Full MLB Award Predictions at the One-Quarter Mark
Amazingly, the first quarter of the Major League Baseball season has flown by in front of our eyes. From the disappointments in Los Angeles and Toronto to surprise underdogs in New York, the start of the 2013 baseball marathon has been a whirlwind.
Due to the long nature of a baseball season, opinions can change with extra context and time. While three weeks in the NFL calendar can be the difference between a postseason berth or a fired coach, baseball allows for more critical thought, patience and context.
The rise of talented baseball writers, sabermetrics and wonderful statistical and analytical outlets have increased our knowledge of the game on a day-by-day basis.
Of course, that allows fans and media to admit they were wrong and start anew.
On May 1, this writer made a series of updated award predictions. At the one-quarter mark, some have changed.
Here are full MLB award predictions at the one-quarter mark of the 2013 season.
AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
Stats: .369/.441/.599, 8 HR, 41 RBI, 29 R, 2.1 WAR
Despite winning the Triple Crown in 2012, you could have made a great case that Cabrera actually had a down year by his ridiculous standards. Compared to 2011, the reigning AL MVP walked less, struck out more, posted a lower adjusted OPS and got on base less.
If the first quarter is any indication, Cabrera is "back" to his pre-Triple Crown winning days.
At some point, baseball fans will come to the collective realization of what Cabrera truly is: not just a perennial MVP candidate, but one of the best hitters in the history of the sport.
With over 6,000 plate appearances under his belt as a major league player, Cabrera's 152 OPS+ ranks 24th all time.
To put that into perspective, Cabrera currently ranks ahead of all-time greats like Mike Schmidt, Alex Rodriguez, Reggie Jackson and Eddie Matthews.
The scary part? Miguel's OPS+ marks are rising by the year. Overtaking Mel Ott, Manny Ramirez and Frank Robinson to vault into the top 20 isn't crazy to imagine.
On his way to that, expect another AL MVP trophy.
NL MVP: Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
Stats: .336/.371/.455, 2 HR, 19 RBI, 12 R, 1.3 WAR
When it comes to picking MVPs, raw offensive numbers like RBI and home runs might usually prevail. You can make the case that if defensive impact truly had caught up to offense in the minds of voters, Mike Trout would have won the 2012 AL MVP.
Yet a shift is occurring when it comes to how we view the impact of Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina.
While no one is advocating his "leadership" trumping the on-the-field success of other candidates, there's truly something about Molina's game that has begun to resonate with those who follow the sport closely.
As his offensive game has reached a very high level, his defense, game-calling and leadership in St. Louis have become invaluable for that franchise.
If Molina can continue to be a standout offensive performer behind the plate, control the running game better than any backstop since Ivan Rodriguez and lead a young pitching staff to the best ERA in the sport, hardware will follow.
AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
Stats: 9 GS, 64.2 IP, 64 K, 10 BB, 1.53 ERA, 2.11 FIP, 2.2 WAR
This is the usual narrative about Seattle's ace: Due to an enormous amount of innings early in his career (1,620 through his age-26 season), Felix is an "old" 27-year-old, likely wearing down and probably not worth the long-term, lucrative extension given to him this past offseason.
However, the narrative that rarely accompanies the doom and gloom around Felix is that he's thriving despite the red flags.
Despite the dip in velocity, Felix is posting career bests in K/9, BB/9, ERA+, K/BB and HR/FB percentage.
His first Cy Young proved that wins aren't the dominating factor they used to be in the voting system. His next one will show that velocity isn't, either.
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
Stats: 9 GS, 64.1 IP, 67 K, 17 BB, 1.40 ERA, 2.54 FIP, 1.7 WAR
Kershaw has spoiled baseball fans to the point where his consistent greatness is almost taken with a grain of salt.
When projecting current and future Cy Young races, it's impossible not to include Kershaw's name.
The 2012 winner has posted ERAs under 3.00 during every single full season of his career. He hit 1,000 career innings during his most recent start, a dominant outing on Tuesday evening against the Washington Nationals, putting him in all-time company.
Using Baseball-Reference.com's Play Index, Kershaw's first 1,000 career innings stack up with anyone who reached the mark at the age of 25 or younger.
If we remove figures like Walter Johnson, Smokey Joe Wood and Christy Matthewson, Kershaw literally has the best ERA+ for any 25-year-old with at least 1,000 career innings in the history of baseball.
The two names he's right above: Tom Seaver and Rogers Clemens.
