If you’re confused about the categories (like, why Joey Votto isn’t an MVP choice, for example), please read the Nominations post where we describe how the YCPB awards are a little different than your ordinary awards!
We’ll leave this post open ’till this time next week, when we announce the winners.
–Jose Bautista – He was more or less our poster child as the season went on; having never hit more than sixteen home runs in a season before 2010, he finished the season with an incredible 54. No one else hit more than 42. You probably knew this, but Bautista finished with career highs in virtually every other offensive category as well. Really, trying to describe what Bautista did is like trying to explain the entirety of LOST to someone who’s never watched a single episode; you can have all the theories you want (Frank Piliere’s post on Bautista’s altered mechanics is probably the best work I’ve found), but ultimately, it’s times like these you really just have to sit back, and enjoy the unexplainable.
–The Big Four second basemen–otherwise known as Dustin Pedroia, Brian Roberts, Ian Kinsler and Ben Zobrist. To be fair, a few on that list had their seasons wracked by injuries, but Robinson Canó equaled Pedroia and Kinsler’s production by himself. These aren’t ladida run-of-the-mill second basemen here, but ones that were supposed to be among the best at their position and name-draws for their ballclubs. Canó and Orlando Hudson aren’t complaining, but those four have certainly failed to meet this season’s expectations.
–Omar Vizquel–He’s been playing professional baseball longer than any of us YCPB writers have been alive. At 43, his .673 OPS was his best since 2006, and how many 43 year-olds do you know that could leg out a triple in a Major League ballpark? Yeah, didn’t think so.
Does Vizquel have some Jamie Moyer or Julio Franco in him? An ability to play till he’s pushing fifty? We’ll have to wait and see, of course, but you know what’s the real kicker here? How many other 43 year olds or older have played 95 or more games as a 3B/2B/SS?
–Brett Gardner –Coming into this season, Brett Gardner was expected to be a barely-adequate placeholder for the Yankees until they could get Carl Crawford; instead, the Yankees got a .383 OBP guy (and this despite a .232/.364/.330 line in the second half of the season, when he played with a sore wrist) who wOBAed .358.
Want those numbers in context?
Who saw that one coming?
–Aubrey Huff–The former Ray and Oriole had himself quite a year in the National League, posting a .388 wOBA, the highest out of any of his non-pitcher/regular 25-man roster teammates, beating the likes of Buster Posey and Andres Torres (not to mention a very disappointing Pablo Sandoval).
The numbers are certainly respectable enough, but coming from someone who played the early part of the 2000s in Tampa and the latter part in Baltimore, it still has the power to amuse.
–Carlos Gonzalez–Not quite 25 years old and with his third organization, it’s hard to imagine someone leading the NL in batting average, hits, and total bases in their first full year of playing time, but that’s exactly what CarGo has done.
Of course, you may have been paying too much attention to teammate Troy Tulowitzki going all wheeeeeee recently, but Tulo’s “wake me up when September ends”-ness wouldn’t be quite so much fun if he wasn’t hitting directly behind CarGo in the Rockies’ order.
—Jason Bay–It’s probably unfair to include him here, as head injuries/concussions are a huge issue at the moment, but the Mets’ marquee addition has been, well, anything but.
In the 401 plate appearances he mustered, Bay managed just six home runs, and while CitiField no doubt did not help, his .347 OBP would have also put him on pace for a career low. His .397 wOBA from 2009 dropped to just .336 this season, and perhaps most devastating is the lack of playing time because of the injury–and (not his fault) the Mets’ lack of a farm system to back him in his absence.
–Dan Haren–What? A pitcher? Shouldn’t this be in the Cy Young category? Well, since we’re discussing Dan Haren’s offense, we feel it’s most appropriate to include him here.
Prior to this year, Haren had amassed a line of .188/.216/.277/.493 in 230 PAs.
This season? .364/.375/.527/.902 in 57 PAs.
