Bleacher Report's Regular-Season Baseball Awards
Technically, Major League Baseball's award season doesn't begin for a few more weeks. Before now and then, there's something rather important that must be taken care of first (it rhymes with "mostseason").
But let's face it: If there's one thing you and I have in common, Mr. John Q. Baseball Fan, it's that we love jumping the gun on who's going to win all the major awards. There's simply too much fun to be had.
We're going to run through all the major MLB awards and pick winners for each one. MVPs, Cy Youngs, ROYs and all that good stuff will be covered.
But we're also going to dish out some awards that you might say are a little more original. To my knowledge, they're totally nonexistent anywhere outside of Bleacher Report.
I don't want to spoil the surprise any more than that, so I guess the best thing for you to do is to go ahead and start the show...
Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
American League MVP
Winner: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
I don't want to belittle Miguel Cabrera's Triple Crown season. In fact, if it's any consolation to you Tigers fans out there, I wrote a piece on Thursday about how Miggy's Triple Crown season is the most important individual accomplishment in baseball since 1968.
But that doesn't mean he's the MVP. Mike Trout was the Most Valuable Player in the American League this season no matter how you interpret the word "valuable."
I'll start with the WAR argument, which is the most straightforward interpretation of the word "valuable." Baseball-Reference.com calculated Trout's WAR to be a league-high 10.7, and FanGraphs calculated his WAR to be a league-high 10.4.
Now, WAR is not the beginning and the end of any MVP discussion. There should definitely be more to it than that.
But this is a special case we're talking about. Trout led the league in WAR by a mile, which is something that's very hard to do. And even despite his Triple Crown season, Cabrera could only manage a WAR in the 7.0 neighborhood, regardless of which site you choose to consult.
Per Baseball-Reference.com, the last time we saw a player post a WAR higher than 10.0 was Barry Bonds in 2004. If you remove all players with PED connections from the equation, the last time we saw a player post a WAR over 10.0 in a single season was Cal Ripken Jr. in 1991.
If you want to make this about the teams and point out that Cabrera's Tigers went to the playoffs and Trout's didn't, go right ahead. But I'll point out that the Angels finished with a better record than the Tigers while playing in a significantly better division, and they wouldn't have been able to do that without Trout.
When Trout played, the Angels posted a winning percentage of .580. When Cabrera played, the Tigers posted a winning percentage of .540.
Bear in mind that the Angels went 6-14 without Trout to start the season, and they still ended up with a better record than the Tigers.
Cabrera had a historic season, but Trout had a better season.
Like, by far.
National League MVP
Winner: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
Thankfully, the NL MVP doesn't require such a long-winded argument. Buster Posey has a stronger case for the award than any other candidate.
Posey won the NL batting title with a .336 average, and he also led the Senior Circuit in OBP at .408. He finished third in the league in slugging at .549.
Numbers such as these are remarkable for any player, much less a guy who spent the majority of his time on the field crouching down behind the plate. Posey caught 112 games this season, which is probably more games than anybody figured he'd catch after what happened to him last season.
In addition to his offensive numbers, Posey helped the Giants earn a 3.68 team ERA that ranked fifth in the National League. Not bad seeing as how Tim Lincecum was a huge liability for most of the season.
I also give Posey props for putting the team on his back after Melky Cabrera was suspended, as he hit .348/.411/.561 in his final 42 games. The Giants won 27 of those.
Posey's offensive and defensive contributions helped add up to a WAR that FanGraphs calculated at eight. Ryan Braun also posted an eight WAR, but Posey gets the edge over him because he was just as productive while playing a position that typically kills production while also leading the Giants to the playoffs.
First a Rookie of the Year and a World Series title, then a gruesome injury and now maybe the MVP.
Yeah, the first three years of Posey's career have been mighty interesting.
American League Cy Young
Winner: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
Much like the AL MVP, the AL Cy Young Award is basically a debate between two players with all the rest standing idly in the distance.
In this case, it's between Rays lefty David Price and Justin Verlander.
Verlander gets my vote because all Price really has on him are wins, and wins are decidedly meaningless in the grand scheme of things (so say the all-knowing sabermetric geeks, anyway).
