Handing Out Baseball Awards
Wednesday - October 10, 2007
Did first-half spill over to October? Let’s find out.
American League Comeback Player of the Year
At the turn: After near banishment, Sammy Sosa lit up the first half with 14 home runs, 63 RBI and 35 runs scored.
At the finish: Coming back from playing in only 39 games in 2006 to hit 25 home runs and 75 RBI would have been enough for Gary Sheffield to win in most years, but 2007 was no ordinary season. Sosa hit only .221 in 2005 and was out of baseball in 2006, but the former favorite son of Chicago proved doubters wrong with 21 home runs and 92 RBI while hitting .252.
National League Comeback Player of the Year
At the turn: Dimitri Young didn’t just lose his job with the Detroit Tigers, his whole life unraveled with a divorce, depression, substance abuse and a guilty plea in an assault case.
At the finish: Young’s second half performance proved the first three months were no fluke. The Nationals’ first baseman hit a career high .320 with 13 home runs and 74 RBI. Most importantly he got his life back together and was able to mend some fences with his previous employer.
American League Rookie of the Year
At the turn: Daisuke Matsuzaka came into the league with a bullpen full of hype, and in the first half he didn’t disappoint, racking up 10 wins with a .233 batting average against mark to go along with 119 strikeouts and only 39 walks.
At the finish: Not Dice-K. Since the mid point, the high priced import went 5-6 with a 5.19 ERA to open the door for Dustin Pedroia and Tampa’s Delmon Young. Young bested Pedroia by 21 hits, five home runs and 43 RBI. However, the Red Sox second baseman topped out in runs, walks, batting average, OBP, slugging percentage and OPS. He walked more than he struck out and was 85 to the good over Young in the K department. Red Sox fans rejoice.
National League Rookie of the Year
At the half: About the only thing Hunter Pence failed to stockpile in the first half of the season were saves. At the break, Pence led all rookies in doubles, triples, on-base and slugging percentages. He was even second in the league in batting (.346).
At the finish: You’d have to think of yourself as snake bit after
turning in first-year numbers like .291, 24 home runs, 99 RBI and 104 runs scored and not picking up some post-season hardware. But that’s what happened to Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki. He just happened to come along at the same time that Ryan Braun went nuts with 34 home runs, 97 RBI and 15 stolen bases go to along with a nice .314 batting average. He also beat T-squared in slugging, OBP and OPS.
American League Manager of the Year
At the turn: Eric Wedge took a talented Cleveland team to within one game of the top of the Central while winning 12 more games than the year before. The Mariners surprised everyone by combining a 49-36 start that included an 18-9 record in May with the shocking resignation of manager Mike Hargrove, while Mike Scioscia had to deal with an injury-plagued team.
At the finish: This is a toughie. Scioscia had to be a circus performer trying to keep his hit-andrun ball club in contention, while Joe Torre had to weather through two of the most renching months in recent memory. Though Torre has every hitter money can buy, his pitching staff was a mess, but he held the team together and nearly caught the Red Sox. Torre was great, but Scioscia was just a tad better. The Angels do not bludgeon teams
into submission, which makes it even harder to push across runs when the parts are constantly changing. To tie the Yankees in victories while scoring 146 less runs is impressive. To do it with so many players on the DL is even more so.
National League Manager of the Year
At the turn: Sure the Brewers have some serious talent, but a young team needs direction, and Ned Yost guided his youngsters to the division lead. Out of the gate it seemed that the Cubs had once again traded money for losses, but a 21-13 finish before the All Star break rescued their season.
At the finish: Congratulations to the Phillies for hanging around long enough for the Mets to implode. Nice job, but not award-worthy. A season ago the Chicago Cubs were an undisciplined mess and finished with the worst record in the National League. This year they are the Central Division champs. Lou Pinella may be tougher than a $2 steak and can wear out a welcome in no time, but the guy knows baseball.
American League Cy Young
At the turn: Oakland’s Dan Haren was a stud in the first half, recording 10 wins against two losses while placing first in ERA (2.20) and BAA (.202) and second in WHIP (.98). His 3:1
strikeout-to—walk ratio was also impressive.
At the finish: Haren came back to Earth a bit in the second half and Josh Beckett (12-2, 3.44 at the break) just got better. Though Boston will always be the Manny and Big Papi show, Beckett anchored the team fight against the encroaching Yankees by winning four of five games in September. He was also Major League Baseball’s only 20-game winner to go along with a 3.27 ERA to just edge out Cleveland’s C.C. Sabbathia.
National League Cy Young
At the turn: San Diego’s playoff hopes were completely tied to its deep pitching staff, and with Jake Peavey’s 10-1 start they were right on track.
At the finish: Though the Padres were edged out by the Diamondbacks and Rockies, it doesn’t take away from Peavey’s performance. All the right-hander did was lead the National League in wins, ERA, WHIP, strikeouts and strikeouts per nine innings.
American League MVP
At the turn: With the Tigers leading the American League Central and Magglio Ordonez hitting .370 with 35 doubles, 68 runs scored and 69 RBI, he got the nod over A-Rod and the struggling Yankees.
At the finish: In 2003 Barry Bonds won the NL MVP without finishing in the top 25 in RBI. Stats don’t always tell the entire story, but this year they did. Alex Rodriguez was simply a monster. All he did was lead the league in runs (143), RBI (156), home runs (54), total bases (376) and OPS (1.067) He also hit .318, and the Yankees nearly caught the Red Sox. That’s not just an MVP season - it’s a Hall of Fame season.
National League MVP
At the turn: Although we shouldn’t expect to see Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder at any father/son picnics in the near future, he surely had to make Daddy proud of his first-half stats. Fielder led the league in home runs (27), was second in slugging percentage (.604), tied for third in RBI, fifth in OPS and sixth in runs scored.
At the finish: Whether or not you believe Matt Holliday was safe in their one-game playoff against the Padres, it hardly matters - the Rockies’ leftfielder came through all season. Colorado went 19-8 in September, including winning 12 of 13 in the final two weeks of the season. Holliday had career highs in nearly every statistical category while leading the league in hitting (.340), total bases (386), doubles (50) and RBI (137). He was also third in runs scored and fourth in home runs.
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