Guess he’s drinking the same water as Micah Owings, or something…
AL Cy Young
–Javier Vazquez–Never quite forgiven by Yankee fans for giving up the Johnny Damon grand slam in the 2004 ALCS, Vazquez re-arrived in New York this year with a weight already on his much-used shoulders.
That said, for someone who last year had a k/9 ratio of nearly 10 and finished fourth in Cy Young voting to have pitched himself out of the rotation–and quite possibly off of the postseason roster–is unpredictable indeed.
–Carl Pavano–In four years with the Yankees, Pavano won nine games, total. This year alone, he won seventeen and pitched SEVEN complete games; his 221 innings are the most since his Florida days, and just four outs shy of the career high he set in 2004 that earned him that big contract.
With Pavano and Francisco Liriano anchoring the rotation, the Twins became the first team to clinch a spot in October, and wound up winning 94 games.
— CJ Wilson –Before 2010, the Rangers’ lefty had been almost exclusively a reliever so when he turned starter in 2010, the prevailing thought outside of Rangers’ camp was that it might work, but it might also end horrendously.
Never fear, LeftyLefty has pitched to a tune of 15-8 3.35, and ingratiated himself with much of the baseball fan base with his @str8edgeracer Twitter. Never pitching more than 75 innings in a Major League season before, he threw 204 innings in 2010, and helped propel the Rangers to their first division title in over a decade.
–Felix Hernandez–Okay, okay, I know you’re saying we knew he’d be good, but hear me out.
King Felix is averaging over seven innings a start, and an ERA of 2.27 in the American League, with the advanced stats to match. Despite having some of the best stats in the league–and the favorite for the AL Cy Young, Hernandez finished the season just 13-12.
Even nuttier, he was 23 years old on Opening Day. He is seven months younger than David Price, and more than two and a half years younger than Clay Buchholz.
How unfair has baseball been to the King this season? On 9/23, he pitched a two-hitter…and lost the game.
Click the jump to vote on the rest of the categories!
NL Cy Young
Myers went 14-8, pitching 223.2 innings and with a 3.14 ERA and 3.82 xFIP–clearly establishing himself as a potential comeback player of the year candidate. Just how far has he come? Last season, in 70 innings he surrendered 18 home runs; this season, in more than three times the innings pitched, he gave up 20.
—Livan Hernandez–The half-brother of Orlando “el Duque” Hernandez, Livan’s long career looked like it may have been approaching an unfortunate end when he was released by the Mets in August 2009–and the Mets were not exactly in a position to be releasing players at will, given their injury crisis that year.
However, Hernandez was able to hook on with the division rival Nationals, and in 2010 he pitched 211.2 innings with an ERA under four.
Hernandez might not be Jaime Moyer, but he’s been pitching in the Majors since 1996, and 2010 is easily his best season since the earlier part of last decade.
–RA Dickey–Never much more than a journeyman before this season, he was signed by the Mets to help out in a rotation still reeling from injuries and ineffectiveness. The 174.1 innings he threw for the Mets was by far the most he ever threw at the Major League level; by various measures Dickey was the Mets’ best pitcher this season.
When one considers Mets’ players various expectations in relation to their accomplishments, it’s suddenly clear that Dickey might very well have been the most valuable Met this season.
—Arthur Rhodes–There’s just something inherently YCPB about old guys pitching well, isn’t there?
In 2010, the 40-year-old reliever pitched 55 innings with a 2.29 ERA. With a K/9 of 8.2, and a WHIP of 1.018, Rhodes pitched well enough to earn himself a spot on the National League All Star Team…his first appearance in nineteen seasons.
YCPB Game of the Year
—August 25th, Braves vs Rockies: The Braves took an early 10-1 lead over the Rockies at Coors. By the fourth inning, every single Braves starter, including the pitcher Jair Jurrjens, had an extra base hit. In baseball history, every previous team to do that, has gone on to win the game – by AT LEAST SIXTEEN RUNS. The Braves, however, went on to get only two more hits the rest of the game, as the Rockies caught up and won. At the time, it was the 48th time the Braves had scored four or more runs in the season, and only the fourth time they lost one of those games.
