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Tag:2011 awards
Posted on: October 3, 2011 6:43 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 12:54 am
 

Hank Aaron Award nominees released

By Matt Snyder

Since 1999, Major League Baseball has honored the top offensive performer in each league with the Hank Aaron Award, named after someone you may have heard of (see him right there, at the right?). Hammerin' Hank Aaron hit .305 with 755 home runs and a .928 OPS in his 23-year career, so yeah, he knows a little something about good offense.

The winner of each league will be decided by fan vote -- click here to cast your ballot -- along with the votes of several Hall of Fame players, including Aaron himself.

"It is a real privilege to have my name on the award that recognizes the most outstanding offensive performer in each league," Aaron said in a MLB press release. "With so many talented players in the game today, I am thankful to have the assistance of my fellow Hall of Famers and the fans to select the winners."

Each team gets exactly one nominee, and here are the nominees for the AL:

Baltimore: J.J. Hardy
Boston: Adrian Gonzalez
Chicago: Paul Konerko
Cleveland: Asdrubal Cabrera
Detroit: Miguel Cabrera
Kansas City: Alex Gordon
Los Angeles: Mark Trumbo
Minnesota: Michael Cuddyer
New York: Curtis Granderson
Oakland: Josh Willingham
Seattle: Dustin Ackley
Tampa Bay: Evan Longoria
Texas: Michael Young
Toronto: Jose Bautista

The 2010 winner was Bautista, so he's looking to be the first player to win in consecutive seasons since Alex Rodriguez did in 2002 and 2003. Keep in mind this isn't a comprehensive list of the best hitters in the league, because there is only one representative chosen per team. Thus, Jacoby Ellsbury, for example, was left off -- shouldn't he be there instead of Gonzalez, by the way? -- while several lesser players are on the ballot.

Here are the nominees for the NL award:

Arizona: Justin Upton
Atlanta: Brian McCann
Chicago: Aramis Ramirez
Cincinnati: Joey Votto
Colorado: Troy Tulowitzki
Florida: Mike Stanton
Houston: Carlos Lee
Los Angeles: Matt Kemp
Milwaukee: Ryan Braun
New York: Jose Reyes
Philadelphia: Ryan Howard
Pittsburgh: Andrew McCutchen
St. Louis: Albert Pujols
San Diego: Cameron Maybin
San Francisco: Pablo Sandoval
Washington: Michael Morse

Votto won in 2010, so he is also vying for his second straight. The last time a National League hitter won the Hank Aaron Award two straight years was Barry Bonds in 2001 and 2002. And, again, keep in mind the one-person-per-team thing. Prince Fielder got squeezed out by playing alongside Braun, for example.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 27, 2011 2:40 pm
Edited on: September 28, 2011 12:59 pm
 

Breakout of Year Awards: Ellsbury, Morse shine

Ellsbury, Morse

By Evan Brunell

There's been plenty of discussion recently on who should win the awards baseball will hand out after the postseason. There are no shortage of opinions on who should grab the MVP or the Cy Young Award, to say nothing of Rookie of the Years, Gold Gloves and Comeback Player of the Year. But where's the category that rewards players who broke out? There hasn't one ... until now. Here's a top three, followed by two others.

MLB Awards
  • MVP candidates: AL | NL
  • Cy Young Award: AL | NL
  • Rookie of the YearAL | NL 
  • Comeback players: AL | NL
  • Gold Gloves: AL | NL
  • Tin Gloves: AL | NL
  • Manager of the Year: AL | NL
Eye on Baseball will chronicle the five top candidates per league for the Breakout Player of the Year. It's important to keep in mind the separation between a breakout and a comeback. By its very name, to win the Comeback Player of the Year, you have to have "come back" from something. Breaking out has no such restrictions. Who had a season for the ages that has most adjusted a player's value for the better? Last season, Jose Bautista would have ran away with this award in the AL. Who takes the top spot this year?

1. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox: Surprised? Don't be. Ellsbury is by all accounts one of the three top candidates to win the AL MVP award alongside Bautista and Justin Verlander. Just a year ago, Ellsbury played in just 18 games, struggling with fractured ribs suffered in an early-April crash. His commitment and toughness were called into question, and the 28-year-old was entering a make-or-break year. Safe to say he made it, with a .323/.378/.552 line with 31 homers and 38 steals, becoming Boston's first-ever 30/30 man. By Wins Above Replacement, Ellsbury has more than doubled his previous best season of 2008, his first full season in the bigs.

