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The 2009 Kevin Maas and Brady Anderson Awards: Betting that these guys won't do it again.
by Asher B. Chancey, BaseballEvolution.com
A funny thing happened last season. After several seasons of thinking about it, I finally decided to create an award to honor Kevin Maas’ place in the annals of baseball history. Kevin Maas, as my generation will remember, looked like the next Lou Gehrig for one summer in 1990 before making baseball fans around the country feel stupid for having bought the hype.
In short, the Kevin Maas Award was created to honor the rookie whose performance baseball fans would all be stupid to expect to be the player to replicate the following year.
Well, no sooner than I had created the Kevin Maas Award, it was pointed out to me that this was actually two great awards: an award for a rookie who we would be stupid to expect to see a duplicate performance from, and an award for a player whose performance was so out of character with the rest of his career that we would be stupid to expect him to duplicate it.
And so it was, the Kevin Maas Award gave birth to the Brady Anderson Award.
The cool thing about these two awards is that, whereas most post-season awards reward past performance, the Kevin Maas and Brady Anderson Awards predict future performance; both awards are premised upon the winner’s anticipated performance the following season. Thus, we are truly walking a tight rope in the awarding of these awards. Dynamite!
Without further ado, the Kevin Maas Award nominees:
Casey McGehee, Florida Marlins
One of the sure-fire ways to tell if a rookie has put up numbers he is likely to reproduce is to look at this minor league stats. In six minor league seasons, McGehee struck out twice as often as he walked, produced a stat-line of .279/.332/.409/.741, and hit a career high 12 homeruns in 133 games in 2008. Then, as a rookie with the Brewers, he bested all of these numbers, hitting 16 homeruns in 116 games while batting .301 with an .859 OPS. 26 year old’s don’t do their best work at the major league level as rookies, and 2010 should be a return to earth for McGehee. If his actual performance had been more impressive, we would have a Kevin Maas Award winner.
Rick Porcello, Detroit Tigers
In his first ever major league action, two years out of high school, with one year of A+ ball under his belt, Porcello went 14-9 with a 3.96 ERA in 31 starts for a much-maligned Detroit Tiger pitching staff. Porcello may one day be a fine pitcher, but expect struggles for this guy (who will only 21 years old in his second season) in 2010. How do we know? First, he gave up more hits than innings pitched in 2009. Second, he allowed 23 homeruns in 170 innings. Third, he struck out only 89 batters, to go with (fourth) his 52 walks. That his ERA was under 4.50 is amazing. Or, more relevantly, luck.
Porcello is a great candidate, and likely to be back in the minors at some point in the next couple of years, but at the end of the day, the player who most personifies Kevin Maas must be:
Garrett Jones, Pittsburgh Pirates
Don’t get me wrong, Garrett Jones was a great story in 2009. A veteran of 11 minor league season, most of which were spent in the Minnesota Twins farm system, Jones finally got the call to the big club in 2009 after a solid-but-not-outstanding 72 games at Triple-A to start the year. In 82 games with the Pirates, he was outstanding – 21 homeruns, 44 RBI, 45 runs scored, .293 batting average, .938 OPS. He hit into only six double plays, he was intentionally walked eight times, and he even stole ten bases in twelve tries. His numbers, projected out over a full season, look something like 42 homeruns, 90 RBI, 20 stolen bases, 40 doubles, 90 runs scored.
So why do we expect to not see a repeat performance – for the simple reason that in 11 minor league seasons, Jones never did anything like this. He was definitely a power-hitter in the minors, with over 20 homeruns six times, but those were all in full seasons. He only his over .290 twice – in Triple-A before getting called up, and in Double-A in 2004. Jones had on OPS over. 900 once (again in 2004), and never had an OPS over .850 in any other season.
You just don’t see guys who spent a decade or more in the minor leagues become major league All-Stars, and make no mistake about it, Garrett Jones put up major league All-Star numbers in his half-season call-up in 2009. You won’t see that again from this guy.
Now, onto the Brady Anderson Award . . .
The Brady Anderson Award has nothing to do with steroids. It is also not given to the Player Most Guilty of Impersonating a Beverly Hills 90210 Character. Rather, Anderson has the honor of having a BaseballEvolution.com Award named after him because of his performance during the 1996 season – one of the most remarkable single season performances of all time, and one which no baseball fan on the planet Earth considered him capable of replicating.
In that sense, no recipient of the Brady Anderson Award will likely ever be worthy of being compared to Brady Anderson, because we hardly ever see league-average or above-average players suddenly produce historically great seasons. Nevertheless, we can probably sniff out three or four players every year that did things we are almost completely sure won’t happen again. For example:
Felipe Lopez, Milwaukee Brewers
I don’t know why Lopez was so awesome in 2009 - .310 average, .380 OBP, 187 hits, 38 doubles – just as I don’t know why he hit 23 homeruns in 2005 or why he stole 44 bases in 2006. All I know is that Felipe Lopez is not as complete a hitter as he appeared to be in 2009, and he won’t be putting up an OPS over .800 again in 2010. But who cares – this is Felipe Lopez.
Jason Bartlett, Tampa Bay Rays
Unlike Ben Zobrist, whose minor league numbers indicate that he is capable of exactly what he did last season, Bartlett went from a career light-hitting shortstop to the second best hitting shortstop in baseball; that he finished with an OPS under .900 is attributable only to a tail-off over the last two weeks of the season after the Rays had been eliminated. Bartlett may be a better hitter from this point on than he has been for the early part of his career, but he is not a .900 OPS guy.
Marlon Byrd, Texas Rangers
We could very literally change the name of this award to the “(Fill in the name of the Texas Rangers' most recent journey-man outfielder acquisition) Award”. In 2006, it was Gary Matthews, Jr. In 2007, it was Kenny Lofton. In 2008, it was Milton Bradley, and in 2009 it is Marlon Byrd. Mind you, I like all of these guys, but it cannot be denied that when good-but-not-great outfielders with either aging or unrefined (or both) talent go to play for the Rangers, they invariably have career years.
In 2009, Marlon Byrd established career highs in the following categories: games, plate appearances, at-bats, hits, doubles, homeruns, RBI, strikeouts, slugging percentage, total bases, doubles, hits-by-pitch, and sacrifice flies. He didn’t draw a career high for walks, but he’d done that the previous year with the Rangers, just as he’d also set a career high for OBP the previous year with the Rangers.
This Byrd will be coming in for a crash landing in Chicago in 2010. Luckily, we all know it. And that is why Marlon Byrd is the 2009 Brady Anderson Award winner.
Questions? Concerns? Comments? Asher lives in Philadelphia, PA, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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