To wrap up the first annual RotoRob Awards, we present you with the 2006 RotoRob Baseball Winners.
Fantasy Stud of the Year
Johan Santana is the straw that stirs the Minnesota pitching staff, and his 2006 performance earned him a second Cy Young in three years. Are there more dominant offensive players? Possibly. But Santana’s edge over the rest of the pitching field prompted us to give him the nod for fantasy purposes. The AL Pitching Triple Crown, a WHIP of 1.00 and just missing out on his second 250 K season clinched it for Santana.
Dud of the Year
We can no longer make excuses for Brian Giles. It’s got nothing to do with Petco Park ‘ he is simply not a good fantasy outfielder anymore. Yes, he’s a great contact hitter, but without the power and average, who really cares? Sure, he still draws a boatload of walks (although even that is slipping), but he doesn’t steal double digit bases anymore. Why the Padres continue to think he’s a number three hitter is completely beyond me. He’d be much better as a two-hole or even leadoff hitter. But wherever he hits, he is so far removed from the slugger who managed at least 35 homers, 95 RBI and .298 for four straight seasons ending in 2002. Don’t ever bid on that player again.
Rookie of the Year
Hmmm’.strong hitting shortstop with great speed and top of the order skills? Sounds exactly like what was missing in Boston this season. Hanley Ramirez truly showed far more advanced hitting skills than I expected to see this early and with great basestealing skills and some pretty nice pop from a rookie shortstop thrown in, he’s a slam dunk for the RotoRob Rookie of the Year honour.
Comeback Player of the Year
When the Mets dished out $119 million for seven years worth of Carlos Beltran’s time, they were expected more than the 16 homers he managed in 2005. A .330 OBP and .414 SLG? Uh, yeah. That wasn’t going to cut it. Well, Beltran still struggles in front of the hometown fans, but man did he ever bounce back last season. He wound up second in the NL in runs, slugged .594 (fourth in NL), smashed a career-high 41 homers (fifth) and finished fifth in OPS. Top 10 numbers in RBI and walks rounded out Beltran’s MVP-type season and earned him the nod for the RotoRob Comeback Player of the Year for 2006. Honourable mention: Corey Patterson.
‘I Wouldn’t Want to be the EMS Dude Who Treated You After Your Accident’ Award
In an article that included tips on how athletes travel light on road trips, Tigers’ closer Todd Jones revealed that the only underwear he brings with him, is the pair he puts on that morning ‘ regardless of the length of the trip. Fantastic advice, Todd. It certainly helps shed some light, however, on where he developed that filthy slider.
Clubhouse Cleaning Crew of the Year
This summer the Jays were hit with not one but two cases of staph infections as Alex Rios and Ty Taubenheim were both sidelined by the ailment, caused by bacteria entering an open wound. Despite the fact that these players’ lockers were on opposite ends of the clubhouse, they contracted the infections within a couple of weeks of one another, causing the club to call in health inspectors to sweep the area for any traces of the bacteria.
The Jays win the baseball staph infection race, but they’ve got nothing on the Cleveland Browns, a club that’s training facility is also under scrutiny for contamination. In the last three years, five Browns have come down with staph infections.
Hello, have you thought of hiring this dude?
Fantasy Pick of the Year
Gary Matthews Jr.’s big season was a huge shock, eh? Maybe not. Here’s what I wrote in November 2005 when I wrote him up as one of my ‘Picks’ for the Fantasy Baseball Guide 2006:
Smoked 31 extra base hits after the All-Star break with excellent strike zone judgment (37 BB/55 K) and some speed (seven steals). A serious breakthrough year is coming this season.
RotoRob nailed that puppy (but rest assured that no animals were harmed during this process).
