Each year, not matter how dreadful it is, a player and pitcher of the year is named by the Kansas City Royals. While it’s far from a scientific process, I thought it would be fun to try to project who will win that award in 2012. Now I want to be clear, this is not who should win the award. As is the case with most things the Royals do, what should happen and what will happen are not necessarily the same. Nonetheless, here are the contestants.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Alex Gordon- If this were a scientific process, Gordon would be the winner as he leads the team in WAR at 4.8. In fact, in terms of value, no one on the team is within 29% of his 4.8 WAR. After a terribly slow start to the season, Gordon now leads the majors with 47 doubles and has put together yet another spectacular defensive season. He’s quietly (at least outside of Kansas City) turned into one of the best defensive corner outfielders in the American League. Gordon also leads the team in walks and runs while placing second in hits, OBP, and triples. The negative, if there is one for Gordon, is that advanced metrics agree with the eye test that Gordon is not very clutch. In terms of advanced metrics, he is the least clutch player on the team with a clutch rating of -1.5. Furthermore, is WPA (Win Probability Added) is actually -0.5 for the season.
Billy Butler- If this was simple the award for offensive player of the year, you’d have to give it to Butler. Butler leads the club in all three Triple Crown categories plus OBP and Slugging %. Butler’s 137 OPS+ is easily the best on the team and it really isn’t close. He’s most likely going to finish with .300/30/100 for the first time in Kansas City since Jermaine Dye in 2000. Unfortunately, this is a player of the year award and that includes defense, which would be the down side for Butler and why is WAR ranks Butler as the 4th best player on the team. The only real question with Butler is whether is offensive statistics are impressive enough to override his lack of contribution in the field. That may very well be determined by his production in the last 17 games of the season.
Alcides Escobar- If we’d gotten the type of defense we expected from Escobar this season he may just be a runaway winner. Unfortunately, he has 17 errors and seems to have regressed just a little bit in the field. Of course that may be because he’s been so focused on what has been an outstanding year at the plate. Escobar leads in the team with seven triples and 29 stolen bases, is second in batting average, and surprisingly third in OBP. WAR rates Escobar as the Royals second best player, partially because he does still add something with his glove, but mostly because there just aren’t very many shortstops that can hit like him. He has a very good chance to finish the season with a .300 average, 30 stolen bases and 40 extra base hits. No one has done that in Kansas City since Carlos Beltran in 2003.
And the winner is…
I think it ends up being Gordon if only because Dayton Moore loves to feel like he’s smart and it would make him feel like a genius to have gotten Gordon’s contract done. Butler could probably only win the award by breaking Balboni’s record which would take ten home runs over the next 17 games…not happening.
PITCHER OF THE YEAR
Kelvin Herrera- Should middle relievers really be considered? Well, WAR thinks Herrera is the best pitcher on the club, so I’d say so. In 69 appearances, Herrera has a 2.43 ERA. Depending on which site you read, he may be the (consistently) hardest thrower in all of baseball. I don’t believe the Royals have the ability to recognize a pitcher with only 4 wins and 1 save, but Herrera should win the award regardless.
Greg Holland- Holland was arguably the best closer in baseball in August, and though he’s struggled a bit down the stretch he still sports a 2.98 ERA with 13 saves in 60 appearances. Holland’s most impressive stat? He’s struck out 84 batters in just 60 innings. He probably needs a couple more saves, and no more blow ups, to win the award. One thing that may help are his six wins, at least in the Royals eyes.
Jeremy Guthrie- Do I say this tongue-in-cheek? Kind of. Guthrie has been outstanding since the Royals acquired him for Jonathan Sanchez. The club is one game over .500 since they traded for him on July 20 and they’re 7-3 in games Guthrie has started including three games in which they only scored 2 runs. Guthrie would probably need to win his last three starts and lower his ERA below 3 (currently at 3.23) to have a real shot, but it plays right into the Dayton Moore making himself look smart angle.
And the winner is…
I believe in Greg Holland so I’m going to assume he finishes the year strong and wins the award with 18+ saves and a sub-3 ERA. He may not be the most deserving pitcher but he’ll have the statistics to make the club feel better about selecting him.