With the regular season over, it’s time to vote on the winners of the major baseball awards. This year, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA) has released five major awards to recognize the top manager, rookie, reliever, pitcher, and most valuable player in each league.
Without futher ado, here is my ballot for who should win each, along with two honourable mentions in each category.
Connie Mack Award (Manager of the Year)
American League – Ron Washington, Texas Rangers
In 2009 the Rangers finished 87-74, but nine back of the Angels in the AL West. After Washington was nearly fired in the off-season for having a positive cocaine test made public, he sought (and received) forgiveness, then went out and lead his team to 90 wins and a western division title. He made several big decisions such as installing a rookie as his closer (Neftali Feliz), managing a patchwork rotation consisting of a former Japanese league player (Colby Lewis), a converted reliever (C.J. Wilson), and a broken Canadian (Rich Harden), and juggled his lineup to survive most of September without two All-Stars (Josh Hamilton, Elvis Andrus).
Honourable Mention – Cito Gaston (Blue Jays), Ron Gardenhire (Twins)
National League – Charlie Manuel, Philadelphia Phillies
I know many might criticize this pick, because the Phillies were supposed to be the best team in the league, and ended up being the best team in the league. It is the old Cito Gaston conundrum from the early ’90′s, where “anybody can manage that team”. But I’m not convinced the Phillies win without Manuel. Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Placido Polanco were hurt much of the year. Raul Ibanez and Shane Victorino had down years compared to ’09. And outside of Halladay and Hamels, the rotation was below average. Yes, the late season acquisition of Oswalt was huge, and yes the team became healthy in September. But Manuel kept them close to the NL East lead before that happened, and he deserves credit.
Honourable Mention – Bud Black (Padres), Bobby Cox (Braves)
Willie Mays Award (Rookie of the Year)
American League – Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers
Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch of the Tigers both had great years, but I’ll take Feliz. A 22-year old playing the most pressure packed position in baseball for a playoff contender? With stats like this – 40 saves, 2.73 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 71 strikeouts and 18 walks in 69.1 IP? No-brainer.
Honourable Mention – Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch (Tigers)
National League – Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
Two deserving candidates for this award: Jason Heyward of the Braves and Posey. Their numbers are very, very similar:
Heyward – .277 avg, .849 OPS, 18 HR, 72 RBI
Posey – .305 avg, .862 OPS, 18 HR, 67 RBI
Plus they both lead their teams to playoff births. But Posey takes it because a) he put up those numbers in fewer games, b) he played catcher, a much more difficult position, and c) before he arrived SF was 25-22, in third place. They went 67 – 48 the rest of the way to win the division.
Honourable Mention – Jason Heyward (Braves), Jamie Garcia (Cardinals)
Goose Gossage Award (Top Reliever)
American League – Rafael Soriano, Tampa Bay Rays
Tampa Bay’s weak spot in 2009 was the bullpen, but one single free-agent signing transformed that weakness into a major strength. Soriano was installed as the Rays closer, and dominated. He lead the AL in saves with 45, had an ERA of 1.73, a 0.80 WHIP, and 57 strikeouts to only 14 walks. He is one of the major reasons the Rays are AL East champions for the second time in three years.
Honourable Mention – Joakim Soria (Royals), Neftali Feliz (Rangers)
National League – Brian Wilson, San Francisco Giants
It seems like such a cop out to give the Top Reliever award in each league to the man with the most saves, but I can’t find a way to not give it to Wilson. He lead the NL in saves with 48. He had a better ERA (1.81) and a better WHIP (1.18) than Heath Bell and Carlos Marmol, my other top choices. Marmol had more strikeouts (138 – 93), but he also walked twice as many batters. Plus Wilson pitched many more pressure packed ninth innings in the heat of a pennant race. Decision made.
Honourable Mention – Heath Bell (Padres), Carlos Marmol (Cubs)
Walter Johnson Award (Cy Young)
American League – Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
To me this is a no-brainer. My top-three candidates (CC Sabathia, David Price, and Hernandez) all had terrific years, but there is only one winner here. Despite having a record of only 13-12, he was the best pitcher by far:
ERA – Felix: 2.27, Price: 2.72, CC: 3.18
WHIP – Felix: 1.057, CC: 1.191, Price: 1.193
IP - Felix: 249.2, CC: 237.2, Price: 208.2
Strikeouts – Felix: 232, CC: 197, Price: 188
ERA+ (taking into account park impact) – Felix: 174, Price: 145, CC: 134
Complete Games – Felix: 6, CC and Price: 2
I could go on. The fact that he managed to win 13 games for a Mariners team that averaged only 3.10 runs per game for him is nothing short of miraculous.
Honourable Mention – CC Sabathia (Yankees), David Price (Rays)
National League – Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies
A number of good pitchers this year, but so many of them faded at the end. Chris Carpenter had an ERA of 4.78 in September. Adam Wainwright’s was 3.09 – good but his highest monthly ERA by over half a run. Ubaldo Jimenez was far worse after his enormous start. Josh Johnson was shut down for the season. Roy Halladay got stronger as the innings went on, and ended leading the NL in wins (21), complete games (9), shutouts (4), innings pitched (250.2), and K:BB (7.30). He also finished with a 2.44 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and a perfect game. Not bad.
Honourable Mention – Adam Wainwright (Cardinals), Ubaldo Jimenez (Rockies)
Stan Musial Award (MVP)
American League – Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers
To me, MVP means the most valuable player to his team, not the player who had the best season. It doesn’t matter if you play for the best team in the league or the worst. My measuring stick for this award is a hypothetical one – if the player in question was to be removed from his team, what would happen? That’s why you won’t see Robinson Cano on my list. Was he good? Yes. But take him away, and all the Yankees have left is Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Nick Swisher, Mariano Rivera, CC Sabathia, etc.
But take away Josh Hamilton, do the Texas Rangers still win the AL West? Maybe, maybe not. But they would be a far worse ball club. His stats (.359 avg, 1.044 OPS, 32 HR, 100 RBI) are outstanding, but it’s what his team would be without him that is more telling. Same story for Jose Bautista with the Jays and Miguel Cabrera in Detroit. They almost single-handedly lifted their teams to higher heights. But to me, Hamilton edges out Bautista for two reasons: 1) he lead him in every ratio category, (average – by a mile, OBP, SLUG, OPS) and 2) the Rangers without Hamilton don’t make the playoffs. The Jays without Bautista are 10 games worse, but still a fourth place team.
Honourable Mention – Jose Bautista (Blue Jays), Miguel Cabrera (Tigers)
National League – Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
Take away Pujols from the Cardinals and you still have Matt Holliday and a two-headed beast of a pitching rotation (Carpenter, Wainwright). Take away Carlos Gonzalez from the Rockies and you still have Troy Tulowitzki, and vice-versa. Take Joey Votto from the Reds and you have Brandon Phillips, Scott Rolen, and a bunch of rookie pitchers. Good? Sure. NL Central Champions? Not a chance. It also doesn’t hurt that Votto nearly won the triple crown (.324 average, 37 HR, 113 RBI) and lead the NL in OBP (.424), SLUG (.600) and OPS (1.024)
Honourable Mention – Albert Pujols (Cardinals), Carlos Gonzalez (Rockies)