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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ostler: Knuckleheads of the week: Baseball writers

Knucklehead Smiff, I’ve heard off. Knucklehead Whiff, not so much.

Lance Berkman is the NL Comeback Player of the Year? That, my fellow ink-stained wretches of the Baseball Writers Association of America, is a whiff.

Ryan Vogelsong came back from the other side of the world, geographically (Japan), and from the other side of the universe, emotionally. Don’t you guys watch Showtime?

Berkman had a fine season after shedding 20 pounds last winter. So what he came back from was being fat. Vogelsong’s comeback was from the baseball equivalent of living in a cardboard refrigerator box.

Repoz Posted: October 16, 2011 at 03:56 AM | 21 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: awards, giants

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   1. salvomania Posted: October 16, 2011 at 04:12 AM (#3965079)
Vogelsong had a nice year, but I still think you have to come back from having been good, and he was never good.

Maybe "unexpected veteran breakout," but not really a comeback.

I mean come on, his best season before 2011 was a 4.43 era and a 1.50 WHIP as a reliever in 2005---the only time in five seasons his ERA was below 6.39.

EDIT: Don't know what his story was, but if it turns out he came back from some horrible illness or something, I suppose he gets some points, but still, no.
   2. Bhaakon Posted: October 16, 2011 at 04:48 AM (#3965092)
Vogelsong had a nice year, but I still think you have to come back from having been good, and he was never good.


I won't argue that point, because I pretty much agree, but I also think that the winner of this award should come back from actually being bad. Berkman's 2.1 WAR in 2010 was down for him, but it was hardly a disaster. When someone says "comeback player of the year" I think of a previously good player rebounding from a terrible year (or string of years), not a single league average season.
   3. Shock Posted: October 16, 2011 at 05:31 AM (#3965108)
God, this again.

I don't think "come back" is supposed to refer to being "back to being good" but just "back to baseball" in general. Someone recovering from a serious injury or general irrelevance and coming back from that to have a very good season; that's what I think it's about.
   4. LionoftheSenate Posted: October 16, 2011 at 05:36 AM (#3965110)
Berkman couldn't handle NY
   5. cardsfanboy Posted: October 16, 2011 at 06:10 AM (#3965119)
I won't argue that point, because I pretty much agree, but I also think that the winner of this award should come back from actually being bad.


agreed. I think the award should be about coming back from an illness, complete ineptness or something major. A subpar season is just that, an off year, a rebound year is nice but it's not something I would consider to be that big of a deal. I don't think Vogelsong is a legitimate candidate because as mentioned, you have to have actually been something to come back. It's why I don't really think Ellsbury should have won either, I mean Colon is a better candidate, Ellsbury has never been good, for him to have a breakout year following an injury year isn't a comeback, because he wasn't anything special at any time prior to this season.
   6. Tripon Posted: October 16, 2011 at 06:37 AM (#3965128)
Vogelsong was a never was though. If there was a never was award, Vogelsong would win in a landslide.
   7. Greg K Posted: October 16, 2011 at 07:56 AM (#3965135)
Someone needs to quote the official definition and instructions of the award like they do in the MVP thread.

If people are upset about the Comeback Player of the Year Award selections, I think humanity has reached an all-time high (low?) of things to get upset about.

EDIT: I see Vlad Guerrero beat out Colby Lewis for Comeback Player of the Year last year. So apparently the whole "coming back from Japan" thing has failed to impress the voters for a while.
   8. baudib Posted: October 16, 2011 at 08:44 AM (#3965137)
Comeback player has always been a sort of "most improved" or "most surprising" award.
   9. Swedish Chef Posted: October 16, 2011 at 09:09 AM (#3965140)
It should be an award for the player with the snappiest repartee.
   10. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 16, 2011 at 10:22 AM (#3965142)
Comeback player has always been a sort of "most improved" or "most surprising" award.

I always thought it referred to a player who (a) was very good, then (b) wasn't good (or at least had been thought to have been on the downward spiral), and then (c) became very good once again. Or alternately, if one was at least well above replacement level, and then came back from at least a full season of a debilitating injury or well below average productivity.

Within that framework, if Whatzizsong had been good at any point in his ML career BEFORE going to Japan, then his coming back from Japan might have warranted greater Brownie points than Berkman's recovery to his former excellence after being somewhat run out of Houston and dropped by the Yankees. But the problem is that as Tripon says, prior to 2011 Vogelsong was a "never was", so he represents nothing but a late career blooming, not a comeback. For all intents and purposes, he might as well have played his entire prior career in Japan, or in the minors.

