Nick Cafardo | Sunday Baseball Notes

Good, bad from regular season

Angels outfielder Mike Trout has stood out wtih his all-around play.
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press
Angels outfielder Mike Trout has stood out wtih his all-around play.

We know the best teams. We know the worst teams.

So, who were the best and worst in the major individual categories?

Best player — The Angels’ Mike Trout gets the vote here. All around, Trout (.290/36/111) is the guy who stands out. He hit for average, power, showed speed, and was also a terrific defensive center fielder who should earn the Gold Glove. Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen and Astros second baseman Jose Altuve had outstanding seasons, with Altuve winning the American League batting title, stealing 56 bases, and leading all of baseball with 223 hits. Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins is now the most prolific slugger in the game, and the White Sox’ Jose Abreu and Tigers’ Victor Martinez deserve mention.


Worst player B.J. Upton. For a guy with a $75 million contract, his offense was deplorable. It helped get Braves general manager Frank Wren fired. Upton, like Carl Crawford before him, couldn’t play after he left Tampa Bay. The Braves hoped putting the Uptons together would benefit and motivate both, but it only helped Justin Upton.

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Best pitcher Clayton Kershaw is the no-brainer here, with a 21-3 record and 0.86 WHIP. He’s the easy National League Cy Young winner and likely MVP. Nobody dominated more than Kershaw in either league, which is why he’ll likely be a huge reason why the Dodgers get deep into the postseason. Runner-up: Johnny Cueto, Reds. If there was no Kershaw, Cueto would win the Cy. He was 19-9 with a 2.29 ERA over 33 starts and 235 innings. On the AL side, Corey Kluber may have outpitched Felix Hernandez down the stretch and could earn the Cy.

Worst pitcher — A few candidates, but I have to give it to Rangers righthander Colby Lewis. He was 10-14 with a 5.18 ERA and 1.52 WHIP and batters hit .304 against him. Cubs lefthander Travis Wood was 8-13 with a 5.03 ERA and 1.53 WHIP, and Clay Buchholz was 8-10 with a 5.31 ERA and 1.40 WHIP.

Best reliever — This may have been the hardest one to pick, but Wade Davis was nasty. The Royals’ setup man was 9-2 with 1.00 ERA. In 72 innings, he struck out 109 and walked 23. He held opponents to a .151 average with a .085 WHIP. You could make a case for the Yankees’ Dellin Betances, St. Louis’s Pat Neshek, Kansas City closer Greg Holland, Angels closer Huston Street, Washington’s Drew Storen, and saves leader Fernando Rodney of the Mariners.

Worst reliever Jim Johnson of the Tigers. What on earth happened to Johnson, he of the back-to-back 50-save seasons with Baltimore? Johnson made 53 appearances with Oakland and Detroit for a 7.13 ERA. Opponents hit .319 against him and he had a 1.94 WHIP. Tampa Bay’s Grant Balfour also was awful.


Best find — Detroit’s J.D. Martinez went from being released by the Astros to a middle-of-the-order hitter for the Tigers. Baltimore’s Steve Pearce receives honorable mention for turning himself from a journeyman into a big factor.

Biggest busts Stephen Drew (.163 in 264 at-bats) and Kendrys Morales (.222, eight homers, 42 RBIs), the last big-name free agents signed after both turned down qualifying offers, had poor offensive seasons. Drew was in the .160s all season, while Morales was a shadow of himself. They had plenty of company, including Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira and Indians outfielder/first baseman Nick Swisher.

Best rookie — Abreu had one of the best offensive seasons in baseball with a .953 OPS, second only to Victor Martinez. Abreu hit 35 homers and knocked in 105 runs. Minnesota’s Danny Santana also was solid. Some rookie pitchers were very good, such as Matt Shoemaker (16-4, 3.04), Masahiro Tanaka (13-5, 2.77), Betances, Marcus Stroman (11-6, 3.65), and Jacob deGrom (9-6, 2.69).

Worst rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. was an outstanding defender in center, but his .198 average and .531 OPS, lowest among rookie hitters, tips the scale.

OPS award — Victor Martinez keeps on trucking with a .978 OPS to lead the majors in a year in which no one is over 1.000. Martinez hit .336 with 32 homers and 103 runs.


Breakout player — Pirates super-utilityman Josh Harrison was an All-Star and is in line to win the batting title in the National League, so he’s our breakout player. Close is Cleveland left fielder Michael Brantley with a .328 average, 20 homers, 97 RBIs, and 23 steals. His OPS was a shade under .900 and he provided good defense. Washington third baseman Anthony Rendon certainly falls into this category with a .288/21/83/.825 line. Boston’s Brock Holt also took the Harrison route to his breakout season.

