Here are my predictions for the 2011 End of Year awards
AL manager of the year
A week or two ago I told my buddy Jake that I believed that the award would come down to Jim Leyland of the Detroit Tigers and Ron Washington of the Texas Rangers. Well folks, as we all know things have changed in the MLB landscape. With their torrid run during the month of September, (9-games back on September 3rd) the Tampa Bay Rays caught the Boston Red Sox and won the AL Wild Card slot in dramatic fashion. That alone would be enough but the Rays were decimated at the beginning of the season through free-agency losses and trades and still were able to reach the post-season through savvy signings and faith in their farm system. Without going on any further, your 2011 American League Manager of the Year will be Joe Maddon of the Tampa Bay Rays.
NL Manager of the Year
In almost similar fashion to the AL, the Wild card, the race came down to the last day of the season with the team who was down almost double digits in the standings winning the last playoff slot. The St. Louis Cardinals, led by future Hall of Famer Tony LaRussa, came storming back from 8.5 games to catch and pass the Atlanta Braves.
Unlike the AL Manager of the Year race, I don't think the Wild Card manager will win. Two rookie managers led their teams to division titles but one did so following a 2010 campaign where his team went 65-97, did not do much in the off-season and was not expected to do much this season. In leading the Arizona Diamondbacks to a 94-68 record and a National League West Division Title, I believe that the 2011 National League Manager of the Year award will go to Kirk Gibson. In doing so Gibson would become the 3rd player to win MVP and Manager of the Year (Frank Robinson and Joe Torre) (February 20, 2011 - Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images North America)
AL Rookie of the Year
Early indicators showed that Seattle's rookie starting pitcher Michael Pineda would be a favorite to win the AL Rookie of the Year. His early season production reflected the faith of the prognosticators but the season can be long, production can fall and others step into focus.
This is the case with New York Yankees rookie starter Ivan Nova. After a brief stint in the majors in 2010, Nova was seen as being a potential candidate for the fifth starter in the rotation even being sent down before the All-Star break. By seasons end, Nova emerged as a viable number two starter. Nova finished the season with a strong 16-4 record with 3.70 ERA in 28 games and 165.1 innings pitched and 167 hits with 98 strikeouts and 57 walks with a WHIP of 1.331. His performance had earned him a start for the Yankees in Game Two of the ALDS against the Detroit Tigers. But I believe that won't be enough to win the AL Rookie of the Year award. I believe that the award will go to a player who has been deemed to be the future of a franchise in dire need of a superstar franchise player and who had indeed lived up to the hype in his rookie season. I believe that the AL Rookie of the Year Award will go to Kansas City Royals first-baseman Eric Hosmer.
Hosmer was called up on May 5, 2011 and never looked back. In 128 games, Hosmer hit .293 with 153 hits (27 2B/3 3B/19 HR) and 78 RBIs and 66 runs scored. Hosmer's OPS was .799 (.334 OBP/.465 SLG) and struck out 82 times with 39 walks and 11 stolen bases in 16 attempts. Whether or not he continues to live to the hype remains to be seen but for his rookie year he has.
NL Rookie of the Year
This was deemed to be a year of pitching dominance in the National League. The defending champion San Francisco Giants had their vaunted starting pitching, Milwaukee made moves to improve their front five and let me knot forget the Murderers Row of starters in Philadelphia. When the early magazine and article photos on the Phillies rotation came out, the starting five would be Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton. Little did people in Baseball know that a rookie would crack their rotation and fit right into the number four slot in the rotation. Vance Worley 11-3 record with 3.01 ERA in 25 games and 131.2 innings pitched and 116 hits with 119 strikeouts and 46 walks with a WHIP of 1.230. But like Ivan Nova, I don't believe that it will be enough to win the NL Rookie of the Year Award. My Prediction for the award is Craig Kimbrell of the Atlanta Braves.
Kimbrel posted a 4-3 record with a 2.10 ERA in 79 games and 77 innings pitched with 48 hits, 129 strikeouts and 32 walks for a WHIP of 1.039. Kimbrel set the major league record for the longest streak of scoreless games (38 appearances). Though he seemed to stumble near the end of the season, I believe he will still win the National League Rookie of the Year.
AL Comeback Player of the Year
Though the New York Yankees have two viable candidates in Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia, I believe the award will go to Kansas City Royals outfielder Melky Cabrera.
Cabrera hit .305 with 201 hits (44 2B/5 3B/18 HR) and 87 RBIs and 102 runs scored. Cabrera's OPS was .809 (.339 OBP/.470 SLG) and struck out 94 times with 35 walks and 20 stolen bases in 30 attempts.
NL Comeback Player of the Year
I can admit when I'm wrong. During the offseason I wrote the following about one particular signing the St. Louis Cardinals made:
The outfield trio will be without Jim Edmonds who chose to retire. What I find puzzling, is that Cardinals' GM John Mozeliak chose the plodding Lance Berkman to replace Edmonds. Berkman showed nothing while with the Yankees down the stretch last season. He played first for the Houston Astros since he didn't have the range to play in the outfield and he's going to play one of the corners for the Cardinals. Unbelievable. Colby Rasmus is going to have to take his vitamins daily to have the energy to cover the range that Berkman can't cover. Not to mention that Berkman is no longer the hitter he was during his heyday with the Astros. Maybe returning to the NL will be good for him. It better for the sake of the Redbirds.
Well, Lance "You're a Bum" (inside joke folks) Berkman lost weight, got into shape and was a NL MVP candidate at the All-Star break. Berkman stepped up his game when Albert Pujols went down with injury and has been a big reason why his team is tied with the #1 seed Philadelphia Philles in the NLDS.
Berkman hit .301 with 147 hits (23 2B/2 3B/31 HR) and 94 RBIs and 90 runs scored. Berkman's OPS was .959 (.412 OBP/.547 SLG) and struck out 93 times with 92 walks.
Ok folks, that's it for now. Next prediction post will be the AL and NL Cy Young Award.