MLB Awards, Day 2: The John Rocker Closer Distinction

September 30, 2009
I wanted to name this the Kenny Powers award, but instead I named it after the real deal.

I wanted to name this the Kenny Powers award, but instead I named it after the real deal.

A good closer is hard to find.  You look at the teams that have already clinched, and a big factor in their success is having a guy in the pen that can shut the door (with the exception of the Phightin’ Phils, who may have finally found their man).  We take a timeout here, to honor those great doorclosers with the Blue Duck’s award for best closer.  We give it in the honor of one of baseball’s greatest players and humanitarians, Mr. John Rocker.

And the winners are:

Ryan Franklin (P) StL

If it looks like that now, imagine it when he stops shaving for the playoffs

If it looks like that now, imagine it when he stops shaving for the playoffs

ERA below two? Check.  Among the league leaders in saves? Check.  Pitching for a playoff team?  Check.  Ryan Franklin fits the bill, albeit in a league of less than flattering options.  He doesn’t strike out many batters, his walk totals are average, and he’s blown a few saves.  But look at the National League this year and even with all the negative things pointed out about Franklin, he’s still the best.  Now it’s overstating it a bit to say he’s been only okay, because he’s been very good.

Franklin is closing games for Tony La Russa, someone whose trust isn’t easy to gain.  Ryan doesn’t allow many hits and has only 13 runs on the season.  That’s pretty amazing considering his peripheral stats (k’s, walks) are average.  The bottom line?  He gets the job done for a team with World Series potential.  Congrats.

Trevor Hoffman

I know we did Comeback Player of the Year yesterday, but this guy is really the epitome of returning to old form.  But, the beauty of Hoffman is that he has evolved as a pitcher.  The once prototypical closer has become a crafty changeup machine, but got the job done maybe as effectively as ever this year.

Hoffman carried with him the lowest WHIP in the major leagues at 0.88.  Hoffman blew only 3 saves in 39 chances, and finished the year with an ERA of 1.76.  Not bad for a 41-year old.  The Brew Crew struggled mightily in ’09, but Hoffman did not contribute to their plight.  It would have been nice to see what he could have pulled off with a playoff contender this season, though.  Hells Bells.


Biggest honor of my long career. Mos reaction when we told him of the award.

"Biggest honor of my long career." Mo's reaction when we told him of the award.

Mariano Rivera

Another classic year by Mo.  He’s been the only constant in a Yankees bullpen that was battered by injury all year.  He’s got 44 saves, two off the league lead.  His stats aren’t neccessarily mind-blowing; among closers he’s not near the lead in strikeouts, nor does he pitch multiple innings, but he doesn’t need to.  With his devastating cutter breaking the bats of lefties and causing righties to pop-up, he’s efficient.  Considering he doesn’t walk batters (almost literally, he’s got about half as many walks as any other AL pitcher with 30+ saves).

He’s closing games for the best team in baseball and he’s getting it done the same way he does every season.  The qualities you look for in a closer are consistency and reliability.  Rivera’s got ’em, as he doesn’t have many heart attack innings (see Papelbon, Jonathon), doesn’t have total clunkers (Fuentes, Brian), and gets the job done in the ninth.

Joe Nathan

Joey’s been getting it done for a long time now.  It seems like he is one of the few closers in baseball whose job has never been in question.  Minnesota has made this interesting and during their comeback stretch, Nathan has been solid.  In the last 2 months, Nathan has 16 saves with only two blown.

He has blown 5 on the season, a bit steep, but his numbers are great.  With a WHIP of 0.95, Nathan does not allow baserunners, avoids big innings, and strikes out more than a man an inning.  Best closer in the AL? no, but Boomer chose Mo.  Joe Nathan is as good as any non-Mo closer in the league.

Kenny lost out to Rivera in a close decision.

Kenny lost out to Rivera in a close decision.

Tomorrow is day 3 of the baseball award extravaganza.  Our Cy Young Award goes out.  No Name for that one yet.  Send us any suggestions?  Gaylord Perry, Orel Hershiser, and Doc Gooden are in the running.  Tune in tomorrow.

