Friday, May 24, 2013

Tracking Baseball's Best

I've been meaning to do this as a weekly or bi-weekly thing, when politics or life is too frustrating to write about.

Consider this basically a "tracking" of who should be MVP and Cy Young of each league, while marking stock up or down. That's basically all this is. I'll make the case for each player and talk about where they might be headed and try to keep up to date on who really is the best of the best in baseball right now.

I'll start with the AL:

The AL MVP race, as of right now, is fairly easy to get a handle on. We have an overwhelming number one, and a fairly clear drop off from the top 3 to the next bunch of players.

One thing to note; keep an eye out for Mike Trout - he's been heating up lately.

1. Miguel Cabrera (3B - DET) (Stock trending up):

If the season were to end today, there's a very good chance that Cabrera would be a unanimous MVP winner. His stats so far are well beyond even his last two years (which were his already very good career's best), and he is on pace to have one of the 80 or so highest WAR seasons of all time, which is much more amazing when you consider the vast majority of top 80 WAR seasons came in the 19th and early 20th centuries. What's perhaps most remarkable so far, however, is how much of a gap there is between him and the next best players in all of MLB. His wOBA is 30 points higher than 2nd place. wRAA? 7.2. WRC+? 21. Even his WAR is 0.4 higher, which, considering his defense and baserunning are still pretty mediocre, tells you how dangerous he has been with the bat.

2. Chris Davis (1B - BAL) (Stock trending neutral):

While 1st place for AL MVP is easy, 2nd and 3rd is pretty much a tossup at this point. You can make a fairly convincing argument for Chris Davis or Evan Longoria. I ultimately went with Davis. While his position and defensive skills don't equate to his glovework being that valuable, his overall offensive numbers are better across the board just enough for me to give him the nod. In most batting categories, he is only beaten out in the AL by Cabrera, and his Win Probability added is comparable to Cabrera.

3. Evan Longoria (3B - TB) (Stock Trending neutral):

Again, a tossup here. Evan Longoria offers a more well-rounded game defensively and plays a more demanding position than Chris Davis. Interestingly, his baserunning has been faulty so far this season. Offensively, he hasn't been quite as strong as the top two guys on this list.

AL Cy Young

Unlike the AL MVP, the Cy Young race is a mess so far. Anibal Sanchez, Felix Hernandez, and Clay Bucholz all have claims to be made. Max Scherzer is just barely on the outside looking in, and while Justin Verlander has been beaten up a lot lately, and Yu Darvish has been slipping too, they're just a couple good starts away from jumping right back into the discussion.

1. Anibal Sanchez (SP - DET) (Stock trending neutral):

Sanchez had his first truly bad start of the season the other day, but he still has well-rounded stats and has had an excellent season so far. His stats across the board are at or near the top of both the AL and NL: he's first in xFIP, third in WAR, 5th in SIERA. Right now, his BABIP is at an exceedingly high .356, much higher than just about all other top pitchers, so his numbers may yet get better, assuming that regresses.

2. Felix Hernandez (SP - SEA) (Stock trending neutral):

Could be picked number one and I'd have no problem with it. Much like Sanchez, he has a baseketcase of stats at or near the top of baseball: 3rd in xFIP, 5th in WAR, 4th in SIERA. Just another year on the job for one of the best pitchers of the last several seasons.

3. Clay Bucholz (SP - BOS) (Stock trending up):

Bucholz has been pitching very well as of lately, and continues to climb up the leaderboards in a variety of stats. Some of his peripherals aren't quite as good as the top two here; he's 15th in xFIP, and his SIERA places him 22nd. But his WAR is second and his WPA (a bit of an iffy stat, but combined with WAR, demonstrates his overall value) is 3rd, and he's clearly anchoring a staff that has started to slip quite a bit over the last week or two.


Much like the AL MVP, the NL has a fairly clearly defined number 1 right now. After that, it gets a bit murky. And by a bit, I mean a lot. Two through five in the NL really is a total washout. Close your eyes and throw a dart.

1. Joey Votto (1B - CIN) (Stock trending up):

Joey Votto doesn't have quite the numbers of Cabrera, but he is, much like Cabrera, clearly leading everyone in his own league. He has the best wOBA, wRAA, WRC+, and WAR out of all NL players. He's been getting better over the last couple weeks, too. One thing to note; his BABIP is .427, second in all of baseball to only Joe Mauer. That is probably not sustainable.

2. Shin-Soo Choo (CF - CIN) (Stock trending neutral):

While I didn't throw darts, I did agonize over this pick a lot. Choo's defense has been pretty terrible at times, and it's debatable if his offensive stats are good enough to makeup for it and propel him to second, but I am giving him the benefit of the doubt. The usual applies here; good stats across the board, it's just that third place is so close...

3. Paul Goldschmidt (1B - ARI) (Stock trending neutral):

If you haven't heard of this guy, you might want to check him out. For three years in a row now, he has gotten better at the plate, but this year, he has made huge strides in defense, where he has gone from a definite liability to a big-time asset. His offensive numbers across the board are near the top in all of baseball.

Note: Apologies to Troy Tulowitzki. Honestly, he could be as high as second here. Or as low as fifth. Same as Choo and Goldschmidt (Carlos Gomez is the 5th man here who is also in the discussion).

NL Cy Young

The number one pitcher in the NL right now is pretty clear-cut. Infact, 2nd and 3rd place are too, making the NL Cy Young race the easiest to analyze.

1. Adam Wainwright (SP - STL) (Stock trending up):

All things considered, he's the best pitcher in baseball this year. First in the MLB in xFIP and WAR. Third in SIERA. Perhaps the most amazing stat is this; 0.75 BB/9. He is walking less than one batter per nine innings. That's impeccable control.

2. Matt Harvey (SP - NYM) (Stock trending up):

For a rookie, Matt Harvey is doing some really impressive things on the mound. How about these stats; 7th in baseball in WAR, 7th in xFIP, and 8th in SIERA (just off of 777, sorry to casino fans). His numbers are pretty much 2nd best in the NL in every category. One thing to note, and it's that pesky BABIP again. Hitters are hitting just .220 on balls in play against Harvey. That will probably rise here shortly.

3. Clayton Kershaw (SP - LAD) (Stock trending neutral):

Another year, another Kershaw Cy Young sighting. Here we go; 11th in baseball in xFIP, 8th in WAR, 11th in SIERA. His WPA is number one in baseball, and he remains one of the few bright points on a wholly disappointing Dodgers team. Much like Harvey is in 2nd, Kershaw occupies 3rd place in the NL in most key pitching statistics.

Thanks for reading!

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