14 October 2014

My BBA Votes: The Stan Musial Award

Cardinal • Photo Credit: Dakota L.Creative Commons 3.0

Every season, BBA writers vote for their choices in the Stan Musial Award, picking the best players of 2014 in each league regardless of position. This being a modern analytics blog, I relied primarily on the new stats in my voting. Metrics that I leaned on heavily for both pitchers and hitters include Win Probability Added (WPA), Leverage-adjusted WPA (WPA/LI), Run Expectancy (RE24), fWAR and RA9-WAR

I do like to consider rate stats. However, taking rate stats into account is difficult when comparing hitters to pitchers and vice versa. There's no real rate stat to which anyone gives equal weight when it comes to both pitching and offense. As with the Gossage and Johnson Awards, I considered runs allowed per nine innings (RA9), SIERA and FIP for pitchers. For batters I used run-expectancy-weighted On Base Percentage, or wOBA. I standardized each of these values (inverting the pitcher stats, since lower numbers are better), and compared their standard deviations from the mean to make a combined list of pitching and hitting rate leaders.

My picks are as follows:

American League #1: Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels)

Mike Trout, who should have been AL MVP the last two years and will probably win it this year, posted a wOBA of .402 (3rd, AL qualifiers). But where he really stands out is in win probability added. Trout's 6.88 WPA is over two wins better than the next best AL contender, Michael Brantley, and his 64.54 RE24 beats AL #2 Victor Martinez by 13 runs. In addition, his WPA /LI is second only to Jose Bautista's (5.38 to 5.55). According to fWAR, Mike Trout's 7.8 wins above replacement make him the most valuable player of the 2014 season. This choice was nearly as easy as my next one.

National League #1: Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers)

It's more common than we think that a pitcher is the best player in his league. This year, Clayton Kershaw removed all doubt. Vying for a place on the mantle of all-time great pitchers, the Dodgers ace posted league bests in RA9-WAR (7.9) and fWAR (7.2). His 5.47 WPA led the National League, whereas his 5.37 WPA/LI and 48.56 RE24 finished second only to Giancarlo Stanton. His domination of RA9, SIERA and FIP--finishing tops in all three MLB-wide--cement his place at the top of my NL ballot.

Runners Up: American League

#2: Jose Bautista (Toronto Blue Jays) and #3: Michael Brantley (Cleveland Indians)

As with the Walter Johnson award, choosing between #2 and #3 wasn't easy. Bautista and Brantley were neck-and-neck in wOBA, .402 to .389 and 4th and 5th among qualifying American Leaguers, respectively. In vanilla WPA, Brantley was second among American Leaguers, beating Bautista (8th) 4.56 to 3.67. However, when adjusting for high-leverage situations, Bautista's 5.55 WPA/LI beats all in the American League, while Brantley's 4.69 is 4th. Brantley barely edges Bautista in RE24, 46.47 (3rd in AL) to 43.05 (5th). Michael Brantley's third ranked fWAR is about a third of a win better than Bautista's sixth, 6.6 to 6.3. In the end, I went with Bautista, but I'd be satisfied with either in the #2 spot.

#4: Felix Hernandez (Seattle Mariners)

#5: Corey Kluber (Cleveland Indians)

#6: Chris Sale (Chicago White Sox)

#7: Jose Abreu (Chicago White Sox)

#8: Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers)

#9: Victor Martinez (Detroit Tigers)

#10: Josh Donaldson (Oakland Athletics)

Runners Up: National League

#2: Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates)

Andrew McCutchen is one of the most exciting athletes that Major League Baseball has produced in some time, and that athleticism contributes towards my decision to pick him second behind Clayton Kershaw for the 2014 NL Stan Musial Award. Cutch's .412 wOBA was the best among qualifiers throughout baseball, and his 6.8 fWAR was best among all NL hitters. His 4.90 WPA, 5.24 WPA/LI and 41.48 RE24 ranked second, second and third among NL everyday players, respectively.

#3: Giancarlo Stanton (Miami Marlins)

That guy that McCutchen finished behind in the win probability categories was Giancarlo Stanton. The Marlins slugger was tops among Senior Circuit batters in WPA (5.18), WPA/LI (5.42) and RE24 (50.08) for the 2014 campaign. His .403 wOBA and 6.1 fWAR were also among the best in the NL.

#4: Anthony Rizzo (Chicago Cubs)

#5: Johnny Cueto (Cincinnati Reds)

#6: Adam Wainwright (St. Louis Cardinals)

#7: Anthony Rendon (Washington Nationals)

#8: Jonathan Lucroy (Milwaukee Brewers)

#9: Buster Posey (San Francisco Giants)

#10: Jayson Werth (Washington Nationals)

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