With the focus in baseball being on the fantastic matchups being waged in the playoffs, the intense debate about the end-of-season awards has been tempered for the time being. It’s a temporary lull that will heat up again once the announcement of the award winners near, as many will try to get in their opinions in the form of parting shots, in the attempt to support the various candidates. There have been some truly incredible performances this season, and there are literally no categories without multiple candidates having legitimate chances to have their name drawn from the proverbial envelope. That being said, here are my picks for the 2012 baseball awards.
AL MVP- Mike Trout: Miguel Cabrera may have won the Triple Crown by leading the American League in batting average, home runs, and RBI, but Trout was tops in runs scored, stolen bases, and OPS+. Can anyone really say which of those stats are more valuable than the others? Regardless, there is nothing that says the Triple Crown guarantees an MVP, and advanced stats show that Trout was just as, if not more effective offensively than the Tigers first sacker. When you throw in Trout’s major edge in base running and defense, he was clearly the best all-around player in the AL. Those who argue that the Tigers made the postseason, while the Angels went home after game 162, must keep in mind that the Angels won more games (89 to 88), while playing in a tougher division.
NL MVP- Buster Posey: For overall value, Ryan Braun, Yadier Molina, Andrew McCutchen, and Posey were fairly evenly matched, but when you look at what they meant to their respective teams, Posey emerges as the pick. He was an absolute anchor for the Giants, whose remaining lineup could only be kindly described as subpar. Posey hit a blistering .385 after the All Star break, ultimately winning the NL batting title, which became even more important when Melky Cabrera was suspended for 50 games. Although he’s not the equal of Molina behind the plate, Posey did a fine job handling the Giant’s vaunted pitching staff and leading his team into the playoffs, making him the MVP.
AL Cy Young- Justin Verlander: Although he won 7 fewer games, Verlander’s 2012 campaign was not all that different than 2011, when he won the Cy Young and MVP awards. This year he led the league in innings pitched, strikeouts, and ERA+, while winning 17 games with a 2.64 ERA. He also pitched a significant number of additional innings than his main competition; David Price (27) and Jered Weaver (50). He may not have been as flashy as last year, but that doesn’t mitigate his dominance and deserving his second Cy Young.
NL Cy Young- R.A. Dickey: When it comes down to raw stats, Dickey, Clayton Kershaw, Gio Gonzalez, and Johnny Cueto all have legitimate claims to the award. What pushes Dickey forward are the noteworthy ways he stayed in the spotlight this year. As a knuckleball pitcher who achieved his breakout season at the age of 37, voters will have a soft spot for the unusual nature of his candidacy. He also had a streak of 44.2 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run, wrote a book, and was the only reason to watch an otherwise miserable Mets squad. Even if he earns votes for being the most prominent pitcher in the media, his 20-6 record, 2.73 ERA, and leading the league in innings and strikeouts make him a worthy choice.
AL Rookie of the Year- Mike Trout: It would be pretty difficult to not give Trout this award when he is a frontrunner for the MVP. He became the first player in major league history to have at least 30 home runs, 45 steals, and 125 runs scored in a season, making further discussion of his worthiness unnecessary.
NL Rookie of the Year- Wade Miley: Highly touted Nats’ outfielder Bryce Harper may be a sexier pick, but Miley did it better and more consistently than the teenaged phenom. The Diamondbacks’ lefty went 16-11 with a 3.33 ERA in 32 games (29 starts). Despite tiring over the last month of the season (5.40 ERA over his final 6 starts), he was remarkably consistent, serving as the team’s ace, while losing consecutive games just once. Harper was relatively mediocre until the final six weeks of the season, but his hot finish (.330 with 7 home runs in his final 31 games) wasn’t enough to catch Miley as the senior circuit’s top rookie.
AL Manager of the Year- Bob Melvin: On pure improbability and managerial genius this award should be a complete toss-up between Melvin and Orioles skipper, Buck Showalter. What gives Melvin the slight edge is how he took the Oakland A’s from being a likely 100 loss team to winning 94 games, and doing so in the competitive NL West, which was a slightly tougher division than the AL East, where Boston had an unexpected down year. Voters really can’t go wrong with Melvin or Showalter, but the A’s manager gets the nod because of his higher degree of difficulty, by the slimmest of margins.
NL Manager of the Year- Dusty Baker: Like the American League, the NL had multiple distinguished managers. What set Baker apart from the rest was guiding the Reds to an impressive 97 wins, despite losing his best player, Joey Votto, for a third of the season. The Reds may have just been knocked out of the playoffs, but Baker deserves a lot of credit for the success of his team, which was built more around lunch pail type players than mega stars. Baker saved his best for the second half of the season, as the Reds went 50-27 after the All Star break and turned a close NL Central race into a runaway.
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