Ok, so when Paul asked for my award ballots, I guess I misunderstood what he had in mind. I love lists, not as much as the next guy, but more than not just the next guy, but as much as the next few guys put together. However, I think this occasion calls for more prose than bullet points.
But before we get to all that, let’s have a look at the Phrontiersman Phriends and Phamily Phlayoff Phredictions.
The only person who successfully predicted all four winners is Ashley Teatum, Paul’s squeeze. Figures the only Yankees fan is winning. So as for people who got 3 of four right, Blockie, Kate, and Jeffrey have both of their World Series teams still in the hunt. Paul, my father, Ben, and I got 3 of 4 right but lost one of our World Series teams. Tim got 2 of 4 right and lost a World Series team, while my mother, bless her heart, only got 1 of 4 and lost both World Series teams.
But on to what we’re all here for.
AL MVP: Joe Mauer
This isn’t a discussion. A catcher with a Ken Griffey swing who, as late as September, had a legitimate chance to hit .400 on the season. Ben Zobrist nicked him in WAR this season, but Mauer, playing the toughest, most demanding position in baseball, managed to ring up a .365/.444/.587 with 28 home runs, score 94 runs and drive in 98 in only 606 plate appearances in a less-than-stellar offense, plus dragging that team kicking and screaming to the playoffs after the team’s only other all-star player (Justin Morneau) goes down for the season. According to FanGraphs, that makes him worth $36.8 million a season. I’d say that’s about right. And he’s only 26. More and better is yet to come.
Honorable Mention: Ben Zobrist, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Zack Grienke
NL MVP: Albert Pujols
The best player in baseball has done it again. The only player to beat Mauer’s OPS, with a 1.101. Top 5 in the majors in, addition to OPS, walk-to-strikeout ratio, OBP, slugging, isolated power, wOBA, home runs, runs, RBI, walks, intentional walks (doubling the second-highest total, btw), and WPA. And he stole 16 bases and played gold glove defense.
Let’s talk about Pujols’ career lows. If you took Pujols’ career lows, you get a season of 148 games, 32 home runs, 99 runs, 103 RBI, .314/.394/.561, .402 WOBA. That season gets all-star consideration on its own. Wow. This guy’s going to win more MVPs and probably take a shot at the triple crown before he’s done. Even in a hitter’s age, he’s putting up historic numbers, and while he’s sort of a boring player, he’s just inexorable. He will reach base, and he will create runs no matter what you do. At age 29, he’s already hit more career home runs than Joe DiMaggio, Hank Greenberg, Dave Parker or Al Simmons, and I don’t see him slowing down anytime soon.
Two notes about Pujols in general terms. First, we are truly blessed to be baseball fans in this age. Right now, we’re watching a whole slew of players who could retire in the top 5 all-time at their positions. At first, you’ve got Pujols. Second base: Chase Utley (I say he retires behind Morgan, Collins, and Hornsby because of his late start, but ahead of Jackie Robinson). Shortstop: Derek Jeter, A-Rod, and, at the risk of getting ahead of ourselves, Hanley Ramirez. Third base: A-Rod (you could split him in two and still get two hall-of-famers) and Chipper Jones. Catcher: Pudge Rodriguez and Mauer.
Second: While it’s true that the best offensive players usually hit for some power, I’d characterize the best players in the game as line-drive hitters who hit for power by accident. Mauer doesn’t hit for a ton of power, nor does Hanley Ramirez, both of whom are usually good for about 25 homers a year, but not much more. Pujols hits as many home runs
Honorable Mention: Utley, (Hanley) Ramirez
AL Cy Young: Zack Greinke
Just kidding, Paul. Let’s play the same game we did with Pujols: Greinke led the majors in WPA, ERA, and FIP, was second in complete games and shutouts, third in strikeouts, and fourth in K/BB. He won 16 games for a team that only won 65. Tremendous.
When I was younger, I played MVP baseball 2004. A lot. I got very good at it. But in that game, there was one pitcher who absolutely owned me: Jason Isringhausen. He had, in the game at least, a 95-mile-an-hour fastball and a 66-mile-an-hour knucklecurve. I couldn’t hit him to save my life. That’s what I’d imagine hitting Greinke would be like.
We’ve been inundated by statheads comparing Greinke to various other illustrious seasons, such as that of one Pedro Martinez in 1999. I’ve been over, in this space, how I had the Baseball Weekly infographic from that season hanging on my bedroom wall until I went to college, and while I’m not sure that Greinke’s season quite measures up to that, it sure is impressive and beats the heck out of anything any other AL pitcher has done this year.