—August 25th, Reds at Giants: The Reds also took a 10-1 lead over the Giants, and also blew it. Unlike the Braves, they did go on to come back and win, but there was so much other wackiness in this game. The Giants scored 11 runs, and lost, after scoring 11+ runs in the two games prior to this one. Those two games had been the first time since 1973 since the Giants scored 11 runs in back-to-back games at home. Since moving to California, the Giants had been 147-3 in home games when they scored 11 runs. It was their first home loss since they’d scored 11 runs in 27 years – or longer than all of us writers at YCPB have been alive! They had 18 hits in addition to their 11 runs, and the last time the Giants had lost when having 18 hits or more was in 1993. Oh, and a closer from the Reds – Cordero – got the win, and a starter from the Giants – Zito – got the loss.
Other miscellaneous errata from this game: – Buster Posey went 0-for-6, no one in the game struck out more than twice, the Giants made five errors (but had only two unearned runs), the Reds had a pitcher pinch-hit in the seventh inning, and the Giants had their closer bat.
— April 17th Mets at Cardinals: Okay, first things first, I’m checking the box score of this game, and at the time, Jeff Francoeur was batting .386 with a 1.165 OPS. Seriously. Anyway, I don’t think I’ll ever forget this game, so I must include it. First things first, it was a FOX game, and it went on so late (TWENTY INNINGS!!!) that it actually preempted some news shows. Anyway, after running his way through starting pitcher Jaime Garcia and then relievers Kyle McClellan, Mitchell Boggs, Trever Miller, Jason Motte, Dennys Reyes, Blake Hawksworth, and Ryan Franklin (and putting Kyle Lohse in to play left field), St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa turned to the position players Felipe Lopez and Joe Mather to pitch. The Mets were barely able to win the game while using K-Rod in an attempt to close (and he blew the save opportunity he was given – but got the win) and Mike Pelfrey (who closed for the Mets). At one point relatively early on, Matt Holliday was double-switched out of the game – leading to a pitcher batting behind Pujols, which meant he never got another pitch to hit the entire darn game (that IS predictable). Also, hey, it was an epic road win for the Mets – isn’t that unpredictable enough?
—June 2nd, Indians at Tigers–in the eloquent words of commenter Chad: “There are so many great choices, but how could you not go with Armando Galarraga’s imperfect game? Here we have a complete unknown pitch a perfect game in just 83 pitches, except first base umpire Jim Joyce blows the call on the 27th out and he has to throw five more–still just 88 pitches, an incredible show of economy. The losing pitcher, Fausto Carmona, also threw a complete game, and he too had a double-digit pitch count (96), resulting in a game that ended in just an hour and 44 minutes. And on the subject of the missed call, Joyce actually went to see a replay after the game was over, realized he blew it, and apologized profusely, cursing himself out. And Galarraga never got angry at Joyce once.”
It’s also kind of cool to note that in late August, Galarraga pitched against the Indians again. Through the first few innings of that game, he actually had another perfect game going on. If you correctly count Galarraga’s first (28-out) perfect game, Galarraga actually retired 42 straight Indians on 140 pitches. It took Edwin Jackson 149 pitches to throw his no-hitter against the Rays this year.
—Red Sox at Yankees, September 26
The matchup for this game was Phil Hughes for New York against Daisuke Matsuzaka for Boston. Before that game, Dice-K had a 4.35 BB/9, second-highest in all of baseball to Scott Kazmir. He also wasn’t exactly known for his efficiency, either. Anyway, in this game, he pitched a full eight innings on a very manageable 110 pitches, and didn’t issue his first walk until there were two outs in the eighth inning.
In the 7th, the Yankees were trailing 1-0 when Alex Rodriguez stepped up to bat with a runner on base. He previously had 25 ABs against Matsuzaka, and was batting only .105/.320/.105. Dice-K got him to an 0-2 count, on which A-Rod OPSed only .656 in 2010 (which is actually pretty predictable, it’s not like that’s a good hitters’ count). A-Rod homered to put the Yankees ahead.
