Results tagged ‘ Most Valuable Player ’
The Most Valuable Player award was first given out in 1911 to Ty Cobb of the American League and Frank Schulte of the National League. Originally known as the Chalmers award, named after Hugh Chalmers, the award didn’t catch on as well as had been hoped, and therefore was discontinued after the 1914 season.
In 1922 the League Awards were established to honor the baseball player in the American League (National League began being recognized in 1924) who provided the greatest all-around service to their club. The winner — who received a medal and cash for winning — was voted on by a committee of eight baseball writers, with a player not being able to win more than once. Like the Chalmers awards, these awards didn’t last long, stopping in 1929.
Finally in 1931 the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Most Valuable Player award was established, which is the award still given out today.
Sixty-five players who have won the Most Valuable Player award have gone on to the Hall of Fame up until this point — several of those winners are still active players, however. The current record for most MVP awards is held by Barry Bonds, with seven, but thirty total players have won multiple Most Valuable Player awards in their career.
Voting for the award is fairly straightforward.
Two writers from each city of both the American League and National League make up the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) voters for the Most Valuable Player award, making a total of thirty voters for each league (fifteen teams, with two voters per city). A first place vote earns a player fourteen points, a second place vote gets nine points, a third place vote receives eight points, a fourth place vote is worth seven points, and so on, all the way until tenth place for one point. Once added up, the player with the highest overall total wins.
The 2014 Major League Baseball Most Valuable Player award winners for both the American League and National League were announced Thursday night on MLB Network. Here are the winners, along with my thoughts on each:
AMERICAN LEAGUE MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Original Pick: Mike Trout
Finalists: Mike Trout, Michael Brantley and Victor Martinez
Winner: Mike Trout
Thoughts On Mike Trout Winning
After finishing runner up in the American League Most Valuable Player award voting to Miguel Cabrera the past two seasons, it was finally Mike Trout’s turn to receive the honor. With Cabrera having a down year, by his standards, Trout finally picked up his first career MVP award on Thursday night, joining Mickey Mantle as the second player ever to win their first MVP after having placed second in the previous two MVP votes.
Picking up all 30 first-place votes, Trout received a total of 420 points, beating out Victor Martinez, who finished in second with 229 points, and Michael Brantley, with his 185 points.
Despite batting just .287 on the year — a full 48 points lower than Victor Martinez — and finishing third in strikeouts (184) in all of baseball, Trout did more than enough to take home the MVP. Blasting a career high 36 home runs and 111 RBI’s, while scoring over 100 runs for the third straight season, Trout had the “most valuable” season of any other player in the American League.
Although Mike Trout needs to work on putting the ball into play a bit more, which will subsequently bring his average up to around .300, there’s little argument that he’s the best player in baseball at the moment. And at just 23 years old, the remarkable thing is, he’s going to get better and better.
NATIONAL LEAGUE MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Original Pick: Clayton Kershaw
Finalists: Clayton Kershaw, Giancarlo Stanton and Andrew McCutchen
Winner: Clayton Kershaw
Thoughts On Clayton Kershaw Winning
Clayton Kershaw was hands down the best pitcher in baseball this past season. The only question up for debate was whether or not Kershaw was the most valuable player in the National League. While some people simply don’t believe that a pitcher should win the MVP award, with them playing every fifth day instead of everyday, enough of them wound up voting for Kershaw, earning him the honor.
The ninth player to ever win the Cy Young and MVP in the same season, and the first National League pitcher to win the MVP in 46 years, Kershaw definitely had a historical season. Although he missed the first full month of the season, Kershaw still ended up with the most wins (21) in all of baseball, in addition to posting the best overall ERA (1.77) and the highest strikeout per nine innings rate (10.8).
Kershaw’s dominance gained him 18 of the 30 first place votes, totaling 355 points. Giancarlo Stanton, who many felt had a great shot at winning the MVP after blasting 37 home runs this season, finished runner up with 298 points and 8 first-place points, with Andrew McCutchen getting the remaining 4 first-place nods, good for 271 points altogether.
Having pitched just a total of 198.1 innings in 2014, Kershaw breaks the old record for fewest innings tallied by a pitcher to win the MVP award, previously held by the last pitcher to win the MVP award, Justin Verlander, who threw 251 innings in 2011.
Although it’s difficult to predict from season to season which player will win a given award, there’s the chance that Kershaw could eventually become the fourth pitcher to ever win more than one Most Valuable Player award in their career. Given, that’s somewhat unlikely. But if anyone can do it, Clayton Kershaw surely can.
The 2014 Major League Baseball Gold Glove award winners were announced Tuesday night on ESPN2. Given out each year to the players that are judged to have exhibited superior individual fielding performances at each fielding position in both the National League and the American League, the award is voted on by the managers and coaches in each league (managers can not vote for their own players), with sabermetrics now making up around 25 percent of the vote.