Honorable mention: Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, CC Sabathia, Mariano Rivera
NL Cy Young: Adam Wainwright
So the four biggest awards this year feature three routs and one race that’s absolutely too close to call. Carpenter was better, but not for as many innings. Lincecum was slightly better than Wainwright, but for slightly fewer innings and with a slightly higher BABIP against and with a significantly better defense behind him. (HT to highboskage.com).
So in my mind it’s a dead heat. Some people will pick Wainwright because he’s got more wins. Some people won’t pick him for that very reason, just to stick it to the man. Well that’s fine. Here’s why I go with Wainwright.
1) Carpenter was better, but not pitching as many innings gives room for Lincecum and Wainwright to sneak in.
2) Given that Lincecum and Wainwright were more or less equal, I can use some extremely banal reasons to choose Wainwright: He was on my fantasy team. I think Tim Lincecum looks like a scene kid and I can’t bring myself to vote for him. I think that Wainwright didn’t get enough press and the statnerds’ constant hemming and hawing about wins being overvalued took away from the excellent season that Wainwright had and I want to give him his due. Finally, Lincecum and Carpenter already have Cy Youngs. Let’s spread the wealth.
Yes, that race really was close enough that I can, in good conscience, use reasoning such as that.
Honorable Mention: Carpenter and Lincecum.
AL Rookie of the Year: Andrew Bailey
I don’t really follow the AL too closely. Mostly because it, like strikeouts, is boring and fascist. I do know that Andrew Bailey did well as a rookie closer this year, posted good peripherals (including a 0.88 WHIP and a 2.56 FIP), and, in general, scored a 8.71 AKANT (ass-kicking-and-name-taking) ranking on my proprietary scale. He’s got five pitches that were around or above the That and no one else really jumped out at me. He was also on my fantasy team.
Honorable mention: Rick Porcello and Gordon Beckham
NL Rookie of the Year: Chris Coghlan
Now I think that J.A. Happ, Tommy Hanson, and Randy Wells all did very well this season. But in order to overcome a field of position players, a pitcher, even a starter, in my mind, has to be an absolute standout. A stud. I’m not asking for Mark Fidrych, but I’m at least asking for Hideo Nomo. Those guys are just normal guys with decent stuff and decent control. Yawn. Oh, but I did get the answer to a question I asked a few weeks ago. The last major league team with three lefties to twirl shutouts in the same season? The Marcel Lanchemann-led 1995 California Angels, whom you might know from such films as the greatest collapse in baseball history. Chuck Finley, Mark Langston, and Jim Abbott all broke off one whitewashing apiece (though this year’s Phillies had Hamels and Happ drop two S-bombs each on the season).
Coghlan, however, in just 128 games, scored 84 runs, hit 31 doubles, got on base at a .390 clip, and was generally a pretty good guy to have hitting in front of Cantu, Ramirez, and Uggla, in my opinion. He also outscored Happ et al in the AKANT ranking by a full point. Much as I’d like to pick Happ, who truly did have an excellent rookie season, my vote goes to Coghlan.
Honorable Mention: Happ, Hanson, and Wells
NL Manager of the Year: Jim Tracy
Yeah, I’m just as sick of hearing about the historic turnaround as you are, and the fact that Tracy’s lineup changes don’t seem to have much of a rhyme or reason to them doesn’t suggest that he’s a better manager than Clint Hurdle so much as it suggests these Rockies just needed a kick in the pants. But the record remains.
On a side note, how annoying was Carlos Gonzalez this NLDS? We couldn’t get the guy out for anything.
Honorable Mention: Bobby Cox, Fredi Gonzalez (even though I think he’s a total dick and the Marlins would be better off dropping him for Manny Acta)
AL Manager of the Year:Mike Scioscia
I refuse to give this award to anyone whose GM spent the GDP of Ghana on players (Girardi) or Terry Francona, just because I’m acutely aware of how profoundly awful a manager Francona is from his days in Philly. You know he’s the last Phillies manager to post a losing season, right?
So that leaves the guy who helmed, for my money, the second-best overall team in baseball through the Nick Adenhart ordeal, a bullpen that was almost as bad as the Phillies, and a slew of injuries and player turnover. Good on ‘ya, Mike.
Honorable Mention: Ron Gardenhire (shouldn’t we just pencil him in to be runner-up for this award every year?), Ron Washington (despite his inability to speak coherent English)