Since we're in awards season (and The Soth aside, we're not going to see much action there), I thought I'd craft some alternative awards to recognize some of the more obscure achievements of the 2009 edition of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Rather than drifting into cliché and repetition (I'm not dishing out an award to Bobby for unsung hitting coach of the year, for instance), these have a vaguely quantitative feel (vague in the sense that there are numbers involved, but for the most part I have no idea what they really mean)*.
* - I have recently discovered Fangraphs and, notwithstanding some of the smug self-aggrandizing bollocks spoken by the numbers fascists over there, there are a couple of things which do tickle the interest, not least this bloke who is at least introducing some random poetry to his analysis (emphasis on the 'random' part)
And without further ado, the envelopes please…
1. The Buy-one-get-two-free award goes to Juan Rivera. To much howling derision from our divisional rivals and stats gimps everywhere, the Angels signed Juan Rivera to a 3 yr $12.75m deal this time last year. According to Fangraphs measurement of salary derived from WAR (or something similarly fancy), Juan Rivera was worth exactly $15.1m in 2009 (or to put it another way, $100k less valuable than Curtis Granderson). Clearly he wasn't worth that - the market establishes value not a group of baseball propellerheads - but I do like the idea that Juan has already paid out his contract with his performance this year* and that from here on in it's all gravy.
* - I think Sam Miller at the OCR was first to pick this, but it's still worth an prize in my book
2. The That's-why-Mike-loves-Jeff award for defensive incompetence behind the dish goes to Mr Side Salad himself - Mike Napoli. See, I always assumed that the reason Mike loves Jeff is because his inner catchers instinct told him that Jeff is a defensive genius. Turns out that's only partly true. It's because Jeff is a genius compared to Mike Napoli. According to this measure of catcher's defense* produced over at Driveline Mechanics, Jeff ranked 90th out of 114 catchers in the Majors (you could probably strip a fair few of these out due to the small sample size), his defence having cost us about 2 runs. Nipples on the other hand, came dead last and in his limited time behind the plate cost us about 10 runs, or roughly a win. Perhaps our search for a full-time DH has now run its course?
* - I'm not sure I buy these metrics completely. According to this measurement, Mathis was in the black for throwing out runners, something I wouldn't have credited, and in the red for agility behind the plate - blocking pitches and so on - something I think he's pretty damn good at and there is no measurement of the catcher's ability to call a game for Mr CERA. Having said that, most of the good guys are at or near the top of the list.
3. The Mr Clutch award for making it happen when it counts goes to a certain Gary Matthews Jr. According to the Fangraphs 'clutch' score, which is a measurement of how much better or worse a player does in high leverage situations than he would have done in a context neutral environment (?!), Gary Matthews scored 2.11 whatchamacallits which was twice what our next highest batter scored (Jeff Mathis since you're asking) and in marked contrast to Messrs Anti-Clutch, Guerrero and Aybar (which may explain where the 'Failbar' moniker came from. Only 2 everyday players, Ryan Howard and Franklin Gutierrez, scored higher than HGH. Now, while I'd certainly appreciate it if he took his award home with him and buggered off to another ball-club, you do have to ask yourself what qualities you want in a pinch-hitter above and beyond making it happen when it counts and when called to. Perhaps there is some value in our most pharmacologically enhanced substitute fielder?
4. The Jobu award for mashing the curveball* is this year awarded to Kendry Morales. According to Fangraphs there was no player in baseball who did a better job of hitting the curveball this year. As measured by something exotic that I don't really understand, Kendry gives us a +11.3 thingamajigs (if you can tell me what unit this shit is measured in, you're a better man than I) worth of value for hitting the curveball, no-one else in baseball scored higher than an 8*. 2nd place for your LAAofA, was Aybar with a 5.3 which was good for a top 20 finish.
* - sort on wCB
5. The Choose-your-next-pitch-carefully-Mr Santana-it-could-be-your-last award goes to Ervin Santana. Following on from Kendry's ability to mash certain types of pitches, I thought it might be interesting to look at which of our pitchers had the most* and least valuable pitches. Turns out it was the same guy - Mr Voodoo himself, Ervin Santana. On the credit side of the ledger, Ervin's slider is filthy to the tune of +14.8, on the debit side, his fastball is a disgrace -17.4. Clearly magic comes at a price.
Feel free to dive in with your own alternative awards (preferably with a better explanation of what these numbers are supposed to mean than I have provided).