Because of those no-good Tigers and Twins, Major League Baseball’s regular season is not yet over. That will not, however, stop me from divulging my choices for the recipients of baseball’s most prominent awards. The official announcements will be trickling out over the next couple weeks, but in the meantime, here’s who should win.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: AMERICAN LEAGUE
Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota Twins
I spent much of this season unceremoniously slamming anyone that suggested an alternative to the Twins’ catcher. I believed my position to be fairly solid; catchers that hit .364/.442/.586 with exceptional defense simply do not exist. Because of this, it was especially hard to accept the RBI-centric arguments for players like Mark Teixeira, Miguel Cabrera, and Kendry Morales. In recent weeks, however, I wavered in my commitment to Mauer’s candidacy. Specifically, I took a long and hard look at pitcher Zack Greinke’s numbers and wondered why, exactly, I felt compelled to select a position player over a pitcher. You could easily argue that Greinke was worth just as many wins as Mauer this season, but ultimately, Mauer gets the edge because of the physically demanding nature of his position, and his ability to man it virtually every day. Mauer’s 2009 wasn’t quite Mike Piazza’s 1997, but boy was it close.
Runner-up: Zack Greinke, P, Kansas City Royals
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: NATIONAL LEAGUE
Albert Pujols, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals
Joe Mauer’s emergence means that Pujols is no longer clearly the best player on the planet, but the Cardinals’ first baseman was fairly obviously the best player in the National League this year. His traditional statistics (.327 average, 47 homers, 135 RBI) will appeal to the old-school voters, while his objective dominance (.443 OBP, .658 SLG, 11.4 WARP) will win over the statistically-inclined. He was the heart of a lackluster Cardinals lineup all season long, even playing great defense and stealing 16 bases. He’s the clear choice for the award, and barring an unlikely-but-still-possible-because-it’s-the-BBWAA infatuation with Prince Fielder, he should win it handily.
Runner-up: Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies
CY YOUNG: AMERICAN LEAGUE
Zack Greinke, SP, Kansas City Royals
This is the most obvious selection of the eight major awards, and also the biggest test for the infamously stubborn voters. The voters, who traditionally love meaningless statistics like wins and flawed ones like ERA, must resist temptation after temptation in order to settle on Greinke. The bait includes a 19-game winner on a 103-win team (C.C. Sabathia), a 19-game winner with a sub-3.00 ERA (Felix Hernandez), a 19-game winner that led the league in strikeouts (Justin Verlander), and the prospect of a lifetime achievement award being given to closer Mariano Rivera. But the evidence in support of Greinke is overwhelming: a league-leading 2.16 ERA in 229.1 innings, 242 strikeouts, 51 walks, six complete games, and an unbelievable 11 home runs allowed. If the voters don’t pick him, the process is even more broken than I ever imagined. But I think they’ll get it right.
Runner-up: Roy Halladay, SP, Toronto Blue Jays
CY YOUNG: NATIONAL LEAGUE
Tim Lincecum, SP, San Francisco Giants
This race couldn’t be more different than its American League counterpart. While the road to truth is fraught with temptation in the junior circuit, the truth itself is pretty murky in the weaker league. There’s only one big winner here, and that’s the 19-game-winning Adam Wainwright, who is absolutely a viable candidate. Then there’s a drop-off to the 17-game-winning Chris Carpenter, who has certainly been spectacular but hasn’t thrown 200 innings. Then there’s 16-game winner Jorge De La Rosa, who clearly isn’t deserving. Finally, we get to the challenging cluster that includes Lincecum, Javier Vazquez, Jair Jurrjens, and Dan Haren. Quite honestly, you can make a strong argument for each of these pitchers. Lincecum gets the nod, however, because of his incredible 261 strikeouts in 225 innings, his 2.48 ERA, and his incredible ability to keep the ball in the park (10 HR allowed all season).
Runner-up: Javier Vazquez, SP, Atlanta Braves
Coming tomorrow: Rookies of the Year & Managers of the Year