MLB Season in Review: 2007 American League Awards

Brandon HeikoopSenior Analyst IJanuary 5, 2008

Despite TV writers being on strike, I imagine I can muster up some creativity and, as promised, hand out my 2007 baseball awards.

When selecting the winners, I take into account several factors.

The first is how a player performs with respect to his position. For the record, I am not going to pick a player who performed at a high level at a brutal position but wasn't even in the top five or 10 in "Win" stats.

The second criteria is "Win" stats. The Hardball Times owns a stat for this, as does Baseball Prospectus—called Win Shares Above Bench (WSAB) and Value over Replacement Player (VORP), respectively.

I will reference these stats throughout my writings, and for the most part, utilize both.

Next, I will look at exceptional play—a streak, a record, or something a player did on an individual level to lift his team to a higher level.

That is not to say a player from a losing team cannot win an award, although admittedly, those players are at a slight disadvantage.

Lastly, I do take into account salary and the performances of other players—something you will notice with my AL Cy Young award.

MVP - Alex Rodriguez

It's not difficult to win the MVP on my ballot. I will simply pick the best player in baseball.

Certainly I could pick through the numbers and tell you things that you already know, such as the fact that A-Rod hit for a slugging percentage 18 points higher then the next player in the American League, but what you may not know is that Rodriguez's slugging percentage was nearly 150 points higher then the closest AL third baseman.

Also in Rodriguez's favor was a stat I like, called Equivalent Average (EQA). EQA takes into account all facets of hitting, including park factors and running. Obviously Rodriguez was the leader in EQA, as he was in so many categories this season, but what really sticks out, is the margin to which he demolished his competition here.

A-Rod put up a .340 EQA, and while David Ortiz was only two points behind him, the closest AL third basemen was Chone Figgins at .289.

WSAB - 26 (1st in the AL)
VORP - 96.6 (1st in the AL)

(Runner Up: M. Ordonez)


Rookie - Jeremy Guthrie

There is debate as to whether or not Guthrie was a rookie this year.

Baseball Prospectus has him listed among their "VORP for Rookie Pitchers"...and who am I to argue?

The service time and innings pitched looks very close, although I am uncertain how much September playing time takes this into account—if anyone does know, feel free to correct me.

Guthrie, somehow, did not receive a single vote in the AL's Rookie of the Year voting. Possibly the BBWA were confused as to his eligibility; possibly it was yet another instance where the BBWA failed to recognize true value.

In terms of WSAB, Guthrie ranked higher than all of those who received votes, logging nine and being tied for 17th among pitchers. Not only this, but Guthrie also ranked higher in BPs VORP, netting 38.2, the highest total of any rookie in either league.

My stat of choice for pitchers is The Hardball Times' Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP). Essentially, this statistic takes into account the numbers that a pitcher is directly responsible for, looking at variables such as fielding and ball park.

In any event, Guthrie had a relatively mediocre xFIP; however, so too did his fellow rookie pitchers.

(Runner Up: H. Okajima)

Manager - Joe Torre

This does seem unfair—that a manager with the highest-paid talent can be graded on the job he does versus two teams who fared better in the standings with lesser payrolls, and in one instance, a fraction of a payroll.

High-paid talent also brings experience. Experience often brings leadership.

So why Joe Torre?

To start, Torre manages in the league's biggest market for the league's most successful all-time franchise. These two factors have led the fans to feel as though it's their right to be winners.

However, when there's heat for the manager to be fired in the middle of May and still he leads his team to the playoffs, that's a pretty good job in my opinion.

In addition, the Yankees were one of the best teams in the American League from May 1st on. They were the best team in the Al East from May 1st on, despite being the worst team prior to this point (in terms of wins and winning percentage).

Obviously Torre had an easier road to go down then Sam Perlozzo, but he still managed to right the ship.

(Runner up: E. Wedge)

Executive - Mark Shapiro

I won't go at length here as I am not entirely thrilled with the job Shapiro did for the 2007 season.

Given that the award is for the 2007 season, the moves GMs make that have direct impacts on the 2007 season should be the ones that are inspected. However, Shapiro was, in my opinion, the best of a bad bunch in 2007.

What moves did he make? Shapiro's major league signings included Nixon, Dellucci, Foulke, Borowski and Hernandez.

To be fair, each one of them was a failure in terms of cost and what they brought to the team. Shapiro also made a trade for Josh Barfield, which, as per the free agent signings, turned out to be a waste.

However, despite all of this, the Indians managed to win the Central and tie for the best record in the AL. The move Shapiro made for Kenny Lofton proved to add a nice spark plug and veteran leadership down the stretch.

I must admit I am on the fence in terms of not making other moves. That is, it was both a good and a bad thing that Shapiro did not make a big splash in the trade market.

(Runner Up: JP Riccardi) 


Cy Young - Fausto Carmona

I had made the decision to pick Fausto prior to the gem he threw in a game that I attended in Cleveland (watch the video!).

Was Carmona the best pitcher overall in the American League? I can admit he was not. However, in my opinion, the Cy Young award is not simply awarded to the pitcher who had the best statistics—it's awarded to the pitcher who was not only most valuable to his team, but would have been to any other team.

With that in mind, where would the Cleveland Indians have been without Carmona and his incredible season?

My guess is they would have been a handful of game behind the Detroit Tigers. But I will take this a step further: Was there a better No. 2 pitcher in the American League this season?

The Indians got what they expected out of Sabathia; likewise the Tigers with Verlander, the Red Sox with Beckett, the Twins with Santana, etc.

How about the numbers? Carmona finished the season with an xFIP of 3.99, good for 11th (tie) in the American League. However, only three pitchers finished ahead of him in both xFIP and Innings Pitched, two of whom did not make the playoffs and all of whom would be considered the aces of their respective staffs.

How about the "Win" stats? Carmona finished second in both WSAB and VORP, behind teammate and staff ace C.C. Sabathia in both categories. One could argue that had Carmona started the season in the rotation and finished with the same number of starts as Sabathia, he would have surpassed him in both of those categories.

Leep in mind, Carmona's first start was three days after Sabathia's second. In fact, according to The Hardball Times' WSP, which is a rate version of WSAB, Carmona led Sabathia.

Another factor I take into consideration, although admittedly skewed by luck, is how a player performs down the stretch. That is, their post All-Star numbers:

Carmona: 2.26 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 6.4 K/9
Sabathia: 2.76 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 7.6 K/9
Beckett: 3.10 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 9.4 K/9
Lackey: 3.14 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 7.1 K/9
Santana: 4.04 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 10.1 K/9
Haren: 4.15 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 8.8 K/9

As I stated, this is not the most accurate way of grading a pitcher's performance. However, what this does show is that among the aces of the American League, Carmona best served his club when it mattered the most.

There are reasonable arguments for any of the five aces I mentioned. I have no issue with the BBWA's giving the award to Sabathia; he was a horse and the Indians needed him.

However, I think more than any of these other pitchers, Carmona was a major factor in leading his team to the playoffs. His gutty performance against the Yankees didn't hurt.

(Runner Up: CC Sabathia) 


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