Marking the 57th annual Gold Glove Awards, which began back in 1957, there have been some terrific players to receive the honor. However, no other player has won more Gold Gloves in their career or in a row than Greg Maddux, who took home 18 and 13, respectively.
While Maddux’s records seem fairly safe for now, there were some winners for 2014 who could win quite a few Gold Gloves as the years go on. Here’s a recap of the winners, with my thoughts on each:
AL Nominees - Alex Avila, Yan Gomes and Salvador Perez
AL Winner - Salvador Perez (2nd career)
NL Nominees - Jonathan Lucroy, Russell Martin and Yadier Molina
NL Winner - Yadier Molina (7th career)
Picking up his second straight career Gold Glove award, Salvador Perez was by far the best catcher in all of the American League in 2014. On the National League side of things, Yadier Molina takes home his seventh straight Gold Glove award. One of the best at controlling a pitching staff in all of baseball, it’s no surprise that Molina won yet again.
AL Nominees - Mark Buehrle, Felix Hernandez and Dallas Keuchel
AL Winner - Dallas Keuchel (1st career)
NL Nominees - Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright
NL Winner - Zack Greinke (1st career)
Although Mark Buehrle has won his fair share of Gold Glove awards, this season the award went to Dallas Keuchel. Having a great season with the Astros, Keuchel isn’t that well known around baseball, but he’s one of the best defenders on the mound. Zack Greinke, surprisingly, picks up just his first career Gold Glove award for the National League, after years of great performances on the mound.
AL Nominees - Michael Brantley, Yoenis Cespedes and Alex Gordon
AL Winner - Alex Gordon (4th career)
NL Nominees - Starling Marte, Justin Upton and Christian Yelich
NL Winner - Christian Yelich (1st career)
Alex Gordon ended up taking home his fourth straight Gold Glove award. Always very consistent as a defender in left field, Gordon isn’t at all a shocking winner of the award. Christian Yelich on the other hand did come as somewhat of a surprise. But even so, he’s still deserving, becoming the first Marlins outfielder to ever pick up a Gold Glove.
AL Nominees - Jackie Bradley Jr., Adam Eaton and Adam Jones
AL Winner - Adam Jones (4th career)
NL Nominees - Billy Hamilton, Juan Lagares and Denard Span
NL Winner - Juan Lagares (1st career)
Adam Jones has established himself as one of the best outfielders in baseball today, and he extended his argument by picking up his fourth career Gold Glove award — his third straight. On the NL half of the Center Field Gold Glove awards, Juan Lagares ended up receiving the award. While he’s not well known as of yet, he could easily pick up several more Gold Gloves in his career.
AL Nominees - Kole Calhoun, Kevin Kiermaier and Nick Markakis
AL Winner - Nick Markakis (2nd career)
NL Nominees - Jason Heyward, Gerardo Parra and Giancarlo Stanton
NL Winner - Jason Heyward (2nd career)
Nick Markakis of the American League and Jason Heyward of the National League each picked up their second career Gold Glove awards on Tuesday night for their terrific defense in the outfield. Despite the fact that Heyward and Markakis are two very different types of players, they were undeniably the most deserving right fielders of the 2014 season.
AL Nominees - Miguel Cabrera, Eric Hosmer and Albert Pujols
AL Winner - Eric Hosmer (2nd career)
NL Nominees - Adrian Gonzalez, Adam LaRoche and Justin Morneau
NL Winner - Adrian Gonzalez (4th career)
All of the nominees for first base have their ups and downs defensively, but Eric Hosmer winning the Gold Glove this season is the best choice, in my opinion. His second straight Gold Glove, Hosmer showed signs of breaking out into a superstar in 2014. Also picking up his multiple Gold Glove award was Adrian Gonzalez, who hadn’t won one since 2011.
AL Nominees - Robinson Cano, Ian Kinsler and Dustin Pedroia
AL Winner - Dustin Pedroia (4th career)
NL Nominees - DJ LeMahieu, Brandon Phillips and Chase Utley
NL Winner - DJ LeMahieu (1st career)
Dustin Pedroia is widely known as one of the best second baseman in baseball, and he was recognized for it this season. Winning his fourth career Gold Glove award and second in a row, Pedroia could easily pick up another Gold Glove or two before the end of his career. As could DJ LeMahieu, who isn’t well known in the baseball world, but received the first of what could be several Gold Glove awards.
AL Nominees - Alcides Escobar, J.J. Hardy and Alexei Ramirez
AL Winner – J.J. Hardy (3rd career)
NL Nominees - Zack Cozart, Adeiny Hechavaria and Andrelton Simmons
NL Winner - Andrelton Simmons (2nd career)
J.J. Hardy receives his third straight Gold Glove award for American League shortstop. Known for his slick defense he shows off seemingly every night, Hardy is quietly one of the best fielding shortstops in baseball today. But many would argue that the best defensive shortstop at the moment has to be Andrelton Simmons, who won his second career Gold Glove on Tuesday and could be winning them for years to come.
