Baggs' NL MVP Award ballot

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Baggs' NL MVP Award ballot

SAN FRANCISCO Buster Posey had the stats, he had the narrative and he led his team to a division title. He was the NL batting champion and the Giants defensive captain on the field.It added up to an Ivy League-quality application for the Most Valuable Player Award, and it didnt hurt that Posey aced the character test, too. So it wasnt a surprise to anyone when he was named a runaway winner of the award on Thursday.NEWS: Buster Posey honored with NL MVP Award
I was among the 32 members of the BBWAA who held an MVP vote this season. Here is the ballot I turned in on Oct. 4, along with comments on each selection:1. Buster PoseyThe Giants only got better in August after Melky Cabrera went down, and while Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro deserve their share of credit for that, Posey was the one who led the uphill charge. The previous August, the defending champs crashed and burned. The obvious difference: That team didnt have Posey, who was unable to walk for four months because of that horrific collision at the plate. The Giants had him in 2012, and in every respect, he was their most valuable difference maker. Others had more impressive counting stats, but no player meant more to his team than Posey meant to the Giants.RATTO: Posey takes fun out of NL MVP race
2. Ryan BraunTake away the names on the stat sheet and Braun probably wins the award. The Brewers left fielder led the NL with 41 homers, 108 runs scored and a .987 OPS, while finishing second in RBIs and third in OBP behind Posey and Andrew McCutchen. And Braun compiled those numbers without Prince Fielder hitting alongside him in Milwaukees lineup. The only reason anyone would vote Braun lower than No.2 or No.3 on their ballot is to penalize him for last years positive testosterone test, which was thrown out on a technicality. Even if Braun knowingly cheated, Im not a moralist when it comes to voting for postseason awards. That happened in 2011, and Im voting on the 2012 season. So theres no need to do anything punitive like leave Braun off my ballot, or rank him below others who had inferior seasons.3. Andrew McCutchenOne of these days, the Pirates will see a season through all 162 games. Like his team, McCutchen tailed off badly in the second half and thats not how you win an MVP award. But while it might be a tiebreaker for me when a player has a strong finishing kick, I tend to look more at the entirety of the season. And for the first four months, nobody was more valuable than McCutchen. Almost any way you parse the numbers, Posey, Braun and McCutchen were the three best players in the league. I do think the advanced metrics overrate him a bit in center field, though.4. Yadier MolinaThe Cardinals lost Albert Pujols to free agency and Lance Berkman to the knee gremlin, but they still found a way to play baseball deep into October. Thats more a reflection on Molina than anyone else. Even though he struggled to hit in the postseason, he had his best offensive season when the Cardinals needed it most. Behind the plate, he has no peer and that includes Posey. Molina shuts down an opponents running game, he buys strikes for his pitchers with the way his magic glove almost seems to never leave the zone and hes valuable in the best sense of the word: He makes everyone around him better. I was tempted to rank him higher, and perhaps I should have.GALLERY: Posey joins rare company5. Craig Kimbrel
6. Aroldis Chapman
Im going to get some disagreement here, and that's perfectly OK. I believe the MVP is meant for everyday players, and yes, I see closers as everyday players. Even if Kimbrel or Chapman pitches three innings a week, theyre a threat every day they arrive at the ballpark. They govern an opposing managers decisions, they get in the head of hitters and they effectively shorten the game. I wont even spout off all the statistics. You can find them, and theyre devastating. Kimbrel and Chapman had two of the most dominant, strikeout-filled seasons by a closer in major league history, and that makes them among the most valuable players in the NL.7. Chase HeadleyNo, Headley doesnt make my ballot because he led the NL with 115 RBIs. We all realize, or should, that RBIs are heavily context-dependent. (That doesnt make them meaningless, though.) Headley appears here because he was a breakout star who finished top-10 in OPS despite playing in a non-threatening lineup in the worst hitters park in the league. So yes, context matters. Headley had a truly outstanding season, hes a good defensive third baseman, and every time I watched him, he did something to help the Padres win. He could even steal his way into scoring position. The Pads knew what they were doing when they resisted trade overtures for him.8. Ian DesmondThe bottom of the ballot is always hard. Seems like every year, youre trying to cram 10 worthy players into the last two or three spots. You also face the best team dilemma every once in awhile, and that definitely came into play in 2012. The Washington Nationals had the best record in the league, but they had no clear-cut top-5 MVP candidate. I really felt their best player was Ryan Zimmerman, but Adam LaRoche had more impressive statistics. I was trying to decide which of the two to put on my ballot. So I was surprised when I asked my Nationals beat colleagues for their thoughts and they said Desmond was their most worthy candidate. The anecdotal evidence agreed with them; Desmond was a wrecking crew when I saw him play against the Giants. Even though he ended up missing some time with injury, his defense at shortstop was impressive to those who saw him play every day. So his positional value earned him the nod on my ballot. The difference between Desmond, Zimmerman and LaRoche was not huge, though.9. David WrightHe didnt play for a contender, but theres no way I could leave Wright off my ballot entirely. His overall numbers were too good to ignore. Whens the last time you could call a New York ballplayer underrated?10. Angel PaganI usually allow myself some leeway for a prerogative vote with the 10th spot on the ballot. Ive used it in the past to vote for setup men, who are becoming more valuable every year but dont have an award of their own. I voted for Scott Eyre and Jeremy Affeldt in the past, and I nearly voted for Jonny Venters last year. I really wanted to throw Sergio Romo a vote this time around. Obviously, there was no way for me to know that hed throw the last pitch of the season a ballsy, 89 mph fastball down the middle that froze Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera to clinch the World Series. But when I filled out my ballot, there were too many solid position players to justify a prerogative vote. I left off Aramis Ramirez, who hit 50 doubles, and Aaron Hill, who pretty much had Chase Headleys season except in a more lively home ballpark. Matt Holliday was the other near-miss for me. Instead, I decided to vote for Pagan, who was emblematic of the improvement in a Giants offense that went from 570 runs in 2011, the fewest by an NL team in 19 years, to a better-than-average total of 718. The Giants hit the fewest homers in the majors, but had the most triples and Pagan hit 14 of them to lead MLB while breaking the San Francisco-era franchise record held by Willie Mays and Steve Finley. He did what so many mid-career newcomers at AT&T Park could not: He didnt curse the ballpark but instead made it work for him and used it to his advantage. Pagan took off after he was moved back to the leadoff spot on Aug. 3, and his constant presence on base is what allowed Marco Scutaro to put his considerable skills to work in the No. 2 spot. Pagan ended up being a defensive asset in center field, too, even if his routes didnt always inspire confidence. It turns out Carlos Beltran was right when he told me down the stretch in 2011 that the Giants needed a leadoff hitter above all. Pagan was that man. His overall numbers might grade lower than some of those omitted from my ballot, but I think Pagan was one of the leagues biggest difference makers and Im happy to recognize him with a 10th-place vote.

