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2010 Alex Gonzalez of the Marlins Awards
Plus a follow-up on past winners
by Keith Glab, BaseballEvolution.com
January 16, 2011

At the end of April, Alex Gonzalez of the Blue Jays was batting .289 with seven homers and 19 RBI.  How could he not win his very own Alex Gonzalez of the Marlins Award, given annually to the player in each league who pulls the biggest Alex Gonzalez of the Marlins and sputters down the stretch after a hot start to the season?  Well, AGotBJ did fail to win an AGotM, but through little fault of his own.

Obviously, Gonzalez could not keep up his April pace, but he did manage an OPS over .735 in the months of June, July and August.  August actually saw him set a monthly high in both walks and RBI, which is very unlike him.  He was typically horrible in September, however.

The main reason that Gonzalez could not win his own award was the July 14th trade that sent him from Toronto's home-run haven to the neutral confines of Turner Field.  Not only does changing leagues make it impossible for Sea Bass (his new nickname, according to Baseball-Reference) to win the award in either league, but his decline can at least partly be explained away by the change in home ballparks.  Nevertheless, he had a pre-All-Star OPS of .793 and a post-OPS of .676, adding to his legacy of second-half declines.  For his career, Gonzalez has a September OPS 98 points lower than his April OPS.

Anyway, on to the other candidates:

American League Candidates

Ty Wigginton PA HR RBI BA OBP SLG
Pre-AS 345 14 45 .252 .334 .434
Post-AS 304 8 31 .244 .286 .394

Wigginton hit 13 of his 22 homers in his first 41 games of the season.  In the middle of the first Beltway Series of the 2010 season, Twiggi was batting .300 and was sporting a .975 OPS.  Over his final 113 games, he hit .230 with a .640 OPS.  We generally like an AGotM winner to sustain his initial unrealistic output for more than two months, but Wigginton's 2010 performance could possibly have earned him the hardware if there were a down year for poor second halves.

Ben Zobrist PA SB R BA OBP SLG
Pre-AS 373 19 47 .285 .385 .398
Post-AS 282 5 30 .177 .294 .293

Of course, most Rays fans could tell you that there were plenty of poor second halves in 2010.  Between the post-All-Star performances of Ben Zobrist, Jeff Niemann, and James Shields, it's hard to believe that Tampa Bay would still manage the best overall record in the American League.  It is truly a testament to Joe Maddon's abilities as a manager and the depth that the Rays had on both their big league roster and at the Triple-A level.

Past AL AGotM Winners OPS

Year Player Age Pre AGotM Post
2005 Brian Roberts 27 .688 .903 .796
2006 Hank Blalock 25 .809 .726 .795
2007 Orlando Cabrera 32 .721 .742 .692
2008 J.D. Drew 32 .890 .927 .852
2009 Jermaine Dye 35 .829 .793  ---
 

Getting back to Zorilla's individual effort, consider that his batting average dipped below .200 for the months of July, August, and September.  That is some consistent ineptitude right there.  Interestingly, Zobrist's walk totals and power numbers did not suffer in the second half.  We can blame both nagging second-half injuries and poor luck for those batting averages; Zobrist had a first-half BABIP of .336 that fell to .190 in the second half.  His BABIP for 2009 was .326.

Zobrist's post-All-Star ineptitude was not only epic on an individual level - he and Jeff Niemann become the first teammates to sweep their league's Redman and Gonzalez Awards.  Congrats, gents, and here's hoping that your 2011 seasons are more like your 2009 campaigns than your 2010 disasters.

How likely is that to happen?  Take a look at our OPS chart for previous winners ("Pre" means career OPS prior to winning the award; "Post" means career OPS afterwards).  It's hard to see much of a pattern until you notice the age of the player.  For AL winners, at least, an Alex Gonzalez Award means something different when you are in your 20s than when you are in your 30s.  If you are in your 20s, the AGotM is either a blip on the radar soon to be forgotten or a signal of a breakout season that couldn't quite be sustained.  If you are in your 30s, an AGotM could be signaling the beginning of the end, or in the case of Jermaine Dye, it could literally be the end, as Dye could not find anyone to take him after his miserable end to 2009.

