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Predicting this year's MLB awards
The World Series trophy's been in the loving arms of every Giant, the free agents have been loosed from their moorings and all that's left before we bury the 2010 season in a shallow, watery grave is to hand out some individual awards.
So, to get us in that hardware state of mind, here’s a rundown of who will (probably) win those awards and who should win them ...
Doubtless, Hamilton would be a worthy choice. He missed some time due to a rib fracture, but did lead the league in OPS and park-adjusted OPS (worth noting, given his hitter-friendly home digs). On the other hand, you can make equally compelling cases for Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera, Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano and Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (especially given his defensive value). There's just a lot of compression to this race, and that should make for an interesting ballot. Combine Hamilton's excellence with his personal narrative (always an appeal for voters), and he's the favorite.
The discussion (rightly) will come down to Votto and Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols. In terms of the raw batting line, there's not much to distinguish one from the other: Pujols hit .312 AVG/.414 OBP/.596 SLG, while Votto went .324/.424/.600. Once you consider the home parks involved, that's a remarkably similar level of production. What separates Votto, however, is his performance during high-leverage plate appearances. According to Win Probability Added, Votto was the most productive player in the NL in such situations (Pujols was a somewhat distant second). This is another close call, but give it to Votto by a cleat.
AL Cy Young
Like so many other award scrums this season, there's no obvious choice here. Hernandez, Sabathia, Boston's Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester, the Angels' Jered Weaver and Tampa's David Price are all deservedly in the discussion. Cy voters have wisely and belatedly stopped paying so much attention to wins (a team statistic, let us remember), but to what extent? Hernandez outpitched all AL comers this season, but will the old-school voting block be able to overlook the King's 13-12 record? If you take into consideration his high unearned run tally, his run-suppressing home park and the outstanding defense behind him, his season looks a little less impressive, but he's still the best choice. In the end, expect Sabathia's win total, reputation and overall strong dossier to carry the balloting.
NL Cy Young
Rockies right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, Cardinals righty Adam Wainwright, Atlanta's Tim Hudson and Florida's Josh Johnson all had Cy-worthy campaigns, but Halladay will rightly win it. This season, Doc paced the NL in innings, strikeout-to-walk ratio, complete games and shutouts. As well, he finished second in strikeouts and third in ERA. Jimenez has the best case of any challenger, but Halladay's innings edge (250.2 to 221.2) gives him the, well, edge.
AL Manager of the Year
Who will (probably) win it: Ron Washington, Rangers
Who should win it: Cito Gaston, Blue Jays
There's no assailing the fine work done this season by Washington, who led the Rangers to their first postseason series win and first pennant. He's a steady hand who inspires loyalty in his men while also maintaining control. Still, Washington had a talented roster and benefited from a weak division. Gaston, in contrast, led the Blue Jays to a winning season despite playing an unbalanced schedule in the brutal AL East. Given that the Jays lost Roy Halladay last winter, got uncharacteristically poor numbers from Aaron Hill, struggled to find a third baseman and played 111 games (!) against teams with .500 records or better, it's a minor miracle they won 85 games. That's to Gaston's tremendous credit.
NL Manager of the Year
Who will (probably) win it: Dusty Baker, Reds
Who should win it: Dusty Baker, Reds
Bobby Cox and Bruce Bochy also enjoyed fine campaigns, but no manager's team trumped expectations quite like Baker's Reds. In terms of tactics, Baker, to most observers, leaves something to be desired, but for the most part he wins. On his watch, the Reds bested a Cardinals team with more high-end talent and a substantially fatter payroll. Well done, indeed.
AL Rookie of the Year
Feliz set the rookie record for saves, pitched for a division champ and has the highest ceiling of anyone in the 2010 AL rookie class so it's no surprise that he was handed the award Monday. However, Jackson was plainly more valuable this season. Mostly, this is because everyday center fielders who hit a little bit, run the bases well and play strong defense — and those descriptions apply to Jackson — uniformly provide more value than closers do. Boston outfielder Daniel Bard also merits a mention.
NL Rookie of the Year
This one may, rather quietly, have been the most compelling race of all. The Braves' Jason Heyward and Posey are both roughly equal in terms of hype and future potential. As for the season in question, give Heyward the nod for playing time (yes, it matters and matters quite a bit), OBP, baserunning and fielding (although Posey is, himself, a plus defender). As for Posey, he gets the nod in power and positional scarcity (i.e., it's easier to find a right fielder who can rake than it is to find a catcher who can do the same). In terms of overall value provided in 2010, give it to Heyward by a thin margin. But there's just little to separate these two outstanding young players. Also in the discussion were Jaime Garcia of the Cardinals (who's being widely overlooked), Daniel Hudson of the D-Backs and Posey's battery-mate Madison Bumgarner.
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