Wednesday, October 05, 2005

MLB Award Picks for 2005

First off, Shanah Tova everybody! I had the pleasure of attending Rosh Hashanah services today for the first time, let's not admit how long. Evidently synagogue membership and tickets for High Holy Day services cost slightly less than season tickets for your average mid-market NHL club. Anyway, we went to services at Congregation Or VeShalom in Atlanta -- it's a Sephardic congregation, something I'd never before experienced. The service and sanctuary were beautiful and the people warm and welcoming. We're going back for Yom Kippur. So Shanah Tova -- party like it's 5999!

The end of baseball season always makes me a little wistful. It's a strange mixture of sadness and relief, actually; I miss my daily box score addiction but not the constant burden of combing injury and minor league minutia for my fantasy teams. By October I'm looking forward to the playoffs and the beginnings of hockey and college hoop seasons. So with the playoffs starting today (and the pucks dropping on the NHL tomorrow), it seems the perfect time to offer my picks for MLB's major awards:

AL Manager of the Year: Ozzie Guillen will be the sexy pick, but call me crazy, I think he'll be fired sometime around 2008. His confrontational style and small ball antics worked this year but how far can he go with a team built in his mediocre image? Despite 99 wins, the ChiSox ranked 9th in runs scored and 10th in OBP in the AL. Feh. I'm going with Cleveland's Eric Wedge. He weathered the storm of a slow start and damn near piloted a young team to an historic comeback.

NL Manager of the Year: Tough call. I'm hopelessly biased here but I choo-choo-choose Bobby Cox. Who better juggles his pieces and puts his players in position to succeed? All those injuries, all those rookies, moving Smoltz back to the rotation, struggling to find a closer, etc. It was a tumultuous year for the Atlanta nine but Bobby did his usual masterful job blending the disparate bits into a division winner. There's no one better.

AL Rookie of the Year: I didn't hear many people talking about this, but it surprised me to learn that Minnesota's Joe Mauer retained his rookie status for 2005. Last year's knee injury cut short his season after only 107 at bats, 23 short of the maximum for rookie eligibility. A catcher who puts up .294/.372/.411 and steals 13 out of 14 is a future MVP candidate and the easy choice for ROY. Honorable mentions go to TB's Jonny Gomes (.908 OPS in 344 ABs) and Oakland's Huston Street, who went 5-1 with 23 SV and a 1.72 ERA.

NL Rookie of the Year: Philadelphia's Ryan Howard (22 HR, .921 OPS in 308 ABs) gets the nod over Atlanta hero Jeff Francoeur (14 HR, .884 OPS in 257 ABs). Francoeur's future is brighter longterm but that has no bearing on ROY voting. So despite missing the playoffs again, the Phillies should have a ROY going for them. Which is nice.

AL Cy Young Award: Bartolo Colon had a good year but take away the wins and losses (which are hugely influenced by factors outside a pitcher's control like run support, defense, and the bullpen) and nobody in the AL outpitched Minnesota's Johan Santana. Santana led the majors in strikeouts and finished a whisker behind Kevin Millwood for the AL ERA title (2.86 - 2.87). Santana had more win shares (23 - 18) than Colon and a better VORP (73.0 - 51.1). A case for Mark Buerhle and Kevin Millwood could also be made (just not by me). Santana won't win but he deserves the award.

NL Cy Young Award: This call is perhaps the toughest of any of the major awards. Roger Clemens has the best pitcher VORP (80.6) in MLB but ranks just behind Dontrelle Willis in win shares (26 - 25). Chris Carpenter might have the best overall surface stats but lags ever so slightly in the sabermetric numbers (just 18 win shares but a slight edge over Willis in VORP: 68.4 - 68.1). Andy Pettitte also has a case but will likely finish 4th. At the end of the day, give me the guy with the 1.87 ERA (especially in that ballpark). Roger Clemens is my Cy Young pick but my sensibilities would not be offended should Carpenter or Willis win instead. It's that close.

AL MVP: I hate to do this. I really, really do. But fairness and objectivity demand it! I love, LOVE Boston's Big Papi, David Ortiz -- how can you not? He's the most clutch player in baseball and looks like he's having a blast just being at the park. His infectious smile and steady leadership drive that team -- he's the Red Sox' spiritual and emotional leader. And he had a MONSTER season. But much as it pains me to admit, A-Rod is the MVP. His traditional stats were mind boggling (.322/.423/.613 with an AL-leading 48 HR) but they are fully supported by the sabermetric measurements -- he led the AL in VORP (101.8) and win shares (37). Yeah, he's a big metrosexual wuss and always looks like he's wearing purple lipstick, but give the man his due. He's a helluva ballplayer.

NL MVP: I've already covered this in a previous post, and 2+ weeks of baseball since have done little to change my mind. Albert Pujols is a worthy choice for MVP but I would not be upset to see Derrek Lee win. Granted, the Cubs stunk and the Cards were great, but Lee had a spectacular season.

There you have it. As they used to say at the end of those editorials on the local newscasts: opposing viewpoints are welcome...


dirty sanchez said...

Good stuff man, Ozzie is the sexy pick, but what about his TUP("tremendous upside potential")?
Secondly, indulge me for a moment, what would happen if we lived in the Bizarro Universe and Bobby Cox managed the Red Sox? I need to know this.
oh yeah, go Los Bravos de Atlanta!!!

J Ballot said...

Senor Sanchez --

• We both know Ozzie has no TUP but the good news for him is Hubie Brown says he's "long."

• We can only speculate about the Bizarro Universe where Bobby Cox managed the Red Sox, but I'm reasonably confident that Dale Sveum would be fired. Immediately.

• Yay Braves! Great win tonight. Everything came together -- Smoltzie was outstanding, the young kids produced (McCann takes Clemens deep!), and Reitsma managed not to blow it. Good job all around.