Handing Out Awards for the 2013 MLB Divisional Series
The Detroit Tigers became the final piece of the LCS puzzle by dispatching the Oakland Athletics on Thursday night, but before we go diving into analysis and predictions for the rest of the postseason, let's hand out some awards from the incredibly fun quartet of series we just witnessed in the 2013 LDS.
Did Clayton Kershaw or Justin Verlander earn the top pitching honor?
Was Miguel Cabrera's home run enough to keep him from receiving the Alex Rodriguez Award?
What exactly is the Alex Rodriguez Award?
In all, we've made up 10 awards. Some of them good, some of them not so good. And for each award, we've declared a winner and a runner-up.
Most Valuable Batter
Just to make sure there's no debate over whether or not a pitcher deserves the MVP award, we're specifically calling this one the Most Valuable Batter and awarding it to the positional player deemed most crucial to a series victory.
Most Valuable Batter: Jacoby Ellsbury
He didn't have the extra base hits or the RBI that one might expect from an MVP candidate, but Ellsbury was simply a thorn in Tampa Bay's side that refused to go away. In each of the four games in the Boston-Tampa Bay series, Ellsbury stole a base, reached base at least twice and scored at least one run.
Ellsbury finished the series batting .500 with nine of Boston's 38 hits. His range in center field amounted to 10 putouts. His speed on the basepaths messed with the opposing pitcher's head over and over again. No batter had a larger overall impact on a series than Ellsbury.
Runner-Up: Hanley Ramirez
Ramirez had incredible numbers in the Dodgers-Braves series, but most of them came in Los Angeles' sole losing effort.
In the Dodgers' Game 2 loss, Ramirez went 3-for-4 with a home run, two doubles, and all three of the Dodgers' RBI. In the crucial Game 4 win for Los Angeles, however, he was almost nowhere to be found. Ramirez twice left a runner in scoring position and got his only hit of the game in the first inning with no one on base.
Those were small complaints for a player who batted .500 and slugged 1.063, but that's my justification for giving the award to Ellsbury rather than Ramirez for playing an important role in all four games.
Least Valuable Batter
Exactly the same as the previous slide, only the complete opposite. This one goes to the positional player who repeatedly failed to help his team when it needed him the most.
Least Valuable Batter: Brian McCann
Not only did Atlanta's McCann go hitless with six strikeouts in the Braves-Dodgers NLDS, but he did so while being given ample opportunity to drive in runs for a Braves team that desperately needed them.
In his 13 official at-bats, there were 14 Atlanta runners on base. Save for an RBI fielder's choice with the bases loaded and no outs in the third inning of Game 3, none of those runners came around to score.
Most disheartening of all, he went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts in Game 4. In his career against Los Angeles' Ricky Nolasco—who was supposed to start Game 4 before Don Mattingly decided to go with Clayton Kershaw instead—McCann was 20-for-58 with eight home runs and 23 RBI. If the goal of his decision was to keep McCann in check, then Mattingly certainly succeeded.
McCann is now a free agent after a horrible NLDS and a September in which he batted .170 with only one home run. We'll see if that affects his market value.
Runner-Up: Neil Walker
Walker went 0-for-19 with five strikeouts in the Pirates-Cardinals series. He would rank ahead of McCann except only three of his plate appearances occurred with runners on base—thanks in large part to Starling Marte's 1-for-19 effort in the series.
In summation, the top two batters in the order for Pittsburgh went 1-for-38. Given that fact, it's amazing that the Pirates won even two games.
Slightly different from the Most Valuable Batter, the Silver Slugger goes to the batter who posted a lot of extra-base hits and a high slugging percentage. Hanley Ramirez should technically win this award, but because he was the runner-up for the MVB, we decided to pay our respects to two different players instead.
Silver Slugger: Pedro Alvarez
It may have come in a losing effort for Pittsburgh, but Alvarez hit the ball about as well as anyone in the postseason.
The Pirates scored just 15 runs against the Cardinals, but Alvarez hit three home runs and drove in six runs. He had at least one RBI in each of the five games and his solo home run in Game 4 was the only hit that the Pirates could muster in the game.
While the rest of the Pirates couldn't seem to get anything going against the Cardinals pitching staff, Alvarez gave them life again and again. In the end, it just wasn't quite enough.
Runner-Up: David Ortiz
Carl Crawford hit one more home run than Ortiz, but Big Papi got into the heads of Tampa Bay's pitching staff. After hitting two solo home runs for Boston in Game 2, Ortiz was walked in four of his next five plate appearances. None of them were intentional, but the Red Sox certainly didn't seem interested in giving him anything else to hit.
Between his five hits and five walks, Ortiz reached base in 55.6 percent of his plate appearances during the series.
Alex Rodriguez Award
Similar to the Least Valuable Batter, but the field of potential candidates is limited to those who played well enough during the regular season to likely earn some votes for MVP. Despite an incredible 2009 postseason campaign by Alex Rodriguez, the award is named after him for Rodriguez's failure to show up in the playoffs more often than not.
