MLB Season in Review: 2007 National League Awards
"The decisions we make in Washington have a direct impact on the people in our country, obviously." — New Albany, Ind., Nov. 13, 2007
I was looking at calendars this afternoon and stumbled upon one of "Bushisms," obviously.
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.
Warning: NL East fans, flick your TVs back to ESPN.
MVP - David Wright
There's a definite argument for a handful of other players here, and I actually have changed my mind on this, given where I originally stood with my vote for Matt Holliday.
However, the numbers don't lie—nor are they artificially inflated by a home ballpark.
Before I get into too much detail about David Wright, I just want to remind everyone that he was only 24 years old this year. Another scary factor: He's showing steady improvement across the board, and he just joined the illustrious 30/30 club.
Now to the statistical David Wright.
Among his contemporaries, only Chipper Jones could hold a candle to him, and even then, Chipper is tough to find in the WSAB category—attesting to the reason I use multiple statistics when comparing players.
(Runner Up: J. Rollins)
Rookie - Troy Tulowitzki
I'm sick of hearing about the kid too. It wouldn't surprise me if baseball created a "Sophomore of the Year" award just for Tulowitzki.
Also, I prefer Hunter Pence as a player to build around, and as a player whom I envision having a superior major league career. In fact, save for an injury to Pence and a late call-up for Ryan Braun, none of us would have to deal with hearing "Tulo! Tulo! Tulo!"
However, we're still talking about a kid who put up the third-best VORP among National League rookies at 37.8, and the second best WSAB at 12.
If you are following along with me, you'll have noticed that Tulowitzki trails a fellow rookie in both categories—yes, Ryan Braun. However, I feel that the amount of time that Braun missed was too much to allow him to win the award over a player who went April-to-October.
Additionally, the fielding. Tulowitzki ranked as the best fielder in all of baseball in terms of the Hardball Times' Fielding Win Shares. Tulowitzki's 10.9 was worth just under a win more then Braun's 1.5.
And to be honest, 1.5 is a pathetic total.
(Runner Up: R. Braun)
Manager - Clint Hurdle
All right, I think I can be honest with the readers now: I really don't follow the National League. I won't claim too.
With the Indians and other American League happenings, combined with other sports, as well as the rest of my life...I just don't have time.
In any event, as I wrote in my Dundy Awards column:
"However, in 2007, things began to shift. The rebuilding efforts in Arizona and Colorado finally came full circle, giving both teams extremely promising and talented young cores. Both the Rockies and Diamondbacks fell in the bottom six in overall team payroll, averaging approximately $500,000 per win. Contrast that with division rivals the Dodgers and Giants, who spent approximately $1.3M per win, and the Yankees and Red Sox who spent $2.1 and $1.5M, respectively, per win.
But that isn't it even half of the reason that the Colorado Rockies are my pick for best team in 2007. Rather, it's their run to close out the season, which included a 6-1 record against San Diego (3-0 at Petco Park), only eight losses the entire month, an 18-4 record against the division (with only three games against the lowly Giants), and a 13-1 record to put themselves in an elimination game with San Diego for the wild card birth.
If you missed that, the Rockies had to more or less play perfect baseball for half a month. Adding a loss or two down the stretch would have taken them out of the playoffs and subsequently the World Series."
Being the manager of a team that does all of that makes you Manager of the Year in my book.
(Runner Up: C. Manuel)
Executive - Josh Byrnes
Like Mark Shapiro, much of Byrnes' work to help the Diamondbacks compete in 2007 was competed well before the year began. He was also in charge of what was a very fortunate team, one which Baseball Prospectus states actually deserved only 78 wins.
In any event, whoever Byrnes sold his soul too obviously knows how to get things done.
Despite the struggles of all four players at times, Byrnes didn't make any rash decisions.
The biggest acquisitions Byrnes made were Randy Johnson and Doug Davis. RJ was very effective when healthy, while Davis provided what he was brought in to provide: stability in the middle of the rotation.
Byrnes showed more patience in not acquiring an aging veteran arm down the stretch. I suppose Byrnes' best moves were the ones he didn't make.
(Runner Up: K. Towers)
Cy Young - Brandon Webb
I've already received some heat for this decision, and that's justifiable.
Jake Peavy actually won the NL pitching triple crown this season, becoming only the second pitcher to do so in the National League since 1990.
Statistically, the two were very close. Webb, however, was superior to Peavy in the pitching stat that matters the most in my opinion: Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP).
Webb posted an NL-low 3.35 while Peavy finished at 3.46.
However, Webb didn't beat Peavy in every Sabermetric statistic. In fact, Webb trailed Peavy in both "Win" stats, scoring a 66.1 to Peavy's 77.0 in VORP and a 17 to Peavy's 18 in WSAB—although this number is slightly misleading in the National League, as it gives credit towards a pitchers' hitting ability.
With the proper adjustment, Webb is worth 2.4 more pitching wins than Peavy.
This is where opinion takes over. The Cy Young Award is not, in my opinion, simply given to the pitcher who had the best statistics; rather, it's given to the pitcher who had the best season.
Involved in this is what that pitcher did for his club as well as personal feats. The Diamondbacks made the playoffs, and the Padres were unable to win their wild card play-in game.
Webb and Peavy were both the aces of their respective rotations, but Webb's value to his team was substantially greater, as the the Diamondbacks' next best pitcher posted 12 fewer pitching win shares. By comparison, Peavy had Chris Young trailing by only 10.
Could you imagine the Diamondbacks with Doug Davis as their ace?
In addition, Webb went on a memorable streak after the All-Star break, posting three consecutive shutouts and going 42 innings without allowing a run.
This run came at what is the most important time of year in the major leagues, when teams prove themselves to be contenders or pretenders.
As I suggested in my AL piece, post All-Star statistics are vital to a pitcher's case in the Cy Young balloting. Here's what Webb and Peavy did during that time period:
Webb: 2.56 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 7.03 K/9
Peavy: 2.93 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 9.95 K/9
While both pitchers had incredible post All-Star lines, Webb was the superior pitcher.
In considering the numbers and the value of the pitchers to their respective teams, it's obvious to me that Webb is the appropriate choice for the NL Cy Young award.
I'm able to accept a case for Peavy; I just feel as if his season was not as impressive or as valuable as Webb's.
(Runner Up: J. Peavy)
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