AL Nominees - Josh Donaldson, Adrian Beltre and Kyle Seager
AL Winner – Kyle Seager (1st career)
NL Nominees - Nolan Arenado, Pablo Sandoval and Juan Uribe
NL Winner - Nolan Arenado (2nd career)
Kyle Seager picked up his first career Gold Glove award while Nolan Arenado received his second in a row. Both are terrific fielding third baseman, and both are early on in their careers. It is very likely that Seager and Arenado could continue to get better and better, picking up multiple Gold Glove awards in the process.
2014 GOLD GLOVE AWARDS FAST FACTS
There were six first-time Gold Glove winners.
- The Royals and Orioles had the most Gold Glove winners, with three each.
- There were nine Gold Glove winners who also won a Gold Glove in 2013.
Also announced last night were the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) award finalists for 2014 Rookie of the Year, Cy Young and Most Valuable Player. For the most part, I agree with the finalists, but there are a few I’m surprised about.
Here are the finalists, with who I have winning (click their names to find out why):
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR FINALISTS
American League: Jose Abreu, Dellin Betances and Matt Shoemaker
National League: Jacob deGrom, Billy Hamilton and Kolten Wong
CY YOUNG FINALISTS
American League: Felix Hernandez, Corey Kluber and Chris Sale
National League: Johnny Cueto, Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER FINALISTS
American League: Michael Brantley, Victor Martinez and Mike Trout
National League: Clayton Kershaw, Andrew McCutchen and Giancarlo Stanton
The winner of each award will be announced next week on MLB Network.
Here’s the schedule:
AL & NL Rookie of the Year: November 10th
AL & NL Cy Young: November 12th
AL & NL Most Valuable Player: November 13th
As stated in a previous blog post, I plan on posting a recap of each winner, along with a look at how well I did with my predictions, in a blog entry after each award is officially announced. So be sure to check back for that at some point next week.
Heading into game six of the 2014 World Series, I was fairly confident that my prediction of the Giants winning it all in six games was nearly a sure bet. Coming off of a strong, shutout start by Madison Bumgarner in game five to take a 3-2 series lead, I figured the Giants would have the momentum to take the championship in the first game back in Kansas City. But I was wrong — very wrong.
Game six turned out to be a blowout by the Royals, as by the second inning the game was basically over. Jake Peavy, the starting pitcher for the Giants, allowed five hits in the inning, including an RBI-double to Mike Moustakas and an RBI-single to Nori Aoki before he was removed from the game for the recently unhittable Yusmeiro Petit.
But even Petit isn’t perfect, as he allowed a two-run single to the first batter he faced, Lorenzo Cain, followed by a two-run double to Eric Hosmer and a Billy Butler RBI-double. When the dust finally settled, the Royals had scored seven runs in the inning, and every Royals’ starter, with the exception of Omar Infante (he would get a single in the next inning), had at least one hit.
Royals’ starter, Yordano Ventura, fared much better than the pitchers on the Giants’ side of the game. Going seven innings and giving up only three hits while allowing zero runs to a good Giants’ lineup, Ventura was simply remarkable. Leaving the game with a 9-0 lead over the Royals, it’s evident that the Royals have a potential superstar on their hands for years to come.
Up nine runs going into the bottom of the seventh inning, Mike Moustakas took the score to an even 10-0, blasting a solo shot to right field. Coming off of Giants’ reliever, Hunter Strickland — the sixth home run allowed by Strickland in the postseason, a playoff record — Moustakas provided the first home run of the series since game two of the Fall Classic, and would be the final run scored of the game, which became the fifth game out of the series decided by five or more runs.
Taking game six with ease, the Royals forced a World Series game seven for the first time since 2011 — just the 37th World Series game seven in history. With the home team having won the Fall Classic in the past nine game sevens dating back to 1982, including the Royals’ last World Series win in 1985, you had to wonder if history would come through for the Royals or if the Giants terrific elimination game record would prevail.
With game seven of the World Series being a win or go home game for both teams, both starting pitchers — Tim Hudson for the Giants and Jeremy Guthrie for the Royals, who was fantastic in his last outing — were subsequently on very short leashes. (Meaning, should they struggle early they wouldn’t be allowed to continue for very long.) However, both looked fairly sharp to begin the game, posting a scoreless first inning.
But the second inning brought problems for both pitchers. Guthrie gave up a couple of runs via two sacrifice flies that scored the given runner from third, but, surprisingly, he was allowed to continue. Hudson, though, after allowing a couple runs of his own, was replaced after just 1.2 innings pitched — the shortest game seven outing of a World Series game since 1960.
Guthrie pitched a good third inning but allowed a leadoff single to Pablo Sandoval in the fourth (Sandoval went 3-3 on the night, bringing his hit total for this World Series up to a staggering 12), followed by a Hunter Pence single and a flyout that allowed Sandoval to advance to third. Showing signs of struggle, Guthrie was quickly replaced by Kelvin Herrera who immediately gave up a single to Michael Morse, scoring Sandoval from third, and giving the Giants a 3-2 lead. Neither team would find a way to put anything together after that.
