The baseball season is basically 3/4 of the way done. In a few weeks, rosters will expand, as teams make their September call-ups and the pennant races heat up.
Some divisions seemed to be secured (although recent collapses suggest no lead is safe, i.e. the 2007 Mets and the 2011 Red Sox). The Nationals have a 4-game lead in the NL East over the Braves and own the best record in baseball. In the NL Central, the Reds have a 6-game cushion over the up-and-coming Pittsburgh Pirates. In the American League, both the Yankees and the Rangers have 6-game leads in their respective divisions. Otherwise, division and wild-card races in both leagues are as tight as ever.
Most of the awards have yet to be decided. The MVP award is a toss-up in the American League. Rookie phenom Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton, and Miguel Cabrera are all deserving. The National League MVP didn’t seem to be so wide open just a month ago. It was Joey Votto’s race to lose, but knee issues have sidelined the Reds’ first baseman since then.
The Rookie of the Year award belongs to Mike Trout in the American League. Even if he didn’t play another game, Trout has maybe been the most electric player in baseball. In the NL, Bryce Harper is a fan favorite, but Diamondbacks’ starter Wade Miley is more deserving.
Below is my complete awards guide:
It’s close, but I’m taking Miguel Cabrera. Mike Trout has been tremendous, and he’s a more well-rounded player. Still, how can you argue with a legitimate Triple Crown candidate? Cabrera is second in the league in average (.327), third in home runs (30), and the league leader in RBIs. Moreover, Cabrera has excelled in a Tigers’ lineup, which is slightly worse than the Angels’ lineup. The Tigers have scored 546 runs, whereas the Angels have scored 554 runs.
Here’s an interesting question to consider: Would Melky Cabrera be in the conversation before news broke of his suspension for PEDs. The answer is an emphatic yes! Cabrera was the best offensive player for most of the season for the Giants (Posey lately), and he was second in the NL with a .346 batting average.
Andrew McCutchen is my guy. He’s carried the Pirates offensively for basically the entire season. McCutchen also leads all of baseball with a .359 batting average and has emerged as a viable home run threat. Talent-wise, I think Matt Kemp is the best center fielder in baseball, but production in 2012 points to McCutchen. He’s been great.
AL Cy Young
Maybe the closest race of all. Weaver, Verlander, and King Felix are all deserving. Statistically, Weaver is the best option. He has both the lowest ERA and WHIP. Weaver also leads the league in wins, a statistic largely based on team performance. Yet, given that the Angels’ other pitchers have been so terrible, Weaver’s 15 wins show just how dominant he has been. King Felix, however, is charging quickly, and Verlander is second in all major categories. He could easily capture the award in consecutive seasons.
NL Cy Young
Aroldis Chapman has been ridiculous. Of the batters that Chapman has retired, nearly 50% of them have come via strikeouts. That is a ML record. Second place on the list is Eric Gagne in 2003, the season in which he captured the NL Cy Young. Chapman’s teammate Johnny Cueto has been great, too. He is 15-6 this season with a 2.45 ERA, and his ERA at home is just 2.26. However, Cueto isn’t mowing down hitters like Chapman. It seems unfair at times.
AL Rookie of the Year
Mike Trout. What else can be said. He is terrific in literally every facet of the game. Trout’s production goes beyond 5 tools. Wei-Yin Chen finishes a distant second. He’s been the Orioles’ more reliable starter in 2012.
NL Rookie of the Year
As I just wrote, Wade Miley is the guy. He might be the most underrated starter in the entire National League. He has been better than the rest of the Diamondbacks’ staff, including 2011 NL Cy Young candidate and Diamondbacks’ ace Ian Kennedy. While Miley’s success might not be sustainable, considering his BABIP is almost 40 points lower in 2012 than in 2011 (.280 vs. .321), he has been a great story. Miley deserves the award with a 3.02 ERA with a 12-8 record.
AL Manager of the Year
Robin Ventura has been a surprise in Chicago, but the White Sox’s success speaks more to Kenny Williams as an executive. Bob Melvin has lead the upstart A’s to contention, and Joe Maddon continues to keep the Rays relevant. However, the award should go to Buck Showalter for how he’s guided the Orioles to first place in the wild card race. The Orioles are among the least talented ball clubs in the American League, who haven’t gotten positive contributions from Arrieta or Matusz all year. It’s incredible.
NL Manager of the Year
Clint Hurdle, hands down. While the Orioles are a bigger surprise, the Pirates aren’t far behind. He deserves a lot of credit for the Andrew McCutchen emerging as a legitimate superstar, and Hurdle has guided a patchwork rotation to the 10th best ERA in baseball. In short, the Pirates are for real, and Hurdle has been a large reason why.