Yesterday we announced the Comeback Player of the Year Award winners here


Blue Duck MLB Awards: Day One: Comeback Player

September 29, 2009

Brad Lidge has proven that MLB voters dont know anything.  Our picks will stand the test of time.

Brad Lidge has proven that MLB voters don't know anything. Our picks will stand the test of time.

At Blue Duck we love when fallen heroes return to their days of glory and regain abilities thought to be lost.  That is why we get all giddy when thinking about the Major League Comeback Player of the Year.  We probably wont find out who actually wins this award, but the Blue Duck version is slightly more appreciated by the players.

So here are Boomer and my picks for the AL and NL Return to Glory Award for 2009.

Victor Martinez

(C) Cle/Bos

Youre Welcome, Victor. You deserve it.

You're Welcome, Victor. You deserve it.

After missing half the season in ’08, Martinez has bounced back to his norm.  Currently sporting a .301 average, Martinez has also been clutch since arriving in Boston at the trade deadline.  His versatility has allowed him to contribute behind the plate (spelling the relic, Jason Veritek) while also playing above average defense at firstbase.  This has allowed the Sox to shift Kevin Youkilis to third, and keep Mike Lowell as healthy as possible following off-season hip surgery.

His arrival has coincided with a revival of sorts to the offensive game of David Ortiz.  Already having appeared in 150 games on the season, Martinez has not lost the power he displayed between the 04-07 seasons, hitting 22 homeruns.  He’s healthy, he’s producing, and he’s in the middle of the playoff race.  He’s officially back.

Well Done Justin

Well Done Justin

Justin Verlander

The Tigers have almost become the team they were supposed to be last year in 2009.  Much of this is due to the reemergence of Justin Verlander.  Justin had a league leading 17 losses last season, and has come back with 17 wins in the ’09 campaign.  His 4.84 ERA last year reflected the fact that he lost his fastball, and lost control.

Verlander’s WHIP is down dramatically, and he has already pitched 20 more innings than last season.  Anyone who watched him pitch the last two years will tell you the difference is night and day.  He was topping out at about 94 MPH for much of the year, and in ’09 his free and easy motion producing 99MPH fastballs deep into games has wowed commentators and opposing hitters all season.
Verlander makes this team a big threat in the playoffs.

Chris Carpenter
(P) StL

Way to not get injured again, Chris.

Way to not get injured again, Chris.

After being limited to 21 innings combined the last two seasons, Carpenter has proven he’s healthy and can still pitch.  His 2.30 ERA ranks him first in the National League.  Add in his 16 wins (behind only teammate Adam Wainwright) and it’s no wonder the Cardinals have clinched the NL’s Central Division.  The fact that he’s been able to throw over 180 innings in his first full season in two years it all a bonus for the Cards.

Even more astonishing than his win/loss total is that he’s only allowed 7 homeruns on the year in addition to a ridiculous 1.01 WHIP.  But he’s been able to pickup where he left off, just about matching his career average for K/9 while exceeding his career averages for ERA and WHIP.  He’ll be pitching one of the first two playoff games for St. Louis, which seemed unimaginable at this point last year.
Troy Tulowitzki
This is how excited Tulowitzki was after we called him about the award.

This is how excited Tulowitzki was after we called him about the award.

It may be ridiculous calling a 24 yr old the Comeback Player of the Year, but after his Rookie of the Year in 2007 many thought Troy was just a flash in the pan.  Tulowitzki proved everyone wrong this season.  A lot of his troubles were caused by injury in 2008, and returning to good health brought in some healthy numbers as well.

His 30 homers are first among MLB shortstops, and his 87 RBIs trail only Hanley Ramirez.  Troy is also having a solid year fielding the ball.  The Rocky has committed only 9 errors this year.  Most importantly, Troy has helped his team back into playoff contention.  Finishing 14 games below .500 last year without a healthy SS, Troy Tulowitzki has shown that he is an integral part of what should be the NL Wild Card team.

Tune in tomorrow for Blue Duck’s presentation of the John Rocker Award to the AL and NL’s best Closer.