NL Central Injury Report

A storyline of the Pirates’ season thus far has been their general inability to beat NL Central division opponents. It’s remarkable that they’re even within five games of first place considering how they’ve performed against the three teams ahead of them:

Milwaukee: 3-10 (.231)

St. Louis: 5-7 (.417)

Cincinnati: 3-7 (.300)

That’s an ugly combined record of 11 wins and 24 losses. Had the Pirates won just a few more of those games (like those three blown saves against Milwaukee), we could be looking at a drastically different set of NL Central standings. But this is where we are, as of July 10th at 5:30 pm:

nl central

However, there have been a few huge injuries to go down the last couple of days that may reshape the Central. The Reds are dropping like flies, and the Cardinals just lost arguably their best player. Here’s what you need to know:

Reds

Brandon Phillips — “Dat Dude BP” sprained his left thumb on Wednesday:

phillips0003

Today, it was announced that he’d need surgery that would force him out of action for 8-12 weeks.

Phillips’ play has declined over the last two seasons, but it’s still a major blow to the Redlegs’ lineup.

Joey Votto — Another essential piece of Cincinnati’s lineup, Votto hit the DL once again with a thigh injury that’s bothered him off and on. The injury is “expected to limit him for the rest of the season,” something that the Reds obviously hate to hear. The former MVP’s numbers have been down in this injury-riddled season, and it’s unclear how much more he’ll play in 2014.

Billy Hamilton — The Reds’ dynamic rookie has improved as the season has gone on, hitting .327 with an .848 OPS in June after a slow April and May. However, he injured his hamstring on a swing last night and is currently day-to-day.

Homer Bailey — As if things couldn’t get any worse, the Reds lost one of their starting pitchers on Thursday afternoon. Homer Bailey was forced to exit the game after injuring his knee on Thursday:

bailey0001

No word yet on his status.

Those are four very vital players for the Reds, two of which are for sure out for the long term. The Pirates will visit the Reds this weekend in Cincinnati, after they finish up their series with St. Louis later this evening.


Cardinals

Yadier Molina — As we witness firsthand on Wednesday evening, the Cardinals’ heart-and-soul jammed his thumb while sliding into third base. It wasn’t pretty, and neither is the diagnosis:

St. Louis will be without their All-Star backstop until September at the earliest. Consider these stats:

Michael Wacha — The young stud who shut down the Pirates a few times in 2013 (including in the NLDS) has no timetable on his return after hitting the DL with a shoulder injury. He hasn’t been cleared to throw yet and won’t be evaluated again for another two weeks.

Jaime Garcia — The injury-prone Garcia is hurt again, this time with an arm injury that is believed to have “dogged him for several years.” Season-ending surgery is required.

Needless to say, the Cardinals arms are hurting. Also on the mend — Joe Kelly‘s dealt with a hamstring strain (but could return on Friday) and lefty reliever Kevin Siegrist has a forearm strain.


The Brewers are mostly healthy — relievers Jim Henderson and Tyler Thornburg are on the DL with arm troubles. The Cubs are a joke right now.

As for the Pirates, it sucks to see Gerrit Cole back on the disabled list. But Francisco Liriano will be activated this weekend, and the team could be in good shape if he returns to 2013 form. Clint Barmes is also on the DL, though he obviously doesn’t play a huge role on the team.

Phillips, Votto, and Molina are all expected to miss action for an extended period of time, and there are a few other key injuries around the Central as well. Knock on wood that the Pirates can stay healthy. If they get back to winning ways and possibly make a move at the deadline, this team could make noise in the division. You hate to see guys like Molina get hurt — it’s bad for baseball in general to lose a star player — but this is the time for the Pirates to capitalize. They’ve struggled against the Central teams this year, but maybe it’s time they turn it around with a few key players now on the DL.

Go Bucs

Who deserves the NL MVP award?

NL MVP Candidates 2013

The 2013 National League Most Valuable Player finalists were announced on Tuesday night. Unsurprisingly, the three nominees are Andrew McCutchen of your Pittsburgh Pirates, Yadier Molina of the NL Champion St. Louis Cardinals, and Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

There’s always a good debate about who should win MVP; last year’s American League showdown of Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout was particularly controversial. Cabrera represented the old school way of thinking (Triple Crown winner – AVG, HR, RBI) and Trout represented the new age (sabermetrics – WAR). Ultimately Cabrera won the award, though advanced metrics prove Trout’s exceptional value.

This year’s NL MVP pretty much wide open, with three very deserving candidates. Here’s a comparison of their offensive stats:

nl mvp stats side by side 2013

What it should come down to – 100% of the time – is how valuable the player was to his respective team. Voters seem to forget this, but that’s what the award is named for, after all.

