Mailbag: AL Award Winners

Mailbag Day is going to spill over into the weekend for just one post, since it was a fun question the three of us wanted to tackle.

Hey guys, just wondering what are your picks for the awards this year. ROY, MVP, CY Young, MOY, and the Comeback POY?

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

We’re going to do the AL only, just because. So, without further ado…

MVP

Ben: Josh Hamilton
On emotion alone, I’d love to give this one to Robinson Cano, but Joe made a very compelling statistical argument that the Yanks’ second baseman shouldn’t deserve it. Because the Rangers are playoff-bound and Josh Hamilton has been an utter stud — even while missing a month of the season — he gets the trophy.

Joe: Hamilton
I know that voters will ding Hamilton because he missed September, but they didn’t discount Joe Mauer missing April last year. The reason is obvious: September is viewed as this all-important month during which teams can make miraculous postseason runs — or they can collapse completely. But by demolishing the baseball from April through August, Hamilton made September a non-issue for the Rangers. They had an 8.5-game lead going into September, and if we take WAR literally Hamilton was the difference.

Mike: Hamilton
The best player on one of the best teams in the league, Hamilton hasn’t played in a month and still holds a 0.9 WAR advantage over everyone else in the AL. The late injury hurts his candidacy just a bit, but he’s been so far above and beyond anyone else in the league that it really doesn’t matter. I’d be perfectly fine with Cano or Miguel Cabrera getting the award as well, but my preference is Hamilton. Just be glad he doesn’t play for Tampa anymore.

Cy Young

Ben: Felix Hernandez
The Cy Young is another award that could go to a Yankee on emotion, and CC Sabathia wouldn’t be a terrible choice. Yet, Felix Hernandez has utterly dominated the American League. He picked apart the Yankees with ease in three outings and is leading the league in strike outs. He wins it despite a 13-12 won-loss record that might dissuade those who actually vote for the hardware.

Joe: Hernandez
I want to pick CC. Without him the Yanks would be nowhere. But if Felix Hernandez had taken his place the Yanks might actually have another win or two. He has been flat-out dominant this year. There are only two knocks against him, neither of which I’m buying.

1) How can you give the Cy Young to a guy with 13 wins? When his offense is poor on an historic scale. That not only means that he’s getting no run support, but that he doesn’t have the benefit of ever facing the worst offense in the league.

2) That he didn’t pitch with anything on the line, so there was no pressure. I’ve never pitched a major league game, but anyone who makes this point wears that fact on his sleeve. Do you seriously think that it’s any easier on Felix because his team is in last? I think that’s a generous assumption. In any case, there is not a scintilla of evidence to back it. It’s just armchair psychology.

Mike: F-Her
The award goes to the best pitcher, and Felix was just that in every meaningful way. I’m not going to hold it against him that his team has the worst offense of the DH era, if anything you can argue that that put even more pressure on Hernandez and made his job even more difficult. Sabathia or Francisco Liriano would be a fine winner in most years, but what Felix just did this season doesn’t qualify as most years.

Rookie of the Year

Ben: Neftali Feliz
The American League has a bunch of uninspiring choices for Rookie of the Year this year. The best offensive candidate strikes out more often than once a game and has managed to maintain a BABIP over .400 while showing limited power. I’m going with Feliz simply for the impact of it. He’ll rack up 40 saves this year with an ERA around 2.77, and he gives Texas a very comfortable ninth inning option. Austin Jackson and Brian Matusz would round out my top three.

Joe: Danny Valencia
I made the case for Valencia on FanGraphs last month, but I still thought Jackson should get it. Since then I’ve changed my mind. Jackson gets plenty of credit for going wire-to-wire as a lead-off hitter, but by season’s end his numbers look a bit less inspiring than we imagined in April. Valencia, on the other hand, came on strong after being recalled in June, and has produced 2.9 WAR in just 311 PA. I have a hard time not putting Jackson here, but Valencia has been so good in his four months that I think he’s deserving of the nod, even though there’s little chance he gets it.

