ryan Braun to right field since Davis is a left-field-only defensive player. That could cause a domino effect that could include trading a productive and popular player in the incumbent right fielder, Nori Aoki.

Unsung Hero: Martin Maldonado, Brandon Kintzler, Kyle Lohse

MaldonadoPeraltaAs I stated last year when I gave Maldy the first place spot in this category, his receiving, throwing, and handling of the pitching staff were very good despite playing far less in 2013 than in 2012. And while he got a bit more acclaim this year, his impact on the developing Wily Peralta deserves the recognition that this award sheds at least some light on.

Second place goes to Brandon Kintzler in a somewhat subjective vote. Kintzler was often used as a fireman early in the season, a role in which he flourished. That success got him “promoted” to set-up man some time after the job came open in July. Kintzler had a very strong rate of stranded inherited runners for much of the year and bridged a gap that Ron Roenicke didn’t always know how he was going to fill. Kintzler recorded more than three outs on a number of occasions and was truly a bullpen utility man at times. Kintzler certainly isn’t unsung in the coaches’ room though, and he’ll be in the mix for the late innings of games from the jump in 2014.

Kyle Lohse was going to get second place here for his veteran leadership and helping the young pitchers on staff remain calm and steady, but that aspect of what he brought to the team got a decent amount of publicity late in the year. It definitely warrants inclusion on the list for me, but no longer that second place finish.

Good Guy: Jonathan Lucroy, Carlos Gomez, Jim Henderson

JonathanLucroyChapmanWalkoffIn the mold of why John Axford won this award in 2012, Jonathan Lucroy was as stand up a guy as there was in the locker room this year. It didn’t matter if it was a great win or a tough loss, if no other hitter wanted to talk to the media, Lucroy gave his time. He would break down pitchers’ stuff and tell you what he saw from his vantage. He would speak candidly about topics that other teammates avoided like Ryan Braun, struggles in the field and at the plate, losing streaks…you name it and he would give the media the quotes they needed. The other factors for this award speak to community involvement (Lucroy was the team’s Roberto Clemente Award nominee) and how they are in the clubhouse (Lucroy definitely emerged as a team leader this season, when it desperately needed one).

The other player who was available the most and would definitely tell you his opinion on any number of topics was Carlos Gomez. He had a flare in his description and provided many memorable quotes during the year. He was appropriately subdued when the situation called for it and was bouncing around and bringing energy when needed.

Another personal choice is Jim Henderson. Henderson was eager to speak when approached and didn’t just spit up cliches and the same thing over and over. He was thoughtful and well-spoken along with being willing and available.

So those are my choices. Let me hear yours either on social media or, preferably, in the comments.

Milwaukee Brewers 2012 Team Awards

Every year the writers who cover the Milwaukee Brewers all season long get together, so to speak, and cast ballots for five team awards.

The awards are under the following five categories:

  • Team MVP (not limited to just hitters)
  • Best Pitcher (in any role)
  • Best Newcomer (someone not on the team last year)
  • Unsung Hero (given to someone who didn’t necessarily get a lot of credit for the job that they did)
  • Good Guy (a true “media” award because this is for someone who is good in the community, clubhouse, etc but also was very helpful and gracious with the media)

Last year I took part in a Brewers blogger balloting in which several of us who actively and consistently write about the Brewers voted for the same awards. I’m not sure what it says about me, but my top choices in each category were the same as the collective credentialed media.

This year, we’re doing the same exercise as a Brewers blogosphere (some time soon) but I figured I’d get my ballot posted on my blog in the interest of transparency and disclosure. (Many BBWAA members would do well to follow suit on their personal MVP and Hall of Fame ballots.) I’ll also, naturally, explain my reasons behind my choices because what fun would it be without something to argue?

The balloting is such that we choose three men for each award and the votes, when tallied, are worth more points for higher positioning.

Team MVP: Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Corey Hart

This is easily an award that belongs to Ryan Braun as I believe that he is deserving of no less than second place in the National League Most Valuable Player voting. His statistical output speaks for itself and he carried the team through many stretches of the season.