So Vogelsong is a complete non-starter. And while Bartolo Colon added a lot of innings, his actual productivity was slightly down from 2010 and 2009, whereas Berkman shot well above his career average, and within spitting distance of his prior best years. The only real argument for Colon would be the nature of his comeback, and the degree to which everyone had thought he was finished, but IIRC Berkman left Houston under less than great circumstances and then was released by the Yankees after a mediocre run there. It's not as if Berkman represents a classic return from baseball Siberia, but since there weren't any players like that this year, he's a perfectly acceptable backup.
   11. Bhaakon Posted: October 16, 2011 at 11:49 AM (#3965144)
It's not as if Berkman represents a classic return from baseball Siberia, but since there weren't any players like that this year, he's a perfectly acceptable backup.


Matt Kemp.
   12. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 16, 2011 at 12:13 PM (#3965149)
Matt Kemp.

Not really, since Kemp's MVP level represents more of a breakout year at age 26 than a comeback. In his previous two years his OPS+ had only dropped from 124 to 106, and even as a part time player, he'd never topped 127 before this.
   13. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: October 16, 2011 at 01:04 PM (#3965159)
while Bartolo Colon added a lot of innings, his actual productivity was slightly down from 2010 and 2009


Someone also made this claim in another thread on these awards. Colon did not pitch at all in 2010. His 2009 season ended on July 24. His career was universally assumed to be over. One can argue that his 2011 performance didn't quite merit the award, but one really can't argue that he didn't come back from far enough down.

Anyway, the basic problem with Comeback Player of the Year is that Tony Conigliaro won it in 1969, and until somebody makes an all-star team playing with a prosthesis or something, no one will ever be able to match that.

[EDIT: Of course, I am aware that Bo Jackson won the award for hitting a HR with a metal hip; I meant a prosthetic arm or leg.]
   14. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 16, 2011 at 01:29 PM (#3965167)
while Bartolo Colon added a lot of innings, his actual productivity was slightly down from 2010 and 2009

Someone also made this claim in another thread on these awards. Colon did not pitch at all in 2010. His career was universally assumed to be over.


Jeez, I have no idea how I missed that, since I certainly knew it at the start of the season. And with that in mind, then yeah, I'd have given the award to Colon. He didn't have nearly as good a year as Berkman, but he did once win a CYA, and he also had a much higher mountain to climb to do what he did in 2011.
   15. Fancy Crazy Town Banana Pants Handle Posted: October 16, 2011 at 01:36 PM (#3965169)
You don't get to choose between Colon and Berkman though. Ellsbury won the AL award. Since his 2010 was about as productive as Colon's, I think he's a perfectly cromulent pick.
   16. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 16, 2011 at 01:53 PM (#3965177)
Okay, I should really pay more attention to these minor awards, since I thought there was only one award for both leagues.

But Ellsbury didn't really have anything to "come back" to, since this was his first really productive full time year, and was more of a breakout than a comeback, along the lines of Brady Anderson in 1996, minus the snickering about steroids. Whereas Colon was a past Cy Young winner, and fits the definition of "comeback" far more fully.
   17. Tricky Dick Posted: October 16, 2011 at 02:01 PM (#3965181)
Berkman is coming back from an injury. Berkman's sub-par season in 2010 was due to his knee surgery. By all accounts the impact of that surgery affected his swing throughout 2010. The off-season weight loss story is a nice narrative for newspaper articles, but he did this mostly to be able to play the outfield; it's not like his weight affected his hitting in previous years. Berkman made a come back from a significant injury, and his offense returned to normal levels because he was healthy.
   18. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq. Posted: October 16, 2011 at 02:02 PM (#3965182)
This Yankees fan thinks that Ellsbury was a perfectly fine pick, as he came back from an injury to become a legitimate MVP candidate.
   19. OsunaSakata Posted: October 16, 2011 at 02:41 PM (#3965194)
Fans and writers don't exactly lose sleep or have thousand-post threads on The Comeback Player of the Year Award. There's a really obvious statistical solution to this. Establish some level to comeback to - starting hitter, a rotation picture or one of the two top relievers. Then choose your favorite single value metric - Win Shares, VORP, WAR. For all the candidates, establish a peak previous WAR (for example), a low WAR and this season WAR. Sum the distance of the downward WAR trip and the upward WAR trip and the highest one should be the winner.

Well at least it's some statistical data to argue from. I mean if a former bench utility player comes back to be a bench utility player, I'd give it to him if he came from deadly cancer, a near-death experience or paralyzing spinal injury.
   20. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 16, 2011 at 03:31 PM (#3965209)
This Yankees fan thinks that Ellsbury was a perfectly fine pick, as he came back from an injury to become a legitimate MVP candidate.

But that still doesn't address the point that before Ellsbury's injury he was but one of scores of young players with lots of promise and few concrete signs of any star-level accomplishment. He certainly hadn't fallen from heights remotely comparable to Colon's.

Needless to say, this isn't a knock on Ellsbury's MVP-level season, but it was more of a breakthrough than a comeback, in spite of the injury factor.
   21. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 16, 2011 at 03:37 PM (#3965210)
Frenchy and/or Melky!

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