This is the first installment of a two-part series.
With only little more than a week left in the regular season, the question has jumped into mind about whom in the American League and National League will win the awards for Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, Cy Young, and Most Valuable Player.
There are a few things still left to play out, but I feel confidently in starting this debate with the facts at hand.
So here we go.
Rookie of the Year
Brett Anderson, SP, Oakland Athletics
In a weak year for offensive rookies, Athletics starting pitcher Brett Anderson stands out as the most accomplished rookie.
Given the role of lead starter of the rotation of mostly rookies, Anderson has impressed, compiling a record of 11-10 and 145 strikeouts in 170.1 innings. Anderson, I have heard, has set the record for strikeouts by a rookie. Anderson has also pitched two shutouts.
Anderson gets the nod, because he's had a more significant role in Oakland than Rick Porcello in Detroit. Voters tend to side with players that had greater expectations. Porcello had the benefit of playing behind Justin Verlander, which detracts attention from a rookie.
Andrew Bailey has been a lights-out closer for Oakland as a rookie, but similarly to my argument against Porcello, a closer can only earn a save when the starter gives him something to work with.
I consider myself a sabermatrician, but at the same time, players aren't robots.
More notably, Anderson is another example for the greatness of Oakland GM Billy Beane. Bean acquired Anderson in the trade that sent All-Star Dan Haren to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
It is difficult to predicate this argument on stats, because the season is still unfinished.
However, I do believe that the Cy Young voters prefer the fewest losses, rather than just the most wins.
The thing about losses is this: You can't improve your total losses throughout the season. You can add wins, strikeouts, or whatever, but you're stuck with the losses.
I argued in 2008 for Tim Lincecum at the Spokane Indians job-fair, and some people couldn't believe that. Lincecum though, was 18-5 with an ERA under 3 and plenty of strikeouts.
The best pitcher, should have high-marks in each pitching category, more than just a trump stat in one category.
Just so we're clear, I'm an A's fan, not an M's fan. Hernandez though, has been the best all-around pitcher in the American League thus far.
Zack Grienke has too many losses at 8, Justin Verlander has 9, Roy Halladay has 10. Scott Feldman, Josh Beckett, and CC Sabathia's ERA is likely holding them back.
To compound the issue of ERA, we know that the Yankees offense has been potent, thus it is reasonable to believe that Sabathia benefited more from the Yankee offense, than Hernandez has benefited from the Mariner's offense.
The Mariners so far have the third fewest number of home runs in the American League, ahead of only Oakland and Kansas City, while the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rangers round out the top three in the American League.
Moreover, the Mariners rank dead last in runs scored in the American League.
Thus, with the Mariners at 80 wins after an abysmal season in 2008 and Felix Hernandez at 17-5 with little run support, an ERA under 3, and plenty of strikeouts, Hernandez has been the best pitcher in the American League.
Most Valuable Player
Derek Jeter, SS, New York Yankees
The question: Who stands out?
Jeter has accounted for a significant amount of offense on a New York team that ranks No. 1 in home runs, runs, RBI's and batting-average in the American League.
That offense has helped their pitchers earn wins, with a collective ERA of 4.34.
Thus far, Jeter has 65 RBIs, 17 HRs, ranks third with 106 runs, 30 stolen bases, ranks third with a batting-average of .330, and the second most hits in the American League at 203.
In 2009, many bats in the American League are neck-and-neck, such as Evan Longoria, Adam Lind, and Aaron Hill, or have lopsided stats, such as Rays 1B Carlos Pena with 39 HRs and a batting average of .227.
I suspect that Jason Bay's and Nelson Cruz's batting-average is too low at .265 and .260.
Moreover, other bats like Adam Lind and Aaron Hill have had most of their offense at home, yet the Yankees and Jeter have performed well both on the road and at home. In fact, Jeter's batting-average is higher on the road than at home.
Kendry Morales, Joe Mauer, and Mark Teixeira stand out as the best counter-arguments.
It is difficult though for me to use Mauer's batting-average of .370 as a trump stat because he only played 128 games.
I know that catchers necessarily play fewer games than others, but a difference of 18 games compared to Jeter, can make a big difference in batting-average.
Teixeira and Morales compare almost equally to each other, and both played on teams with good offenses.
I know that Morales has accounted for the bulk of home runs on a team that was only middle-pack at hitting home-runs in the American League, but the Angels are second in the AL in runs-scored and third in the AL in stolen bases.
The call to steal bases, usually, comes from the dugout.
Thus, Teixeira and Morales cancel each other out.
Obviously, there has been the question about New York's new stadium and how favorable it is for home runs.
2009 though has been a good year for offense in general, which is positive, in the post-Steroids Era.
That though is why I'm impressed by the fact that Jeter has posted a fielding percentage of .985, second so far only to 1998 at .986.
(Remember 1998, ahem?)
Naming Jeter as MVP would send a message to the juicers that there's more to the game than just stats.
Manager of the Year
Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The Angels lead the AL West with the second most runs scored in the AL after a 2008 campaign in which the Angels struggled with home runs.
Part of the reason for that is the Angels success at stealing bases.
As I mentioned, the call to steal, usually comes from the manager.
The Angels manufactured runs for a team that had a collective ERA of 4.49, which ranked in the bottom half of the American League.
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