MLB Team-by-Team MVPs
The 2013 MLB season is over (wait, really?). Actually, the League Championship Series rounds are underway, meaning we're about a month away from the annual BBWAA awards. While Clayton Kershaw, Miguel Cabrera and Clint Hurdle figure to be among those going home with some hardware, it wouldn't be fair not to pay homage to the 30 players who were most valuable to their individual team. Okay, yes, those awards are actually given to the players by the writers in their local chapters, but since so many teams have so many potential candidates (see: Red Sox, Pirates), it's only fair to make our own selections for team-by-team MVPs. So without further ado, a closer look:
Baltimore Orioles: Chris Davis, 1B
Baltimore Orioles (85-77, T-3rd)
Chris Davis, 1B (.286 AVG, 53 HR, 138 RBI, 1.004 OPS): Where would the Orioles have been without Davis? Probably under .500. Adam Jones had another magnificent season, but a year after all the one-run games and extra-inning magic, the Orioles needed every bit of Davis' magic to stay in the hunt. He led the majors in long balls while breaking Brady Anderson's franchise mark of 50, and always seemed to have a flair for the dramatic. If not for a slight September drop off by both Davis and his team and a guy named Miguel Cabrera, the slugging first baseman might also be the American League MVP.
Boston Red Sox: Koji Uehara, RP
Boston Red Sox (97-65, 1st)
Koji Uehara, RP (4-1, 1.09 ERA, 21 SV, 101 K in 74.1 IP): The Red Sox were the best team in baseball all year, so it may seem surprising to tab Uehara as the most valuable player. But that's the essence of the Red Sox. There doesn't seem to be any star players, just a bunch of really, really good players, and there was no one more dominant than Uehara. The Japanese veteran turned out to be a Godsend when you consider he was basically the fourth option for the Sox in the closer's role after injuries to Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey and a sub-par performance by Junichi Tazawa. In 74.1 innings, Uehara recorded 101 strikeouts while issuing only nine walks (two intentional). He converted 21 of 23 save opportunities, and at one point set a franchise mark by retiring 37 straight batters (that's over 12 straight perfect innings). Without Uehara, the Red Sox would almost certainly not have homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.
New York Yankees: Robinson Cano, 2B
New York Yankees (85-77, T-3rd)
Robinson Cano, 2B (.314 AVG, 27 HR, 107 RBI, .383 OBP): The impending free-agent turned in arguably his finest all-around season in a year when the Yankees perhaps needed him most. In a season marred by injuries and controversy, Cano was about the only constant, certainly in the lineup, pacing the offense in virtually every offensive category. He continued his knack for the clutch, and his efforts won't win him the AL MVP award, but he does figure to garner a good amount of votes.
Tampa Bay Rays: Matt Moore, SP
Tampa Bay Rays (92-71, 2nd)
Matt Moore, SP (17-4, 3.29 ERA, 143 K in 150.1 IP): Moore's absence was undoubtedly felt when he spent just over a month on the disabled list from the end of July to early September, as the Rays went 11-18 without him. The 24-year-old southpaw had a breakout year despite making just 27 starts, and will likely finish second or third in AL Cy Young voting behind Max Scherzer and possibly Clay Buchholz. With David Price also missing time in 2013 and the offense not having a true superstar, Moore's outstanding year was all the more important.
Toronto Blue Jays: Edwin Encarnacion, 1B
Toronto Blue Jays (74-88, 5th)
Edwin Encarnacion, 1B (.272, 36 HR, 104 RBI, .534 SLG): With Jose Bautista held to just 118 games and Jose Reyes to just 93 because of injuries, Encarnacion was the only consistent offensive force for the underachieving Jays in 2013. He led the team in HR, RBI, OBP, SLG, hits, runs, 2B, BB and OPS, and at 30 years old still has plenty left in the tank. He is an underrated player in a division loaded with star talent.
