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The 2006 Major League Baseball Bottom-of-the-Heap Awards

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While we await Jim Hendry's managerial decision -- and I do NOT believe it has been made yet -- it is time, once again, to hand out awards to the forgotten, the maligned, the worst of the worst in baseball. Last year, I didn't get these finished until November, but felt it was worth honoring the lowest of the low while we're still enjoying the postseason.

Why? Because everyone should get his due. They are named after various mediocre and poor performers of past seasons, or players (like Bob Buhl, who holds the record for most AB in a season with no hits, 70) who hold an impressive negative record. If you're not familiar with some of the other players who have the awards named after them, look them up. They all have numbers that would be suitable for said awards. Well, everyone except Dooley Womack, who was actually a decent reliever for a few years. I picked him just because -- well, just because that's a great name for an award like this. And no, he's no relation to Tony Womack.

NICE GUYS FINISH LAST AWARD
NATIONAL LEAGUE:
Chicago 66-96
AMERICAN LEAGUE: Tampa Bay 61-101
(AL, Nice Try: Kansas City 62-100)

As bad as the Devil Rays have been in their nine-year history, this is only the third time (1998, 2002-tied with the Tigers, and this year) that they have had the overall worst record in the American League.

Must have been the effects of shaking off Lou Piniella. Or something like that.

The last time the Cubs had the worst overall record in the National League by themselves, not tied with another team (as they were in 1997 and 2000), in a full, non-strike season, was in 1980, amazingly enough. The 96-loss season is the Cubs' worst since then. It can't possibly get worse. Or can it?

DAL MAXVILL MEMORIAL BATTING AWARD
(Lowest Batting Average, Minimum 502 Plate Appearances)
NATIONAL LEAGUE: Clint Barmes, Colorado, 105-for-478, .220 (535 PA)
AMERICAN LEAGUE: Angel Berroa, Kansas City, 111-for-474, .234 (503 PA)

Wrap your mind around that first winner for a second. Clint Barmes. A Colorado Rockie. Must have been the humidor - it's hard to believe that anyone could play that much in Denver and hit that poorly, particularly after he had been touted for the All-Star team in 2005 (before he had the dumb accident at his home, costing him a couple of months). Could have been worse, too: before the All-Star break this year he was hitting only .208.

Life after the Heap: last year's AL winner, Nick Swisher, had a fine year, driving in 95 runs, finishing tied for 8th in the AL in HR with 35, and had a trip to the playoffs.

Last year I wrote:

I expect Nick Swisher will have many All-Star selections, and playing time in the games too, before he's done.

He didn't make it to the ASG this year, but I suspect he will, many times, in the future.

RICK STELMASZEK MEMORIAL BATTING AWARD
(Lowest Batting Average, Minimum 50 At-Bats)
NATIONAL LEAGUE: Anderson Hernandez, New York, 10-for-66, .152
AMERICAN LEAGUE: Antonio Perez, Oakland, 10-for-98, .102

Perez doesn't set the record for this category - that's held by J. J. Cannon, who went 4-for-50 (.080) for Houston in 1980 - but the .102 mark is the lowest season batting average for anyone in the DH era (since 1973) for anyone with at least 100 plate appearances. To add injury to insult, Perez's season ended three days before the end of the year, when he suffered a broken finger on a routine ground ball, necessitating surgery that kept him off the A's postseason roster. And he did all of this after hitting .297/.360/.398 in 259 AB for the Dodgers last year, which was the reason the A's picked him up in the first place as part of the Milton Bradley trade.

What is it with these guys? Hernandez made the Mets' NLCS roster, too. Maybe this is the secret to postseason success - get at least one guy who really sucks.

Life after the Heap: last year's "AL Nice Try", Scott Spiezio, who went 3-for-47 for Seattle in 2005, wound up as a key contributor to the Cardinals' playoff effort. In fact, he must have read this comment made by BCB reader drone1047 in last year's awards:

I think you could safely say this was Spiezio's last year.

Nope, it wasn't. He ought to thank you for motivating him!

BOB BUHL MEMORIAL BATTING AWARD
(Most At-Bats, No Hits, Excluding Pitchers)
NATIONAL LEAGUE: Joe McEwing, Houston, 0-for-6
AMERICAN LEAGUE: Jack Hannahan, Detroit, 0-for-9

McEwing was once one of those "feel-good" stories, a career minor leaguer who burst onto the scene at age 26 with the Cardinals in 1999, and briefly was among the league hitting leaders (hitting .305 at the All-Star break) before settling in and having a decent .275/.333/.398 season. After that he bounced around and became a pretty good utility player, even playing in the World Series with the 2000 Mets. This will likely be the end of McEwing's career, as it may be for Hannahan as well - given that Hannahan will be 27 next spring, and those are the first nine at-bats of his career.

DOOLEY WOMACK MEMORIAL PITCHING AWARD
(Highest ERA, Minimum 162 Innings Pitched)
NATIONAL LEAGUE: Jason Marquis, St. Louis, 194.1 IP, 130 ER, 6.02
AMERICAN LEAGUE: Joel Piniero, Seattle, 165.2 IP,117 ER, 6.36

Marquis' bizarre season includes 221 hits allowed, 75 BB and 96 SO, 35 HR allowed, a 1.52 WHIP, and fourteen wins. I cannot remember a pitcher, ever, who won this award with as many wins.

Piniero was once one of the most promising righthanders in the AL, going 14-7, 3.24 at age 23, and 16-11, 3.78 the following year. It's been all downhill since then, and he finally got yanked from the Mariners' rotation this season. It's too bad, really, but he may be done at 27 - unless, as often happens with guys like this, they wind up as Cubs.

