Friday Rockpile: Rockies mid-season awards

Doug Pensinger

It may seem silly to hand out MVP's and Cy Young's to players on a squad four games under .500. It is. Let's do it anyway.

The "second half" of the 2013 baseball season starts today, and the Colorado Rockies are in contention. It's been a bumpy, windy, often frustrating road so far, but as of the first game after the All Star break, the Rockies are only 4.5 games back. Granted, the NL West as a whole has been terrible; nevertheless, the Rockies will be playing meaningful games in the immediate future, which is as much as we could have hoped for at the start of the season.

Before the second half starts in earnest, how did the Rockies get to this juncture? Who has been the team MVP? Who has been the best pitcher, Rookie of the Year, Gold Glover, etc.? Is it borderline nonsensical to hand out awards to players on an under .500 team halfway through the year? Yup. Are we gonna do it anyway? You bet.

TEAM MVP

The quick, dirty, lazy, and in this case, accurate way to assess the winner of this award is to check out the Fangraphs WAR leader board for the Rockies. Carlos Gonzalez leads the way with 4.5 Wins Above Replacement, a full win better than second place Troy Tulowitzki.

They say that half of life is simply showing up, and CarGo is the Rockie who has really shown up this year. He has played in 91 of 96 games (the next closest is Wilin Rosario at 78 games) and he has the most plate appearances at 395 (next closest is Dexter Fowler at 322). The value of a guy who can play every day is enormous, especially when that guy is producing at the level of Gonzalez.

CarGo has put together perhaps his most complete season yet. Everyone points to his mammoth 2010 (.336/.376/.598) as his peak year, but 2013 is shaping up to be better. His average is down slightly, but he has a better walk rate and more power, as evidenced by his league-leading 25 homers. It breaks down to a .302/.370/.610 slash line at the moment, good for a 153 wRC+ (compared to 144 in 2010).

Gonzalez hasn't just brought hitting to the table, as we all know. He's having the best fielding and baserunning year of his career as well. Defensive metrics have long been ambivalent on his talents, despite what the eyes have convinced fans and Gold Glove voters: that CarGo is one of the best left fielders in the game. Well, this year the numbers love him too, as UZR grades him as being well above average at +5.2 runs.

Sprinkle in the fact that Cargo is 16 out of 17 on stolen base attempts, and there isn't any aspect of the game in which he does not provide value (except pitching, I guess, but if he had to, I bet he could bring some serious heat from the left side). If Troy Tulowitzki remained healthy he might have challenged Cargo for the midseason MVP, but since he missed all those games, the award goes to the left fielder, running away.

TEAM CY YOUNG

This race is quite a bit closer. The difference between Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge de la Rosa is pretty much a toss-up. They've thrown about the same amount of innings, with Chacin at 113 and de la Rosa at 109.1. De la Rosa has a lower ERA than Chacin (3.21 and 3.50 respectively). Chacin has an edge on DLR in FIP (3.18 to 3.52). Chacin's Fangraphs WAR is 2.8 to DLR's 2.3; his Baseball Reference WAR is 4.1 to DLR's 3.9. So yeah; a toss-up.

Since I'm the supreme arbiter of mid-season awards, I'll just make a snap judgment and give the Cy Young to Jhoulys Chacin. He's thrown more innings despite starting one fewer game. That means he's been going deeper into his games, sparing a bullpen that's been brutally overworked.

Chacin and de la Rosa have been basically the same guy, but Chacin's edge in efficiency nets him the award.

TEAM ROOKIE of the YEAR

Considering only two rookies have even cracked the roster this year, this award isn't hard to judge. Nolan Arenado has been the only rookie to receive full-time work since he was added to the roster in late April, and he's been pretty productive, all things considered.

He hasn't hit as well as he's capable, managing only a .244/.283/.395 line, which grades out to a 71 wRC+. Then again, he hit that walk-off home run against the Padres, and that was pretty sweet.

The real value the Sharknado (timely reference!) has brought is on defense. He's been a veritable vacuum cleaner at third base, displaying great range to both sides, a cannon for an arm, and a fantastic ability to charge on slow rollers. At this juncture he's accrued +12 fielding runs, which is absurd in just half a season. These unreal fielding numbers have led to him compiling 1.3 WAR.

This segues nicely into...

TEAM DEFENDER of the YEAR

No one on the Rockies' squad has saved even half the number of runs that Arenado has, according to Fangraphs; Gonzalez is the next closest at +5.2. Per Fangraphs, Arenado has been the seventh most valuable defensive player in the entire game, despite missing a month's worth of games. The only third baseman ahead of him is Manny Machado, who is on a different planet.

The kid sure can pick it.

So those are the mid-season performance awards. This could be broken down even further; the best game, the best individual play, the best facial hair, the Least Valuable Player (lots of nominees there), etc. Luckily, there's more baseball tonight, so these silly diversions can be left in the dustbin where they belong.

OFF-TOPIC

LINKS

Patrick Saunders writes in the Denver Post that the Rockies are still deadly serious about contending this year. This 10 game home stand against sub-.500 teams that starts today is where the winning has to begin. Going 7 and 3 or 8 and 2 would catapult the Rockies right back into the division race.

Rockies co-owner and certified not-GM Dick Monfort told Patrick Saunders unequivocally that the Rockies will not trade Michael Cuddyer. It seems premature to make that declaration; if the Rockies stumble out of the gate, Cuddyer could be the most valuable non-core trade chip the Rockies possess, and this would certainly be a "sell high" situation with the aging right fielder.

The above link also details the order of the rotation after the break. It will go: 1: Jorge de la Rosa, 2: Juan Nicasio, 3: Tyler Chatwood, 4: Drew Pomeranz, and 5. Jhoulys Chacin.

Dave Cameron's annual trade value series continues today with spots 15 through 11. A Rockie resides at number 12.

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