With that, here’s a quantitative look at how valuable McCutchen, Molina, and Goldschmidt were to their clubs:

nl mvp war side by side

Cutch led the entire National League in wins above replacement. If a replacement level AAA guy had been playing in his place this year, the Pirates would have lost approximately eight of their wins. The Cards and D-backs would’ve lost a lot without their MVP candidates, but not as much as the Bucs without Cutch.

Molina wasn’t even the most valuable player on his team in terms of WAR, but his specific position makes him worth that much more. It’s hard to replace a starting catcher, especially one of Molina’s caliber. Where’d they be without him? Probably not on top of the NL Central. He led all NL catchers in the WAR department, beating out second place Buster Posey by nearly a full win.

Paired with his 36 HR and 125 RBI that surely looked nice to voters, Goldschmidt was a star at 6.4 WAR. The fact that his team wasn’t as successful as the Pirates or Cardinals will hurt his chances, like it did to Trout in 2012 – not logical, but that’s usually how voting goes down.

Another stat I like to look at is Win Probability Added (WPA). Pretty self-explanatory, WPA measures “how individual players affect their team’s win expectancy on a per-play basis.” For the season, a WPA of 6.0 is excellent, 3.0 is great, 1.0 is average, etc. The results for the three MVP candidates are glaring:

nl mvp wpa side by side

Goldschmidt’s 7.86 WPA is off the charts and led Arizona by far – Cody Ross‘ 1.09 was the next best. Pretty valuable to his team, huh? Goldy positively affected a bunch of games for the D-backs. His 7.86 WPA led all of Major League Baseball, with Baltimore’s MVP candidate, Chris Davis, in second place (7.74).

McCutchen’s 4.77 WPA was at star level and led the Pirates, while Molina’s 2.86 was only fourth-best on the Cardinals. Same as with WAR, Matt Carpenter owned St. Louis’ best WPA.

Conclusion: In my totally biased opinion as a Pirate fan, I think Andrew McCutchen should win the award. His WAR was at an elite level; the Pirates wouldn’t have gone anywhere without him. Plus, I think he’ll have an edge considering the team’s great year. Though the catching position is extremely important, you could argue that Yadier Molina wasn’t even the most valuable on his team. Paul Goldschmidt was tremendously valuable to the D-backs, and you can see that with the WAR and WPA numbers. I think it will hurt Goldschmidt that his team finished 81-81, though that shouldn’t be such a factor in voting. We’ll see what happens.

The MVP award will be announced next Thursday, November 14th.

Go Cutch

Awards Week: Most Valuable Player

The Baseball Writer’s Association of America announced the 2012 Most Valuable Players on Thursday night.

The National League winner is Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants.

Posey, 25, led the World Series Champions with 24 homers and 103 RBI. He also led the league with a .336 batting average. He beat out Ryan Braun, Pittsburgh’s own Andrew McCutchen, Yadier Molina, and Chase Headley. Posey was the favorite to win, although arguments could be made for the other finalists.

A statement from Cutch: “It was honor just to be nominated for National League MVP this season, along with some of MLB’s best players. I want to congratulate Buster Posey on an amazing season. I believe being an MVP finalist shows true improvement both from myself and the Pirates organization.”

The American League winner is Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers.

In a very debatable race, Cabrera narrowly edged out Mike Trout of the Angels. A Tiger takes home the MVP for the second consecutive year, as Justin Verlander won in 2011. Miggy won the Triple Crown and led Detroit to the World Series. It appears that winning as a team is still important to voters, as the Tigers were more successful than the Angels in the long run. Trout had an unreal season, but won’t be leaving empty-handed — he won the Rookie of the Year award earlier in the week.

Photos: The Bay Area Bias/Creative Commons, Keith Allison/Creative Commons

Season in Pictures: August 2012


August 3rd, 2012
Andrew McCutchen barks in the dugout after being hit by Aroldis Chapman in the ninth inning. Chapman’s offering was clocked at 101 mph. The Bucs lost 3-0.


August 10th, 2012
James McDonald sits quietly in the dugout after blowing a 7-0 lead to the Padres. San Diego went on to win, 10-9.


August 15th, 2012
Neil Walker rolls around in pain after injuring his hand on a double play attempt. The Pirates dropped their third consecutive game, 9-3.


August 16th, 2012
A young boy’s ears are covered from the harsh words of Matt Kemp, who was ejected in the second inning of a Thursday matinee. The Buccos won, 10-6, and A.J. Burnett told Hanley Ramirez what to do.


August 19th, 2012
Keli Alvarez celebrates her husband’s solo home run that gave the Bucs a 19-inning win in St. Louis.


August 28th, 2012
Josh Harrison barrels Yadier Molina in a huge collision at home plate. J-Hay was out on the play, but the Pirates went on to crush the Cards, 9-0.