Mike: Austin Jackson
I’m not married to this pick at all; it was just a down year for AL rookies in every way. Jackson’s posted an above average .338 wOBA with 26 steals and Gold Glove defense while hitting leadoff all season, not easy to do as a 23-year-old in the big leagues. Feliz, Valencia, and Matusz are worthy foes, and frankly I wouldn’t have a problem if any of them won.

Manager of the Year

Ben: Ron Gardenhire
It’s very tempting to give this one to Buck Showalter. In just over 50 games, he’s worked wonders with the Orioles, but he’ll have to earn that next year. Both Ron Gardenhire and Ron Washington have lead good teams to titles in two easy divisions, but I think Gardenhire has had to work through and around more key injuries. He gets my vote but either skippers are deserving.

Joe: Ron Washington
After all his off-season turmoil, Ron Washington managed to keep hold of his team and guide the franchise to its first playoff berth since the 90s. He had to make some tough decisions early in the year when some players weren’t performing, and for the most part they worked out.

Mike: Gardenhire
I hate this award, because who knows what kind of impact a manager really had. Gardenhire dealt with significant injuries to his best players and still guided a team that turned a four-and-a-half game deficit into a twelve game lead and a division title within the span of just 91 games.

Comeback Player of the Year

Ben: Francisco Liriano
After going 5-13 with a 5.80 ERA and 21 home runs allowed in 136.2 innings last year, Liriano has had one hell of a rebound year. He’s 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA, and prior to Thursday night, the hard-throwing southpaw had allowed just six home runs all season. He’s a big reason for the Twins’ success and the key to their October as well.

Joe: Josh Hamilton
Last year Hamilton appeared in just 89 games and produced a .321 wOBA. This year he’s the frontrunner for the MVP award, leading the AL in WAR even after missing a month. His WAR this year, by the way, is greater than his previous years combined.

Mike: Adrian Beltre
Beltre missed a bunch of time with shoulder surgery and a contused testicle in 2009, and when he did play he hit just .265/.304/.379. He came back from that and was arguably the best player in the AL this season, so he gets my vote with all due respect to the two fellas mentioned above.

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So what about you guys, who do you have for the awards? Tell us in the comments.

Tonight’s game to air on MLB Network

The second game of today’s doubleheader against the Red Sox will be broadcast on the MLB Network, according to a release. The game will also be broadcast on My9 in the Tri-State Area, and the first game will of course remain on FOX. I know some of you were afraid that you’d lose out on the chance to see tonight’s contest after the rain out, but don’t worry, it’ll be on.

A.J.’s trade value, or lack thereof

Theodorakis/News

A lot has been written and said about A.J. Burnett recently and many fans are calling for him to be traded.  The obvious answer to that is that A.J. is untradeable.  For the most part that is true, but clearly if the Yankees really wanted to trade him they could, it would just cost them a ton of money.  Without getting too unrealistic and saying the Yankees should eat $40 million (of the $49.5 million remaining on his contract), what could they possibly get for him?  Let’s take a look at some possible candidates in a Burnett trade and decide if shipping him out of town would be worth it.

Derek Lowe– The Braves had interest in Burnett when he was a free agent, reportedly offering him a 5 year/$80 million contract.  When they couldn’t get him, they settled for Lowe at 4 years the $60 million.  Lowe has two years and $30 million left on his deal, so the Yankees would certainly have to eat some of the cash on Burnett’s extra year.  Would you trade Burnett and $10 million for Lowe, essentially paying $40 million for 2 years of Lowe, who hasn’t pitched in the AL East since 2004 and has a 4.37 ERA in the NL East the past two years?  Though it would be tempting to have one less year of expensive mediocrity, A.J. has had success in the AL East much more recently than Lowe and has more upside.

Barry Zito– Zito has 3 years and $64.5 million remaining on his contract (including a buyout).  I don’t think I need to go much further discussing this one do I?  Despite Zito not being a total disaster the past two years (and that’s a compliment), there’s no way he’d have success in the AL East at this point in his career.  As frustrating as A.J. can be, I cannot imagine watching Zito and his 85 MPH fastballs in the Bronx for the next 3 years.

