Today, your National League ERA leader is a San Francisco Giant.
No real surprise there.
It's Ryan Vogelsong.
I've been assuming for some weeks that Vogelsong is going to be the National League's Comeback Player of the Year, in fact I've suggested (only half in jest) that the award should be renamed the Ryan Vogelsong Award (just like the Rookie of the Year Award is officially named for Jackie Robinson).
What I didn't figure out until yesterday is that Vogelsong probably isn't going to win any award at all, because the Comeback Player award doesn't go to guys like Vogelsong. It goes to guys like Jason Giambi, Junior Griffey, Jim Thome, Nomar Garciaparra, Carlos Peña, Dmitri Young, Cliff Lee, Brad Lidge, Aaron Hill, Chris Carpenter, Francisco Liriano and Tim Hudson ... all of them past winners, all of whom came back from something.
Before this season, Vogelsong wasn't anything. Before this season, Vogelsong was 10-22 with a 5.86 career ERA and hadn't pitched in the majors since 2006.
When you look at Vogelsong's 2011, you don't say, "Hey, nice comeback"; you say something like, "What the %&@#?
So in the tradition of the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Awards, I propose (mostly in jest) the Ryan Vogelsong WTF of the Year Award. But because stories like Vogelsong's are so profoundly rare, we'll be lucky to find one in the majors each season, let alone one per league.
So there's just one WTF Award per season, and all rookies and Comeback Players of the Year are disqualified. Here are my retroactive choices for the last six seasons ...
2010: José Bautista
Easy choice. Bautista entered last season as a 29-year-old journeyman without a position, but with a .238/.329/.400 career batting line. He finished last season with 54 home runs.
2009: Ben Zobrist
Before 2008, Zobrist was a banjo-hitting shortstop. That season, he did show some real power, but that was only 62 games and was easy to dismiss. There was no dismissing his 2009 numbers, though. Playing all over the field -- literally every position except catcher and pitcher -- Zobrist batted .297/.405/.543 and actually drew some support in the MVP balloting.
2008: Carlos Quentin
It's not like Quentin didn't have a pedigree. He tore up Triple-A, then showed his power in 57 games as a rookie with the Diamondbacks in 2006. But Quentin's numbers nosedived in '07 and the D'backs traded him to the White Sox for a kid in A-ball. All he did with his new club was go from five homers and 31 RBI to 36 and 100, and finish fifth among American League MVP candidates despite missing the last month of the season.
2007: Fausto Carmona
As a rookie in 2006, Carmona pitched mostly out of Cleveland's bullpen and went 1-10 with a 5.42 ERA. In 2007 -- installed in the rotation for some then-unknown reason -- Carmona went 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA and finished fourth in the Cy Young balloting.
2006: Freddy Sánchez
Sánchez didn't get a real shot in the majors until 2005, when he was 27, but justified that shot with solid numbers for a second baseman: .291 batting average with some doubles pop. Still, nobody was expecting what happened next: in his second full season, Sánchez batted .344 to win the National League batting title ... and for a nice bit of frosting atop that cupcake, also paced the league with 53 doubles.
2005 John Patterson
At one point, great things were expected of Patterson, the fifth overall pick in the 1996 draft. By 2005, though, practically nothing was expected of Patterson, who entered that season with seven career victories and a 5.04 ERA. Finally healthy in '05, though, Patterson started 31 games for the Nationals and posted a 3.13 ERA. Granted, Patterson's lousy luck meant only nine wins all season (and his luck would only get worse, as he would win only twice more in his career).
Maybe next winter we'll walk these back a few decades, but trade rumors are a-calling...