I made predictons on the MLB awards in an earlier post, but here are my picks now that we've actually seen them play this season.
- Rookie of the Year - Craig Kimbrel of the Atlanta Braves may have blown Game 162, but he still had a great season. He finished the year with 46 saves and a 2.10 ERA. He is a big reason the Braves were in the hunt in the first place. He wore down at the end, but he should be good for a long time.
- Cy Young - Clayton Kershaw deserves this award. He played on a bad team, yet won the triple crown of pitchers. He led the NL in wins (21), strikeouts (248) and ERA (2.28). There is no way the Los Angeles Dodgers would have finished above 70 wins without Kershaw. I don't care if his WAR is under 7, this team does not come close to 76 wins (they had 82) without Kershaw. Try and argue that point, Mike! Ian Kennedy is my runner-up. This is no knock on my boy Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee. They just weren't as good as these two this year. There was also less pressure on the Phillies aces. They never had to be the stopper, because if Halladay faltered, Lee and Hamels were coming up next.
- Comeback Player - I never thought I'd ever give Ryan Vogelsong an award. Never. But here I am telling you he deserves this award. It's not that Vogelsong had a bad year and then was really good this year. Until 2011, the man hadn't pitched in the Majors since 2006! And when he did pitch in the majors, he sucked. A lot. But all was forgotten in 2011 with his 13 wins, 2.71 ERA and 1.25 WHIP.
- Manager - Kirk Gibson has the Arizona Diamondbacks one win away from the NLCS without any real stars outside Justin Upton. No one saw that coming and Gibson did an amazing job.
- MVP - This one was tough. Matt Kemp had the stats for it, but he wasn't even the most valuable player on his team. Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder are both deserving, but they could split votes. So who's left? Justin Upton. That's who I'm saying today. I might change tomorrow. His stats might not be as impressive as the three above (31 HR, .289 AVG, 88 RBIs, 21 SB and 105 runs. The Diamondbacks' lineup would struggle without this man. With him, they are dangerous. Without him they are bunch of OK players that wouldn't scare many teams. It's called Most Valuable Player, not the guy who has the best stats.
- Rookie of the Year - I want to go against the grain and say Mark Trumbo from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim is going to take this award, but the Rays' Jeremy Hellickson really stepped up. The most impressive of Helickson's stats is he pitched 189 innings. That's not common in today's game where rookie pitchers are usually on strict pitch counts. Oh, he also had an ERA of 2.95.
- Cy Young - Justin Verlander from the Detroit Tigers is one of the most obvious choices for this award I can remember. More on him late (Spoiler alert!)
- Comeback Player - There is no great story in the AL like Vogelsong. No player coming back from an extended abscence or anything like that. Instead I'll go with the Boston Red Sox's Jacoby Ellsbury. He had an incredible year (32 HR, .321 AVG, 105 RBIs, 39 SB and 119 runs). Now, his numbers are certainly deserving of MVP consideration, but just consider this: His home run total in his first 349 games was 20. Hmmm. When Jose Bautista had his big power jump there were a lot of steriod rumors. Where are they for Ellsbury?
- Manager - I want to be a homer and give it to Jim Leyland (He's from Pittsburgh.), but I can't deny Joe Maddon's great run with the Rays. The team cut their payroll by around $30 million this year to a little over $40 million. That's about $120 million less than the Red Sox. Sure, the players should get most of the credit, but you have to give Maddon some love too.
- MVP - Pitchers have the Cy Young, so they rarely win the MVP, but Verlander deserves it. There is no way the Tigers even sniff the playoffs without Verlander. He had 24 wins, 250 strikeouts, 251 innings pitched and was just incredible. The numbers can't tell you how effective Verlander was. I can't imagine what hitters were thinking going up against him. One pitch he's throwing 100 mph fastballs, the next he is tossing a breaking ball in the 80s. And he will throw any pitch at any time. I love Jose Bautista and the Toronto Blue Jays, but they didn't make the playoffs with him. Verlander led the Tigers to the playoffs, and is the only candidate you can say is the one reason his team is in the playoffs.