The National League MVP Award will be announced on Tuesday, November 22. The Diamondbacks' Justin Upton is expected to be among the leading vote getters, but the favorites to win should be Matt Kemp of the Dodgers and Ryan Braun of the Brewers. Here is how I would fill out my MVP ballot. (Here are links to previous articles on the NL Cy Young and Rookie of the Year awards).
1. Matt Kemp, CF, LAD - .324/.399/.586, 115 R, 39 HR, 126 RBI, 40 SB, 10.0 bWAR, 8.7 fWAR
Kemp led the NL in HR, RBI, Runs Scored, Total Bases, and OPS+ (171). He finished 2nd in Slugging Percentage, 3rd in Batting Average, 4th in On-Base Percentage, and 2nd in Stolen Bases. His counting stats were easily the best in the NL, and his rate stats were about the same as Ryan Braun's. But Kemp passes Braun because he played in more games and because of park effects - Dodger Stadium was a slight pitcher's park, while Miller Park was a pretty good park for hitters. Kemp also was productive running the bases, and improved on his disastrous fielding numbers in 2010 to become average defensively in 2011. The Fans' Scouting Report gave Kemp a score of 67 this year, a solid improvement from the 59 in 2010. Kemp's UZR went from -25.7 to -4.6, and his Defensive Runs Saved went from -15 to +1. On Tuesday, Kemp should join fellow NL K Winners Kershaw, Kimbrel, and Kirk (Gibson).
The 2011 National League Cy Young Award winner will be announced on Thursday, August 17th. The Diamondbacks' Ian Kennedy, who finished 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA, is expected to finish among the Top 5 in the voting. The winner should be be either the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, who led the NL in ERA, Strikeouts, and Wins, or Roy Halladay of the Phillies, who led the league in all of the various Wins Above Replacement stats. Here is how I would rank the contenders this year, along with their basic stats and the WAR totals from Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.
1. Clayton Kershaw, LAD - 21-5, 233.1 IP, 2.28 ERA, 2.47 FIP, 6.8 bWAR, 7.0 fWAR
Kershaw was the first NL pitcher to lead the NL in Wins, ERA, and Strikeouts since 2007 Cy Young winner Jake Peavy. Kershaw also led the NL in WHIP (0.977) and in fewest hits per 9 IP with 6.7. Kershaw was even better in the 2nd Half, going 12-1 with a 1.31 ERA after the break.
Even though the Dodgers were out of the race, Kershaw was pitching great games against pennant contenders down the stretch, facing the Diamondbacks. Giants, Braves, Brewers, and Cardinals over his final seven starts. Over his last 15 starts, Kershaw allowed more than 2 ER just once. Meanwhile, even though Halladay was pitching for a playoff team, the Phillies were 13 Games Ahead, and Halladay only faced three playoff contenders (D-Backs, Brewers, Cards) over his final 13 starts. So Kershaw was the one pitching better and the one in more meaningful games in the second half. There is so little difference between the two, but these small factors are enough for me to give Kershaw the nod.
One key to the Diamondbacks' amazing 2011 season was the pitching of rookie Josh Collmenter, who came out of nowhere to post a 3.38 ERA with 10 Wins over 24 starts. For the National League as a whole, it wasn't a great year for rookies. The best rookie starting pitchers, for example, did not pitch in the Majors for the full season. Only six rookie position players managed to get over 350 Plate Appearances. None of the best rookie position players were both full-time players and particularly good offensively. The only rookie who played like an All-Star all season was the Braves' Craig Kimbrel, who I have ranked at #1. Here are my Top 10 NL Rookie of the Year rankings for 2011. The official MLB Rookie of the Year results will be announced on Monday, November 14th at 2:00 ET.
1. Craig Kimbrel, RP, ATL - 4-3, 46 Saves, 77 IP, 2.10 ERA, 1.52 FIP, 3.0 bWAR, 3.2 fWAR
Kimbrel had an amazing year as the Braves' closer, finishing with 127 strikeouts in 77 innings, for a rate of 14.8 K/9. That gives Kimbrel the 4th highest K/9 season in history among pitchers with at least 75 IP, and his career rate of 15.4 K/9 (167K in 97.2 IP) is currently the highest of any pitcher in history. Kimbrel led the NL with 46 Saves and in Games Finished with 64. He did slow down a little down the stretch, as did the rest of the Braves, by allowing runs in three of his last four outings, but his overall season was very impressive.