Regressing player — Lots of candidates, but the highest-priced one is Josh Hamilton, who can’t seem to get his once-fabulous, five-tool career back in the right direction. That said, he has company, including Allen Craig, Jay Bruce. Shin-Soo Choo, Domonic Brown, Ryan Howard, B.J. Upton, Andre Ethier, and Chris Davis.


Majority of GMs think
Hughes should be paid

Twelve general managers responded to a question about whether they would have paid Phil Hughes his $500,000 bonus, which he missed by one-third of an inning when rain nixed his chances of reaching a plateau.

Eight said they would have given him the bonus. Four said no.

The no votes were mostly GMs sticking to the letter of the contract. Hughes earned $8 million from the Twins this season and produced a 16-10 record.

The Twins gave Hughes the opportunity to get that one-third of an inning but Hughes declined, saying it didn’t feel right to go out and pitch for an incentive.

That was certainly a noble decision on his part, but the Twins, at least to this point, have not seen the need to give Hughes the $500,000.

Hughes had a major league-record 11.63 strikeout-to-walk ratio this season, issuing only 16 walks 209 innings. His incentive was for 210 innings.

He was about to finish the game last Wednesday when the rain started. A one-hour, six-minute delay ensued, too long for Hughes to safely return.

Are the Twins being stingy?

“Hughes had nothing to do with it. It was Mother Nature intervening,” said one National League GM. “He pitched great for the Twins. I would have recommended to my ownership he get the money regardless.”

And that was feeling of the GMs voting yes, that Hughes would have gotten it if not for the rain.

“It’s all about good will,” said one American League GM. “You put incentives in a contract to make the player earn his pay. Seems to me Hughes earned it but was stopped by a rain delay.”

Whether he gets it or not (and Hughes has said he won’t accept the bonus even if it is offered), nobody feels sorry for someone who made $8 million for the season, but why be a stickler to the contract?

Next thing you know, agents are going to be putting stipulations in for the bonuses, or bypassing bonuses for guaranteed salary.

Another $500,000 isn’t going to break the Pohlad family, which owns the Twins. Especially money going to one of their best pitchers.

“If he misses it by a third of an inning, even for reasons other than rain, he should get it,” said one NL GM. “I don’t think you can do that to one of your best players and expect him not to have a bitter taste. Seems like Hughes has handled it well, and I applaud him for not wanting to go out the final few days to earn it because it’s not a good look. The team should have taken that decision out of his hands.”

Another GM said, “I have done this in the past. If someone is close to reaching an incentive, I usually gave it to them as a show of good faith.”

Apropos of nothing

1. Who’s done the best managing job this season? We posed the question to scouts, special assistants, coaches, and managers, and the names that came up most were Baltimore’s Buck Showalter in the American League and Pittsburgh’s Clint Hurdle in the National League. Being around the Pirates for a few days this month, you could tell what a close-knit group they have. Pirates coach Dave Jauss said of Hurdle, “He’s the greatest leader of men I have ever seen.” Showalter, meanwhile, has outmanaged the field. His astute in-game managing is second to none, and the way he’s dealt injuries is top-notch.

2. Showalter turned to Dave Wallace one night not long ago and said, “You know something, you’re a pretty damn good pitching coach.”

3. Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin has weaned himself off Ritalin for his ADHD and is now controlling his symptoms with a new mental exercise called Versus.

4. Jon Lester is 9-3 with a 1.84 ERA vs. the Royals in 13 career starts, should he have to face them in a one-game wild-card playoff.

5. Speedy recovery to Red Sox special instructor Dick Berardino after knee replacement surgery.

6. Tommy Harper’s account of racism within the Red Sox with the Globe’s Bob Hohler was an eye-opener, and Harper says there are many more stories to tell, including ones about Carl Everett, where the controversial outfielder maybe wasn’t to blame for some of the things for which he was accused. Harper said Everett and the Red Sox reached a settlement on a suit Everett brought for a frivolous suspension in which he lost $97,000 in pay. The story never made the papers.

7. On Friday, ran into former Red Sox coach Ace Adams, who is now a pitching coach in the Cardinals’ system. He and Bill Freehan were the University of Michigan coaches who recruited Derek Jeter. “We gave him a free ride,” said Adams. “I remember speaking to his parents and his mother asking me, ‘Is he good enough to play here?’ Freehan said, ‘Good enough? He’ll hit first or third, not second so we don’t take the bat out of his hands.’ ” Adams, who had watched Jeter play since he was 15, met up with Jeter before Friday night’s game at Fenway. “He was great,” Adams said. “I just told him I wish he hadn’t signed with the Yankees. What a career.”

