With the playoffs well underway, it is a good time to look back on the season that was and pick a few winners. I’m going to select the manager of the year, top reliever, rookie of the year, Cy Young, and MVP. Expect a short blurb explaining my choice following each selection. Both leagues. Boom.
Manager of the Year
American League — Buck Showalter. This is really a no-brainer for me. Showalter took a team that I typically like to make fun of, given their usual display of inept pitching, to the playoffs. The Fighting Showalters topped 90 wins and possess a brilliant bullpen — both of which are direct reflections on the manager.
National League — Davey Johnson. The Washington Nationals had the best regular season regular in the bigs. Read that again.
American League — Fernando Rodney. He didn’t lead AL circuit in saves. Jim Johnson took that. Rodney, however, was spectacular. Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a pinch-hit walk-off home run off of the Tampa Bay closer in May in way in what was supposed to be one of 12 different jumping off points for the Red Sox. It was a blip on the radar for Rodney was downright dominant. His .60 ERA was the best by any reliever who tossed more than 50 frames. Cy Young votes are in order.
National League — Craig Kimbrel. You could make a good case for Aroldis Chapman, but Kimbrel is my guy here. He allowed seven earned runs all season, led the NL in saves, and is about as reliable as it gets.
Rookie of the Year
American League — Mike Trout. And I refuse to get into why.
National League — Bryce Harper. It might seem like I’m copping out, but I’m not. It was a tough choice. Todd Frazier is a guy I like a lot–kid’s a good player. And he looks like a true big leaguer. But Harper is the real deal, the total package. He was two bags away from a 20-20 season and scored 98 runs. His promotion was not a sure thing, but his arrival has been. Get your proverbial popcorn ready.
American League — David Price. If you lead the league in wins (20) and ERA (2.56), you’re probably going to get my vote. If you’re putting up those numbers while conducting business in the AL East, you’re definitely getting my vote.
National League — R.A. Dickey. I will be perfectly honest here — my gut reaction is to look for a guy who isn’t Dickey, who isn’t throwing a knuckleball consistently. It’s probably that same train of thought that led Tony La Russa to start Matt Cain in the All-Star game. Let’s not make the same poor decision. Dickey was the best pitcher in the Senior Circuit in 2012. A sub-3 ERA, 230 punch-outs, and 20 wins does the trick for me. Long live the knuck.
American League — Mike Trout. If Ted Williams can win the Triple Crown and not win the MVP, then so can Miguel Cabrera. There is no clear-cut choice here. There are no wrong answers. No one is an idiot for choosing Cabrera over Trout. If you believe Trout is the Most Valuable Player, that does not mean you’ve turned your back on traditional baseball statistics. It’s funny how a MVP race can turn into a New School vs. Old School statistical holy war. Let’s please not make it that–it takes away from what these two super special players have done in 2012.
I love Cabrera. I really do. He is like Will Hunting in Good Will Hunting. Hunting finds organic chemistry to be easy, second nature. He doesn’t have to try to learn advanced mathematics–he just gets it. Cabrera is a pure, natural hitter. Some people were just put on this planet to hit. It is power and precision at its finest. All of that said, Trout is still my choice.
Trout’s defensive prowess in center field was second to none. When he wasn’t scaling fences, he was running down balls that were gappers off of the bat. His combination of speed and power is truly remarkable. He scored 129 runs and stole 49 bases. His OBP was .399. Trout’s impact on the Angels was tangible when he was recalled. His fingerprint was on nearly every game he played in. He was the Most Valuable Player of the American League.
National League — Ryan Braun. He’s not going to win the MVP. And it’s because of his positive drug test from this time last year. It’s 2012, not 2011, and Braun hit nine more home runs than he did yesteryear when he won the MVP. He stole 30 bases and got on base at a .391 clip. It wouldn’t be difficult to make the argument that Braun had a better year than he did in his MVP campaign in 2011. Buster Posey is absolutely excellent, but I dare you to remove the stigma of Braun’s positive test from last year and vote for someone else. I’m not sure you can.