Carlos Zambrano– A few months back I would consider this an absolute no.  Now I think the Cubs would.  Zambrano is owed just under $36 million over the next two years, so while the AAV is similar to A.J.’s, the extra year owed to Burnett is huge.  Burnett has obviously been a disaster lately while Zambrano has been on a tear.  Since being put back in the rotation in August Zambrano is 7-0 with a 1.27 ERA.  Those numbers are a bit fluky, but there’s no doubt he’s looked much better since coming back.  Zambrano of course has had several disciplinary and attitude issues with the Cubs, would they jump at the chance to get him out of their clubhouse and bring in the well-liked Burnett?  I doubt it, and again, because of the extra year, the Yankees would have to chip in some cash.  If the Cubs were interested in the swap, that could tell us a lot more about his relationship with the Cubs and maybe more behind the scenes issues we don’t know about it.  If that’s the case, would you want the Yankees to bring him in?

Other than these three there aren’t many pitchers out there that you could even consider matching up in a trade.  Dig into position players and you can find the untradeable players due to their contracts such as, Vernon Wells (4 years/$86 million), Alfonso Soriano (4 years/$72 million), Alex Rodriguez (oops).  Clearly trading A.J. would not be easy, and no matter what you get back you’re not guaranteed an upgrade.  Like it or not, A.J. is here to stay, so you might as well treat him like everyone’s crazy uncle. We have to deal with him, but he’s family, so just get ready to grind your teeth for the next three years while A.J. takes the mound.

Yanks, Red Sox postponed due to rain

(AP Photo/Steven Senne)

It rained all day in the Tri-State Area on Friday, and it did the same all night up in the Boston. After a three-and-a-half hour or so rain delay, the Yankees-Red Sox game was postponed and will be made up as part of a doubleheader on Saturday. The first game will be played as scheduled at 4pm ET (FOX broadcast), the second will start (ugh) five hours later at 9pm. Andy Pettitte will start the afternoon game with A.J. Burnett being pushed back to the night cap. A doubleheader on the second-to-last day of the season is less than ideal, but what can you do.

In other news, the Yanks took a half-game lead in the AL East when the Rays lost to Royals on Friday night. Bruce Chen, yes that Bruce Chen, tossed a complete game two-hit shutout, striking out seven. It’s the first complete game shutout of his career. The Bombers now control their own destiny; if they sweep the Sox this weekend they’ll win the division outright regardless of what Tampa does. If the Rays split their last two, the Yanks need to win just two of three, and if Tampa drops their last two games, the Yanks only need to win one of three. Suddenly, taking home the AL East crown doesn’t seem all that impossible.

Game 160: Just a tune-up

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The Yankees are technically still alive in the AL East race, very much alive in fact, because both they and the Rays sport 94-65 records. Since Tampa won the season series and holds the tiebreaker, the Yanks need to win one more game than them this weekend, a tie is as good a a loss. Since the Rays are playing the frickin’ Royals, that’s not likely.

Either way, this weekend’s series against the Red Sox is really nothing more than a tune-up before the playoffs. The pitchers have to get some work in, the batters make sure they stay sharp at the plate, and most importantly everyone needs to stay healthy. It’s been raining all day in Boston, so the game is likely to be delayed a bit, but please, for the love of Mo, no one slip on the wet grass. Especially Andy.

Here’s the lineup, which makes me smile…

Jeter, SS
Granderson, CF
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, 3B
Cano, 2B
Swisher, RF
Posada, C
Berkman, DH
Gardner, LF

And on the bump, it’s Andy Pettitte.

Like I said, it’s been raining all day and the game probably won’t get underway until 8-8:30pm ET or so. Whenever it does, you’ll be able to watch on YES My9 locally or MLB Network nationally. If you’re looking for something to kill the time, the Mets are running out the clock on the Omar Minaya/Jerry Manuel era against the Nats, and there’s also some preseason hockey going on (Rangers-Senators). Enjoy.

Mailbag: Crawford, MVP, Jeter, World Series, Darvish, Infante

Last mailbag of the day. If you asked a really good question and didn’t see an answer, it’s either because 1) we didn’t know the answer, or 2) it would require a more in-depth post.

