With all the Awards being announced in baseball this week, it’s about time for some reflection. My thoughts are centered on how much of an effect geography has had on the voting. It’s not just this year either, it happens every year. I’m going to use the Cy Young Voting as a prime example. By the way, I think it’s great that the votes are out in the public eye and can be discussed. If you are privileged enough to have a vote on the biggest awards in baseball, then the rest of us baseball aficionado’s should be able to look at how you voted.
So…R.A. Dickey and David Price were named the N.L. and A.L. Cy Young winners, respectively. Personally, I would have voted for Verlander but Price is equally deserving of the award. I also would have voted for Dickey. Great story with everything he has been through and he had the numbers to go along with everything else that was brought to light this year.
If you don’t know how to look view the votes, just visit the Baseball Writers’ Association of America website right at BBWAA.com.
If you take a look at the N.L. Cy Young voting, you’ll notice a few things:
- Johnny Cueto’s lone first-place vote came from John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer.
- Bill Center from the U-T San Diego was one of only two voters to leave Clayton Kershaw completely off their ballot.
Cueto finished 4th and Kershaw finished 2nd. The questions I have are how in the world do you pick Cueto over Dickey and Kershaw? And even worse, how do you leave Kershaw off the ballot? Are you punishing him for lack of run support and 14 wins? He had a 2.53 ERA, pitched 227 2/3 innings, struck out 223 and had a 1.023 WHIP! You’re leaving that off your ballot completely? Bill Center’s 5th place vote was for Aroldis Chapman….seriously.
I had an issue on the A.L. side as well. Should anybody besides Price and Verlander have gotten a first or second place vote? Well, Michael Martinez of FoxSportsWest.com and Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register each voted 2nd for Jared Weaver….of L.A.
These guys cover baseball year-round. How many times did John Fay see Cueto pitch compared to Gio Gonzalez, who he voted 5th? Think there was ever a time where he said to himself, “Clayton Kershaw is pitching tonight so I’m gonna fire up my MLB At Bat app on my iPad and watch him?” Probably zero. How many games did Chapman close against the Padres where Bill Center was, well, front and center? (pun fully intended) Did he crank up that app every time the ninth inning came around when Chapman was in a closing situation? Highly doubt it. It’s 98% based on numbers, plain and simple.
That’s enough from my soapbox. There is definitely a problem with how the voting is done. I don’t know if it’s necessarily a MLB problem compared to what some specific writers make it. Have some pride in your job and don’t be a homer. You don’t cheer in the press box whether you want to or not.
I’ll leave you with my MVP predictions:
American League – Miguel Cabrera
Listen, Trout is unbelievable and what he did this year was nothing short of spectacular. If Miggy didn’t win the Triple Crown, then I think Trout gets it. Cabrera’s season turned historic and that’s why I think he gets it.
National League – Buster Posey
I’m still torn on whether I think Posey should win it or if it should go to Braun. I’ll leave my observations until when we find out and how the voters treated Braun after the off-season ordeal he went through. I will say this though; the fact that Braun didn’t win the Hank Aaron Award in the N.L. is a travesty. He had the best offensive season in the N.L. without question.
‘Til next time…smell ya.
It’s about time to get these National League predictions out to the public; after all, there is baseball in Miami’s new palace on Wednesday night. The NL has had quite a few changes in the offseason….superstars on different teams, new managers and plenty of phenomenal young talent. The defending Champion St. Louis Cardinals will have a much different look with Tony La Russa retired and Albert Pujols hitting lasers in the City of Angels.
So, without further a due, here we go.
- Miami Marlins – Ozzie Guillen is at the helm for the Fish so buckle your seatbelts. The speed and power combination Miami has may not be rivaled in the NL. The healthy return of Josh Johnson is imperative to the Marlins success. If he doesn’t have a good year, they finish behind Atlanta and Philadelphia. I’m very interested to see what kind of fan support there will be for the new-look Marlins.