Yeah, you could point out that Price has a better ERA than Verlander too, but we're talking about a very slight difference at 2.56 to 2.64. A couple lucky bounces could have lowered Verlander's ERA to Price's level. This is assuming, of course, that his awful defense would have fielded said lucky bounces.
As it is, Verlander posted a lower FIP (fielding independent pitching) than Price, according to FanGraphs. That's a sign that their performances were actually about even.
What gives Verlander the edge for the Cy Young is the fact that he also led the AL in innings pitched and strikeouts. In fact, he pitched nearly 30 more innings than Price.
He was thus a little more dominant, and a lot more reliable.
National League Cy Young
Winner: R.A. Dickey, New York Mets
Man, what did I ever do to be asked to pick a winner for the National League Cy Young Award? This year, it's like asking me to choose my favorite Beatles song. The only answer that feels right is "all."
But I have to side with R.A. Dickey for a couple reasons.
One, Dickey fits the profile of a typical Cy Young winner to a T. He won 20 games, he finished second in the National League with a 2.73 ERA, and he led the Senior Circuit in both strikeouts and innings pitched.
And he did it all with a knuckleball. I think people need to appreciate just how difficult that is.
Take Tim Wakefield, for example. He made a nice living for himself using the knuckleball, but he only made the All-Star team twice and only finished in the top five in the voting for the Cy Young Award once. This is largely because a typical season for him consisted of maybe a dozen wins and an ERA somewhere in the fours.
Dickey just enjoyed one of the most dominant seasons in recent memory using the exact same pitch that Wakefield was using in all his years. The only real difference between the two knuckleballs is that Dickey throws his a little harder.
Plus, as much as I don't care about wins, the fact that Dickey won 20 games playing on this year's Mets team is nothing short of astounding.
American League Rookie of the Year
Winner: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
Ummm...do I really need to justify this?
No. No, I think not.
Let's just move on, shall we?
National League Rookie of the Year
Winner: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
Had you asked me a month ago, I probably would have told you that Reds third baseman/everything Todd Frazier was the most deserving candidate for the NL Rookie of the Year Award.
Now it's not even close. Bryce Harper deserves to win the NL ROY in a landslide.
Harper's numbers for the season look solid enough at first glance. He hit .270/.340/.477 with 22 homers, 18 stolen bases, 59 RBI and 98 runs in 139 games. Pretty good, but maybe not great.
But then you factor in the impact defense that Harper played in the outfield. Then you factor in how he finished the season, hitting .327/.384/.660 with 12 home runs over his final 44 games. Then you factor in a WAR that FanGraphs put at 4.8, highest among NL rookie position players.
Then you factor in that Bryce Harper is only 19 freakin' years old, and he did all this for the best team in the National League.
Welp, I'm sold. Do you guys have any questions?
I hope not, because they'll all be clown questions, bro.
(Slaps knee, then runs away before anybody can hit him with a rock/tomato/cabbage.)
American League Manager of the Year
Winner: Bob Melvin, Oakland A's
You have to give it up to Buck Showalter. He led the Baltimore Orioles to the playoffs for the first time in 15 years, and he did it despite having nothing but spare parts to work with in his starting rotation.
Plus, you figure that Showalter must have had something to do with the club's 29-9 record in one-run games and its 16-2 record in extra-inning games.
But Bob Melvin is the American League Manager of the Year. Hands down.
Melvin didn't have it easy in regard to his pitching staff either. Instead of spare parts, he had to deal with rookies. Lots of them, in fact, and even more rookies once Bartolo Colon and Brandon McCarthy were removed from the equation.
Despite this, Oakland's starting pitchers posted a 3.80 ERA, third best in the American League.
Oakland's bullpen was a weapon too, and Melvin managed it to perfection. A's relievers didn't have defined roles most of the time, but they joined forces to post a 2.94 ERA that was topped only by the Tampa Bay Rays among AL teams.
Melvin had a hand in the resurgence of Oakland's offense as well. There are few spots on the field that don't feature some kind of platoon situation, yet the A's led the AL in runs scored and home runs after the All-Star break.
In the end, they won the AL West. They don't come close to doing that without Melvin's influence.
