With the baseball playoffs fully underway, it’s time to unveil my picks for the 2012 MLB awards. Once again, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance has asked members to submit a ballot for the annual BBA Awards, which are a little bit different from the traditional ones. There are five awards up for grabs – one each for top rookie, manager, reliever, pitcher, and player (notice the award is for TOP player, not most VALUABLE player). While some of the awards are brutally obvious (a kid named Trout might win top rookie), the others are very, very tight.
So without further ado, I present to you the 2012 500 Level Fan BBA Award Ballot!
Connie Mack Award – Top Manager
1. Buck Showalter – Baltimore Orioles
From 1998 – 2011 the Orioles endured 14 consecutive losing seasons, with an average of 91 losses a year. In the past six years, that number went up to 94 losses a season. In 2012, they fielded a team with three “good” players (Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters), a team stocked with retreads, waiver pickups, and castoffs, and a team without any real quality starting pitchers. Their pythagorean record was only 82-80, yet they somehow won 93 games, earned an AL Wild Card spot, and nearly wrestled the AL East away from the Yankees. Kudos to Buck.
2. Bob Melvin – Oakland Athletics
Most pundits (including me) picked Oakland to finish dead last – not only in the division, but in the entire league. But Melvin lead a team of mostly rookies to the AL West division title.
3. Robin Ventura – Chicago White Sox
The rookie manager nearly lead a team that I picked to finish last into the playoffs.
1. Davey Johnson – Washington Nationals
The Nationals were expected to be an amazing team, maybe the NL East favourite – in 2014. Johnson lead the Nats to a baseball best 98 wins, giving the franchise its first playoff spot since moving from Montreal. He proved adept at managing through serious injuries (starting RF Jayson Werth, C Wilson Ramos, and Closer Drew Storen), and serious distraction – the Bryce Harper-driven media frenzy, and the Stephen Strasburg shutdown debate.
2. Mike Matheny – St. Louis Cardinals
It’s never easy trying to repeat, but imagine being a rookie manager of the defending World Series champs (replacing icon Tony LaRussa), and trying to make the playoffs without your long time pitching coach (Dave Duncan), franchise cornerstone (Albert Pujols), and pitching ace (Chris Carpenter). Matheny did.
3. Bruce Bochy – San Francisco Giants
Took a team that dealt with injury (Pablo Sandoval), suspension (Melky Cabrera), and underperformance (Tim Lincecum) to the top of the division – by a mile.
Willie Mays Award – Top Rookie
1. Mike Trout – Los Angeles Angels
Lead all of baseball with a 10.7 bWAR. That is tied for the 82nd best single season bWAR in baseball history, and is tied for the 14th best in the past 50 years. Oh – and Trout is only 20 years old. An absolute, slam dunk, no-brainer.
2. Yoenis Cespedes – Oakland Athletics
In any other year, his .292 average, .861 OPS, 23 HR, 82 RBI, 16 SB, 3.4 WAR season would likely be enough. Not this one.
3. Yu Darvish – Texas Rangers
Was never going to live up to the hype, but a 16-9 record with a 3.90 ERA and 10.4 K/9 ratio was pretty good.
1. Bryce Harper – Washington Nationals
A .270 average, .817 OPS, 22 HR, and 18 SB as a teenager? Amazing. He was also off the charts in September with a 1.043 OPS, helping the Nats clinch a playoff spot. Should Harper be the NL top rookie? That’s a clown question, bro.
2. Wade Miley – Arizona Diamondbacks
Lead all NL rookie starters in Wins (16), ERA (3.33), Innings Pitched (194.2), and Strikeouts (144). Also made the NL All Star team, impressive as a rookie.
3. Norichika Aoki – Milwaukee Brewers
The Japanese import was overshadowed by Darvish, but put up a 3.3 WAR while stealing 30 bases for the Brewers.
Goose Gossage Award – Top Reliever
1. Fernando Rodney – Tampa Bay Rays
Put your hand up if you saw this coming? Those of you with your hands up have all identified yourselves as liars. Seriously – where did this come from? After five consecutive seasons with an ERA above 4.20, a WHIP above 1.30, and a K/BB ratio of less than 2.60, Rodney had cemented himself as an unspectacular relief pitcher. Until this year: 48 saves, 74.2 IP, 0.60 ERA (!!), 0.78 WHIP (!!), 5.07 K/BB ratio (!!). The guy allowed 5 earned runs all season long!! Incredible.
2. Jim Johnson – Baltimore Orioles
Another guy who came from seemingly nowhere, finishing with a 2.49 ERA and a league leading 51 saves for the surprising O’s.
3. Vinnie Pestano – Cleveland Indians
Always nice to recognize a non-closer, and Pestano was great for the Indians in a set-up role: 70 IP, 2.57 ERA, 9.8 K/9, 2.1 WAR.
1. Craig Kimbrel – Atlanta Braves
Kimbrel takes this award for the second straight year on my ballot. After posting ridiculous numbers in 2011 he somehow outdid himself in 2012. An ERA of 1.01 and a WHIP of 0.65 are unreal numbers, but a K/9 ratio of 16.7? Unbelievable. Kimbrel faced 231 batters in 2012 and struck out 116 of them – over half! Just to further cement his win, he paced the NL withi 42 saves, and opponents managed only a .358 OPS against him . That’s OPS, not Average…
2. Aroldis Chapman – Cincinnati Reds
His numbers were also ridiculous, but just a shade less so than Kimbrel: 1.51 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 15.3 K/9 ratio, 38 saves.
3. Kenley Jansen – Los Angeles Dodgers
A solid overall season for the on-again / off-again Dodgers closer, especially considering he pitched with a heart condition that hospitalized him in September.