51 players played for the Diamondbacks in 2011 - here are my rankings for all 51, from Justin Upton at #1 down to Armando Galarraga at #51. In the table, bWAR is the Wins Above Replacement from Baseball-Reference.com, fWAR is Wins Above Replacement from Fangraphs.com, and ASB is where I had ranked the players at the All Star Break.
|1||1||Justin Upton, RF||4.1||6.4||Led team in AVG, OBP, SLG, HR, R, and RBI|
|2||4||Ian Kennedy, SP||5.5||5.3||Led AZ in ERA, K, W, IP(tie);12-1, 2.11 ERA in 2H|
|3||5||Miguel Montero, C||4.5||4.3||Led all Catchers with 86 RBI; 40% CS rate|
|4||2||Chris Young, CF||4.8||4.6||Led NL in UZR; .314/.432/.629 in High Lev. ABs|
|5||3||Daniel Hudson, SP||3.3||6.0||222 IP, 3.28 FIP only .06 behind IPK; had 14 RBI|
|6||7||J.J. Putz, RP||2.2||1.7||Converted 45 of 49 Save Chances; 2.17 ERA|
|7||10||Ryan Roberts, 3B/LF||3.4||3.6||2nd on team with 66 BB; 3rd in HR with 19|
|8||6||D. Hernandez, RP||1.1||1.3||11 Saves, 23 Holds; gave up 14 of 26 ER in 3G|
|9||8||Gerardo Parra, LF||1.9||2.8||LF Gold Glove; Raised OPS over 100 pts to .784|
|10||13||Josh. Collmenter, RP||2.5||2.2||Biggest surprise of year; 3.38 ERA, only 1.6 BB/9|
|11||11||Joe Saunders, SP||2.6||1.3||3.69 ERA/4.78 FIP; led NL starters in GIDP rate|
|12||-||Aaron Hill, 2B||1.7||1.6||.878 OPS and good defense over his 33 games|
|13||9||Stephen Drew, SS||1.4||1.9||.920 OPS in April, but only .596 over final 39G|
|14||17||Henry Blanco, C||1.1||1.2||.751 OPS and caught 11/24 basestealers (46%)|
|15||15||Joe Paterson, RP||0.7||0.3||ERA up to 3.92, but holding LHB to .653 OPS|
|16||-||P. Goldschmidt, 1B||0.1||0.6||Good:.808 OPS, 8 HR; Bad: 53K in 177 PA (30%)|
|17||29||Bryan Shaw, RP||0.5||0.2||2.54 ERA, 24K/8 BB in 28.1 IP; will setup in '12|
|18||14||Micah Owings, RP||0.5||0.2||8-0, 3.57 ERA, but did have a 4.47 FIP|
|19||-||Brad Ziegler, RP||0.3||0.4||1.74 ERA in 20.2 IP, had 13 straight scoreless Gs|
|20||12||Kelly Johnson, 2B||0.2||1.4||18 HR, but only .287 OBP; 132K in 481 PA (27%)|
|21||20||W. Bloomquist, SS||-0.2||0.3||.657 OPS with 20 SB; wants multi-year deal|
|22||28||Sean Burroughs, 3B||-0.6||0.0||nice comeback; 16 pinch-hits, just .626 OPS|
|23||-||Brandon Allen, 1B||0.4||0.3||.834 OPS in 37 PA, .616 OPS in 158 PA in Oak|
|24||-||Wade Miley, SP||0.2||0.1||Decent 4.50 ERA, but 4.05 BB/9 with only 5.6K/9|
|25||-||Jarrod Parker, SP||0.4||0.1||only made 1 start - 5.2 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 1 BB, 1K|
|26||18||Wily Mo Pena, OF||-0.1||0.0||5 HR in 46 AB for .522 SLG with only .196 OBP|
|27||24||Xavier Nady, 1B/LF||-0.1||-0.2||.646 OPS, but .933 OPS in Late & Close Sit|
|28||-||Collin Cowgill, OF||-0.2||0.3||.604 OPS with good defense; 28% K rate|
|29||-||John McDonald, SS||-0.3||0.0||Didn't hit in 63 PA (.426 OPS), but had good D|
|30||21||Alberto Castillo, RP||0.3||0.1||2.31 ERA but 7 BB in 11.2 IP|
|31||-||Lyle Overbay, 1B||0.2||0.2||1 HR, 10 RBI and .840 OPS in 49 PA|
|32||-||Cole Gillespie, OF||0.2||0.1||Hit Grand Slam in final game of the season|
|33||22||Zach Duke, SP||0.4||1.3||4.93 ERA with only 3.99 FIP; just 3 QS in 9 starts|
|34||16||Sam Demel, RP||0.0||-0.4||Disappointing year, 4.21 ERA with 5.64 FIP|
|35||-||Geoff Blum, 3B||0.0||0.3||.717 OPS in 55 PA; .856 against RHP|
|36||19||Yhen. Brazoban, RP||0.0||0.0||Good: 8K/2BB in 6 IP; Bad: 8H and 4 ER|
|37||30||Josh Wilson, SS||0.1||0.0||now in Milwaukee; hit .200/.200/.300 in 10 AB|
|38||27||Kam Mickolio, RP||-0.1||0.2||6.75 ERA, 7K/3BB in 6.2 IP; 4.97 ERA in AAA|
|39||23||Juan Miranda, 1B||-0.4||0.1||.926 OPS on May 27, finished at .717 on July 9|
|40||-||Cody Ransom, SS||-0.4||0.0||.546 OPS; hit big 2-Run HR off Kershaw on 8/7|
|41||31||Russell Branyan, 1B||-0.2||-0.1||released after hitting .210/.290/.339|
|42||-||Ryan Cook, RP||-0.2||0.0||7.04 ERA and 8 BB in 7.2 IP|
|43||-||Robby Hammock, C||-0.1||0.0||0 for 2 for the season|
|44||-||Jason Marquis, SP||-1.1||-0.2||Injured in 3rd start, after struggling in first two|
