Boston Red Sox

Voting for Trout as MVP was no philosophical choice

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Voting for Trout as MVP was no philosophical choice

What if they held an awards vote and, instead, a philosophical debate broke out?

That's how the American League Most Valuable Player balloting -- the results of which will be revealed Thursday night -- is being viewed in some circles.

It's not about the central question: Which A.L. Player was the most valuable to his team in the 2012 regular season? No, it's somehow devolved into something much more complicated. More than any award in recent baseball history, it's become generational and political.

To some, it's not about value at all, but rather, methodology. It's not about Miguel Cabrera vs. Mike Trout, the two favorites. It's about evaluation, analytics, historical precedent and other variables.

But not to me.

As a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America's Boston chapter, I get to vote, on a rotating bases, on one of the four BBWAA-sponsored awards each season -- Rookie of the Year, Cy Young Award, Manager of the Year and MVP.

Sometimes, the voting is clear-cut and obvious, like this year's Rookie of the Year balloting which, predictably, Trout won unanimously. Sometimes, it's an incredibly close vote with two great candidates, as was the case in both the manager (where Bob Melvin edged the equally-deserving Buck Showalter) and Cy Young (where David Price narrowly defeated a worthy Justin Verlander) balloting.

The MVP race, on the other hand, has become something else. This isn't about two qualified candidates. It's become a watershed moment, a What-Side-Are-You-On? debate.

Generally speaking, those who support Cabrera cite the more traditional statistics -- batting average, home runs and RBI, all categories in which Cabrera led the league, resulting in the A.L.'s first Triple Crown winner since 1967 -- and the more advanced metrics, such as WAR, or wins over replacement.

It's boiled down to this: Are you old-school or new-school? Are you traditional (or a dinosour)? Are you cutting edge (or a stat-driven geek?).

All of which, frankly, seems pretty silly to me.

After great deliberation, I voted for Trout first and Cabrera second. But I didn't do it to make a statement. I didn't do it to further the cause of advanced metrics. I didn't do it to change people's minds about how we evaluate players.

I did it -- get this -- because I thought Trout was . . . the most valuable player to his team.

I neither ignored Cabrera's Triple Crown achievment, nor overdosed on Trout's advanced metrics. They were both part of the evaluation process.

I believe there's some nuance to all of this, and that seems to have gotten lost in the increasingly contentious debate. While Cabrera's Triple Crown is a significant achievement, it doesn't, by itself, guarantee an MVP. Four times in history, a Triple Crown winner has failed to win the MVP, so if Cabrera loses -- and for the record, I don't think he will -- it won't be some historical rejection of traditional statistics. It's been done before.

At the same time, we now view more traditional baseball statistics differently, and to suggest otherwise is foolhardy. Let's face it: Batting average is no longer regarded as the primary indicator of a hitter's skills, thanks to our understanding of the importance of on-base percentage and other meaningful measures of a player's offensive performance.

Don't think so? Quick, name the batting champions in both leagues in 2011. In the past, identifying the batting champ of a season ago would been an easy task for most serious baseball fans. Today, I doubt many could quickly come up with the answers. (For the record, they were Cabrera in the A.L. and Jose Reyes in the N.L.)

Now that we have begun to appreciate offensive performance using different measurements, is it not backward to reward what we know now is less important?

Which isn't to suggest that Cabrera's season wasn't a great one. Of course it was; he had a terrific year. But it was also largely one-dimensional.

And that's where Trout comes in.

As good as Cabrera's offensive numbers were -- by any measurement, new-school or old -- the other components of his game were far less impressive. He's a fringe defensive third baseman, and a decidedly below-average baserunner.

Contrast that with Trout, who was probably the game's best outfielder as well as a terrific baserunner (an astounding 49-for-54 in stolen bases, with a league-leading 129 runs scored).

If we've learned anything about measuring performance on the field in the last two decades or so, it's this: Baseball is far more than hits and homers and runs knocked in. It's also about preventing runs (in the field) and scoring them, or the very least, getting closer to scoring them (on the bases).

Trout did far, far more of both of these things than did Cabrera. That makes him, in my mind, a far more complete player, and thus, more valuable.

You may have noticed that I haven't yet mentioned WAR (wins above replacement), so often cited by many of Trout's backers and so derided by those who support Cabrera. For the uninitiated, WAR seeks to quantify how many more games a player helps his team win over the equivalent of a minor-league player.

In 2012, Trout's WAR was 10.7, compared to Cabrera's 6.9.

I incorporated that into my decision-making -- it would be foolish to ignore it -- but it was far from the determining factor. Instead, it was a useful measurement that, along with other factors, I utilized. For instance: It was impossible to ignore the fact that the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim took off when Trout was promoted from Triple A. Trout was the 'X' factor in their season. Without him, they struggles; with him, they became contenders.

I'm not taking a stand here. Nor am I representing some faction, or spearheading a movement.

Instead, I took as many variables -- statistical and otherwise -- into account to determine who was, truly, the most valuable player to his team and came down on the side of Trout.

Now, was that so hard?

Drellich: Pomeranz, league's second-best lefty, knows how to be even better

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Drellich: Pomeranz, league's second-best lefty, knows how to be even better

BOSTON — Drew Pomeranz may not actually be the No. 2 starter for the Red Sox in this year’s presumed American League Division Series. Maybe the Sox will mix in a right-hander between Pomeranz and Chris Sale.

Still, everyone knows which pitcher, in spirit, has been the second-most reliable for the Red Sox. A day after Chris Sale notched his 300th strikeout and on the final off-day of the regular season, it’s worth considering the importance of the other excellent lefty on the Sox, and how much he’s meant to a team that’s needed surprise performances because of the lineup’s drop-off.