Walter Johnson Award – Top Pitcher
1. Justin Verlander – Detroit Tigers
Last year this was the easiest award to choose. This year it was one of the toughest. Very little separates Verlander from David Price, but here is why I choose JV: he lead the league in complete games, innings pitched, strikeouts, batters faced, and ERA+. To pitch the most innings in baseball AND face the most batters, all while keeping an ERA of 2.64 and a WHIP of 1.06 is very impressive. But one stat sealed the deal: when Verlander exceeded 100 pitches in a game – precisely the moment in a game when many starters falter – he actually got better. He faced 115 batters after the 100 pitch mark, allowing a .130 average and .354 OPS against. Dominant.
2. David Price – Tampa Bay Rays
His best season in the big leagues. Lead the league with a 2.56 ERA, and reached the 20-win mark for the first time.
3. Felix Hernandez – Seattle Mariners
If it wasn’t for a terrible September this award might have been his. Was his usual dominant self the other five months of the season, including tossing a perfect game.
4. Jered Weaver – Los Angeles Angels
Lead the league in WHIP and won 20 for the first time, but an injury limited him to 188.2 innings, about 50 fewer than Verlander.
5. Chris Sale – Chicago White Sox
His first year as a starter was a great one: 17-8, 3.05 ERA, 192 K. Like Felix, he ran out of gas in September.
1. R.A. Dickey – New York Mets
Yes he is a knuckleballer, and yes he has a crazy backstory. But that’s not why I chose him to be the NL’s top pitcher. Dickey lead the NL in innings pitched (233.2), complete games (5), shutouts (3), strikeouts (230), and batters faced (927). He was second in wins (20), second in ERA (2.73), third in WHIP (1.05), and third in pitchers WAR (5.6). He also did all that while playing for a New York Mets team that was awful, and in the same division as the best team in baseball (Washington), and the top NL Wild Card team (Atlanta). Dickey deserves the award.
2. Clayton Kershaw – LA Dodgers
Kershaw can easily make a case as the top pitcher as well. He finished first in pitching WAR (6.2), first in ERA (2.53), first in WHIP (1.02), second in strikeouts (229), second in shutouts (2), and second in innings pitched (227.2). Finishes second by a hair.
3. Johnny Cueto – Cincinnati Reds
Always overlooked, Cueto didn’t even make the All-Star team. But a 19-9 record, 2.78 ERA, and league leading 152 ERA+ should put him in the spotlight next year.
4. Gio Gonzalez – Washington Nationals
The Nats gave up a lot to get him, and he came through for them big time: 21-8, 2.89 ERA, 207 K.
5. Cliff Lee – Philadelphia Phillies
Can a pitcher with only 6 wins get a Cy Young vote? When he has 207 strikeouts, a 3.16 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and an unbelievable 7.39 K/BB ratio, he sure can.
Stan Musial Award – Top Player
1. Mike Trout – Los Angeles Angels
If this award was for Most Valuable Player, I’ll confess I might have gone with Cabrera, but for straight up best player, it has to be Trout. Yes Cabrera won the Triple Crown, but Trout finished second in average (.326), second in OPS (.963), lead the league in both stolen bases (49), and runs scored (129), and also added 30 HR and 83 RBI – all while essentially missing all of April. On top of that he was an outstanding defender, finishing seventh in baseball reference’s defensive WAR category with a 2.2 (Cabrera’s was -0.2). His overall WAR of 10.7 was baseball’s best. Oh – and he did it all as a 20 year old.
2. Miguel Cabrera – Detroit Tigers
He won the first Triple Crown in baseball in 45 years, and wasn’t as bad at 3B as most anticipated. He wins this award in any other year.
3. Robinson Cano – New York Yankees
His 8.2 bWAR was actually second in the AL, ahead of Cabrera. Set career highs in homers (33) and OPS (.929).
4. Adrian Beltre – Texas Rangers
In what ended up being a disappointing season in Texas, Beltre stood out: 36 HR, 102 RBI, and a .921 OPS.
5. Yoenis Cespedes – Oakland Athletics
Outstanding season by Oakland’s rookie, who just seemed to get better as the season went on.
6. Prince Fielder – Detroit Tigers
7. Josh Hamilton – Texas Rangers
8. Edwin Encarnacion – Toronto Blue Jays
9. Josh Willingham – Minnesota Twins
10. Joe Mauer – Minnesota Twins
1. Buster Posey – San Francisco Giants
Coming off a brutal leg injury that ended his 2011 season early, expectations were tempered a bit for Posey in 2012. All he did was win the NL batting title with a .336 average, finish fourth in OPS (.957), and lead the league with a 7.2 WAR. All while playing the most demanding position in the game. His second half numbers were through the roof – .385 avg, 1.102 OPS, 60 RBI – as he lead the Giants to a runaway win in the AL West.
2. Ryan Braun – Milwaukee Brewers
His numbers were virtually identical to last year across the board, except for an additional 8 home runs to lead the league with 41. All without Prince Fielder hitting behind him. Impressive.
3. Andrew McCutchen – Pittsburgh Pirates
Unfortunately, another second half Pirates collapse will overshadow his outstanding season: .327 avg, .953 OPS, 31 HR, 96 RBI, 20 SB.
4. David Wright – New York Mets
The Mets moved in the fences at Citi Field, in part to accomodate Wright, and he responded in a big way, producing his best offensive season in years.
5. Yadier Molina – St. Louis Cardinals
Like Posey, played the most demanding position in the bigs – and played it the best, defensively. Set career highs in virtually every offensive category.
6. Chase Headley – San Diego Padres
7. Jason Heyward – Atlanta Braves
8. Aramis Ramirez – Milwaukee Brewers
9. Joey Votto – Cincinnati Reds
10. Aaron Hill – Arizona Diamondbacks