My 2011 MLB Awards: What's So Valuable About an MVP Who Isn't Best?
It's the end of the 2011 regular season in Major League Baseball, and what an end, and before the postseason begins and we all root, root, root against the much-hated Yankees, here are my picks for the following awards. Major League Baseball won't announce its winners until November but you get mine here and now. Who loves ya, baby?
- AL MVP: More words have been written on the word “valuable” in the phrase “Most Valuable Player” than Norman Mailer wrote in his lifetime, but I toss the semantics argument to the side without even resorting to e.e. cummings. MVP is just a fancy way of saying “best” so just pick the best player in the league and move on already. For me, it's Jose Bautista. Led the league in HRs, walks, OBP, SLG, OPS. Tenth in batting. Walked more than he struck out. And while similar sluggers like Adrian Gonzalez, Miguel Cabrera and David Ortiz made extra outs by topping the league in grounding into double plays, with 28, 24 and 23 respectively, Bautista is tied for 77th in this category with a mere 8. The argument I'll listen to: Miguel Cabrera.
- NL MVP: Matt Kemp. Led the league in HRs, RBIs and runs. Second in OPS, SLG, stolen bases (yes) and hits. A homerun shy of the 40-40 club. The argument I'll listen to: Ryan Braun.
- AL Cy Young: Do we do this? Is it necessary? Does anyone not know this already? League leader in ERA, strikeouts, wins, innings pitched and WHIP is the Tigers' Justin Verlander. That's your man. I don't think there's another argument.
- NL Cy Young: An argument here is apparently more necessary. The NL pitcher who leads all the above categories except for innings pitched is Clayton Kershaw, but some (Rob Neyer) have suggested that various sabermetrics numbers favor Roy Halladay, who already has a passel of Cy Young Awards. I passel on Halladay (and Neyer). Kershaw all the way. (Question: Has any team had both MVP and Cy Young Award winner on their club and not gone to the postseason?)
- AL Rookie of the Year: An argument could be made for Eric Hosmer of KC, with his .799 OPS, or Mark Trumbo of the Angels, with his 29 homers, but both guys struck out tons against not many walks, which doesn't bode well for careers. It's really a pitchers' year in this category, and most voters will go either for Jeremy Hellickson's ERA (2.95) or Ivan Nova's wins (16-4). But, admittedly biased here, I opt for Seattle's Michael Pineda, who led the other two in strikeouts (173 vs. Hellickson's 117 and Nova's 98), K-BB ratio (more than 3:1 vs. less than 2:1 for the others), and WHIP (1.10). The big man tired as the season progressed, and he played for the Lousies so he didn't win a game after July. But he's still the man. Now straighten out yer hat, kid.
- NL Rookie of the Year: Not as versed in the NL but it seems to be a battle of the Braves, right? First baseman Freddie Freeman vs. closer Craig Kimbrel and his 46 saves, 2.00 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. He gets extra points for rounding. Kimbrel.
- AL Manager of the Year: I don't know how you pick anyone but Joe Maddon of the Rays.
- NL Manager of the Year: Kirk Gibson. In his first year, his team goes worst to first. Pump that arm, Kirk.
- 30-30-30-30 Offense of the Year: The Seattle Mariners. For the second year in a row.
Which is a good segue into the more personal awards...
- My best game: I went to about a dozen, most at Safeco Field; and while it was nice seeing Michael Pineda get his first Major League win, and it was nicer seeing the hapless M's beat the mighty Yankees on four ground-outs at the end of May, giving me a 4-0 record on the year, I mostly saw them lose in the second half of the season (I wound up 6-5), and it left a bad taste. So I'm going with the sunniest game of them all: July 4, Target Field in downtown Minneapolis, with Dad and a Hamon Killebrew Root Beer. Twins won, 7-0, over the Tampa Bay Rays, who were obviously going nowhere.
- My most historic game: Mariano Rivera's 600th save. With video to prove it.
- My worst game: Larry Bernandez Bobblehead Night at Safeco Field: Saturday, August 27. My rant here.
- My favorite player: I might be too old for this. I was happy every time Pineda pitched or Dustin Ackley stepped to the plate. M's are going young. That's the way to go. But if I have to choose I'll choose Brendan Ryan. He's a good defensive shortstop, he's a character, and he's scrappy. Plus he does things like this. Plus he makes things like this.
- Farewells: Dave Niehaus and Harmon Killebrew.
2011 Fan Appreciation Night: M's management appreciating that they still have fans.