2. Doug Fister, Tigers: Last season, I picked up Fister in a fantasy baseball league midway through the season. That's how poorly he was thought of -- he was an injury replacement halfway through the year, even though he finished the season with 28 starts and a 4.11 ERA. While Fister displayed strong command, he didn't strike out many batters and averaged 88-mph on his fastball without a true out pitch. He wasn't considered a pitcher worth caring about. Except this year, his fastball velocity has ticked up and his slider has developed into a weapon. Then, he got traded to Detroit where he's gone bananas, giving Fister a total season ERA of 2.83 in 216 1/3 innings. Now, Fister is Detroit's No. 2 starter in October and no one thinks that's odd. So, yeah: Breakout.

3. Alex Avila, Tigers
: Fister's new batterymate in Detroit had a season truly out of nowhere. At least Ellsbury was a former first-round pick dripping with talent while Fister had previous success in the majors. Avila, though, struggled to a .228/.316/.340 line in 333 plate appearances last season. Certainly lower than his minor-league average line of .280/.373/.424, but even that didn't portend what was coming. In 2011, Avila was one of the best catchers -- strike that, one of the best players -- with a .298/.391/.513 mark in 543 PA, banging 33 doubles and 19 HR.

Also deserving:

Alex Gordon, Royals: One compared to George Brett, it took Gordon five years and a position switch, but he's finally delivering on his promise with a .303/.376/.502 figure.

Brandon McCarthy, Ahtletics: McCarthy had one of the best seasons a pitcher could have, dodging his way through a couple bumps and bruises to post a 3.32 ERA in 25 starts, allowing just 1.5 walks per nine and striking out 6.5. That's Doug Fister-ian. And just like that, the A's have yet another good pitcher.



1. Michael Morse, Nationals: Morse followed in Jose Bautista's footsteps by hinting toward a breakout season, slamming 15 homers in part-time duty. But a 30-homer season? That was tough to envision, and yet the 29-year-old broke out this year with just that and added to it by hitting .303. Now the Nationals have a fearsome middle-of-the-order bat at minimal charge and the ability to play either first base or left field. Morse's development is for real, and his power is here to stay.

2. Ryan Vogelsong, Giants: You had to know Vogelsong would land on this list. And why not? Vogelsong didn't throw one major-league pitch for four years before casually throwing up a 2.71 ERA over 179 2/3 innings this season. From 2000-06, Vogelsong was nothing short of an awful pitcher, so this is absolutely a breakout in every sense of the word ... and he began the year as a 33-year-old. His peripherals are strong enough that you can expect the fun to continue next season.

3. Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks: The former Yankees top prospect has found a home in Arizona, following up a solid 2010 with a sublime 2011 that should get him some Cy Young Award votes. Kennedy's soaked up 222 innings, posted a 21-4 record and a pristine 2.88 ERA, striking out 198 while at it. That's a fantastic pitcher through and through. While Kennedy may not have been ready for the AL East when he was with the Yankees, he'd certainly do just fine anywhere the way he's come along.

Also deserving:

Cameron Maybin, Padres: Maybin struggled for consistent playing time for years in Florida and finally got his chance with San Diego. His overall numbers are depressed because he plays in Petco Park, but his defense more than makes up for it. To give you an idea of how good he has been offensively, here are his road numbers: .294/.349/.457. Safe to say the Pads picked the pocket of Florida here.

Yadier Molina, Cardinals: Molina is a great defender with a fantastic arm. We all know that. He's also, for the first time in his career, been a significant contributor on offense with a .306/.349/.469 line, punching 32 doubles and 14 homers. It's power never seen before from Yadier.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 23, 2011 8:41 pm
 

How do we really define 'value?'



By Matt Snyder


As the end of the 2011 baseball season is now less than a week away, it's becoming more and more clear that the MVP debates are going to include a healthy amount of "value" discussion -- much more than in previous seasons. Throw out the stats because how you define who should be allowed to be MVP tells you who to vote for this season. The best position player in each respective league is playing for a team that hasn't been in contention for the playoffs for a majority of the season. If you believe pitchers are eligible to win the award, well, you have your AL vote, too. If you believe the MVP has to be a position player from a team in contention, again, the field is rather limited (well, I guess you'd have to pick between two teammates in the NL).

So with so many others giving us their definition of value, I figured I'd outline mine.

If I had an MVP vote in the American League, I'd vote for Jose Bautista. His Blue Jays entered Friday night 16 games behind the Yankees in the AL East and nine behind the Red Sox in the wild card. At 79-77, they're most certainly not a bad team, but they've been out of contention for the entire second half.

If I had an MVP vote in the National League, I'd vote for Matt Kemp. His Dodgers are 11 1/2 games behind the Diamondbacks in the NL West. They're 9 1/2 games behind the Braves in the wild card. At 78-77, they're most certainly not a bad team, but they've been out of contention for the entire second half.

