The Baseball Bloggers Alliance is a little behind in posting award winners, but the final award, the Stan Musial, will be announced on Monday, October 24. The General Chapter has already released its official ballot, and once again, they got it right. If there’s one voting body whose baseball awards I trust, it’s this group, not just because I’m a member, but because its members seem to take their charge seriously. There’s very little bias involved, as none of the voters write exclusively about one team. The group brings a good mix of advanced statistical analysis and more traditional methods of evaluation, but based on this year’s results, the advanced stats seem to validate their choices.
In the National League, the General Chapter named Matt Kemp the league’s top player. Ryan Braun had a case, if you prefer a player whose team made the playoffs, but the General Chapter recognized the better player despite his teammates’ shortcomings. Braun finished second, followed by Justin Upton, Joey Votto, and Prince Fielder.
In the American League, Jose Bautista will be at the top of our ballot after being listed first on 10 of 21 ballots. Jacoby Ellsbury finished a closer second than Braun, only garnering five first place votes, but getting 10 second place nods. I know a lot of my peers also struggled with ranking Bautista and Ellsbury, as they brought such similar value in such different ways. Curtis Granderson finished third, and while he was lower on my ballot, this is a justifiable position if we question the defensive metrics that rated him poorly this year. Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander rounded out the top five.
This ballot is not without its quirks. Michael Morse (3.4 fWAR) and Ryan Howard (1.6) were each named on multiple ballots, suggesting that the almighty RBI may still carry a little too much weight with some chapter members. Victor Martinez (2.9) got a first place vote in the AL, while, not surprisingly, being left off every other ballot completely. Even Casey Kotchman (2.8) found his way to a ballot. After requiring that members post their ballots on their blogs for the earlier awards, General Chapter chief William Tasker let bloggers vote anonymously on this one, so these ballots may remain a mystery.
Another blogger writing this same piece may question two of my choices. I was one of only two bloggers to name Cincinnati second baseman Brandon Phillips on my ballot, and the only one to rank him as high as eighth. I’ll admit to a bit of gamesmanship on this one, as I had seen a few ballots that severely underrated defense and decided to give extra props to the NL’s best defensive second baseman. In the AL, no one but Replacement Level named Mike Napoli anywhere in the top ten. I had him sixth, as I was tasked with naming the leagues “top” players, and when Ron Washington let Napoli play, he may have been the best player in the AL. I suspect he missed several ballots because he didn’t accumulate enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, which means a quick sort of most WAR or OPS leaderboards probably didn’t include Napoli’s name despite his 5.6 fWAR season.
These quirks are part of what makes the Alliance’s award voting great. While every voter has his own idea of what a top player is, consensus speaks loudly when the group takes its charge very seriously. Even if most of us start our process by checking out the WAR leaderboards, the two different WAR calculations let us all decide which formula we prefer and how to reconcile the difference, and what adjustments we need to make to recognize catcher defense and other shortcomings of the stat.
In the end, the General Chapter continues to reward the best players. Let’s hope the BBWAA does the same.