End-Year Bleacher Report Picks for All Major Individual MLB Awards
Back in April, a chunk of the best baseball minds that B/R has to offer came together to vote on who they thought would win every major individual award in baseball this season.
With my colleagues running around like headless chickens preparing to bring you the best MLB playoff coverage around, the responsibility of making our picks at the end of the season has fallen on my shoulders.
The 2012 regular season has been full of great performances by a large number of players, so even whittling down the list of candidates to get to our finalists was a difficult process.
But after careful consideration, conclusions have been reached and decisions have been made.
Let's take a look at who needs to make room at home for the major individual awards of the 2012 MLB season.
American League Manager of the Year
Joe Girardi, New York Yankees
Bob Melvin, Oakland A's
Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles
Robin Ventura, Chicago White Sox
Ron Washington, Texas Rangers
While the Rangers and Yankees both return to the playoffs once again under the guidance of Washington and Girardi, both managers are the first to be eliminated. Why? Simply put, because making the playoffs is what they are expected to do; anything less would be a failure of epic proportions.
Ventura did a remarkable job in his first year as a manager with the White Sox, leading the AL Central for much of the season. But the team's putrid 13-18 record from September 1 to the end of the season not only cost the team the division and a playoff berth, but it will cost Ventura a shot at the Manager of the Year award.
That leaves us with two worthy candidates: the A's Bob Melvin and the Orioles' Buck Showalter.
While both managers led their teams to improbable comebacks—both found themselves more than 10 games out of first place in their respective divisions at one point—and even more improbable playoff berths, only one man was able to lead his team to a division crown.
2012 AL Manager of the Year: Bob Melvin, Oakland A's
B/R's Preseason Pick: Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay Rays
National League Manager of the Year
Dusty Baker, Cincinnati Reds
Bruce Bochy, San Francisco Giants
Fredi Gonzalez, Atlanta Braves
Davey Johnson, Washington Nationals
Mike Matheny, St. Louis Cardinals
Ron Roenicke, Milwaukee Brewers
I list six candidates, but there are really only two worthy contenders for the award: Baker and Johnson.
Baker guided the Reds to the NL Central crown despite being without his best player, Joey Votto, for six weeks.
Johnson led the Nationals to the franchise's first NL East crown and to the first winning season in club history.
Fair or not, Dusty Baker has never been highly thought of while Johnson has, and that ultimately could be the deciding factor in this race.
2012 NL Manager of the Year: Davey Johnson, Washington Nationals
B/R's Preseason Pick: Ozzie Guillen, Miami Marlins
American League Comeback Player of the Year
Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox: .204/.800, 41 HR, 96 RBI
Phil Hughes, New York Yankees: 16-13, 4.23 ERA, 191.1 IP, 165 K
Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins: .267/.773, 19 HR, 77 RBI
Alex Rios, Chicago White Sox: .304/.850 OPS, 25 HR, 91 RBI, 23 SB
Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay Rays: 2-2. 0.60 ERA, 74.2 IP, 76 K, 48-for-50 SV
Both Hughes and Morneau had solid, bounce-back seasons, but neither one is par with the other three contenders, so they can be eliminated from contention.
Of the three remaining contenders, Rios is simply following the path of his career. Think of him as a modern day Bret Saberhagen, alternating excellent seasons with mediocre ones.
That leaves Dunn and Rodney. While Dunn is among the league leaders in home runs and RBI, can we stop and actually look at what Fernando Rodney's numbers look like?
His ERA is lower than his WHIP, and he averaged nearly a strikeout per inning and only blew two saves.
All that from a player who, over the winter, would have been assumed retired or off playing for the Long Island Ducks.
Dunn put up the season that everyone expected, while nobody expected anything from Rodney.
2012 AL Comeback Player of the Year: Fernando Rodney
B/R's Preseason Pick: Carl Crawford, Boston Red Sox (now Los Angeles Dodgers)
National League Comeback Player of the Year
Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves: .269/.814, 27 HR, 82 RBI
Josh Johnson, Miami Marlins: 8-14, 3.81 ERA, 191.1 IP, 165 K
Kris Medlen, Atlanta Braves: 10-1, 1.57 ERA, 138 IP, 120 K
Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants: .336/.957, 24 HR, 103 RBI
Johan Santana, New York Mets: 6-9, 4.85 ERA, 117 IP, 111 K
Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals: 14-13, 3.94 ERA, 198.2 IP, 184 K
David Wright, New York Mets: .306/.883, 21 HR, 93 RBI, 15 SB
Johnson and Santana came back from major injuries and had memorable moments during the 2012 season.