|45||26||Barry Enright, SP||-0.7||-0.4||7.41 ERA with 11 HR in 37.2 IP; 5.21 ERA in AAA|
|46||25||Esmer. Vasquez, RP||-0.1||0.0||4.15 ERA; AAA: 6.18 ERA, 21 BB/27.2 IP; a Twin|
|47||34||Zach Kroenke, RP||-0.1||0.0||4 ER in 4 IP, and 5.89 ERA in AAA|
|48||35||Juan Gutierrez, RP||-0.6||0.0||Allowed 16R (11 ER) in 18.1 IP; elbow surgery|
|49||32||Melvin Mora, 3B||-0.4||-0.5||Nice guy, but finished .228/.244/.276 (520 OPS)|
|50||33||Aaron Heilman, RP||-0.9||-0.3||6.88 ERA, 8 HR in 35.1 IP; decent 33K/11BB|
|51||36||Arm. Galarraga, SP||-1.6||-1.1||5.91 ERA, 13 HR in 42.2 IP; 9.26 ERA in AAA|
The Arizona Diamondbacks played well in almost every area in 2011 - the bullpen, the starting pitching, the offense, and the defense. How valuable the team defense was depends on which defensive metric you believe. According to FanGraphs, the Diamondbacks were the best defensive team in baseball, with a Team UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) of +55.8 Runs. UZR also had the D'Backs as an excellent defensive team in 2010, with a total of +56.5. Using Defensive Runs Saved, based on the +/- ratings from John Dewan, the Diamondbacks were the 7th best defensive team in baseball, at +33 Runs, compared to 14th in 2010 at +22. Based on the Total Zone defensive stats at Baseball Reference, the D'Backs finished 5th at +30 Runs, up from a 9th place ranking in 2010 at +23. So all three systems agree that the Diamondbacks were a good defensive team in 2011; it's just a question of whether they were the best, or simply very good. Let's take a closer look at the Diamondbacks' defense in 2011.
This is an area that the Diamondbacks clearly improved in 2011. The D'Backs only allowed 61 SB for the season, the lowest total in the NL. In addition, they caught 43 out of 104 attempted basestealers for a 41% rate, 6% higher than any other team in the NL. Both Henry Blanco and Miguel Montero were excellent in this area, with Blanco nabbing 46% while Montero caught 40%. The team had allowed 115 SB in 2010, with only a 24% Caught Stealing rate. The pitching staff also deserves some credit for this, as the Diamondbacks spent a lot of time in Spring Training working on pickoffs and holding baserunners.
The Diamondbacks also had only 39 Wild Pitches, good for 2nd in the league, and were charged with only 9 Passed Balls, ranking 7th. In 2010, the team was charged with 82 WPs and 15 PBs. Finally, Miguel Montero was also rated very highly in framing pitches. Overall, a very good defensive season for the Diamondbacks' catchers.
Coming into the 2011 season, the big question was how would the Diamondbacks' offense perform without slugging infielders Adam LaRoche and Mark Reynolds? They were expected to be replaced by Juan Miranda and Melvin Mora, which seemed like a certain downgrade from 2010. But the offensive results were much better than expected, partly due to strong seasons from Justin Upton and Miguel Montero as well as breakouts from Ryan Roberts and Gerardo Parra. Overall, the team ended up scoring 18 more runs in 2011 than in 2010, even though offense around the league was down significantly. How did this happen? It turns out that the answer is probably not because of better clutch hitting, fewer strikeouts, or more productive outs. The team scored more runs in 2011 because of better baserunning.
|2011||4.51 (4th)||.250||.322||.413||99 (4th)||731||172||133/44||531||1249|
|2010||4.40 (8th)||.250||.325||.416||94 (7th)||713||180||86/41||589||1529|
The Major League Baseball season is still in its final week, but several Fall and Winter Leagues have already begun. The Diamondbacks have 7 players in the Arizona Fall League, 5 in the Venezuelan Winter League, 5 in the Dominican Winter League, and 2 in the Mexican Winter League. Plus, they also have 1 player traveling to Taiwan for the MLB Exhibition Tour, and 1 playing for Team USA in the Pan Am Games. Let's see how they are doing so far.