As the MLB postseason is beginning, I thought it would be a good time to unveil my 2012 final regular season awards – each league’s MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, and Manager of the Year.
For the first time in awhile, there was no clear-cut winner for any of the four major awards. The American League MVP is definitely between Mike Trout or Miguel Cabrera, but the National League MVP could go to any of four or five players, and the Cy Young races are wide open.
American League MVP: Mike Trout
I’ll try to leave sabermetrics out of this one, although it’s tough to ignore the fact that Mike Trout’s 10.5 WAR is better than any baseball player since Barry Bonds (and better than the entire Houston Astros TEAM).
It’s tough to top Miguel Cabrera winning the first Triple Crown in 45 years, but Trout’s offensive numbers were mighty strong themselves. Trout batted .326 with 30 home runs and 49 steals, becoming the first player ever to put up those numbers in the same season. He added 129 runs scored in 139 games – the seventh player ever to score that many runs in fewer than 140 games.
Trout posted a .564 slugging percentage and .963 OPS that stood up comparably to the .606 and .999 marks by Cabrera, and when adjusted to his ballpark, Trout’s 171 OPS+ led the American League. He grounded into just seven double plays in 639 plate appearances, compared to a league-worst 28 by Cabrera.
Trout was also a superb center fielder who made his fair share of home run robbing catches, and he is arguably the game’s finest baserunner already.
As for the argument of Trout’s Los Angeles Angels not making the playoffs, it’s absolutely outrageous to blame Trout for that. The Angels were 6-14 when he got called up and they still nearly worked their way back into the playoff picture. Why in the world should Trout be penalized because the rest of his team, namely Ervin Santana, Peter Bourjos, Alberto Callaspo, and Dan Haren greatly underachieved?
Runner-Ups: Miguel Cabrera
National League MVP: Buster Posey
I don’t play the “his team didn’t make the playoffs so he can’t be MVP” game. So I almost picked Ryan Braun to win the league MVP, but upon a closer look at their numbers, I have to go with Buster Posey.
He was downright unstoppable down the stretch for the San Francisco Giants, batting .386 with 13 home runs and 58 RBIs in the season’s final 69 games. During that span, the Giants went 43-26 and held off the Los Angeles Dodgers for the division title.
Posey finished the season with a .336 mark and a batting title (over teammate and steroid-aided Melky Cabrera), 24 home runs, and 102 RBIs. Posey also did this while playing the toughest defensive position on the field.
Runner-Ups: Ryan Braun, Yadier Molina, Andrew McCutchen, Jason Heyward
American League Cy Young: Justin Verlander
Justin Verlander’s 2012 season was virtually as good as his 2011 campaign. He just didn’t win 24 games this year. Here are the numbers:
2012: 2.64 ERA, 238.1 IP, 33 GS, 6 CG, 2.3 BB/9, 9.0 K/9, 1.057 WHIP
2011: 2.40 ERA, 251.0 IP, 34 GS, 4 CG, 2.0 BB/9, 9.0 K/9, 0.920 WHIP
But that was another dominant season in the life of Verlander, the game’s best pitcher. He led the American League in innings pitched, complete games, strikeouts, batters faced, and adjusted ERA, while earning his fourth straight All-Star appearance.
Runner-Ups: Felix Hernandez, David Price, Fernando Rodney
National League Cy Young: Craig Kimbrel
I would normally only pick a relief pitcher to win the NL Cy Young if no starting pitcher stood out for the season. And that’s exactly the case for Craig Kimbrel, who just completed one of the most dominating seasons in the game’s history.
Kimbrel is officially the first relief pitcher in history to strike out over half of the batters he faced. He led the National League with 42 saves and set a new major league record as well for fewest hits allowed (27) by a pitcher who threw at least 60 innings, which comes out to a pretty remarkable hit rate of 3.9 per nine innings.
He also displayed remarkable control, allowing just 14 walks to the 231 batters he faced. That’s after walking 16 of 88 in his debut season in 2010. Kimbrel’s WHIP of 0.654 is the third-best ever of a reliever with at least 50 innings. And he finished with a pretty nice 1.01 ERA.
Runner-Ups: R.A. Dickey, Clayton Kershaw, Gio Gonzalez, Cliff Lee, Johnny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman
American League Rookie of the Year: Mike Trout
If I’m picking Mike Trout to win the MVP, there’s a pretty good chance I’m going to pick him to win the Rookie of the Year.
His rookie season is probably a top-three rookie season ever, along with Ted Williams in 1945 or Ichiro Suzuki in 2001 (although Ichiro had the added benefit of playing in Japan for years before).
Runner-Ups: Yoesnis Cespedes, Yu Darvish, Matt Moore
National League Rookie of the Year: Bryce Harper
As of August 26, this race was wide open. The main candidates seemed to be Bryce Harper, Todd Frazier, and Wade Miley.
Harper was hitting just .248 with 12 home runs and a .732 OPS, which was quietly below the expectations that many people had for him. And then he went on a tear, batting .341/.407/.690 in the season’s final 34 games. He hit 10 home runs in that span, which projects really well for next year.
And that gives him a season’s total of 22 home runs and 18 stolen bases, phenomenal totals for a 19-year old, and actually pretty good numbers for a player of any age.
Runner-Ups: Wade Miley, Todd Frazier
American League Manager of the Year: Buck Showalter
What Buck Showalter has done with the Baltimore Orioles this season is nothing short of absolutely sensational.
The Orioles secured their first playoff berth in 15 years, doing so in the most absurd fashion. The Orioles outscored their opponents by a grand total of seven runs all year, giving them an expected win-loss of 82-80. And they put up the single best winning percentage in one-run games in the modern era, doing so largely because they came away victorious in 17 consecutive extra inning games.
And they did so with most of their pitching rotation spending significant time in Triple-A: Jake Arrieta, the Opening Day starter, was brutal (3-9, 6.20 ERA). Tommy Hunter was 7-8 with a 5.45 ERA. Brian Matusz was 6-10 with a 4.87 ERA. And Zach Britton was just 5-3 with a 5.07 ERA. They never should have made the playoffs but they did, and now they’re advancing to the American League Divisional Series after knocking off the high-powered Texas Rangers in the one-game playoff.
Runner-Ups: Bob Melvin
National League Manager of the Year: Davey Johnson
The Washington Nationals were expected to be much better in 2012 but I don’t think too many people expected them to be 98-64 this season.
Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmerman combined to form the best 1-2-3 pitching punch in the game, and the Nationals got tremendous production from their infield as well as Bryce Harper.
Runner-Ups: Fredi Gonzalez