Thursday, July 16, 2015

MLB Year in Review: 2014-2015 Wraparound Season

I miss the days when baseball was culturally relevant.  The All Star Break every year is the one time where baseball is all that is happening.  The Break has even been extended another day in recent years to be a 4 day break to stop and focus on the season so far and the stretch run yet to come.  Instead, this leads to just 24 hours of baseball gimmicks, started by listening to the tired Chris Berman, making pretty much his only ESPN appearance outside of football season, call a Home Run Derby and finishing with interviews of All Stars by people who obviously could care less about baseball.  Once the All Star Game is over?  We are back to the NFL and which franchise players will get their long-term deal done.  (Don't think it's a coincidence that an NFL deadline day is encroaching on baseball's week.)  Even at the ESPY's last night, it was shown just how little baseball is in the public mindset when Madison Bumgarner's ridiculous World Series performance loses to LeBron James in the category, "Best Championship Performance."

It's interesting when you think about it.  In the 25 years, baseball was most culturally relevant in the late 90's and early 2000's when the Steroid Era was at its peak.  McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds were putting up numbers that we found out later could only be manufactured in a lab.  In the mid-2000's, baseball was in the news because it was time to clean up the game.  Now the game is clean, and nobody cares.  The only baseball players to see the stage last night at the ESPY's were either retired (Derek Jeter) or leftover from the Steroid Era (Alex Rodriguez).  I guess our society doesn't have the patience for a sport run by statistics, strategy, and history.
Well, I do!  For the second year, I went through and calculated what ESPN used to calculate when they cared about baseball.  Who has had the best last calendar year.  I am calling it the "Wraparound Season."  I took the stats from 2014 post All Star Break and combined them with the stats from the first half of 2015 to see how has had the best last 162 games or so.  This can be a great indicator on who will continue their success into the stretch run this year, or who might be due for struggles from overwork.

AL Batting Average
Miguel Cabrera – DET .336
Jose Abreu – CWS .319
Jose Altuve – HOU .318
Victor Martinez – DET .312
Michael Brantley – CLE .312

Prince Fielder – TEX .339
Nori Aoki – KC / SF .317

First, a couple notes.  Prince Fielder would be first, but he did not have enough at bats having been injured last year.  Nori Aoki is also a footnote since he switched leagues in the offseason.  Everyone wants to talk about the wave of young players coming into the league, but when it comes down to it, Miguel Cabrera is probably still the best hitter, at least in the AL.  Jose Altuve, reluctantly, has become one of my favorite players as he has officially taken the title of best second baseman in the AL from Robinson Cano (everyone wants to say Kipnis or Dozier, but Altuve has the consistency).  It is fascinating that three of the players on this list couldn't even make the All Star Team this year despite being considered three of the league's best hitters.  Jose Abreu went from phenom last year to forgotten this year.  Victor Martinez has been hobbled this year, but hitting is hitting.  Then Michael Brantley has continued to show that he is one of the superstars of the future.  He will probably need to leave Cleveland to truly get the recognition he deserves though.

NL Batting Average
Buster Posey – SF .331
Denard Span – WAS .326
Bryce Harper – WAS .316
Dee Gordon – LAD / MIA .316
Joe Panik – SF .316

Paul Goldschmidt – ARZ .327
Nori Aoki – KC / SF .317

Paul Goldschmidt, possibly the best player nobody knows, due to his injury last year will not be seen much on these lists this year.  There are a few surprises on this list, but the top is not one of them.  Buster Posey, when healthy, is a perennial MVP candidate.  Bryce Harper has been the talk of the league for a reason.  I said at the start of the season that it was time for Harper to start to live up to more of the hype.  I think it is safe to say he has officially done that as he has had one of the best starts to a season we have seen in recent memory.  The other three are surprises.  When you think of key contributors to the Washington Nationals, Denard Span is probably one of the last names you think of.  However, he has turned into one of the best leadoff hitters in the league.  However, the best leadoff hitter might be Dee Gordon.  It is a shame he got injured and had to miss the All Star Game.  Last, you have the latest unlikely hero for the Giants and their World Series run.  However, knowing that this is pretty much his totals for his first 162 games in the majors, Joe Panik would have won the Rookie of the Year last year if he had played more of the season.

