Picking MLB's April Winners for Every Major Award
As April comes to a close, the MLB standings and leaderboards don’t exactly look like most of us expected they would.
The Braves, Orioles, Indians, Dodgers and Nationals all have at least a share of first place in their divisions.
The Angels, who were expected to be among baseball’s best, are already nine games out of first, and the Red Sox are in last place.
So, as April turns to May, let’s take a look at who would win baseball’s most coveted awards, should the season end today.
NL Comeback Player of the Year: Barry Zito, San Francisco Giants
After five years of disappointment in San Francisco, Zito is off to a great start for the Giants.
In his first four starts of 2012, he is just 1-0, but that does not tell the full story. Zito has given up just five earned runs in 27 innings (that’s a 1.67 ERA, for those of you who don’t have a calculator handy) and he threw a complete game shutout in his first start in Colorado.
With only 19 hits and six walks surrendered, the former Cy Young winner also sports a .926 WHIP.
Who knows if Zito will keep it up, but fans in the Bay Area are certainly happy he's at least given them something to show for his $19 million salary in 2012.
Runner-up: Johan Santana (New York Mets), Buster Posey (San Francisco Giants)
AL Comeback Player of the Year: Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox
After signing a four year, $56 million deal with the White Sox before 2012, Dunn had one of the worst years in baseball history in the South Side of Chicago.
In 122 games, he hit just .159 with a .569 OPS and struck out 177 times.
Dunn is still striking out at a high rate in 2012 (he leads the league with 34), but he’s also hitting for power again.
After hitting just 11 home runs in 2011, he’s already hit five in 2012. His OPS is also .881, almost exactly his career number.
Dunn is under contract through 2014, so White Sox fans better hope he keeps hitting.
Runners-up: Joe Mauer (Minnesota Twins), Jake Peavy (Chicago White Sox)
NL Rookie of the Year: Kirk Nieuwenhuis, New York Mets
Nieuwenhuis has stepped into the outfield for the Amazins and has played extremely well, contributing at least in part to the team's fast start.
He leads all NL rookies with a .325 average and has added some power with two homers, four doubles and a triple.
Nieuwenhuis didn’t come in to the season with a guaranteed spot in the lineup, but he’s making it hard for manager Terry Collins to take him out of the lineup.
Runners-up: Matt Carpenter (St. Louis Cardinals), Wade Miley (Arizona Diamondbacks)
AL Rookie of the Year: Drew Smyly, Detroit Tigers
This Tigers rookie did a good Justin Verlander impression in April—even better than Verlander did himself.
In four starts, the 2010 draft pick has managed to keep three of the best American League lineups in check (Rays, Rangers, Yankees).
He hasn’t allowed more than a run in any of his starts, going four innings against Tampa Bay and six in each of his other three starts.
Smyly’s ERA is just 1.23, striking out 22 in 22 innings while allowing only 18 hits.
He’s young, having only pitched two seasons in the minors, so hitters may catch up to him in time, but it looks like Drew Smyly has a bright future in Motown.
Runners-up: Wei-Yin Chen (Baltimore Orioles), Yu Darvish (Texas Rangers)
NL Manager of the Year: Don Mattingly, Los Angeles Dodgers
Frank McCourt really was the problem.
After an incredibly average last couple of seasons, the Dodgers are off to a hot start in 2012 after McCourt sold the team to a group led by Magic Johnson.
Having perhaps the two best players in baseball helps, too.
Matt Kemp is leading the Triple Crown statistics at this point, with a .417 average and a ridiculous 12 home runs and 25 RBIs through just 23 games.
Clayton Kershaw, the 2011 Cy Young winner, had a phenomenal April, too, with a 1.78 ERA in five starts and 28 strikeouts in 30.1 innings.
At 16-7, the Dodgers have the best record in the National League – how could Don Mattingly not be the Manager of the Year at this point?
Runners-up: Terry Collins (New York Mets), Davey Johnson (Washington Nationals)
AL Manager of the Year: Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles
April is a very small sample and anything can happen, but who would have thought the Orioles would be within a game of first place at the end of the season’s first month?
Not this writer.
Legitimate arguments could have been made before the season that any of the AL East’s other four teams could have been the favorite to win the division, but not the O’s.
But because of superb hitting by Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Nolan Reimond and Matt Wieters, and solid pitching by Jason Hammel, Tommy Hunter and Wei-Yin Chen, the Orioles find themselves at 14-9 going in to May and doing better than anyone expected.
Runners-up: Joe Madden (Tampa Bay Rays), Ron Washington (Texas Rangers)
NL Cy Young Award: Stephen Strasburg (Washington Nationals)
This was the closest call of any of these awards, but it’s hard to argue with Strasburg’s numbers in his first full season after having Tommy John surgery in 2010.
In five starts, Strasburg is 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA in 32 innings, striking out 34, walking six and allowing just 22 hits.
And he hasn’t given up a homer.
Strasburg has been absolutely dominant in 2012, not allowing any runs in two of his starts and just one run in two others.
We'll see if he wins the Cy Young Award in October, since the Nationals have placed a 160 inning limit on him this year, but for now, Strasburg has been the best pitcher in the National League.
Runners-up: Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers), Kyle Lohse (St. Louis Cardinals)
AL Cy Young Award: Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox
The last time Jake Peavy pitched a full season was 2007, when he won the NL Cy Young with the Padres.
Now that he’s healthy again, I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that he’s back to his dominant ways, even if it took him five years to get there.
The White Sox are finally getting the pitcher they traded for. Peavy is 3-1 with two complete games (one shutout) in five starts, posting a 1.67 ERA. His .690 WHIP leads the league, and he’s struck out 33 batters in 33.1 innings.
Peavy is a major part of the reason that the White Sox find themselves just one game out of first in the AL Central, and if the Sox do decide to rebuild during or after this season, Peavy’s doing a great job upping his trade value.
Runners-up: Jason Hammel (Baltimore Orioles), Jered Weaver (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim)
NL MVP: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers
I really don’t have much to say about Matt Kemp. He’s unbelievable.
He’s established himself as the best player in baseball, and to be honest, no one’s really that close.
His .417 average leads the league.
His 12 home runs puts him on pace for about 84.
His 25 RBIs put him on pace for over 175.
His .893 slugging mark is higher than Barry Bonds' the year he broke the single season home run record.
The Dodgers locked up Kemp with an eight-year worth $160 million during the winter, and he’s making that deal look like a bargain.
Runners-up: Jay Bruce (Cincinnati Reds), David Wright (New York Mets)
AL MVP: Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers
There were several questions surrounding Hamilton heading in to 2012. Would he be able to stay healthy? Would his off-season alcohol relapse affect him?
So far, the answers have been yes and no, respectively. Hamilton is performing at an extremely high level at as he heads into free agency at the conclusion of the season.
Hamilton has led the Rangers to the best record in the American League, hitting .395 with nine home runs and 25 RBIs. His OPS of 1.182 leads the AL.
The 2010 AL MVP hasn’t been able to stay healthy for a full season since 2008, but he certainly has the talent to keep up these numbers for a full season if he can stay on the field.
Runners-up: Derek Jeter (New York Yankees), Evan Longoria (Tampa Bay Rays)