Chicago White Sox: Chris Sale, SP
Chicago White Sox (63-99, 5th)
Chris Sale, SP (11-14, 3.07 ERA, 226 K in 214.1 IP, 4 CG): The only thing negative you can really glean from Sale's stats is his won-loss record. Otherwise, the 24-year-old lefty was magnificent, proving he belongs among the league's elite despite his presence on one of the AL's worst teams. Sale racked up 214.1 innings over 30 starts, pitching four complete games and striking out 226 batters. He was often the victim of poor run support, which explains his 11-14 record, but most of the country got to see what he could do in a dominant All-Star Game appearance that very easily could have won him game MVP honors had it not been Mariano Rivera's last ride.
Cleveland Indians: Justin Masterson, SP
Cleveland Indians (92-70, 2nd)
Justin Masterson, SP (14-10, 3.45 ERA, 195 K in 193 IP, 3 SHO): A side injury cost Masterson almost all of September, but he was the staff workhorse for most of the season, striking out 195 batters over 193 innings while firing three shutouts. Another team with no discernible hitting stars, Masterson was a constant in the rotation despite his September absence and has proven capable of being the staff ace for years to come.
Detroit Tigers: Miguel Cabrera, 3B
Detroit Tigers (93-69, 1st)
Miguel Cabrera, 3B (.348 AVG, 44 HR, 137 RBI, 1.078 OPS): Cabrera's numbers are utterly ridiculous. He didn't win a second consecutive Triple Crown, but he led the majors in AVG, OBP, SLG and OPS, and there is no question the Tigers would not have won a third straight AL Central title without him. There is a case to be made for likely AL Cy Young winner Scherzer, but Cabrera's presence alone transcends his stats. Hands down, he is the best player in baseball.
Kansas City Royals: Greg Holland, RP
Kansas City Royals (86-76, 3rd)
Greg Holland, RP (2-1, 1.21 ERA, 47 SV, 103 K in 67 IP): Holland was beyond lights-out in 2013. In setting a new franchise record for saves, the 27-year-old struck out 103 batters, the most for an AL reliever since J.J. Putz fanned 104 in 2006. Holland blew only three saves in 50 chances and was the anchor for one of the game's best bullpens. Kansas City won 86 games, its most since 1989, and if Holland can repeat his performance next season, the Royals could finally earn their first playoff berth since winning the 1985 World Series.
Minnesota Twins: Glen Perkins, RP
Minnesota Twins (66-96, 4th)
Glen Perkins, RP (2-0, 2.30 ERA, 36 SV, 77 K in 62.2 IP): In sticking with the closer theme, Perkins is actually a pretty easy choice for a Twins team that lost at least 96 games for a third straight season. Joe Mauer put up his usual outstanding numbers but was limited to 113 games with concussion problems, and no starter even reached double-figures in wins (“ace” Kevin Correia went 9-13). Perkins was at times dominant, converting 36 of 40 save chances while averaging 11.1 K/9 IP and only issuing 15 walks. The flame-throwing lefty provided much-needed stability for a bullpen that didn't seem to have too many leads to work with.
Houston Astros: Jason Castro, C
Houston Astros (51-111, 5th)
Jason Castro, C (.276 AVG, 18 HR, 56 RBI, .835 OPS): Someone had to win this award. Castro is the most deserving candidate, if for no other reason than having to handle the league's worst pitching staff for 120 games. He led the team in OBP, SLG, and OPS while providing stability in a very underwhelming lineup. Chris Carter clubbed 29 home runs but batted only .223, while Matt Dominguez posted a .241-21-77 line, but Castro was the team's lone All-Star and at 26 is one of the few building blocks for the moribund Astros.
