The long haul of the baseball regular season is now over. 162 games have been played by each team and the playoffs are here. We got to watch a unique season enfold as 2012 will forever be known as the year the 2nd Wild Card playoff spot was added. There were collapses, surprises, disappointments, rookie phenoms, and Triple Crown winners. The season came down to the wire for more than one race and showed just how exciting baseball can be - somehow managing to live up to 2011's epic ending. The playoffs are sure to be a thrill and the awards will trickle in over the next month. Here are my selections for the men I believe have earned these prestigious awards.
American League – Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers)
Miguel Cabrera did something that I did not assume possible. He took away the MVP award from Mike Trout. I was content with dubbing the rookie as the American League’s best player, but Miguel Cabrera made it impossible for me. The Triple Crown is a very rare achievement in baseball – it hadn't happened in 45 years. Only a select few, mostly legends in baseball’s illustrious history have accomplished it. Cabrera is the first player to capture this achievement since Carl Yastrzemski did so in 1967. All that is well and good, God knows Trout has him beat in fielding and WAR, but what really stands out to me is how Cabrera put the team on his back. Awards are not won in one month, but Divisions can be. The White Sox led the A.L. Central all year long, but the Detroit Tigers were able to come back and rip it away. Miguel Cabrera will be playing in the playoffs, Mike Trout will not be.
National League – Buster Posey (San Francisco Giants)
There are several worthy candidates to this award. Andrew McCutchen has been one of the best hitters all year long for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Ryan Braun has matched and possibly even exceeded his numbers from last year’s MVP season. Neither of them beat the job Buster Posey has done for the Giants. I didn’t think San Fran would be able to bounce back from losing their best hitter, at the time, Melky Cabrera to suspension just after the All-Star break. The Dodgers seemed primed and ready to overtake the Division. Then something happened. Buster Posey became the best hitter in the 2nd half of the season at the most important position. Posey joins Joe Mauer as the only catcher since 1942 to win their league’s batting title and his Giants are back playing deep into October. The intangibles of Posey’s situation make it all that much more deserving. Coming off injury, fending off a team bringing in superstar players, calling each baseball game for his pitching staff and the loss of an All-Star player all equate to Buster Posey winning the MVP.
American League – David Price (Tampa Bay Rays)
This award is a toss-up. There are so many guys who could be given this honor and I’d have no issues with it. Justin Verlander may not have had as dominating a year as he did in 2011, but he still pitched phenomenally. It’s tough not to give it to him. Chris Sale pitched wonderfully for the White Sox while Felix Hernandez was one of the most exciting hurlers in baseball this year for the Seattle Mariners. David Price, who finishes with 205 K and a WHIP of 1.10 had been part of a very impressive Tampa pitching staff that nearly led them to the playoffs. The team didn’t have a spectacular offense by any means. The pitching and namely David Price carried them to 90 wins. His teammate, the team’s closer Fernando Rodney even placed himself in the Cy Young discussion with the ridiculous year he had out of the bullpen. Verlander may very well win this award and it would be well-deserved, but my money’s on Price.
National League – Gio Gonzalez (Washington Nationals)
It seems as though either R.A. Dickey or Clayton Kershaw are the consensus favorites to win this award, so I guess I’m in the minority. Dickey is a great pitcher – his knuckleball is one of the hardest to hit pitches in baseball. Kershaw has had atrocious run support in L.A. but his stats are off the charts, despite battling through injuries. That being said, the Washington Nationals stunned everyone by becoming quite possibly the best team in baseball. Stephen Strasburg is the guy everyone knew about, but Gio Gonzalez was the most consistent and overall best pitcher on this staff. He’s near the top of the league in strikeouts and his strikeout ratio is the best. One nerd stat that supports Gonzalez's claim to the Cy Young is FIP, which is Fielding Independent Pitching. It's basically a stat that centers solely on the pitcher, rather than the team as a whole. Gio is at the top of the list for it, which gives validity to his league leading 21 wins.
Rookie of the Year:
American League – Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels)
This isn’t even a discussion. Mike Trout is currently contending for the league’s MVP award, this Rookie of the Year is a foregone conclusion. If he’s not the unanimous choice, then there’s something wrong with the voters. He's the first player in baseball history to steal 45 bags, score 125 runs, and hit 30 home runs in a season. He's also the first to hit above .320 with 30 home runs and 45 stolen bases. The stats go on and on and it took a lot for me to not give him the MVP award. Rookie of the Year is his consolation prize.
National League – Bryce Harper (Washington Nationals)
Haters, come at me. It’s very difficult for me to peg a winner here. A month ago, I was content with giving this award to Todd Frazier but an awful month of September has knocked him out of contention. Wilin Rosario is someone most people may not have heard of, but the catcher for Colorado leads all National League rookies in HR and is probably second to Harper in terms of position players for this award. Harper’s biggest competition is SP Wade Miley of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The 2012 All-Star teammate of Bryce Harper has had a very consistent and solid season. I may be falling for the “sexier” pick in Harper but he really bounced back from his August slump. 20+ HR for a teenager in the world of Major League Baseball is something special and his fielding in the outfield, barring a few brain cramps, has been superb. As a rookie, he already has one of the best arms in baseball. Miley and Rosario will be watching from home while Frazier may watch from his team’s bench as Bryce Harper competes for a World Series ring as a teenager. Make sure to wish him a happy birthday on the 16th, he’ll be turning just 20-years-old.
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