With less than two weeks to go in the 2008 regular season, it's time to look back over the last 5 1/2 months and decide which players have truly separated themselves from the rest of the pack in the National League. Please note, all statistics are through 9/16/08.
NL Rookie of the Year - C Geovany Soto, CHC
Geovany Soto is no stranger to success, as he was named the Pacific Coast League MVP in 2007. This year he proved that he will be a great catcher in the league for a long time to come. As much credit as the Cubs pitching staff deserves, they will likely be the first to tell you how well Soto calls and manages a game behind the plate. He has shown the grit and intelligence of a crafty veteran in his rookie season, and has been a force swinging the bat as well (22 HR, 83 RBI, .285 AVG). In fact he's been so good he was named the first rookie catcher to ever start the All-Star game for the NL. He is well-deserving of this year's honor. Honorable Mention: Jair Jurrjens
NL Cy Young - SP Tim Lincecum, SF
Don't mention C.C. Sabathia. He's been in the NL for just over two months. This is a three-horse race between Brandon Webb, Tim Lincecum, and Edinson Volquez. The tendency for awards like this has always been to look at the success of the team as a whole. If their team is headed to the playoffs, a given player will have a far better chance to win. By this formula, Brandon Webb all but had this honor locked up a month ago. But now that the D'Backs and Webb have faded and are about to miss the playoffs, the sportswriters will have to actually consider the three frontrunners on merit alone. Let's take a look:
Brandon Webb - 205.2 IP, 20-7, 3.28 ERA, 168 K, 1.18 WHIP
Edinson Volquez - 181.2 IP, 16-5, 3.22 ERA, 192 K, 1.34 WHIP
Tim Lincecum - 207.2, 17-3, 2.43 ERA, 237 K, 1.17 WHIP
If the stats don't say enough for Tim Lincecum to win the NL Cy Young, I'm not sure what criteria is being used to judge the candidates. Give the award to the 24-yr old phenom.
NL MVP - 3B Aramis Ramirez, CHC
Leave Ryan Howard's .249 average and 190 strikeouts aside and watch him willing the Phillies into the playoffs, and you'll see a contender. Carlos Delgado threw his hat in the conversation, batting .289 with 18 HR and 52 RBI since the All-Star Break and helping the Mets stay alive. But this race comes down to two in my mind - Aramis Ramirez and Albert Pujols. This again stirs the debate as to whether the team's performance should be factored into the discussion.
Batting .357 with 33 HR, 101 RBI, and boasting a .461 OBP, Albert Pujols has pieced together a remarkable year - and keep in mind he has played with a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament. He decided not to have the Tommy John surgery on it last year, but is seriously considering the operation at season's end. Despite being on a team out of the playoff picture, it is difficult to ignore the season that Albert Pujols is having.
On the other hand, Aramis Ramirez is the heart and soul of the Cubs - the best team in the National League. Couple that clubhouse influence with his stats -- .283 AVG, 24 HR, 107 RBI, .374 OBP -- and you have a very legitimate case for the MVP. He is also has a knack for coming through in big spots, batting .318 with 84 RBI w/RISP and 15 of his 24 HR have come with runners on base. If the sportswriters can focus on the "value" of the player, Aramis should walk away with this award.
NL Manager of the Year - Joe Torre, Los Angeles Dodgers
Other than Lou Piniella, no other manager really stood out as much as Joe Torre. The Dodgers rolled into this season with heavy predictions laid on their back. With loads of young talent to mold (Kemp, Ethier, and Loney to name a few), the 4-time World Series Champion manager certainly had to find the right formula. At the All-Star Break, they weren't exactly where they wanted to be, and the Diamondbacks looked like the team to beat in the West. Injuries seemed to have gotten the best of L.A., but Joe found a way to turn things around. The addition of Manny Ramirez (the second half MVP) certainly helped, but despite a beleaguered bullpen, Torre has his guys atop the NL West and boasting the NL's best team ERA. Give Joe Torre his 3rd Manager of the Year award...
Also see my article on the AL Awards...