Per FanGraphs’ wins above replacement, Pomeranz is the second-most valuable lefthanded starter among those qualified in the American League (you know who's No. 1). He's one of the 10 best starters in the AL overall.

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Pomeranz, 28, was a first-round pick seven years ago. But he didn’t exactly blossom until the last two years. He has a 3.15 ERA in 165 2/3 innings. His next start, if decent, should give him a career-high in innings after he threw 170 2/3 last year.

Pomeranz is a 16-game winner, just one win behind Sale. The value of wins and losses is known to be nil, but there’s still a picture of reliability that can be gleaned.

Is this the year Pomeranz became the pitcher he always envisioned he would be?

“I don’t know, I mean, I had a pretty dang good year last year,” Pomeranz said, referring to a 3.32 ERA between the Padres and Sox, and an All-Star selection. “I think these last two years have been kind of you know, more what I wanted to be like. But I still, I don’t think I’m done yet, you know what I mean?”

Most pro athletes say there’s always room to improve. Pomeranz, however, was able to specify what he wants. The focus is on his third and fourth pitches: his cutter and his change-up. 

“My changeup’s been really good this year,” Pomeranz said. “That’s something that still can go a lot further. And same with my cutter too. I still use it sparingly. I don’t think me just being a six-inning guy is the end of it for me either.

“You set personal goals. You want to throw more innings, cover more innings so the bullpen doesn’t have to cover those. Helps save them for right now during the year.”

Early in the year, Pomeranz wasn’t using his cutter much. He threw just nine in April, per BrooksBaseball.net. That led to talk that he wasn’t throwing the pitch to take it easy on his arm. He did start the year on the disabled list, after all, and cutters and sliders can be more stressful on the elbow and forearm.

That wasn’t the case.

“The reason I didn’t throw it in the beginning of the year was because half the times I threw it went the other way,” Pomeranz said. “It backed up. Instead of cutting, it was like sinking or running back. I mean, I pitched [in Baltimore] and gave up a home run to [Manny] Machado, we were trying to throw one in and it went back. So I didn’t trust it.

“Mechanical thing. I was still trying to clean my mechanics up, and once I cleaned ‘em up and got my arm slot right, then everything started moving the way it was supposed to and then I started throwing it more.”

Pomeranz’s cutter usage, and how he developed the pitch heading into 2016, has been well documented.

The change-up is more of an X-factor. He threw five in each of his last two starts, per Brooks, and it’s a pitch he wants to use more.

“It’s been good,” Pomeranz said. “I think I could throw it a lot more and a lot more effectively, and ... tweaking of pitch selection probably could help me get into some of those later innings too.”

Well, then why not just throw the change more often? Easier said than done when you’re talking about your fourth pitch in a key moment.

“I throw a few a game,” Pomeranz said. “Sometimes you feel like you don’t want too throw it in situations where you get beat with your third or fourth best pitch. I mean it’s felt — every time I’ve thrown it it’s been consistent. It’s just a matter of, it’s something me and Vazqy [Christian Vazquez] talk about, too." 

(When you hear these kind of issues, which most pitchers deal with, it makes you appreciate Sale’s ability to throw any pitch at any time even more.)

Speaking on Wednesday, the day after Pomeranz’s most recent outing, Sox pitching coach Carl Willis said he thinks the change-up’s already starting to have a greater presence.

“He’s kind of always had a changeup, and he hadn’t had any trust or conviction in that pitch,” Willis said. “I was really excited last night that he used the changeup more. He threw it. He doubled up with it on occasion. Something that’s not in the scouting report.

"It’s his fourth pitch and he seldom threw it in a game and he’s in a situation where, OK, the change-up’s the right pitch, but location of whatever I throw is going to outweigh [selection]. Now he’s starting to gain that confidence [that he can locate it]. 

“I think that’s going to make him an extremely better pitcher. I thought it was a huge factor in his outing last night. Because he didn’t have his best velocity. He really did a good job of changing speeds with the changeup, and obviously with the curveball and being able to give different shapes of the pitches.”

The Sox already have the best left-hander in the AL, if not anywhere. The AL's second-best southpaw happens to pitch on the same team, and has tangible plans to be even better.

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Werner criticizes Price for Eck incident; says Sox' relationship with Yanks is 'frosty'

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Werner criticizes Price for Eck incident; says Sox' relationship with Yanks is 'frosty'

BOSTON — Red Sox chairman Tom Werner doesn’t seem to be the biggest fan of the the Yankees, MLB disciplinarian Joe Torre, and players who can’t take criticism from broadcasters.

In a spot Thursday with WEEI, Werner made clear David Price’s handling of Dennis Eckersley was unprofessional.

“Boston is a tough place to play,” Werner said on WEEI’s Ordway, Merlonia and Fauria. “Some players thrive here, and some players don’t. Get a thicker skin. My feeling is, let the broadcasts be honest, be personable, informative, and get over it if you think a certain announcer took a shot at you.”

“I thought there was a way of handling that. It wasn’t handled appropriately. If I’ve got a problem with Lou [Merloni], and I hear something he says on the radio, I’ll say to Lou, ‘That wasn’t fair.’ ”

Werner also called the team’s relationship with the Yankees “frosty” following the public sign-stealing saga that resulted in fines for both clubs.

“The fact is, I do think this was a minor technical violation,” Werner said. “I start with the fact that this was unfortunately raised to a level it never should have been raised to.”

Werner also insinuated he did not approve of how MLB and Torre handled the disciplining of Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, who receieved a four-game suspension for his part in a fight against the Tigers (reduced on appeal to three games).

“Do you think Gary Sanchez got an appropriate punishment?” Werner asked.