Is Carl Crawford THAT much of an upgrade over Brett Gardner that he warrants a commitment of 19 million dollars more than Gardy?

I’d say no. Crawford is certainly a special player, and under different circumstances he might fit the Yanks’ plans. But right now the Yankees have the only outfield in the league whose three members have each produced 4 or more WAR. They’re all set to return for next season, and they will combine to makes less than $18 million. Given the effectiveness of this group, I don’t see a need to change it. They can afford to spend their money on areas of need, rather than areas of want.

Since the season is coming to a close, who do you feel was the Yankees’ MVP this year?

Either CC Sabathia or Robinson Cano. With all the turmoil in the rotation this year, Sabathia provided stability every fifth game. And while the offense went through dips and dives, Cano performed at a high level for the first five months. He really took to his prime lineup spot and produced.

I’ve been wondering lately, with all this talk about Jeter retiring soon and what not and how old he is for a shortstop, who do you think could be a potential replacement?

I’m not hearing the same talk of Jeter’s retirement as you are, but the question is certainly valid. He’ll certainly be the team’s shortstop in 2011, and I’d even bank on it in 2012. After that I’m guessing he’ll be on the team but in a different role. Unfortunately, superstar shortstops don’t come around very often. When they do they’re often age 30 or older, making them a dicier proposition. Troy Tulowitzki, for example, will be 30 when his contract expires after 2014 (presuming the Rockies exercise his 2014 option). Hanley Ramirez might become available via trade once he gets expensive, but there are doubts about his ability to stick at shortstop long-term.

Chances are the Yanks are going to hit a rough patch at shortstop for a few years, where they go with a defensive-minded guy. Remember, Jeter is .001 wOBA behind the top shortstop in the AL. They’re becoming fewer.

OK, so we’re in the playoffs. Let’s say we make it to the World Series. Which opponent would give us the best shot at a great series (not who would be easiest to beat)?

I say a rematch from the 1976 World Series would make me happiest. The Reds embarrassed the Yanks that year — everyone knows the story of Billy Martin crying after the game. It’s time to take revenge on players who weren’t even born when it happened.

Given how Dice-K has performed since he came to the big leagues and knowing his posting fee and injury history, how much would you post for Yu Darvish? And although you had answered my question before about phantom bids with my example being the Rays placing a bid to block the Yankees. Do you think MLB could prove that the Yankees put in a phantom bid to prevent him from going to anyone else.

I didn’t mention Darvish in this morning’s Cliff Lee mailbag because I don’t think the Yankees will seriously go after him. He was all the rage a few years ago, but since then we’ve read some less than flattering scouting reports. Teams, I think, will see that his hype is similar to that of Matsuzaka, and we saw how that turned out. The contract isn’t killing the Red Sox, but it might seriously hamper a team with less money. I wouldn’t bid more than $15 million, and even that’s stretching it.

As for the phantom bid, that’s a non-issue. If MLB feels a bid is made in poor faith, then they can throw it out and award it to the next highest team. So if the Rays came in with a $50 million bid, the commissioner’s office would invalidate it and move on.

How about the Yanks going after Omar Infante this offseason? His versatility could allow them to be comfortable resting guys like A-rod and Jeter more often while still keeping a proven bat in the lineup, and his versatility would also be a plus if they decide to bring up Montero and use three roster spots on the C/DH situation, as well as allow him to be in the lineup often if he goes on a hot streak. What do you think?

I like the idea in a way. Infante is still young and he has had quite the offensive year. There’s little chance he’ll repeat, but he is certainly a better option than Ramiro Pena or Eduardo Nunez. He does get a bad rap, I think, because of his fluctuating numbers when he was in his early 20s with the Tigers. He’s been an excellent utility guy for the Braves.

That said, there’s no chance he becomes a free agent. The Braves have a $2.5 million option on him for 2011 that they’re certain to exercise. Maybe in 2012.

Mailbag: Joba’s and Wood’s futures

It’s time for a little digression into everyone’s favorite topic.

