The Best Of Baseball ‘08
Wednesday - October 15, 2008
Time to hand out the hardware in another awards list as worthless as the rest, including our’s at the All-Star Break.
AL Cy Young
At the Break: Cliff Lee, Cleveland. Final: Even with KRod’s mind-blowing, yet typical of the times 62 saves, and with apologies to Roy Halladay (20-11, 9 complete games, 2.78 ERA) this was a one-man race from the beginning. Lee won 22 of 25 decisions for a wicked .880 winning percentage on a team that seemed to misfire all year. He finished first in wins and ERA(2.54), second innings pitched (223.1), WHIP (1.11) and complete games (4) and walked only 34. NL Cy Young At the Break: Tim Lincecum,
San Francisco. Final: Lincecum was the best player on a bad team. The 24-year-old won 25 percent of his team’s games, finished third in the NL in innings pitched (227), first in strikeouts (265) and in BAA (.221) and second in ERA (2.62). Lincecum also proved to be a roadblock to losing streaks. His 18 wins were proceeded by 38 loses. By contrast, the Diamondbacks lost 22 games leading up to Brandon Webb’s, Lincecum’s biggest competitor, 22 victories.
AL Manager of the Year
At the Break: Joe Maddon, Tampa. Final: Maddon’s philosophy of few rules and great accountability has struck a cord with the league’s fifth-youngest team (27.6 years). Improving from last (66 wins) to first (97) is impressive enough. To do it as the entire league waited for them to fold while holding off baseball’s newest evil empire, the Boston Red Sox, attests to their toughness.
NL Manager of the Year
At the Break: Fredi Gonzalez, Florida. Final: Having L.A. at the top of the National League West is enough to garner Joe Torre a few votes, but for all the hype, the 2008 Dodgers won only two more games than the 2007 version. Almost by default the award goes to Gonzalez. The Marlins had plenty of offense finishing second in the National League in home runs and fourth in runs, but its pitching staff was a mess. The Marlins were 10th in the league in saves, 11th in ERA and the pitchers who started games (11) won a total of 56 games. Maybe the award should go to pitching coach Mark Wiley after the team reduces its ERA by half a run from 2007.
At the Break: Ian Kinsler, Texas. Final: Kevin Youkilis doesn’t exactly cut a perfect athletic figure in his Red Sox uniform, but through sheer will and enthusiasm he made up for David Ortiz’s down year and helped to hold things together after the Manny-be-Manny act left for Los Angeles. The ever-improving first baseman had a career year with 29 home runs, 115 RBI (fourth in the AL), a .312 batting average (sixth), 91 runs, a .569 slugging percentage (third) and an .958 OPS (fourth).
At the Break: Lance Berkman, Houston. Final: Ryan Howard’s .251 average and 199 Ks hurt. The Mets four-way MVP log jam (Wright, Reyes, Beltran, Delgado) makes it nearly impossible for any one to win just as Ryan Braun will have to fend off his bigger-named teammate. Although the Cards finished 11.5 games behind the Cubs, without Luis Pujols St. Louis would have instead been fighting Pittsburgh for the league cellar. Pujols led the NL in total bases, slugging and OPS. He’s second in average and walks, third in hits, fourth in home runs and RBI. He even stole 15 bases while striking out only 54 times.
AL Rookie of the Year
At the Break: Evan Longoria, Tampa. Final: The race is much more crowded then at first glance. Jose Arredondo has 10 wins and a 1.62 ERA but was a setup man for KRod and is unknown. Armando Galarraga was the best on a bad Tiger’s staff going 13-7 with a 3.73 ERA and Mike Aviles toiled in K.C. where his .325 average has gone unnoticed. That leaves the big three of Alexei Ramirez, Evan Longoria and Jacoby Ellsbury. Ramirez leads in average (.290), Longoria leads in the sexy numbers - home runs (27) and RBI (85) and Ellsbury in stolen bases (50) and runs (98). Winning matters so Longoria gets a slim victory over Ellsbury. Also, the Tampa third-bagger is baseball’s newest star.
NL Rookie of the Year
At the Break: Jair Jurrjens, Atlanta. Final: Jurrjens petered out after the All Star break finishing 5-8 on the season, while Joey Votto and Geovany Soto have battled it out to a virtual tie for first year honors.
Votto leads Soto by three runs and one home run but lags in RBI by two. Votto (first base) did outhit Soto (catcher) by 14 points, but does that out weight the difference in position importance? No. Even before Geovany became recognized for his hitting, he was lavished with praise by his manager, teammates and commentators for his skills behind the plate and his ability to work with the Cubs always flaky pitching staff.
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