Aramis Ramirez takes second place for me because of what he was able to do both at the plate and in the field. Yes he started slowly at the dish like he tends to do but his finish was fantastic. He more than made up for the lost production from Prince Fielder and contributed much more on defense than we were led to believe he would. (For instance, he led the league in barehanded assists this season.)

Corey Hart gets my third place vote because while several players could have fit here Hart did something he was very much against in switching positions when a desperate need arose. He posted very good numbers despite being absent more than once. Him gutting out a painful lisfranc tear in September certainly didn’t hurt his case.

Best Pitcher: Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada, Zack Greinke

Make no mistake about it: Yovani Gallardo keeps taking steps toward ace-hood. His fourth career (and consecutive) 200+ strikeout season, another season of over 200 innings pitched, 16 wins including a fantastic run of effectiveness and success following the trade of Zack Greinke. Milwaukee needed Gallardo to step up and he answered the bell.

Marco Estrada found a strikeout tendency not before seen, slashed his walk rate, started a career-high number of games, pitched a career-high number of innings, struck out a career-high number of hitters, posted career-bests in ERA+, WHIP, K/BB ratio, and was a welcome addition to the rotation once Chris Narveson suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.

Zack Greinke didn’t pitch an entire season for the Brewers. This is true. He made 21 starts for the Brewers in 2012. But you know what? Shaun Marcum made 21 starts, Randy Wolf made 24, Fiers 22. Given the results that he posted while here, and given that the bullpen didn’t exactly inspire me to vote for anybody in it for this award, the nod goes to the 2/3 of a season Greinke posted.

Best Newcomer: Aramis Ramirez, Norichika Aoki, Mike Fiers

This award had much more competition than I initially thought it would. Ramirez being second in my MVP list as a newcomer really makes him a shoe-in here.

Aoki overcame early struggles with both playing time and drastic changes to his personal preparation routine to step in as a starting outfielder and eventual every day lead-off hitter. He was productive and posted multiple double-digit hitting streaks over the course of the season.

As for my third place vote, I chose Mike Fiers (though I’m not sure if he technically qualifies because he pitched for the team briefly in 2011) for both what he was able to accomplish throughout the early portion of his schedule but also for the longevity on the roster this year over other worthy newcomers like Jim Henderson, Martin Maldonado, Travis Ishikawa and even Jean Segura.

Unsung Hero: Martin Maldonado, Jim Henderson, Mike Fiers

Maldonado came up from Triple-A Nashville when Jonathan Lucroy went down with a freak hand injury and was lost for a month and a half. With George Kottaras both physically unable (due to a hamstring injury) and truthfully lacking the skills to be the everyday catcher, Maldy overcame a poor start at the plate in the minors and outperformed even the most optimistic projections at the plate. His receiving, throwing, and handling of the pitching staff didn’t get enough credit though which is why he wins this award for me. Maldonado not only was instrumental in handling Fiers when he first came up but he really seemed to get the most out of everybody he caught.

Jim Henderson is here because despite his average results his arrival helped to stabilize the bullpen. He wasn’t always on top of his game, and he blew a game or two, but adding another live arm to the back end of the ‘pen was a key to righting the ship for the 24-6 run where the bullpen finally performed as it was capable of doing.

Finally, I gave a vote to Fiers in this category as well for the fact that Fiers arrived amid a time of uncertainty and really performed exceptionally well until he simply ran out of gas. And judging by the reaction too many fans gave at Miller Park on the day of Fiers’ last start, it appears that his early efforts were forgotten and therefore he is plenty unsung.

Good Guy: John Axford, Rickie Weeks, Martin Maldonado

Struggling at a couple of points during the year, Axford never ducked the media…well, other than the time he had to excuse himself due to his wife going into premature labor but he still left an epic note. Axford answered his naysayers, dealt with the criticism, fielded the questions, and was always willing to own up to his failures and struggles.

Rickie Weeks, the team’s nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, was active in the community and a locker room leader. He too struggled mightily, though for a much more sustained time, and never blew off the reporters and writers who sought his comment on the situation. Weeks never once made excuses or even used the viable ones that were readily available.