In the top of the ninth, Mariano Rivera not only blew the save – at that point, his third blown save in his last six save opportunities, and it’s MARIANO RIVERA! – but allowed the go-ahead run to score as the Red Sox stole four bases in one inning. It was the first time the Red Sox had done that in one inning since 1973, and the first time a Yankee reliever had allowed four stolen bases since 1969. In the bottom of the inning, Jonathan Papelbon blew the save on a bases-loaded single by Robinson Cano. That was only the fourth hit in 38 career at-bats against Papelbon with the bases loaded. It wasn’t just the first game where both Mo and Papelbon had blown saves – it was the first day in which they’d both blown saves.
The Yankees won in the tenth inning on a bases-loaded walk to LHB Juan Miranda (only in the game because Joe Girardi pinch-ran for Mark Teixeira, so he was playing 1B) from LHP Hideki Okajima. Miranda only OBPed .316 against LHP this year… in the minors. It was the first walk-off walk for the Yankees in over six years, and the first in extra innings since 2000.
Then again. Considering it was Yankees/Red Sox. Is any of this really unpredictable?
YCPB Play of the Year
– Mark Buehrle’s opening day play. In the words of the great Joe Posnanski, “I don’t think Paul Konerko had to barehand the ball. But I’m SO glad that he did.”
— Josh Willingham’s grand slam against the Mets on April 11 (initially ruled in play and a double tag at the plate)
— the Padres’ Will Venable stealing home on defensive indifference against the Cubs
— Kendry Morales breaking his leg celebrating a walk-off grand slam… followed the next day by Orlando Hudson also getting hurt on a game-ending play
–Mariano Rivera hitting Jeff Francoeur with the bases loaded for a walk-off for the Rangers
–Rich Harden strikes out Reid Brignac….on 15 pitches
— Daniel Nava hitting a grand slam on the first pitch he saw… and not homering for the rest of the season after that
–Bengie Molina, quite possibly the slowest runner in baseball, hit for the cycle. In the words of Texas play-by-play guy Josh Lewin, “pigs have flown in Boston, Massachusetts”
YCPB Team of the Year
—San Diego Padres–Led by a young pitching staff including Mat Latos, and no discernible offense outside of Adrian Gonzalez, a team picked by most outlets to finish last in the NL West–if not the entire NL–ended the season with 90 wins, and just a game shy of perhaps the most unexpected playoff run in years. If not for a 10-game losing streak in early September they’d probably still be playing baseball, but as it turns out, the future for the Padres seems bright indeed. —
—Seattle Mariners–While, perhaps, no one expected the Mariners to be that good (with the exception, notably, of David Cameron (USS Mariner/Fangraphs), the utter futility of the worst offense in the DH era, and one of the worst offenses of all time, is utterly fascinating to behold. The Mariners scored 513 runs TOTAL…a number surpassed by the Yankees in July. For comparison’s sake, the Mariners, as a team, slugged .339. Francisco Cervelli, the Yankees’ back up catcher who went all season without a home run, slugged .335.
In fact, only six qualifying batters did not post a better OPS than the Mariners: Cezar Izturis, Jose Lopez, Alcides Escobar, Erick Aybar, Ryan Theriot and Nyjer Morgan.
—Toronto Blue Jays–With the trade of Roy Halladay to the Philadelphia Phillies, many thought that this might be the year the Blue Jays slipped to the bottom of the pack in the AL East, if not the entire American League. Yet, lead by free swingers, including Jose Bautista and his out-of-nowhere barrage of home runs, and a young pitching staff led by Brett Cecil, Ricky Romero and Mark Rzepcynski helped their team win 85 games–easily the best fourth place finisher in the league, if not of history. In another division, it’s easy to imagine that the Jays would have stayed in the race at least through August, if not longer.
YCPB-ness of the Year
This is it, the ultimate, highest in terms of the YCPB Awards. Nothing bigger than this.
—Kendry Morales season ending grand-slam walk off broken leg–
Watch it here . That pretty much sums everything. Get well soon, Kendry.
