Thursday, September 30, 2010
This season is probably as tough a season to decide on the awards for baseball season as any season I can remember. Every award can have two or more guys who you can make a case for, no lock candidates. Either it's because too many guys who deserve it (NL ROY, AL Cy are best examples) or no one particularly locked it up and now you search for a winner (AL ROY and MVP). However, I've come up with the eight major award winners who are most deserving.
NL Manager of the Year:
Back in the end of August, it seemed locked up, with Bud Black of the Padres as the clear winner. Since the Padres have not only come back to the pack, but now trail in the NL West and Wild Card, it's more open. The main candidates for the award alongside Black are Dusty Baker and Bobby Cox. There is a thought to give the award to Cox, since this is his last year, but I try to avoid sentimental choices and to be fair, I thought the Braves would go to the playoffs this year anyway. As for Baker and Black, it seems like a toss up and I'll go with the guy in the tougher division, so Bud Black still gets the nod. The other reason, while the Reds have been a sleeper by some, no one thought the Padres would be good this year.
Joe Maddon, Joe Girardi and Ron Gardenhire all deserve votes, but this is a battle between Terry Francona and Ron Washington. Honestly, I would probably have Washington behind Gardenhire on my ballot, with more praise for the Rangers going to Nolan Ryan and the front office. As for Francona, this was one of the best managerial jobs I can remember, and better than either of Francona's title teams. When you lose Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and Jacoby Ellsbury for most of the year and have 3 of your regular starters pitch ineffective (particularly Josh Beckett), it's pretty tough to get to the last week of the season with a chance for a playoff spot, that's an achievement. Pains me to say as a Yankees fan, but Terry Francona gets the award.
NL Rookie of the Year:
This is probably the toughest vote of all and one just has to read Steve Henson's last column from Yahoo! Sports to see how. This is the best thing to happen to the National League is the rise of young talent that could tip the balance of power between the leagues closer to the NL's side. I've narrowed down the list to Buster Posey, Jason Heyward, and Gaby Sanchez as my top 3. With all due respect to Heyward and Sanchez, who've played almost all season, Posey has been terrific at the plate, hitting .311 with 16 HR and 64 RBI and play catcher, the toughest position on the field. If he doesn't do the job, both at the plate and behind the plate, the Giants aren't competing for a playoff spot. Buster Posey has to be the Rookie of the Year
Unlike the NL, this is a three man race between Austin Jackson, Danny Valencia and Neftali Feliz. Valencia is hurt by coming up in the middle of the season. While Feliz has been great closing games for Texas, Austin Jackson has been on the Tigers top players because of his offense and defense. Despite the lack of power, he's still has a .407 slugging pct with 34 doubles and 26 steals. Because of that, I'll pick him for the award.
This was so much more interesting when Albert Pujols, Joey Votto and Carlos Gonzalez were fighting for the triple crown. Once Cargo took a big lead in batting and Pujols did the same in HR, the triple crown was over. Then, Troy Tulowitzki started to play the month of September like Babe Ruth did to add more confusion to the race. Unfortunately, the Rockies finished outside the playoff race and now it's anyone's guess as to who wins the MVP. My thoughts, I usually don't go with a guy from a team who has a second logical candidate, because they cancel each other out, so no Tulo or Cargo. You can make a case for Adrian Gonzalez, but there are better guys at his position to look at. The Giants, Braves and Phillies all don't have a player you'd say is their MVP (can't count Posey who won't qualify for the batting title). As for Pujols, he will be punished, not rewarded like years past, for the Cards finishing seconded in the Central. That team is too good to be outside looking in. Leaving us with Joey Votto, second in batting, third in HR and RBI, first in on base and slugging and thus OPS and in the all-important WAR stat (more on that in the next paragraph). He's the MVP.
This is like the NL race, only the guys who are top 3 in each leaderboard look like they won't be in the playoffs. It also includes a whole list of players who you can make a case for. The candidates: Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, Josh Hamilton, Joe Mauer, Jose Bautista, Adrian Beltre and Carl Crawford. A-Rod's in there only because he could lead the league in RBI and that puts him on the list when Delmon Young isn't. Either way, both guys take away from Cano and Mauer respectively. Each guy has something over the other among those left; Bautista's HR's, Hamilton's batting and slugging, Cabrera's RBI's and OBP, Crawford's steals and Beltre's combined hitting and defense. So I go to the stat that in my eyes should be the biggest determining factor, WAR (Wins Above Replacement). Looking at that, Josh Hamilton's 8.0 WAR and the fact that the games he's missed where after the AL West race was basically over mean he's you're MVP, with Crawford coming a close second.
NL Cy Young:
The AL will have the best example of us wondering if wins for pitchers matter, but Roy Oswalt has quietly made a case himself. He's now 13-13 with a 2.73 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP. Josh Johnson had more of a case back when his ERA was under 2 and his WHIP was under 1, but it's come back a little bit. Adam Wainwright and Ubaldo Jimenez both fall in this category for their second half struggles. Honestly, I don't see how you go against Roy Halladay. He's top 5 in wins, ERA, K's, WHIP, K/BB ratio, FIP (fielding independent pitching) and WAR, which he leads the league. As easy a choice for an award we have this year, because there are other good pitchers who could easily win this year, i.e. Johnson.
AL Cy Young:
Twenty years ago, Felix Hernandez doesn't sniff the Cy Young. CC Sabathia would easily win the award (great example when you look at Bob Welch's Cy Young season). Go back to 2004, Randy Johnson dominated the year on a 51-111 Arizona team with a 2.60 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP. Still, he was 16-14 and lost to Roger Clemens. Now, I think it's time for new-school stats will officially trump over old-school ones. Keith Law wrote a great piece (anytime I link an ESPN column, it has to be great) on how there's no reason why pitchers should get full credit for wins when they only account for 30 percent of the win (would think it goes for losses). He made a very interesting point in the comments section that because a SP is five times more important that an position player, that it's fair to vote starters for MVP, changing my thinking about that (no starters, except Halladay would be considered in my book this year). Now we get to King Felix, who's 13-12, leads in ERA with a 2.27, leads in K's with 232 and his 249.2 IP lead as well. He's second in WHIP and has a WAR of 6.4. Everyone makes his biggest competition as David Price and Sabathia, I think Cliff Lee is probably second in my Cy Young because of his leading WHIP, second in FIP and according to Fangraphs, leads in WAR (just responded to this Joe Posnanski tweet which shows how WAR on Fangraphs and Baseball Reference is disputed, that hurts the stat). If you're voting for the BEST pitcher, it has to be Felix Hernandez.