Well, it’s not a World Series trophy, but the Astros’ trophy case is getting a bit more crowded. In case you were under a rock, two Astros won major — MAJOR — post-season awards. No, no one won an MVP or a Cy Young, but a Gold Glove (the multi-talented Dallas Keuchel) and a Silver Slugger (the incomparable Jose Altuve) are nothing to sneeze at.
Add to that two Astros garnering votes for AL Rookie of the Year, and it’s the kind of accomplishment that points to a club in the right direction. After all, when was the last time Houston had anything more than a lone All-Star?
So, while we’ve all discussed this a bit, let’s take a deeper look at the award season.
Mike Trout very deservedly won the AL MVP award. Trout was 30-for-30 on first place votes. He was followed by Victor Martinez, Michael Brantley and Jose Abreu. Fifth on the list was Seattle second baseman Robinson Cano. Hmm … Thirteenth was Altuve.
Obviously, there were a lot of names between the two best second basemen in the American League. But Cano placed quite a bit higher than the guy who beat him out for the Silver Slugger. The guy who won the AL Batting Title. The guy who should have started at second base in the All-Star Game.
I think I’ve made my point.
Cano had a 0.4 higher WAR and a 0.006 higher OPS. And his OPS+ was 8 higher. Altuve had the higher offensive WAR, Cano the better dWAR despite Altuve having the SAME fielding percentage and BETTER range factor numbers. There’s also the little matter of 56 stolen bases vs. 10 stolen bases and both fewer strike outs and a much lower K rate in favor of Altuve.
I’m not sure Cano should get the nod in the MVP voting, and I’m sure he’s not eight spots better than Altuve. I know, it has a lot to do with the guys in between, but there’s a mixed stat bag there. Take Josh Donaldson. Higher WAR, lower OPS+, much lower oWAR at a position where is should matter. If anything, Altuve was WAY undervalued in the MVP voting.
AL Rookie of the Year
Again with the unanimous voting. Jose Abreu was the top rookie, and I don’t want to hear about him playing in Cuba or his age. Cuba isn’t the Major Leagues, and the guy had to adjust. But equally as impressive is the fact that two Astros got votes. Oh, Springer’s vote was an ill-informed pity vote, I think. There’s zero chance he was the third-best rookie (he got one third-place vote) in the AL.
After Abreu, the next five players on the AL ROY list were all pitchers. In order, they went Matt Shoemaker, Dellin Betances, Collin McHugh, Masahiro Tanaka and Yordano Ventura. I’m not sure how the BBWAA voters measured them, but if WAR was the criteria, McHugh was an easy second place behind Abreu. His 4.2 WAR easily topped the next best WAR, Betances’ 3.7. Want to go with a more traditional metric? Well, Betances posted a 1.40 ERA, but it was in 90 IP over 70 games, all in relief. Among the starters of the bunch, McHugh’s 2.73 ERA was a smidge lower than Tanaka’s 2.77. Maybe you like power arms. Well, aside from Betances’ reliever-aided 13.5 K/9, Tanaka whiffed 9.3 per 9 innings. McHugh came in third at 9.1 K/9. Only Ventura pitched more innings than McHugh, who started 30 games to McHugh’s 25.
Look, I’m thrilled this guy the Astros picked up off the heap, coached and gave a chance to ended up fourth — FOURTH — in ROY voting. I’m all for finding the guy and carrying him around on our shoulders while reading his blog. After Altuve, there’s no one who I was more thrilled to see late into the season. I just think he was easily the second-best rookie in the American League.
AL Cy Young
Not a single Astros pitcher earned votes in the AL Cy Young voting, won in a tight race by Cleveland’s Corey Kluber over Felix Hernandez. And I’m not sure McHugh or Dallas Keuchel deserved any votes for the Cy Young. I mean, more so than the guys who earned votes.
But I’m not sure they were less deserving than some, either. McHugh posted a 1.022 WHIP. Discounting the two Royals relievers on the list (I understand why Greg Holland is on this list, but why is Wade Davis getting votes over the Astros?) only King Felix and Sale posted lower WHIPs among the starters on the list. And aside from being the best fielding pitcher in the league, Keuchel led the AL in complete games (5) and his 36 induced DPs were a big reason why Houston induced the second most twin-killings in the AL.
Look, there were a lot of stats out there, but here’s a few where Astros pitchers — Keuchel and McHugh — excelled. Keep in mind in a couple of these, McHugh doesn’t qualify for the leader board because he needed one more start. But:
* Keuchel’s 2.93 ERA ranked 7th. McHugh posted a 2.73.
* Keuchel’s 5.1 WAR ranked 5th. McHugh posted a 4.2 WAR, good enough for 10th.
* Among qualifiers, McHugh’s 1.022 WHIP would have ranked 3rd. His 9.1 K/9 would have ranked 7th.
* Keuchel’s .495 HR/9 ranked 3rd.
* Keuchel’s 133 ERA+ ranked 6th. McHugh’s ERA+ of 143 would have been 5th, dropping Keuchel to 7th.
* Keuchel just made the top 10 in FIP with 3.21. McHugh’s 3.11 would have ranked 10th and pushed him out of the top 10.
Like I said, I’m not sure Keuchel or McHugh deserved votes any more than the guys on the list not named Hernandez and Kluber. But they deserved votes as much as those guys.
Silver Slugger DH
So, Victor Martinez won the AL Silver Slugger Award for DH. After Altuve’s win, it’d be greedy to expect a second silver slugger. Especially on this team. In fact, I don’t think Houston’s DH was even the second best in the AL. That’d be Big Papi, David Ortiz. But Chris Carter had the third best OPS among DHs. His 37 HRs ranked second overall in the AL.
I know, 182 Ks is not a great hitter. Not in any era. But Carter had real value at DH. And maybe someday he can cut those whiffs and bring home a little hardware for the trophy case.
So here are some things to make you spout off.
1. Which Astros player was shafted the most on the post-season awards lists? I don’t mean he should have won, but the guy deserved a few more votes — and maybe higher votes — than he got.
2. Two ROY candidates. Two guys who were Cy Young-mention worthy. More than Altuve’s accomplishments, is this a sign of better times and more wins to come in 2015?
3. What Astros player or players do you think will compete for a Gold Glove or Silver Slugger or Cy Young or MVP in the future?
4. Who is Houston’s next ROY candidate?
5. Before this season, who was the last Astros player to get ROY votes?
6. If McHugh had got those last few qualifying innings in the books, would he have done better during awards season?
7. If both were healthy, who was the better rookie, McHugh or George Springer?