2012 has been an amazing ride for Major League Baseball fans.
Perhaps it's because my beloved Phillies are going through an off-year right now, but I have been hopelessly addicted to following the stats, standings and storylines of this bizarre, crazy, and wonderful MLB season.
Both leagues have four-horse races for both MVP and Cy Young Awards. There isn't one division without a first-place race going on. Throw in the second wild card this year, and there are more teams alive than dead as the month of September looms on the horizon.
Having said all that, however, there are some stories which I am getting increasingly tired of hearing.
Yes, Mike Trout is having an amazing year and breaking rookie records left and right. Even the finer baseball minds are crowning him, and ready to declare him this decade's Albert Pujols. But the kid is only 21 years old, and if he falls short of this incredible season next year (which is becoming more likely with each home run and stolen base), the same pundits will have their daggers out, ready to call him a one-year-wonder and a bust.
Bryce Harper, the uber-hyped first-overall-pick of 2010, came up this year at 19 years young. His .307 batting average after 40 games was cute, but now we are back to reality. Hitting .248 with 12 home runs in 456 plate appearances is an awfully boring stat line after so much hype was generated.
And, dear God, if I see one more article or ESPN blurb about Stephen Strasburg's innings limit, I am going to gag.
In this article, I want to touch on some of the less-touted stories of 2012. I feel like these storylines are being ignored because of the cliches that have taken over the SportsCenter landscape, so let's take a look now.
When Ryan Braun was accused of using PED's in his MVP season last year, I had a strong feeling that his performance would decline in 2012.
When Prince Fielder signed with the Tigers and Ryan lost his cushion in the lineup, I would've put money on it.
Boy, did Ryan Braun shut me up.
To start off, Braun is leading the National League in home runs and RBI, with 35 and 90, respectively. He is also three home runs and 25 RBI short of breaking personal highs in both categories.
While the RBI total may be pushing it, Braun will certainly mash his career high of 37 homers he set in 2008. It would not be unreasonable to predict 42 or 43 dingers from the left fielder at season's end.
Ryan Braun's monster 2012 season is going somewhat unnoticed because the Brewers have fallen far below expectations, as the defending NL Central champions are 61-67,16.5 games below the Reds.
If the Brewers were in first place, or even breathing in the National League, Braun would be a lock for his second-consecutive NL MVP award.
No questions asked.
Okay, people are talking about the White Sox. They are one of the surprise teams of the season, currently sitting at 71-57 and in first place in the AL Central.
What is not being talked about as much, though, is exactly how good this team is.
We all know that Adam Dunn has been scary this year. Despite a terrible .205 batting average, he is leading both leagues with 38 homers, and is a lock for Comeback Player of the Year.
But what about the rest of this offense? Let's take a look:
A.J. Pierzynski: .288 BA, 23 HR, 70 RBI
Paul Konerko: .316 BA, 21 HR, 60 RBI
Alex Rios: .302 BA, 20 HR, 73 RBI
Dayan Viciedo: .252 BA, 19 HR, 57 RBI
Oh, and have I mentioned there are 35 games left to be played?
This offense can possibly finish with one guy having close to 50 HR, another one having 30 plus, and three more guys with 25 each.
Murderer's Row, Part II?
In a season where names such as Wade Miley, Bryce Harper and Todd Frazier have dominated the National League Rookie of the Year conversation, Wilin Rosario has been quietly slugging home runs for a bad Colorado Rockies team.
Rosario is leading all NL rookies in homers with 22, and is the Colorado Rockies' leader in the same category.
While Todd Frazier probably would deserve the NL ROY award if the season ended today, there is no reason why Wilin should not be second in voting.
But we know he won't be.
With every article I read on here about American League MVP rankings, Mike Trout invariably finds his way to the top.
However, if I were voting, Trout would be second.
My first-place vote would go to the obvious AL MVP--none other than Miguel Cabrera. With a .325 batting average, 32 HR, and 107 RBI, Cabrera is the best player in the American League.
Trout may have a higher batting average (.340), but when you put his 74 RBI up against Cabrera's 107, there is no comparison. Miguel Cabrera generates more runs than Mike Trout.
R.A. Dickey has been a huge story this year, and with good reason. An average pitcher with weird mechanics for most of his career, he is having a great year, going 16-4 with a 2.76 ERA.
But in my opinion, the feel-good story on the mound this season is Kyle Lohse.
Prior to this season, Lohse was a journeyman pitcher, with a career record of 102-106 with a 4.64 ERA. With Chris Carpenter lost to injury, he got the ball for the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals on opening night. He went 7 1/3 innings that night allowing only one earned run, and he hasn't slowed down since.
He leads the majors in games started with 27, and he is sporting a pristine 14-2 record with a 2.64 ERA.
If he finishes strong in September, he could steal the NL CY Young Award, and successfully complete his transformation from a perennial nobody to the top free-agent pitcher of 2013.
Let's face it...while MLB pitching was great in 2010 and 2011, it was pretty boring for us, who are fans of the most majestic play in professional sports--the home run.
In both seasons, there was a combined total of three players who hit 40 or more home runs in one season. Jose Bautista twice (54 in 2010, 42 in 2011), Albert Pujols (42 in 2010), and Curtis Granderson (41 in 2011).
This season, there are six players who could easily hit 40 or more. Adam Dunn (38), Ryan Braun (35), and Josh Hamilton (35) are near locks to hit the mark barring injury. Edwin Encarnacion (34), Curtis Granderson (33), and Miguel Cabrera (32), are also in a good position to make it with strong Septembers.
There would easily be a seventh candidate on the list if it wasn't for the injury to Giancarlo Stanton, who has a ridiculous 29 home runs in only 401 plate appearances, despite missing 30 games this season.
While this has been a great and memorable year in baseball for many reasons, the one big story of this whole season is that it has seemed to defy all expectations, predictions, and sheer reality.
The St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series on Oct. 28, 2011. If you showed me a picture of today's standings on that autumn night and told me that would be the reality going into next September, I'd have told you to lie down for a while.
But here we sit, and those standings are true. Four of the six divisions are led by teams who did not make the playoffs last year. Out of those four, the San Francisco Giants are the only team who even finished last season with a winning record, with the Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago White Sox all coming in under .500 in 2011.
The Baltimore Orioles, Oakland Athletics, Pittsburgh Pirates and Los Angeles Dodgers were no more than afterthoughts last year. This season, they are all in great positions to make the playoffs.
In 2011, the Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers and Arizona Diamondbacks all finished with 90 wins or better. This year, all of those teams are under .500 going into September and singing the last line of Sondheim's "Send in the Clowns."
It has been a wild, wacky, and wonderful season for Major League Baseball.
The best part about it, though, is that there is a month left.
Comments are welcome!!