Criticizing awards voting is a yearly ritual. It shouldn’t have to be. The problem — as far as I can glean — isn’t lack of intelligence. It’s apathy. If more of the people casting ballots bothered to do their homework, fewer choices with flunk LOGIC-101.
Case in point: Coaches and players I’ve spoken to have admitted that Gold Glove voting isn’t taken as seriously as it should be. More than one has owned up to offense having entered into the picture in previous seasons.
Thursday’s Silver Slugger announcements included a handful of offensive results. Among them was Anthony Rizzo — .292//.385/.544 with 32 home runs — and not Joey Votto — .326/.434/.550 with 29 home runs — at first base in the National League. And those are mainstream stats. Votto also has a clear edge in wRC+ (158 to 145) and wOBA (.413 to .391).
Just like the Gold Gloves, the Silver Slugger selections are made by managers and coaches. Are we to believe that the majority of them would have preferred Rizzo’s performance over Votto’s on their own team? I have a hard time believing that to be the case.
Access to data isn’t the issue. The SABR Defensive Index that now comprises 25% of the Gold Glove process is supplied to the managers and coaches before they cast their ballots. Comprehensive offensive statistics are provided for Silver Slugger balloting as well. The extent to which the information utilized is another story. Some embrace it. Others barely look at it.
And then we have the The Players Choice Awards. As the name suggests, these are voted on by the men on the field.
Jose Altuve over Mike Trout for Player of the Year is an obvious head-scratcher. Another puzzling selection was Mark Trumbo as American League Comeback Player of the Year. Not only did Trumbo play a full season in 2015, he had his best OPS in three years. Your definition of the term may differ from mine, but “comeback” shouldn’t mean having your best statistical season. For my money, a Yu Darvish — 2.7 WAR after missing 2015 due to Tommy John surgery — would be a more worthy choice. (Trumbo was worth 2.2 WAR.)
I blame the process for this one. With the exception of the Marvin Miller Man of the Year, which players select from six finalists, Players Choice balloting is write-in only. For that reason, questionable results are perfectly understandable. Most players aren’t going to — and probably shouldn’t be expected to — put a lot of time and effort into this.
I’m not suggesting that players shouldn’t have an opportunity to vote for their peers. They should. But some guidance wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Who is, and isn’t, on this year’s Today’s Game Era veteran’s committee ballot merits explanation. Prior to reading the rules, I was among those confused by Harold Baines — 38.4 WAR, 384 home runs, and a 121 adjusted OPS — being included, while Jim Edmonds — 64.5 WAR, 393 home runs, and a 132 adjusted OPS — wasn’t. It turns out that there’s a valid reason.
The Eras Committee ballot — created by the BBWAA’s Historical Overview Committee — encompasses 1988 to the present. But not exactly. In order to be eligible, a player needs to be retired for at least 15 years. Baines played his final season in 2001. Edmonds played his final season in 2010.
James Beresford was a feel-good story in an abysmal Minnesota Twins 2016 season. The 27-year-old native of Mount Waverley, Australia made his big-league debut in September after toiling in the minors for 10 years. To his credit, he never gave up on his dreams. There were times he pondered the possibility.
“Doubts definitely creep into your mind,” admitted Beresford. “This year more so than any other year. I’ve always thought I was good enough to play at this level — otherwise I wouldn’t have been grinding it out for so long — but it’s still tough on the brain. I was in Rochester for four years. Toward the end of the season, you start wondering if you’re going to keep doing it.”
Beresford had been a free agent each of the past four years, and each time he re-signed with the Twins. His status hasn’t changed much. Last month he was dropped from the 40-man roster and assigned to all-too-familiar Rochester.
What will he do now that he has, as Paul Molitor put it, “a batting average”?
“I haven’t given next year any thought at all,” Beresford told me in September. “Since being called up, all I’ve done is try to enjoy every second of being here. Once the season is over, I’ll step back and have a think about what I want to do.”
A .283/.338/.330 career hitter in the minors, Beresford went 5 for 22 in his brief stint with the Twins.
The Dutch team playing a pair of exhibition games at the Tokyo Dome this weekend includes Jurickson Profar, Jair Jurrjens, and Juan Carlos Sulbaran, Hensley Meulens is the manager, and Andruw Jones the bench coach. Japan’s roster includes Shohei Otani, Hayato Sakamoto, and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo.