AL Home Runs
Mike Trout – LAA 40
JD Martinez – DET 35
Jose Bautista – TOR 35
Albert Pujols – LAA 34
Nelson Cruz – BAL / SEA 33
Chris Carter – HOU 33

It has been interesting watching Mike Trout the last few seasons.  He has gone from being the guy who can do everything to more of a pure power hitter.  He seems to be content sacrificing some points off his batting average to hit for more power.  It has had great results.  As for his teammate, it is amazing how good Pujols is again now that he is healthy.  It will be interesting to see if the Angels can actually make a playoff run with Trout and Pujols being their only sources of offense.  You expect to see guys like Bautista and Cruz (who has not been slowed down by Safeco Field) on this list.  JD Martinez is not the Tiger you expect to see, but his unlikely success last season has now turned into being a future star.  As for Chris Carter, he belongs on a list with guys like Adam Dunn and Mark Reynolds as true power guys who either hit the long ball or strike out.

NL Home Runs
Giancarlo Stanton – MIA 43
Bryce Harper – WAS 37
Nolan Arenado – COL 36
Todd Frazier – CIN 35
Adrian Gonzalez – LAD 31

Bryce Harper has been the one that has gotten all the attention, and rightfully so, but Giancarlo Stanton is currently on the DL for the second time in this time period and still managed to hit 43 home runs in just 125 games.  At that pace, he would hit 56 home runs if he were to actually get in 162 games.  I just hope he is able to stay healthy long enough before his body starts to break down.  How are the Rockies not better?  They have Tulo, CarGo, and now it looks like Arenado might be the best hitter of them all.  Todd Frazier is a great hitter stuck on a bad team, and Adrian Gonzalez is the left-handed version of Miguel Cabrera.  He just makes it look too easy.

Jose Bautista – TOR 109
Albert Pujols – LAA 97
Yoenis Cespedes – OAK / BOS / DET 95
Mike Trout – LAA 93
Josh Donaldson – OAK / TOR 93

One of the craziest trends I noticed going through this is how many elite players have switched teams in the last year.  Cespedes is on his third team in the last 12 months, and he just keeps hitting.  Again, another elite Tiger hitter at the top of their game.  How are they not the best team in baseball?  When will teams just stop pitching to Pujols and Trout?  An offense that is more than just two hitters is the Blue Jays.  Joey Bats and Donaldson are on this list, but they are dangerous top to bottom.  They are a starting pitcher away from being the favorite in the AL East.

Adrian Gonzalez – LAD 111
Giancarlo Stanton – MIA 109
Nolan Arenado – COL 101
Buster Posey – SF 101
Matt Kemp – LAD / SD 101

Another trend I noticed going through these stats is that the NL seems to have more elite hitters right now than the AL.  That is a complete change from what we are used to.  Only one AL hitter would have made this NL list of RBI leaders.  We have seen all these names already except for Matt Kemp.  He definitely seems to be healthy, and although the power numbers might be down, he still knows how to drive in runs.

Miguel Cabrera – DET .964
Mike Trout – LAA .932
Jose Bautista – TOR .905
Jose Abreu – CWS .870
Manny Machado – BAL .868

Prince Fielder – TEX .916
Alex Rodriguez – NYY .892
Adam Lind – TOR / MIL .873

What is thought to be one of the best indicators of a great hitter, OPS combines on base percentage and slugging.  Prince Fielder and A-Rod don't have enough at bats to qualify, and Adam Lind (a surprising name to see) switched leagues.  How about A-Rod though!  He needed to be great for the Yankees to contend.  He is, and they are.  The top three you expect to see there.  Manny Machado has gotten back to full health and has been showing it in his hitting.  Once again, Jose Abreu!!!  How did this guy miss the All Star Game?!?

Bryce Harper – WAS 1.008
Giancarlo Stanton – MIA .965
Anthony Rizzo – CHC .939
Buster Posey – SF .924
Nolan Arenado – COL .911

Paul Goldschmidt – ARZ 1.038

It is a shame Goldschmidt got hurt last season because he has had an insane start to this year.  Bryce Harper shows once again just how good he has been, and that the end of last season was the start of this breakout.  In last year's wraparound stats, Trout was the only player with an OPS over 1.000.  This year, it is Harper.  Now you know why they are the new faces of baseball.  Again, you see names like Stanton, Posey, and Arenado (seriously, we need to start talking more about Arenado!!!).  It is easy to forget about Anthony Rizzo with all the young talent coming up through the Cubs' system.  However, he is the anchor that will make that team competitive for years to come.