Most Inspirational Manager
John Gibbons, Toronto Blue Jays. Gibbons deserves special recognition for inspiring his players to violence and mutiny. First he responded to Shea Hillenbrand’s negative blackboard messages by challenging him to a fight. After hearing what Hillebrand had done (writing ‘this is a sinking ship’ on the clubhouse blackboard) and knowing Hillenbrand’s sketchy history (he called Red Sox GM Theo Epstein a ‘faggot’ on his way out the door in Boston), I immediately sided with Gibbons on this one. Besides, Gibbons looks like someone you don’t want to screw around with. But just a couple of weeks later when Gibbons got in another confrontation with one of his own players (when Ted Lilly showed him up on the mound while Gibbons was trying to yank him and the two allegedly came to blows in the hallway a few minutes later), it became clear that Gibbons was the problem. Scraps with two of your players in a span of a couple of weeks? Sounds like a RotoRob Award winner to us.
The Mouth of Madness Award
Speaking of motivational managers, we’ve got to give some props to Ozzie Guillen. The litany of spewings that have emanated from his mouth in the past year are impressive to say the least. In 2005, when Guillen led the Chisox to the World Series, his over the top comments seemed to slide somewhat, but in this past season, he got front and centre attention for all the wrong reasons. Guillen’s greatest hits from 2006:
- ‘Alex was kissing Latino people’s asses,’ Guillen said of Alex Rodriguez, when A-Rod waffled back and forth about whether to play for the Dominican Republic or the U.S. in the WBC.
- Guillen supposedly sent reliever David Riske out to hit Chris Duncan, later claiming he didn’t know that Chris was Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan’s son.
- In Delmon Young’s first ML plate appearance, he was cluned by Freddy Garcia of the White Sox.
- Guillen sent reliever Sean Tracey down to Triple-A for refusing to hit Hank Blalock with a pitch.
- Of course, that move led to Chicago Sun-Times’ columnist Jay Mariotti describing Guillen as ‘senseless and immature.’ Guillen’s reaction? The now infamous rant that including calling Mariotti ‘a piece of shit, a fucking fag.’ Nice touch, Ozzie. That led to some MLB-ordered sensitivity training, which, hopefully came with a money back guarantee for baseball because it hasn’t seemed to work very well.
Clubhouse Cancer Award
Shea Hillenbrand takes the cake here. Anyone who writes that the ‘ship is sinking’ on a blackboard in the clubhouse has got some issues. Now that he’ll be toiling in Disneyville, perhaps Hillenbrand should be fitted with a pair of these.
Not only will they prohibit him from writing anything, but he might even be a better fielder with them (I mean, any improvement defensively shouldn’t be difficult to achieve).
Not Bad For a Coach’s Kid
Chris Duncan is apparently not just a Cardinal because his daddy is the team’s pitching coach. He methodically moved up the ladder in the minor leagues, hitting .261, with a .340 OBP and .409 SLG in 685 minor league games ‘ certainly nothing to induce wet dreams from prospect hunters. Yet in 90 games and 280 at-bats in his rookie season, Duncan scored 60 runs, hits 22 dingers, and put up the following percentages: .293/.363/.589. Raise your hand if you saw that line coming.
The award for the deal a GM would most like to reverse goes to Theo Epstein for dealing Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Jesus Delgado and Harvey Garcia for Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell and Guillermo Mota. It’s not that Beckett absolutely sucked ‘ he did, after all, win a career-best 16 games. But here’s a pitcher who had never had an ERA higher than 4.10 and who had never given up more than 16 homers, yet he wound up with a 5.01 ERA and a ridiculous 36 homers allowed. Lowell, who was a salary dump forced on the Sox, was actually better than expected, easing the hit of the deal somewhat.
But Sanchez developed into one of the brightest young pitchers in the NL and Ramirez provided the Marlins with exactly what Boston lacked: a shortstop who could actually hit and a bona fide offensive spark at the top of the order.
Organizational Consistency Award
I recently received an e-mail taking me to task for daring to make fun of the Pirates. Well, the numbers don’t lie and 14 straight losing seasons represents the longest streak in American sports history. But, c’mon…let’s give the Buccos kudos. They never fail to disappoint, and that’s got to count for something.