Those two, by the way, combined for 10 Cy Young Awards.
AL Rookie of the Year: Kevin Gausman, Baltimore Orioles
Stats (Double-A Bowie): 7 GS, 40.1 IP, 39 K, 4 BB, 3.35 ERA, 2.75 FIP
Considering that the Baltimore Orioles are trotting out Freddy Garcia and Jair Jurrjens in their starting rotation, help is needed.
While some have speculated on a deal for an established starting pitcher, the same was said about filling the third base void last summer.
Instead of surrendering prospects and locking themselves into long-term contracts, Baltimore general manager Dan Duquette opted to promote Manny Machado to man the hot corner during a pennant race.
If a starter is needed this summer in Charm City, expect the O's to take the same approach with last year's first-round selection, Kevin Gausman.
The strike-throwing, command artist is dominating Double-A Bowie, showing the Orioles that he was worthy of the No. 4 choice in the 2012 draft.
If he arrives in midsummer, there will be enough time to rescue the Orioles rotation along the way to a Rookie of the Year nod.
NL Rookie of the Year: Shelby Miller, St. Louis Cardinals
Stats: 8 GS, 51.1 IP, 57 K, 12 BB, 1.40 ERA, 2.38 FIP, 1.5 WAR
Along with Adam Wainwright, Miller has helped the Cardinals rotation get off to a flying start without their longtime ace, Chris Carpenter.
In fact, Miller has been so dominant that putting his name alongside Clayton Kershaw and Matt Harvey in the NL Cy Young discussion isn't a stretch.
If not for a likely innings limit—it's a stretch to think Miller will be allowed to exceed 200 innings this year after barely cracking 150 in 2012 between stops in Triple-A and St. Louis—Miller would stay in a Cy Young conversation all year.
With the stuff of a future and current ace, Miller will have to wait on a Cy Young, but a Rookie of the Year vote isn't outlandish.
AL Manager of the Year: Joe Girardi, New York Yankees
Team Record: 25-15, Run Differential: +16
New York is playing .625 baseball, sitting atop the AL East and grinding out winnable games despite a disabled list that could act as an entire roster for some teams.
In a way, Girardi has become a better manager without his stars, mixing and matching his lineup the way he's always loved to with a bullpen.
Of course, this award will ultimately be judged on which managers do the best job down the stretch. If there's a tie at the end, don't forget the job Girardi did without close to a full deck.
When it comes time to talk contract extension, it's likely that the Yankees front office won't.
NL Manager of the Year: Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates
Team Record: 23-17, Run Differential: +13
Despite not having one regular offensive player posting a .900 or better OPS, the Pirates are in the thick of the NL Central race.
With Andrew McCutchen yet to really hit his stride, a rotation led by A.J. Burnett and a back end of the bullpen combo in Jason Grilli/Mark Melancon that most baseball fans couldn't recognize on the street, the Pirates are thriving.
Instead of dwelling on Pittsburgh's second-half collapses in 2011 and 2012, think about what Hurdle was able to do with a losing team in Colorado, eventually molding them into National League champs.
Betting on a .500 finish in Steel City looks like a smart bet right now. Expecting more isn't crazy.
AL Comeback Player of the Year: Vernon Wells, New York Yankees
Stats: .301/.357/.538, 10 HR, 23 RBI, 21 R, 1.6 WAR
Two weeks ago, we chronicled where Vernon Wells had been for the last two years, how remarkable his rise from the ashes had been and how much of a steal he had been thus far for New York.
As the 2013 season allows for more context, Wells' season is becoming more amazing by the minute.
Heading into play on Thursday, Wells has been one of the 10 most valuable outfielders in the entire sport.
Not bad for a guy that couldn't find an at-bat or buy a hit last summer.
NL Comeback Player of the Year: Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants
Stats: 8 GS, 48.2 IP, 52 K, 23 BB, 4.07 ERA, 3.64 FIP, 0.5 WAR
While the jury is still out on Lincecum's ability to reinvent himself, there are encouraging signs that the two-time NL Cy Young winner is finding himself once again.
On Sunday, against the home run basing Atlanta Braves, Lincecum tossed his best outing since last August, holding his opponent to two hits and three walks over seven innings.
His stuff always dazzles, but for the first time in a long time, it felt like Lincecum had some command of where that stuff was going when it left his hand.
If he can harness that, big results will follow.
Who would you pick to win the 2013 MLB Awards?