At last, we come to the end of the one hundred and sixty-two game baseball season. A triple crown, a couple of perfect games, tightly contested division and wild card races, and some feel good stories all made 2012 one of the most intriguing seasons in recent memory. So let’s end it all with handing out some awards.
The Idiot Awards are a tradition like no other. One Idiot (me) picks the standard post-season awards such as MVP, Cy Young, etc. The Idiot also looks back to the regular season and at all the horrible predictions that he made when the season began. So let’s get to the self-deprecation.
American League Most Valuable Player – Miguel Cabrera (DET)
This is the most controversial debate I’ve seen for the award in a long time. On one side, there’s Cabrera, who led the league in batting average (.330), home runs (44), and RBI (139), becoming the first player since Carl Yaztrzemski in 1967 to win the Triple Crown. Detriot is also going to the playoffs. On the other side, there is Mike Trout, the child prodigy whose numbers are equally impressive. Trout battled Cabrera for the batting title down to the last day, finishing second at .326. He also slugged 30 homers, and drove in 83 runs from the lead-off spot, and stole 49 bases. He accomplished this in nearly a month less of playing time than what Cabrera had, because of Trout’s April 28th call-up to the big leagues. Then there’s defense, where Trout finished 10th among all MLB center fielders in Range Factor (2.418 assists plus putouts per game), and was a human highlight reel.
Trout is the all-around player, and Cabrera the hitting machine. So what becomes the tie-breaker when the unstoppable force meets the immovable object? Their numbers when both of their teams were fighting for their playoff lives. In September, Cabrera hit .333, compared to Trout’s .289. Cabrera popped 11 homers, more than doubling Trout’s five. In nearly every category, Trout’s numbers in September are below his 2012 monthly average, whereas nearly all of Cabrera’s are higher.
I place a great deal of emphasis on value when I give out the award. While Trout’s team finished with a better record than the Tigers, ultimately they are on the outside looking in at the playoffs. Cabrera was able to meet that mission objective, and put up better numbers when his team needed him.
National League MVP – Buster Posey (SF)
While there’s not as much controversy to this MVP battle, there is still room for debate. Most of the debates end in whether or not Buster Posey, who led the National League in batting average (.336) while also belting 24 home runs and driving in over 100 runs, can hold off the power numbers of Ryan Braun. Braun, the 2011 winner of this award, led the National League in home runs with 41 round trippers. Still, Milwaukee did not make the playoffs, whereas Posey’s Giants won their division. One could argue that Posey had a better supporting cast than Braun, but I would argue that Posey’s NL West was a tougher division than Braun’s NL Central (77 wins per team in the Central compared to 80 wins per team in the West).
I’d also like to give some credit to Yadier Molina, who I think should finish second in the voting. Molina set a career high in nearly every offensive category (average, HR, OBP, SLG), and threw out nearly half all runners that attempted to steal a base (35 CS in 73 attempts). However, his numbers still are just not as impressive as Posey’s.
American League Cy Young Award – David Price (TB)
I picked Price to win this award a couple of times over the past four seasons, but he never was a real candidate. It’s a tough call between Price and Justin Verlander this year. While Price’s 20 wins and 2.56 ERA led the league, Verlander takes nearly every other category. Verlander had more strikeouts (235-209), better WHIP (1.06-1.10), better batting average against (.217-.226), more innings pitched (238.1-211), and did it all despite his having worse run support (3.82 compared to Price’s 4.81).
You can flip a coin on this one, but I don’t think Verlander will win this award for the second year running. Also, don’t count out Jered Weaver, whose ERA, inning pitched and strikeout total is worse than either of the first two, but did win 20 games and pitch to a league leading 1.02 WHIP.
