October 22, 2013

2013 Stan Musial Award - AL Player of the Year

My final award in the Baseball Bloggers Alliance year end voting, is the Stan Musial Award for the player of the year. Last year in a slightly controversial vote I ignored Miguel Cabrera's triple crown, and cast my ballot for Mike Trout instead.  Well, this year, with a lot less media hype Cabrera had an even better season!  His batting average went up from .330 to .348. He hit the same number of home runs and only 2 less RBI in 67 fewer at-bats.  His walk ratio increased from below 10 to 14%.  He led the league in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging, to obviously lead in OPS / OPS+ as well. He led in OPS last season as well with .999, but this year he was at 1.078, the highest mark in the American League since 2006. Maybe I can make it up to Tigers fans by voting for him this year, when he'll need more of a push as he didn't get the glitzy (but meaningless) triple crown.

October 21, 2013

2013 Goose Gossage Award - AL Reliever of the Year

In my series of Baseball Bloggers Alliance award winners, today I am revealing my vote for the Goose Gossage Award for reliever of the year.  On a side note, there is an Alberta connection here as Mr. Gossage was in Calgary earlier this year.

This award always seems to stay in the East. In 2011, in a vote that was controversial with many of my readers, I selected the Yankees David Robertson over our own Jonathan Papelbon.  Last year, despite Baltimore's Jim Johnson leading the world in saves, I voted for the Tampa's Francisco Rodney.  This year is no different. In early August I might have needed to pore over stats carefully to determine who was most deserving, but after the way Koji Uehara finished the season, this one is a no-brainer.  

First some raw numbers:

October 18, 2013

2013 Walter Johnson Award - AL Pitcher of the Year

My series of Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA) award winners, continues with the American League Walter Johnson Award for Pitcher of the Year.   The past two seasons I selected Detroit's Justin Verlander, one year quite easily, the other one in a closer race.  This year it looks like the award will go to a Tiger again, but one of his teammates instead.  The big question is which one?

Max Scherzer is everyone's obvious choice.  He started off 13-0, deservedly started the all-star game and ended up 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA.  Last time a pitcher was so dominating and didn't win the Cy Young, was probably 1985 when John Tudor also won 21 games, including 10 shutouts and a sub 2 ERA, and lost to some kid named 'Doc'.  (In fact, Tudor didn't get a single first place vote!)

October 15, 2013

2013 Willie Mays Award - AL Rookie of the Year

After naming Boston manager John Farrell the winner of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA) Connie Mack Award, today I cast my ballot for the BBA's Willie Mays Award.   This is really the Jackie Robinson Award for Rookie of the Year.

Last year Mike Trout lapped the competition and was an unanimous winner receiving all the first place votes by BBA members. This year's rookie crop in the AL isn't quite as deep as last year's.  Nobody is breaking any Jackie Robinson like barriers, there are no Fred Lynn MVP type seasons, or players that captivated a nation like The Bird or Fernandomania in the past.  But there were several good players worthy of mention:

October 13, 2013

2013 Connie Mack Award - AL Manager of the Year

As a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, I have the privilege of casting a ballot for all the end-of-season awards.  I did the National League ones earlier, and now I'll be doing American League one at a time.  I'll be going in order from the easiest to the toughest. The first one I am announcing this year is the Connie Mack award for Manager of the Year.  (No, it's not named for the Republican Senator from Florida, but this guy).

I had a feeling I knew who the winner would be before the season started.  In my preseason predictions I had some teams that I thought would win quite a few more games than last season, including Kansas City, Minnesota and Boston.  But I only saw one of these teams making the playoffs.  And yes, I may have a slight bias, but that hasn't stopped me from picking Joe Girardi for this same award in 2011 or even Yankee David Robertson over Papelbon for the reliever award in 2011.

October 10, 2013

National League Award Voting

Now that the regular season is over it’s once again time for my votes for the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA) Awards.  In previousyears I have selected winners in all the American League categories.  This year I will also pick the National League winners.   Check back after the World Series to the BBA site to see who the award winners are.

This post will present all of the National League picks with limited commentary.  Between now and the World Series I will post the AL winners, one award at a time with a detailed post and more explanation for each one.

