Monday, September 28, 2009 PTI: Who's the Best in MLB?

This week Adam and Chris discuss who will win Major League Baseball's postseason awards when the season ends in early October.

American League Most Valuable Player
Chris – Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
To me this race comes down to Joe Mauer of the Twins and Derek Jeter of the Yankees. Mauer is batting .370 to go along with 28 home runs, 90 RBI and 88 runs. Jeter is hitting .330 and he has scored 106 runs. Jeter has really bounced back this year after a lackluster 2008, and he is the leader in that clubhouse. I still think Mauer is the MVP for the AL. As Adam notes below, Jeter is playing on the Yankees, a team loaded with not only bats, but pitching as well. Sabathia will likely get Cy Young votes, and Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera have been lights out from the bullpen. I think Jeter and the Yankees have too many weapons to consider any one of them as the MVP. Mauer is clearly the most valuable player on the Twins, and I think he is the most valuable player in the AL.

Adam - Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
The debate for AL MVP among most of the experts has appeared to revolve around by how much Joe Mauer will win the award by. While Mauer’s stat line is impressive (.370 average with 28 home runs, 90 RBIs, and 88 runs), he is in the middle of a deep lineup in Minnesota. Mauer has the luxury of former MVP Justin Morneau (30 home runs and 100 RBI), Michael Cuddyer (30 home runs and 88 RBI), and Jason Kubel (.298 average, 24 home runs, and 90 RBI) all hitting behind him. The Yankees have a few MV candidates, which is why I have trouble considering any one of them as serious contenders. Mark Teixeira (37 home runs, 119 RBI, and 99 runs), Derek Jeter (.330 average, 106 runs, and 203 hits), and Robinson Cano (.321 average, 23 home runs, 79 RBI, and 99 runs) have all excelled this season, but with so much talent, can one of them really be the most valuable player in the league? On the other hand, Cabrera is the main (and only real dangerous) threat in the Tigers lineup this season. With a .328 average, 31 home runs, 96 RBI, and 91 runs, he has an MVP stat line to rival Mauer’s as well. This race comes down to who is going to win the division and who has the luxury of sharing the load with the rest of the lineup. Cabrera’s Tigers are leading the division by 2 games and his main support in the lineup is Placido Polanco (.287 and 69 RBI), Brandon Inge (.232, 27 home runs, 79 RBI), and Curtis Granderson (.244, 27 home runs, 64 RBI). Cabrera wins the award because his team is winning the division with much less help in the lineup.

National League Most Valuable Player
Adam and Chris Agree - Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
Pujols has put together the best season of his dominant career in 2009 with a .331 average (2nd in NL), 47 home runs (1st), 129 RBI (3rd), and 120 runs (1st) to go with 110 walks (2nd) against only 62 strikeouts. While Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard are putting together MVP caliber seasons as well, they cannot match Pujols. Fielder is leading the NL with 136 RBI to go with 43 home runs, 99 runs, and a .299 average, but the Brewers have been out of the playoff picture for a while, while Pujols’s Cardinals have won the NL Central already. Howard’s stats are also very similar with 42 home runs, 135 RBI, and 96 runs, but the Phillies also have Chase Utley (31 home runs and 91 RBI), Jayson Werth (34 home runs and 93 RBI), and table setters Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino to help carry the load. Pujols does have Matt Holliday and Ryan Ludwick, but Holliday was acquired in July and Ludwick hit under .200 in May and June forcing Pujols to carry the Cardinals’ offense early. With all three hitting now, the Cardinals have pulled away in the NL Central. Pujols appears to be the consensus for MVP due to his statistical dominance, leadership, and the Cardinal’s success.