Giants' 2015 first-round draft pick suspended 50 games

Giants' 2015 first-round draft pick suspended 50 games

Former Giants pitching prospect Phil Bickford is suspended for the first 50 games of the 2017 Carolina League season for a second positive test for drug of abuse, MLB announced on Friday.

Before the 2016 deadline, San Francisco traded the 21-year old (along with Andrew Susac) to the Brewers in exchange for left-handed reliever Will Smith.

The Giants selected Bickford with the 18th overall pick in the 2015 draft.

Over 11 starts for Single-A Augusta last year, the right-hander went 3-4 with a 2.70 ERA.

In six starts for Single-A San Jose, he went 2-2 with a 2.73 ERA.
 

Notes: Ex-Giants not getting much traction, not expected to return

Notes: Ex-Giants not getting much traction, not expected to return

SOMEWHERE IN THE AIR, United States — On the first day of the Winter Meetings, I discovered that my hotel room for the week was a few doors down from a section of rooms and suites dedicated to the Chicago Cubs. So either I have a lot of juice with Marriott or the Cubs have very little juice. 

They were a happy group as they came in and out, and for good reason. The Cubs are the reigning champions and they’re the heavy favorites going into 2017. Every other team at the Gaylord National Resort was chasing Theo Epstein and his guys. The Giants, after landing closer Mark Melancon, feel they have the firepower to compete with the Cubs. 