Third place here goes to Martin Maldonado. This is a completely personal choice because he was nice to me and took time out after a game to briefly chat with me after a game just as he promised to do. He was very kind and I appreciated he and his wife stopping to talk.

The Brewer Nation First “Half” Awards

With the second “half” of the baseball season finally getting underway tomorrow, many columnists hand out awards for the first half. You can call it “lazy” or “overdone” or “cliche” if you want to, but I was asked who I would give out first half awards to both league-wide and for the Brewers so I decided to write it up.

I will name recipients of awards for the American League, National League, and Milwaukee Brewers in each of the following categories:

  • MVP
  • Cy Young
  • Rookie of the Half

I fully realize that some of these will be obvious selections, but I’ll name them all the same.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

I know that I primarily write about the National League and specifically the Brewers, but I do have a dog in the AL fight each year. If you know me personally or follow along on the Twitter account (@BrewerNation) you probably know which team it is.

That little disclaimer just means that I do follow all of baseball and not just the Brewers.

Okay, on to “bidness”…

MVP – Paul Konerko

I realize that the chic pick is Mike Trout of the The Angels Angels of Anaheim, and there are great arguments to that end. The Angels starting winning when he was called up, he’s a catalyst, a game-changer on both sides of the ball, and really has sparked a team that sat double-digit games behind the Texas Rangers in the AL West very quickly this year.

But Konerko, the face of the Chicago White Sox franchise, is carrying his team in a way nobody at the age of 36 is supposed to be able to do anymore.

Posting at or near career-best paces in several offensive categories, Konerko has led his team to a 47-38 record, good for a three-game lead in the AL Central over the surprising Cleveland Indians.

He’ll truly be deserving of the award if he can help the White Sox maintain that lead throughout the balance of the year, especially seeing as how it appears that Detroit is about to make a run and they only sit 3.5 games back.

But for now, for the first “half”, Konerko gets my vote not only because of the standings of the team, and his individual numbers, but his leadership is making a major difference for a squad being led by rookie manager Robin Ventura.

One key example? The White Sox do a lot of infield practice, something that rarely happens at all let alone consistently any more with big league clubs during the season. If Konerko had played the “veteran” card and told Ventura to stick it, it would have greatly impacted the clubhouse unity and morale. Konerko bought in, his teammates no doubt saw that the 36-year-old veteran bought in, and they started busting ass too.

That’d be one of the “intangibles” you read about so many people disregarding these days.

Cy Young – Justin Verlander

I don’t think this pick needs as much explanation as the Konerko one maybe did, but I’ll justify it thusly…

Verlander is still the pitcher I feel gives his team the best chance to win every time he’s on the mound.

His record is…something that won’t be considered here.

Something that need noticing, however, are that he leads the Majors in starts of eight or more innings. That not only means he’s pitching well enough to stay in the game, but it means that the Detroit bullpen gets many nights mostly off. Limiting innings of your bullpen has been a factor in the success of many teams over the years. Verlander already has five complete games, more than any other full season of his career.

His K% is solid, his WHIP is a pretty spectacular 0.95, he leads MLB in WAR for pitchers, he’s got the highest WPA of all starters (second to only the Orioles closer), he’s all over the Top 10s of different statistical pitching categories.

To put it simply, I’ll reiterate what I said earlier. He’s got the best chance to help his team win when he toes the rubber.

Rookie of the Half – Mike Trout

All those things I said above when commenting on Konerko over Trout for MVP? Yeah, they earn Trout this distinction pretty easily.

He’s a dynamo and appears, at least very early on, to have the potential to be one of those special players that you’re going to want to see play live just so you can say you did.

This guy was highly-touted for a reason and he’s exceeding even the most glowing projections for himself to this point. He’ll likely cool off some during the second half, but chances are that he’ll still be plenty valuable when it’s all said and done in October.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

MVP – Andrew McCutchen

This came down to the fact that McCutchen’s Pittsburgh Pirates are leading Joey Votto’s Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central Division.

