Posey vs. Heyward remains toughest call in final awards watch
With the 2010 regular season concluded, this final edition of Awards Watch presents my best guesses at to how the voting will shake out for the three major awards in each league. Be sure to check back in November to see how I did.
Though his 133 games played this season would be the fifth-lowest total for an MVP since the 162-game schedule was put in effect in 1961 and his five games played after August 31 would be the least ever by an MVP, Hamilton remains the favorite. His candidacy is built upon an absolutely insane half-season as Hamilton hit .412/.464/.722 with 22 home runs and 70 RBIs from June 1 to September 3, a stretch during which he played in exactly 81 games, starting 78. Add to that his all-around ability (eight steals in nine attempts, 29 starts in center field, and superlative defense in left) and the fact that he was the best hitter on the first Rangers team to make the postseason since 1999 and he should claim the award. It helped that Hamilton was able to return in the final two games of the season and came through with a home run and his 100th RBI, even if he dropped his season average below .360.
Final Stats: .328/
Cabrera hit at an MVP level for the first five months of the season (.340/.435/.643 through August 31), and though he finally cooled off a bit in September, he still slugged .500 with five home runs and 19 RBIs on the month before a high ankle sprain ended his season a few days ahead of schedule. The legitimate knock on Cabrera is that he doesn't contribute outside of the batter's box. The illegitimate one is that his Tigers fell out of contention in late July. Never mind that Cabrera hit .329/.455/.627 from the All-Star break through August 31 while injuries tore through the roster and rookie
Final Stats: .319/.381/.534, 29 HRs, 109 RBIs
There are strong arguments to be made for Red Sox third baseman
In my first Awards Watch I wrote, "Unlike most of the other players on these lists, Votto's 2010 production is right in line with his 2009 performance, which means he's less likely to fade than the rest. Don't be surprised if he sticks around on this list, and if the Reds do slip past the Cardinals, Votto could be a winner as well." Bingo. Though the statistical difference between Votto and
Pujols won the last two NL MVPs with superior rate stats (.342/.452/.656 combined). This year, he's in a statistical dead heat with Votto, an impressively similar player from his own division, and the tie will go to the new face on the first-place team.
Cover up the wins and losses, statistics highly dependent upon run and bullpen support, and King Felix was clearly the best pitcher in the American League in 2010, something that seems to have sunk in with the electorate during a heated debate over the relative merits of Hernandez and the league's wins leaders that has raged for most of the last month. Hernandez received just 3.07 runs per game of support from the miserable Mariners offense this year, and according to Baseball Prospectus' Support-Neutral Wins and Losses, had Hernandez simply received league-average support, he would have gone 22-12, the best support-neutral record in baseball in 2010. No starting pitcher has won a Cy Young award with fewer than 15 wins in a non-strike year, but that record was set last year when
For those still unwilling to look past the wins column, Price out-pitched league wins leader
Sabathia had a fine season by any standard, but he wasn't even the third-best pitcher in the league (that argument starts with
Halladay and Wainwright's stat lines are alarmingly similar until you get to Doc's staggering 7.30 K/BB ratio and multitude of complete games and shutouts, the last of which includes his perfect game on May 29. Mix in that accomplishment and the fact that he threw 20 1/3 more innings than Wainwright, and the choice is obvious. Halladay will be come just the second man to win a Cy Young for a season in which he threw a perfect game since the award was introduced in 1956. The first was
Jimenez seemed to have this award locked up when he was 13-1 with a 1.15 ERA after his June 17 start. That he's a mere honorable mention behind Halladay and Wainwright speaks to the endurance and consistency required to win these awards.
Feliz saved his best for last by not allowing a run to score on his watch, inherited or otherwise, in his last 16 outings of the season, allowing just nine baserunners while striking out 15 in those final 16 1/3 innings. Along the way, he broke the rookie saves record of 37 by nailing down the Rangers clincher, then pushed the new mark to 40. In a weak AL class, Feliz was the one rookie to perform at a star level from Opening Day through to October and should be the clear choice for the award. He is also the only player to hold first place in these rankings in every edition of Awards Watch this season.
The average major league center fielder hit .261/.325/.405 this season. Jackson bettered that while playing solid defense and stealing 27 bags at an excellent 82 percent success rate. That's not a star performance, but it's impressive coming from a 23-year-old who made his major league debut on opening day and was really the only other reliable, full-season performance by an AL rookie this year.
Take your pick from among a handful of mediocrities and partial seasons for this third spot. It matters not. I'd be shocked to see anyone other than Feliz or Jackson ranked higher than third on any of the 28 ballots.
This is the toughest race to call. Many voters were probably hoping Heyward or Posey would pull ahead amid the final scramble for the last two playoff spots in the NL, but neither did much of anything until the final day, when both came up with big hits. The argument for Heyward is based on his on-base percentage, advantage in playing time (Heyward was in the Braves' Opening Day lineup, while Posey spent most of the first two months of the season in Triple-A), and five-tool athleticism in the field and on the bases. The argument for Posey is based on the fact that he plays the toughest position on the field and plays it well, and that if you compare the two players from the time of Posey's debut on May 29, you find that Heyward hit just .268/.379/.405 with nine homers and 36 RBIs during Posey's time in the majors. That unfairly cuts out Heyward's .295/.422/.568 line prior to Posey's debut to focus on the portion of the season during which he was battling a lingering thumb ligament strain, an injury suffered in mid-May which ultimately put him on the disabled list for the first half of July. Still, the Posey argument seems more compelling at the moment as a catcher who can do what Posey did this season is a more thrilling proposition than a right fielder who can do what Heyward did.
Perhaps it's Garcia's fault for starting so strong (he had a sub-2.00 ERA in late June), but his season ultimately seemed to fall a bit short at 13 wins and 163 1/3 innings. Still, it's a startling accomplishment for a rookie to qualify for the ERA title with the sixth-best ERA in the major leagues. That alone puts him ahead of the rest of the NL's very strong, very deep rookie class.