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Postseason awards will spark major debate
I honestly cannot remember an awards season that included this many hotly contested races.
Not one of the American League awards features an obvious, slam-dunk choice. The NL picture is somewhat clearer, but the Rookie of the Year competition is so rich, I fully expect that we will talk about many of the same candidates in future MVP debates.
I cannot reveal the awards for which I will vote; the Baseball Writers Association of America prohibits voting members from releasing their ballots until the results are announced. But here is how I would vote in each of the eight major races, right down to the number of places in each race. I will be voting for two awards; I will disclose my exact selections at the appropriate times.
In the meantime, enjoy one last look at many of the candidates in our final regular-season broadcasts on Saturday (Yankees at Red Sox, Phillies at Braves, Padres at Giants, 4:10 p.m. ET).
The envelopes, please:
Cano also has missed only two games all season, and as my colleague Jon Paul Morosi recently pointed out, games played is the second of the five criteria listed on the MVP ballot.
If not for that little detail, Hamilton would be the overwhelming favorite. But Hamilton has appeared in only 130 games, none since Sept. 4.
Yes, that bothers me. Yes, it helps the case of Cabrera, who has appeared in 150 games and produced monster numbers, but isn’t nearly as good defensively as Hamilton and Cano.
The Rangers, though, led the AL West by eight games when Hamilton suffered his fractured ribs. The race was essentially over. The damage by Hamilton was done.
To me, it was just enough.
The term “MVP” is subjective, so you can argue this any which way. I prefer my MVP to come from a contender, which brings me back to Cano.
Hamilton plays in the weakest division, Cano the strongest. Cano’s offensive numbers also are better than Dustin Pedroia’s were when Pedroia won the MVP in 2008.
If anything, Cano is underrated, a description that is rarely used to describe a Yankee. But tempting as it was I could not justify placing him over Hamilton and Cabrera, the bigger offensive threats.
1. Josh Hamilton, Rangers
2. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
3. Robinson Cano, Yankees
4. Evan Longoria, Rays
5. Paul Konerko, White Sox
6. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
7. Joe Mauer, Twins
8. Adrian Beltre, Red Sox
9. Carl Crawford, Rays
10. CC Sabathia, Yankees
Two weeks ago, this race seemed wide open.
Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols is deserving of his third straight MVP and fourth in six years. But Reds first baseman Joey Votto -- the league’s most consistent offensive force and a much-improved defender -- is even more worthy.
Tulowitzki will end up playing even fewer games than Hamilton. Carlos Gonzalez batted leadoff for 44 games, forcing him to take a different offensive approach. Adrian Gonzalez was limited by an injury to his right (front) shoulder.
Votto, on the other hand, has led the NL in OPS for much of the season. Easy choice.
1. Joey Votto, Reds
2. Albert Pujols, Cardinals
3. Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies
4. Adrian Gonzalez, Padres
5. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
6. Aubrey Huff, Giants
7. Jayson Werth, Phillies
8. Scott Rolen, Reds
9. Buster Posey, Giants
10. Roy Halladay, Phillies
AL Cy Young
Now, if I’m largely discounting wins as a meaningful statistic, then I probably should place Yankees lefty CC Sabathia fifth. But I’m not ready to go that far.
One thing that concerns me with the possible selection of Hernandez; casual fans are not going to understand how a pitcher can win the award finishing barely above .500.
If voters are inclined to take this step -- and I believe they are -- then they had better be prepared to explain their rationales. Not with all sorts of advanced statistics. In ways that casual fans can understand.
NY Cy Young
It baffles me that some consider Phillies right-hander Roy Halladay the clear favorite. Cardinals righty Adam Wainwright performed almost at an identical level – and, depending upon your perspective, maybe was even a little better.
Each contender endured mild slumps from late August to mid-September before finishing strong. I give Halladay a slight edge because he worked 250 2/3 innings, the most since Livan Hernandez in 2004, and had the league’s best strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Don’t forget that Halladay also pitched in a more hitter-friendly park; Wainwright finished with a slightly better ERA, but Halladay had a better ERA-plus, a statistic that measures ERA against the league ERA and adjusts it for ballpark.
I’m tempted to include Cardinals left-hander Jaime Garcia in my top five, but he has pitched only 163 1/3 innings, barely enough to qualify for the ERA title.
Rockies right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez was the first-half Cy Young, going 15-1 with a 2.20 ERA. However, his ERA after the All-Star break was 4.15.
The choice depends upon your taste.
Are you comfortable with a closer who has pitched only 67 1/3 innings winning the award over a regular who bats leadoff and plays elite defense in center field?
Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson has some impressive counting stats -- 102 runs, 181 hits, 26 stolen bases. But he also is no Jason Heyward or Buster Posey, striking out 167 times while producing a respectable but not spectacular .756 OPS.
Rangers closer Neftali Feliz, on the other hand, has set the major-league rookie record with 39 saves (in 42 chances) while closing for a division champion. We all know saves are overrated, but Feliz averages more than a strikeout per inning and his .523 opponents’ OPS is fourth-best among AL relievers.
1. Neftali Feliz, Rangers
2. Austin Jackson, Tigers
3. Wade Davis, Rays
Help! I am in conflict!
I’m partial to Rookie of the Year candidates who spend the entire season in the majors.
That would be Braves right fielder Jason Heyward.
But I’m also partial to middle-of-the-diamond performers, particularly those who bat cleanup.
That would be Giants catcher Buster Posey.
The rap against Posey is that the Giants did not promote him until May 29. It is not uncommon for a player to win the rookie award after joining his team around that date. It would be uncommon for such a player to beat out another rookie with a .394 on-base percentage in his age 20 season.
Posey boasts the higher OPS. Posey also has only one fewer homer than Heyward and five fewer RBIs in 78 fewer plate appearances; Heyward missed time with a deep bone bruise in his left thumb.
The 2010 NL rookie class may go down as one of the best in history. The group includes Cardinals left-hander Jaime Garcia, Pirates second baseman Neil Walker and Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez and left fielder Mike Stanton; Brewers closer John Axford, Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro and Cubs outfielder Tyler Colvin; Braves left-hander Jonny Venters and, lest anyone forget, Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg.
Posey, though, stands alone.
1. Buster Posey, Giants
2. Jason Heyward, Braves
3. Jaime Garcia, Cardinals
Forgive me, Ron Gardenhire.
The Twins’ latest division title is their sixth in nine seasons under “Gardy.” Yet, Gardenhire never has been named AL Manager of the Year, finishing second five times and third once.
This should be the season, right?
The Red Sox suffered an even greater number of meaningful injuries than the Twins. Yet, they’ve won 87 games in the vicious AL East, just six fewer than the Twins have won in the less taxing AL Central.
I don’t expect Red Sox manager Terry Francona to win the award, but he merits strong consideration. Rangers manager Ron Washington, too, enjoyed a wonderful season -- he is the Comeback Manager of the Year after confirming in spring training that he tested positive in 2009 for cocaine.
1. Terry Francona, Red Sox
2. Ron Gardenhire, Twins
3. Ron Washington, Rangers
Early in the season, a GM from the NL West took note of the Padres’ progress, saying, “Bud Black really has them playing hard.”
The Padres’ dream is just about over -- they enter the final weekend three games behind the Giants in the NL West and two behind the Braves in the wild-card race.
But their season was a near-miracle.
As terrific a job as Dusty Baker has done with the Reds, the Padres have won only one fewer game with far less talent. Frankly, the vote should not even be close.
1. Bud Black, Padres
2. Dusty Baker, Reds
3. Bruce Bochy, Giants