Now, this is where the dissenters start calling me every name in the book -- because heaven forbid we ever actually respectfully disagree with someone's opinion. The argument will include fallacies like the Blue Jays and Dodgers suck (no, they really don't) and that it's easier to play in meaningless games (no, it's really not). We'll also hear about how "if you removed (Bautista or Kemp) from the (Blue Jays or Dodgers), they'd still not be a playoff team. Just like they aren't a playoff team now."

But you know what I'm going to counter with? Bautista and Kemp are actually more valuable than players like Jacoby Ellsbury and Ryan Braun because the supporting cast is bad. For example, the Red Sox were 89-73 last season and Ellsbury only played in 18 games. This season, they'll probably be a small handful of games better, but they also added Adrian Gonzalez. There are far more moving parts because every season is full of complexities, but this a simple way of saying the lineup is loaded and that losing only one guy doesn't handcuff that team. But what if the Blue Jays didn't have Jose Bautista? Would they be even close to .500? Nope. What about the Dodgers without Kemp? They'd be left trying to win every fifth day (when Clayton Kershaw pitches) and otherwise getting their teeth kicked in.

If you're really going to argue that Kemp and Bautista are more "most outstanding player" types than MVP types, you're going to have to tell everyone why a player absolutely carrying an otherwise mediocre offense isn't valuable. If you're going to argue it's easier to put up the kind of numbers these guys have because they aren't in playoff contention, you better argue that if you put Bautista in right field for the Yankees or Kemp in center for the Brewers, they'd somehow be worse players because now they're having to face pressure (nevermind the better protection in the lineup and extra RBI opportunities they'd have).

Also, the argument that it's easier to play in games for a team not in the race is farcical. You know what this argument is? An invented one by fans of teams that are headed to the playoffs. Sorry, guys, it is much easier to show up to the ballpark in a good mindset and play a game when the game actually matters. In a mental game like baseball, that matters. Playing meaningless games makes it more difficult to stay as focused as necessary for each at-bat. Think about the three Monday-Wednesday games next week for players on the Twins, for example. They've got to be ready to close the book on 2011, but still will be professionals and play games.

It's going to be interesting to see how the MVP voting falls in each league, as it's more about defining criteria than picking a player. Tigers' ace Justin Verlander deserves consideration, as does Ellsbury, alongside Bautista in the AL. Like I said, the only debate is what valuable means to you. Kemp has some company, as the Brewers' Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols of the Cardinals and the Reds' Joey Votto could all figure into the mix. Still, it feels like the first-place vote is defined by definition of value. Kemp gets the vote if you don't care about the team being in contention, and if you do, it probably is between Braun and Fielder.

The beauty of this vote is we don't have to agree (hey, I'll be happy if Braun wins, because that's who I predicted would win back in March). It's a subjective award and the criteria of "value" is pretty vague. I respect those who think the MVP has to come from a team in contention, but I just wanted to lay out something I've been thinking about ... that great players surrounded by bad supporting casts are actually more valuable. Just be open-minded and think about it.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 22, 2011 9:10 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2011 1:46 pm
 

Who are the NL's worst defenders?

Wright

By Evan Brunell

Over the past week, Eye on Baseball has taken a look at the AL Gold Glove award winners, along with the deserving NL candidates. In addition, the AL's worst defenders were scoured, and now comes the senior circuit's recipients of tin gloves...

Catcher: John Buck, Marlins -- One of the most important things a catcher can do is to throw out baserunners. To be sure, it's a total package -- calling pitches, acting as the general on the field, blocking pitches, framing pitches... but that pesky baserunner problem is also an issue, and Buck scores very low here. Out of 95 would-be basestealers, Buck only caught 17 of them, or 17.9 percent. Of all catchers who qualify for the batting title in the game -- not just the NL -- Buck's posted the worst caught-stealing rate. His reputation in all other aspects of catching are muted at best.

First base: Prince Fielder, Brewers -- Fielder looks as if he should easily clear $150 million in a new contract this offseason and $200 million is not out of reach given the right motivated bidder. Whoever is acquiring him, though, will be doing so for his home-run bat as opposed his defense, which has been consistently awful. This is a player who would have been shoved into the DH spot in the AL had he come up with an American League team, but the Brewers have had to live with his glove at first. Fielder offers nothing at first beyond a human blob that can block the occasional grounder.

Second base: Dan Uggla, Braves -- Uggla battled Jeff Keppinger for this honor, but Uggla takes the cake here by leading all NL second basemen in errors with 15, flashing both awful range and stone hands. It's surprising the Marlins didn't move him to third a while ago, and the Braves will certainly try to shift Uggla to third base once Chipper Jones retires. Until then, Atlanta's going to have to hope that Freddie Freeman at first and their shortstop can cover enough ground for Uggla to make his mark with the bat.