Nick writes: Let’s say the Yankees win the World Series, and Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte both retire because they are completely satisfied with their respective careers. What do the Yankees do, does Joba become a starter if Cliff Lee is a no-go (or any other free agent), or does he take over for Mo? Can he be trusted in either spot right now? Who would you like to see fill either spot?

Armin asks: Any chance the Yankees move Joba back into the rotation where a guy with at least three above-average pitches belongs? I mean, the Yankees are paying AJ Burnett 16.5 million for below-average pitching (81 ERA+). I’m pretty sure Joba could give them better pitching for less money and maybe he would get his act together like Phil Hughes did this year. It’s worth a shot, don’t you think?

Will asks: What are the chances of Joba going back in the rotation and what can we expect out of him?

Since August 2007, nobody, it seems, has inspired more debate and controversy than Joba Chamberlain. From the bullpen to the starting rotation and back, the Yankees have handled Joba with the most delicate of kids gloves, and his future is constantly in doubt. Earlier this year, as he struggled to find his form in the bullpen, I believed the Yanks should just cut their losses and trade Joba, but since the end of July, he’s been very dominant in 27.1 innings.

Yet, the future remains clouded for Joba Chamberlain. Before Spring Training, the Yankees said they still consider Chamberlain a starter, but ostensibly for his health, they opted to keep him exclusively in the bullpen this year. When the opportunity arose for Chamberlain to move into the rotation in place of Andy Pettitte, the Yanks went instead to Sergio Mitre, Dustin Moseley and later Ivan Nova. Perhaps they wanted to guard his shoulder; perhaps that’s Joba’s future.

But for 2011, the rotation could beckon. Andy Pettitte’s return is no sure thing, and Cliff Lee, while likely to end up in pinstripes, could remain in Texas. If A.J. Burnett were to continue to struggle, Joba would be a very appealing and viable option. We know what he can do in the rotation. Through 20 starts last year, he was 7-2 with a 3.58 ERA and 97 strike outs in 110.2 innings. In 2008, he sported a 2.76 ERA with 74 strike outs in 65.1 innings as a starter. He can start.

The Yankees though like his approach in the bullpen. They like his velocity, and they like his mentality. They allowed themselves to be dazzled by it in 2007 and still believe that Joba can be a key cog in the bullpen. Were Mariano Rivera to retire, Joba would be up there on the list of replacements.

Still, Joba should start. If the Yankees can coax 175 innings out of him next year as they did out of Phil Hughes this year, Chamberlain, still only 25, would be a valuable member of the Yankee rotation. His ability to start — and to get outs — would certain lessen the impact of losing Pettitte, losing out on Lee or watching A.J. Burnett struggle through whatever ails him. We certainly could expect him to be as good or better than he was in the rotation during those first 175 innings, and the Yankees should give it a shot.

Famouspj asks: What’s Kerry Wood’s situation for next year? His stock has to be pretty high after his half-year in pinstripes. Any chance he’s back in the Bronx in 2011?

The Kerry Wood Conundrum can serve as a companion piece to the Joba Chamberlain question because it’s part of a longer narrative about Mariano Rivera. If Mo were to retire, would one of these two be his likely successor? Undoubtably the answer is yes.

For the Yankees, Kerry Wood — on the team because Cashman was willing to take more salary than Theo Epstein could in Boston — has been great. In 25 innings, he has struck out 29 allowed one earned run on a home run while surrendering 14 hits and 15 walks. His ERA isn’t going to stay at 0.36 forever, but he hasn’t been fazed by high-pressure late-inning situations in the Bronx and has taken to the Yanks’ pen quite nicely.

Wood’s contract contains an $11 million club option, and unless Rivera is definitely hanging it up, the Yanks will allow the option to lapse. They could re-sign him to a lesser deal for more years, but Wood both wants to close and is an injury concern. Plus, after the Damaso Marte deal backfired while the Yanks’ young arms have done an admirably job getting outs on the cheap, Brian Cashman may be wary of re-upping with Wood for a prohibitive amount. So today, I say that the only way he’s back in the Bronx in 2011 is if Mariano is not, and that’s a future I don’t want to contemplate.