Garrett Jones hit .258/.327/.486 with 24 home runs for the Yomiuri Giants this season. Kosuke Fukodome hit .311/.392/.453 with 11 home runs for the Hanshin Tigers. Dayan Viciedo hit .274/.352/.486 with 22 home runs for the Chunichi Dragons.
Chad Kuhl was a pleasant surprise for the Pirates this year. The 2013 ninth-round pick allowed three-or-fewer runs in 12 of 14 starts after being called up in late June. His primary weapon was a 93-mph sinker, but while ground balls are his bread and butter, he doesn’t see himself as a one-trick pony.
“The thing for me is quick outs — three pitches or less — but that mentality can change,” Kuhl told me in September. “There are situations where you don’t really want a ground ball — what you need is a strikeout — so you’re going to mix in the four-seamer. You also have guys who are low ball hitters, so you need to be able to raise eye levels.”
Even so, with a 17.6% strikeout rate and a 44.3% ground ball rate, the 24-year-old righty does rely on a worm-killer approach. His favored location is down, regardless of the offering.
“Your slider and your changeup can be ground-ball pitches for you, too,” said Kuhl. “But the sinker is big for me. It’s all about the delivery — staying back, getting on top of the ball and driving it down. It’s having that angled plane so that they just beat it into the ground. It’s about weak contact. I’m not trying to miss bats, I’m trying to miss barrels.”
Russ Nixon, who caught for the Indians, Red Sox and Twins from 1957-1968, passed away this week at the age of 81. His early-career move from Cleveland to Boston took three months to consummate.
In March 1960, the Indians traded Nixon to the Red Sox for Sammy White, only to have the deal voided nine days later. White refused to report to his new team, opting instead to retire and focus his attention on a bowling enterprise.
In June, the Indians dealt Nixon to Boston again, this time for players who didn’t opt out. As for White, he un-retired a year later, signing with Minnesota.
Another note on Nixon, this one courtesy of @grahamdude. The not-so-fleet-footed former backstop has the most at bats in modern history (2,504) without a stolen base.
Tampa Bay catcher Luke Maile has the ball from his first big-league home run. It came on August 20, against Texas’ A.J. Griffin, at Tropicana Field. He’s happy to have it — he has the ball from his first base hit as well — but he cares more about the moments than the mementos.
“The kid who caught (the home run) was nice enough to give it to me, but I’ve never been a huge memorabilia guy,” Maile told me a few weeks later. “It’s cool to have certain things, but the memory is really all I need.”
The University of Kentucky product went deep for the second time on August 30. It was a game-tying, seventh-inning shot at Fenway Park, and true to his word, he didn’t bother getting it back. This despite being drafted by the Red Sox out of high school, and his wife having close ties the area.
“We get paid to do this stuff,” explained Maile. “It’s our job. You try to go out there and be the same guy each day, no matter where you’re playing. I’m glad to have hit it, but it’s just a baseball.”
Every draft contains decisions gone awry. Some prospects flop. Others simply fail to attain the same level of success as players taken with subsequent picks. Mike Trout was famously bypassed by 21 teams in 2009, with the Nationals and Diamondbacks each missing a pair opportunities to grab the future superstar.
Things didn’t go much better for Arizona the next two years. In 2010, they took Barrett Loux with the sixth pick when they could have had Matt Harvey, Chris Sale or Christian Yelich. In 2011, they took Trevor Bauer and Archie Bradley third and seventh overall when they could have had Francisco Lindor and Jose Fernandez.
It’s admittedly not always fair to criticize scouting directors for missed opportunities. Projecting the future of amateur players is extremely difficult, and the final word on top picks isn’t always in their hands. Ownership and/or the GM need to be on board. Even so, the Diamondbacks would be a very different team had they been in possession of a higher-quality crystal ball.
In 2011, the Pirates drafted and signed Gerritt Cole, Josh Bell, Alex Dickerson, and Tyler Glasnow. All four are in the big leagues and promise to have long and productive careers. Another player they drafted, but were unable to sign, has an even brighter future. Pittsburgh’s 20th-round selection that year was Trea Turner.