Third base: David Wright, Mets -- If David Wright's .929 fielding percentage holds, it will be the lowest mark by a third baseman since  2007, excluding Mark Reynolds who has "bested" Wright's fielding percentage twice in 2011 and 2008. In 2007, Ryan Braun tallied a .895 fielding percentage and was moved to left, which was always inevitable. Before that, you have to go to Edwin Encarnacion in 2006. Errors aren't always an indication of how good a fielder is, but in Wright's case, he's making them in such copious amounts without the benefit of superlative range.

Shortstop: Yuniesky Betancourt, Brewers -- Was there any doubt? The Brewers knew that they would have a horrendous left side of the infield, but the club could only hope that Betancourt and third baseman Casey McGehee's offensive production outstripped what they lost on defense. That hasn't been the case, and Betancourt remains the worst shortstop by a mile in the game. Really, there's no excuse for his still being considered a shortstop.

Left field: Raul Ibanez, Phillies -- There isn't much that left fielders are asked to do. Stand out there with a glove, catch the balls coming your way and smash lots of home runs. Well, Ibanez hasn't quite delivered on these fronts, especially defensively where he combines a noodle of an arm with a lack of speed or quickness, making him a statue. He's fortunate he doesn't play for the Cubs, otherwise the ivy on the outfield walls would already have overtaken him.

Canter field: Angel Pagan, Mets -- Pagan came out of nowhere to be a solid contributor to the Mets the last two seasons, but things have fallen apart this year. He leads all NL center fielders in erorrs and while he has good reaction time, his hands just aren't soft enough and his arm is a wash, too. Pagan may well have lost any shot at starting again after the year he's had.

Right field: Lance Berkman, Cardinals -- As I keep bringing up, a right fielder's arm is more valuable than a left fielder or center fielder. Thus, a player's defense in right should be judged with a bit more notice as to the player's arm. Well, one of the worst arms in the league belongs to Berkman, playing right consistently for the first time in his career. The verdict? The Cardinal has a lousy arm and lousy range. Maybe Berkman should stick to first base.

Pitcher: Matt Garza, Cubs -- A pitcher's job on defense basically comes down to this: field the grounders back to you and act as an irrelevant fly-ball pointer-outer. So when you make seven errors in just 191 innings for a fielding percentage of .774, you aren't doing too well. That's Garza, who has made five throwing errors while muffing two grounders. Garza's only made 10 putouts and 14 assists, so 22.5 percent of his involvement in fielding plays have resulted in an error. That's not good.

You'll notice no NL West players landed on the list. That's not surprising. With San Diego and Los Angeles playing in pitcher's parks and San Francisco's stadium rather spacious as well, defense is at a premium. Colorado also needs to emphasize defense as well to take away hits and patrol Coors Fields' cavernous gaps.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: September 21, 2011 10:12 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 11:22 pm
 

Looking at the AL's worst defenders

Reynolds

By Evan Brunell

You've seen who Eye on Baseball tabs as the AL Gold Glove award winners, and who should take home the hardware in the NL. But let's flip the switch and take a look at who is deserving of tin gloves. That is, who were the worst defenders at their respective positions in the American League this season? Let's take a look.

Catcher: J.P. Arencibia, Blue Jays: -- The Jays would love it if Arencibia become a viable starter behind the plate. Unfortunately, that doesn't look as if it will work out. In his first full season as a catcher amassing 116 games, Arencibia registers as one of the worst catchers by advanced defensive metrics and more basic ones, too. Defensive Runs Scored (DRS), errors, caught stealing percentage, passed balls... all are leaderboards that Arencibia appears on, and not at the top.

First base: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
-- Ah, first base ... where inept fielders make their home. That includes Miguel Cabrera, who is a really, really good hitter but just can't add value fielding. He doesn't have much range and is a statue in the field, leading all AL first basemen in errors with 12 (second in the majors behind Prince Fielder). There isn't anything in the field he does particularly well, so he lands here with a tin glove.

Second base: Jemile Weeks, Athletics
-- Weeks takes after his older brother, Rickie, in that he's just not a very good defender. Despite playing in just 88 games, Weeks has committed 12 errors, most among all second basemen. Ian Kinsler has committed one less error in 50 more games. Infielders -- middle infielders, especially -- can rack up errors if they have great range, committing miscues on balls that the average infielder wouldn't have gotten to. But even Weeks can't claim this, as his range factor is among the worst among second basemen.