- Atlanta Braves – It’s the last go-round for Chipper Jones. He’s probably a first-ballot hall-of-famer, but how many games will he actually play this year? The Braves have a lot of young talent and they’ll need to erase last year’s late-season collapse from their memory. The backend of the bullpen in Johnny Venters and Craig Kimbrel is dominant.
- Philadelphia Phillies – As good as the Phillies pitching staff is, the holes in the lineup are way too big to ignore. Losing Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, for however long, is simply too much firepower to lose.
- Washington – Washington is improving tremendously every year but I believe they’re still a year or two away. To see them finish higher than fourth would not surprise me in the least. The pitching is there, but the young lineup will need to continue to improve.
- New York Mets – The Mets are in disarray. Even their best player, David Wright has question marks. Can he stay healthy? Not much else to say about the Mets as they start the rebuilding phase.
Best Player(s) – Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Brian McCann
Best Pitcher(s) – Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee
Rising Star(s) – Jordan Zimmerman, Giancarlo Stanton
- Milwaukee Brewers – Call it a homer pick, call it what you want to call it but I believe the Brewers will repeat as NL Central Champions. Yes, they lose a huge bat in Prince Fielder. Mat Gamel is essential in picking up the slack. He won’t duplicate what Fielder did in Milwaukee but he isn’t expected to do so. Like last year, the pitching will carry this team. Zack Greinke is primed for a big year.
- Cincinnati – The Reds have a very good lineup and I would have picked them to win the Central if Ryan Madson was around. Losing him is huge. A once very strong bullpen is now in a bit of disarray. Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips are a tough trio.
- St. Louis – Yes, I’m picking the defending Champs to finish 3rd. Another injury has dampened my thoughts on this team and that is Chris Carpenter. Adam Wainwright has to bounce back from Tommy John and be the pitcher he was before the injury. Take out Tony La Russa from the mix as well.
- Pittsburgh Pirates – It has been 19 straight losing seasons for the Pirates and I think they make it 20 this year. Getting close, but I think they finish in the 76-80 win range. If Pedro Alvarez can be what the Pirates need and expect him to be, that .500 mark might become a reality.
- Chicago Cubs – The Cubs begin the transition phase of the new regime led by President Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer. Just too many big contracts that are just about impossible to move. The pitching staff isn’t exactly one to be desired either.
- Houston Astros – Not a whole lot to say about the ‘Stros other than they might lose 120 games. That’s not a misprint either…1-2-0.
Best Player(s) – Braun, Votto
Best Pitcher(s) – Greinke, Wainwright, Yovani Gallardo
Rising Stars – Bruce, Drew Stubbs, David Freese
1. San Francisco – The offense improves in 2012 and the pitching staff will once again be one of the best in the Majors. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner are scary good.
2. Arizona Diamondbacks – Can easily see these two teams switching spots and I expect both to be in the playoffs. The D-Backs have a solid lineup top to bottom and have Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson and Trevor Cahill to fall back on.
3. L.A. Dodgers – The Dodgers have possibly the best two players in the league in Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw but those two need help. Dee Gordon is going to be a very good player in the near future but there are some holes in their lineup.
4. Colorado Rockies – Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez once again anchor the Rockies lineup but there isn’t a whole lot on the mound. Might be a struggle for Colorado in 2012.
5. San Diego Padres – There are few bright spots in San Diego other than some young players who are years away. Yonder Alonso and Cory Luebke are the new faces of the franchise…ready or not.
Best Player(s) – Kemp, Tulowitzki
Best Pitchers(s) – Kershaw
Rising Stars – Drew Pomeranz, Alonso, Gordon, Bumgarner, Paul Goldschmidt
Now on to the Awards….
National League MVP – Jose Reyes
National League CY Young – Zach Greinke
National League R.O.Y. – Yonder Alonso
NLCS Champ – San Francisco
Well, folks it’s about that time of the year again. And, actually it has already arrived with the opening series between the Mariners and A’s. Baseball season is upon us! That also means it’s time for my annual predictions. Now, I’m not going to tell you to hop on a plane bound for Vegas to place your bets after reading this, because I’ve been wrong before and I’m sure I’ll be wrong again.