AL Wins
Carlos Carrasco – CLE 16
Collin McHugh – HOU 16
Jeremy Guthrie – KC 15
Felix Hernandez – SEA 15
David Price – TB / DET 15

Max Scherzer – DET / WAS 17

Many of these pitching lists have been thrown off by Scherzer switching leagues.  These win totals are not very impressive.  None of these players would have made last year's wraparound leaderboard.  With the constant emphasis on pitch counts and bullpen matchups, starting pitchers continue to get pulled early before the game is decided.  This is why there will probably never be another 300 game winner.  Of the names on this list, you expect to see Felix and Price, but the rest are complete surprises.  Carrasco, McHugh, and Guthrie are not even the best starters on their own teams, but apparently they have the top win totals.  This just shows why so many say the win is an outdated stat.

NL Wins
Madison Bumgarner – SF 17
Gerrit Cole – PIT 17
Bartolo Colon – NYM 16
Jonny Cueto – CIN 16
Clayton Kershaw – LAD 16
Jordan Zimmerman – WAS 16

Max Scherzer – DET / WAS 17

This list looks a little more standard.  I thought for sure Bumgarner would end up injured by the All Star Break this season after throwing over 50 innings in the postseason last year, but he instead continues to show that he is a pitcher built for a different era.  I feel slightly justified to see Gerrit Cole on this list as I predicted his breakout (just a year too early).  Bartolo Colon has reached the "ageless" stage of his career, but keeps being dominant.  He will soon be out of a job though with all the young aces the Mets have (Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard, Wheeler, Matz).  It is a crime Jonny Cueto missed the All Star Game.  He is one of the best pitchers in the league, and the game was in Cincy.  I don't think he will be in Cincy much longer though.  Kershaw has not been as good as he was last year so far, but that's understandable considering just how good he was.  Lastly, it is interesting to consider that the Nationals, in signing Max Scherzer, basically picked him over the home grown Jordan Zimmerman over the foreseeable future.  Zimmerman is going to get a huge payday this offseason.  The question is from where.

AL ERA (150 IP Min.)
Dallas Keuchel – HOU 2.35
Felix Hernandez – SEA 2.54
Chris Sale – CWS 2.54
Hector Santiago – LAA 2.57
Sonny Gray – OAK 2.65
Corey Kluber – CLE 2.65

Max Scherzer – DET / WAS 2.43
The emergence of Dallas Keuchel has allowed for the Astros to emerge the way they have so far this season.  It will be interesting if he can continue this performance moving forward.  Felix continues to be the King, if only the offense would match his dominance.  Chris Sale is easily the most forgotten pitcher in the league.  Maybe it is a White Sox thing.  First Abreu, now Sale?  They need to get better so everyone can know how good they are.  Santiago and Gray have shown that they deserve to be in the conversation of the best young pitchers in baseball.  Kluber has been destroyed this year by a lack of run support, but his ERA shows he has still been a quality pitcher even if other stats are not there.  Still shouldn't have won the Cy Young though...

AL ERA Overall
Wade Davis – KC 0.63
Andrew Miller – BOS / BAL / NYY 1.63
Alex Cobb – TB 1.79
Greg Holland – KC 1.82
Zach Britton – BAL 1.95

Chasen Shreve – ATL / NYY 1.69
I mostly ignore the middle reliever when it comes to these stats, only looking at the save as a stat to qualify relievers.  Luckily, Greg Holland got hurt for a short time this year which allowed Wade Davis to get some saves and make the list with his ridiculous ERA.  He has given up 5 earned runs since the last All Star Break!!!  He is insane!  Why isn't he the closer?!?  Oh, because their closer is also on the list.  The Royals' bullpen is the main reason I hold to my preseason prediction that they win the World Series this year.  Andrew Miller has successfully moved from dominant setup man to dominant closer.  Zach Britton has some filthy stuff as he continues to anchor the O's bullpen.  Then there is Alex Cobb, who is a starter but is the latest to miss a season with Tommy John.

