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Official Fish Stripes April Awards

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April is behind us now. That not only means that one month of the 2005 season is behind us, but it also marks the end of our first month here at Fish Stripes.

We've had a lot of fun here so far. And it's not only because the Marlins are in first place. We've made some new friends and done some new things - and carried over a lot of the stuff from the old site too. We were fortunate enough to have some things linked to by fellow bloggers such as David Pinto, at Baseball Musings (as well as many others). For the first time ever we even received a "mainstream" link - from Sports Illustrated's Jacob Luft. The SportsBlogs network that we're a part of even received mention in publications such as The New York Times and Time.

In honor of the completion of our first month here and the completion of the first month of the 2005 season, we thought we'd hand out some hardware (well, figuratively at least- for details on the actual "prizes" you'll have to read until the very end).

Pitcher of the Month: Brian Moehler
While conventional wisdom would give this award to either Dontrelle Willis or Josh Beckett (keep in mind that Sunday's start was in May) or possibly even A.J. Burnett, we are: a) obviously not long on "conventional wisdom", or wisdom of any kind actually and b) we're going to do something a little different.

Instead of using a metric like VORP, which you usually find over at Baseball Prospectus, we've developed our own proprietary metric - Variance to Pre-Season Expectations (VtPSE).  Given that methodology, Big Moe - Brian Moehler is our winner for pitcher of the month for April.

While Moehler's numbers don't necessarily scream "Cy Young candidate" (he has 1 win and 1 loss to go with his 1.83 ERA and he's striking out 5.7 batters per 9 innings), the fact that Moehler stepped in and filled a starter's role was huge for the Marlins this past month. Big Moe was supposed to be the team's long reliever this year. Going into Spring Training the rotation was pretty much set, with Beckett, Burnett, Willis, and Leiter locked into starting jobs and Ismael Valdez essentially guaranteed the 5th starter's job.

Unfortunately for Ismael though, he was struck in the leg by a line drive towards the end of the spring. That left the Fish with little choice but to turn to Moehler. The setup of the schedule also meant that a 5th starter was needed early and often - as the Marlins had very few off days in April.  

Moehler stepped up and filled the role admirably.  He probably pitched - at least - like a 3rd or 4th starter - and nothing like the 5th starter that he was or the long reliever he was supposed to be. His strong performance has probably even earned him a semi-permanent lock on the starter's role - even when Valdez comes back and rejoins the team.

We could well be witnessing Brian Moehler's return to prominence.

Player of the Month: Juan Encarnacion
Using our proprietary VtPSE model again, this award goes to Juan Encarnacion. Juan's numbers aren't exactly MVP worthy (.276 batting average/.375 onbase/ .914 onbase + slugging to go with 4 homers and 23 RBI, including two grand slams - one shy of the club's season record) but are still very good.

Juan's performance was particularly impressive because he, like Moehler, assumed a much bigger role than nearly anyone had expected for him coming into the season. Going into Spring Training, many (myself most definitely included) doubted what Juan still had left. Many felt that Juan would be in a tight battle all spring with Jeff Conine for a regular job. By the end of the spring one could easily say that Encarnacion won his starting job (based on his strong performance), but you could also say that Conine's off-season injuries and surgeries also kept him from competing for that same job.

Nonetheless, Encarnacion outperformed even the wildest expectation that anyone (possibly other than himself) had for him in April. He started out the year with a grand slam on Opening Day. That pretty much set the tone for Juan's entire month.

Encarnacion also adapted to Jack McKeon's seemingly constant lineup changes - as Juan has been asked to bat nearly everywhere in the lineup.

Hopefully Juan's performance will hold up for the rest of the year. Even if it doesn't, the Marlins will likely get stronger performances over the rest of the year from the likes of Mike Lowell and Jeff Conine. Regardless, Encarnacion has earned his starter's role this year.

Former Marlin of the Month: Derrek Lee
While there are a number of former Marlins doing well throughout the league, this month's winner is a no brainer. Former Marlins 1B Derrek Lee won the National League Triple Crown for April (sadly for him, there is no such award) with a .419 batting average to go with his 7 homers and 28 RBI. His OPS of 1.258 for the month was also quite Bondsian.

What's that noise you just heard? Oh, nothing.  Just the simultaneous cries of "Sammy who?" from Cubs fans and "Couldn't we have had Lee for a lot less than Delgado?" from Marlins fans.

Oh well. Lee's putting up great numbers in Chicago, with a park that's much more conducive to his offensive game than Joe Robbie in Miami.  Output like this was expected - to some extent - from Lee. Whether or not the Marlins should have re-signed Lee prior to the 2004 season instead of trading him to the Cubs is another story for another day.

Fish Stripes Diary of the Month
Another runaway winner. Craig's diary about Ichthyomancy will likely lead to what should become a staple of this site. He probably deserves bonus points in the standings for thinking the whole thing up, but a) I'm far enough behind as it is already and b) if I give him extra points, Carolina will probably will a thunderstorm (or worse) on me.

That said, while Craig's diary will go down in site history, Carolina's recent diary about Saturday night's game with the Phillies (which took place in April) would have won had it been posted in April (which wasn't technically possible, since the game didn't end until May).

Fish Stripes Comment of the Month
There were a lot here to choose from, including one in particular that really put me (Craig too) in my place.  Not only did Carolina get this shot in, but she quickly followed it up with evidence of her original statement.

But the winner for this month has to be this comment. The first two sentences sound like they should have come from Iris Gaines in The Natural, Annie Kinsella in Field of Dreams, or Annie Savoy in Bull Durham.

Special Award - Wookiee of the Month
In honor of the release of Star Wars later this month, we're handing out a special award this month. The Wookiee of the Month doesn't go to someone actually affiliated with Star Wars (at least not that we know of).  Instead it goes to someone very hairy - you know, like a Wookiee. This fellow was spotted in our section a few weeks back during the Marlins (well, now I've lost the picture - so until I find it again, here's a funny random image instead) - Mets game at JRS (you know, the game where Pedro dominated). We thought this guy looked a little like Pedro - circa last year when his hair was really grown out.

Prize Details
So by now you're probably asking if prizes are awarded for these great honors. In fact, there are. The Diary, Comment, and Wookiee of the Month Winners win the most special prize of all - the pleasure of knowing that they won.  In coming months, we hope to have a supply of actual prizes.

Fortunately though there is a budget for the other awards. Winners of the Pitcher, Player, and Former Marlin of the Month are entitled to a meal of their choice at the restaurant of their choice with yours truly, Grover, and Yoda. Just drop me a line and we'll get it all set up.

It was a great first month here at Fish Stripes. Hopefully we'll have many more.  Whether you read, commented, wrote a diary or two, or emailed, thank you for making this site so much fun for us!