And the award for … Astros adding to trophy case


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.

AL MVP

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.

Questions

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?

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43 comments on “And the award for … Astros adding to trophy case

  1. My unbiased (stop laughing) opinion is that a healthy George Springer hits no fewer than 35 HR last year. It wouldn’t have pushed him above Abreu, obviously, but would have pushed McHugh lower as our supporters in the BBWAA split their voting.

    I’m OK with where our players placed. Altuve deserved recognition, and I think he got it. I think Cano deserved to be higher for bringing legitimacy to a putrid looking offense…and helping keep them in the race longer than they deserved. Altuve didn’t play a meaningful game from July onwards, unfortunately.

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    • I think you’re right. Springer’s 162-game average had him hitting 42 homers. Oddly, only 17 doubles. I think over 150-plus games those numbers balance a bit. Maybe 30-35 HRs and 30-35 doubles. I’d take that.

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  2. 1. I think McHugh was probably shafted the most for ROY. His ERA, WHIP, etc. were deserving of some recognition in the Cy Young balloting and I thought he could have been 2nd in ROY.
    2.I think these “recognitions” are a sign that things are getting better for the team – just need to build on that.
    3. Cy Young-wise I don’t think either McHugh or Keuchel are the typical pitchers who win this award, but I would certainly take 5 years of that type of high production out of both and not look back. Once you win a GG (like Keuchel) more could be coming. MVP – Carlos Correa 2017?
    4. Next ROY candidate – Carlos Correa in 2016.
    5. Last Astro to get ROY votes? Pence?
    6. I guess being a non-qualifier (7.1 innings short) – might have hurt McHugh – but can’t complain too much – the awards are nice but having a free reclamation project put up sterling numbers is better.
    7. I loved what both McHugh and Springer brought in their rookie seasons, but Springer had more sizzle and would have been knocking on the 40 HR / 100 RBI level if uninjured.

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  3. In 2008, Pence came in third in NL ROY voting.

    Altuve played too many games (had too many at-bats) to be eligible in 2012, but he came up too late to be considered really in 2011.

    Dan wins the prize. (Prize: Five fleeting minutes of admiration from Brian T.)

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  4. maybe billy, but i think they needed better performance from the bullpen to get there. 2015 however i think we should be disappointed if we dont hit .500. of course that is assuming a better bullpen, maybe a new starter and a bit of punch added to the lineup.

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  5. nice post brian. one thing not listed that i am proud of and hope we continue to keep in the trophy case is the silver boot we won by winning the season series from the rangers.

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  6. I’m surprised that there are even gold glove awards for pitchers, and don’t really think that’s a major win. Altuve’s silver slugger was great though.

    Also surprised to find that there is a Silver Slugger for DH.

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    • I think a guy like Keuchel who induces a ton of grounders, many back in the vacinity of the mound, would disagree.

      And if a DH can’t win a Silver Slugger, what can he win?

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    • I can’t think of a place I’d rather not be stationed defensivly than on the mound. Pitchers don’t get a whole lot of credit for their defense, but sure can look inept when they are not good at playing the position. Why not have a Gold Glove for pitchers? Not enough chances?

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    • Each team carries one or two players at each position. But every team carries at least five starting pitchers, and at least 7 or eight relievers. So the chances of winning a Gold Glove is about six times rarer for a pitcher. Out of around 600 major league pitchers, Dallas Kuechel is one of two best at fielding his position.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Just for comparison – concerning health and injuries. Rangers vs. Astros.
    Keuchel & Feldman pitched more innings that anyone for Texas. McHugh pitched more innings than Darvish. Obie & Peacock pitched more innings than their 4th starter. Singleton played over twice as many games as Fielder. Qualls with 19 saves had more than anyone on the Rangers. Their catcher played in only 93 games. Injuries are part of the game now – more than I can ever remember. So lets hope the 2015 Astros can stay healthy and improve. Maybe MLB needs to bring back certain banned items – sort of “better living through Chemistry.”

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  8. More thoughts
    I know it is not an MVP type award, but I could see either Carter or Springer leading the AL in HRs.
    Of course I could see Springer, Singleton or Carter leading the league in Ks.

