Monday, July 14, 2008

Mid-Season Award Winners

Here are my picks for the mid-season award winners:
  • AL MVP: Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers
I shook my head in confusion after seeing that Jayson Stark had selected Kinsler as his MVP considering the massive numbers that both Josh Hamilton and Milton Bradley have put
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up, but in looking at the numbers, it's bizarre. Like previous Rangers players (Mark Teixeira, Hank Blalock), both Hamilton and Bradley have huge numbers at home and solid enough (but nowhere close to MVP) numbers on the road. Kinsler has far better power numbers on the road than at home; his batting average is .376 at home and .299 on the road. He's obviously benefiting from the cozy confines of Arlington and by having Bradley, Hamilton and Michael Young in the same lineup, but his production can't be denied especially since it's been so consistent at home and on the road.
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  • AL Cy Young Award: Cliff Lee, Cleveland Indians
Lee has been unappreciated for several years as a solid and consistent winner, but this year his fastball appeared to have picked up some life; combined with his control, he's been dominating on a struggling team with a shaky bullpen. He's been brilliant across the board, throwing strikes, not allowing homers and racking up wins.
  • AL Rookie of the Year: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
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Longoria has 84 hits and 40 are for extra bases. An All Star as a rookie, a very good fielder and an emerging voice in his clubhouse simply by the professional way he carries himself.
  • AL Manager of the Year: Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota Twins
Before the seven game losing streak to end the first half, it would have been Rays manager Joe Maddon, but a team with an eye on
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making the playoffs cannot get swept in a four-game series by an Indians team that has pretty much thrown in the towel on the season. Because the Twins aren't in a playoff position and they're more of an under-the-radar story, many miss the fact that their roster is weaker and in many ways, less established than that of the Rays. Gardenhire is nursing a very young pitching staff to an over .500 record when they were expected to have a rebuilding year. This is also a body-of-work award because Gardenhire has been such an unappreciated top-tier manager for so long without recognition; Maddon is in his third year, let him pay some dues.
  • NL MVP: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
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Pujols is almost alone in that lineup which accounts for his league-leading (by a lot) 22 intentional walks. To be able to put up the numbers Pujols puts up while seeing maybe one or two pitches to hit a game is indicative of how great he is. Chase Utley was an early favorite, but has petered out in the past couple of months and if Pujols were in the Phillies lineup, he'd win the Triple Crown.
  • NL Cy Young Award: Edinson Volquez, Cincinnati Reds
Many are picking Tim Lincecum because of his quirky personality
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and motion; his diminutive size and interesting story, but Volquez has been better across the board. He's given up fewer hits, runs and homers (pitching in a far easier home park to hit in than Lincecum), has a lower ERA and a better strikeout/innings pitched ratio. If the Reds were in contention and Volquez hadn't had those extra few days in the big leagues while with the Rangers, he's have an argument for being the Cy Young winner, Rookie of the Year and the MVP.
  • NL Rookie of the Year: Geovany Soto, Chicago Cubs
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Cubs manager Lou Piniella is rough on his catchers and to have a rookie come in and perform as well as Soto has at and behind the plate is very difficult and implies a mental toughness that portends a great career.
  • NL Manager of the Year: Lou Piniella, Chicago Cubs
Tony La Russa is the obvious choice because of his ability to do a lot with limited talent, but that thinking can distract from a manager
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whose team also had question marks coming into the season. Piniella has the Cubs in first place with a rookie catcher (Soto); a closer in training (Kerry Wood); and a scrapheap pickup as his center fielder (Jim Edmonds); he's also been without Alfonso Soriano for a big chunk of the season and still managed to drag the Cubs into first place by sheer force of will just as he did last year. Managers are often rewarded not for winning, but for having their teams play above their heads with what was perceived to be a lack of talent. Results are what they are and Piniella has the results so far this year to get the nod over La Russa.

*Note: I do not care about the home run derby; I do not want to know about the home run derby; I think the home run derby is a colossal waste of time.

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