The envelopes, please...
The Brewers season ends tonight with a whimper rather than the bang we were all hoping for. Of course this year will be remembered for the total meltdown of the bullpen and the endless question of "what if?"
And while there will, of course, be changes made this off-season, the Brewers showed without a shadow of a doubt that small market teams that draft well, develop their own players, and make limited but shrewd moves in the free agent and trade market can be a competitive force year in and year out.
And while Prince Fielder's bat was certainly missed, Ryan Braun showed the world that he is a bona fide superstar, particularly when the rest of the baseball universe was watching him like a hawk for some sign that his exoneration was merely the technicality the blood-thirsty masses had crowed about since February.
One year ago, Braun was rightfully awarded the National League's MVP based on numbers that warranted it as well as the Brewers inclusion in the autumnal soirée known as MLB's playoffs. But what of this season? Conventional wisdom indicates that Buster Posey, the heart and soul of the NL West Champion San Francisco Giants is the front-runner, despite a statistical analysis that may indicate otherwise.
Braun: .321 AVG, .601 SLG, .994 OPS, .393 OBP, 41 HR, 112 RBI, 30 SB
Posey: .336 AVG, .546 SLG, .955 OPS, .409 OBP, 23 HR, 101 RBI
Posey performed at a much more physically demanding position and did so for a division-winning club. That he has been on fire since the All-Star break and is only one year removed from a devastating injury sustained during a collision at home plate adds to his candidacy.
Braun's defense in the past has been looked at as a liability. However, with his second-place Gold Glove finish to Arizona's Gerardo Parra last season and this year's Bill James plus-minus system rating him the best left fielder in the National League, what was once a liability has become an invaluable asset.
Make no mistake about it: Posey will win the MVP Award and probably by a landslide. Whether or not he should, however, is certainly debatable.
Likewise is the debate in the American League. Conventional wisdom makes Miguel Cabrera's Triple Crown season a no-brainer, right?
Not when you consider the curious case of Mike Trout.
Trout, who wrapped up the Rookie of the Year award months ago, is having the kind of season movies are made about. A relative unknown among baseball fans at the start of the season, Trout was simply marvelous in every phase of the game. But, like in the case of Posey v Braun, the empirical numbers may not tell the whole story.
Cabrera: .329 AVG, .608 SLG, .1.001 OPS, .393 OBP, 44 HR, 137 RBI
Trout: .325 AVG, .564 SLG, .963 OPS, .398 OBP, 30 HR, 83 RBI, 48 SB
Cabrera runs away with it, right? In the eyes of the voters, probably. The last time the Triple Crown was won was in 1967 by Carl Yastrzemski. It is a tremendous feat and one that should be honored.
But what if Josh Hamilton hits one more home run Wednesday night and prevents the history books from etching Cabrera's name next to Yaz'? Does that really diminish Cabrera's accomplishment? It shouldn't, but it will.
The case for Trout is pretty simple: No one meant more to his team than he did.
Defensively, Trout was a nightly highlight reel in center field. On the bases, he was a terror, easily leading the Majors in stolen bases. In only 137 games played after his April 28 call-up from the minors, Trout became the signature player of a team that backed up the Brinks truck to Albert Pujols' house for him to take that title.
Instead, for a club that will miss the playoffs despite two more wins than the ALDS-bound Tigers led by Cabrera, Mike Trout became the darling of Hollywood.
Trout won't win the MVP. But it is not outrageous to make a case for him taking the hardware away from the first Triple Crown winner in two generations.
As for the rest of the soon-to-be postseason award battles:
National League Cy Young Award: R.A. Dickey vs. Clayton Kershaw
Dickey: 20-6, 2.73 ERA, .226 BAA, 1.05 WHIP, 230 K in 233.2 IP
Kershaw: 13-9, 2.58 ERA, .213 BAA, 1.03 WHIP, 221 K in 219.2 IP
Kershaw is a stud who has won the award in the past and will again in the future, but this was Dickey's year. A knuckleballing journeyman before now, the 38-year old Dickey first made headlines in spring training when he revealed his past sexual abuse suffered as a child. Then he went out and did the impossible. He made people actually care about the New York Mets once every five days.
Kershaw was his usual spectacular self, but Dickey excelled in a division that featured two 90-plus win opponents. Dickey gets the nod.
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This is just like the Academy Awards...the Emmys....The Golden Globe Awards....a bunch of rich, overpaid people being rewarded for doing the job they were already paid to do. For the guaranteed money these ballplayers get...along with all the perks...great benefits and endorsements they don't need any more kudos. If we do decide to reward them for playing well...then we should be able to deduct money from them for playing poorly..right? :)
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