Pittsburgh Pirates: Year-End Awards Edition

Matt Shetler@@buccos12Correspondent IOctober 24, 2010

Pittsburgh Pirates: Year-End Awards Edition

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    CINCINNATI - SEPTEMBER 12: Andrew McCutchen #22 of the Pittsburgh Pirates swings at a pitch during the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ballpark on September 12, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He hit a three run double in the ninth inning to
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    I know everyone has been on the edge of their seats anxiously awaiting to see who would be so lucky to be honored by achieving my year-end Pirates awards.

    On a team that lost 105 games, awards aren't likely for many of these guys. Or deserved for that matter. What fun would that be though?

    Let's dive right in and see who receives the dubious honors to conclude the 2010 season.

    Feel free to comment and add your own opinions on each award.

MVP: Neil Walker

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    PITTSBURGH - JUNE 01:  Neil Walker #18 of the Pittsburgh Pirates smiles with shaving cream on his face after a win against the Chicago Cubs on June 1, 2010 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Walker just received the customary pie to the face after winning my MVP Award.  On a serious note though, Walker practically came out of nowhere to have not only a very good season after his June promotion, but cemented himself as a fixture at second base for years to come.

    Walker never really hit in the minors until this season when he put it all together.  His offensive numbers were very good as a Pirate, hitting .296 with 12 homers and 66 RBI.  Not only that, Walker turned himself into a very good fielding second baseman, a position he never played until this season.

LVP: Andy LaRoche

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    PITTSBURGH - JUNE 01:  Andy LaRoche #15 of the Pittsburgh Pirates fields a ground ball against the Chicago Cubs during the game on June 1st, 2010 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    This was supposed to be the season that LaRoche was going to take off and show what type of player he was capable of being.  Little did he know that instead of showing good things as the Pirates' everyday third baseman, he would end up as the winner of the Least Valuable Player Award.

    Laroche struggled badly at the plate, hitting only .206. His four homers and 16 RBI gave the Pirates little to no production.  His struggles were so bad that Pedro Alvarez was called up too soon and LaRoche was pretty much never heard from again.

    It's not all bad though, because Alvarez got a chance to show what type of player he can become.

    Other nominees included Ryan Doumit, Aki Iwamura, Bobby Crosby and Ryan Church (pitchers were not eligible for the award), but ultimately LaRoche gets the nod.

Rookie Of The Year: Jose Tabata

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    CINCINNATI - SEPTEMBER 12:  Jose Tabata #31 of the Pittsburgh Pirates is congratulated by teammates after scoring one of the three ninth inning runs during the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ballpark on September 12, 2010 in Cincinnati
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    I know what you are going to say.  How can Walker be the MVP and not the Rookie of the Year? That's because an individual can earn only one award.  My rules and if I don't abide by them, then who will?

    Actually, I just wanted to acknowledge the great season Tabata had.  He hit .299, showed a little bit of pop and did a good job on the base paths, stealing 19 bases.  The thing that was impressive though is Tabata's approach at the plate.  He can handle the bat.  No situation is too big for him. 

    This is just scratching the surface of what Tabata is capable of though.  Bigger things are yet to come.

    Naturally, Alvarez and Walker are right up there in the running for the award, but Tabata gets the nod.

Best Pitcher: Evan Meek

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    PITTSBURGH - SEPTEMBER 06:  Evan Meek #47 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the Atlanta Braves during the game on September 6, 2010 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pirates beat the Braves 3-1.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    When I say best Pirates pitcher, the proper thing to do is laugh, but the Pirates bullpen did a pretty good job all season.

    Meek barely edges out Joel Hanrahan for the award.  The only other consideration was James McDonald, who dazzled as a starter, but there wasn't a big enough sample of McDonald to give him consideration.

    Meek has come a long way in three years.  He learned to live off his fastball and it sent him to the All-Star Game.  He struggled somewhat down the stretch but still posted a 5-4 record with a 2.14 ERA.

    Hanrahan was just as good if not better.  The back end of the Pirates bullpen looks good for the next few seasons.

Worst Pitcher: Zach Duke

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    NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 14:  Zach Duke #57 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the New York Mets on September 14, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
    Andrew Burton/Getty Images

    This was Charlie Morton's award to lose and he blew it by pitching well the last month of the season.  Duke on the other hand had another Zach Duke-type season.  Things hit rock bottom for Duke, who finished the season 8-15 with a horrific 5.72 ERA.

    Duke allowed over 200 hits again and finished the season allowing 263 base runners in only 151 innings of work.

    If anything good comes out of winning this award, hopefully Duke pitched himself out of Pittsburgh.  If the Pirates tender Duke in the offseason, then it's the joke of the century.

    Runners-up for the award included almost everyone else who pitched for the Pirates this season.

Worst Move: Aki Iwamura

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    CHICAGO - MAY 15: Aki Iwamura #3 of the Pittsburgh Pirates attempts a bunt against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on May 15, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Pirates defeated the Cubs 4-3. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Things just didn't go good for Iwamura.  The Pirates really didn't give up much to get him though because Jessie Chavez was just as bad this season.

