ROTISSERIE: The BaseballHQ.com All-Skills Awards

Mike Trout looks like a lock for AL Rookie of the Year and could also garner some MVP votes. And he certainly deserves the accolades. But voters often disagree as to the proper criteria for the big season-ending awards. For example, many voters tend to give wins significant weight in Cy Young award voting, even though pitchers have much less control over wins and losses than they do over strikeouts and even ERA. And many writers discount great seasons on losing teams when voting for MVP.

At BaseballHQ.com, we preach focusing on skills over production. So we decided to recast the standard awards and award them based strictly on skills. In addition to having some fun, this recognizes players whose strong skills didn't necessarily translate into production during 2012. More importantly from a fantasy perspective, it will also get us to look at some players in new light as we now shift our focus towards the 2013 season. We would expect to uncover some hidden gems or potential 2013 breakouts.

For hitters, the criteria used were power (PX), contact (ct%), Speed (Spd), and expected on-base average (xOBA, derived from xBA and bb%). For pitchers, we used dominance (K/9), command (Cmd), and expected ERA (xERA), and added in relief effectiveness (REff%) for relievers. Qualifying players were scored using a Rotisserie-style ranking system, with dominance and expected ERA give extra weight since they contribute directly to standard 5x5 scoring.

We set the minimum playing time at 500 AB for hitters, 150 IP for starting pitchers, and 50 IP for relief pitchers. Silver Slugger awards were based on the position most played in 2012.

American League

MVP: Ben Zobrist (OF/SS, TAM) edged out phenom Mike Trout (OF, LAA) and triple-crown winner Miguel Cabrera (3B, DET) for the first all-skills MVP award. His 82% ct%, 129 PX, 102 Spd, and .391 xOBA make him a true four-category player. While Trout does possess better power (152 PX) and speed (145 Spd), his 75% ct% (which ranks 49th among qualified hitters) and .359 xOBA are well below Zobrist. And while Cabrera's 163 PX and 84% ct% are both excellent, his 69 Spd takes him out of the "overall" race. Trout and Cabrera put up some big numbers this year, but it is Zobrist's strong skills, with no weaknesses, that allow him to take home the top award.

Surprises among the top qualifiers: Michael Brantley (9) and Denard Span (10).

Rookie of the Year: Mike Trout (OF, LAA) is the easy winner, as he was the clear #2 MVP candidate.

Cy Young: Max Scherzer (RHP, DET) and C.C. Sabathia (LHP, NYY) tied for the honor. Scherzer's 11.1 Dom was tops among qualifying starters, almost a full strikeout a game higher than the next highest pitcher. This pushed him into a tie with Sabathia, who was first in Cmd and second in xERA. While Sabathia is a perennial elite starter, Scherzer's ascendancy to the elite was obscured by his ugly first-half surface stats, when he posted a 4.98 ERA. While his second half was much better (2.59 ERA), his skills between the two halves were very similar (135 BPV in 1H; 137 in 2H). Skills-wise, it was a truly elite season.

Surprises among the top qualifiers: Doug Fister (8) and Jake Peavy (10).

Fireman of the Year: Jake McGee (LHP, TAM). Yes, Jake McGee. His 6.6 Cmd ranked the best among qualifying relievers, as did his 2.38 xERA. His 11.9 Dom was also in the top ten. His 83% REff% was just average, but his other skills were more than enough to beat out the likes of Ernesto Frieri (RHP, LAA) and Joe Nathan (RHP, TEX). And lest you think he's just a LOOGY (left-handed one out guy), note that he faced more right-handed hitters than lefties this year (and fared better against them, too). This result, was a complete surprise, but the award was clearly well deserved.

Surprises among the top qualifiers (besides McGee): Wade Davis (7), Steve Delabar (9).

Silver Sluggers: Joe Mauer (C, MIN), Albert Pujols (1B, LAA), Dustin Pedroia (2B, BOS), Elvis Andrus (SS, TEX), Miguel Cabrera (3B, DET), Ben Zobrist (OF, TAM), Mike Trout (OF, LAA), Alex Rios (OF, TOR), and Edwin Encarnacion (DH, TOR).