We’ll take a look at each division and I’ll give you some postseason and awards predictions as well. Here goes nothing!
1. Tampa Bay Rays – After the magic of last year to just reach the playoffs on the last day of the regular season, Tampa won’t cut it as close this year as they win baseballs best division. With one of the games best managers at the helm in Joe Maddon, the Rays are in good hands. With a new wave of prospects coming in, hopefully the people of Tampa Bay take notice.
2. New York Yankees – The Bombers aren’t getting any younger with Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Russell Martin and Raul Ibanez all in the lineup. They had one thing in mind for the offseason and that was to improve the starting rotation. They did that by going out and trading for Michael Pineda and signing Hiroki Kuroda. Pineda is starting the year on the DL and if his shoulder injury lingers, New York could be right back to square one.
3. Boston Red Sox – Beantown was fairly quiet in the offseason, which is rare. The first five of Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz is possibly the best in baseball but the rest is a big question mark. I could very easily see Boston finishing fourth in the East.
4. Toronto Blue Jays – The Jays are just about ready to arrive and make some noise in this division. Jose Bautista anchors a deep and powerful lineup. Toronto could possibly get 20 HR’s, one through nine in the lineup. Brett Lawrie is primed to be a superstar. Can the young rotation keep them in contention in September?
5. Baltimore Orioles – The Orioles will be a decent offensive team but they can’t score seven runs a game and that might be what’s necessary with the rotation they have.
Best Player(s) in the Division – Jose Bautisa, Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury
Best Pitcher in the Division – Jon Lester
Rising Stars – Lawrie, Desmond Jennings, Matt Moore
1. Detroit Tigers – Detroit is the best team in baseball and that is WITHOUT V-Mart. Miguel Carbrera and Prince Fielder is a scary combo. The Tigers will win the Central by 10+ games but they’ll need the back end of the rotation in Rick Porcello and 22-year old Drew Smyly to keep them in ballgames.
2. Kansas City Royals – I love this team and its young lineup. They are going to be very fun to watch but unfortunately I still think they are a year or two away. Eric Hosmer is going to be a star. Can Jonathan Sanchez pitch effectively in the AL? I think the playoff drought continues but this team WILL finish with a winning record.
3. Minnesota Twins – The Twins badly need Justin Morneau to return to the days of pre-concussion. For his sake, I hope that happens. He started out Spring Training slow but has made a lot of strides in the past week.
4. Cleveland Indians – Cleveland could finish anywhere in this division two through five. A lot of nice young pieces but no real star power. They need Ubaldo Jimenez to be the guy they thought they were getting when they traded Drew Pomeranz to Colorado. Unfortunately, I don’t see him being much more than a number three or four starter on most teams.
5. Chicago White Sox – What happened to this team? Tough spot for first-time Manager Robin Ventura. There’s not a lot of hope on the south side of Chicago and there isn’t much on the way with one of the worst farm systems in baseball.
Best Player(s) in the Division – Verlander, Fielder, Cabrera
Best Pitcher in the Division – Verlander
Rising Stars – Hosmer, Carlos Santana
1. Texas Rangers – Top to bottom the Rangers have the toughest lineup in Major League Baseball. They have a ton of power and a few guys who can run the bases as well. The question mark, if any, is the pitching. If Yu Darvish can replace C.J. Wilson, they’ll be fine. Neftali Feliz was a very good closer and he’ll try to make the transition to starter leaving the closer duties to Joe Nathan. I don’t think this transition will be as seamless as Darvish and Wilson.
2. Los Angeles Angels – Albert Pujols instantly makes the Angels a contender but it’s the pitching staff that will ultimately carry the Halo’s. Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson and Ervin Santana is a scary-good one through four. Look for this race to go down to the final week of the regular season.