Alex Rodriguez Winner: Matt Carpenter
He's a fringe NL MVP candidate for the Cardinals after finishing the regular season with the third-highest WAR, but he certainly didn't play like it in the NLDS. After batting .318 during the year, he went just 1-for-19 against the Pirates with six strikeouts.
The Cardinals did advance to the NLCS, but no thanks to Carpenter—the player who had provided the most value for them over the past six months.
Runner-Up: Josh Donaldson
Much like Carpenter, Oakland's Donaldson was somewhat of a surprise at the top of Fangraphs' WAR calculations. Thanks to a little bit of defensive prowess, Donaldson ended up with the second-highest WAR in the AL with a score that was more than double that of David Ortiz, even though he trailed Ortiz in virtually every batting category.
Donaldson will get at least a couple of fourth-place votes in the AL MVP race, because, thankfully, those votes are tallied before the playoffs begin. Donaldson went just 3-for-21 with eight strikeouts and no extra-base hits in the Athletics' ALDS loss to the Tigers.
Curt Schilling Award
Cy Young was a great pitcher, but he only appeared in seven postseason games during his career. Curt Schilling, on the other hand, started 19 postseason games with a record of 11-2 and a 2.23 ERA. As such, the award for best showing by a starting pitcher is named in his honor.
Curt Schilling Recipient: Justin Verlander
In a rain-shortened game on Aug. 27, Verlander took his lumps against the A's. He lasted only five innings, allowing three earned runs with three walks and just three strikeouts.
Evidently, he was playing possum.
Between Games 2 and 5, Verlander pitched 15 scoreless innings with 21 strikeouts. It was perhaps the most dominant postseason performance by a pitcher against one team since 2012 when Verlander gave up only one run over 16 innings with 22 strikeouts against the same A's.
Runner-Up: Clayton Kershaw
An incredible regular season wasn't enough for the Dodgers' Kershaw. He had to go and outdo himself by allowing just one earned run in 13 innings of work with 18 strikeouts against the Braves.
Even though Kershaw worked on short rest in Game 4, Atlanta never really had a chance against him.
Second Runner-Up: Adam Wainwright
This is the only award where I'm naming a second runner-up, but, hopefully, you'll understand that it wouldn't be fair to omit the Cardinals' Wainwright from this conversation.
He simply dominated the Pirates in Games 1 and 5. Pedro Alvarez's home run in Game 1 was the only extra-base hit against him in 16 innings. The Pirates only had four at-bats against him with runners in scoring position.
Chris Bosio Award
The inverse of the Curt Schilling Award, the Chris Bosio Award goes to the pitcher who had the most forgettable start(s) in the postseason. In his one trip to the playoffs for Seattle in 1995, Bosio gave up 11 earned runs over 13 innings of work, allowing six walks and three home runs to go with five strikeouts.
I trust you will come up with a better namesake for the award, but he's the leader in the clubhouse for now.
Chris Bosio Recipient: A.J. Burnett
Burnett didn't exactly enter the postseason for the Pirates with a gold-plated track record in the playoffs. In seven career starts, he was 2-2 with a 5.07 ERA.
The 2013 NLDS certainly didn't help those numbers.
Burnett lasted just two innings of Game 1 after the first eight Cardinals hitters in the inning reached base against him. Having nearly single-handedly killed Pittsburgh's World Series dreams, the 15-year veteran was overlooked for Game 5 by a rookie with 19 career starts.
Runner-Up: Julio Teheran
Speaking of rookies, Teheran had a pretty phenomenal regular season, posting a 3.20 ERA in 185.2 innings of work and likely finishing somewhere not far behind Jose Fernandez and Yasiel Puig in the voting for NL Rookie of the Year.
Too bad that Teheran couldn't keep that momentum going into the playoffs for the Braves.
In the one game in the series in which Atlanta actually scored more than one run in the first three innings, Teheran kept the Braves from taking advantage by allowing six earned runs to score without ever escaping the third inning, setting the stage for Los Angeles to score 13 runs in their win.
Rolaids Relief Man Award
Like its regular season counterpart, the Rolaids Relief Man Award goes to the relief pitcher who is most reliable when it comes to putting a manager's heart at ease. It doesn't necessarily need to go to a closer, but the stress is always highest in the final frame.
Rolaids Relief Man: Kenley Jansen
There wasn't a whole lot of drama for the Dodgers bullpen in the NLDS. Aside from the ninth inning of Game 4, the Dodgers either trailed or led by at least four runs from the fourth inning on in each game.
Still, Jansen got the job done for Los Angeles in impressive fashion.
He faced nine Braves batters in the series and struck out seven of them—including striking out the side in order in the ninth inning of Game 4. He did give up a walk and a single in Game 1, but the Dodgers were already up by five runs, and he struck out the other three batters in the inning anyway.
Runner-Up: Koji Uehara
Sure, the Red Sox closer took the loss in Game 3 against the Rays, but aside from that completely unexpected walk-off home run by Jose Lobaton, Uehara pitched three perfect innings with four strikeouts and two saves.