National League Cy Young Award – Clayton Kershaw (LAD)
I really wanted R.A. Dickey to win this award, but the numbers just won’t benefit him. Kershaw only won 14 games, but had the best ERA in baseball, and finished tied with Weaver for the lowest WHIP. Kershaw also had about .70 less run support per game than Dickey. According to Baseball Prospectus’ “Pitcher’s Quality of Opponent” statistic, Kershaw faced tougher opponents. Kershaw’s opponents averaged an OPS of .760, whereas Dickey’s averaged .750.
It was wonderful to watch R.A. throughout the season, and he was the individual that took home the award for feel good story of the year. However, he will be a runner-up to Kershaw.
American League Rookie of the Year – Mike Trout (LAA)
For reasons mentioned in the MVP section, Mike Trout wins by a mile.
National League Rookie of the Year – Bryce Harper (WAS)
While he did not have the Trout-like season many thought he would have after his first 50 games, Harper was the best rookie in the National League. His .270 average, and 120 strikeouts keep him from running away with the award, but I believe he will win it. That’s because Harper makes up for it with his power numbers. His 22 home runs, .477 SLG and .817 OPS lead NL rookies. Defense is a factor too, with Harper being a solid, although still not great, defender.
Harper will see some competition from Wade Miley, who went 16-11 with a 3.33 ERA for Arizona, and Yonder Alonso, who batted .273 and hit 39 doubles for San Diego.
American League Comeback Player of the Year – Adam Dunn
As I mentioned when I looked at this award at the All-Star Break, Dunn’s 2011 season is considered one of the worst in baseball history. Dunn was back to his old self in 2012, and even if his old self is a player that either hits home runs or strikes out, Dunn’s season was prolific. With 41 home runs, Dunn finished fifth in the American League. It’s really his only stat worth mentioning, aside from his .333 OBP, which is impressive considering he batted only .204. Quite an improvement from 2011, when he hit just 11 home runs and had an OBP under .300.
National League Comeback Player of the Year – Buster Posey
If I gave him the MVP, why wouldn’t I give him this award? Posey’s broken leg in 2011 caused him to miss three quarters of the season. The injury was gruesome enough to spark debate as to whether or not colliding with the catcher should be banned from the game. Posey responded with an MVP caliber season.
Honorable mention goes to David Wright, who batted .254 in an injury-ridden 2011 season. His 2012 season saw him hit .306 with 21 home runs, and a slugging percentage of .492.
American League Manager of the Year – Buck Showalter (BAL)
The Orioles were the most surprising team in the American League in 2012, bouncing back from a 69-93 season to becoming a 93-69, Wild Card qualifying team. It was no easy feat for their skipper. He used 12 different starting pitchers over the length of the regular season, which caused the Orioles to have the 9th worst starting pitching ERA in the AL. Outside of Wie-Yin Chen, no Orioles pitcher started more than 20 games or throw more than 120 innings. Showalter’s strength came from managing his bullpen, which posted a 3rd best (AL) ERA of 3.00. After a disappointing 2011, where the Orioles were expected to compete in their first full year under Showalter, not many people were high on the Orioles. That makes what Buck did even more impressive. Usually, after a team takes a step backwards, its hard to get them to find their way again. Showalter proved everyone wrong this year.
Honorable mention to Joe Girardi, who weathered every Yankee injury this season and led them to the best record in the American League. However, he had a budget and a front office that made some nifty moves, which Showalter did not have.
National League Manager of the Year – Davey Johnson (WAS)
The Nationals came into the season as many people’s dark horse candidate to play some serious baseball. And they did just that. Behind incredible pitching, the Nationals won their first National League East title, and will have home field advantage throughout the playoffs. What ended up impressing me the most about Johnson’s season was his handling of the Stephen Strasberg shutdown. It had been a topic of debate throughout the spring and summer, and Johnson stuck to the plan. What really impressed me is that he, and the rest of the Washington front office, shut down Strasberg because they thought the workload was starting to affect his pitching. After a start early in September where Strasburg struggled, the decision was made to shut him down. It was a move that was going to made eventually, but it was done at a time that seemed rational.
That concludes the serious awards. Now let’s have some fun.
