October 2008

More award winning predictions (NL-style)…

The start of the World Series reminded me that I have just a few short days to predict my NL Award winners. Otherwise, I will find myself wrapping the actual winners or trying to convince people that I really knew “he was going to win that!” I’ll stick with beating the clock.

National League Most Valuable Player

Albert Pujols – Maybe I’m just trying to predict this guy takes home the trophy because there is a very good argument that we owe him a few of those that went to that Bonds guy. Regardless, Pujols has assaulted opposing pitchers since the first day he stepped in the box for the St. Louis Cardinals. Stat-line please….

AVG

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SB

OBP

SLG

.357

148

524

100

187

44

0

37

116

7

.462

.653

It’s hard to imagine a player who started off a career any hotter that Pujols. A near win for the NL batting title, in addition to be among the Major League leaders in home runs, RBI and of course running away with the best OPS (1.114) in the senior circuit are all reasons that Pujols does what Ryan Howard could not. Maybe my entire argument for Pujols as the best hitter in the National League leads me to vote for him, simply because he does his thing every year… and he’s more than a one trick pony. I smell a segway.

Runner Up: Ryan Howard – Yes, the big Philly first baseman lead the majors in homers (48) and RBI (146), and turned in a monster September that helped the Phillies grab the NL East flag. BUT, I can’t see how the 199 strikeouts (for a second straight season I might add) is an MVP kind of stat. I’d argue that if you take away Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins and that supporting cast, then Howard’s ability to produce is diminished immensely. It’s hard to say that Howard is more valuable to the Phillies than Utley in my book. The .251 batting average and iron glove defense doesn’t exactly win me over, either.

Here are a few other things while I’m on the topic: Howard finished sixth in the NL in slugging percentage (.543) despite his monster homer total. How about a 47th place finish in on base percentage (.339)? If you add the two together, you find a hitter who is nestled between Andre Ethier and Brad Hawpe. That’s hardly MVP-caliber company.

National League Cy Young Award

Tim Lincecum – This kid, yeah, KID, is flat out awesome. Breezing through the minor leagues and cutting his teeth with the Giants last season, Lincecum established a degree of dominance that was not matched by any other pitcher in the National League. Don’t believe me? I’ll show you:

W

L

ERA

G

GS

CG

SHO

IP

BB

SO

WHIP

18

5

2.62

34

33

2

1

227

84

265

1.17

I’m looking at all the other statistical accomplishments of more veteran hurlers, like Johan Santana and the Arizona win-machine Brandon Webb. Even guys like Ryan Dempster and Roy Oswalt ending up having quality seasons, but there was little to convince me that Lincecum didn’t embody everything that the Cy Young Award has come to be known for. A season of dominance.

Runner Up: Johan Santana – I’d say the trade for Santana may have been the only thing that kept the Mets in the race the season. Managerial changes, injuries to John Maine and Orlando Hernandez, seeing Pedro Martinez continue to devolve, Oliver Perez coming back to earth, losing Billy Wagner…. I could go on and on. The bottom line is, Santana (16-7, 2.53 ERA, 206 K) should have won 20 games last season, were in not for some blown saves in what became a volatile Mets bullpen. There is plenty of reason to expect more of the same from the Mets ace as they move across the street.

National League Rookie of the Year

Geovany Soto – The Cubs have themselves a solid force behind the plate in young Mr. Soto. While breaking into the league this season, Soto showed a mastery behind the dish as well as when he had the bat in his hands:

AVG

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SB

OBP

SLG

.285

141

494

66

141

35

2

23

86

0

.364

.504

Were it not for our own Brian McCann here in Atlanta, Soto would have been leading all catchers in most offensive categories. Second to McCann in both doubles and SLG, Soto tied his Atlanta counterpart with 23 homers and finished nine RBI’s off the pace of Benjie Molina‘s lead. I’d say his season was by in large a tremendous success. Is this only the beginning?

Runner up: Jair Jurrjens – In a season that was marked by notable injury after notable injury in the Braves rotation, Jurrjens held his spot from bell to bell. And what a first full season it was. Coming over in a trade from the Detroit Tigers, the Braves installed a 13-game winner and nearly 200 innings into the rotation, when all they were expecting was a man to audition for the fifth spot in the rotation last spring.

