Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Awards Season : Part 3 (Finally)

AL Cy Young

If there is one award that is totally sewn up and beyond refute it's this one. Johan Santananananaman is just the best pitcher in baseball today and leads the entire Majors in strikeouts, wins and ERA (the so called Triple Crown of pitching). The only thing that surprises me is that his WHIP is 1.000 which just seems high for him!

NL Cy Young

If there is one award that is totally up in the air it's this one. I reckon there are at least six starters in with a shout and one reliever.

You can't ignore that its been a great year for Hoffman. Despite his advancing years he has been the best closer in the NL and has finally usurped Lee Smith atop the all time saves list. I'm always reluctant to name relievers as Cy winners but it really would be a great way to top this season.

The thing that helps Hoffman's cause is that any one of Harang, Webb, Lowe, Zambrano, Carpenter or Oswalt could easily be considered the top starter in the NL as no one has really had a great season but all have had very good seasons.

Webb still gets the nod from me with his league leading ERA and I can't help but feel that his win total would be around the 20 mark this year if not for his team hitting the skids down the stretch. Ever since he started the year with his 8 game win streak, the rest of the league has always been playing catch up.

I would love to see Aaron Harang get a lot of votes. A lot of attention was thrust upon Bronson Arroyo in the Reds rotation this year but Harang has been an absolute workhorse for that team for the past two seasons. This year he's in the logjam atop the win column and presently leads the league in strikeouts and innings pitched and while his 3.76 ERA might not look as impressive as his rivals, we do need to bare in mind that he plays in one of the most hitter friendly parks in all of baseball.

Honary mention to Carlos Zambrano who is laboured with the truly awful Cubs team but has still won 16 games and has almost a K per IP. He really has done a great job at making people aware that he is the big guy on that rotation and not either of the injured pair people usually talk about.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Awards Season : Part 2

AL Manager of the Year

Jon Grudenhire has done a great job rallying the Twins after last seasons disappointments and a rough start to the year. Since the All Star break there have been few teams better than
Minnesota and they should be confident running into the post-season.

Few will recognise how good a job Joe Torre has done in New York as he has been forced to shuffle his deck countless times due to injuries to some of his key personnel. Of course it helps when your coffers are as deep as the Yankees but any team that loses the likes of Cano, Sheffield and Matsui for long stretches is going to feel it and even through all that, New York has walked the East.

Ultimately there is only one name that needs to be brought up when deciding the top gaffer in the AL and it’s the guy who has sculpted a group of youngsters and cast offs into a pennant winner. Jim Leyland has done wonders for Detroit after spending a few years in the broadcast booth and for most of the year his team had the best record in baseball in the best division in baseball.

NL Manager of the Year

I know I picked Cincinnati to finish dead last in the central but somehow Jerry Narron has made them into a winner. Of course it has helped that GM Wayne Krivsky has scrounged some rough diamonds from here, there and everywhere but this is still a team that really should not have done as well as it has and Narron deserves a lot of credit.

The Marlins, however, were a team picked by many (not me I might say) to finish dead last with his AAA all stars and he has taken them into the last fortnight of the season still with a slight sniff at the playoffs.

The most remarkable thing is how they’ve managed to get so many good performances from so many first year players. It was obvious that the guys they had available had potential and the tools to be good ballplayers eventually and if a couple of the guys had good seasons, a couple more showed flashes and a few showed they needed a little more time on the farm then the organisation would have been moderately happy, its just a shame that they can’t seem to revel in Girardi’s achievements due to a clash of personalities between him and owner Jeffrey Loria (just another person who doesn’t like Loria).

Joe Girardi should definitely be manager of the year and when he’s eventually relieved of his responsibilities by Florida in the off season, you know every team with a managerial vacancy will be beating down his door.

AL Rookie of the Year

What a year for rookie pitching. We’ll start with mini-Johan, Francisco Liriano, who was simply untouchable throughout the middle third of the season. He and Santana really look like they could be the dominant force in the AL for years to come and if not for injuries shortening his season he would definitely have been the guy to get the nod.

