Monday October 4th, 2010

It turns out, after all the shout and tumult, the major award races aren't as difficult or controversial as you were led to believe weeks ago. It's amazing how much clearer issues become when you actually wait for the season to play out and postseason berths to be decided. Imagine that.

There is one race in which the outcome is too close to forecast: the NL Rookie of the Year race between Buster Posey and Jason Heyward (though Manager of the Year votes can be quirky). Here are my picks for the major awards and why I chose them. They are not predictions, but feel free next month to compare them to the actual winners.

1. Joey Votto, Cincinnati

2. Albert Pujols, St. Louis

3. Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado

4. Adrian Gonzalez, San Diego

5. Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado

6. Jayson Werth, Philadelphia

7. Roy Halladay, Philadelphia

8. Brian Wilson, San Francisco

9. Aubrey Huff, San Francisco

10. Jason Heyward, Atlanta

Votto wins easily because he was the best player on any of the NL playoff teams. His consistency was important for Cincinnati and he led the league in OPS. And what may be surprising is that Votto also stole 16 bases. Here is the complete list of first basemen who have stolen 16 bases and slugged .600: George Sisler, Lou Gehrig, Dick Allen, Andres Galarraga, Albert Pujols and Votto. That's it.

1. Josh Hamilton, Texas

2. Robinson Cano, New York

3. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit

4. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay

5. Joe Mauer, Minnesota

6. Adrian Beltre, Boston

7. Jose Bautista, Toronto

8. Carl Crawford, Tampa Bay

9. Paul Konerko, Chicago

10. Shin-Soo Choo, Cleveland

Cano gets credit for playing almost every game in the middle of the field and in the middle of the lineup. But Hamilton, even playing only 133 games, had only six fewer total bases than Cano. Yes, Hamilton missed most of September with a rib injury, but the AL MVP last year, Mauer, missed the first month of the season. When you compare Mauer last year to Hamilton this year, Hamilton is worthy of the award:

1. Roy Halladay, Philadelphia

2. Adam Wainwright, St. Louis

3. Ubaldo Jimenez, Colorado

4. Josh Johnson, Florida

5. Tim Hudson, Atlanta

This one is going to be unanimous. Halladay led the league in wins, shutouts, innings, complete games, walk rate and strikeout to walk ratio. And the famously demanding Halladay also reached his annual goal: more starts (33) than walks (30). Halladay (2003, 2010) joined Cy Young himself (1904, 1905) as the other pitchers to twice have more starts than walks while striking out 200 batters

1. Felix Hernandez, Seattle

2. David Price, Tampa Bay

3. CC Sabathia, New York

4. Jon Lester, Boston

5. Trevor Cahill, Oakland

Hernandez will win this award fairly comfortably, a measurement of not only how wins are better understood but also how fast and wide groupthink travels these days. He was exactly what it says on the award: the most outstanding pitcher in the league. Just ask any hitter.

1. Jason Heyward, Atlanta

2. Buster Posey, San Francisco

3. Jaime Garcia, St. Louis

I thought Posey would win this award because of the impact he made in the middle of the lineup while running a pitching staff that posted a sub-2.00 ERA over the final month. But the volume of Heyward's work more than offsets the slightest edge for Posey in OPS (.862-.849). Heyward had more total bases, more hits, more RBI, more extra base hits, more plate appearances, more games, more times on base, more stolen bases . . . you get the idea.

1. Neftali Feliz, Texas

2. Austin Jackson, Detroit

3. Wade Davis, Tampa Bay

Feliz set a rookie record with 40 saves and didn't allow a run in his last 16 games after August 22. This one turned out to be not as close as it appeared to be halfway through the season.

1. Bud Black, San Diego

2. Dusty Baker, Cincinnati

3. Bobby Cox, Atlanta

Okay, San Diego blew a 6 ½ game with 37 to play, but Black gets credit for dragging this team into a race at all. The Padres were an awful offensive team with the second lowest payroll in baseball, but somehow they made it to the 162nd game of the season before they were eliminated.

1. Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota

2. Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay

3. Ron Washington, Texas

It's hard to believe that Gardenhire never has won the award, especially because four guys in his own division have won it in the nine years Gardenhire has managed the Twins: Eric Wedge, Jim Leyland, Ozzie Guillen and Tony Pena. It's his time now. Gardenhire lost his closer before the year started and his cleanup hitter midway through the season, and yet Minnesota blew open the division with yet another strong second half.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.