THE TICKET BACK TO WICHITA AWARD
(Highest ERA, No Minimum Innings Pitched)
NATIONAL LEAGUE: Blaine Boyer, Atlanta, 0.2 IP, 3 ER, 40.50
AMERICAN LEAGUE: Chris Booker, Kansas City, 1 IP, 6 ER, 54.00 (but see below!)

Boyer was a competent middle reliever in 2005, having 43 appearances with a 3.11 ERA and only 1 HR allowed in 37 innings. This year, he started the season with the ballclub, made two appearances and then wound up out for the year, having shoulder surgery.

Booker was a Rule V acquisition by the Royals from the Nationals. In his one appearance for them he gave up three home runs in one inning; this eventually led to his reacquisition by Washington, where he began Life After the Heap with 7.1 IP in 10 appearances, 3 ER, 1 BB, 7 SO, for a 3.68 ERA. He was originally drafted by the Cubs in 1995, and since then played for the following clubs: GC Cubs, Williamsport, Daytona, Williamsport again, Rockford, Daytona again, West Tennessee, Chattanooga, GC Red Sox, Dayton, Chattanooga again, Louisville, Cincinnati (hooray! Finally, the majors!), Clearwater, Wichita, New Orleans, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Omaha, Kansas City and Washington.

Well, think of the frequent-flyer miles.

ROGER CRAIG MEMORIAL PITCHING AWARD
(Most Losses, 17 or More Decisions)
NATIONAL LEAGUE: Jason Marquis, St. Louis, 14-16
Ramon Ortiz, Washington, 11-16
AMERICAN LEAGUE: Rodrigo Lopez, Baltimore, 9-18

Marquis had one of the goofiest seasons ever. For a while he was leading the NL in WINS, with an ERA well north of 5. When it went over six, he wound up leading the league in losses, even while helping his team to the playoffs (are you seeing a theme here?).

The AL wasn't even close - no one else lost more than 15, and in fact, only one pitcher (Carlos Silva) lost 15. In fact, the most individual losses on either of the AL's 100-loss teams (KC & TB) was 12, by Tampa Bay's Seth McClung, who wasn't even a regular rotation starter. This is partly due to injuries, and partly to just dumb luck, and partly because the Royals used 31 pitchers and the Rays 25, spreading the pain around a bit.

MATT KEOUGH MEMORIAL PITCHING AWARD
(Fewest Wins, 17 or More Decisions)
NATIONAL LEAGUE: Brian Moehler, Florida, 7-11
AMERICAN LEAGUE: Seth McClung, Tampa Bay, 6-12
Jamie Moyer, Seattle, 6-12

The NL was fairly "compressed" in terms of team wins this year, with ten of the sixteen teams winning between 75 and 85 games. Thus, it's not surprising that no pitcher was truly awful. Oliver Perez, who split the year between the Pirates and Mets, almost got this one by going 3-13. And he's about to start a postseason game.

Well, you didn't think McClung or the Rays would get through this unscathed, did you? Moyer wins because he had enough decisions in the AL before his mid-August trade to the Phillies, where he went 5-2.

COMEDOWN PLAYER OF THE YEAR AWARD
NATIONAL LEAGUE: Morgan Ensberg, Houston (2006: .235, 23 HR, 58 RBI; 2005: .283,36 HR, 101 RBI)
AMERICAN LEAGUE: Mark Buehrle, Chicago (2006: 12-13, 4.99; 2005: 16-8, 3.12)

Ensberg is also the winner of what I suppose could eventually be another B-O-T-H Award, the "Kyle Farnsworth Odd/Even Year Award"; in 2004 he had only 10 HR and 66 RBI, after bursting on the scene in 2003 with a 25 HR, 60 RBI season in only 377 AB. Thus, I would expect him to recover and play well in 2007.

If you want to know why the White Sox didn't win in 2006, look no further than Buehrle, who was pretty well awful all year. Their entire starting pitching staff had a big comedown from 2005, but none more than Buehrle, whose ERA went up by almost two runs, and whose WHIP went from 1.18 to 1.45.

THE LEAST VALUABLE PLAYER
NATIONAL LEAGUE: Angel Guzman, Chicago
AMERICAN LEAGUE: Steve Karsay, Oakland

There could have been many, many choices for LVP on the Cubs roster this year (and unlike most years, when I try to stay away from Cub players just because, well, it'd be too easy, this year the choice of team was obvious), but Guzman stands out for this reason: he was up and down from the minors several times during the season, and in his June recall he made two relief appearances, one on June 13 and one on June 16.

That was the day that Michael Barrett began his suspension for the A. J. Pierzynski incident. You'd have thought that the Cubs could have used an extra position player at that time, and so perhaps Guzman would have been sent back to the minors. Nope. They kept him, not adding a position player (Geovany Soto) until June 28, when Barrett's suspension was almost done, and then two days later Soto went back to Triple-A, never getting into a game. And Guzman continued to sit. Each day, he'd dutifully stand at the back of the bullpen when relievers warmed up, guarding those valuable arms from stray foul balls, but not making a single appearance until, finally, on July 4, he was sent back to Triple-A - when Glendon Rusch was activated from the DL.

You can't get much less valuable than that.

As for Karsay, I was looking through the stats trying to figure out who might be LVP and I saw Karsay's name and thought, "Is he even still alive?" OK, that's an exaggeration, but Karsay's probably spent more time on the DL than Mark Prior and Kerry Wood put together, and hadn't had a productive season since 2002. He pitched in nine games for the A's, and then announced his retirement.

LARRY BIITTNER MEMORIAL NON-PIITCHERS AWARD
I am stunned. For the first time since I began giving this award, it will not be presented in 2006. Not a single position player took the mound this year.

This either means pitchers were really good, there weren't any ridiculous blowout games (now you KNOW that's not true; just look at the Cub schedule in May and June), or that managers didn't think of doing it this year.