Third base: Mark Reynolds, Orioles
-- This one is really easy, and is a player that everyone can agree on. Both advanced metrics and traditional defensive stats all agree that Reynolds is awful with -30 DRS, 26 errors and no range to speak of as well. There's a reason the Orioles have been giving Reynolds looks at first base, and it's because he's that bad at the hot corner.

Shortstop: Derek Jeter, Yankees
-- Yeah, Jeter has five Gold Gloves to his name, but that just shows you what's wrong with the voting process. The fact is that Jeter has been a bad shortstop, and been one for quite some time. He has zero range to speak of with poor reaction time and throwing accuracy or strength. His instincts and ability to make plays on balls he can get to can only take him so far.

Left field: Delmon Young, Tigers
-- You know how in the little leagues, the worst fielder was usually put out to pasture in left field, where he'd befriend weeds while the game played out around him? Yeah, well, that player turned out to hit pretty well, which is why Young is in the majors. Because he's certainly not in the bigs for his defense, which is among the worst in the league by any player at any position.

Center field: Alex Rios, White Sox
-- How much must GM Kenny Williams be regretting claiming Alex Rios off waivers? Not only has the center fielder not hit, he can't even fulfill playing his position. What does Rios in, and it's not like he does well at any aspect of defense this year, is his lack of instincts and range. He may have a solid .991 fielding percentage, but how much does that matter when you can't run balls down in the gaps?

Right field: Nick Markakis, Orioles
-- In right field, a player's arm is one of the more important characteristics as right-fielders need to be able to gun players out both at home and at third base. Markakis' arm is not one of his better attributes, but he's also lacking in speed which is odd given his 12 stolen bases are his most since 2007, but stealing bases and covering ground in the outfield are two very different things.

Pitcher: A.J. Burnett, Yankees
-- As a pitcher, range doesn't really matter. If a ball goes somewhere easily out of the reach of the pitcher, other fielders will handle the play. So it can be tricky to gauge just how good of a fielder a pitcher is. Looking at errors is one way to judge how surehanded a pitcher is, and Burnett's five errors tie him with two others. He doesn't have good range either, with his lack of mobility leading to just eight putouts and 21 assists, which rank at the bottom of the pack.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.


Posted on: September 20, 2011 10:16 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 10:57 pm
 

Who should win the Gold Glove in the AL?

Suzuki

By Evan Brunell

As C. Trent Rosecrans explained when selecting the most-deserving players to win the NL Gold Glove, it's one of baseball's most difficult awards to give out.

An award that should specifically celebrate the aspect of defense in baseball is instead largely given to those who are considered good defenders, but who reign supreme in popularity and offense. With managers and players voting on the award, you sometimes see some strange occurrences -- such as Rafael Palmeiro winning a Gold Glove in 1999, when he played just 28 games at first base while functioning as a DH.

Here, though, defense rules and offense drools. Let's take a look at some of the best defenders the game has to offer...

Catcher: Matt Wieters, Orioles
-- Wieters doesn't have fantastic range, but he has plenty. Combine that with great hands that have led to a .995 fielding percentage and just one passed ball all season, and it's easy to see why the Oriole receives the nod for the award. Also, runners fear Wieters' arm -- he's only allowed 56 stolen bases all season, while the next-lowest total among catchers who qualify for the batting title is J.P. Arencibia's 77, achieved in 10 less starts. Oh, and Wieters has nabbed 32 runners for a caught-stealing rate of 36 percent, a high percentage for a catcher.

Others considered: Alex Avila, Russell Martin, Jeff Mathis

First base: Mark Teixeira, Yankees -- What Texiera has over his competition is the ability to do everything a regular first baseman is asked to do -- except very well. He brings the complete package to the table, showing an uncanny ability to scoop balls out of the dirt and possessing enough speed and quickness to  make plays out of his zone. No matter what defensive aspect you bring up, Teixeira is among the elite, both in the eyes of scouts and in defensive statistics.

Others considered: Adrian Gonzalez, Casey Kotchman, Mark Trumbo

Second base: Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox -- Pedroia's fielding has been a major boon to his overall value this season. His numbers at the keystone position are what has vaulted him into the fringes of the MVP race and he dominates the game in all facets fielding. Range, plays out of the zone, total balls handled, errors ... no matter what you throw at Pedroia, he's going to go all out to get to the ball and make the play, which happens more often than not.

Others considered: Howie Kendrick, Ian Kinsler, Ben Zobrist

Third Base: Adrian Beltre, Rangers -- Beltre somehow only has two Gold Gloves despite a career of success. That success continues in 2011 in Texas, as Beltre has tremendous range compared with soft hands. Evan Longoria is a fantastic defender as well, but in the AL there simply is no comparison to Beltre. With 11 errors, Beltre is on pace to post his lowest error total since 2004, when he had 10.

