As the MLB regular season begins to die down, the inevitable debates about who should win what awards begin to heat up. This year, like many before it, we have arguments on our hands for just about everything.
These next eight slides should help clear up the landscape for the six most coveted awards: MVPs, Cy Young Awards, Managers of the Year and Rookies of the Year. All statistics are accurate as of September 21, 2011.
When the season began, nobody gave Cleveland a shot to come close to a .500 record. As we look at the standings today, the Indians are at 76-77 and in second place in the AL Central.
What Manny Acta has done this season with the talent on that roster is nothing short of spectacular. Although they currently sit one game below .500 and are out of the playoff picture, Cleveland fans can rest easy knowing that they have a solid core of young everyday players.
Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana and Matt LaPorta are all on their way to becoming perennial All-Stars, and Acta has shown this season that he will be the manager to bring them to the top. Also, Acta found what turned out to be one of the better pitching duos in the MLB, Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin.
When the season began, the word on Masterson was that he would never be a top of the rotation starter, and nobody had any idea who Josh Tomlin was. Masterson proved that he deserved the chance Acta gave him, boasting a 3.15 ERA with 12 wins and 154 strikeouts. Tomlin showed that he deserved some praise as well, owning a 1.08 WHIP and an ERA of 4.25, the latter of which is not indicative of how great he was all season.
After adding Ubaldo Jimenez, the Indians could have had a more than serviceable rotation in the playoffs. Acta brought the Indians from rags to riches in grander fashion than anybody in the American League this season, which is why he deserves the American League Manager of the Year Award.
What a year for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Last season, the Diamondbacks had the second-worst record in the National League only ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates. This year, not only are they the National League West champions, they have the sixth-best record in all of baseball.
Kirk Gibson, with a considerable amount of help from GM Kevin Towers who rebuilt the bullpen, has engineered possibly the best turnaround in recent memory. Anytime a manager turns around a ballclub as fast as Kirk Gibson has, he becomes a lock for Manager of the Year.
On May 5, the Royals called up the much-anticipated first-base prospect, Eric Hosmer. All he did was impress.
He leads all rookies with a .300 batting average to go along with his 18 home runs, 75 RBI and 11 stolen bases. His fielding percentage of .993 labels him as a complete player. His RBI totals put him second among all rookies in that category.
The only other rookies in the debate would be Mark Trumbo, whose .257 batting average puts him a step behind Hosmer, Jeremy Hellickson only won 13 games which, while an overall solid mark, does not deserve ROY credit over someone with the credentials that Hosmer has and Michael Pineda, who looked like a lock at the end of the first half of the season but posted a 5.17 ERA after the All-Star break crushing his hopes.
Overall, Hosmer's stats are too good to deny him the honor of being the American League Rookie of the Year.
Not much of a question with this one. Kimbrel has been not only the best rookie in the NL, he has been one of the best closers in the league. His 45 saves speak for themselves and a 1.00 WHIP and 2.03 ERA just add to the resumé. The truly amazing stat in all of this is his 14.81 strikeouts per nine innings.
He is extremely accurate, averaging over four strikeouts for every walk surrendered. These are numbers that would put one in a Cy Young discussion. All of this leads to an easy choice for National League Rookie of the Year.
Not a pitcher in all of baseball has been as good as Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander has been this season. To say that he has been lights out this year would be an understatement. This season has been absolutely ridiculous.
He leads all of baseball with 244 strikeouts and has a sub-1 WHIP and 2.29 ERA to boot. He currently sits at 24 wins, with a chance to be the first pitcher with 25 wins since Bob Welch won 27 games in 1990. Verlander has had a season that will go down in history as possibly the best in the current era. He has won his last 12 decisions and 13 of his last 15.
At the All-Star Break, his only competition for the crown was Jared Weaver, and Weaver has continued a spectacular season, but he is slightly behind Verlander in just about every category, and the Tigers going to the playoffs is the kicker.
If Justin Verlander does not get every single first place vote for the American League Cy Young, something is very wrong. In all the years I have watched baseball, never have I seen such a runaway candidate for such a prestigious award.
At 23 years old, Clayton Kershaw has emerged as one of the elite starting pitchers in all of baseball. He leads the National League in every major pitching category: his ERA sits at 2.27, his WHIP is at 0.99, he has tallied up 242 strikeouts and is tied with only Ian Kennedy in wins with 20.
Many will make the argument that Roy Halladay deserves the award because he has been statistically fantastic and the Phillies are the best team in baseball. I think the latter of those arguments is what should give Kershaw the edge.
Roy Halladay has won 18 games which is an astounding season in its own right, but he pitches for the second-best defensive team in baseball. As if the superior Philadelphia defense was not enough, the Phillies also scored much more than the Dodgers this season. In my mind, that makes Kershaw's 20 wins much more impressive than Halladay's 18.
Halladay will absolutely get some votes for the Cy Young award, but Kershaw should end the season with the first of what should be many awards.
In his first season in Boston, Adrian Gonzalez has done nothing but impress. He leads the American League in batting average with a .341 mark, is second in runs batted in with 116 and has 27 home runs to add to his stellar season.
While arguments could be made for Curtis Granderson, my nod goes to Gonzalez for one reason in particular, you take him off the Red Sox, there is no chance they are competing at this point.
He is the end-all, be-all of that BoSox offense. They would still have pieces, i.e. Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, but Gonzo drives in their runs, is always on base and forces pitchers to throw strikes to the rest of the hitters in that order. Curtis Granderson may be having the best statistical season of all the Yankees, but to say that he is more valuable to that team than Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira or CC Sabathia even, is a major stretch.
If you are not the most valuable player on your own team, how can you be the most valuable player in the American League. Adrian Gonzalez has been better than what the Red Sox imagined when they signed him this past offseason. He is the reason they are a serious contender. He is their most valuable player, and he is the most valuable player in the American League.
Out of all the award races, the NL MVP is by far the most messy. Arguments could be made for Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols and Matt Kemp. Your guess is as good as mine.
My reasoning for picking Braun is as follows: his body of work has been consistent throughout the season, his team is a serious World Series contender and he has produced more than 30 steals and more than 30 home runs. Fielder has been fantastic as well. However, Fielder has only three more home runs than Braun and eight more RBI. Those stats simply do not make up for the difference in batting average or stolen bases.
Statistically speaking, Matt Kemp has had a better season than anybody in baseball, but the Dodgers are barely over .500 and not in contention for a playoff spot, making it near impossible to name him NL MVP. Albert Pujols should finish second in the MVP race. Normally, I argue that Albert Pujols should not be in consideration and come up with a bunch of reasons to support my thesis. But in this case, it is very tough to not choose him.
He is up towards the top of the league in home runs and runs batted in and is hitting over .300 yet again. What makes all of these stats more impressive is how slow he started and missed time due to injury. One could make a compelling argument for any of these superstars. I think Braun deserves to win this award, and he is who I would vote for if I could vote, but if any of these players was named National League Most Valuable Player, I would have no complaints.