National League Manager of the Year


Lou Piniella
– We now know how the story ended this year, but Sweet Lou wasn’t to blame for the under-whelming performances of his starting pitchers in the post-season. Yes, he had the big payroll and the star-laden team, but Piniella brings a fire and definite leadership to the fold as the skipper of the Cubs. He’s got as good a shot as anyone to help this team break that dreaded curse. You know, the one that was all but history this year.

There you have it, all the winners I can give you from the National League. Anybody agree or disagree with those? I’d love to hear it.

Till next time,

G-Mc

 

Time to hand out the hardware… (AL Winners)

The close of each season is a great time to reflect. When game 162 goes final, it’s another year in the books. There’s no doubt in my mind that 2008 was a season unlike any other, for a host of storylines and pennant races that made it an historic season. Now we get to focus on what players defined the season and make a few award-winning predictions. Here are the American League’s lucky recipients.

American League Most Valuable Player

Dustin Pedroia – While you can make the point that the line-up certainly helps, you must also take a close look at the diminutive second baseman and notice one important factor. He can flat out hit. Just look at this stat line:

AVG

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SB

OBP

SLG

.326

157

653

118

213

54

2

17

83

20

.376

.493

No, he isn’t going to lead the league in homers and RBI, but I’d give him a fighting chance at a slew of other categories. Those 20 stolen bases come against only one time being caught, so well rounded would be a great way to sum up Pedroia’s game. While the little man doesn’t always get his due, I believe 2008 may be a year that line of though gets thrown right out the window.

Runner Up: Josh Hamilton – It’s probably one of the greatest redemption stories in all of sports. And it is also one that is still being written on a daily basis. Overcoming personal demons to become a one-man wrecking crew for the up and coming Texas Rangers, Hamilton lead the AL with 130 and just five homers off the pace with 32. Speaking of homers, I don’t know too many people that will be forgetting that showcase Hamilton provided in Yankee Stadium during the All-Star festivities.

American League Cy Young Award

Cliff Lee – There are candidates who enter each season with the potential to take home the Cy Young award, whisking through the season and cutting down opponents on the way to a 20-win season. If I’d asked you to compile a list of these names last March, then I seriously doubt the inclusion of Cliff Lee on anybody’s manifest.

Then out of nowhere, Lee climbs off the scrap heap and back into the Indians plans for the season and well beyond. Without boring you with any further anecdotal quips about reclamation projects, here is Lee’s work this season:

W

L

ERA

G

GS

CG

SHO

IP

BB

SO

WHIP

22

3

2.54

31

31

4

2

223.1

34

170

1.11

So maybe I will insert those tales of woe that defined Lee’s 2007 now. This amazing Cy Young season comes just one year after he found himself back in the minor leagues and saddled with a 5-8 record and a 6.29 ERA. Refinements to his mechanics and the ability to attack the strike zone can be heralded as the top reasons for the renaissance that occurred here. Lee walked just 34 batters this season as opposed to 36 in 97.1 innings a year ago. His performance made it easier for the Tribe to trade away last year’s Cy Young award winner, CC Sabathia

Runner Up: Francisco Rodriguez – I guess 62 save seasons just don’t go as far as they used to. What am I talking about?! That record setting effort certainly isn’t lost on this humble baseball scribe, but K-Rod’s work doesn’t come as a complete shocker like Lee. In other words, his established track record of ninth inning dominance made him a prime candidate to take a shot at Bobby Thigpen’s record. Well, he can check that one off his list now. Besides, that saves record is going to make him a very rich man this off-season, with or without a Cy Young trophy.

American League Rookie of the Year

Evan Longoria – This guy is going to be a superstar. With the emergence of the Ray as a force what was perhaps baseball’s toughest division to win (if your team isn’t located in Boston or New York), Longoria will serve as Tampa Bay’s version of David Wright. Who knows, he might even be better. Stat line, please:

AVG

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SB

OBP

SLG

.272

122

448

67

122

31

2

27

85

7

.343

.531

Runners Up: Jacoby Ellsbury & Alexei Ramirez

Manager of the Year: Joe Maddon – Was there any question about this one? The Play-offs have been a great time to catch up with the stories that Maddon and the Rays next goal was supposed to be finishing about the .500 mark. I’d say the boys from Tampa Bay can set a new goal next season. How about repeating as AL East Champions? It truly came from nowhere, but the mind behind the Rays’ success deserves all the kudos in the world for this transformation. The cast of amazing young talent may be the power driving this post-season run, but the man behind the wheel did an amazing job this season. 

 

Tune in for the National League next time.

Till then,

G-Mc