On just two days rest, Madison Bumgarner, who threw a complete game shutout in game five, came on in the bottom of the fifth — his first relief appearance since the 2010 National League Championship Series. It was originally thought that if Bumgarner was brought on in relief, it would be for a couple of innings. But Bumgarner was so dominant that he remained in through the final out of the game, surpassing the old MLB postseason record of 48.2 innings pitched and lowering his World Series career ERA down to a measly 0.25.
While the Royals threw out their heart of the order in the bottom of the ninth, with Alex Gordon technically singling but winding up at third on a couple of outfield bobbling errors, they didn’t have a comeback in them. Salvador Perez, although he put up a battle against Bumgarner, stranded Gordon at third, popping out to third baseman Pablo Sandoval, and securing the Giants the 2014 World Series Championship.
The third World Series title for the San Francisco Giants in the past five year, and their eighth overall in franchise history, the Giants were fairly impressive over the course of the seven games it took to decide a winner, despite outscoring the Royals overall just 30-27. But they would be nowhere without their dominant lefty, Madison Bumgarner, who received the Most Valuable Player award for his dominant pitching during the Fall Classic.
With game seven now decided, thus concludes another exciting Major League Baseball season. But hang in there. There are only 158 days until Opening Day 2015.
Before I begin my recap of my votes for the major MLB awards, I want to take a second to acknowledge both the Royals and the Giants on advancing to the 2014 World Series. Both teams were outstanding in their given league championship series, with the Royals sweeping and the Giants losing just once. And thus, it should make for a very entertaining World Series, which begins in Kansas City on Tuesday. But while I’m going to make some World Series predictions in my next blog post, this post is meant to focus solely on the major MLB awards.
Over the past week, or so, I’ve been typing up individual posts on who I feel most deserves the awards of American League and National League Rookie of the Year, Cy Young and Most Valuable Player.
Some of the choices were easy, while others took a great deal of debate. But in the end I went with my gut of who I feel deserves each award the most.
In case you missed a few (or all) of my Major League Baseball award posts, I wanted to do a brief recap. Here are my picks that I made for each category:
American League Rookie of the Year: Jose Abreu
National League Rookie of the Year: Jacob deGrom
American League Cy Young: Felix Hernandez
National League Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw
American League MVP: Mike Trout
National League MVP: Clayton Kershaw
Feel free to click the links associated with each award to be taken to my post on it, giving the full reasoning behind my picks. I’m planning to post a blog entry covering the winners of each award when they’re announced towards the middle of next month, comparing my original picks to the winners and giving my overall thoughts, so be sure to check back for that.
As I stated in my American League post, choosing the Most Valuable Player from each league is the most difficult decision of all the major baseball awards handed out at the conclusion of each season. With Rookie of the Year and Cy Young you can look solely at which player had the best overall stats, but Most Valuable Player sometimes involves a bit more than just stats. While it’s important that an MVP winner had a great statistical year, the best offensive player doesn’t automatically become the most valuable.
With that said, it was an even more difficult vote for me this season than it has been in seasons past. There are several players, including Adrian Gonzalez, Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton and Clayton Kershaw, who were all extremely valuable members of their given team in the National League. However, in the end, only one player can win the Most Valuable Player award.
Adrian Gonzalez is one of two Dodgers on my list, but he stands the least chance of the two to win the MVP award, and the least overall shot of all the players on my list. Although he led all of Major League Baseball in RBI’s on the season, with 116, while batting .276 and blasting 17 home runs, Gonzalez still doesn’t quite have the overall numbers to win the Most Valuable Player award. Even so, playing in all but three of the Dodgers’ 162 games, Gonzalez definitely had a great season worthy of recognition.
The current reigning N.L. Most Valuable Player, Andrew McCutchen, posted very similar numbers to the ones he posted in 2013. But although they are extremely close in likeness, McCutchen doesn’t deserved the MVP award this year anymore than I felt he deserved it last year when he won. Batting .314 on the season, with 25 homers and 83 RBI’s, McCutchen surely had a great season. But missing a good portion of the year, and getting outperformed by two other players in the National League, McCutchen will likely have to try again in 2015.
Giancarlo Stanton comes in runner up for the National League MVP award, in my mind. It was a difficult decision to not give him the honor, but finishing out the year on the disabled list, along with another player completely dominating everyone else in the N.L., caused him to just miss out. Still, Stanton posted the best numbers of his career thus far in 2014. Blasting 37 home runs and tallying 105 runs batted in, Stanton was by far one of the top valuable players in the National League, but not quite the most valuable.