American League Cy Young
Adam and Chris Agree - Zack Greinke, Kansas City
The Cy Young race comes down to four staff aces that have been dominant at times this season. All four are hardthrowing strikeout pitchers with good control. All four are the go-to guy in their teams’ rotation. Four Kansas City, Zack Greinke was running away with the race early, but then the Royals decided to stop scoring runs. Greinke leads the AL with a 2.08 ERA to go with a 1.06 WHIP, 6 complete games, 3 shutouts, 229 strikeouts and a 15-8 record. With decent run support, he would have easily won 20 games this season. CC Sabathia started a little slowly for the Yankees, but he has looked like the pitcher that has been dominant in playoff races since 2007. He is at 19-7, leading the AL in wins, with a 3.21 ERA, a 1.10 WHIP, and 194 strikeouts. In Seattle, Felix Hernandez has finally put his talent together for a full season, and the result was scary. He currently has a 17-5 record with a 2.49 ERA, a 1.14 WHIP, and 207 strikeouts. Finally, Detroit’s Justin Verlander is leading the AL with 256 strikeouts, to go with a 17-9 record, a 3.41 ERA, and a 1.19 WHIP. All four would be worthy of a Cy Young this season based on their statistics and their performance in big games for their teams (although Seattle and Kansas City were not contending like the Yankees and Tigers, Hernandez and Greinke routinely stopped losing streaks and stepped up with big games). To us, if you take the pitcher’s record out of the equation because the pitcher can’t control his run support, the choice is between Greinke and Hernandez and Grienke has Hernandez beat in every category, although some of categories are very close. That’s why we picked Greinke to win the Cy Young this season.

National League Cy Young
Adam - Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, St. Louis
The NL race is nearly as tight as the AL CY Young race. St. Louis’s duo of Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright compete with reigning champ Tim Lincecum for this year’s award. Lincecum was the early favorite with 254 strikeouts in 218+ innings and an ERA of 2.47 with a WHIP of 1.06, but he may have hit the wall in September with a 1-3 record, an ERA of 3.60, and only 6+ innings per start. Overall, Lincecum is now at 14-7 and the talk of 300 strikeouts has faded away. On the other hand, both Carpenter and Wainwright have come on strong after the all-star break to close the gap. Carpenter is 9-1 with a 2.16 ERA since the break to bring his totals for the season to 16-4 with a 2.30 ERA, a WHIP of 1.01 and 138 strikeouts. Wainwright has been just as good, although his 9-3 record doesn’t show it, with an ERA of 1.96 and a WHIP of 1.10 to go with 89 strikeouts in 96+ innings. On the year, Wainwright is 19-8 with a 2.58 ERA, a 1.21 WHIP and 204 strikeouts. All three are missing something that the other two have (Lincecum is short on wins, Carpenter on strikeouts, and Wainwright on WHIP), but all three have set themselves apart this year as the class of the NL as well. Both Wainwright and Carpenter have stepped up in big games as the Cardinals close out the NL Central while Lincecum has faded as the Giants have fallen further behind the Rockies. With the race as tight as it is, this is the difference that sets the Cardinals apart.

Chris – Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants
I think Adam’s analysis is right on for the NL Cy Young, I just disagree with his outcome. I think it is a 3 man race between Carpenter, Wainwright and Lincecum, but I think Lincecum will win the award. Adam lays out the numbers nicely, noting that the 3 are very similar in many categories. Given Lincecum’s other stats, it is hard to hold his 14-7 record against him. If either of the Cardinal pitchers could get to 20 wins, I might reconsider, but that won’t happen with so little time left in the season. The one statistic that really stands out to me is the strikeouts. Lincecum has 254, while Wainwright and Carpenter have only 193 and 138 respectively. I think Lincecum should be the repeat Cy Young winner for the NL.

American League Rookie of the Year
Chris – Andrew Bailey, Oakland Athletics
Bailey has been lights out in Oakland as a reliever. He is a versatile pitcher with a ridiculous fastball, and an effective curveball and cutter. He is 6-4 and has a superb 1.90 ERA and a WHIP of .90 to go along with 88 strikeouts in 81 innings of pitching. He has 26 saves to top off his nice statline. These numbers make Bailey one of the league leaders in ERA, strikeouts and WHIP for relievers. The Oakland Reliever is my choice for AL Rookie of the Year.

