We'll start this post off on a sad note. Just yesterday on this blog, we mentioned Cory Lidle as a potential offseason target for the Twins. Tragically, he died yesterday when his plane crashed into a high-rise apartment building in New York. This is a shocking event, seeing as how we were watching Lidle pitch a playoff game less than a week ago. We send our deepest sympathies to his family and friends.
Now, on to the post...
Being the end of the season for us Twins fans, there are a few things left to cover before we go "dormant" for the winter. For one, we'd like to present and briefly explain each of our choices for regular season awards. Let's get it started.
Nick Mosvick's Choice: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
Mauer not only had a season for the history books, being the first catcher ever to lead the AL or the majors in batting average. Remember, he was an incredible .360/.497/.544 hitter with RISP. Justin Morneau was great, but Mauer gets my vote. Just a great season. As for Derek Jeter, his "leader" role is vastly overrated, and he simply wasn't significantly better than Mauer offensively this year, while Mauer plays a more important position and is a superior defensive player to Jeter.
Nick Nelson's Choice: Johan Santana, Minnesota Twins
To me, none of the offensive candidates for MVP had overwhelming seasons. I don't think any single player was more influential to his team's success than Santana. Just take a look at the Twins' record in his starts compared to everybody else's. He literally pushed them from decent a decent team to a playoff team single-handedly. He was also the best pitcher in baseball, beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Nick Mosvick's Choice: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
If you want to understand how sad the Cardinals are outside of Pujols and Chris Carpenter, just watch the playoffs sometime. Or, heck, just look back at this years highlights. No one can convince me that a .331/.431/.671 49 HRs 137 RBI doesn't merit the MVP, even with Ryan Howard's season. Howard was great, but his Phillies, for one, didn't get to the playoffs, and two, had a couple very nice offensive players in Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins to support him. Pujols was just as good power-wise at the beginning of the season as Howard was in the second half. Sorry, but its not like the first half doesn't count. And Pujols was amazing down the stretch, hitting .368 with 9 homers and 27 RBI in September as the Cardinals barely inched their way into the playoffs. He also hit .397/.535/.802 with RISP. For the record, Howard hit .256 in such situations. Plus, Pujols has the upper hand in defense. Have to give it to the great Prince Albert.
Nick Nelson's Choice: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
What more can I say? Howard had a great season, but you have to look past the power numbers. I don't really buy into the "his team didn't make the playoffs so he can't be the most valuable player" argument (no single player will ever carry his team to the playoffs by himself, this is a team game), but Pujols came about as close as you can to carrying this offense to the postseason. He's the best hitter in the game, bar-none.
AL CY YOUNG
Nick Mosvick's Choice: Johan Santana, Minnesota Twins
There is nothing "homerish" about this pick. What can I say? Major League pitching Triple Crown winner. Number one in the bigs in wins, strikeouts, ERA, WHIP, and opponent OPS. Number one in the AL in batting average against and innings pitched. Second in the AL in winning percentage. Simply the best, most dominant pitcher in bigs. No question about this one.
Nick Nelson's Choice: Johan Santana, Minnesota Twins
Santana is my MVP, so obviously he's my Cy Young winner. As I said above, Santana was much indisputably the best pitcher in all of baseball. He was dominant, he won games, he played great defense, and he was a good teammate. No other pitcher can even build a legitimate argument against Santana in the AL.
NL CY YOUNG
Nick Mosvick's Choice: Brandon Webb, Arizona Diamondbacks
This race is the exact opposite of the AL Cy Young "race." No one in the NL won 17 games, which doesn't happen too often. Needless to say, there are many legitimate candidates, with Webb, Chris Carpenter, Roy Oswalt, and some say even Trevor Hoffman. To me, Webb has to be the Cy Young, as he is the best overall starting pitcher this year of the candidates. He was tied for first in wins and shutouts (three, tied with Carpenter), was second in innings pitched, WHIP, and complete games, third in ERA, ninth in BAA, and 10th in strikeouts. It's a crapshoot here, though, so I could change my mind tommorow.
Nick Nelson's Choice: Chris Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals
While Pujols carried the Cards' offense, it was was Carpenter who carried the rotation. Carpenter ranked second in the National League in ERA with a great 3.09, posted an NL-best 1.07 WHIP (next-best was Webb at 1.13) and struck out 184 in 221.2 IP.
AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Nick Mosvick's Choice: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
Verlander looked pretty good after four months, before he went 4-5 in August and September, posting 6.83 and 4.82 ERAs in those months. Overall, he only was in the top 10 for three AL pitching categories: seventh in ERA (3.63), 10th in winning percentage, and tied for fourth with 17 wins. He didn't strike out too many and his 1.33 WHIP is nothing phenomenal. I would give the award to our own Francisco Liriano, but the disparity in innings (186 to 121) is important, as Verlander was key to great lead the Tigers built up early in the year. I have to give the edge to Verlander.
Nick Nelson's Choice: Francisco Liriano, Minnesota Twins
At this point, you've probably got me labeled as a bona fide homer. I had a Twin as my selection for both AL MVP and Cy Young, and now I take another Twin for Rookie of the Year. Well, sue me. As far as I'm concerned, Liriano was the best rookie in the American League this year, regardless of the fact that his season was cut short due to injury. Liriano was not just the best rookie pitcher in baseball when he pitched this season, he was the best PITCHER, period. 121 innings is not exactly a small sample size either. Liriano may have thrown 60 fewer innings than Verlander, but the degree to which he was better than Verlander over that period is enough for me to say he had a better year.
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Nick Mosvick's Choice: Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals
A 22-year old third baseman playing phenomenal defense, hitting 20 home runs, driving in 110 RBI, bagging 47 doubles, all in an extreme pitcher's park, is pretty phenomenal. Zimmerman was incredibly clutch this year, hitting .302/.409/.531 in "close and late" situations and hitt ing .323/.397/.515 with RISP. There were a lot of great candidates for Rookie of the Year in the NL this season, however, Zimmerman is the standout to me, having both an impressive offensive debut and playing great defense at a key position.
Nick Nelson's Choice: Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins
It's hard to argue with Zimmerman, but I've got to go with Ramirez, who had an excellent season for the Marlins and certainly made the Red Sox look silly for trading him. Ramirez was an outstanding top-of-the-order hitter, batting .292 with a .353 on-base percentage while and swiping 51 bases and scoring 119 times. He also flashed some impressive power by banging 17 homers, 46 doubles and 11 triples.
AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR
Nick Mosvick: Jim Leyland, Detroit Tigers
Ron Gardenhire did a pretty good job this year, but I still have some issues with his management style and it's necessary to remember the first two awful months and his desire to play guys like Juan Castro. Leyland, on the other hand, came to a Tigers team that has dwelled in the cellar for over a decade and had lost 119 games in 2003. Leyland quickly changed that clubhouse culture and the Tigers experienced the biggest turnaround between last year and this year of any big league team. (The Mets had a pretty big one, too.) Needless to say, he's done an impressive job and deserves this award.
Nick Nelson's Choice: Jim Leyland, Detroit Tigers
I toyed with the notion of picking Gardy for this award, especially because of the Tigers' collapse down the stretch, but I still think Leyland did a stellar job and is deserving of recognition. As Mr. Mosvick noted, the Tigers have pretty much been a laughing stock over the last several years, and Leyland's ability to maximize the talent on the roster and push the Tigers to a playoff berth is truly impressive.
NL MANAGER OF THE YEAR
Nick Mosvick's Choice: Willie Randolph, New York Mets
If I give Leyland the award, I have to give Randolph the award for what can be seen as a similar job. Randolph certainly would seem to have an easy job, with many superstars (Carlos Delgado, Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, Billy Wagner, Carlos Beltran) and budding superstars (David Wright, Jose Reyes) on the team. But a 14-game improvement on last year's 83-79 is still impressive. The Mets were by far the best team in the NL this year.
Nick Nelson's Choice: Joe Girardi, Florida Marlins
I respect what Randolph did this season, but I simply can't give him too much credit for being able to carry such a loaded roster to the playoffs. The National League was such a joke this year that it would have been an embarrassment if the Mets didn't finish with the best record in the league. Girardi, meanwhile, coached a team that no one expected to win more than 60 games into playoff contention for a large portion of the season. It's a shame he ran into issues with the ownership. Whatever team lands Girardi as their skipper in the offseason will be very fortunate to do so. I think he's a hell of a manager.