Johnson was the darling of the trade deadline, while Santana threw the first no-hitter in Mets' history—but their numbers are well below what we've come to expect from both veterans, so we can eliminate them from contention.
Wainwright put together a solid year for the Cardinals, but like Johnson and Santana, Wainwright wasn't quite back to being himself.
Heyward and Wright both had solid campaigns, but both faded down the stretch—Wright far more than Heyward.
That leaves us with Medlen and Posey, who both put together outstanding seasons.
After spending the first half of the season pitching out of the bullpen, Medlen emerged as the Braves' best pitcher in the second half of the season. He is a lock to start their one-game wild-card playoff game.
Posey has put together a MVP-caliber season, and he is the National League batting champion and Top 5 in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS.
The choice is pretty clear, and it begs the question: Is this the only piece of hardware that he'll take home in 2012?
2012 NL Comeback Player of the Year: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
B/R's Preseason Pick: Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals
American League Rookie of the Year
Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland A's: .292/.861, 23 HR, 82 RBI, 16 SB
Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers: 16-9, 3.90 ERA, 191.1 IP, 221 K
Jesus Montero, Seattle Mariners: .260/.685, 15 HR, 62 RBI
Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays: 11-11, 3.81 ERA, 177.1 IP, 175 K
Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: .326/.963, 30 HR, 83 RBI, 49 SB
There's no contest here.
2012 AL Rookie of the Year: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
B/R's Preseason Pick: Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays
National League Rookie of the Year
Yonder Alonso, San Diego Padres: .273/.741, 9 HR, 62 RBI
Norichika Aoki, Milwaukee Brewers: .288/.787, 10 HR, 50 RBI
Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds: .273/.829, 19 HR, 67 RBI
Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals: .270/.817, 22 HR, 59 RBI
Wade Miley, Arizona Diamondbacks: 16-11, 3.33 ERA, 194.2 IP, 144 K
Wilin Rosario, Colorado Rockies: .270/.843, 28 HR, 71 RBI
Unlike in the American League, there's actually a pretty heated race for the National League Rookie of the Year.
Alonso led NL rookies in doubles and was tied for second in hits.
Aoki led NL rookies in on-base percentage and stolen bases while finishing second in batting average and runs scored and tied for second in hits.
Frazier was third among NL rookies in home runs and second in RBI.
Harper led all NL rookies in triples and runs scored while coming in second in home runs and stolen bases.
Rosario led NL rookies in home runs and RBI.
Miley, the only pitcher to make the cut, led NL rookie pitchers in wins, ERA, WHIP and strikeouts.
It really comes down to a three-man race between Aoki, Miley and Rosario.
2012 NL Rookie of the Year: Wade Miley, Arizona Diamondbacks
B/R's Preseason Pick: Yonder Alonso, San Diego Padres; Drew Pomeranz, Colorado Rockies
American League Cy Young Award
Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners: 13-9, 3.06 ERA, 232 IP, 223 K
David Price, Tampa Bay Rays: 20-5, 2.56 ERA, 211 IP, 205 K
Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay Rays: 2-2, 0.60 ERA, 74.2 IP, 76 K, 48-for-50 SV
Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers: 17-8, 2.64 ERA, 238.1 IP, 239 K
Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: 20-5, 2.81 ERA, 188.2 IP, 142 K
The trio of King Felix, Rodney and Weaver will all garner significant support on ballots, but this year's AL Cy Young race is a battle between two men.
It's David vs. Goliath all over again.
In one corner you have David Price, who led the American League in ERA and tied Weaver for the league lead in wins.
In the other corner you have Goliath, last year's Cy Young Award winner and MVP who led the league in innings pitched and strikeouts.
Their stats are close enough in virtually every category that they cancel each other out.
Except one: innings pitched.
Verlander has logged nearly 30 more innings than Price while making only two more starts than Tampa's talented southpaw.
Verlander's ability to go deeper into games might seem like nitpicking, but with the numbers so close, nitpicking is exactly what we have to do in order to determine a winner.
2012 AL Cy Young Award Winner: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
B/R's Preseason Pick: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers; Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
National League Cy Young Award
Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds: 19-9, 2.78 ERA, 217 IP, 170 K
R.A. Dickey, New York Mets: 20-6, 2.73 ERA, 233.2 IP, 230 K
Gio Gonzalez, Washington Nationals: 21-8, 2.89 ERA, 199.1 IP, 207 K
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers: 14-9, 2.53 ERA, 227.2 IP, 229 K
Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves: 3-1, 1.01 ERA, 62.2 IP, 116 K, 42-for-45 SV
Kimbrel probably will never win a Cy Young Award, but we should get used to seeing his name as a finalist year after year. He doesn't just get batters out; he destroys batters, making him very Mariano Rivera-esque in that regard.