For me, the correct choice, although it’s a difficult one — especially given the fact that he’s a pitcher — for the 2014 National League Most Valuable Player award is Clayton Kershaw, who I also have picking up the Cy Young award. Coming back from an injury to begin the year, which caused him to miss the first month of the season, and still winding up leading baseball in wins and ERA is simply remarkable. Notching 21 wins, along with a career best 1.77 ERA, which was nearly half a run better than the next closest ERA in the National League, Kershaw should pick up his first career Most Valuable Player award for his amazing performances all season long.
Choosing the Most Valuable Player from each league is the most difficult decision of all the major baseball awards handed out at the conclusion of each season. With Rookie of the Year and Cy Young you can look solely at which player had the best overall stats, but Most Valuable Player sometimes involves a bit more than just stats. While it’s important that an MVP winner had a great statistical year, the best offensive player doesn’t automatically become the most valuable.
With that said, it was an even more difficult vote for me this season than it has been in seasons past. There are several players, including Corey Kluber, Felix Hernandez, Victor Martinez, Nelson Cruz and Mike Trout, who were all extremely valuable members of their given team in the American League. However, in the end, only one player can win the Most Valuable Player award.
Corey Kluber and Felix Hernandez, while they were both terrific and extremely valuable parts of their team, can quickly be eliminated off the list for Most Valuable Player. Despite the fact that I have them finishing in the top two spots in Cy Young voting with their 2.44 and 2.14 ERA’s, respectively, they simply didn’t post historical stats that overtake the offensive numbers of an everyday position player in the American League. Therefore, while their teams would’ve definitely ended their seasons with much different records without them, neither one has the numbers for MVP.
On the other side of the coin, Victor Martinez posted some of the best numbers in all of the American League, and deserves to at least be in the MVP discussion. After breaking out and blasting 32 home runs and driving in 103 runs, Martinez certainly helped carry a Tigers team that held a lot of issues with their pitching staff, on this a year that Miguel Cabrera posted subpar numbers by his standard. Batting .335 on the season, second to only Jose Altuve in all of baseball, Martinez was one of the most well rounded players this season. Even so, he likely won’t end the year with MVP honors.
Nelson Cruz is one of the top options for American League MVP in my opinion, despite the fact that many people don’t see him as a top choice at all. Coming over to the Orioles in the offseason, and posting career highs in a number of categories, Cruz helped carry the Orioles to the postseason even at times when things weren’t looking too promising. Leading all of baseball in homers, with 40, and driving in over 100 runs for the first time in his career, Cruz had a fantastic season. But it wasn’t good enough to come out on top.
For me, the door has finally opened for Mike Trout to walk away with the 2014 American League Most Valuable Player award. Although his batting average was down from 2013, and his strikeouts were way up, Trout put together an MVP-caliber season to say the least. Along with scoring over 100 runs for the third straight season, Trout also blasted 36 home runs and recorded over 100 RBI’s (111) for the first time in his career. Everything together, after finishing runner up to Miguel Cabrera each of the past two years, the numbers Trout posted in 2014, combined with the down year by Cabrera, make things very likely that Trout will finally receive the Most Valuable Player award for his efforts.
For the first time since May of 2011, the Angels have taken over sole possession of first place in the American League West division. Heading into Monday night tied with the Athletics, who had the night off, the Angels went into Boston looking to pick up an all important win that would give them the lead in the division. Beating the Red Sox 4-2, the Angels now stand a half game ahead of the Athletics in the division, with the best overall record in all of Major League Baseball.
Having been chasing down the Athletics for the first place spot since the weeks approaching the All-Star break, the Angels were finally able to move within striking distance throughout the past month or so, winning 16 of their 29 games since the break. With 2009 being the last time the Angels made the playoffs, they are well on their way to ending the drought, now that they appear to have found their groove.
But it’s certainly taken awhile to get to this point.
After signing Albert Pujols back in 2012, who had recorded 30 or more home runs every season since his debut in 2001, the Angels were expected to do big things in the west. But some bad breaks and poor play by some of their players kept them from fulfilling their potential, finishing third in the division, even with Mike Trout taking home the American League Rookie of the Year award.
Then in 2013, after acquiring yet another star player in Josh Hamilton, the Angels were predicted by many to do dominate the division, but once again, injuries (Pujols missed a major portion of the year) and poor play caused them to tumble, finishing out the season 18 games back of first.
Not exactly what you picture as a bright future.
However, while things had gone terribly wrong in 2012 and 2013, the Angels have put things together so far in 2014. With just over a month remaining in the season, the Angels look to be firing on all cylinders. Mike Trout, who has become one of the game’s youngest superstars, has been having an MVP caliber season, and is on the verge of another 30 home run year. And although Josh Hamilton has been struggling once again this year, Pujols has had a major bounce back season from 2013, approaching 30 home runs for what would be the thirteenth time in his career.
But much of the Angels’ success this season has also come thanks to the overlooked players on their roster, none more so than their leadoff hitter, Kole Calhoun. Having turned into quite the productive player for the Angels, Calhoun has done nothing but get on base time and time again this season, allowing the next hitters of Trout, Pujols and Hamilton to drive him in; being a big reason for their overall success as a team.