National League Manager of the Year
Winner: Bruce Bochy, San Francisco Giants
Yup, it's a sweep for Bay Area managers. Bruce Bochy should win the NL Manager of the Year Award.
There's no clear choice for the award in the NL. It could go to Davey Johnson, who presided over Washington D.C.'s first playoff team since 1933. It could go to Dusty Baker, who presided over the most overlooked great team in baseball. Fredi Gonzalez deserves some props as well.
But Johnson had a ton of talent to work with on his roster. Baker's starting rotation remained intact all season long, and he rarely had to worry about ineffectiveness on the part of his starters. Gonzalez got to ride Kris Medlen to the finish line, and he had an excellent bullpen to lean on all season long.
Bochy enjoyed none of these advantages.
Sure, the Giants have plenty of talent on their roster, but they also had to overcome several injuries to Pablo Sandoval and then the suspension of Melky Cabrera in the thick of the pennant race. Hunter Pence didn't help matters, drastically underachieving upon his arrival from Philadelphia.
Pitching-wise, they had to overcome Tim Lincecum's struggles in the first half, and Ryan Vogelsong's struggles in the latter portion of the second half.
And this is to say nothing of the absence of Brian Wilson. It's true that it's hard to notice his absence, but that's only because Bochy has figured out a matchups-based approach for his bullpen.
Bochy has been one of the most underrated managers in baseball for a long time. He deserves some recognition for what he did this year. Though it may have looked like it, it wasn't easy.
American League Comeback Player of the Year
Winner: Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay Rays
First off, Joe Mauer deserves some props. He was limited to 82 games last season due to various ailments, and this year he bounced back to play in 147 games while hitting .319 with a league-high .416 OBP.
But the AL Comeback Player of the Year Award should go to Fernando Rodney. He was buried in the Angels bullpen in 2011, making only 39 appearances and posting a 4.50 ERA and a 1.69 WHIP. He looked like just another washed-up reliever.
This year, Rodney had a historic season with the Rays.
Emphasis on "historic." Rodney posted a 0.60 ERA, the lowest ever by a reliever. He tacked on 48 saves, a 0.78 WHIP and an opponents' batting average of .167.
Mauer had a great season. So did Alex Rios, and White Sox teammate Adam Dunn hit 30 more homers in 2012 than he did in all of 2011.
But Rodney didn't just have a great season. He had a ridiculous season.
National League Comeback Player of the Year
Winner: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
When Scott Cousins collided with Buster Posey late last May, there were some who wondered whether Posey would ever catch again.
Yeah, he caught again. He also hit again, and was generally more awesome than we'd ever seen him before.
Fair expectations for Posey heading into this season involved something along the lines of a .280 batting average and maybe 18 or 20 home runs over 110 or 120 games played. Nobody could have expected that he would play in 148 games while also hitting a league-best .336 with 24 homers and 103 RBI.
I can see Posey not winning the NL MVP, but there's no way he should be denied the Comeback Player of the Year Award. No other candidate even came close to having the kind of season Posey did.
Now then, let's get on to the fun stuff.
The BAMF Award
What's It For?
For those of you who have never been on the Internet before, BAMF is an acronym for "Bad-(bleep)-Mother-(bleep)."
I would go into more detail, but I have to keep this PG-13. So I'll just make it easy on you and tell you to imagine Samuel L. Jackson in a baseball uniform. That's what we're going for here.
Winner: Miguel Cabrera
No, Miguel Cabrera is not the MVP. He would be any other year, but not in a year that has given us the ridiculous awesomeness of the great Mike Trout.
But you have to be a certain kind of somebody to achieve the first Triple Crown season in 45 years by hitting .330 with 44 homers and 139 RBI.
Specifically, you have to be a BAMF.
So hats off to Cabrera. The Triple Crown may be obsolete, but it's still really cool.
The Most Invisible Superstar Award
What's It For?
This award is pretty simple. It goes to the most under-the-radar superstar in the league throughout the course of the season.
Winner: Chase Headley, San Diego Padres
Coming into this season, Chase Headley was nothing special. He was a career .269/.343/.392 hitter who had yet to hit more than 12 home runs in a single season. He also happened to play for the Padres, one of the most "meh" teams in baseball.
