October 16, 2012
Now that baseball’s regular season is over, and the playoffs are underway, it’s time to consider which players deserve MLB’s coveted individual awards for 2012.
Last time, I cast my ballot for the American League awards. In this post, we’ll take a look at the National League.
So, if this author were a member of the BBWAA, this is what his ballot would look like:
When you look at the major statistical categories in the National League, four names keep coming up: Buster Posey (SF), Andrew McCutchen (PIT), Ryan Braun (MIL), and Yadier Molina (STL).
In fact, those players are 1-4 in Baseball Reference total WAR. Posey led the NL (7.2), followed by McCutchen (7.0), Braun (6.8), and Molina (6.7 – tied with the Mets’ David Wright). Molina is the sole representative of this group on the defensive WAR list (2.6, good for 3rd).
A strong case could be made for any of these players for MVP.
Molina continues to reinvent himself as an offensive player, while maintaining his place as the game’s best defensive catcher. He was surrounded by a potent lineup, and while he was valuable, he wasn’t necessarily the most valuable player on his team.
Braun, the reigning MVP, had another monster season (41 HRs, 112 RBIs). His 2011 MVP was marred by accusations of steroid use. He was cleared on a technicality. This year, he seemed out to prove that his success in 2011 was not pharmaceutically enhanced. Where would the Brewers be without him? Out of the playoffs, which is where they are with him.
Posey led the league in batting average (.336), OPS+ (172), and WAR. He hit 24 home runs and 103 RBIs. Tremendous numbers for anyone, especially a catcher. He provided a big boost to the middle part of the Giants’ order, especially after the PED suspension of Melky Cabrera. And he did a solid job behind the plate handling a great San Francisco pitching staff.
The vote goes to Buster Posey for MVP over three other worthy candidates.
NL Cy Young
Like the MVP, there is no clear winner for NL Cy Young.
Clayton Kershaw (LA) led the league in pitcher’s WAR, ERA, and WHIP, and had a 14-9 record. He was also second in strikeouts and innings pitched.
Gio Gonzalez led the league in wins with 21 to go along with his 2.89 ERA and 1.13 WHIP.
Johnny Cueto won 19 games, had a 2.78 ERA, and a 5.8 WAR.
R.A. Dickey, the only remaining knuckleballer in major league baseball, went 20-6, and was second in ERA, third in WHIP, and first in strikeouts, innings pitched, complete games, and shutouts. He averaged a little over 7 innings pitched per start.
Throwing a monkey wrench (at 98 MPH, no doubt) into the process this year is Braves’ closer Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel could become the first reliever to win the Cy Young since Eric Gagne in 2003. Kimbrel dominated the ninth inning this year, allowing only 7 earned runs in 62 innings, and compiling an astounding 16.7 SO/9 ratio. A reliever has to be nearly perfect to win the Cy Young, and he nearly was.
But the vote goes to Dickey. Like Justin Verlander in the American League, his endurance is a rarity these days. Because of that, along with all of his other impressive numbers, and the fact that he pitched for a team that won only 74 games, R.A. deserves the award.
NL Rookie of the Year
When the Washington Nationals recalled 19 year-old sensation Bryce Harper, it seemed like everyone was ready to hand him the NL ROY right then and there. And he got off to a great start.
He showed off his powerful-yet-compact swing, his ability to play the outfield (a relatively new position for the former catcher), and his speed and hustle on the bases. The league adjusted to him, and his performance at the plate suffered. However, like any good rookie, he adjusted back. He finished the year .270./340./477 with 22 home runs and 18 stolen bases in 522 at bats.
Harper wasn’t the only rookie batter to have a nice debut. Rockies’ catcher Wilin Rosario had an .843 OPS to go along with his 28 home runs. Cincinnati’s Todd Frazier’s offense made up for the injury losses of veterans Scott Rolen and Joey Votto during the course of the year. His teammate Zack Cozart hit 15 home runs at shortstop. And the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo lived up to his hype (.805 OPS, 15 HR) in half a season with Chicago.
But for this year’s ROY, one needn’t look further than the pitchers’ mound in Phoenix. Left hander Wade Miley went 16-11 with a 3.33 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and a 6.7 SO/BB ratio. Miley was a rookie, but he pitched like a seasoned veteran.
NL Manager of the Year
There were plenty of surprise teams in baseball this year. Among them were the Washington Nationals. On paper, they had a strong team coming into the season. The addition of Gio Gonzalez deepened a rotation that already featured Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann. They had a lineup that could hit, and the aforementioned Harper was on the way up. But it was Davey Johnson who pulled all the pieces together, and led the Nationals to a 98-win season.
The manager who enjoyed most of his success when MTV still played music enjoyed an 80s throwback in the nation’s capital in 2012.
But to me, the manager of the year is the one who did the most with the least. And it’s not that the Cardinals were bereft of talent, but look at the situation rookie manager Mike Matheny came into.
Albert Pujols left for Anaheim, leaving a hole in the lineup and disappointed Cardinals fans behind. Carlos Beltran came aboard to replace his bat, but the health of his knees was still question mark. It was still unclear who would take Albert’s place at first base – Lance Berkman or rookie Allen Craig. Shortstop was also a question mark for the Cardinals. On top of that, St. Louis was without ace starter Chris Carpenter, and had to rely on Adam Wainwright (recently off Tommy John surgery) to anchor the staff.
Matheny got the most out of his rookies, Craig at first, Pete Kozma at short, and found the right mix of veterans to complement them. The starting rotation got fine performances from the likes of Lance Lynn and Kyle Lohse, even without the benefit of veteran pitching guru Dave Duncan.
For his performance, this vote goes to Mike Matheny.
NL Comeback Player of the Year
David Wright had a bounce back year for the Mets. In 2011, he had a hairline fracture in his back that limited him to 389 at bats. This year, he played in 156 games and hit .306/.391/.492 with 21 HRs and 93 RBIs.
However, Buster Posey deserves to add another trophy to his mantel. Buster had only 162 at bats in 2011 before getting clobbered in a home plate collision that ended his season. This year, not only did he play a full season, but he put up MVP-like numbers.
NL Best Closer
The Reds’ Aroldis Chapman wowed us all with his 105 MPH fastball. He also became a shutdown closer, compiling 38 saves, a .81 WHIP, and striking out batters at a 15.3 SO/9 rate.
But Craig Kimbrel wowed us more. He too, will add a second trophy to his mantel. When he came into the game in the ninth inning for the Braves, the game was over.