—EVERYTHING MARINERS — We discussed this above, but the utter futility of the Mariners’ offense is impossible to pass up. Only six qualified players had worse OPSes than the Mariners as a team, and those six does not include Elvis Andrus, Juan Pierre or Melky Cabrera. The Mariners’ offense was so bad that Felix Hernandez, who in almost every other category was the best pitcher in the American League, barely finished with a .500 record, and may very well get jilted out of a Cy Young. With Hernandez and Cliff Lee at the start of the season, it seemed that all the Mariners needed was a decent hitter or two, but unlike a not-so-differently situated team in San Diego, no one stepped up, and the Mariners quickly went from a disappointment to an utter disaster.
How bad has it gotten? When the Mariners traded Cliff Lee for Justin Smoak, one of the prospects they received in the package was Josh Lueke–a stud pitcher, perhaps, but also a convicted criminal (google it, the crime is too heinous to include here) which could have easily been discovered via a Google search. Meanwhile, Jesus Montero, whom the Mariners passed on when deciding to accept the Rangers’ package over the Yankees, managed a mid-season turn around that brought his average from below .220 all the way up to the .290 range.
—Troy Tulowitzki’s September Run —Taken from the 9/18 daily roundup:
“— He’s now hit 14 home runs over a 15-game period in September. He becomes one of three players to hit 14 HR over a 15-game period since 1900. Three! Since 1900! (The others are Albert Belle in 1995 and Barry Bonds in 2001, if you were curious). He has 33 RBI this month [and this was only on the 18th]. That’d be 6th on the Mariners in RBI. FOR THE YEAR. Teams Tulo has outhomered this month: NYY, MIN, CLE, BAL, TEX, SEA, OAK, ATL, WAS, CHC, HOU, PIT, LAD & ARI. Close to NYM and CIN, too.”
Tulowitzki and comrade Carlos Gonzalez may not have been able to single-handedly get the Rockies to go from humdrum to Rocktober, but they sure as heck made as much of a go of it as they could. Oh, and I hear they’re pretty good on defense, too.
—The Arizona bullpen– Look at these splits.
I mean, I can’t even begin to….
Opponents OPS’d .820 off of Diamondbacks relievers, the bullpen got 48 decisions, 32 of which were losses, a WHIP of 1.612 that would make even Javier Vazquez blush…the .282 BA and .368 OBP would be like having Brian McCann at the plate every time a reliever was on the mound, and need I remind you that the NL West is not exactly, with the exception of Tulo, CarGo and Posey, known as an offensive haven?
—The Year of the Singular Pitching Feat
Stephen Strasburg striking out fourteen in six innings in his Major League debut while walking none. Brandon Morrow striking out seventeen in a no-hit bid that failed with two outs in the ninth inning, but was still, by game score, one of the greatest games ever pitched in Major League history. Dallas Braden, someone who was never even considered a prospect, throws a perfect game against the Rays and then a couple weeks later Roy Halladay perfectos the Marlins, and then not even a week later Armando Galarraga is a blown call with two outs in the ninth from being the third pitcher this season to pitch a perfect game. The Rays, no strangers to being no hit, get no hit but much walked by Edwin Jackson, and then their own Matt Garza throws a no-hitter of his own against the Tigers, which means the Rays have been at the wrong end of a no-hitter this year twice (not to mention Morrow’s gem) and were involved in three of them.
Got all that? Good. Because there’s still that Max Scherzer strikes out fourteen in five-and-two thirds innings, a feat that has never ever been accomplished before. At one point, Ubaldo Jimenez had more road wins than the Baltimore Orioles. In 20 straight starts, Trevor Cahill had a streak of five or more innings pitched with six or fewer hits. R.A. Dickey came out of almost nowhere to become the Mets’ best pitcher. Jaime Garcia, a rookie, finished 2010 with a 2.70 ERA and Cliff Lee walked eighteen batters…all season.
2010 may not have been the year of the pitcher, but it certainly tried.