Others considered: Alberto Callaspo, Evan Longoria, Brent Morel

Shortstop: Brendan Ryan, Mariners -- There's some pretty good competition at shortstop for best defender, but Ryan takes home the honors, showing the junior circuit how it's done in his first season in the AL. Ryan has an impeccable reputation on defense and did nothing to sully that reputation in Seattle. Elvis Andrus and Alcides Escobar, also in his first year in the AL, gave Ryan a run for his money and is also deserving of this award. Only one can win it, though.

Others considered: Elvis Andrus, Alcides Escobar, Alexi Ramirez

Left field: Brett Gardner, Yankees -- Was there any doubt? Gardner absolutely blows away the competition in left field. His prowess is so remarkable, words can't describe it. Luckily, there's a graphic drawn of his amazing range compared to the average left fielder, which you can view right here. There really isn't another left fielder that comes close, not even perennial Gold Glover Carl Crawford, who has seen his defensive numbers suffer due to the Green Monster. As advanced as metrics are these days, the Green Monster still fouls up the data, but Gardner is too far ahead of the pack that even adjusting for the Monster would still leave Gardner the clear victor.

Others considered: Alex Gordon, Vernon Wells

Center field: Austin Jackson, Tigers -- Like shortstop, center field is littered with strong defenders. That isn't a surprise, given the emphasis placed on both positions being strong defensively. Jackson has made himself at home in Comerica Park's spacious outfield, running down 114 balls outside of his zone. That's an astronomical number, and Jackson blends it with a strong overall game, even if his arm could be stronger.

Others considered: Peter Bourjos, Franklin Gutierrez, Jacoby Ellsbury

Right field: Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners -- Ichiro Suzuki simply does it all, with strong talent across the board. He knows where to go when the ball comes off the bat, rarely out of position. While Suzuki is 37, he still has enough speed to cover the ground required of him and continues to flash a strong arm, even if runners quit running on him 10 years ago.

Others considered: David DeJesus, Jeff Francouer, Torii Hunter, Nick Swisher

Pitcher: Mark Buerhle, White Sox

Buehrle has been considered the class of fielding pitchers since Greg Maddux retired and is working on two straight Gold Gloves. Buerhle's claim to fame on defense comes from this play on Opening Day 2010, which was the best fielding play of the entire season. As a left-hander he adds that much more value on defense with the ability to hold runners closer to first base, limiting steals.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.




Posted on: September 19, 2011 11:56 pm
Edited on: September 20, 2011 12:26 am
 

Picking the National League's best defenders



By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Gold Gloves are one of baseball's toughest awards to decide -- and sometimes toughest to understand. Unlike many of the game's other awards, the Gold Gloves are voted on by managers and coaches, and every year it seems there's a winner or two that seems to win the award more with their bat than their glove.

Not only do some players seem to win it with something other than their glove, sometimes the award can be a lot like the Supreme Court, once you get elected, you're not going to lose your seat.

That said, it's a difficult award to vote for. There are better fielding statistics coming out every year, yet most are still in their infancy and can tell you only so much. Good defense, sometimes can be a lot like the definition Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart gave for pornograpy in Jacobelis v. Ohio in 1964: "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embrued within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it." 

With that in mind, perhaps the voters for the Gold Gloves should be the scouts, but instead I'll try my hand at picking out the best defensive players in the National League.

Catcher: Yadier Molina, Cardinals

As tough as it is to use numbers to evaluate fielders, it's even tougher with catchers. At least the numbers with other fielders have some meaning, with catchers there's so much more to what they do defensively that it's hard not to go on reputation -- and nobody has a better reputation than Molina.

Others considered: Carlos Ruiz, Phillies; Brian McCann, Braves.

First base: Joey Votto, Reds

When Votto was coming up, people knew he could hit -- that was hard to ignore -- but his reputation at first base was nowhere near as good. Even as a rookie, he often struggled, especially on throws to a pitcher covering first. Since then, he's improved every year and this year he has proven himself to be the best defensive first baseman in the league. Votto, last year's MVP, covers more ground at first than any other first baseman in the league, which means it can be tough to get a hit if you hit it on the ground to the right side of the Reds infield, beacuse of the next guy on the list.

Others considered: Albert Pujols, Cardinals. Todd Helton, Rockies.

Brandon PhillipsSecond base: Brandon Phillips, Reds

A two-time Gold Glover, Phillips should be in line for his third. There may be no other player in baseball with as long of a highlight-reel as Phillips, who seemingly makes another amazing play every night.