Not to be outdone in the realm of organizational ineptitude, the Brewers went back into the sub-.500 tank after a winning 81 games in 2005. Their idea to deflect attention away from another losing season? Mixing things up with the world famous sausage race by adding Chorizo to the mix. What is this, a barbeque that needs spicing up or a baseball team that needs shaking up? I mean, c’mon, I love chirozo as much as the next guy, but you can only dazzle me so long before I remember that my team sucks.
Pitching Performance of the Year
After two years of near misses including one just two days earlier when Ramon Ortiz barely missed, baseball’s record two-plus year no-hitter drought ended when Anibal Sanchez finally broke through on September 6. A 22-year-old in just his 13th big-league start? Yeah, I’m sure that’s exactly how we all envisioned the next no-no.
Don’t Know When It’s Time to Retire Award
Shouldn’t Craig Biggio have taken a cue from long-time teammate Jeff Bagwell and called it a day? Is reaching 3,000 hits important enough to risk embarrassing yourself even worse than Biggio did in 2006 (.246, .306 OBP)? Have you seen the movie Mr. 3000, Craig? Is that what you want to be?
Stickin’ It to the Ex
How bad do you think the White Sox wished that they didn’t have to face Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordonez last year? Talking about returning to haunt your ex-team. Ordonez mashed four homers and slugged .514 against the Sox, but that was nothing compared to the Big Hurt that Thomas laid on Chicago. In 19 at-bats, he homered four times, drove in nine runs and drew five walks. He beat up the Sox to the tune of .368 with a .500 OBP and ‘ get this ‘ a 1553 OPS! For the Sox, it must have been akin to running into your ex-wife at the grocery store, finding a woman that was 180 pounds the day the divorce went through who had transformed herself into a serious hottie with a bod that your 19-year-old secretary would kill for. Now that’s a Big Hurt.
Mr. Clutch Award
Clutch hitting is certainly a misnomer, as many suggest there is actually no such thing, given statistically anomalies that will balance themselves out over time. Yet, baseball ‘ the ultimate statistician’s dream sport ‘ tracks what is known as ‘Close and Late’ situations. These are defined as: seventh inning or later with the batting team either ahead by one run, tied or with the potential tying run at least on deck.
So who were the best Close and Late hitters in the bigs in 2006? For the RotoRob 2006 Mr. Clutch Award, we looked only at players who had accumulated a minimum of 50 official close and late at-bats.
And the winner is’Indians’ DH Travis Hafner, who surely would have gotten more play as an MVP candidate had his season not ended early with an injury.
Although Pronk only had 56 close and late at-bats, he slugged five homers and drove in 10 runs, batting .411, slugging .821 and recording a simply silly 1343 OPS. There’s an MVP Award in this guy’s career real soon.
As a bonus, we list the other 27 players who recorded an OPS of at least 950 with a minimum of 50 close and late at-bats:
Albert Pujols ‘ the man many argue is truly the best player in baseball, Pujols had a ridiculous 10 homers for 26 RBI in close and late situations, batting .319 with a 1248 OPS.
David Ortiz ‘ Captain Clutch himself, Big Papi hit an unbelievable 11 homers in 86 close and late at-bats in 2006, driving in 29 runs, with a .314 BA, .756 SLG and 1199 OPS.
Wes Helms ‘ Here’s the first big surprise player on the list, but Helms managed to drive in 11 runs in 55 at-bats, batting a robust .400 with a .450 OBP and .691 SLG. That’s an 1141 OPS for those scoring at home, good enough that Helms was one player you didn’t want to face last year with the game on the line.
Gary Matthews Jr. ‘ As part of his career year at age 32 that landed him an eyebrow-raising five-year, $50-million deal from the Halos, Matthews came through in the clutch to the tune of 16 RBI, with a .480 OBP and .639 SLG for an 1118 OPS.
