Thursday, July 7, 2011

McFarland’s Mid-Season MLB Awards

            With Major League Baseball’s All-Star game approaching, that lets fans know that the season is already halfway over.
            It is hard to believe that the season is 87 games old for some teams.  What once probably seemed as an eternity for the players is steadily drawing closer and closer to the magic number of 162.
            Since the mid-way point of the season has come (and gone in a sense), I would like to take the time to hand out ‘McFarland’s Mid-Season MLB Awards.’
            These are my selections for the four major awards that are handed out at the end of the season.  Some of my selections will seem like no-brainers, while some others may surprise you.  Although things can surely change between now and the end of the year, I feel as if these ‘mid-way’ awards have definitely been earned by their respective recipients.

Most Valuable Player

            Everyone has their own criteria when selecting the MVP.  Major League Baseball seems to award it to the player with the best numbers.  Some choose the player most valuable to his team, while others pick the player most valuable to the league.
            I can absolutely say that I do not agree with the MLB’s approach of handing it to the player with the best stats.  Despite his .298 average, 47 HRs and 118 RBIs in 2003, I do not believe Alex Rodriguez should have won the AL MVP.  The Rangers finished 20 games under .500 for crying out loud.  If a player can’t help his team to at least a .500 record, how valuable are they?
            I like to look at three things.  First, the numbers do have to be there.  Stats don’t lie.  In the end they will prove if the player is one of the best in the game.  Secondly, he has to be on an average to good team.  If the team isn’t at least above .500, then again – how valuable are they really?  Lastly, if the player was removed from the team and substituted with just an average player, what would happen to the team?  Could the team sustain its .500 ways or would it fall off the map?
            Keeping those three things in mind, here are my selections for MVP…

AL MVP: Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Boston Red Sox
            There is nothing like starting off with a no-brainer.
            Since moving to Boston before this season, Gonzalez has emerged as the best hitter in the American League.  The lefty is in the top three in seven different offensive categories and leads the league in hits (121), doubles (28), RBIs (75) and batting average (.348).  His on-base percentage (.405), slugging percentage (.583) and on-base-plus-slugging percentage (.989) are also good for third in the AL.  So far, he easily passes the numbers test.
            Gonzalez is certainly on a good team, as the Rod Sox stand at 50-35 as of July 5.  Some would argue that if Gonzalez was removed from the Sox that they would still be better than a .500 team.  Maybe so, but when a team loses the league’s best hitter it is sure to drop in the standings over the long haul.  Plus, he has been the best player in the AL.  Plain and simple.
            Toronto's Jose Bautista has to garner some attention, but his team is four games under .500.

NL MVP: Jose Reyes, SS, New York Mets
            At first I wanted to hand Matt Kemp of the LA Dodgers this award.  However, after looking over my criteria, I decided to give it to Reyes.
            Both of these players have great stats.  Reyes leads the NL in runs (65), hits (124), triples (15), average (.354) and is second in stolen bases (30).  Kemp doesn’t lead the league in any one category, but is in the top three in five different stats – mainly the power numbers.  This is to be assumed since Reyes is about speed while Kemp is more of a power guy.
            I feel as if both teams would suffer tremendously if each player was removed from their respective lineup.  Reyes is the lead-off man and spark plug of the Mets’ offense.  Kemp hits in the heart of the Dodgers order and leads the team in nearly every offensive category.
            The thing that swayed my vote in Reyes’ favor was his team’s record.  The Mets, surprisingly enough, are 42-40.  The Dodgers on the other hand are a measly 37-50.  If I did give Kemp the MVP then I would be going against my A-Rod argument.  While I would much rather do that than hand a Met the MVP, I am supposed to be unbiased in my line of work.  Is it snowing outside?

AL CY YOUNG: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
            This is another toss-up between Verlander and Jered Weaver of the LA Angels.
            Both pitchers have literally been lights-out so far this season.  Both have won over ten games, thrown at least three complete games with two shutouts, have an ERA under 2.26, a WHIP below 0.92 and a batting average against (BAA) of .194 or lower.
            Verlander (11-4) leads the AL in innings pitched (143.1), strikeouts (138), WHIP (0.88) and is second to Boston’s Josh Beckett in BAA (.187).  Weaver (10-4) only leads the AL in ERA (1.92), but has given up the second fewest homeruns (5) out of the 31 AL pitchers with an ERA below 4.00.
            Team records aren’t usually held against a pitcher since he pitches once every five days.  In this case it wouldn’t matter either way, as the Angels are just one game better than the Tigers.
            Here are each pitcher’s lines.  Although I personally chose Verlander because of his ‘stuff’ and his ability to go deep into games, you can decide for yourself.