A lot of people probably still think Headley is nothing special. These people are the ones who weren't watching him this year.
Headley finished the season with a .286/.376/.498 triple-slash line. He hit 31 home runs and racked up an NL-high 115 RBI.
According to FanGraphs, Headley compiled a 7.5 WAR.
The guy immediately below him on the list is none other than Miguel Cabrera.
Post your anti-WAR comments in the section below whenever you please. All I'm saying is that, yeah, that actually happened.
The "Where the Hell Did You Come From?" Award
What's It For?
This award goes to the one guy who nobody had on their radar and then BAM!, he was there, like a velociraptor in the long grass.
Winner: Kris Medlen, Atlanta Braves
Be honest. How many of you actually knew who Kris Medlen was back in July?
Shoot, I'll be honest. I was vaguely aware he was out there, but I didn't figure there was or ever would be more to the story.
The next thing anyone knew, Medlen went 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA in 12 starts to finish out the regular season. He did it mostly with a killer changeup.
Seriously, his changeup is wanted by Atlanta police.
I've seen enough to convince me that Medlen should be the early favorite to win the 2013 NL Cy Young Award.
Anybody want to argue that?
The "Game Over, Man! Game Over!" Award
What's It For?
Just what it sounds like, really. This award is reserved for the one dude who closed games out better than all the other dudes who closed games out.
Winner: Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves
Craig Kimbrel haunts my nightmares. Every night when I go to sleep, I know it's just a matter of time before I start seeing 99 mile-per-hour fastballs zipping past my knees and sliders threatening to break my hip before veering off into the catcher's mitt.
Full disclosure: The catcher is always Bill Murray for some reason.
At any rate, I guess I should count myself lucky that I don't have to ever worry about seeing these things in real life. Actually having to hit against Kimbrel must be way more terrifying.
Kimbrel tied with Jason Motte for the NL lead in saves with 42, but Motte didn't post a 1.01 ERA or strike out 116 of the 231 batters he faced (h/t Hardball Talk).
Yes, he struck out half the batters he faced this season, presumably while laughing on the inside.
He's a sadistic fellow, that Craig Kimbrel.
The Charlie Sheen Award
What's It For?
I wanted to come up with an award for the best platoon player. Since "The Platoon Award" sounded pretty lame, I decided to go with "The Charlie Sheen Award."
Because he was in Platoon, you see. This was back when he still had talent, of course.
Winner: Brandon Moss, Oakland A's
Entering this season, Brandon Moss was just one of those guys who didn't look like he was cut out for life in the major leagues. He played in only 22 games combined between 2010 and 2011, and he was a career .236/.300/.382 hitter.
Moss ended this season with a .291/.358/.596 triple-slash line and 21 home runs in just 84 games. Had he joined the A's sometime before June, he could have hit over 30 home runs this year, all while playing part time.
As it is, Moss finished with a .399 weighted on-base average, according to FanGraphs. Among those who logged at least 250 plate appearances, the list of players ahead of Moss includes names like Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey, Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Braun and Mike Trout.
The list of names below Moss on that list include standouts like Josh Hamilton, Prince Fielder, Robinson Cano, Edwin Encarnacion and Adrian Beltre.
The "And Stay Out!" Award
What's It For?
This award is reserved for a guy who is going away for a while, and that's pretty much OK with everyone. He can be gone as long as he likes.
Winner: Bobby Valentine
No, Bobby Valentine doesn't deserve to be blamed for the fact that the Red Sox were a bad team this year. They would have been a bad team even if Connie Mack had been at the helm.
However, Valentine is most certainly to blame for the fact that the Red Sox became such a PR train wreck throughout the course of the season.
He got the ball rolling by throwing Kevin Youkilis under the bus mere days into the regular season, and the next thing anyone knew, he was threatening radio hosts and generally acting like he didn't give a damn anymore.
By the end of the season, Bobby V and the Red Sox were not a baseball team. They were a lowbrow reality TV show.
Maybe Valentine never had a chance in Boston. Maybe the Red Sox did hire him just so he could be a whipping boy.