Both had an uh-may-zing first “half” at the plate. If you compare their stat lines, they look like this:

McCutchen: .362/.414/.625, 309 AB, 112 H, 58 R, 17 doubles, 5 triples, 18 HR, 60 RBI, 14 SB, 28 BB, 185 OPS+
Votto: .348/.471/.617, 287 AB, 100 H, 50 R, 35 doubles, 0 triples, 14 HR, 48 RBI, 5 SB, 64 BB, 186 OPS+

Those are pretty darn evenly-matched players. McCutchen plays the more valuable defensive position (though he’s hardly elite in the outfield) and he has much less help than Votto does.

Lastly, while the Pirates were in first place even later last year (it finally fell apart for them on July 25th), this year has a much different feel to it. McCutchen’s elevated play is a massive part of that change.

That’s value.

Cy Young – R.A. Dickey

There are several worthy candidates for this award. Several have better numbers in various categories, but the fact that a knuckleballer is even in this conversation is awesome to me.

I know that Dickey didn’t pitch spectacularly in two of his final three starts prior to the break but even with those 11 earned runs in 13 innings, he finished the half with a 2.40 ERA (it was 2.00 flat before that hiccup of a stretch).

He’s doing things that nobody in this younger demographic of baseball fans has seen a knuckleballer do. That’s awesome, and worthy of adulation.

Rookie of the Half – Bryce Harper

With apologies to Norichika Aoki who has posted strikingly similar numbers to Harper in several categories, this is a 19-year-old phenom doing this at the highest level of his sport. Is there a significant slump on the horizon? Perhaps but regardless of that, this is an award for the first half.

Harper has done more than enough to earn this award, and it’s merely amplified that he’s doing it at 19. Aoki is a 30-year-old former multiple-time batting champion of the Japanese league. He’s got a touch more experience even if he’s excelling in a new country and league.

The Washington Nationals outfielder has posted a .282/.354/.472 slash line and posted an OPS+ of 123 to this point. Yes he needs to improve his patience at the plate and some of his ratios, but he’s got a lot of room and time to keep getting better.

My favorite reason to give Harper this award? He plays the game so hard each and every day. He’s got a passion, drive, and commitment to chasing excellence on the baseball field. He’s enjoyable to watch.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

To preemptively state the obvious, if you need extensive explanations about why I chose these players for these respective awards, then you haven’t been paying very close attention to the team this year. That’s okay, but it’s also confusing that you’d be here reading this in the first place, if I’m being honest.

Then again, you are reading it so here are the who and the how come…

MVP – Ryan Braun

As a player that could be included in discussions regarding league MVP, he’s an easy — if obvious — choice here. Braun has been amazing this season, posting numbers in several offensive categories that are better than last year…when he actually did win the league MVP Award for the full season.

The main difference? Team success. Many people say that shouldn’t make a difference, but it does to me and to plenty of other people including Braun himself.

Cy Young – Zack Greinke

With an honorable mention needing to go to Mike Fiers here for what he’s done in just seven starts, this award belongs to Zack Greinke. He’s answered the bell from Round 1 this year and has posted the strongest numbers on the team over the larger sample size.

Believe me, Fiers got serious consideration from me because of just how good he’s been able to be since his promotion, but he didn’t do it enough.

There’s a lot going on with Greinke right now, including his being on the precipice of tying a MLB record, but his first half was the best on the team.

Rookie of the Half – Norichika Aoki

Remember a little while ago when I said that Aoki has posted some similar numbers to Bryce Harper? Well, he has. And while not enough to overtake Harper as my league-wide award recipient, it’s plenty to be recognized as the top rookie on the team so far in 2012.

Aoki came with an incredible pedigree when the Brewers signed him away from his team in Japan. (Those accolades can be found on the blog if you’re interested.) The question was how Aoki would adapt to the play and pitchers of Major League Baseball.

After primarily coming off the bench to begin the year and struggling while doing so, Ron Roenicke had a talk with Aoki about his preparation and his play has been much improved since.

At this rate, he’ll be in the league’s ROTY discussion in September, and run away and hide with the Brewers’ team accolade.

Congratulations to all the award recipients! Here’s to a second “half” that rivals the first for all of them…except McCutchen, of course, because the Brewers are chasing them in the division so a drop off in his production would help the Brewers out.