Los Angeles Angels: Mike Trout, CF
Los Angeles Angels (78-84, 3rd)
Mike Trout, CF (.323 AVG, 27 HR, 97 RBI, 33 SB): C.J. Wilson had a stellar season heading a weak rotation, but Trout was the unquestionable MVP for the vastly underachieving Angels. The 22-year-old superstar was out-homered and RBI-ed by Mark Trumbo, but led the team in just about every other offensive category, including OBP (.432), SLG (.557), OPS (.988), and total bases (328) and runs (109). With Albert Pujols injured most of the second half and Josh Hamilton's production massively lagging, Trout was one of the few bright spots for a team expected to be a World Series contender that ended up six games under .500.
Oakland Athletics: Josh Donaldson, 3B
Oakland Athletics (96-66, 1st)
Josh Donaldson, 3B (.301 AVG, 24 HR, 93 RBI, .883 OPS): Donaldson was as clutch as he was steady and reliable in 2013 for the A's, complementing his stellar season with a .336 RISP average. He played in 158 games while providing strong defense at the hot corner (he led AL third baseman in putouts and was 5th in fielding percentage). You could make a strong case for 40-year-old Bartolo Colon, who went 18-6 with a 2.65 ERA in 30 starts, but Donaldson's bat and glove were there day-in and day-out for an A's team that wasn't supposed to be able to recapture last year's magic, but instead exceeded their 94-68 record and won another AL West crown.
Seattle Mariners: Kendrys Morales, DH
Seattle Mariners (71-91, 4th)
Kendrys Morales, DH (.277 AVG, 23 HR, 80 RBI): Morales' terrific comeback story proved not to be a fluke in 2013 after a strong 2012 campaign, as he was Seattle's most consistent offensive threat while playing in 156 games. After breaking his leg jumping on home plate after a walk-off home run in 2010, Morales lost all of 2011 and his career was in jeopardy, but he bounced back by posting a .237-22-73 line with the Angels in 2012, and his similar numbers this season ranked him atop the charts in most offensive categories for the offensively-challenged Mariners. Morales only played 31 games in the field at first base, but he was clutch with his bat, hitting .312 with RISP and actually hitting more than half (12) of his home runs at pitcher-friendly Safeco Field. This award usually belongs to Felix Hernandez, but the King didn't post his usual eye-popping numbers in 2013 (12-10, 3.04 ERA but only 31 GS and 204.1 IP, his fewest since 2008).
Texas Rangers: Adrian Beltre, 3B
Texas Rangers (91-72, 2nd)
Adrian Beltre, 3B (.315 AVG, 30 HR, 92 RBI, 199 H, 509 SLG): Once thought to only post big numbers in contract years, Beltre has reinvented himself as a star in Texas. Perhaps his most impressive stat in 2013 was his 161 games played, a career-high, which aided his league-leading 199 hits, one shy of a career-best. Though his RBI total was down a bit this year, Beltre still led the team in home runs, which became even more important when Nelson Cruz was suspended for 50 games for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal. Yu Darvish certainly deserves honorable mention (13-9, 2.83 ERA, AL-best 277 K in 209.2 IP and 6.2 H/9 IP), but Darvish missed a few starts due to injury and also served up 26 homers.
Atlanta Braves: Freddie Freeman, 1B
Atlanta Braves (96-66, 1st)
Freddie Freeman, 1B (.319 AVG, 23 HR, 109 RBI, .396 OBP): No, of course you can't go wrong picking Craig Kimbrel, but Freeman held down the fort in a lineup racked by injuries and inconsistency all season, playing in 147 games. Freeman's 109 RBI were second in the NL, but his knack for hitting in the clutch was impeccable. The 24-year-old hit .443 with RISP and for good measure added a major-league-best three walk-off hits.
Miami Marlins: Jose Fernandez, SP
Miami Marlins (62-100, 5th)
Jose Fernandez, SP (12-6, 2.19 ERA, 187 K in 172.2 IP): Fernandez is the likely NL Rookie of the Year, and the 20-year-old All-Star is going to be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. He displayed absolutely filthy stuff over his 28 starts, not only with his strikeout numbers but with a league-best 5.8 H/9 IP. For a franchise in desperate need of a superstar, the Cuban-born Fernandez fits the mold perfectly and was basically the only bright spot in a dismal year for the 100-loss Marlins.