Adam - Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers
This is the hardest award to decide. Not only are there at least three deserving candidates, but they all play different positions and are hard to compare because of it. Shortstop Elvis Andrus played outstanding defense for the contending Rangers, but has also been productive at the plate and disruptive on the basepaths. Starter Jeff Niemann has been one of the Rays best pitchers and helped make Scott Kazmir expendable by showing his ability to step up. Closer Andrew Bailey has been dominant in replacing Huston Street for the A’s. Andrus has hit .268 with 70 runs and 31 stolen bases in 35 attempts and could win the Gold Glove at shortstop in the American League this season. Niemann has put himself in the same class as Rays’ starter Matt Garza with a 12-6 record, a 3.81 ERA, and 2 shutouts, and he has outperformed last season’s playoff stars James Shields and David Price. Bailey is 26 for 30 in save situations this season with a 1.90 ERA, a 0.90 WHIP, and 88 strikeouts in 80+ innings. Andrus is the pick for his ability to influence a game in so many different ways (defense, baserunning, and hitting). While Andrus may not possess ideal power, the 21 year old has shown a little pop at the plate with 8 triples and 6 home runs.

National League Rookie of the Year
Chris – JA Happ, Philadelphia Phillies
JA Happ is the best of many rookie starting pitchers to come onto the scene this year including Randy Wells, Tommy Hunter and Jeff Niemann. He is my selection for NL Rookie of the Year because of how effective he has been as a starter in Philly. Happ has gone 11-4 with a 2.79 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP. He has 112 strikeouts in 158 innings of work. Happ has been a big part of the Phillies success this season and his numbers back it up.

Adam - Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
Although the Pirates are terrible and in the midst of their 17th straight losing season, one bright spot for the future is young centerfielder Andrew McCutchen. Despite only playing 99 games so far, McCutchen is leading the team with 64 runs and 7 triples, second on the team with 12 home runs, 25 doubles, and 16 steals, and is hitting .277. McCutchen has done all of this despite not being called up until early June and missing the first two months of the season. Other highlights for the future all-star are a 3 home run game on August 1 against Washington, 2 walk-off hits including a 2-run home run off of Brad Lidge in the bottom of the ninth to make up for a defensive miscue in the top of the inning allowed the Phillies to take the lead, and a 3 stolen base game against the Rockies (10 days after his 3 homer game). McCutchen is the best player the Pirates have had since Barry Bonds left after the 1992 season, and he will soon lead them back to a .500 record and beyond.

American League Manager of the Year
Chris – Joe Girardi, New York Yankees
Girardi is managing all of his talent very effectively this season. His Yankees just clinched the AL East title, and they have the best record in baseball having already eclipsed the 100 win number. I know that the Yankees are loaded with bats and arms and that the talent level deserves some of the credit for the team’s success. However, we have to give some credit to Girardi, and I think he has done enough to win Manager of the Year for the AL.

Adam - Ron Washington, Texas Rangers
Not many people expected the Rangers to contend in the AL West this season, but, until recently, the Rangers were in the hunt for the division crown and the Wild Card. Even now, at 84-69, they have the 4th best record in the AL and are just 6 games behind the Angels in the West. Furthermore, the high powered Rangers have had slugger Josh Hamilton for only 88 games, Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz have both missed games, and Chris Davis, who was expected to be a big part of the lineup this season, was sent to the minors earlier this season because he was striking out at a record pace. To overcome the struggling offense, Washington looked to his pitching staff where Brandon McCarthy was hurt and Vicente Padilla was cut from the team. Washington was able to mix in youngsters Scott Feldman (17 wins) and Tommy Hunter (9 wins in 17 starts) with veteran Kevin Millwood (3.79 ERA). Washington also made future ace Neftali Perez a dominant set-up man out of the bullpen (1.84 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 29+ innings). To contend for the playoffs despite numerous injuries and heavy reliance on three young pitchers is testament to Washington’s impressive job in Texas this season.

