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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

So Far, So Good

In a somewhat unusual feat of good judgment, the sportswriters have made three excellent selections for the major 2007 awards thusfar. Only Dustin Pedroia was an easy choice, as AL Rookie of the Year. Pedroia led all qualifying AL Rookies in Average, Slugging, OPS, Doubles, and Runs Scored. He was second in Hits and OBP, and fifth in RBI. Pedroia's case is certainly somewhat aided by his postseason performance and his position in one of the league's best lineups, but there are glaring holes in the campaigns of all the other logical candidates. Delmon Young led AL Rookies in RBI with 93 and Josh Field led in Home Runs with 23, but both struggled with the strikezone, accumulating over 125 strikeouts apiece and OBPs under .320. That said, I bet Boston would trade Pedroia straight up for either one of them, in a heartbeat.

It seemed likely, when Colorado advanced to the postseason and then to the World Series, especially, that their lauded shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki, was inevitably boosting his Rookie of the Year chances. Thankfully, Ryan Braun's gaudy regular season numbers were too much to overlook. Here's how the two broke down:

Tulowitski: .291/.359/.479 104R 177H 24HR 99RBI 7SB

Braun: .324/.370/.634 91R 146H 34HR 97RBI 15SB

Tulowitzki hangs with Braun in the counting stats because he had two more months in the majors. If we extrapolate Braun's stats to match Tulowitski's plate appearances, he would have approximately 120 R, 45 HR, 130 RBI, and 20 SB. In other words, he'd be running a step ahead of Holliday, Fielder, and Rollins in the MVP race.

While I'm sympathetic to the opinion that Tulowitski's excellent defense at a critical position (compared to Braun's sub-par defense at third base) helps his cause, I think Braun's counterargument is that he hit third in Milwaukee's lineup from the moment he reached the bigs. While Tulowitski's slumps were chastened by the fact that he hit in front or behind that quartet of Holliday, Helton, Atkins, and Hawpe, it was Braun who was the picture of consistency in Milwaukee. Along with Prince Fielder he compensated for the up-and-down performances of J. J. Hardy, Corey Hart, Bill Hall, and Rickie Weeks, by churning out an OPS above 900 in every full month after he arrived.

It was also a tough choice between C. C. Sabathia and Josh Beckett. Sabathia would surely be willing to trade his hardware for Beckett's World Series ring. Unfortunately, that is sort of what it came down to. Sabathia made four more starts and pitched forty more innings than Beckett during the regular season, perhaps his fatigue contributed to his lackluster playoff performances against Boston. However, he carried his team down the stretch, going 6-1 with a 2.48 ERA in August and September. Beckett didn't exactly coast, going 7-2 with a 3.01 ERA, but he did take one less turn in the final two months, pitch twelve fewer innings, and delivered 59 fewer pitches. He also was allotted five days rest before each of his last three regular season starts. Very likely two more quality starts could have made the difference for Beckett as a Cy Young candidate, but it also may have prevented him from racking up four wins and 35 Ks in 30 innings in October.

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