New York Mets: Matt Harvey, SP
New York Mets (74-88, 3rd)
Matt Harvey, SP (9-5, 2.27 ERA, 191 K in 178.1 IP): It is nothing short of a crying shame that Harvey will likely miss the entire 2014 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, because he has now joined David Wright as the faces of the Mets franchise. New York's newest young superstar athlete is worthy of all the hype, having earned an All-Star start in his first full season in the majors and posting Cy Young-worthy numbers before being shelved by arm problems late in the season. Just as impressive as Harvey's 191 strikeouts in 178.1 innings were his 31 walks and seven home runs allowed, the latter giving him an NL-best 0.4 HR/9 IP ratio. Though 26 starts doesn't always equate to team-MVP-like numbers, the team's only other worthy candidate, David Wright, was also limited by injuries, playing in just 112 games.
Philadelphia Phillies: Cliff Lee, SP
Philadelphia Phillies (73-89, 4th)
Cliff Lee, SP (14-8, 2.87 ERA, 222 K in 222.1 IP): Lee is now undoubtedly the alpha dog of the “Big Three” rotation that can no longer be considered as such. Cole Hamels had first-half struggles, and Roy Halladay's shoulder problems may spell career trouble, but Lee never wavered, leading the NL with 1.3 BB/9 IP and a 6.94 K/BB ratio over 31 starts. The Phillies' lineup really had no big offensive producers, although Domonic Brown clubbed 27 homers, and though Hamels picked things up late in the year, Lee really was the lone standout in a very disappointing year for Philadelphia, which finished under .500 for the first time since 2002.
Washington Nationals: Jordan Zimmermann, SP
Washington Nationals (86-76, 2nd)
Jordan Zimmermann, SP (19-9, 3.25 ERA, 40 BB, 192 H in 213.1 IP): Jayson Werth had a spectacular season, but injuries limited him to 129 games, making Zimmermann entirely worthy of the team's MVP award. The big righty tied for the National League lead with 19 wins and two shutouts while permitting just 8.1 H/9 IP and striking out 161 over 213.1 IP. With Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez somewhat up-and-down, Zimmermann was as steady as could be, keeping the Nationals afloat in what was considered a disappointing year as many pundits picked Washington to win it all.
Chicago Cubs: Nate Schierholtz, RF
Chicago Cubs (66-96, 5th)
Nate Schierholtz, RF (.251 AVG, 21 HR, 68 RBI): Schierholtz gets the nod over Anthony Rizzo and certainly any pitcher on the Cubs, even Kevin Gregg, who converted 33 of 38 save opportunities. Some eyes were certainly opened when Schierholtz earned a 1-year, $2.25 million contract last December, but he had a solid season, posting respectable numbers over 137 games on a team that lost its biggest offensive threat when Alfonso Soriano was traded in late July.
Cincinnati Reds: Joey Votto, 1B
Cincinnati Reds (90-72, 3rd)
Joey Votto, 1B (.305 AVG, 24 HR, .435 OBP): The omission of Votto's RBI total (73) was no accident. It was a hot topic in Cincinnati all year, but Votto countered with his other statistics, namely his league-leading on-base percentage, aided by his NL-best 135 walks. Votto didn't drive in many runs, but he certainly created them, leading the league in that category with 132, allowing Brandon Phillips (101 RBI) and Jay Bruce (109 RBI) to drive them home.