Updates on nine

1. Joe Maddon, manager, Rays — Maddon isn’t worried about starting the 2015 season in the final year of his contract. “Nothing yet [on an extension]. I’m not concerned,” Maddon said. “I’m not one to ask or pursue.” Maddon, who is Italian (his family’s original name was Maddonini) has opened Ava, an Italian restaurant which will debut Nov. 15 in Tampa. Maddon, who earns $2 million a season, is about in the middle of the pack in terms of salary. If he was a free agent, Maddon may wind up being the highest-paid manager in the game, somewhere in the $5 million range.

2. Bill Geivett, assistant general manager, Rockies — The consensus in the industry is that Geivett’s presence in an office in the clubhouse next to manager Walt Weiss probably wasn’t the best idea. We’ll see if there’s any change in this setup or in the Rockies’ front office this winter. It seems something has to give. There has been talk of a potential shakeup, but ownership is very loyal to its management team.

3. Dayton Moore, GM, Royals — While owner David Glass says he wouldn’t stand in Moore’s way if he wanted to return to the Braves as their GM after Frank Wren was fired, the biggest issue would be compensation. We saw how long and complicated the Theo Epstein move was from Boston to Chicago. The Red Sox eventually got only journeyman reliever Chris Carpenter. It would appear the Royals would need a better player.

4. John Hart, interim GM, Braves — If Hart doesn’t commit to the job because of his ties to the MLB Network, he will have much to say about who would become the GM. Hart, who was a hugely successful GM, has strong ties to Dan O’Dowd, as they worked well together in Cleveland. Hart has broken in future GMs such as Ben Cherington, Neal Huntington, and Mark Shapiro. The feeling is Braves assistant GM John Coppolella could be groomed for the job.

5. Kevin Towers, former GM, Diamondbacks — Towers is mulling his future. “Haven’t made a decision yet,” he said. “Will probably sit with Stew [new Arizona GM Dave Stewart] next week and see if something makes sense.” Towers once employed Stewart in San Diego. Before being hired by the Diamondbacks, Towers spent a year working for Brian Cashman and the Yankees, so you wonder if that would be an option again. Another possible fit may be San Francisco, where Towers has a strong relationship with GM Brian Sabean.

6. Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers — Braun’s salary rises from $10 million to $12 million next season, then jumps to $19 million in 2016. The deal runs through 2020 with a mutual option of $20 million in 2021. For a guy who hit 19 homers, drove in 81 runs, and hit .269 this season, this has to be alarming. The Brewers are considering moving Braun to first base. Trade? It would take a leap for any team with that money remaining.

7. Dusty Baker, former manager — You wonder if Stewart and Tony La Russa might consider a veteran manager such as Baker for a return to the bench in Arizona. Stewart was always fond of Baker, who was let go by the Reds after last season and would like to return to managing. Players always loved playing for Baker. Just a name to consider.

8. Ron Wotus, bench coach, Giants — If Bruce Bochy is one of the top three managers in the game, with two World Series championships under his belt, how is his righthand man not being considered for a managing job? Wotus, 53, has been the Giants’ bench coach since 1999. The Colchester, Conn., native was once the Pacific Coast League manager of the year. Successful organizations usually spit out successful managers and front-office personnel. Wotus should be at the top of the list.

9. Phil Nevin, manager, Reno — Nevin has become a hot name in terms of interviews. He’s already talked with the Astros, and it appears his own organization, the Diamondbacks, may speak with him.

Extra innings

From the Bill Chuck files — “Jose Bautista has walked 104 times and struck out 94 times, while Victor Martinez has drawn 69 walks and whiffed 41 times, making them the only players with more walks than strikeouts.” . . . Also, “The highest batting averages for players with at least 180 strikeouts in a season belong to Ryan Howard .313/181 K in 2006, Bobby Bonds .302/189 in 1970, Jim Thome .291/185 in 2001, and Mike Trout .290/181 this season.” . . . And, “ Madison Bumgarner (.346) and Bartolo Colon (.362) have the worst opponents’ batting averages in the majors against their sliders.” . . . Happy birthday, Mario Guerrero (65), Rob Woodward (52), Todd Frohwirth (52), and Zach Stewart (28).

Nick Cafardo can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.