Expect Andrew Benintendi’s name to pop up as the hot stove warms. Teams will likely ask for him in trade talks, and even if he doesn’t change addresses, he could very well change positions. If Boston swaps Jackie Bradley, Jr. — Dave Dombrowski definitely likes to deal — the 22-year-old Benintendi will slide from left to center.
Benintendi impressed after being called up from Double-A Portland in early August. The 2015 first-round picked slashed .295/.359/.476 in 118 plate appearances. He then went 3 for 9 as the Red Sox were swept by the Indians in the ALDS. Despite his inexperience, he was as cool as a cucumber.
“He’s extremely poised,” said Boston manager John Farrell. “Much like what makes a guy wired to perform in postseason, he’s calm. He’s never really panicked, even when he’s been in a disadvantage count at the plate. His athletic movements are graceful. It’s like a window into what his mind is going through. It’s even; it’s under control.”
Benintendi left the yard in his first postseason at bat. The only other Red Sox players to homer in their first postseason at bat are Todd Walker, in the 2003 ALDS, and pitcher Jose Santiago, in the 1967 World Series.
Cody Allen wasn’t prepared when Aroldis Chapman came to the plate in World Series Game 5. As he explained the following day, the Indians didn’t do scouting reports on Cubs pitchers. They definitely weren’t expecting to see the Cuban closer step into the batter’s box.
“I didn’t know what to think,” admitted Allen. “I’d never even seen him take BP. I was just trying to throw strikes, and stay away from a spot where he could just shoot to one. He’s a big, strong guy in the box. He looked hitterish.”
“Hitterish is a word,” affirmed Allen.
Ryan Cook, who underwent Tommy John surgery in October, signed a minor league deal with the Mariners this week. An effective reliever for the A’s from 2012-2014, Cook has allowed 28 runs over his last 19 big-league innings. He didn’t pitch in 2016.
DL: One of your best games as a Tiger came in 1973. You went deep twice before Eddie Brinkman hit a walk-off home run in the ninth inning.
FH: “I didn’t hit two home runs that game. Who did we play? When was it?”
DL: It was July of 1973 against the Red Sox You hit a pinch-hit home run in the sixth, stayed in the game, and went deep again in the eighth.
FH: “I didn’t know that. But you guys with the stats have all the numbers.”
DL: Is the ball you hit over the left-field roof at Tiger Stadium the longest home run you ever hit?
FH: “I’ve hit baseballs a lot further than that. That one probably only traveled 530-540 feet, and I think I hit about half a dozen of them well over 600 feet.”
Playing for the Dodgers, Senators, and Tigers from 1958-1973, Howard hit 382 home runs and had a 142 adjusted OPS.
Corey Kluber‘s curveball percentages in the World Series:
Game One: 30.9%. Game Four: 43.2%, Game Seven: 19.3%.
LINKS YOU’LL LIKE
MLB.com’s Mike Petriello wrote about the return of the curve.
Also at MLB.com, Barry Bloom pondered the likelihood that Nippon-Ham will post Shohei Otani
According to Baseball America’s Ben Badler, an international draft is primarily about money, not balance or transparency.
At SABR, Warren Corbett profiles Helen Dettweiler — The Girl of Summer — who became the first woman to broadcast professional baseball, in 1938.
Over at Sports Illustrated, Jay Jaffe wrote about how the Gold Glove results have changed for the better since the introduction of the SABR Defensive Index.
RANDOM FACTS AND STATS
From 1936-1947, Lou Gehrig averaged 141 runs scored and 149 RBI per season.
In his 10 seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates (1932-1941) Hall of Fame shortstop Arky Vaughan struck out 276 times and walked 937 times. He had 128 triples.
In 2012 — the year he won the Triple Crown and the MVP — Miguel Cabrera slashed .356/.424/.580 with RISP. With two outs and RISP, he slashed .420/.491/.720.
Manny Machado, who celebrated his 24th birthday in July, has slashed .284/.333/.477 since debuting with the Orioles as a 19-year-old. With that in mind, Buddy Lewis — a third baseman for the Washington Senators— slashed .306/.374/.434 in his age 19-24 seasons. Lewis put put up those numbers from 1936-1941 before missing the next three seasons to military service.
Adrian Beltre has 4,902 assists as a third baseman, the most in history.