Walter Johnson Award (Pitcher of the Year)
Not a lot of suspense with this one.  Lots of hurlers had seasons that would be deserving of an award in other years including Cliff Lee, Adam Wainwright, Rookie Jose Fernandez (more on him in a minute) and even Matt Harvey until he was injured. But this year’s winner is unquestionably Sandy Koufax.  I mean Clayton Kershaw.

October 07, 2013

Results of Predictions from 2500 miles away

In this post, I made my annual season predictions. I don’t have the luxury of being in or close to any MLB markets, but in this electronic age with the ability to lookup any information and listen to any sports radio station from anywhere in real time, I'm not sure that’s a detriment.  In fact, seeing how the Boston Globe's own Dan Shaughnessy predicted the AL East standings with all his inside information and access to players and front office, I'm thinking that being away from the action may actually be a benefit.  
Here were CHB’s thoughts:

Screenshot courtesy of SoSHer BannedByNYYFans
Against all odds he managed to predict his own division exactly backwards! Maybe he should stick to writing books.

Anyhow, in my predictions I was aiming for a 75% confidence interval.  That means that when selecting a range of wins for all 30 teams, I should have had 22.5/30 correct.  I had 11 right – about half of what should be expected.  On the surface it doesn’t look that good but going team-by-team, I think my forecasts were better than most of the ones published by the so-called “experts”.   Everyone had the Blue Jays as World Series favorites, except for the dissenters who saw the Angels winning the American League.  And in the National League, the only question was who the Nationals had to beat in the NLCS to advance to the Fall Classic.  

Here is how each team did relative to my forecasts. Numbers in bracket are my original guess, comments in quotes are in reference to what I said in March.

AL East:
Boston -97 (83 to 89)  After winning only 69 games in 2012 I committed in writing that I thought they’d improve by up to 20 games. Well, they ended up being 28 games better.  “If everything goes right they could win the division with over 90 wins”.  If you saw that coming, put your hand up. If your hand is up, you are a liar(*). So even though I missed on my win interval, I am fairly pleased with my prediction.
Tampa – 92 (85 to 91) I missed by 1 using a fairly narrow range. Meh.
Yankees – 85 (77 to 87) I had a wide range here because although I expected them to have a down year I wasn’t quite sure as down. To be honest I thought the final results would be worse than they were, but it was within my predicted range.
Baltimore – 85 (72 to 84) As with Tampa I missed by 1, but I had thought they had the potential to do quite a bit worse.
Toronto – 74 (82 to 95) When everyone else had them as World Series favorites I thought they’d struggle to get past .500 (although I hedged my bets by having a large upper range). I was fairly certain they would underperform the lofty expectations given to them, but thought they would make more moves during the season to try and fight for a playoff spot.

Overall, I am giving myself a B+ on this division’s predictions. Only had one team within my expected range, but I feel like I correctly saw the direction that every team’s year would take.
It could have been much worse.   I could have curly hair and Carl Everett could have given me a malicious nickname that has stuck for over a decade.

 (*) Unless, Ras is reading this. You I believe.

AL Central:
Detroit – 93 (90 to 99) Predicting them to win the division with a win total in the 90s isn’t exactly Nostradamus like.
Cleveland – 92 (69 to 83). Did not see this coming. I had a huge range in wins for them, spanning from awful to respectable, and they won nine more than the most I had envisioned. Well done, Tito, I may have misspoke when I predicted you’d be “thinking fondly of the good old chicken wing and beer days”
Kansas City – 86 (76 to 86) “Lots of games against weak opponents will help them get to .500” I mused. I also erroneously said they wouldn’t seriously contend for a wildcard spot.  Still, their win total fell in the range.
Minnesota – 66 (75 to 85) I thought they’d be better. They weren’t.
Chicago – 63 (74 to 85) I correctly foresaw a down year for them. Didn’t quite expect it to be that bad.

I think the only area where I outpicked the experts was the White Sox, who many saw as the 2nd best team in the division after winning 85 games the previous season.  D+

AL West:
Oakland – 96 (88-95) – I said 2012 was not a fluke and they’d repeat as division champs. Missed their win total by 1 game.
Texas – 91 (84-92) – “They should still win about 90”.
Anaheim – 78 (84-90) – “Again, the Angels will miss the playoffs”. I wasn’t buying into the improvements made and hinted that Scioscia’s job might be in jeopardy. Still, they managed to do even worse than I had prognosticated (I’m making liberal use of Mr. Roget today).
Seattle -71  (79-85) – “They could catch the Angels but I don’t think they will”.  Still, I expected them to win a few more games, given that they had 19 games within their own division where they were the clear favorites.
Houston – 51 (50-64) – “If I miss, it will be because they undershoot the low end’. Luckily the Astros won their 50th game just prior to finishing the season on an uninspired, but not totally uncharacteristic 0-15 run.