The Oooooof Award – Everyone in the Boston Red Sox Organization
A year ago, the Red Sox were looking for a GM and manager to replace the widely loved Theo Epstien and Terry Francona. Now, current GM Ben Cherington is looking for a manager to replace the madly hated Bobby Valentine. Bobby V’s one and only season as Red Sox skipper took them to a place they had not been since 1965 – a 90+ loss season. Not only was the final product bad, but there were several issues with the factory. The fan favorite Kevin Youkilis was called out by Valentine for his lack of production early in the season, and the clubhouse was perplexed. Youkilis was traded two months later. In July, it was reported that several Red Sox players, including Dustin Pedroia, took part in a meeting with team ownership expressing their displeasure in Valentine’s management. Roughly two weeks after that report came out, the Red Sox shipped Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto to the Dodgers. Valentine called his season “miserable” in a WEEI interview in early September, further angering the Fenway Faithful.
Following the Yankees, the Red Sox are the team I have spent the most time watching. Never, ever, did I think that their organization would fall this low. The Red Sox were an embarrassment to the sport this season. There was no more appropriate of an ending to their season than their sweep at the hands of the Yankees – a 10-2 loss, and a 14-2 loss, sandwiched by blowing a two run, ninth inning lead and losing in extra innings.
While 2011 might have been a horrible ending to the Red Sox season, the 2012 season is a reason why no fan or organization should overreact after a collapse.
The Gotcha Award – (TIE) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Baltimore Orioles
I picked the Angels to win the World Series (over the Brewers, oops), and if the Angels had even a decent April, perhaps that would have been different. Instead, Albert Pujols failed to hit a home run until May, and by the time Mike Trout had blossomed, the Angels had to play catch up all season. There were a couple of times I thought my pick would be saved – Pujols starting to hit; Trout turning games into track meets; acquisition of Zack Greinke – but it all ended in a disaster.
If I over-respected the Angels, I majorly disrespected the Orioles. In my season preview, I mentioned that they and the Blue Jays would merely be “background noise”. Hey, I was right on one of them! Instead, the Orioles went on a Cinderella ride into tonight’s Wild Card game, and it could go on just a bit further.
So as we head deeper into October in this Election Year, I name this award in honor of Sarah Palin, who gave us many laughs four years ago. The Gotcha Media told you to pick the Angels to make the playoffs, and you probably did. The Gotcha Media told you to ignore the Orioles, and you probably did. Gotcha.
Harry Doyle Award for Worst Fanbase – Tampa Bay Rays
This award stems from the line in Major League, where Bob Euker’s character says “Hey fans, in case you haven’t noticed – and judging by the attendance, you haven’t – the Indians have managed to win a few games here and there”.
This year, that award goes to the Tampa Bay Rays, who averaged a MLB worst 17,000+ attendance for all home games. Following their final game of their season, David Price sent out a tweet thanking fans for their support, leading me to wonder why anyone in their right mind would do that, aside from the obvious public relation view. I could find no other reason than the PR pitch. Consider that Tampa Bay spent the entire summer within 3-5 games of a playoff spot. We all know that Tampa has never been able to draw a crowd, so this shouldn’t surprise everyone. It always ends up surprising me how a team that has won 90+ games four out of the past five years has always ranked in or near the cellar in attendance so often.
The Smalls Award – Howie Kendrick (LAA)
Named for Scott “You’re Killing Me” Smalls from The Sandlot, this award goes to the player who hit into the most double plays for a team that did not make the post-season. This year, the winner is Howie Kendrick. Kendrick wrapped into 26 double plays, which was tied for the second most in baseball. Kendrick gets the award over Michael Young because the Rangers are a Wild Card team. In addition to the gaudy amount of double plays hit into, Kendrick batted just .271 in September, and slugged just .383, both of which were below his season averages.
Check back in tomorrow for my Playoff Baseball Preview, and be sure to follow me on Twitter @JustinCirillo