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    • Dan, I know every AAA manager goes through this – but can you imagine how frustrating it has to be to see your better players be taken away all year, and the “busts” or “injured” sent down for your team. Those guys earn every penny they make. I guess their enjoyment comes from seeing a “former pupil” succeed.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Answering your questions:
    1. Dominguez got shafted in the Silver Slug/3B voting
    2.Maybe
    3.Jonathan Villar will compete for the SS Gold Glove Award in 2017 for the Astros and Jon Singleton is eligible to compete for the Comeback Player of the year award in 2015.
    4.The Astros next ROY candidate is either Carlos Correa in 2016 or Brady Aiken in 2022.
    5.Before this past season the last Astro to get ROY votes was Miguel Tejada in 1988, at the age of 42.
    6. If McHugh had pitched those extra few qualifying innings for the Red Sox he would have gotten the ROY Award unanimously.
    7. If Springer had started the year in Houston, and in CF where he belonged, he would have been ROY.

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  10. Old pro has inspired me to make more awards:
    – Worst performance by a 1-1 draftee as a tandem pitcher in a wind tunnel – Mark Appel
    – Worst job by a manager kissing his GMs behind – Bo Porter
    – Best imitation of a blind man trying to kill a fly with a fly swatter – Jon Singleton
    – Longest sports themed soap opera – As the Comcast Turns
    – Best performance by a player picked off the scrap heap – Collin McHugh
    – Second best sports beard in the city of Houston (behind James Harden but ahead of Ryan Fitzpatrick ) – Dallas Keuchel
    – The Jekyll and Hyde award for coaching the greatly improved starters and the still stinking bullpen – Brent Strom

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  11. So here are my own answers to my questions.

    1. Which Astros player was shafted the most on the post-season awards lists? It’s a tough call. McHugh should have been second on ROY voting. Among the AL ROY crop, his WAR was about a win behind Abreu’s. Hey, we all LOVE us some Collin McHugh, and I think we mostly underrate him. That said, you win a batting title, have an OPS well into the .800s, lead the league in stole bases — by a long margin — and generally act like the best thing your putrid franchise has seen in years, you probably should rank higher than 13th in the MVP voting.

    2. Is this a sign of better times and more wins to come in 2015? If this were one year of award recognition, I wouldn’t be so excited. But I think Altuve, Springer, our pitchers, and others in the future bode well for this team both in real performance and post-season hardware.

    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? I think Springer or maybe Marisnick if he can play a whole season, would be a Gold Glove candidate. And, of course, Keuchel again. I think Springer, if he can get his average up to the .270s or so and hit 40 HRs, would be an MVP candidate along with Altuve. Both are potential Silver Sluggers. Correa could be a ROY, but I’d be interested to see how Preston Tucker does in the outfield if he can push his way onto the team before too long this summer.

    4. Who is Houston’s next ROY candidate? Correa and Tucker. Obviously Correa is a pick. But look at Tucker’s stats. At AA and AAA combined last year he slashed .282/.352/.481 with 24 HRs and 94 RBIs. Another potential ROY in, say 2017 or even 2018, is Josh Hader. Ignore that ERA from Corpus Christi. In 103.1 innings at Lancaster he allowed only — ONLY — 9 HRs, had a .206 BAA, a 1.10 WHIP and a paltry 2.70 ERA. All this from a guy who will be 21 when the Texas League season begins.

    5. Before this season, who was the last Astros player to get ROY votes? As Dan P correctly guessed, Hunter Pence was our last ROY candidate, finishing third in the 2008 voting.

    6. I don’t think the innings pitched hurt McHugh in ROY voting. That was his 11-9 record for a crappy team. But it probably make him all the more ignorable to Cy Young voters.

    7. If healthy, McHugh or Springer? That’s a tough one, but I’d go with Springer because he plays every day, plays great defense and brings speed to the base paths. That said, he needs to cut down on the Ks if he’s ever going to get serious MVP consideration.

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  12. And for some lesser awards …

    The Greg Luzinski Award for Mimicking the Fan in a Wind Tunnel: Jon Singleton. Now that Adam Dunn has retired, this award seems like Singleton’s to lose each season.

    The Stan Musial Consistency Prize: Jose Altuve. How long did his average never dip below .330 by the end of a game? Yep, pretty amazing.

    The Chris Burke Disappointment Award: Jonathan Villar. All the tools in the world, and he still plays like crap.

    The Billy Bean Cup for Misunderstood Moves: That’d be Jeff Luhnow.

    The Drayton McLane Prize for Bungled Drafts: Luhnow again.

