The 2011 MLB awards season is here. Jeremy Hellickson of the Tampa Bay Rays and Craig Kimbrel of the Atlanta Braves kicked it off on Monday by taking home the American and National League Rookie of the Year Awards. Here is a look at some of the other awards that will be handed out this week, as well as their top contenders.
Tuesday November 15th – American League Cy Young
Top Contenders – Justin Verlander , Jered Weaver
The American League Cy Young, presented annually to baseball’s best pitcher, is going to Justin Verlander. Verlander won the American League Triple Crown (league leader in k’s, era, and wins), and also threw a no hitter this past year (his second). He was second overall among American League pitchers in WAR (wins above replacement level player). That is no slight to Jered Weaver who had a fantastic season of his own – Verlander was just otherworldly and happened to pitch that much better.
Wednesday November 16th – American and National League Managers of the Year
Top Contenders – AL Joe Maddon, Jim Leyland, Ron Washington NL Tony La Russa, Kirk Gibson, Ron Roenicke
In the AL, there are three deserving candidates. Joe Maddon kept his team fighting all year long and the surprise Rays upended the much higher paid Boston Red Sox in a historic September. Jim Leyland helped the Tigers recognize the potential that they have failed to live up to the past few seasons, taking the AL central and making the ALCS. Ron Washington piloted the Rangers to a second AL Pennant, twice within one strike of winning the entire series. The NL is equally tough to call. Roenicke and Gibson turned around sub-500 teams into playoff contenders. La Russa turned an underachieving Cardinals team around in the last month and rode a historic comeback all the way to the World Series. My gut tells me Maddon and Roenicke take home the hardware. Maddon led a young Rays teams that relied on rookies in many key spots to the playoffs, overcoming the big bad Red Sox in the process. Roenicke beats out La Russa because La Russa’s Cardinals underachieved all year and were helped into the playoffs by the Braves epic collapse. Roenicke, a rookie manager, led the Brewers to a franchise record 96 wins, all with the threat of Prince Fielder’s eminent departure looming.
Thursday November 17th – National League Cy Young
Top Contenders – Clayton Kershaw, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee
Many analysts are ready to crown Kershaw’s breakout season as Cy worthy, though I believe he isn’t quite ready. Roy Halladay should win his second consecutive Cy Young (and third overall). Kershaw did more with a lesser team, winning the NL Triple Crown. However, Halladay had a lower walk rate, a higher WAR, and a lower FIP. Halladay turned in another brilliant season that is almost expected of him at this point in his career, but his amazing consistency should not detract from his worthiness of another Cy Young.
Monday November 21st – National League MVP
Top Contenders – Matt Kemp, Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder
Kemp and Braun were both in the Triple Crown race for most of the season. Kemp led the league in homeruns and Rbi’s, as well as in WAR. Braun put up numbers in line with his career norm, spectacular once again. Kemp came back from a down year to put up eye popping numbers on a dismal team. This may be the year that voters decide to reward a player from a poor team rather than give the award to the best player on the best team. Though Braun probably deserves it more, the hype behind Kemp gets him the awrd.
Tuesday November 22nd – American League MVP
Top Contenders – Curtis Granderson, Jose Bautista, Jacoby Ellsbury, Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander
Is this the year a pitcher takes home the MVP? As deserving as Verlander is, no. Pitchers simply don’t play enough to garner most valuable player votes. It is crowded field otherwise with no candidate truly standing out. Bautista continued his mashing ways, while Ellsbury came back from a lost season to put up MVP type numbers. Granderson was near the top in homeruns and Rbis, but his average left much to be desired. My vote goes to Cabrera. His numbers were once again fantastic, he helped lead the Tiger’s to the playoffs, and he’s been long due for one.
By Chris Carney