Ideological battles add suspense, mystery to suspenseful races
With just three weeks left in the season, debates are starting to rage about the major awards in both leagues, and the races for all six major awards are tightening up. The one possible exception is the National League MVP race, where the prospect of a the first hitting Triple Crown in 43 years has added a unique level of drama to the one race where a clear winner would otherwise seem to have emerged. For some, this is time to choose sides and dig in their heels. Here at Awards Watch, those ideological battles add another layer of mystery and suspense to these already-compelling races.
Hamilton has now missed more than a week since he collided with the outfield wall at Target Field on September 4, and though an MRI on Saturday showed nothing more than three bruised ribs, he doesn't seem any closer to returning than he was a week ago. He attempted to play light catch on Tuesday, but had to stop due to the pain. Hamilton didn't emerge as an MVP candidate until June, and is now facing the possibility of missing most of September, meaning his MVP candidacy is based almost entirely on his production over a three month span. That's just half a season. It was an unbelievable half a season (.410/.461/.717, 22 HR, 70 RBIs), but a half a season shouldn't be enough to bring home this award, not even for a five-tool stud on a first-place team.
With Hamilton hurt and Cabrera playing for a losing team, some MVP attention has swung toward Rays third baseman
As I wrote last week, Gonzalez, given his large lead in batting average, is the man with the
Pujols won the last two NL MVPs, but with his Cardinals likely to miss the playoffs and Pujols having one of his weakest seasons (no,
This race is quickly turning into an ideological battle over the value of pitching wins. I come down firmly on the side of those who believe that pitching wins and losses are wildly overvalued and nearly useless statistics that are dependent as much upon run and bullpen support as the performance of the pitcher in question, but I realize I'm still in the minority, particularly among professional baseball scribes. Thus Sabathia's major league leading 19 wins continue to carry the day here, despite the fact that Hernandez has quite clearly been the best pitcher in the American League, and thus deserves the award designated for the best pitcher in the league.
I've seen some try to argue that Hernandez has benefited from playing in a week division, pointing to his 6.38 ERA in four starts against the Rangers, the best team in the West, but that argument ignores the fact that he doesn't get to face his own historically awful offense as well as his 0.35 ERA in three starts against the Yankees, who lead the major leagues with 5.34 runs scored per game on the season. It's also worth noting that Hernandez leads the American League in
One hope Hernandez might have is that Price, who was my leader on this list for much of the season, could draw votes away from Sabathia. Price is just two wins shy of Sabathia and has been at least his equal in most other measures, trailing significantly only in innings pitched, which is very much a product of the Rays' efforts to protect the arm of their 24-year-old ace. Price and Sabathia will face off in St. Petersburg Monday night as the Rays and Yankees open a stretch of seven head-to-head games over an 11-day span. Those seven games could well determine which team finishes the year with the best record in baseball. It could also bring about a second Sabathia-Price matchup in the series finale in the Bronx next week if both teams opt to use Thursday's off-day to skip their weakest starter and keep their aces on regular rest, though given the Rays' handling of Price thus far this season, that unfortunately seems like a long shot.
In this impossibly tight race, Halladay had the edge despite his slightly higher ERA because of all of the extra outs he has recorded this season. Wainwright has thrown 208 1/3 innings. Halladay has thrown 228 2/3, which leads the major leagues. That means Halladay has recorded 61 more outs than Wainwright. That's more than two full games worth of innings and outs that Halladay has covered for his team. In a race this close, those sorts of things matter.
Feliz's next save will tie the rookie record, which he now seems like a lock to break. When
Missing from Jackson's line above are his 94 runs scored, 10 triples, 31 doubles . . . and his AL-leading 152 strikeouts. Jackson's K's show no sign of slowing down, but his walks have picked up in the last two months. Even without his first four career intentional passes, Jackson has walked 15 times in his last 176 plate appearances after walking just 15 times in his previous 318 PA. Sure, batting ahead of
Davis has gone 7-0 with a 3.34 ERA over his last nine starts, which is particularly impressive given the fact that a shoulder strain sent him to the disabled list in the middle of that run. Since his return, he has gone 3-0 with a 3.24 in four starts, though it's all too little too late to catch Feliz and Jackson.
Garcia and Davis are the only two rookies to have reached double-digit wins on the season and even though Garcia's last start was a dud (seven earned runs allowed in four innings), he still ranks sixth in the NL and ninth in the majors in ERA. Among rookies, just five of whom qualify for the ERA title to this point in the season, the man closest to Garcia's 2.69 ERA is the Mets'
Heyward's late-season push for this award continues as he enters Monday night's action with an active 10-game hitting streak during which he has hit .359/.479/.487, the relative lack of power being the only negative in that stretch. If Heyward can round up his current numbers (to, say, 20 homers, 80 RBIs, a .290 average, .400 OBP, and .500 slugging, some of which is less likely than others), he could yet take this award from Garcia, who has been the clear frontrunner ever since Heyward hurt his thumb back in May.
With a nod to Pirates second baseman