November 21, 2015 [LINK / comment]
Unanimous: Bryce Harper is the NL MVP!
By a unanimous vote (30), Bryce Harper was selected by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) as the 2015 National League Most Valuable Player. Harper was the first Washington player to be so honored since 1925. He is also the youngest player ever to be elected unanimously. Most Nationals fans expected him to win, since he was clearly the most likely candidate, but the overwhelming "mandate" from the experts was a pleasant surprise.
The Washington Post devoted almost the entire front page of the sports section to a painting of Bryce Harper, including a day-to-day chart showing Harpers on-base-plus-slugging percentage compared to the three other Nationals' players who hit decently this year: Yunel Escobar, Ryan Zimmerman, and Clint Robinson. Harper vastly outshown his team mates. The Post produced this online video summarizing what Harper accomplished. Here are the numbers that made Harper's selection almost a no-brainer:
- Home runs: 42 (T-1st)
- Runs: 118: (1st)
- Average: .330 (2nd)
- On-base %: .460 (1st)
- Slugging %: .649 (1st)
The only reason to question Harper being the MVP is that there is a tradition of favoritism to players whose teams make it into the postseason. But neither Paul Goldschmidt (D-Backs) nor Joey Votto (Reds) played for postseason-qualifying teams this year, so that was that.
It was nice to hear that Harper expressed a hope to make Washington his career home, which will of course depend on whether the Lerner family is willing to fork over the megabucks it will take to keep him here. For a player with his amazing early accomplishments and enormous future potential, that could be one of the biggest baseball contracts ever.
I confess to being hesitant about believing in the hype surrounding Harper, but there is no doubt about it: He is for real!
Congratulations, Bryce! We look forward to many more years with you playing in D.C.!
Nationals annual records
Since Bryce Harper set so many records this year, I thought it would be appropriate to update the Washington Nationals page, which now includes a day-to-day graph of the team's winning percentage for the 2015 season, along with those for the previous ten years. As you can plainly see, from mid-July until late August it was just horrible:
That page also features the team's individual batting and pitching annual records going back to their inaugural year of 2005. I have only been keeping that data systematically for the last few years, so I had to refer to the Nationals' official MLB.com Web site for the older numbers. Here is a slightly "squeezed" version of that table:
|Year||Batting average||Home runs||RBIs||ERA||Wins||Strikeouts|
|2005||Nick Johnson||.289||Jose Guillen||24||Jose Guillen||76||John Patterson||3.13||Livan Hernandez||15||John Patterson||185|
|2006||Nick Johnson||.290||Alfonso Soriano||46||Ryan Zimmerman||110||Ramon Ortiz||5.57||Ramon Ortiz||11||Ramon Ortiz||104|
|2007||Dmitri Young||.320||Ryan Zimmerman||24||Ryan Zimmerman||91||Matt Chico||4.63||John Rauch||8||Matt Chico||94|
|2008||Cristian Guzman||.316||R. Zimm. & L. Mill.||14||Lastings Milledge||61||John Lannan||3.91||Tim Redding||10||Tim Redding||120|
|2009||Ryan Zimmerman||.292||Adam Dunn||38||Ryan Zimmerman||106||John Lannan||3.88||John Lannan||9||Jordan Zimmermann||92|
|2010||Ryan Zimmerman||.307||Adam Dunn||38||Michael Morse||103||Livan Hernandez||3.66||Tyler Clippard||11||Livan Hernandez||114|
|2011||Michael Morse||.303||Michael Morse||31||Michael Morse||95||Jordan Zimmermann||3.18||John Lannan||10||Jordan Zimmermann||124|
|2012||Ian Desmond||.292||Adam LaRoche||33||Adam LaRoche||100||Gio Gonzalez||2.89||Gio Gonzalez||21||Gio Gonzalez||207|
|2013||Jayson Werth||.318||Ryan Zimmerman||26||Jayson Werth||82||Stephen Strasburg||3.00||Jordan Zimmermann||19||Gio Gonzalez||192|
|2014||Denard Span||.302||Adam LaRoche||26||Adam LaRoche||92||Doug Fister||2.41||Doug Fister||16||Stephen Strasburg||242|
|2015||Bryce Harper||.330||Bryce Harper||42||Bryce Harper||99||Max Scherzer||2.79||Max Scherzer||14||Max Scherzer||276|
Schu will return
After being let go, along with the rest of the Nats coaching staff, Rick Schu has been rehired as the Nationals' hitting coach. It was new manager Dusty Baker's call, evidently. See the Washington Post
Josh Donaldson wins AL MVP
On the American League side, Josh Donaldson of the Toronto Blue Jays was chosen as Most Valuable Player. It wasn't unanimous, as with Bryce Harper, but he did receive 23 first-place votes and seven second-place votes from the 30 BBWAA voters. Mike Trout of the L.A. Angels came in second place. The last Blue Jay MVP was George Bell, in 1987. Donaldson batted .297, hit 41 homers, and had 123 RBIs. See MLB.com. Coincidentally, I saw Donaldson play in Toronto last July:
Best rookies: Bryant & Correa
The Chicago Cubs' Kris Bryant and the Houston Astros' shorstop Carlos Correa were awarded the 2015 Rookie of the Year awards, and few people argued. Bryant hit 26 home runs, batted in 99 runs, and had a batting average of .275. (He struck out 199 times, however, the most in the National League.) Correa hit 22 home runs, with 68 RBI and a batting average of .279, managing to outshine the Astros' other young star, Jose Altuve. See bleacherreport.com.
Football and "football" news...
On November 6, the Toronto Argonauts played their final game in the Rogers Centre, beating the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 21-11. Toronto failed to make the Canadian Football League playoffs, going 10-8 for the season. Because the Blue Jays made it to the MLB playoffs, the Argonauts were obliged to host their October home games in Ottawa. See argonauts.ca. Next year the Argonauts will play their home games in BMO Stadium, built primarily for soccer. It is located about a mile to the west, on the north edge of where Exhibition Stadium used to be. I saw it while driving into Toronto last July. Accordingly, I have updated the text on the Rogers Centre page.
When I updated those diagrams in late September, I should have mentioned that the Buffalo Bills are no longer playing any of their "home" games in that stadium. The decision was announced in December 2014; see the CBC. The Bills only won one of the six games they played in Toronto since 2008, and the lack of fan enthusiasm seems to have hurt the team's performance. The Bills plan to build a new stadium to replace Ralph Wilson Stadium, one of the oldest NFL venues.
In Washington, meanwhile, the D.C. Government has undertaken eminent domain procedures to acquire land to be used for the future D.C. United soccer stadium. It will be located about three blocks southwest of Nationals Park in the Buzzards Point area of Washington. See the Washington Post. D.C. United had an excellent regular season, but once again fell flat in the playoffs, losing to the New York Red Bulls on November 8.