Others considered: Chase Utley, Phillies, Omar Infante, Marlins, Neil Walker, Pirates

Third base: Pablo Sandoval, Giants

There are players with better defensive reputations than the Kung Fu Panda, but nobody's had a better year. The advanced stats don't tell you everything yet, but they're still pretty good. Sandoval leads qualified National League third basemen in UZR (12.3), UZR/150 (21.2) and plus-minus (20). 

Others considered: Placido Polanco, Phillies; Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals.

Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies

The Rockies may know a little something about drafting defensive shortstops -- they picked two of the best in the league, Tulowitzki and the Astros' Clint Barmes. Finally healthy, Barmes was outstanding defensively for the Astros, while Tulowitzki seems like the second coming of Cal Ripken. 

Others considered: Alex Gonzalez, Braves; Jose Reyes, Mets; Clint Barmes, Astros.

Left field: Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies

The voting has changed this year to award Gold Gloves to each of the three outfield positions instead of three generic outfielder awards that usually went to center fielders. Carlos Gonzalez is tough to categorize, but considering he's played more games in left than any other spot, he's the easy choice here. He's started 60 games in left, 34 in right and 28 in center. He's played all three well, which isn't easy at spacious Coors Field, committing only one error on the season.

Others considered: Matt Holliday, Cardinals. Gerardo Parra, Diamondbacks. Tony Gwynn, Dodgers.

Shane VictorinoCenter field: Shane Victorino, Phillies

This is one stacked category, with several deserving players. Under the old rules it would be easy, you'd have three center fielders and give them the three Gold Gloves. Under the new rules, it's a tougher choice. Victorino has had an MVP-type year, and no small part of that has been patrolling center field for the Phillies. The Flyin' Hawaiian is as good as anyone out there and his error-less season gives him the edge.

Others considered: Chris Young, Diamondbacks; Carlos Gomez, Brewers; Cameron Maybin, Padres; Rick Ankiel, Nationals; Andrew McCutchen, Pirates.

Right field: Mike Stanton, Marlins

He may be known best for the moon shots off his bat, but Stanton is a surprisingly good defensive outfielder. Stanton has the combination of athleticism and arm strength to be the best defensive right fielder in the game.

Others considered: Jay Bruce, Reds; Carlos Beltran, Giants; Jason Heyward, Braves.

Pitcher: R.A. Dickey, Mets

A knuckleball pitcher needs to field his position well -- there are plenty of bad hits coming back to the mound off poor contact. Dickey has been very good fielding his position and helped his team with his glove.

Others considered: Jake Westbrook, Cardinals; Bronson Arroyo, Reds; Hiroki Kuroda, Dodgers; Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers; Derek Lowe, Braves.

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Posted on: September 15, 2011 10:18 pm
Edited on: September 15, 2011 11:44 pm
 

Looking at NL Comeback candidates

Ryan VogelsongBy C. Trent Rosecrans

Earlier today my colleague Matt Snyder wrote about the Comeback Player of the Year awards and also took a look at the top candidates in the American Leaugue. Now it's time to look at the National League.

As Matt noted, the Comeback Player of the Year Award has been sanctioned by the MLB since 2005. It is voted upon by the 30 MLB.com beat writers (one per team). The criteria for the award is incredibly subjective and open to interpretation. Voters are asked to name a player in each League "who has re-emerged on the baseball field during the season."

That's vague -- but that seems to be a recurring theme with baseball awards. There's usually a couple of different type of comebacks -- the comeback from injury, the comeback from poor performance, the old guy and putting together one last hurrah and then the wild cards.

We've got a bit of each of those in the National League, but I'll get to that later. Like Matt, I'll give you the three frontrunners and several others. And once again, it should be noted I don't vote for this and I'm not exactly sure who I would vote for at this point. But here's who is in the running.

The Frontrunners

Carlos Beltran, Mets/Giants
2010 numbers: .255/.341/.427, 7 HR, 27 RBI in 64 games
2011 numbers: .298/.386/.524, 20 HR, 80 RBI in 129 games
Beltran may not win it because of his team's performance, not his. Beltran was supposed to ignite a dormant Giants offense, but even a .325/.367/.558 performance with five homers and 14 RBI in his 31 games before Thursday's game were just as advertised, it's just that it hasn't led the Giants to the postseason. The 34-year-old Beltran was the hottest name at the trade deadline because he'd looked like he had finally recovered from the knee surgery that limited him in 2010. Beltran missed 13 games after coming over to the Giants because of a wrist injury, but he's still shown that he has something left in his tank -- and just in time for free agency.

