Over the past few days every beat writer in America has come out with their midseason report on the team they cover. They're usually fun, light reads that give a quick recap of the first half of the season. A team MVP is always named and it's usually nothing to get annoyed over, unless the selection, and the reasoning behind the selection, are preposterous.
Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune, a perfectly fine reporter who has never given me a reason to write about him before, published his midseason report today. In it he anoints Brad Boxberger as MVP of the Rays' first half. That's relief pitcher, and, yes, silly All-Star selection Bradley George Boxberger. Listen, I'm a fan of Boxberger. He's a solid relief pitcher. But this is ridiculous.
Tough choice here between the two All-Stars: RHP Chris Archer and RHP Brad Boxberger.
Where would the Rays be without Boxberger's 23 saves?
Where would they be without Archer, whose nine wins could easily be 12 with some help from his offense?
Boxberger gets the nod, because few expected him to pitch at this level. Considered a short-term fill-in until LHP Jake McGee returned from offseason elbow surgery, Boxberger has became the Rays All-Star closer and responded with 23 saves in 25 opportunities.
He has been the anchor at the back of a bullpen that has been vital to the Rays success during the first half.
Let's break this down line by line.
Where would the Rays be without Boxberger's 23 saves? Most likely in the same position they are now, because another relief pitcher, like Jake McGee, Kevin Jepsen, or a combination of a few arms would have filled in if Boxberger didn't exist. Listen, I like Boxberger, but he's not Mariano Rivera.
Where would they be without Archer? SIGNIFICANTLY WORSE. He's the only pitcher from the projected starting rotation to not yet be injured. He has 3.2 WAR, which easily leads the team and is the sixth highest among starting pitchers in all of baseball. He has 121 stellar innings. Boxberger has 36. Archer is better, and if you want to get into the semantics of what the word "value" means, has clearly been more valuable to the success of this team.
"Boxberger gets the nod because few expected him to pitch at this level." Did Mooney write that line in 2014 and just forget to use it until now? Few? Who are these few people? Were they aware of his existence before spring 2015? He was so good last season! He had the third highest K/9 in baseball. His home run issues hurt his ERA a bit, but it was still a very good 2.37. He was a very good pitcher! Here's the kicker, by every meaningful statistical measure Boxberger has been worse this season. He's striking out two fewer batters per nine innings, walking two more per nine, and his ERA and FIP are nearly a run higher than 2014.
I brought those facts up to Mooney who, after telling me "I think 23 of 25 (saves) is pretty good" after I first questioned his selection, said "whatever. He's the closer. I believe most expected him to keep the job warm for McGee. That's what I went on. You disagree? Fine." I appreciate a well argued stance on any topic, but this isn't it. Roger, you're better than that. .
The bullpen will always be a vital part of the success of the Rays, since they're likely to always struggle to score runs. By the way, a fully healthy Jake McGee has a 1.37 ERA, 29 strikeouts, 2 walks and nearly 1 full WAR in just 20 innings. Singling out one reliever as the MVP when a number of them have pitched well shouldn't happen.
If people are surprised that Boxberger is doing OK as a closer because that position is teh hardz and scary, then fine. I don't believe that, but, fine. To say few expected him to pitch at this level, when he's been worse in every sense, is ridiculous. Archer is the clear MVP. Unless he falls into a mystery pit or overdoses on nerve tonic resulting in gigantism or is hypnotized to think he's a chicken, he's going to be the MVP at the end of this season too.