Undeterred by the previous night's result, Boston manager John Farrell turned to Uehara for a four-out save in the series-clinching Game 4 win.
Heartburn Inducer Award
The polar opposite of the Rolaids Relief Man, the Heartburn Inducer Award might as well have been grinding up ghost peppers to sprinkle into his manager's coffee grounds. This award goes to the relief pitcher who provided virtually no relief.
Rolaids Relief Man: Jake McGee
Games 2 through 4 in the ALDS between Boston and Tampa Bay were each decided by three or fewer runs.
What those games also had in common is that McGee appeared and allowed two runners to reach base in each of them for the Rays.
He took the loss in Game 4 after putting Xander Bogaerts and Jacoby Ellsbury on base before departing just in time for Joel Peralta to allow both to score.
Runner-Up: Paco Rodriguez
Brought into Game 2 for Los Angeles with Atlanta baserunners on second and third with two outs, Rodriguez was merely expected to get one batter out to keep the Dodgers within one run. However, after an intentional walk and a two-run single, Rodriguez's night was over, as were Los Angeles' hopes of a comeback.
Don Mattingly brought Rodriguez into a much less stressful situation in Game 3, leading, 13-4, and just needing to pitch the final inning of a blowout win. Instead, Rodriguez gave up a walk and three hits—including a home run—to unnecessarily force Mattingly to turn to his closer.
In all, Rodriguez recorded just two outs in the series, allowing four hits, two walks and two earned runs.
This one really shouldn't need any explanation, but it goes to the most valuable rookie.
Top Rookie: Yasiel Puig
Compared to the contributions from Carl Crawford, Clayton Kershaw, Hanley Ramirez and Juan Uribe, Puig's play for the Dodgers in the postseason actually flew under the radar for the first time in his MLB career.
Puig quietly went 8-for-17 in the series against Atlanta with a double, two RBI and five runs scored. It was his leadoff double in the eighth inning of Game 4 that set the stage for Uribe's game-winning two-run home run.
Puig didn't have any stolen bases or home runs in the series, but he still delivered when the Dodgers needed him the most.
Runner-Up: Gerrit Cole
It's a tough call between the Pirates' Cole and the Athletics' Sonny Gray for this honor, but I prefer pitchers who don't walk batters. Gray couldn't seem to find the strike zone in Game 5 and ended up with six walks in the series.
Cole, on the other hand, issued just two walks over 11 innings of work against the Cardinals with two starts that were more than good enough to give Pittsburgh a fighting chance. He picked up the win in Game 2, restoring hope to Pittsburgh after A.J. Burnett's disastrous start in Game 1.
There's a pretty good chance we'll see Cole in the postseason again in 2014, and perhaps Jameson Taillon will win the Top Rookie award then.
Buddy Bell Award
Buddy Bell managed three different teams between 1996-2007 with a record of 519-724. He didn't have great rosters to work with, but he was one of the worst managers of all-time. As such, this award goes to the manager who made a bone-headed decision or 12 in the LDS.
Buddy Bell Recipient: Fredi Gonzalez
Gonzalez's decision to not turn to Craig Kimbrel in the eighth inning of Game 4 for the Braves' was met with more than a little bit of scrutiny, but there was more than just that one head-scratcher.
Before the series even began, Gonzalez chose to leave Dan Uggla, Paul Maholm and Scott Downs off of the Atlanta roster.
Uggla is signed with the Braves for another two years at $13.2 million per year. I could almost appreciate ostracizing him in place of an up-and-coming star or a defensive wizard who can also put the bat on the ball. But Elliot Johnson has a career .218 batting average and is hardly an all-star with the glove. Somewhat predictably, he went 1-for-14 and committed an error.
Leaving Downs off the Atlanta roster left Gonzalez with only two left-handed relievers against a Los Angeles roster with five left-handed batters and one switch-hitter. Because of that, Gonzalez had to leave David Carpenter in the eighth inning of Game 2 to face Adrian Gonzalez, even though the Dodgers first baseman was 0-for-5 in his career against Downs.
Then, Gonzalez used both of his left-handed relievers in Game 1, after the Braves were already down, 6-1, by bringing in each of them for innings with two right-handed batters due up. He also used the right-handed Carpenter in the inning in which left-handed Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier were coming up.
It made no sense whatsoever, so it shouldn't have been a surprise that he botched the late-inning situation in Game 4 the way that he did.
Runner-Up: Jim Leyland
Even when he was healthy, Miguel Cabrera was not a good third baseman for the Tigers, so why not save his energy for the plate by putting him at DH?
Victor Martinez has never played a game in the outfield in his career, but neither had Jhonny Peralta until this season. Detroit's strongest lineup both on offense and defense would have been to put Jose Iglesias at third base, Peralta at short, Martinez in left and Cabrera at DH.
But Leyland didn't see it that way and it was Cabrera's error in Game 3 that first put Oakland in the scoring column.