National League Candidates

David Wright PA HR RBI BA OBP SLG
Pre-AS 378 14 65 .319 .392 .532
Post-AS 292 15 38 .244 .305 .466

For the second straight year, David Wright is a serious candidate for the Alex Gonzalez of the Marlins Award.  Apart from the stats above, Wright's stolen bases also dipped from 15 in the first half to just four in the second half.  Really, though, these splits are all skewed by Wright's otherworldly June in which he hit .404, slugged .683, and drove in 29 runs.  He is now a career .332 hitter in June, which is pretty darn amazing.

Wright's two-year pattern and .678 August OPS in 2010 has to be a cause of some concern, however.  He just turned 28, but third basemen have a history of wearing down earlier in their careers than power hitters at other positions.  I'm not saying that the Mets should trade him or that I wouldn't take him in the second round of my 2011 fantasy draft, only that the situation merits watching.

Andre Ethier PA HR RBI BA OBP SLG
Pre-AS 306 14 54 .324 .379 .553
Post-AS 279 9 28 .256 .348 .426

Andre Ethier was hitting so well at the beginning of the season that Arizona Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch once walked Ethier to load the bases for Manny Ramirez in May.  Hinch was justifiably fired a month-and-a-half later.  Still, in Ethier's first 33 games, he had a line of .392/.457/.744 that included 11 homers and 38 RBI.  After a 15-day stint on the disabled list, Ethier would go .260/.335/.413 the rest of the way, with only 12 homers and 44 RBI in 106 games.  How much of the decline had to do with injury, Manny's intermittent presence behind Ethier in the lineup, or some other factor is anyone's guess.

Jon Jay PA HR RBI BA OBP SLG
Pre-AS 73 3 9 .377 .394 .594
Post-AS 250 1 18 .275 .348 .279

Jay was at .396/.447/.604 on July 30, but went just .239/.302/.307 the rest of the way.  Jay would be our answer had he enough plate appearances, but he only started 66 games all season.

Felipe Lopez PA HR RBI BA OBP SLG
Pre-AS 236 5 22 .269 .336 .401
Post-AS 205 3 15 .190 .281 .279

Past NL AGotM Winners OPS

Year Player Age Pre AGotM Post
2005 Cesar Izturis 25 .635 .624 .601
2006 Nomar Garciaparra 32 .911 .872 .720
2007 Johnny Estrada 31 .733 .699 .370
2008 Kosuke Fukudome 31 --- .738 .802
2009 Freddy Sanchez 31 .753 .742 .739
 

If you want to find Alex Gonzalez candidates, look for the team that was in first place on August 13th but wound up eight games out of first by September 21st.  The Cardinals waived Felipe Lopez on September 21st, even though there were no roster size inhibitions and even though Lopez was only making $1 million for the season.  St. Louis finished the year 9-3 without Lopez, and actually went 33-16 whenever Felipe Lopez failed to appear in a game. 

That makes Lopez a Josh Towers candidate, but can he win the Alex Gonzalez of the Marlins Award?  Considering that his OPS was over .800 as late as June 8th but that he finished the season at .656, I'd say so.  He had a .596 OPS after June 8th, by the way, or .585 the rest of the way with the Cardinals.

In examining past NL AGotM winners as we did in the American League, we find stronger evidence of decline afterwards.  On the other hand, most of the NL winners have been over 30.  The decline exception, Kosuke Fukudome, is highly explicable given the period of adjustment he went through in his first season in the USA.  Estrada joins Dye in having his career essentially ended by an Alex Gonzalez Award.

It's interesting to note that half of our dozen Alex Gonzalez winners were either 31 or 32 years old when they won their award.  This year's winners were aged 29 and 30.  Perhaps this is the age range in which the wear of a 162-game season begins to fully manifest itself on an athlete's body.


Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at keith@baseballevolution.com.


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