If so, it's a role he played a little too well. We may never see a more facepalm-inducing manager as long as we may live.
But I have to admit, I really want the Miami Marlins to fire Ozzie Guillen and then turn around and hire Valentine. I'm pretty sure the city of Miami would randomly implode one day.
The Tweeter of the Year Award
What's It For?
Another pretty simple one. This award goes to the one ballplayer/coach/executive who entertained us the most on Twitter.
Winner: Brandon McCarthy, Oakland A's
Brandon McCarthy is funnier than most comedians and a hell of a lot smarter than most baseball players. For baseball fans, he's therefore basically the perfect guy to follow on Twitter.
WELL IF BEING DISCHARGED FROM THE HOSPITAL ISNT THE BEST TIME TO ASK ABOUT A THREESOME THEN IM FRESH OUT OF IDEAS— Brandon McCarthy (@BMcCarthy32) September 11, 2012
This tweet won the Internet like the San Francisco 49ers won Super Bowl XXIV.
It also made every guy in existence say, "He's right, you know."
The "Dude, Go Buy a Lottery Ticket" Award
What's It For?
Luck is a huge part of baseball. This award goes to the team that had way too much of it.
Winner: Buck Showalter and the rest of the Baltimore Orioles
Orioles fans hate it when people say that the Orioles got lucky this season. They'll tell you that it wasn't luck that won them so many games, but something else. Solar winds, perhaps.
If they say so, but I have a few questions to ask.
A record of 29-9 in one-run games? That's a little fishy.
A record of 16-2 in extra-inning games? That's a little fishy.
A 93-69 record, but an 82-80 Pythagorean record? That's very fishy.
You don't have to call it luck if you're an Orioles fan. Goodness knows Buck Showalter and his players aren't going to call it luck. They'll use the old Obi-Wan Kenobi line.
But if I'm an employee of the Orioles, I'm buying a lottery ticket after this season. If it is luck, may as well try and roll with it.
The "You Guys Made It Look Too Easy" Award
What's It For?
There's one team every year that somehow manages to make winning look easy to the point where it's kinda boring. May as well give this team some kind of award.
Winner: Cincinnati Reds
When Homer Bailey no-hit the Pirates, he had some gripes to air with the media. Via John Fay in USA Today:
No one's even paid attention. You don't hear about that on ESPN. We keep hearing about (the Reds in the 70s). Nobody's talking about this team, this rotation, the things we've done, the amount of quality starts, the innings. Four guys over 200 (innings). Five guys making every start. Johnny Cueto about to go for his 20th win. He was in Cy Young contention.
I don't think we necessarily try to get attention. But I think what everybody is witnessing with this team is pretty special. It shouldn't go overlooked.
You know what? He was right. Every single word he spoke was 100 percent correct.
But as much as I want to speak for everyone and apologize to the Reds for the fact that they were overlooked, I really can't blame anybody for overlooking them.
Baseball fans love drama, and there simply wasn't enough of it in Cincinnati this year. The Reds won a lot of games, but they went about it in a very ho-hum kind of way. Each of their wins was an assembly-line production, a product of machinery more than magic.
You have to tip your cap to them for keeping it up all season long, but that doesn't mean fans were wrong all those times they skipped over a Reds game to watch, say, a Nationals game.
The "Good Job, Good Effort" Award
What's It For?
This award goes to the team that had a really sucky season but could have conceivably avoided having a really sucky season.
Winner: Pittsburgh Pirates
Good job, Pirates. You guys were 15 games over .500 at 59-44 at the end of July, and just three games behind the Reds for first place in the NL Central. You guys looked like you were well on your way to your first postseason berth in 20 years.
Then came August, and the Pirates went 11-17. Not so good.
Then came September, and the Pirates went 7-21. Even worse.
In the end, the Pirates finished the season by going 20-39 in their last 59 games. They finished under .500 for the 20th year in a row.
But, hey, the effort was most certainly there. And if I recall my little league days correctly, that's what counts.
If the major leagues are anything like little league, I suppose the Pirates will be getting crappy plastic trophies even despite their poor finish. They better clear some room in the dark corners of their closets.
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