National League Manager of the Year
Adam and Chris Agree - Jim Tracy, Colorado Rockies
This is a no-brainer. The Rockies were dead in the water at 18-28, 14 games out of first, when Jim Tracy took over in late May and promptly went on a 17-1 run from June 4th through the 22nd to re-enter the playoff race. The Rockies, after threatening the Dodger for the NL West title, appear set to win the Wild Card, as they did in 2007 on their way to the World Series, with a 5 game lead over the Giants. Overall, Tracy is 30 games over .500 at 69-39 (.639 winning percentage) and the Rockies look like they are having fun while becoming one of the most exciting teams in the NL. Under Tracy, the Rockies never appear out of a game and have an air of confidence about them as if they expect to return to the World Series this season. Considering that the only real change to the team this season was replacing Clint Hurdle with Tracy, it is safe to assume that a big reason for the change is this year’s NL Manager of the Year.

American League Executive of the Year
Adam and Chris Agree - Brian Cashman, New York Yankees
Everything Cashman did this offseason was golden. The prize position player of the free agent class, Teixeira, has provided a masher in the middle of the lineup and gold glove caliber defense at first. Underrated pick-up Nick Swisher has provided power (27 home runs, 79 RBI, and 80 runs) as the rightfielder. In the starting rotation, free agent pick-up CC Sabathia has pitched like a Cy Young contender with 18 wins, a 3.31 ERA, and 186 strikeouts in 220+ innings. Fellow signee A.J. Burnett has been somewhat inconsistent but has still contributed 12 wins, a 4.19 ERA and 184 strikeouts in 195+ innings. Cashman also decided to keep Andy Pettitte around for another season and the veteran lefty has responded with 13 wins and a 4.15 ERA in 184+ innings. Overall, Cashman’s offseason moves have netted 64 home runs, 198 RBI, 179 runs, 43 wins, and 600 innings of pitching. That production, coupled with no apparent bust among his offseason acquisitions, wins Cashman the award this season. I know people will complain that Cashman had an unlimited budget to make these moves, but he has always had that budget and still made glaring mistakes in free agency. This offseason he was perfect.

National League Manager of the Year
Adam and Chris Agree - John Mozeliak, St. Louis Cardinals
While Cashman won the AL Executive of the Year award in December and January, Mozeliak won the NL award from May through July. Past reclamation projects Joel Pineiro (15 wins, 3.24 ERA, and 203 innings), Chris Carpenter (16 wins and a 2.30 ERA), and Ryan Franklin (37 saves and a 1.98 ERA) have all had career seasons, but Mozeliak needed to supplement his past work to get the Cardinals to the playoffs. Enter trade acquisitions Mark DeRosa, Matt Holliday, and Julio Lugo and waiver pickup John Smoltz. DeRosa was the first to join the Cardinals and, while inconsistent at times, has contributed 10 home runs and the versatility that managers love. Holliday and Lugo were acquired in July and have sparked St. Louis to the top of the NL Central. Holliday has been a beast hitting .354 with 13 home runs and 50 RBI in 56 games while Lugo has been overlooked despite solid production with a .277 average in 130 at-bats. Smoltz has helped add depth to a rotation including Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, and Pineiro by averaging almost 6 innings per start with a 3.18 ERA in 6 games since coming to St. Louis from Boston. Similar to Cashman in the AL, Mozeliak has been nearly perfect in his acquisitions this season.

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Crazy Canton Cuts said...

Reimhold is my AL ROY pick

I see Ichiro gets no love nor mention, which happens a lot by many

great job regardless

rakeback said...

Albert Pujols is an easy selection at MVP. You can basically pencil the guy in for MVP and triple crown contention each year. Joe Mauer is the other guy that comes to mind for having an outstanding season at the plate.