    It wasn't all on Iwamura though.  The Pirates management obviously didn't do their homework on how bad his knee really was.  He was totally a different player in Tampa.  In Pittsburgh he had no range because of his knee and was even worse with the bat.

    His .182 average got Neil Walker in the lineup though eventually.  Not every move a general manager makes pays off.  This one clearly didn't.

    Runners up for the award include playing Ryan Doumit everyday, playing Ryan Church at all and mostly every decision John Russell made as manager, including not retaliating when the Dodgers threw at Andrew McCutchen's head twice.

    Speaking of Russell, that leads us to...

Best Move: Sticking To tHe Plan and Firing John Russell (tie)

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    PITTSBURGH - SEPTEMBER 23:  Manager John Russell #7 of the Pittsburgh Pirates jobs back to the dugout after relieving Brian Burres #71 during the game against the St Louis Cardinals on September 23, 2010 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    It was evident that Russell would not be able to get anything out of this team in the future.  His lazy demeanor had worn thin with the players and the fans.  His awful career record didn't help matters either.  He had to go. Period

    Sticking to the plan is the big winner though.  The talent is getting there.  The system looks much better now then when Neal Huntington came aboard a little over three seasons ago.  The plan was to acquire young talent and the Pirates have done that.

    They have real prospects now.  They had another very good draft and inked pitchers Stetson Allie and Jameson Taillon to deals.  They made a splash internationally by signing Luis Heredia as well. 

    The only way the Pirates will ever succeed is by sticking to the plan.  Signing free agents isn't going to help.  Developing young studs will.  We've seen a few make their way to Pittsburgh this year.  We've seen the success in Altoona.

    Next year could be another rough one at the MLB level, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. 

    Keep sticking to the plan.

Best Moment: August 7, 2010, Pedro Alvarez 3-Run Walk-Off

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    PITTSBURGH - AUGUST 03:  Pedro Alvarez #17 of the Pittsburgh Pirates congratulates teammate Lastings Milledge #85 after they scored in the second inning against the Cincinnati Reds during the game on August 3, 2010 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    The walk-off from Alvarez was truly a special moment, a type of moment that should occur more frequently in the future. 

    There wasn't much to choose from, but the runner up for the award goes to Opening Day.  The electricity in PNC Park was something special and something that's been missing for a long time.

Worst Moment: April 22, 2010. Pirates Lose 20-0

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    PITTSBURGH - APRIL 20:  Prince Fielder #28 of the Milwaukee Brewers at bat against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the game on April 20, 2010 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    The Pirates suffered some embarrassing blowout losses in 2010, but absolutely nothing was as bad as the 20-0 drubbing at the hands of the Milwaukee Brewers in late April.  The worst Pirates loss in 124 years.

Iron Man Award: Andrew McCutchen

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    HOUSTON - AUGUST 15:  Center fielder Andrew McCutchen #22 of the Pittsburgh Pirates can not run down this ground rule double off the bat of Hunter Pence of the Houston Astros in the sixth inning at Minute Maid Park on August 15, 2010 in Houston, Texas.  (
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    You have to hand it to McCutchen.  This kid plays his rear end off.  He was so banged up for most of the year, but you couldn't get him out of the lineup.  Both shoulders really took a beating this year, but Cutch still went out and gave it his all.

    You have to respect this guy.  His numbers dropped a bit due to him being banged up, but you saw what type of player Cutch is.  This is his team now and with the way he plays the game, they should put a "C" on his chest.

Worst Quote: John Russell

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    PITTSBURGH - AUGUST 25:  Manager John Russell #7 of the Pittsburgh Pirates argues a home run call with umpire Chris Guccione during the game against the St. Louis Cardinals on August 25, 2010 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wicke
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    When he talked, Mr. Mumbles, as I like to call him, spoke so softly that you couldn't understand him anyway.  He did say one thing that jumped off the page.

    After the Pirates' 20-0 loss, good old JR had the nerve to say, "These type of games happen all of the time."  Really JR? Last time I checked, they've happened only four or five times in the last 100 years.  I guess you expected something like that from Russell.

    Honorable mentions include Frank Coonelly saying, "The Pirates dynasty begins this season," and Neal Huntington saying, "We view Dana Eveland as a quality starter who can be a big piece of the organization." No other team felt that way and Eveland was released after two weeks.

Most Telling Stat: 3-Way Tie

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    PITTSBURGH - SEPTEMBER 21:  Paul Maholm #28 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals during the game on September 21, 2010 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    First, the run differential of -279.  The Pirates were outscored this season by a whopping 866-587 count. That's unbelievable.

    Second, the 17-64 road record.  How did they ever win 17?

    Finally, the starters ERA of 5.66.  Eleven different Pirates started games this season.  They combined to allow 582 runs in 925.2 innings pitched.  That's not very good.

    You add all of that together, and you get a 57-105 team.