The finalists for each award were announced Wednesday.
AL Rookie of the Year - Mike Trout, OF, California Angels
(yeah, I'm still doing that)
There's really no contest here. Cespedes and Darvish had nice rookie seasons, but Trout was far and away the best rookie. The fact that he's a finalist for the AL MVP speaks to that. You don't need me to explain it...but I will, down in the AL MVP discussion.
NL Rookie of the Year - Wade Miley, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks
I'm going against my hometown flavor, electing the former first round pick for the D-Backs over phenom Bryce Harper. My reasoning is fairly simple; I believe Miley's statistics were less replaceable than Harper's. Miley picked up 16 wins for a .500 team, maintained an ERA under 3.50 and a WHIP under 1.20. To me, that makes him more impressive than Harper, with his .270-22-59 in 139 games. Harper will almost certainly be the better long-term player, but as far as 2012, Miley's my guy.
AL Manager of the Year - Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles
I'm sure my two Manager of the Year picks are skewed by local media, but I don't care. These are my picks.
Showalter's work started at the end of last season, going 15-13 in September, but nobody expected what happened in 2012. The Orioles were competitive all year, staying in the hunt for the AL East right up until a pitiful showing by the Red Sox against the Yankees to end the season. They beat the defending AL champion Texas Rangers in the AL's first ever Wild Card game, and pushed the Yankees to five games before bowing out in the AL Division Series.
Bob Melvin had a great year for the Oakland A's, but honestly, the "magic" of the Athletics is sort of played out. It's been a long time since there's been Orioles Magic.
NL Manager of the Year - Davey Johnson, Washington Nationals.
In his first full season as Nationals manager, Johnson led a perennially disappointing Nationals team to the best record in baseball in 2012. He managed young players and veterans, and got his team into the playoffs as the #1 seed in the National League. The team was eventually undone by curiously ineffective pitching performances, but I don't blame Johnson for that at all. Guys are just going to have a bad night sometimes, and the Cardinals gave a lot of pitchers bad nights.
In the real voting, I think the one thing that will count against Johnson is how Stephen Strasburg was managed, whether Johnson was the driving force behind that decision or not (we don't really know, but probably not). For me, that was a long-term management decision, and really, Strasburg was pitching pretty poorly there at the end anyways. Johnson made a Washington team the best regular season team in the league this year, and whenever that's happened in the past five years (Bruce Boudreau), that guy's won coach of the year.
AL Cy Young - David Price, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
This was a tough one. If I were picking a pitcher to pitch one game for me, it'd probably be Justin Verlander, but that's not what this award is. The Cy Young award is to give credit to the pitcher who had the most impressive season this year, and I think David Price just barely edges Justin Verlander in that regard.
Price beat out Verlander in wins (20 versus 17), and ERA (2.56 to 2.64). Verlander held the edge in WHIP (1.06 to 1.10) and strikeouts (239 to 205). At a basic level, a pitcher's job is to win games and to prevent the other team from scoring runs, not to prevent baserunners and strike people out. So Price has the advantage in what I believe are "better" categories. And to tip the scales, Price pitched in a considerably tougher division than the AL Central. Verlander squared off against three 90 loss teams.
Jered Weaver had a great season, but he's third.
NL Cy Young - R.A. Dickey, SP, New York Mets
Dickey gets my vote mostly because I was sure there was no way he would earn it. He started out hot, but I expected him to fade quickly. He had his insane back-to-back one-hitters, and I expected him to fall off after that. When he posted an ERA of 5.13 in July, I figured he was turning back into a pumpkin...
...then he posted back-to-back sub-3.00 ERA months, and finished the season leading the NL in IPs and Ks, and winding up second in wins and ERA. Gio Gonzalez led his team to the playoffs, and Kershaw is unquestionably the guy I'd want to have on my team out of these three, but Dickey's season was the only one worthy of this year's NL Cy Young Award. He was literally unbelievably good.
AL Most Valuable Player - Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Detroit Tigers
I hemmed and hawed over this decision, not sure if I was being swayed by the whole mystique of the Triple Crown. So what I did was I put Cabrera's numbers next to Trout's and Hamilton's and Beltre's and evaluated them. And it's Cabrera.
Cabrera led the league in a lot of stuff. He finished fourth in on-base percentage, and second in runs (to Trout), but he led the AL in batting average, home runs, RBI, and slugging percentage. He also led the majors in Switches By Star Players to 3B Without Whining Like Hanley Ramirez...not an official category, but I think it's noteworthy that he was perfectly willing to move across the diamond to make room for Prince Fielder, for the better of his team.
Probably the thing that turned me around, though, was something Jim Leyland said about Cabrera on PTI. I'm paraphrasing here, but it was something like this:
I know people are always talking about how you need help to get all those RBI. But listen, if you watch postgame press conferences around the league from losing teams, the thing you'll hear across the board is, "We got some guys on base, but we couldn't drive 'em in." Driving in runs is how you win games.Well said, sir.
NL Most Valuable Player - Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
This pisses me the hell off. Matt Kemp was far and away the best player on the planet in 2011, but Ryan Braun got the MVP award. The only explanation that holds any water for that was that the Brewers made the playoffs; la dee frickin' da. We're fine giving a Cy Young award to Felix Hernandez, a 13-win pitcher on a 61-win team, but the MVP has some other connotation? Ridiculous. And then there was the whole performance-enhancing substance deal this past offseason, but because they couldn't do anything with the 2011 award, this year's award is going to go to Yadier Molina or Buster Posey, because the baseball writers are a curmudgeonly group.
Ugh. Anyways, Braun is incredible, and deserves the award this year. He was far and away the best hitter statistically, posting amazing numbers across the board, and in general making people upset that he won last year's MVP. He deserves it this year; just wish we could go back and fix 2011.