The Melancon move is the big one of the Giants’ offseason and it obscured just about everything else. Here are some other notes, quotes and rumors from five days at the Winter Meetings: 

--- Bobby Evans said the Aroldis Chapman deal ($86 million) came in right around where the Giants expected. The two sides never met in person, and while the Giants kept tabs on the Chapman market, he was always viewed as an unlikely choice. Part of that has to do with a 30-game suspension last season for a domestic violence incident. Evans said the off-field stuff was “not lost on us.” The Giants knew many of their fans were strongly opposed to a Chapman deal. 

“Our hearts and minds were really focused on one guy,” Evans said as he discussed the closer market. It was Melancon, and the Giants got the guy who will now head a bullpen that blew 30 saves during the regular season. 

Evans took some good-natured shots at that number, by the way. He pointed out that many of those “blown saves” came in the sixth or seventh innings and the Giants won a lot of those games. The more important number for the front office was ninth-inning blown saves that led to losses. The Giants lost nine such games, including five in September. 

“That’s the difference,” Evans said. “If you reduce that number to five or four, then that’s maybe the difference in your division.”

The Giants finished four games behind the Dodgers.

--- Joe Maddon said his biggest fear in the postseason was facing Johnny Cueto in Game 5.

--- Angel Pagan was not at the ballpark for the final game of the season. He had an injection in his injured back and was allowed to stay home to try and recover. The Giants told Pagan to prepare for a Game 5, but some team officials believe his postseason was probably over regardless of how far the Giants got. 

--- It was a little surprising, by the way, how little mention there was of Pagan and other Giants free agents. Pagan was briefly connected to the Orioles at one point but otherwise his name has not come up. There are no Gregor Blanco rumors, and nothing significant with Sergio Romo, Jake Peavy, Javier Lopez or Santiago Casilla. 

Giants people who have talked to Romo say he has at least a couple of offers and he’s confident he’ll find a good fit. Lopez is said to be headed for retirement unless an East Coast team (he lives in Georgia) makes a great offer. Peavy is said to be ready to fight for a job as a non-roster invitee in spring training. It seems the majority of the ex-Giants might have to go the non-roster route. Currently, none are expected to return to San Francisco. 

--- Gordon Beckham is technically a “Giants free agent” and several people in the clubhouse approacedh management to relay what a positive impact Beckham had in his week there. He is the kind of energetic, ball-busting presence that helps over a 162-game season, and everyone in the organization loved having him around, but they’re looking for power bats right now when it comes to the bench. 

--- Ramiro Pena is close to a deal to return as a non-roster invitee. The Giants will also add a catcher for Triple-A depth. They’re selecting from a group that includes former Dodgers and Cubs catcher Tim Federowicz. 

--- There will be new managers up and down the minor league system. The affiliates are expected to announce those choices soon. 

--- At the risk of wiping out a bunch of future "The Player to be Named Later has not been named" tweets, here's how it works: The Giants gave the Mariners a small list of prospects they'll watch in spring training, and they'll scout them and choose one player as the return for Chris Heston. It will not be a significant prospect. 

--- Under Armour will be the exclusive uniform provider of MLB starting in 2020, and all jerseys will have a small Under Armour logo on the chest. No exceptions, from the awful Diamondbacks jerseys to the Yankees pinstripes to the Giants. It was bound to happen eventually. The Giants have some of Under Armour’s most prominent baseball players, including Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Joe Panik. 

--- The Giants never had any intention of pursuing a reunion with Pablo Sandoval. If they can add depth at third, they will, but for now Eduardo Nuñez is slated to be the opening day starter. Keep in mind, too, that Christian Arroyo will primarily play third base in the minors from now on. 

--- Bill Hayes, who was relieved of his duties as first-base coach, will stay with the big league staff. His exact role has not been determined. Roberto Kelly will not return in a different role. 

--- CSN did a bunch of one-on-one interviews this week, and two of them — Evans and Bruce Bochy — are available here as podcasts. If you’re a fan of the podcast, please consider hitting subscribe on iTunes. It’s good for the pod. 

--- In case you missed it: Here's an explanation of why the Giants are unlikely to add an expensive outfielder. The Giants currently have four players set for the WBC. Hensley Meulens will manage the Netherlands. Ryan Vogelsong helped Melancon choose the Giants. Bochy on if he has any postseason regrets. 

--- Melancon will be introduced at a 1 p.m. press conference on Friday. It will air on CSN Bay Area and you can stream it on this website.