On the pitching side of things, Garrett Richards has been fantastic, putting up great numbers, which has been extremely important, with Angels’ standout pitchers C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver both having down years. Without Calhoun and Richards playing the way they have, the Angels could be in a much different position than they currently are.
Though you never truly know what to expect from one season to the next, I’ll be the first to admit that I never saw this type of season coming from the Angels. When I made my final standings predictions back in March, I actually had the Angels finishing fourth, just ahead of the Astros, with the Rangers winning the division. With the Angels in first and the Rangers in dead last, with the worst record in all of baseball, it just goes to show that a few breaks here and there can truly make or break an entire season for any given team.
After a four-day break in baseball action due to the All-Star game and its surrounding festivities up at Target Field, baseball returns tonight. With a full, fifteen game slate set to get the second half of the season going, there are a ton of story lines that are sure to make this portion of the season one of the most captivating in years.
With that in mind, I wanted to go over just a few of the topics worth keeping an eye on in the two and a half months before the postseason rolls around, with my prediction/thoughts on what will take place.
- Which players will be traded before the trade deadline on July 31st?
As of right now — though the likes of Chase Utley, Huston Street and Adrian Beltre have been tossed around — the two players in the spotlight the most when it comes to trade discussion are David Price and Matt Kemp. Both Price and Kemp have been apart of trade talks for awhile, but neither has gone anywhere as of yet. But many people are expecting that to change fairly soon. Price hasn’t been having the type of season that he had a couple of years ago, but he’s still one of the top pitchers in the game today, who will likely bring the Rays a good amount in return, should they decide to deal him.
Kemp is in slightly a different situation that Price, as Price has noted that he doesn’t necessarily want to leave, but Kemp is open to a trade, seeing that he’s currently not being used as an everyday player. Though Kemp has been struggling for a good bit of time due to injuries, when he’s healthy, he’s one of the top superstars in all of baseball. With the outfield situation the Dodgers currently hold — five outfielders for three spots — Kemp will likely be heading somewhere soon.
When Jose Abreu came to the White Sox from Cuba, no one knew fully what to expect from him. But after his first month in the big leagues, everyone knew he was going to be a star for years to come. The first year All-Star set a new rookie home run record for a player’s first month in the majors, and is on the verge of breaking an even bigger record — the most home runs in a season by a rookie.
Mark McGwire set the bar high back in 1987 when he slugged 49 home runs for the Athletics, but Abreu is currently on pace to hit 50 in this his rookie campaign. Even if he doesn’t quite reach that amazing milestone, Abreu is nearly a lock to do what McGwire achieved — win the American League Rookie of the Year award.
- Of the players with poor first halves, which will have a breakout second half?
No player carries the hype that the Nationals’ Bryce Harper does. Coming up back in 2012 and winning the National League Rookie of the Year award, Harper hasn’t yet been able to have the monster season that people had predicted him to put together. Thanks to an injury this season, Harper has played in a mere 34 games to this point, but with him finally healthy, Harper is looking to turn things around and have a breakout second half to the season. With the Nationals tied with the Braves for first place in the division, they could really use a surge from Harper, who has clearly made known that he loves the spotlight. This is his chance to shine.
The Red Sox have failed to meet expectations this season after winning the World Series last year, sitting tied for last place in the American League east with the Rays. Part of the reason for the subpar year to this point has been the subpar performances by many of the players who made big impacts last year, including Xander Bogaerts.
Bogaerts came up for the very last portion of the 2013 season, but he flipped a switch in the postseason, getting important hits in big spots and helping to lead the Red Sox to the championship title. With such a great showing, many people made the prediction that he would make the run for Rookie of the Year this season. Though that’s not going to happen, look for Bogaerts to begin to find his groove in the remainder of the Sox’ games. He’s extremely talented and will surely be able to get things going.
George Springer is having a great season for the Astros, leading the team in RBI’s and tied for the lead in home runs. The only knock to what would be a promising Rookie of the Year campaign is his low .200’s batting average. That’s the one thing that Springer needs to turn around to become the all around star player that people feel he can become.
His power has been evident this year, as has the ability to come through in big spots; and his defense has been impressive as well. With so much talent, having hit .303 with 37 homers last season in the minors, Springer is one of those players that can make the necessary adjustments to get better and better. With the second half of the season beginning, Springer is arguably the players who needs the most watching, as he could have an extremely impressive final few months.
- How many teams can make a solid push at the playoffs?
Probably the most anticipation surrounds the division races, where there are numerous teams that still stand a theoretical shot at one of the ten playoff spots (six division winners, and four wild cards). The Orioles, Tigers, and Athletics currently stand atop their given American League division, with the Nationals and Braves (tied), Brewers and Dodgers holding the first place slot for their National League division. But there are multiple teams that could be in their place once the end of the season rolls around.