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  13. Can we talk about Sclafani? His BA was 32 points higher than the AFL batting champion, and I think it would be harder for a Wed/Sat pl;ayer to hit consistently than it is for an everyday player.
    His best defensive position is second base, but if this switch hitter is a true .280 hitter w/ high OBP and low K skills how can we not find a spot for him on our 25-man roster. He hit well in AAA, he might have won the AFL batting title with more AB’s and he is of the perfect age to start his MLB career. Even if he doesn’t fit into the Astros long-range plans, the team has to get him on the field to try and enhance his value.
    When the team talks about trading wealth at positions of strength for position players at needy spots, they have to be talking about 2B where we have Altuve, Torreyes, Sclafani, Fontana and Kemp. They all have excellent skills at 2B, on the bases and at the plate. They also had Kike at this time last year. Amazing!
    Putting Sclafani in the AFL was a very smart move by the Astros.

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    • Yes, we should talk about him. If he makes it through the way enter and is still part of our organization you have to expect JL will give him a chance to make the 25 in ST.

      But speaking of trades, what is everyone’s reaction to TB trading Hellickson? I lamented a couple years back not having any arms in our system…and used him as an example of a guy we could use. Think recent injury history scared JL off, TB wasn’t interested in a low ball offer, or perhaps were we need very solicited to make an offer?

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  14. You guys know how I feel about Sclafani. The kid graduates with a 3.05 GPA majoring in Government from Dartmouth in a state where baseball games get snowed out into May. In his spare time, he volunteers with Special Olympics. He goes to Australia to get in a lineup. In high school, he’s a National Merit Scholar and belongs to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He gets drafted in the 14th round, 429th overall. He’s never had a full time job at any position at any level of the minor leagues. And yet in 2014 he put together the best season of his brief professional career, literally forcing his way into the field after spending his first few weeks in OKC mosting sitting on the bench. He’s left highly touted prospects like Nolan Fontana behind. I do not want to see this guy packaged up and sent off to another organization. He’s a keeper.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Is he your cousin?

      Just kidding. You’re absolutely right. All he does is play ball like a boss and live his life right. We could use an organization full of guys like that. Imagine if Singleton spent his off time with Special Olympics instead of Special Weed. Maybe he doesn’t have a lost 2013 and is playing catch up all 2015.

      Luhnow has said he’s gokng to limit the minor leaguers in camp this spring. He hasn’t committed to inviting Moran or Ruiz. Maybe that means Sclafani is going to get a serious look at third.

      I certainly hope so.

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      • Brian, every successful club ends up a mix of personalities, guys from different backgrounds, cultures, education levels, and so many other factors besides talent. Some guys grow, others don’t. Some lead, some follow. I still have hopes for Singleton. Arguably, his has been a tougher path than Sclafani’s. But I think Sclafani also has intangibles that few others have. He might lack plus talent, but it seems to me that he’s going to figure out how to be a pretty good major leaguer and a better teammate than the average guy. And I sure hope we get to see him do it here.

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    • If you start off your 2015 lineup with Fowler, Altuve, Springer and Carter, you don’t want to finish it with the final five we were stuck with last year. You almost have to give Singleton a look again at first(because of that stupid contract) and Castro at C(If he’s with the team), but if you have Dominguez, Gonzalez, Marisnick/Grossman to add to the strikeouts of Springer, Carter, Castro and Singleton, you are going to struggle mightily to score enough runs to be at .500. Something has to give and many of those strikeouts have to disappear.
      Sclafani replacing Dominguez at 3B is the first option.
      But I have real questions about Singleton. Is the Singleton we saw last year really the top 50 guy we have waited for ever since we gave up Pence? OMG, that would be a baseball horror story. It’s just hard to imagine all the experts being so wrong about him, but he was awful last year. I dread not finding somebody decent in the offseason to replace Singleton if he plays next spring like he did last year.
      By the way, all the talk about Tony Kemp has him moving to the outfield next year.

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  15. I totally expect Sclafani to challenge Matty D. in spring training. I second the motion not to include him in any trade, but you gotta remember……Luhnow *will* trade
    anyone he thinks will bring back the guy he wants. I’m not getting invested in ANY player, you only get burnt when he get’s traded.

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    • I really hope Sclafani has been working at 3B some – because he has been terrible (worse than Villar at SS) there in his short appearances in the minors. Something tells me if they give him a shot he will improve his fielding too.

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      • You can bet he will be working on that over the Winter. He’s a smart kid, and he knows that no one is safe on this team………even Altuve. I expect him to come to Florida with a plan, and his third base glove!

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  16. Amazing road victories by the Texans and the Rockets today.
    Astros, Houston fans are watching and waiting.
    We notice. We care. We matter.

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    • For the first time in a long time I saw a QB who could be special for the Texans.
      The Rockets won a death match in hand to hand combat with OKC.
      And yes it is time for the Astros to graduate beyond baby steps.

      Like

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