Just as giving out grades is a somewhat lame method of postseason analysis, posting on the major-league awards can just as easily be construed as lame. However, I'd still like to weigh in with my opinions with another of my rare contributions to the blog from Virginia. After all, I have no excuse right now since I'm on fall break and am supposed to be relaxing. With that, here are the award winners as I see them:
AL MVP: Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees
There isn't really much of a debate here. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to argue against A-Rod deserving this honor. Rodriguez hit .314/.422/.645 with 54 HR, 156 RBI, 143 runs scored, 376 total bases, 85 extra-base hits, and 24 stolen bases. He posted an MLB-best 96.6 VORP as well as leading the league with 299 times on base and 166 runs created. With his season, he set records for third basemen in home runs, RBI, runs scored, and runs created. While A-Rod is struggling in the postseason, it has nothing to do with the MVP race. Magglio Ordonez was great for the Tigers, but a marginal outfielder who had an offensive season just below that of a good defender at third does not pass the bar.
NL MVP: Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies
Rollins had a stunning year at short, hitting .296/.344/.531 with 38 doubles, 20 triples, 30 home runs, 139 runs scored, 211, 41 stolen bases, and 380 total bases. If you go by VORP, Rollins doesn't appear to be the standout candidate. Rollins's VORP of 66.1 ranks 9th in the NL behind Hanley Ramirez, David Wright, Chipper Jones, Matt Holliday, Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Chase Utley. Out of those players, Wright, Holliday, Fielder, and Utley seem like the standout MVP candidates. Ramirez, Pujols, and Cabrera were outstanding -- especially the underrated Ramirez who has a great bat but is a butcher at shortstop; however, they all played for losing teams.
Holliday and Wright are likely Rollins's biggest competition. While everyone believes Coors Field is an offensive haven, it's nothing compared to Rollins' home field of Citizens Bank Park. However, that didn't really affect Rollins, who hit ..293/.352/.507 in away games this year. Holliday's 92 extra-base hits, .340/.405/.607 line, and 386 total bases all rank above Rollins. However, as an outfielder, Holliday's defensive contribution (not factored into VORP) is nowhere near that of the phenomenal defense of Rollins at shortstop.
As for Wright, his season is a good comp for Rollins. Wright is young at 24, is constantly improving, and provides good defense at the hot corner. Wright hit .325/.416/.546 with 30 home runs, 107 RBI, and 34 stolen bases, all amazing numbers. Yet, while the arguments of intangibles are often lost on me, I believe it is in this vein that Rollins wins out. The Philadelphia shortstop's combination of speed, power, defense, and leadership is hard to beat any year especially in a year in which Rollins had one of just four 20-20-20-20 seasons all time.
AL Cy Young: C.C. Sabathia, Cleveland Indians
As much as I detest the Indians (and especially Sabathia) as a Twins fan, it's just hard to pick against this guy. Sabathia's basic numbers were impressive enough, as he went 19-7 with a 3.21 ERA. However, his deeper numbers tell the story of why he should win. Sabathia's 209/37 K/BB ratio (5.65) is this second best all-time for a left-hander, behind Randy Johnson's 290/44 (6.59) in 2004. His 65.2 VORP ranks first for AL pitchers. He also ranked first in innings with 241 and fifth in WHIP (1.14).
Sabathia's main competition is his own teammate Fausto Carmona, along with the Angels' John Lackey, and Boston's Josh Beckett. Carmona has been largely eliminated despite his 3.06 ERA and 19 wins due to the fact that he's only struck out 137 and has walked 61 as well as having pitched fewer innings then Sabathia. Lackey could be eliminated for similar reasons, as his only real advantage over Sabathia is in ERA (a league-leading 3.01), while he pitched fewer innings (224), struck out fewer (179), and walked more (52). Beckett is probably considered Sabathia's major competition, simply because he has that all important 20th win that writers seem to love so much. However, while his 194/40 K/BB ratio is very good, Beckett threw significantly less innings (200 2/3), giving him less strikeouts (194) with a slightly higher ERA (3.27). He has a better BAA (.245 to Sabathia's .259) but overall, it does not seem enough to justify giving the award to Beckett over Sabathia.
NL Cy Young: Jake Peavy, San Diego Padres
This is just as easy as giving the AL MVP to A-Rod. Peavy won the NL pitching Triple Crown, leading the league in wins (19), ERA (2.54) and strikeouts (240). He also posted a league-leading WHIP (1.06) and OBA (.208). No one else was even close.
AL Rookie of the Year: Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox
Boston had two rookies everyone was excited about coming into this year from Japan, with most of the attention focused on Daisuke Matsuzaka. However, Dice-K had a fairly uneven year, as he showed the ability to strikeout hitters with 201 K in 204 2/3 innings yet posted a high ERA of 4.40 and ranked sixth in the AL with 80 walks. It was also thought that Alex Gordon would give good competition, but Gordon struggled for most of the year and guys like Jeremy Guthrie had significantly better rookie campaigns. However, it largely came down to a race between Kansas City's Brian Bannister and Pedroia.
Bannister pitched very well for the Royals, but Pedroia definitely had the superior year. His 317 average ranked 10th in the AL and he showed some power with 39 doubles and some decent patience with 47 walks while playing solid defense.
NL Rookie of the Year: Troy Tulowitzski, Colorado Rockies
This is a much harder race than the AL rookie race. Tulowitzski is joined by Ryan Braun and Hunter Pence as outstanding rookie candidates. Pence looked like the early front runner, hitting .343/.372/.593 in May and .314/.336/.542 in June before going down with an injury that kept him out of the lineup through the end of July and most of August. Pence's .322/.360/.539 was good and his 17 home runs showed lots of power potential, but his patience certainly leaves something to be desired. Pence also flashed a good glove in center field.
Braun, on the other hand, became the talk of baseball fast in June, as he hit .382/.435/.716 with 6 home runs and 21 RBI. Braun continued his massive pace, hitting .324/.370/.634 over all with 34 home runs and 97 RBI, setting an rookie record with his limited at-bats. However, Braun was also an absolute butcher at third, making 26 errors in 112 games at third.
That leaves Tulowitzski, who had a great year offensively and defensively. As a defender, Tulowitzski had the most putouts by a shortstop since Ozzie Smith. Offensively, Tulowitzski certainly benefited from Coors Field, hitting .326/.392/.568 while hitting .291/.359/.479 overall. Despite the home field advantage, Tulowitzski's 24 home runs broke the National League record for home runs by a rookie shortstop, passing Ernie Banks, and it ranks third behind Cal Ripken and Nomar Garciaparra all-time. Just as well, Tulowitzski's 104 runs scored and 99 RBI are impressive for an shortstop. More importantly, Tulowizski was able to help shape the entire Rockies season, playing 155 games and helping to lead them ultimately to the National League Championship Series.