The Orioles currently hold a four game lead in the American League East, however, the Blue Jays and Yankees are going to do their part to make the O’s feel pressure in the coming months. While the Blue Jays held the top spot for a long time before falling down a bit, and although the Yankees are struggling to stay in the race, anything can happen, and that’s reason enough to watch the race in the east.
Detroit has a rather big lead over the second place Royals, but after losing the spot to the Royals earlier in the year, they need to keep an eye on Kansas City. It has been “the Royals’ year” for the past several years, with people predicting season after season that they would finally reach their full potential. And therefore, while they won’t likely find themselves beating out the Tigers, they very well could capture one of the wild cards.
One of the most impressive teams for the past few years has been the Athletics. Consisting of players who wouldn’t appear to have much of a shot against the rest of the division on paper, the A’s are once again surprising many. Not far behind them are the Angels, who, led by Mike Trout, have finally been able to see all of their key players make full contributions. Less than two games back of first, the Angels are on the verge of a special season.
The National League East division has the Nationals and the Braves at the top, with both standing a good shot at being there at the end of the season. The only question that remains is which one of the two will finish in second. The Nationals are a better team as a whole, and if Bryce Harper can post superstar caliber numbers, they could run away with things. However, if the Nat’s fail to capitalize, the Braves could once again win the division.
But while the National League East has the closest teams, the NL Central is arguably the most competitive, as three of the four teams chasing the first place Brewers are less than four games back. Those three teams being the Reds, Cardinals and Pirates, any of the three stand a good shot at finishing in first. It will come down to who plays better baseball and finishes out the year on a strong note.
It’s basically a two-team race between the Giants and Dodgers for the first place spot in the National League West. Though it’s not as competitive of a division as most of the others in baseball, it’s going to be exciting to see who goes on a hot streak to take the first place spot. As of right now, the favorites are the Dodgers, who were predicted at the beginning of the year to make the playoffs fairly easily, but the Giants aren’t too far removed from their 2012 World Series title, and could potentially make things interesting.
But the only thing that’s for sure in baseball is that you never know what to expect. Teams that you never thought had a shot can go on a historic streak and shock everyone. And thus, with less than three months to go, the baseball world is in for an action packed finish to the season.
With a 5-3 win over the National League, the American League achieved the All-Star game victory on Tuesday night, and, more significantly, secured the all important home field advantage for this year’s World Series. Though home field advantage is considered by some to be meaningless, with the home team having gone 18-18 in the history of World Series game sevens, given the fact that the past five World Series winners have had home field advantage, it’s proven to give a slight advantage when the Fall Classic rolls around, at least as of late.
But while each and every All-Star game brings it’s share of superstar players who are looking to take home a win, this particular game was noticeably more special than it has been in a long time.
Derek Jeter, who announced back in February that he had planned to retire following the season, was the focus of everyone’s attention. After playing in just 17 games all of last year with an ankle injury, coming back for one final season gave fans all around the country the opportunity to show their appreciation to the captain.
In his fourteenth and final Major League Baseball Midsummer Classic, the entire ballpark took the time to acknowledge the brilliance of Jeter’s two decade career in pinstripes, giving him a loud cheer upon his introduction and a long standing ovation for his first at-bat of the game.
On cue, Jeter drove the second pitch from Adam Wainwright down the right field line, pulling into second base with a double — good old-fashioned Derek Jeter baseball. With a triple off the outfield wall, Mike Trout drove in Jeter for the game’s first run, and was promptly driven in by Miguel Cabrera, who blasted a home run to left field to give the American League a quick 3-0 lead.
The National League would answer back in the top of the second, with an Aramis Ramirez single, followed by a pair of doubles from Chase Utley and Jonathan Lucroy, which brought the score to within one run, to 3-2.
Jeter came up to the plate in his second and final at-bat of the game (his final All-Star at-bat of his career) in the third, and he once again found a way to bloop a hit out into right field — something he’s done numerous times in his career. With that hit, Jeter raised his career All-Star game average up to a staggering .481 average (just a few back of the best career Midsummer Classic average of all time) and became the oldest player in history to record a multi hit All-Star game.
Taking to the field in the top of the fourth, Derek Jeter was replaced by Alexei Ramirez before the inning got going, and exited the game to a standing ovation. After giving the crowd a curtain call, Jeter returned to the dugout where he would take in the remainder of the game, which saw many great plays, and tons of excitement.
In the very inning that Jeter was removed, the National League, with the help of a Jonthan Lucroy double that scored the speedy Dee Gordon from first (Gordon had just replaced Chase Utley) tied the game at three aside. But it wouldn’t last long. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Mike Trout and Alexei Ramirez each drove in a run after a few hits put players on the bases, taking the score up to 5-3 in favor of the American League.
Things would stay right there through the ninth inning, when hometown guy, Glen Perkins, came in to close out the game. Going down 1-2-3, the National League didn’t have a comeback in them on Tuesday night, and the American League won the game, thanks to a save by Perkins who is one of the most underrated closers in the game.