Not a lot of surprises here. Josh Hamilton (OF, TEX) is third in AL 5x5 dollar value, but doesn't crack the top 20, skills-wise, due to a poor ct% and very little speed (we won't penalize him for dropping that fly ball). Most other players edged out (e.g., Prince Fielder, Derek Jeter, and Robinson Cano) were beaten out by other top players at their positions.

Surprises among the top qualifiers: Michael Brantley,  Denard Span, Austin Jackson, Ben Revere, Carlos Santana, and Josh Reddick.

National League

MVP: Andrew McCutchen (OF, PIT) beat out last year's real-world MVP, Ryan Braun (OF, MIL) by ranking 6th in Spd to Braun's 23rd, despite Braun's higher stolen base total. Braun has an edge, power-wise, and both players finished in the top five in xOBA. This is a real breakout year for McCutchen—he finished just behind Braun in terms of 5x5 dollar value, but since this is skills competition. McCutchen got the nod.

Surprises among the top qualifiers: Norichika Aoki (4), Aaron Hill (6), Martin Prado (7).

Rookie of the Year: Would there be a revolt if anyone other than Bryce Harper (OF, WAS) got the nod here? Technically, he was #2, as Norichika Aoki (OF, MIL) posted better overall skills. But in this space, at least, 30-year old veterans (albeit Japanese League) don't qualify. That leaves Harper all by himself as the clear winner. With strong PX and Spd, he's shown his promise, though his 77% ct% and .346 xOBA show he still has some things to work on.

Cy Young:  Stephen Strasburg (RHP, WAS) doesn't get penalized here for his shortened season, and was the clear winner. He absolutely dominated this season, leading all qualifiers in Dom (11.4) and xERA (2.90) and finishing fourth in Cmd (4.1). His 5x5 dollar value was held down because of his playing time situation, but from a skills perspective, Strasburg was head and shoulders above the rest.

Surprises among the top qualifiers: Jeff Samardzija (7), Adam Wainwright (8), and Lance Lynn (10).

Fireman of the Year: Craig Kimbrel (RHP, ATL) brought home a dual honor; he is the only player to win one of the major awards here who was also the most valuable player in terms of 5x5 dollar value. He ranked first in Dom (16.7), Cmd (8.3) and xERA (1.34) and second in REff% (92%). His 273 BPV was the highest in the past 10 years, to the point where we may have to start replacing Dennis Eckersley and talk about Vintage Kimbrel Territory. This was a dominant season on every level.

Surprises among the top qualifiers: Rafael Betancourt (7).

Silver Sluggers: Buster Posey (C, SF), Freddie Freeman (1B, ATL), Aaron Hill (2B, ARI), Jose Reyes (SS, NYM), Aramis Ramirez (3B, MIL), Andrew McCutchen (OF, PIT), Ryan Braun (OF, MIL), Norichika Aoki (OF, MIL).

Surprises here? Very few, as in the AL. Norichika Aoki beating out the likes of Matt Holliday (OF, STL) and Carlos Gonzalez (OF, COL) certainly qualifies, but Aoki's superior contact rate (89%) and Spd (122), combined with average power (92 PX) gave him the edge. It's a bit surprising to see Aramis Ramirez leading at third base, simply because his age and the new ballpark were supposed to hold him back. So much for that.

Surprises among the top qualifiers: Martin Prado, Ian Desmond, Yadier Molina, Dexter Fowler, and David DeJesus.

Conclusions

Would you pick these winners ahead of the "real" award winners in next year's draft? Perhaps not. But this exercise hopefully reinforces several key points. First, the top players in terms of dollar values did not necessarily display the best skills. Players like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper could see some regression next season, especially as both do not yet show elite levels of patience and contact.

Second, we've identified some players whose lower dollar values masked some pretty strong skills. If these players can hold on to those skill gains, they will be strong candidates to improve their production in 2013. It's never too early to start looking for hidden talent.

And no matter what else, thinking about a BaseballHQ writer typing out "Norichika Aoki" several times in one column is worth a chuckle or two.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.