Nov 15

Cabrera, Trout And Posey Top MVP Candidates


The Major League postseason awards conclude today with the granddaddy of them all – the Most Valuable Player Awards.

San Francisco catcher Buster Posey and Detroit third baseman Miguel Cabrera competing against the Angels’ Mike Trout are considered the frontrunners. Throw a blanket over Cabrera and Trout in the American League.

Let’s look at the American League race first because of the potential closeness of the voting.

The award has been shared before, the National League in 1979 between the Cardinals’ Keith Hernandez and the Pirates’ Willie Stargell. It is possible to have co-winners in these awards because they are done on a point system: x number of points for first place, y number of points for second place and so on.

Clearly, Trout had a MVP season, especially impressive had he not missed the first month of the season. Had he played a full season, it is possible he might have prevented Cabrera from winning the Triple Crown, one of baseball’s rarest achievements last done in 1967 by Carl Yastrzemski.

There is no criteria set by the Baseball Writers Association of America, which is why relief pitchers have won (Rollie Fingers, 1981), Willie Hernandez (1984) and Dennis Eckersley (1992). Also, players from teams with losing records (Cal Ripken, 1991) and Ernie Banks (1958-59) have been honored, as well as starting pitchers (Justin Verlander, 2011), Denny McLain and Bob Gibson (1968), and Sandy Koufax (1963).

The voting for all postseason awards must be in on the last day of the regular season, so playoff performances are not counted. However, traditionally, many of the winners – if not most – come from teams in the postseason.

The arguments for Cabrera and Trout are equally compelling, if not convincing.

Cabrera won the Triple Crown which is rare and impressive, and led the American League in OPS; his team made the playoffs and he moved to a different position. All strong arguments for Cabrera.

However, Trout led the majors in runs scored – 20 more than Cabrera; accomplished what he did in fewer games; and his team had a better record than Cabrera’s; and he might have saved at least 20 more runs with his defense. All strong arguments for Trout.

I have no complaint for either, but if forced to choose between the two I would take Cabrera because of the Triple Crown. It is such a rare achievement I can’t overlook.

The National League is easy for me. The best players are Posey, Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun, last year’s winner, St. Louis’ Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina, and Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen.

Beltran and Molina will take votes from each other; McCutchen will be penalized by the Pirates’ late season collapse; and Braun will suffer from last year’s drug test controversy.

Posey, coming off a serious injury, hit .336 with over 100 RBI, and caught one of the game’s best staffs.

Nov 14

Dickey Leads Cy Young Race; Verlander In AL


Baseball’s annual postseason awards continue this evening with the announcement of the Cy Young winners, a moment that could thrust the Mets into proud, yet potentially embarrassing moment.

Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey could be in position of winning the award and then being traded if a contract extension isn’t reached.

Only the Mets.

NATIONAL LEAGUE: The Mets’ feel good story this summer that was Dickey has a chance to get better in a few hours if he’s able to join Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden as franchise winners of the Cy Young Award.

The man who scaled a mountain last winter climbed another this season when he literally carried the team on his shoulders to go 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA, and he did it with an abdominal tear that required surgery.

Dickey’s competition for the award, Washington’s Gio Gonzalez and Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw, pitching for winning teams. Dickey’s Mets were 14 games under .500 with a winning percentage of .457. Dickey’s winning percentage was an amazing .769.

There aren’t enough ways to say how incredible that is.

The Mets didn’t hit for the second half and their bullpen kicked away leads all year. There were nights when he did it all by himself.

“To win 20 on a club with struggles is pretty big,’’ Mets manager Terry Collins said.  “Especially during the times we weren’t hitting, he was still winning games.’’

Dickey’s ERA was second to Kershaw’s 2.53; his 20 wins were second to Gonzalez’s 21; but, he was first in strikeouts (230), innings (233.2), complete games (five), shutouts (three) and quality starts (27).

Other than a knuckleball bias, I can’t see Dickey not winning.

AMERICAN LEAGUE: Things might be more up in the air in the American League between Detroit’s Justin Verlander, Tampa Bay’s David Price and the Angels’ Jered Weaver.

Both Price and Weaver had the type of seasons worth of a Cy Young, with perhaps loftier numbers, but Verlander is the best pitcher in the sport and could become the first repeater since Pedro Martinez  (1999-2000).

Price and Weaver were 20-game winners, but Verlander dominated again and took his team into the playoffs.

My thinking is Verlander is the incumbent who pitched well enough to win again. Until somebody blows away the field, he should get it, because repeating excellence might be the single most difficult thing in sports.

Nov 12

Rookie Of The Year Announced Today: Harper And Frazier Top NL; Trout In AL

Today I’ll preview the Rookie of the Year Awards, which will be announced later this afternoon. The winners are voted for by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

National League: While the AL voting will be a landslide, things are closer and more interesting in the National League, where the candidates include the popular Bryce Harper from Washington, Cincinnati’s Todd Frazier and Arizona left-hander Wade Miley.

HARPER: Played to the hype (Sports Illustrated)

Harper was one of the most hyped rookies in history (on the cover of Sports Illustrated at 16), and to his credit lived up to the billing. He’s also the combination of power, speed and hustle.

Because of injuries to Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth, Harper became a cog in the Nationals’ lineup ahead of schedule.