NL ERA (150 IP Min.)
Zack Greinke – LAD 1.91
Jacob deGrom – NYM 2.15
Clayton Kershaw – LAD 2.36
Lance Lynn – STL 2.57
Shelby Miller – STL / ATL 2.59
Jonny Cueto – CIN 2.59

Max Scherzer – DET / WAS 2.43
Clayton Kershaw may not be having the year he had last year, but Greinke has taken his place as the ridiculously dominant pitcher for the Dodgers.  With his pedigree, you know he can keep up this pace too.  Again, he is another pitcher that will get a huge payday this offseason.  The question is from where.  Everyone wants to talk about Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard for the Mets, but Jacob deGrom has been ridiculously dominant, announcing his arrival at the All Star Game, striking out the side on only 10 pitches.  I am sure the Cardinals cheat.  Wainwright goes down with a season ending injury, so now Lance Lynn is pitching like a Cy Young candidate.  You could say the same about the Braves as they made Shelby Miller the ace of their staff.  Once again, there is Cueto.  He needs to get traded, especially considering how many contenders are looking for starting pitching.  Blue Jays? Royals? Yankees?  Red Sox?  Cubs?  Astros?

NL ERA Overall
Mark Melancon – PIT 1.37
AJ Ramos – MIA 1.47
Hector Rondon – CHC 1.49
Drew Storen – WAS 1.51
Kenley Jansen – LAD 1.68
Out of nowhere, Mark Melancon has worked his way up to being the most dominant closer in the National League.  He has had dominant stuff for awhile, but only recently has he been given the closer role full time so he can finally get the recognition he deserves.  AJ Ramos might be the best pitcher no one has ever heard of.  Drew Storen's story is pretty amazing, as he has worked his way back to being a dominant closer after a few years of mediocrity.

AL K's
Corey Kluber – CLE 281
Chris Sale – CWS 263
David Price – TB / DET 222
Chris Archer – TB 219
Carlos Carrasco – CLE 208

Max Scherzer – DET / WAS 256
Corey Kluber has not been super dominant so far this year, but his ridiculous end to last season has him near or at the top of many of these lists.  It just shows how good he was down the stretch in 2014.  Sale and Price we have already talked about.  Carrasco pops up again surprisingly.  The name to watch on this list is Chris Archer, the latest pitcher to emerge from the Rays.  It will be fascinating to see how good he can get before the Rays trade him away.  Oh yeah, Max is there again too.

NL K's
Clayton Kershaw – LAD 273
Francisco Liriano – PIT 219
Cole Hamels – PHI 215
Jonny Cueto – CIN 214
Madison Bumgarner – SF 212

Max Scherzer – DET / WAS 256
Kershaw's ERA might be elevated a little bit.  He may not have as many wins, but it doesn't mean he hasn't been dominant.  He has almost 60 strikeouts more than the next NL starter (not counting Max).  Liriano, combined with Gerrit Cole, could lead the Pirates on the deep run into the postseason they have been waiting for.  Cole Hamels joins Cueto on the list of aces available this trade deadline.  Then there is the MadBum, still doing his thing.  It might be hard to keep the Giants out of the playoffs this year...

AL Innings Pitched
Corey Kluber – CLE 237 1/3
David Price – TB / DET 225 2/3
Dallas Keuchel – HOU 222
Jeff Samardzija – OAK / CWS 222
Sonny Gray – OAK 217

Max Scherzer – DET / WAS 226

This stat shows the overall workload of a pitcher and could predict a drop in production or injury down the stretch this year.  This was the case for pitchers like Justin Verlander, Adam Wainwright, and Wade Miley last season, all of which found themselves on this list last year.  Kluber is still young enough that the extra workload could end up with a disappointing second half (especially considering the frustration that comes from no run support).  The same could be said for Dallas Keuchel ad Sonny Gray.  Gray seems to be the only pitcher for the A's not to get hurt over the last few seasons.  Pitchers like Price and Scherzer have shown year after year that they are built for this workload.  However, it could also catch up with them soon as well.

