Handing Out Baseball Hardware

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - October 12, 2011
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It’s time for Major League Baseball to get the “V” out. We go through this every year. What does valuable mean? Is it a playerof-the-year contest or are voters actually trying to determine if a New York center fielder is worth more than a Tampa first baseman or a Canadian right fielder? So helpful is the Baseball Writers Association of America that each MVP ballot begins with the instructions: “There is no clearcut definition of what most valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the most valuable player in each league to his team.” There ya go. Clear as mud.

So let’s dive in. MVP, Cy Young and more.

First, the no-brainers. Managers of the Year and AL Cy Young

Joe Madden and Kirk Gibson. No contest. The Diamondbacks went from worst to first and Madden took a Tampa Bay team that lost most of its athletic value and somehow got the Rays to push the rapidly falling Red Sox out of the playoffs. Some pretty impressive leadership on a team that finished 25th in batting average and 15th in runs scored.

If Justin Verlander doesn’t win the AL Cy Young award in a landslide, the league should call in UN election monitors. Verlander leads the league in wins, innings pitched, strikeouts, era, WHIP, batting average against, and throws harder in the seventh inning than he does the first. ‘Nuff said.

AL Rookie of the Year

This is a four-person race with starting pitchers Ivan Nova and Jeremy Hellickson with the lead over Angels’ first baseman Mark Trumbo and reliever Jordan Walden. Walden and Trumbo made a nice one-two rookie punch for Los Angeles, with Walden leading the team with 32 saves and Trumbo pacing the club with 29 home runs and 87 RBI. Nova didn’t exactly blow hitters away, recording just 98 strikeouts in 165 innings of work, but no matter, the rookie won his last 13 starts, including one against Detroit in the ALCS when he gave up two runs in 6.1 innings work. Hellickson led all rookie starters in innings pitched and era while throwing a shutout and recording two complete games. His 2.95 ERA and .210 batting average against likely make him the best rookie pitcher in the league. However, 16 wins in New York is 16 wins, and Nova takes this in a close one.

NL Rookie of the Year

The only question is, will anyone other than an Atlanta Brave win this award? No. First baseman Freddie Freeman led the team in batting and kicked in 21 home runs, 76 RBI and 67 runs scored. Brandon Beachy went 7-3, 3.68 ERA, 169 strikeouts and only 46 walks in 141.2 innings pitched. Nice numbers, but both will be buying beers for Craig Kimbrel, who tied for the league lead with 46 saved games, a 2.10 ERA, a 1.04 WHIP and a .167 BAA.

NL Cy Young

Who is Clayton Kershaw and what is he doing leading the NL Cy race? The Dodger left-hander is tied for the NL lead in wins (21), is first in era (2.28), WHIP (0.98), batting average against (.207) strikeouts (248), and third in innings pitched (233.1). He’s a bad team’s version of Verlander.


Verlander: See above. Curtis Granderson was a monster all season and finished with a .262 batting average, 41 home runs (No. 2 in the league), 119 RBI (No. 1), 136 runs (No. 1), 25 stolen bases. His 32 more runs scored and better on-base percentage gives him the edge over his teammate Robinson Cano, whose batting average is 40 points higher.

Miguel Cabrera is Granderson’s biggest nonpitching threat. The Tiger first baseman led the league in batting average (.344), on-base percentage (.448), doubles (48), was second in walks (108) and slugging (.586).

Jacoby Elsbury finished with a .321 batting average, 32 home runs, 105 RBI, 119 runs scored, and if the award just went to the best player he could be well into the mix. So could/should Toronto’s Jose Bautista (.302, 42 HR, 103 RBI) but, as mentioned earlier, “V” matters and because Bautista played for a middling Blue Jays team and Elsbury was surrounded by talent, neither has much chance.

Given his location, position and familiarity, Granderson is most likely to win, but Verlander is best qualified.

National League MVP

Matt Kemp had the best statistical season in the National League. But the Dodgers stink so he has no shot. Ignoring good players on bad teams takes out Jose Reyes, Lance Birkman and Joey Votto. That leaves the Phillies Hunter Pence and the Brewers’ Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. Hunter’s .314, 22 home runs, 97 RBI and 84 runs are impressive, but he falls just short of overtaking Milwaukee’s duo for bragging rights.

This isn’t really much of a contest between the two. Braun has a better batting average, more home runs, runs and has even stolen 33 bases. Plus, with Fielder already having his bags packed for free agency, the two local votes go to Braun.

There it is. How did we do?

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