Here’s the rest of our list with their OPS numbers in close and late situations: Geoff Jenkins salvaging a horrible year (1116); Johnny Damon delivering in his first season with the Yanks (1078); Michael Cuddyer enjoying a long-awaited breakout (1074); Carlos Lee helping pave the way for a huge contract (1050); Ryan Howard en route to his first MVP award (1049); Andruw Jones enjoying another huge season (1024); Mike Piazza is no longer a feared slugger, but is still money in the clutch (1022); Miguel Cabrera continuing his development as one of the game’s best (1020); Adam LaRoche was among the NL’s most feared players in the second half (1002); Craig Monroe continues to fly under the radar as a power hitter (1002); Frank Catalanotto scares no one, but is one tough out (998); Adrian Beltre is still trying to rediscover his 2004 magic (997); Ray Durham had a career year (990); David Wright can do it all (983); Jeff Francoeur has a knack for late-game RBI (977); Jason Giambi made a nice comeback this season (977); Vernon Wells parlayed big season into bigger contract (975); Willie Bloomquist sticks out on this list like a sore thumb (972); Jimmy Rollins has developed pop to go along with that speed (971); Ken Griffey Jr. can still deliver when it counts and when he’s healthy (970); Aaron Rowand does everything hard and it takes it toll (969); Marcus Giles can’t hit leadoff, but is a fantastic two-hole hitter (962); and, Nick Johnson had a great breakout season before breaking his leg (956).
Best Heater of the Year
Who has the best heater? Joel Zumaya? Justin Verlander? Maybe B.J. Ryan?
How about Derek Lowe? Huh? Isn’t Lowe a sinkerball pitcher? Well, yes, but he has the best heater story of the year.
In late September it can get quite chilly at night in Denver ‘ cold enough for players to need to keep warm between innings. On September 27, Lowe was getting set to take his hacks, standing in the corner of the dugout ready to head out to the on-deck circle. So into the game was Lowe that he didn’t notice that his leg was heating up and his pants were smoking, having actually caught fire thanks to the space heater at his feet.
Matt Kemp alerted him: ‘Dude, you’re on fire,’ he said to Lowe. Lowe, pitching a solid game, assumed he was being paid a compliment on how well he was performing.
So Kemp tried a more direct approach: ‘Literally,’ he said to Lowe.
Lowe looked down and saw that he was on fire. He jumped away from the heater, but the flames had actually burned through his socks and pants.
He managed to quickly run and change his pants, and finished the rest of his outing for career win number 100. I wonder if his teammates presented him with the game space heater after that milestone win.
Fire-retardant baseball pants, anyone?
Dr. Nick Award
When the Mets went to the NLCS against St. Louis, tickets were hard to come by in New York. Really hard to come by.
Dr. Emil Chynn decided to take a different approach to try to get seats. He offered LASIK eye surgery or a Botox procedure in exchange for playoff tickets.
This could usher in a whole new way to valuate tickets. For instance, Red Sox tickets might be worth a heart transplant. Devil Rays’ tickets? Sorry, that’s only worth a colostomy.
Damn, the dude wasn’t even active last year, but Sammy Sosa managed to make a stink when he wasn’t included on the ballot of five players for the Cubs portion of MLB’s Hometown Heroes promotion. He said his feelings were hurt after being omitted. Don’t they have ‘supplements’ to help with that kind of thing, Sammy?
Horseshoe up the Butt Award
Can someone please explain to me how Jason Marquis won 14 games despite giving up 221 hits and 74 walks in 194 1/3 innings? It’s certainly not his domination (96 Ks). Run support? Nope. The Cards only scored 5.05 runs per nine when Marquis pitched compared to his ERA of over 6.00. Yet he won 14 games! Sure, he also lost 16, but really, Marquis had no business winning more games than all but 29 pitchers in baseball. Honourable mention goes to Steve Trachsel who won 15 times despite an ERA a tick under 5.00 and almost as many walks as strikeouts.
Husband of the Year
Julio Lugo’s got nothing on Brett Myers anymore. Myers, a former amateur boxer who stands 6’4′ and clocks in at 240, allegedly smacked his wife Kim around on the streets of Boston, right in broad daylight. He bags Husband of the Year honours because Kim decided not to testify against him, thereby eliminating most of the evidence and resulting in the charges being dropped against Myers. Can’t you just see Kim giving Brett a “Best Husband in the World” mug on his birthday last year?
2006 RotoRob Awards