Frazier also surged in importance to the Reds because of an injury to Joey Votto.

The numerical arguments are basically even between Frazier and Harper:

* Harper: .270 average, .340 on-base percentage, .477 slugging percentage, 22 home runs, 59 RBIs, 18 stolen bases in 139 games.

* Frazier: .273 average, .331 on-base percentage, .498 slugging percentage, 19 home runs, 67 RBIs, 3 SB in 128 games.

It is extremely difficult to compare position players to pitchers, but Miley made a compelling argument with his stats:

* Miley: 16-11, 3.33 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 37 walks, 144 strikeouts in 194 2/3 innings over 32 appearances (29 starts).

It’s interesting that Miley threw close to 200 innings while Harper’s teammate, Stephen Strasburg was shut down, a decision that might have kept Washington from reaching the NLCS. You never know.

Continue reading

Nov 04

2012 Mets Player Review: Daniel Murphy




PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: It was more a matter of hope than it was solid expectations for second baseman Daniel Murphy. After all, this is a player who has had trouble staying healthy, and was frequently in danger of hurting himself in the field.  At the plate, the Mets expected little power production, but a high batting average and decent on-base percentage. Defensively, an original third baseman, Murphy failed to make it in left field, has been erratic at second and was moved off of first by Ike Davis. Murphy has been the subject of trade rumors to American League teams where he could have most of his at-bats as a designated hitter. That concept never gained any speed because of his limited power output of only 26 career homers in 469 career games.   

2012 SEASON REVIEW: Murphy gave the Mets a career-high 156 games and 612 at-bats, but only hit six homers and had 49 extra-base hits. He also had a dropoff of 29 points in batting average (.320 in 2011 to .291 last year) and drops in on-base percentage (.362 to .332), slugging percentage (.448 to .403) and OPS (.809 to .735). These drops happened despite playing in 45 more games and 41 more hits. Murphy hit throughout the batting order, but when he started at least ten games at a position, had more success hitting second (.309 in 73 games) than anywhere else. Overall, Murphy did not hit to his expectations, but showed a dramatic improvement in the field. Make no mistake, he still has work to do, but Murphy was far from a butcher in the field. Murphy will never have great range, but he made most of the plays and was better at making the double-play pivot.

LOOKING AT 2013: Murphy’s improvement would preclude the need for shopping for a new second baseman. The Mets are trying Jordany Valdespin at second in winter ball, and if he makes it would add speed. There’s always the trade market, but expectations are Murphy will keep his position next season. Because the Mets have so many holes in the bullpen, the outfield and perhaps the back end of the rotation, they will stick with someone who, if he stays healthy, should give them a decent average, but not a lot of run production. It was hoped with the more he plays and gets to know the pitchers he would hit with more power. As he plays more he should become more adept defensively.

NEXT: Ruben Tejada

Oct 10

What Is The Market For David Wright And R.A. Dickey?

If the Mets believe they’ll keep David Wright and R.A. Dickey on the cheap they are sadly mistaken. If neither are signed in the next couple of months both are likely to enter the free-agent market, at which point they’ll likely go elsewhere.

I can’t see either coming back to the Mets if they let them enter the market.

There have already been reports the Mets will offer Wright a package for around $100 million and aren’t willing to go more than two years on Dickey.

Sandy Alderson said last week the Mets wanted to move quickly, but your definition and the Mets’ are different, as the club has proven to move at a glacier pace on other key issues.

Wright will make $15 million next season while Dickey is on the books for $5 million. If extensions are reached, they should make considerably more, although it is conceivable they could backload a contract for Wright. Because he’s 38 and this is his last chance for a free-agent market killing, the same can’t be said for Dickey. So, if the Mets don’t go more than three years for him, then he’s a goner.

There are difficulties in trading both, notably that they will be free agents after the 2013 season. No team would be willing to deal for them if they know they’ll leave after the season.

A team trading for Wright must consider his recent production. He had a solid, but not extraordinary season in 2012, hitting .306 with 21 homers and 93 RBI. His last big season was probably 2010 when he hit 29 homers, and he hasn’t hit 30 since 2008. Wright has always been a complementary piece rather than a centerpiece. His best years were when Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran with him and he hit fifth. Wright batting third or fourth hasn’t been as productive.

In explaining Wright’s power decline the past few years, it is part injuries and part hitting unprotected in the line-up. The percentage of each is hard to ascertain.

We must assume the Mets wouldn’t trade Wright to the Phillies or the Braves, both with a reported need for a third baseman. The Red Sox, however, are a different story as they are in the American League and no direct threat to the Mets.

That being said Wright has a greater value to the Mets than he would any other team. That could reduce his trade value to some degree.

Regarding Dickey, he has an extraordinary value to the Mets based on his story and what he did this year. The Mets shouldn’t be worried about his durability, but have to wonder if this season was a fluke. A journeyman throughout his career, Dickey had an ace-type season in 2012 winning 20 games.

Can he do it again?

That’s something everybody is wondering, including those teams that might want him. Do you break the bank for a pitcher who has had only three winning seasons since 2001?

When you factor all the circumstances surrounding Wright and Dickey, both have limitations that might make the return as lucrative as one might think.