Milwaukee Brewers: Carlos Gomez, CF
Milwaukee Brewers (74-88, 4th)
Carlos Gomez, CF (.284 AVG, 24 HR, 73 RBI, 40 SB): Gomez never failed to entertain with his antics, and paced the Brewers in almost every category in the absence of the suspended Ryan Braun. The All-Star played in 147 games and along with Jean Segura, at least gave Brewers fans something worth watching in an otherwise forgettable season.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Andrew McCutchen, CF
Pittsburgh Pirates (94-68, 2nd)
Andrew McCutchen, CF (.317 AVG, 21 HR, 84 RBI, 27 SB): McCutchen was the catalyst for the Pirates' memorable season all year long, cementing his place among the game's elite young player at age 27. He played in all but five games while adding a .404 OBP with 185 hits and 78 walks. Francisco Liriano had a tremendous season, but McCutchen has been the foundation for the Pirates' rebuilding project, which is now officially complete.
St. Louis Cardinals: Yadier Molina, C
St. Louis Cardinals (97-65, 1st)
Yadier Molina, C (.319 AVG, 12 HR, 80 RBI): This may have been the hardest one to pick. Allen Craig was an easier choice until his foot injury prematurely ended his season in early September, but Molina gets the nod both on his numbers and sheer grit. The 31-year-old often played through nagging injures and is one of the team's most consistent hitters, but also did a magnificent job handling a young pitching staff that quietly emerged into one of the league's elite. In a year in which the Cardinals were historically good hitting with runners in scoring position, Molina was as good as anyone except maybe the other-worldly Craig, hitting .373 in clutch situations.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
Arizona Diamondbacks (81-81, 2nd)
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B (.302 AVG, 36 HR, 125 RBI, 15 SB, .952 OPS): This is actually the easiest one to pick. Goldschmidt is a leading candidate for MVP of the National League, and no one on his team even came close to his production, as the 6'3” first baseman accounted for 27.7% of his team's home runs and 19.3% of his team's RBI, both tops in the NL. He also led the league in several major offensive categories, including HR (tied), RBI, XBH (75), total bases (332), and OPS (.952). The Diamondbacks were only a .500 team, but Goldschmidt deserves consideration for league MVP, even though the award isn't often given to a player on a non-playoff team (Albert Pujols was the last, in 2008).
Colorado Rockies: Michael Cuddyer, RF
Colorado Rockies (74-88, 5th)
Michael Cuddyer, RF (.331 AVG, 20 HR, 84 RBI): Cuddyer's career year saw him win a National League batting title, at one point putting together a 27-game hitting streak. While the Rockies got strong seasons from starting pitchers Jorge de la Rosa and Jhoulys Chacin, Cuddyer was old (34) reliable, playing in 130 games, good for second on the club behind rookie Nolan Arenado (133).
Los Angeles Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw, SP
Los Angeles Dodgers (92-70, 1st)
Clayton Kershaw, SP (16-9, 1.83 ERA, 232 K in 236 IP): Kershaw had perhaps his best season yet, winning a third straight ERA title while also leading the league in strikeouts, WHIP (0.915) and shutouts (2). The 25-year-old southpaw is arguably the game's best pitcher, and even in a year when the Dodgers got terrific seasons from Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Zack Greinke, Kershaw shined brighest.
San Diego Padres: Will Venable, RF
San Diego Padres (76-86, T-3rd)
Will Venable, RF (.268 AVG, 22 HR, 53 RBI, 22 SB): Talk about tough. The Padres did not have any standout performers in 2013. Venable led the team in games played (151) and was second in HR and RBI, but there were several underwhelming performers that could have gotten the nod. Rookie Jed Gyorko (.249-23-63) and starting pitcher Andrew Cashner (10-9, 3.09 ERA) had solid, if not spectacular, seasons, but Venable's durability, defense (only 3 errors), and power/speed combination give him a leg up.
San Francisco Giants: Hunter Pence, RF
San Francisco Giants (76-86, T-3rd)
Hunter Pence (.283 AVG, 27 HR, 99 RBI, 22 SB): Pence was a monster in September, swatting 11 home runs, tied for most in the month. With usual suspects Buster Posey and Matt Cain having off-years, Pence became San Francisco's most reliable offensive force while starting every game. In addition to HR, RBI, and SB, Pence also led the team in SLG (.483), total bases (304), hits (178), and runs scored (91).