The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Mike's 2004 Awards Show

Contrary to what your calendar might tell you, today is really the beginning of October. Three of the four playoff series begin today. I’m not going to go into details about them here. Others have done a superb job of covering that. For the best non-mainstream coverage that I’ve found, check out Aaron Gleeman’s articles over at The Hardball Times.

Today I thought I’d go back into my pre-season awards predictions to see how I fared.

American League MVP
Pre-season pick: Vladimir Guerrero; Current pick: Vladimir Guerrero
This was a tight race and there are a handful of guys that you could make legitimate arguments for. Vlad will see two of them beginning this afternoon, when the Angels face off against the Red Sox and Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz. Gary Sheffield of the Yankees also deserves serious consideration, and other players – like Ichiro Suzuki (he of the single season hit record) and Carlos Guillen (who more deserves the Most Improved Player award or the “Hey – Congrats on realizing your potential finally” award) – who will steal votes away from others, but can’t really win the whole thing.

Having two Red Sox in the mix for the award will only serve to help Guerrero’s chances, as they will steal votes away from each other. More than anything though, Guerrero’s final week – including six home runs, gunning down a runner at the plate, and doing pretty much everything and anything to help his team win, is what will stick in the minds of the voters. Going into the final week, Vlad had a legitimate claim to the award. In the final week, he stepped up his game to another level and separated himself from the crowd. This will count for more than it should with the voters, who are likely heavily influenced by what they’ve seen most recently – more so than what has actually occurred over the duration of the season.

National League MVP
Pre-season pick: Barry Bonds; Current pick: Barry Bonds
This is unfair. For one, Bonds should be made ineligible for the award. The NL MVP Award should be renamed for Bonds. That Bonds wins the award annually is a dis-service to other outstanding National Leaguers like Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, and Adrian Beltre. Second, it’s not like any of these guys are really giving Bonds serious competition.

Yes, by historical standards Pujols (for the fourth year in a row), Rolen, and Beltre had MVP caliber seasons. It’s just that Bonds had another season that’s (without his own comparables) without historical peer.

Next year I will try to predict who will finish second to Bonds in the MVP race – kind of like how I’m not going to pick against the Braves as division champs anymore until they actually don’t win the division one year.

American League Cy Young Award
Pre-season pick: Barry Zito; Current pick: Johan Santana
I was just way off. Had the A’s gotten a Cy worthy performance from Zito, they’d probably be preparing to face the Red Sox today instead of making tee times. But they didn’t, so they’re not.

And it’s not like Santana backed his way into this award either. I’m sure you know all about him by now, but if you don’t, he essentially had a Bob Gibson circa-1968 second half (and his first half was pretty great too).

National League Cy Young Award
Pre-season pick: Josh Beckett; Current pick: Randy Johnson
I made my NL Cy Young pick just after Beckett’s opening day outing, where he looked dominant. That was about the last time Beckett looked like post-season 2003 Josh Beckett. Since then he’s been back to the blister-plagued version of himself. Definitely not Cy Young material this year – and more likely the front-runner for the “Realizing his Potential” award that Carlos Guillen will take this year.

As much as Randy Johnson deserves the award this year, he won’t win it. Because of Arizona’s anemic offense and all around bad play, Johnson (according to Baseball Prospectus’s support neutral statistics) was cheated out of six wins this year. Had Johnson racked up those six additional wins, it would be a foregone conclusion that Johnson would be taking home another Cy. He didn’t, so he’s not. That’s unfortunate.

It will likely go to Roger Clemens though, as he’ll add another award to his already overstocked trophy case. He pitched well this year, just not as well as Johnson.

American League Rookie of the Year
Pre-season pick: Bobby Crosby; Current pick: Bobby Crosby
This was a tough pick. Crosby had a solid year, although he did fade late – hitting less than .200 in September. In the American League this year though there really weren’t any breakout players a la Albert Pujols a few years back.

As a White Sox fan I’m tempted to give the award (the mythical one at least) to Shingo Takatsu, but it’s likely that his long term impact on the game will be considerably less than Crosby’s. Normally I wouldn’t discount an experienced Japanese pro from wininng this award, but overall it’s so close that I’ll give the tie to Crosby since he’s younger, an everyday player, and was on a team that was in the race until the very end.

Yikes, I’m starting to sound like an old-mainstream writer.

National League Rookie of the Year
Pre-season pick: Khalil Greene; Current pick: Khalil Greene
I’m really torn here. My vote – and the actually award almost definitely – could easily go to Jason Bay of the Pirates. Bay hit .284 with a .359 onbase percentage and a slugging average of .554 – that slugging mark is the third best all-time for a rookie. He also added twenty-six home runs and eighty-two RBI. However, he also had more than 120 strikeouts in just over 400 at bats. Should he keep that up, he’ll challenge Bobby Bonds and Adam Dunn for the single season strikeout record. Bay is also 26, which is relatively old for a major league rookie.

I’m sticking with Greene because his offense was more than adequate, and he’s a premium defender at shortstop. Much like last year, when I chose Dontrelle Willis as my rookie of the year, I’m throwing out the sabermetrics and statistics in favor of heart, defensive wizardry, and how much fun a player is to watch. Also, like with Crosby, Greene’s team was in the playoff hunt until the end of the year. Bay’s team was pretty much out of it since mid-April.

Well, that’s all of my fun and excitement for the day. Get yourself in front of a television, or at least a computer, to watch today’s playoff action.

Go Angels!


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