I’m giving myself a solid A for this division. I had the correct order when everyone else had proclaimed the Angels champions with Texas the only possible obstacle.

NL East
Atlanta – 96 (83-90) “Closer to .500 than 100 wins”. Um, no.  15 and 4 respectively.
Washington – 86 (85-94) “They’ll be lucky to win 90”. They were the media darlings, but I didn’t fully buy in.  If I slapped myself for being off on the Braves, I deserve a pat on the back for this one.
Mets -74 (67-75)I thought they’d have a hard time reaching 70, but they were within my forecasted range.
Philadelphia – 73 (86-96)I made fun of Ruben Amaro’s offseason but still picked them to be at the top of this division.  I should have read what I wrote more closely before predicting their win total.
Miami – 62 (70-75) Thought they’d overcome trading away all their above-replacement level players (other than a certain highly coveted Mr. Stanton), and still win a respectable 70 games.
Good picks on the Mets and Washington, missed the rest of the division badly. C+

NL Central
St. Louis- 97 (79-83) “No wildcard is coming from the Central this year”. If by “No” I meant “All” then I would have hit the bullseye with that statement. 
Pittsburgh -94 (79-85) Correctly predicted they’d break the .500 barrier, didn’t expect them to be quite so good.
Cincinnati – 90 (95-101) “Rest of division is getting weaker, should run away with it”.  I said of a division with 3 playoff teams on it. I should never underestimate Dusty Baker’s incompetence. I could have taken this team to the 100 win level myself.
Milwaukee – 74 (83-88) I don’t even have a comment for them.
Cubs – 66 (58-70) “Astros aren’t around to keep them out of last place”. Hey, I got this one right!
If the NL East was a C+, no way I get more than a D here.

NL West
Dodgers – 92 (85-92) – “their offense is much better than the Giants”.  So is everyone else’s, I suppose.
Arizona – 81 (84-90) – I said they’d improve but not enough to win their division. They ended up with the exact same 81-81 record two years in a row
San Francisco – 76 (90-99) – “They’ll hit some rough patches”. Yeah, I didn’t think it would be for 6 months.
San  Diego – 76 (71-79) -  “Will battle Colorado and Mets for the worst pitching staff in the league”. Ended up with a 3.98 ERA. Only 2 NL teams (Colorado was one of them) ended up > 4.00.  Not a bad forecast.
Colorado – 74 (66-74) “Can’t stop other teams from scoring runs”. League worst 4.44 ERA.
I whiffed on the Giants, but was on or close with the rest of the teams.  B.

Overall I’m giving myself a B- grade.   I picked a Rays vs Reds World Series and at least both those teams made playoffs, as opposed to all those Blue Jays/Angels vs Nationals picks that seemed to dominate the media in the spring.   Tell me what you think of my picks in the comments below, and leave your World Series predictions there.  On the line are bragging rights.  I’m updating my pick to Red Sox over Cardinals.

October 01, 2013

The Best got Better!

Obviously I must be talking about our Red Sox.  The best team in the league last year got better and they’re among the favorites to go deep in the playoffs.  What’s that you say? They weren’t the best team last year – they only won 69 games?  How’s that possible?  On paper they surely were preseason picks to get a shot at a ring.  Oh yeah, Bobby V got involved.....  

No, I’m taking about the latest version of OOTP.  Unlike the Red Sox, last year’s version was also very good.  But somehow, almost unbelievably, it’s even better this year.   I love the depth of this game and all the different ways you can play it as I’ve mentioned in previous reviews. This year’s version has a lot of subtle improvements.  There is a new player origin system - not only a customizable draft but also international free agents, both amateurs and established players, and ability to scout internationally and in the indy leagues for that diamond in the rough.  In fact the entire scouting engine has been improved.  Also the trading AI is much better. In the past I used to be able to "cheat" by making trades that maybe only Ruben Amaro Jr. would realistically accept. 

Anyhow, I just recently started a game to try and see if I could do as well at managing the Sox as John Farrell has.