Kershaw led the league in ERA and WHIP and is right there with the other candidates in innings pitched and strikeouts, but his record leaves something to be desired.
Gonzalez led the league in wins and is among the leaders in every other category, but for me, both Cueto and Dickey were more impressive this season.
Cueto plays in a bandbox, Great American Ballpark, and he still managed to finish third in both ERA and wins.
But it's Dickey who leads the way, playing on a team that some nights better resembled a mediocre Triple-A club than it did a major league team.
He led the league in complete games, innings pitched and strikeouts, finished second in ERA and wins and third in WHIP.
Dickey did it playing for a losing team and by throwing a power knuckleball, something we've never seen before.
Throw in that he pitched most of the season with a torn abdominal muscle, and what he's accomplished in 2012 becomes even more remarkable. (h/t Newsday)
2012 NL Cy Young Award Winner: R.A. Dickey, New York Mets
B/R's Preseason Pick: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
American League MVP
Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers: .321/.921, 36 HR, 102 RBI
Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers: .330/.999, 44 HR, 139 RBI
Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays: .280/.941, 42 HR, 110 RBI
Derek Jeter, New York Yankees: .316/.791, 15 HR, 58 RBI
Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: .326/.963, 30 HR, 83 RBI
Beltre, Encarnacion and Jeter all had excellent seasons, but I would be wasting your time and mine pretending that the most heated award battle in a very long time wasn't between just two players.
Cabrera became the 12th American League player to win the Triple Crown, something that hasn't been done in 45 years since Boston's Carl Yastrzemski accomplished the feat back in 1967.
Aside from leading the league in batting average, home runs and RBI, Cabrera also led the league in OPS and slugging percentage while finishing second in runs scored, behind Mike Trout.
How awesome that is cannot be overstated, but the accomplishment does not come with a guarantee of a MVP award. Ted Williams accomplished the feat twice, in 1942 and again in 1947, and he didn't win the MVP award. Neither did Lou Gehrig, who won the Triple Crown in 1934.
So there's a precedent for what's coming next.
Mike Trout put together a rookie season unlike anything that we have ever seen before.
He led the league in runs scored and stolen bases, finished second in batting average and OPS and third in slugging percentage. He didn't start his season until April 28, and oh yeah, he's only 21 years old.
That cannot be overstated either.
But if we take each player's offensive numbers and put them to the side, what are we left with?
A first baseman-turned-third baseman in Cabrera who, according to FanGraphs, is the second-most inept fielding third baseman in the game, trailing only Arizona's Chris Johnson. Among American League third basemen, there's nobody worse than Cabrera.
Trout, conversely, is one of the best fielding outfielders around, ranking ninth among all of the game's outfielders in UZR/150 and third in DRS. In the American League, he moves up to third and second, respectively.
If the MVP award was based only on offensive production, then it's no contest—Cabrera wins the award going away.
But this is the Most Valuable Player award, not the Most Valuable Batter.
Defense is a big part of the game, and the gap between Cabrera and Trout on defense is far greater than the advantage Miggy holds over the rookie with a bat in his hands.
2012 AL MVP Winner: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
B/R's Preseason Pick: Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
National League MVP
Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers: .319/.987, 41 HR, 112 RBI
Chase Headley, San Diego Padres: .286/.875, 31 HR, 115 RBI
Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals: .295/.877, 27 HR, 102 RBI
Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates: .327/.953, 31 HR, 96 RBI
Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants: .336/.957, 24 HR, 103 RBI
Headley broke out of his shell in San Diego and onto the national scene this season, while Holliday quietly went about his business in St. Louis once again, but neither player is deserving of the award.
McCutchen was my pick for the majority of the season, but his .252 average, nine home runs and 30 RBI since August 1 leave a bad taste in my mouth and take him out of the running.
That leaves us with last year's NL MVP, Braun, and this year's NL Comeback Player of the Year, Posey.
Both men have legitimate cases for the award.
Braun led the NL in home runs, runs scored, slugging percentage and OPS, finished second in RBI and third in batting average.
Posey, the National League batting champion, was second in OPS, third in slugging percentage and sixth in RBI.
Defensively, they are close. But Posey plays the most physically demanding position in the game, and that counts for something—enough to give him a very slight edge over Braun for the hardware.
2012 NL MVP Winner: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
B/R's Preseason Pick: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers; Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies