Yesterday, we unveiled some of our midseason 2010 Next-Level Awards. Here are the rest of the honors:
The "Let's Go Home" award
For exemplary performance in the 7th inning and later.
Despite Baltimore's lowly place in the standings, Nick Markakis has been trying his best to keep them in the game. Among players with 100 plate appearances from the 7th inning onward, he has the best batting average (.384), and is among the league leaders in doubles (10).
Unfortunately, by the 7th inning, the Orioles are already trailing 58% of the time, and they're a ridiculous 1-51 when behind entering the 9th. That one win was the extra-inning, rain-delayed affair in Texas last Friday. Markakis can only do so much.
Runners-up: Joey Votto (.380), Angel Pagan (.379), Jose Guillen (.353).
And now (drum roll) on to the pitching side. For pitching awards, we used a minimum of 200 batters faced (as opposed to a certain number of innings), giving us 164 eligible recipients.
The "Tie 'Em Up" award
Some of the silliest-looking swings are when hitters chase balls way in on their hands. It's hard to get around quickly on an inside pitch, so even if you do hit it, it's generally not for power.
The best at tying 'em up? The Braves' Tim Hudson, who surrenders just a .116 batting average on pitches that are on the inner third or too far inside.
Hudson is doubly qualified for this award; his overall opponents' average is .219. That 103-point difference between the two is also the best among our qualifying pitchers.
Runners-up: Francisco Rodriguez (.143), David Price (.155), Mat Latos (.158)
The "Finish Him" award
If the best pitch in baseball is strike one, then strike three must be right behind it. For some reason, though, some pitchers can't get over that two-strike hump. Sometimes they get cute and try to trick a hitter into swinging at bad pitches. Sometimes they know a hitter is sitting on a pitch in the zone and will try to nibble.
The pitcher who gives up the least once he gets to two strikes is the Mariners' Felix Hernandez. You'd better get to King Felix early, because opponents only hit .117 off of him in two-strike counts. (And that's ALL two-strike counts; when it's 0-2 it drops to .089.) Before two strikes, though, his average against is a whopping .331.
A close second is Giants ace Tim Lincecum, at .121. With all those strikeouts, you'd expect he'd be good at closing the door. But his average allowed with zero and one strikes -- .367 -- is even worse than Felix's. In fact, the 246-point difference in Lincecum's averages is third-highest in the majors.
Other runners-up: Trevor Cahill (.131), Mat Latos (.132), Ervin Santana (.138).
And the worst? The Nationals' John Lannan, who allows a .293 average and has surrendered 11 of his 26 extra-base hits after he's got two strikes.
The "Souvenir Hunter" award
Tiger fans are going to show up to watch Justin Verlander pitch anyway. But bring your glove. Verlander is currently inducing the highest number of foul balls off the bats of opposing hitters (414). He barely lost this category (by three) to Cliff Lee last season. Obviously not all of those reach the seats. But it's an indication of how much trouble batters have catching up to Verlander's fastball which averages in the 96-mph range.
Runners-up: Phil Hughes (407), Johan Santana (402), Matt Cain (392).
The "Making Him Work" award
In this blog and others, we reference the "patience index" -- the average number of pitches that a batter sees during a plate appearance. We can do that for pitchers also. Because, again, it's not always innings that matter.
Jered Weaver of the Angels gets the nod for having the most pitches thrown per batter this season. He's faced 490 hitters and launched 2,088 balls toward them. That's 4.26 each. Only 33 of those batters bothered to put Weaver's first pitch in play, and a third of them got hits.
Runners-up: Rich Harden (4.25), Tyler Clippard (4.20), Bruce Chen (4.18).
Honorable mention: Appropriately, we'll close with the guy who's occasionally labeled the "greatest closer ever", Mariano Rivera. He actually comes in higher than Weaver, at 4.42 pitches for every batter faced. Alas, he doesn't face enough batters to make our minimum.