With the World Series in our collective rear view mirror and the hot stove heating up to the point where it’s difficult to touch without an oven mitt, we’re closing in on awards season. That’s right, we’re about to hear exactly who the voters feel was most valuable, best at pitching, and awesome for their age. Surely we’ll all argue about it afterward, as that’s most of the fun when you’re a dedicated baseball enthusiast.
If you’re not in the mood to wait and see which players take home which awards, I have a special pre-election gift for you: several awards selected by yours truly that you won’t find anywhere else! True, these awards may be completely fabricated and devoid of actual value, but isn’t that pretty much the definition of what a sports award is? So sit back, relax, and enjoy a lazy Sunday by scrutinizing my picks for awards that you’ll be hard-pressed to find in any newspaper. Well, unless a newspaper wants to publish this or something. If that’s the case, I’m cool with that too. Make us famous, newspapers of America! I guess I should get down to business now that I’ve outlined my agenda and done a fair amount of self-promoting.
Louis CK Look-a-Like Award
This year’s Louis CK Look-a-Like award goes to starting pitcher Ryan Dempster, the right-hander who had a nice split season between the Cubs and Rangers. Dempster, who does reportedly have a sense of humor about him, was unanimously selected by, um, me as the Major League player who looks most like heralded comedian Louis CK. It’s as of yet unkown whether or not Dempster has also had problems with Cinnabon temptation or children getting bitten by horses. You’ll find photographic evidence supporting Dempster’s selection for this award within this post.
Snail of the Year
The Snail of the Year award is given to the pitcher who takes the most time getting it done on the mound. I’m giving the award to Rockies closer Rafael Betancourt, whose between-pitch routine includes having a cup of coffee, texting all his friends, and drawing the casts of various TV shows on the webbing of his glove. Having seen Betancourt close out a few games during the 2012 season, I can safely say without the use of statistics that his methods may be the most maddening I’ve ever seen. To be fair, his laborious efforts seem to be working. Betancourt struck out 8.9 batters per nine innings and walked just under two.
Petty Theft Award
I had a few names to choose from when it came to picking the winner of the first annual Petty Theft award, a statue given to the player who, despite a lofty stolen base total, simply had a terrible season. I’m definitely not giving this award to two of the top four steal-getters of the 2012 season, as Mike Trout and Michael Bourn both had wonderful all-around years. I was tempted to go with Rajai Davis, as the outfielder hit just .257/.309/.378 to go with his 46 steals. Jordan Schafer (27 SB, .266 wOBA) and Tony Campana (30 SB, .299 SLG) also caught my eye, but in the end it’s Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon who takes home the anti-prize. Gordon stole 32 bases in just 330 PA, but he also did heavy damage to his team by hitting .228/.280/.281 and playing what UZR thinks is abysmal defense. Congratulations on doing one thing out of a thousand well, Dee!
Baseball Card Misdirection Award
As baseball fans, most of us learn when we’re young to revere players based on the basic numbers we see on the back of baseball cards. You know, things like home runs, RBI, and batting average for hitters. For pitchers, it was always wins, ERA, and saves. The older we get, most of us realize the folly in these numbers and jump on board with better ways to see just how good a player has been. For this award, I decided to select the player whose traditional stats are lying to us the most about what kind of year he had.
At first I was tempted to go with Ike Davis of the Mets, as he hit 32 home runs and drove in 90 runs despite being worth only 1.6 WAR per FanGraphs and hitting .227 along the way. On second thought, I decided the award’s ultimate winner should be someone with lots of name recognition who maybe didn’t live up to his reputation. I’m handing this award to Giants outfielder Hunter Pence, a hitter whose reputation is that of an All-Star and whose performance has never fully matched up. Pence was only worth 1.8 WAR despite hitting 24 home runs and driving in 104 runs. UZR didn’t find his fielding appealing, and that .253/.319/.425 line shows that hit superficial stats were mainly a function of opportunity.
Seriously? Badge of Honor
The Seriously? Badge of Honor is given to the player whose season is most eyebrow-raising in a positive way. This award could go to a number of players, so I decided to narrow it down by making sure that the award goes to a little-known player who had an incredible season under the radar. After careful consideration, Mariners catcher John Jaso gets the award. Jaso, who already has the extreme disadvantage of being a Mariner, hit an insane .276/.394/.456 with 10 homers and a fantastic 15.5% walk rate in 361 PA. Jaso also unexpectedly stole five bases and wound up worth 2.7 WAR in limited playing time. In fact, you could certainly make the argument that Jaso was the most potent weapon the Mariners had in 2012.