3. Seattle Mariners – Jack Zduriencik has a plan to make the Mariners relevant again and it’s coming together. They are still two years away from contending in the West but there are good things on the horizon for the M’s. Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, Jesus Montero and Kyle Seager is a solid core and there is help on the way for Felix Hernandez in Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton and Erasmo Ramirez.
4. Oakland Athletics – Oakland has a lot of prospects making their way up through the system but they are years away. The A’s will struggle to score runs against the power arms in the West.
Best Player(s) in the Division – Albert Pujols
Best Pitcher in the Division – Felix Hernandez
Rising Stars – Mike Trout, Jemile Weeks
Now on to the awards….
American League MVP – Prince Fielder
American League Cy Young – Justin Verlander
American League R.O.Y. – Jesus Montero
ALCS Champion – Detroit Tigers
Michael Pineda will more than likely be a staple in the New York Yankees rotation for the next 10+ years in The Bronx. When a young talent like the 6-foot-5 inch right-hander is traded at 23 years old, the questions certainly follow.
The answer was simple for the Mariners. They made the move because the pitching depth in the organization is as good as it ever has been. To have that, and acquire a bat like Jesus Montero, the trigger was pulled.
Mariners Executive VP and GM Jack Zduriencik spent many years as the Director of Scouting and Special Assistant to GM Doug Melvin in Milwaukee before landing in Seattle. Melvin would be the first to tell you Zduriencik played a huge role in the drafting and development of players such as Ryan Bruan, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, Yovani Gallardo and J.J. Hardy. Before those days, the Brewers were a miserable franchise in a city starved of a winning ballclub.
In other words, it took time. And the same process is happening in Seattle with the reinforcements on the way. MLB.Com’s Draft & Prospect Expert Jonathan Mayo has produced his annual “Top 100 Prospects” list and the Mariners hold the #1 spot in the “prospects points” category. With Montero leading the way, Seattle has five top 100 prospects. Montero checks in at #12, LHP Danny Hultzen at #16, RHP Taijuan Walker at #18, INF Nick Franklin at #52 and LHP James Paxton registers at #77.
More than likely, Montero will be the only one who starts the year in Seattle, but Hultzen and Paxton could join him by the end of 2012. In less than 500 at-bats between AAA-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and New York, Montero had 23 doubles and 22 home runs to go along with 79 RBIs. While his glove still needs work behind the dish, his bat is more than ready for big-league pitching.
Hultzen and Paxton are both power lefties who figure to be right alongside Felix Hernandez in the Seattle rotation for years to come. Hultzen, 22, selected with the #2 pick in the 2011 draft is expected to rise quickly. While he doesn’t have Matt Moore type stuff, the University of Virgina product has his own nasty arsenal. His fastball clocks in the mid 90’s while he features a plus changeup and a developing slider. I’d expect Hultzen to start at AA-Jackson and possibly AAA-Tacoma.
Paxton dominated in 2011, his first season in professional baseball. Splitting time between Lo-A Clinton and AA-Jackson, Paxton was 6-3 with 2.37 ERA in 17 starts. In 95 innings, the lefty struck out 131 and held opponents to a .215 batting average. Like Hultzen, expect Paxton to start at either AA or AAA.
The other dominant arm in the Seattle organization is right-hander Taijuan Walker. At just 19, Walker’s stuff is electric with a mid 90’s fastball and a sharp, hammer curve. The righty started 18 games last year for Clinton, racking up a 6-5 record with a 2.89 ERA. In 96 2/3 innings, Walker struck out 113 and held opponents to a miniscule .202 clip. Expect Walker at AA-Jackson in 2012.
The Mariners will be sure to not rush the development of Walker but Hultzen and Paxton are very close to making their big-league debuts.
All three pitching prospects have been invited to spring training.
With only two winning seasons since 2003, the steps are being taken to bring winning baseball back to Seattle, even without the uber-talented Michael Pineda.