Although it was Jeter’s final All-Star game, Mike Trout ended up taking home the Most Valuable Player award, having gone 2-3 with a couple of RBI’s on a triple and a double. Though many people felt it would’ve been story book for Jeter to win the MVP, Trout was certainly deserving of the honor.
In his third All-Star game, Trout becomes the second youngest player to win the game’s Most Valuable Player (Ken Griffey Jr. was the only player younger), and there’s no doubt that Trout will play in numerous more Midsummer Classics, with a good shot that he will pick up a few more MVP’s in the process.
In the end, while it was a competitive All-Star game that went back and forth, there’s one thing from the entire event that will forever stand out in people’s mind. Sure, people may remember the great pitching performances by the American League; they’ll probably remember the great MVP caliber game that Mike Trout put together. But the one thing that everyone will remember the most is Derek Jeter and the final All-Star memory he instilled upon all who witnessed it.
That will stick with people for a lifetime.
Sunday marked the last day of MLB games until after the All-Star break, and although the baseball world is looking forward to seeing Giancarlo Stanton put on a show in tonight’s home run derby (he’s the favorite to win), I wanted to focus my attention on the players who have posted amazing performances throughout the first half of the season.
For this post, I’m covering the players who I feel stand the best chance right now (given, it’s still early) of winning the three major awards of Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year and Cy Young. All three awards have multiple players who can be argued as being deserving, but I have my own opinion as to who deserves each award the most at this point in the season.
Most Valuable Player Award
American League: This is finally the year that Mike Trout wins the American League Most Valuable Player award. At least, that’s what many people are hoping. After posting amazing stats each of the past two seasons (25+ HR’s, 30+ SB’s) many felt Trout deserves to have already won an MVP or two in his career (each year the MVP went to Miguel Cabrera).
Even so, while there are a few other players being Nelson Cruz, Edwin Encarnacion and the always consistent Miguel Cabrera in the conversation, the Angels are nearing the top of the division thanks to another great season from Trout, who’s at the top of his game.
National League: Troy Tulowitzki is having an amazing year. Andrew McCutchen is having an even better season than the MVP one he put together last year. But Giancarlo Stanton is doing something extremely special.
No, he doesn’t have the astronomical batting average that Tulo possesses (mid .300’s), but Stanton’s power bat is keeping a counted out Marlins team in the running, despite some rough patches as of late.
Whether or not the Marlins turn things around is yet to be seen, but even if they don’t, Stanton is doing enough for him to pick up the NL MVP, in my mind.
Rookie of the Year Award
American League: It’s very likely that the running for the 2014 AL Rookie of the Year award is going to come down to two players once all is said and done — Jose Abreu and Masahiro Tanaka. On the offensive side, Abreu’s closest rival is George Springer, who’s been one of the few bright spots for the Astros, but is batting in the low .200’s.
Abreu leads all rookies in hits, homers, slugging percentage and RBI’s, and while Masahiro Tanaka has been the pitching equivalent of Abreu — leading rookies in wins — a recent UCL injury to Tanaka will likely push Abreu over the top.
National League: Despite getting off to a slow start to his rookie campaign, speedster Billy Hamilton has made adjustments that have enabled him to succeed on the major league level.
Although thought of as mainly a speed threat — having stolen 38 bases so far this year — Hamilton has also proven to many that he can handle the bat.
Showing a little power, blasting six home runs, and coming through big, leading all National League rookies in RBI’s, with 38, Hamilton is truly the only current above average NL candidate for the Rookie of the Year award.
Cy Young Award
American League: Scott Kazmir and Masahiro Tanaka (and even Garrett Richards) are arguably in the running for American League Cy Young, but as of right now, Felix Hernandez is the front runner. Finally receiving some run support, Hernandez holds an 11-2 record to go along with a dismal 2.12 ERA over twenty games started this year.
Striking out nearly ten batters per nine innings pitched, the Mariners’ ace has proven why he’s been coined “The King” in Seattle. Hernandez could very well be crowned with the Cy Young award when the end of the season arrives.
National League: In my opinion, the NL Cy Young is Adam Wainwright’s to lose at this point. Though the runner up to Wainwright in ERA, Johnny Cueto (Kershaw doesn’t yet qualify due to innings pitched), has a legitimate case for the Cy Young, Wainwright has been unbelievable this season.
Holding opponents to a mere 1.83 ERA, Wainwright has played a big part in keeping the Cardinals near the top of the division, sitting just one game back of the first place Brewers. If Wainwright can keep up the amazing pitching, he could receive his first career Cy Young award for his 2014 campaign.
Whether or not you agree or disagree with my picks for who deserves each award at this point in the season, one thing is for sure: there is still a lot of season left where any player can have anything happen. With 17 of the 30 teams at .500 or better, in terms of win-losses go, regardless of the award races, the games following the mid-summer classic are sure to make for one of the most exciting second halves in years.