Then there’s Boston closer Jon Papelbon who just about qualifies for rookie status after a cup of coffee last year. Failed as a starter and an absolute success as a closer. It took forever for the league to get a run off him and it was tough enough to get a hit.

Really the thing that will determine this years AL RoY will be whether you feel a reliever is as valuable as a starter because Justin Verlander in Detroit has been superb for Detroit. It is always inevitable that rookie pitchers will wear down even more than players in other roles because the demands of the Majors are just so much higher than any other level and Verlander has been a victim of his own success down the stretch. He was just so good in the first half that he rung up a tonne of innings but even with his end of season swoon, he’ll still be amongst the leaders in wins and will have an ERA below 4.00 and few pitchers have been so valuable to their team. If anyone could be an MVP on the Tigers line-up this year its him.

NL Rookie of the Year

We’ll start this with the guy I picked before the season started and that’s Ryan Zimmerman who will win a lot of Gold Gloves in his career, and if not for Scott Rolen he’d be a shoo in this year, and has coupled stellar D with excellent hitting and base-running and will likely finish the year leading all rookies in a fair few offensive categories…I’d give him the award for his defensive contribution alone.

LA blooded a lot of their blue ribbon prospects this year and while Billingsley and Russ Martin (he’s a great player) probably haven’t logged enough time to get serious consideration, Andre Ethier was the guy who stepped up when injuries hit the Dodgers. He has slumped down the stretch (drastic understatement) which will hurt his chances.

How can you talk about rookies and not mention the Marlins? Dan Uggla has come from nowhere, Josh Willingham has shown some great pop, Hanley Ramirez has been igniter supreme at the top of the order but ultimately the rotation has seen Anibal Sanchez and Scott Olsen look superb and then there’s your rookie of the year, Josh Johnson, who is still vying for the ERA crown. Johnson has really made a lot of people forget that Dontrelle Willis has had a sub-par season and if he was on a better side he would likely have won enough games to be in the congested Cy Young race in the NL this year.

What a great year for rookie pitching.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Awards Season : Part 1

The seasons running down so its probably about time I go off about the inequities of who will win and who should win the big awards this year...and maybe I should also think about more original titles to my entries.


The favourite in this category seems to be Derek Jeter but then the favourite always seems to come from Boston or New York. Now I’m not saying that Jeter hasn’t had a great season, but he’s basically just been Derek Jeter this year.

Most of the problems for the Yanks this year has been with an endless stream of injuries to their big RBI men and the guy who has picked up the slack in that department has been Jason Giambi and he’s even had to pick up the slack from a slightly sub-par A-Rod.

For me its hard to pick an MVP out of a line-up that was always expected to score a tonne of runs before the season and if the Yankees got any kind of half-decent pitching they were always going to be a playoff team. For me the MVP should come from someone who does something to lift a line-up from being an alright one to a championship one. Few expected the Twins to score enough runs to make the playoffs but the guy who has anchored the heart of that team and made them genuine contenders is Justin Morneau.

You can say all you want about Joe Mauer and his potential batting crown as a catcher but he wouldn’t have been able to do that without the big guy behind him and Mauer still hasn’t established himself as a serious power bat.

Oh, and by the way I don’t want to hear anything from anyone about Ortiz and how well he has hit for the free falling Red Sox. No one can be seriously considered an MVP when his team collapses that badly, that quickly.


The favourite for the NL gong is probably Ryan Howard and that’s probably the way it should be. About a month ago I toyed with the idea of Carlos Beltran getting the nod, and he has had a great year, but in the most mediocre of Wild Card races, Howard has just gone postal on NL pitchers and dragged the Phils to the very cusp of post-season play.

Of course we should say a word about Phat Albert who was on pace to hit 80 homeruns and drive in 200 runs and also, incidentally, find a cure for cancer but sadly injury curtailed that effort and really Howard has out Albert-ed Albert.