Lance Berkman, Cardinals
2010 numbers: .248/.368/.413, 14 HR, 58 RBI in 122 games
2011 numbers: .290/.404/.551, 30 HR, 86 RBI in 132 games
Berkman looked like he was finished last season, first with the Astros and then with the Yankees. In the offseason he signed a one-year deal worth $8 million with the Cardinals to play the outfield and there were plenty of skeptics -- myself included. Still, Berkman got into shape and thrived with Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. He was an early candidate for MVP, and he may still not be in that discussion, but he's certainly at the forefront for this award. If your definition of a "comeback player" is returning to form, Berkman's the easy pick. If you have a different definition, well, your choice may be...

Ryan Vogelsong, Giants
2010 numbers: 3-8, 4.81 ERA, 1.773 WHIP in 33 games and 14 starts in Triple-A
2011 numbers: 10-7, 2.66 ERA, 1.251 WHIP in 27 games and 25 starts
Vogelsong hadn't thrown a pitch in the major leagues since 2006 and hadn't won a game since 2005 before the start of the 2011 season. When you talk about comebacks, Vogelsong's may not have ever been a great pitcher (he had 10 career victories in 33 career starts before 2011), but he fits the comeback in terms of just coming back to the big leagues. Since 2006 he pitched for two teams in Japan over three years before trying a comeback in the United States in 2010. Vogelsong replaced Barry Zito in the rotation in April  and then went 6-1 with a 2.17 ERA before the All-Star break and earned a nod to the All-Star team. He's not been quite as good since then, but he still has a 3.30 ERA in the second half, only to go 4-6 thanks to a sputtering Giants offense.

Sean BurroughsThe Others

Sean Burroughs, Diamondbacks. You can put Burroughs in the Josh Hamilton comeback category, except unlike Hamilton, Burroughs had reached the big leagues before he returned from addiction to play. Burroughs, the ninth-overall pick in the 1998 draft, made it to the big leagues at 21 and even hit .298/.348/.365 for the Padres in 2004. However, he was out of baseball by 2006 and battled with substance abuse. As recently as last year, Burroughs was homeless and eating out of garbage cans. His .265/.276/.333 line isn't going to earn him too many accolades, but the fact that he's in the big leagues is as much of a comeback as can be imagined.

Aaron Harang, Padres. Returning to his hometown of San Diego after eight years in Cincinnati, Harang has been the Padres' best starter. After winning just six games in each of the last three seasons with the Reds, Harang is 13-6 with a 3.85 ERA this season. There's no doubt Harang has benefitted from the change of scenery -- and home ballparks, going from homer-happy Great American Ball Park in Cincy to the pitcher's dream of Petco Park in San Diego. Harang is 7-4 with a 3.30 ERA at Petco and 6-2 with a 4.70 ERA away from home.

Todd Helton, Rockies. The 37-year-old Helton was healthy this season after battling a back injury last season, when he hit just .256/.362.367 in 118 games. This season he's hitting .302/.385/.466 with 14 homers and 69 RBI. 

Jason Isringhausen, Mets. Isringhausen, 39, had Tommy John surgery in 2009 and signed a minor-league deal with the Reds in 2010, pitching for their Triple-A team in Louisville. He signed a minor-league contract with the Mets -- the team that drafted him in 1991 -- and after a short stint in extended spring training made the team and served as the team's closer for much of the season. Overall, he notched seven saves to get his career total to 300, pitching in 53 games for the Mets and putting up a 4.05 ERA, striking out 44 batters in 46 2/3 innings.

Kyle Lohse, Cardinals. Lohse has always been bit of an enigma -- blessed with immense talent, Lohse can one day look dominating and the next day out of his league. When he did pitch in 2010, he didn't pitch well and then his season was ended in May when he underwent surgery on his right forearm. He's been a staple in the Cardinals' rotation this season, going 13-8 with a 3.62 ERA in 28 starts. 

Pablo Sandoval, Giants. San Francisco won the World Series in 2010 with very little help from Pablo Sandoval, who played in just one of the team's World Series games and six postseason games. Well, Sandoval came into camp in shape and has responded, despite missing 40 games with a hand injury. Going into Thursday night's game, Sandoval was hitting .301/.345/.511 -- and then hit for the cycle on Thursday, notching his 20th homer and 25th double. 

Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals. The Nationals hope Zimmermann's return from Tommy John foreshadows the recovery of Stephen Strasburg. Much like Strasburg, Zimmerman had to have Tommy John surgery after a promising start to his rookie year, but was then able to return the next season and pitch. While his 8-11 record isn't too impressive, the 3.18 ERA in 26 starts is. With Zimmermann and Strasburg, the Nationals have high hopes for the future.

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