            Verlander: 11-4, 143.1 IP, 4 CG, 2 SH, 95 H, 36 ER, 12 HR, 31 BB, 138 K, 2.26 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, .187 BBA
Weaver: 10-4, 131.1 IP, 3 CG, 2 SH, 91 H, 28 ER, 5 HR, 30 BB, 114 K, 1.92 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, .194 BBA

Like I said, a complete toss up.

NL CY YOUNG: Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies
            At 34, Halladay is still as productive as ever.  He sports an 11-3 record with six complete games (leads MLB), a 2.44 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP.  His strikeout to walk ratio is a staggering 131:17, which when reduced down is 7.7:1.  Yes, he punches out nearly eight batters for every one he walks.
            Halladay will start for the NL in this year’s All-Star game and that can only help his case for the Cy Young.  He, as some pitchers do, may win the award purely on his reputation as one of the game’s best pitchers.  After all, he is 180-89 in his career.  That winning percentage (67 percent) would rank him sixth all-time, behind Sam Leever, Whitey Ford, Pedro Martinez, Lefty Grove and Christy Mathewson.
            While most people probably look at the NL Cy Young as a formality in Halladay’s favor, I am not as quick to write off his teammate in Cole Hamels.  Hamels is 10-4 and has given up nearly 30 fewer hits than Halladay (albeit in 12 less innings) and sports a better ERA (2.40), WHIP (0.95) and BAA (.213 to .241).  If the writers go purely on numbers, than Hamels has to be in the discussion.

AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Michael Pineda, SP, Seattle Mariners
            Here is that name again.  The guy I told you to look out for over three months ago.  I have always said to never trust rookie pitchers, especially in fantasy.  Well, here is the exception.
            Pineda isn’t just one of the better rookie pitchers this year, but one of the better pitchers period.  He ranks sixth in the AL in ERA (2.58), eighth in WHIP (1.01) and is just one of four AL starters with a BAA under .200 (1.93).  Only three times in his 17 starts has he given up more than four earned runs and has yet to surrender more than five.
            Of the 13 AL starters with at least 100 strikeouts, Pineda is second behind only Tampa’s David Price in strikeouts-per-inning (1.019, 106 Ks in 109 IP).  For a rookie to storm onto the MLB scene like this is truly amazing.
            The only thing going against Pineda is his supposed innings limit imposed by the Mariners.  At the rate he is going he may be shut down for the last month of the season in hopes of not completely destroying his arm.  He is only 22-years-old.
            Despite the innings limit, and even if he does get shut down, I feel as if Pineda has already done enough to earn himself the Rookie of the Year honors.

NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Craig Kimbrel, CL, Atlanta Braves
            Kimbrel is another rookie pitcher that has quickly become one of the league’s best at his position. 
            The Braves’ closer is currently tied for the major league lead in saves with 26 (Heath Bell) and has given up only 12 earned runs in 44 innings.  He also sports a considerably low WHIP (1.09).
            Out of the 28 closers with at least ten saves, Kimbrel ranks first in strikeouts (69), seconds in home runs allowed (1, Heath Bell has 0), and third in BAA (.190).  That is good enough for me.

AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Manny Acta, Cleveland Indians
            The sports world was abuzz after the Indians started out the season 20-8.  Though most people thought they couldn’t keep it up (and they haven’t), Acta has still done a great job so far this year.
            Even though Cleveland has gone 25-31 since its fabulous start, the Tribe still find themselves in first place on July 5.  Of course things may not stay that way, but there are mid-season awards.
Last year the Indians finished a dismal 69-93.  They would need to win just 30 percent of their remaining games (24) to finish with the same record.  It looks like an improvement is more than possible.
            If the award was given to the manager of the best team, then Joe Giradri and Terry Francona would be winning it most of the time.  I like to award the manager that has done the most with the least.  In this case it is Acta.

NL MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates
            While Kirk Gibson is doing a very good job with Arizona and has the D’Backs one game out of first in the West, I have to give my second home of Pittsburgh some love.
            The Pirates are notorious for playing .500 ball for the first month or so and then falling flat on their faces.  That doesn’t seem to be the case this year.  At the mid-way point, the Buccos are 45-41 and just one-and-a-half games behind the Cardinals in the Central.
            Hurdle did a great job of improving the Rockies in his time in Colorado (including a World Series appearance in 2007) and is now doing the same thing in the Steel City.  The Pirates haven’t had a winning season since 1992 and haven’t won more than 79 games since.  In the last decade they haven’t won more than 75 games.
Pittsburgh already has 45 wins is hoping to stay relevant for the remainder of the season.  With Hurdle at the helm, along with their current roster, the Pirates could be staring their first winning season in almost 20 years directly in the face.

Check out the slideshow on Bleacher Report here

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