NL Innings Pitched
Clayton Kershaw – LAD 225
Jonny Cueto – CIN 218 2/3
Cole Hamels – PHI 214
Madison Bumgarner – SF 209 1/3
Zack Greinke – LAD 207

Max Scherzer – DET / WAS 226
James Shields – KC / SD 213
This might be why Kershaw has been not as dominant recently.  He is tired.  That is a lot of innings.  Not everyone can pitch like Bumgarner.  Greinke seems to have shown that he is good enough to keep up his dominance with the heavy workload.  Hamels, Cueto, and Shields join Max as work horses that can carry any load.  Seriously, who is going to take a run at these guys?

AL Saves
Zach Britton – BAL 45
Huston Street – LAA 41
Greg Holland – KC 40
Glen Perkins – MIN 40
Fernando Rodney – SEA 37
Zach Britton takes the top spot for saves here, mainly because Holland spent a little time on the DL this season.  Huston Street continues to be one of the most consistent closers in the league.  Glen Perkins would be much more well known if his team was better.  Then there is Fernando Rodney, who finds himself on this list simply because the Mariners are in so many close games.  He has a 4.77 ERA over this time and was even removed from closer duties for about a month this season.

NL Saves
Mark Melancon – PIT 46
Trevor Rosenthal – STL 43
Craig Kimbrel – ATL / SD 41
Drew Storen – WAS 38
Santiago Casilla – SF 37
There is the name of Mark Melancon again, leading the Pirates' bullpen.  Rosenthal has been crazy good as the latest Cardinal flamethrower to take closer duties.  Kimbrel has not been as dominant as we are used to seeing since going to San Diego.  Storen and Casilla anchor strong bullpens on strong teams.

So let's see who has been the best overall  in the 2014-2015 Wraparound Season.

Bryce HarperGiancarlo StantonMiguel CabreraMike TroutBuster Posey
First Name Last Name Team G AB R H 2B 3B HR 1B RBI BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG OPS
Bryce Harper WAS 147 506 88 160 26 1 37 96 82 88 137 5 .316 .418 .591 1.008
Giancarlo Stanton MIA 125 465 75 125 22 1 43 59 109 72 160 9 .269 .367 .598 .965
Miguel Cabrera DET 146 545 87 183 34 1 26 122 88 78 113 2 .336 .419 .545 .964
Mike Trout LAA 155 581 118 167 31 5 40 91 93 74 174 15 .287 .368 .565 .932
Buster Posey SF 145 543 84 180 27 2 26 125 101 54 59 1 .331 .392 .532 .924
Max ScherzerClayton KershawZack GreinkeJohnny CuetoDallas Keuchel
Starting Pitchers
First Name Last Name Team W L ERA G GS SV SVO IP H R ER HR BB K AVG WHIP K/BB K/9
Max Scherzer DET / WAS 17 9 2.43 32 32 0 0 226 172 67 61 16 42 256 .202 0.95 6.1 10.2
Clayton Kershaw LAD 16 7 2.36 31 31 0 0 225 171 68 59 15 45 273 .202 0.96 6.1 10.9
Zack Greinke LAD 14 5 1.91 31 31 0 0 207 157 48 44 14 41 186 .202 0.96 4.5 8.1
Johnny Cueto CIN 16 9 2.59 31 31 0 0 218 2/3 161 68 63 21 52 214 .197 0.97 4.1 8.8
Dallas Keuchel HOU 14 8 2.35 31 31 0 0 222 182 63 58 12 54 173 .215 1.06 3.2 7.0
Mark MelanconZach BrittonGreg HollandTrevor RosenthalGlen Perkins
First Name Last Name Team W L ERA G GS SV SVO IP H R ER HR BB K AVG WHIP K/BB K/9
Mark Melancon PIT 3 4 1.37 72 0 46 48 72 1/3 52 12 11 2 13 65 .193 0.90 5.0 8.1
Zach Britton BAL 1 1 1.95 66 0 45 48 64 2/3 45 15 14 3 17 65 .188 0.96 3.8 9.0
Greg Holland KC 3 1 1.82 29 0 40 43 54 1/3 28 14 11 1 25 68 .147 0.98 2.7 11.3
Trevor Rosenthal STL 2 4 1.96 70 0 43 47 69 58 15 15 2 31 76 .219 1.29 2.5 9.9
Glen Perkins MIN 1 4 2.56 62 0 40 44 59 2/3 53 17 17 7 9 53 .228 1.04 5.9 8.0
Are you ready for more baseball now?  I know I am!  Here are the full stats compiled for this project.

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