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Red Sox Revival

First of all, before digging into how the Red Sox made the World Series, I feel obligated to share a few graphs after yesterday's post on the Cardinals. Boston's roster is constructed quite differently:

The players developed through Boston's farm system are still a cheap and cost-efficient commodity, but not to the same degree that is seen on the Cardinals roster. Relying on free agency is a luxury that big-market teams enjoy though.

Still, the real story of the 2013 Boston Red Sox is just how much they transformed their roster in the past season, and how much they improved. Also, lost in the massive Beantown shuffle, is that they ended up reducing their team payroll about $20 million while adding 28 victories, winning their division, and now returning to the World Series. Alot went right, to say the least.

So what exactly did they do? Here's a look, position group by position group:

The Cardinals Way

The St. Louis Cardinals made it to the World Series last night in stately fashion. They bludgeoned Clayton Kershaw, who should go on to win the NL Cy Young Award, to make it to the fall classic for fourth time in the last decade. A couple of their runs to the World Series seemed lucky in recent memory, but as they continue to make it back, now including once since Albert Pujols left town, there's a growing consensus that St. Louis has a dynasty of sorts going on at the moment.

It's painfully easy to get romantic about the Cardinals. The "Cardinals way" is often characterized as "the right way" to play the game, and the roster is filled with a bunch of no-names who know how to come together and compete towards a common goal. It's a nice narrative that seems to pair perfectly with a city that's often characterized as having the best fans in baseball.*

*And they might be the best fans in baseball. More on that later.

Jayson Stark wrote an article arguing that the third inning of last night's game epitomizes the 2013 Cardinals. His article is exhibit A for the romanticized "Cardinals way." In particular, I'm fond of these couple lines from Stark's article about Cardinals game 6 winner, Michael Wacha:
Two weeks ago, most of America was wondering who the heck he was and where he came from. Next thing we knew, he was out there Friday night, outdueling Kershaw for the second time in this series, spinning seven more insanely dominant innings of two-hit, shutout baseball and winning an NLCS MVP award. At age 22.
 Wacha outdueling Clayton Kershaw twice is a fantastic story, and the kind of story that makes baseball beautiful.  Stark is good at what he does, and he has sniffed out a great storyline for sure. Michael Wacha is the Cardinals way embodied, but to write off who the heck he is and where he came from as a side story to build up the "some-nobody-versus-The-Greatest-Pitcher-In-The-NL" as a storyline is to miss the Cardinal way completely.

2013 BBA Awards

It's that time of year again, to make my picks for the Baseball Bloggers Alliance awards. I only vote on the AL, since I am a Mariners blog. Without further ado, my picks:

Connie Mack Award (Manager of the Year)
Terry Francona, Indians - Cleveland's stunning run to a playoff berth in September made Francona a pretty easy choice. Cleveland spent some significant money in the offseason, signing both Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, so I don't want to make it sound like Francona willed this team to some sort of miraculous new level. However, neither Swisher nor Bourn lit the world on fire. Most of Cleveland's improvement came from players within, perhaps most notably from Jason Kipnis taking a step forward and possibly becoming this generation's version of Chase Utley. The Indians somehow believed that they belonged with the likes of the Rangers, Orioles, and Yankees down the stretch when the wild card race got tight. They literally didn't lose when the wild card spots when wild card spots were up for grabs at the end of the season. Plus, by picking Francona, I have a vaguely good reason to link to a couple great videos and say go on down to Cleveland town!

Willie Mays Award (Rookie of the Year)
Wil Myers, OF, Rays - Frankly, peaking at the NL rookie class this year, there's an argument that the AL should donate this award to the NL so that they can have two recipients. It's remarkable how different the rookie classes are in both leagues. However, since I have to pick a rookie, I'll go with Myers. He was quite good, and would have run away with this award quickly if he had started the year in the majors. He turned out to be a key cog in the middle of the Rays order, and the Rays were were a playoff team this year too. David Lough of the Royals and Brad Miller of the Mariners might have been able to catch this award too with more playing time.

Goose Gossage Award (Reliever of the Year)
Koji Uehara, Red Sox - I was very tempted to go with Mariano Rivera, because he was good this year, but really I would have handed it to him more as a lifetime achievement award. I decided I would do that if there were no stand-out relievers. The problem is that Uehara's season is unlikely to be duplicated, like, ever. He retired 37 consecutive batters at one point this season, which is insane considering 27 in a row is a perfect game. Uehara was probably the beneficiary of several lucky bounces, but he combined that with some serious talent. It all added up to a magical season in relief, particularly once he took over as Boston's closer. Greg Holland also doesn't get enough credit for how good he is, and I gave some serious thought to handing him this award too.

Walter Johnson Award (Cy Young)
Max Scherzer, Tigers - It doesn't matter your favorite stat, Scherzer is the obvious choice in the AL this year. Wins? He got 21, the only 20-game winner this year. ERA? Sub-3.00. Strikeouts? Over 10 per 9 innings. Innings pitched? Over 210. WAR? Leads pitchers in that category too. Scherzer is in the top 5 of virtually every pitching category that could possibly matter, though perhaps there is an argument that he was somehow propelled by the rest of the Tigers staff. Anibal Sanchez and Justin Verlander also populate the leaderboard with him in all sorts of stats. Yu Darvish would have been a very serious contender for this award without his mid-season injury.

Stan Musial Award (MVP)
Mike Trout, OF Angels - Trout is a total package unlike any other in the AL. Both Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis had phenomenal power seasons, but it's not like Trout doesn't bring power to the plate (with 27 dingers), and he brings just as much hitting ability and patience with way more speed, baserunning, and defense. He was worth 10.4 WAR according to FanGraphs, which is over 2.0 WAR ahead of anyone else in the AL. Kyle Seager was the only Mariners position player to rack up more than 2.0 WAR on the season, just to put into perspective just how big the gap is between Mike Trout and everyone else*. Mike Trout should be an easy, easy choice for the AL MVP race, but there's little doubt in my mind that the big home run totals from both Cabrera and Davis will steal some (most?) of the votes away.

*And also put into perspective how putrid the improved Mariners offense (and it was improved) still was.

Check the Baseball Bloggers Alliance website to see who wins these awards as votes get tallied up, and compare them with the BBWAA awards to find out how badly they mess up this year.