Posts Tagged ‘BBBA’

Picking apart the top guy in the National League this year is no easy task. There was brilliance at the plate, as well as over and above dominance on the mound that was worth noting as well. There were also shifts in the waves of impact across the year as well. From the hot start of Tulowitzki and Puig, to the way that Lucroy and Kershaw threw their clubs on their backs, as well as the postseason clinching efforts of McCutchen and Posey. But with all things considered, there was one man’s effort that literally overpowered the rest of the pack and stood out above the rest. Here is his story….

2014 National League Stan Musial Player of the Year—Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins


“Most Valuable Player” is a term that, at best, is variously defined. Sometimes it is the biggest stat monster, while in other cases it is the player whose presence made the biggest difference on the course of the season. I personally tend to graze the fence between those two elements and think of it as the player who makes the biggest impact on the season, where his performance made the biggest day-to-day impact, while also improving his team’s fortunes and changing the layout of the season.

Giancarlo Stanton checked off each of these boxes with ease this season. The rhetoric on Stanton has been that he is one of the game’s great young talents, BUT….then the conversation always took away from what he was accomplishing on the field. Between injuries, playing for a perpetual lame duck franchise and being the favorite trade rumor on the yearlong hot stove league, what he was actually capable of on the field was taking a backseat.

Yet the receipts that Stanton turned in this summer were enough to drown out any other background noise around his play, because what he accomplished was a thorough destruction of all things pitching related, and in the course of it all, he raised the Marlins into immediate respectability as well. During his year 24 season, Stanton crushed NL pitching to the tone of a league-best 37 home runs. And they were not just run of the mill shots either, as quite often they were the type outfielders or pitchers do not bother turning around to see land either. His “average” (because these type of shots are common for him alone) long ball checked in on average at 415 feet, and defined the term ‘moonshot’ by getting up to 85 feet high and leaving the park at 107 mph, on average. He hit seven shot that went at least 450 feet this year, including a 484 shot in April that flat out defied logic. That is a complete obliteration of the baseball, and he made it his specialty this summer.

But there was more to Stanton than just his signature impact, as he began to round out his game even more. He set career-highs in RBI (105), hits (155), doubles (31), runs scored (89), stolen bases (13), walks (90) and posted his second-best batting average of his career with a .288 mark, despite playing in 22 more games than he did when he set his career high of .290 in 2012. The 37 long balls tied his career best also set in 2012, while his 299 total bases led the National League too, as did his .555 slugging percentage.

Pitchers attempted to wise up to approaching Stanton, and intentionally avoided him 24 times this year, one less time than he been purposefully passed in his entire career to date. But that approach did not breed the expected results, because it put Stanton in place to create opportunity for the other emergent Marlins on the year and created a far better outcome than was expected. With Stanton both as a conduit of run production and an element to be created around, the Fish improved by 15 games from the previous season, even without their emergent star in pitcher Jose Fernandez. This is a credit to having their premier property in Stanton both available, producing and maturing throughout the entire season.

His season was brought to sudden, and scary, stop in mid-September when he was hit in the face by a pitch. Subsequently, the Marlins (smartly) shut his season down, but Stanton is mostly back to good health and in position to return to the field on time next season. But while the clipped schedule on the year shorted him likely from a 40 home run year and an RBI title (where he finished second to Adrian Gonzalez), it should not take away from the fact that no other player made a more decisive difference more often than Giancarlo did. And therefore, he deserves the year’s top NL nod for works done and the path he not only laid, but drug into place this year.

Runners Up

  1. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers: I discussed the brilliance of Kershaw’s year in his Pitcher of the Year column, and he did make a calculable push for MVP as well. No player made a bigger difference in the direction of the pennant chase than he did and he had one of the great seasons in recent history off the mound.
  2. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates: He finds a new way to steer the Pirates every season, and an MVP-caliber year is his norm. This year he finished third in average (.314), first in on-base percentage (.410) and topped 20 home runs and 80 RBI for the fourth straight year, while playing a brilliant center field as well.
  3. Buster Posey, Giants: He went into overdrive in the second half, hitting .354 after the break and finishing fourth in the NL with a .311 average. Once again spearheaded a Giant charge into September.
  4. Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers: He had a brilliant overall year, pulling himself into the talk for the NL’s elite at catcher. He led the Majors with 53 doubles, 46 of which set an MLB record for a catcher.
  5. Anthony Rendon, Nationals: In a team full of bigger names, he was the most important property. Rotating between second and third base as needed, Rendon posted 21 homers, 39 doubles, 83 RBI and 17 stolen bases.
  6. Josh Harrison, Pirates: His breakout year was crucial to filling the many capacities he did for the Pirates. The first-time All-Star spent time at second and third base, shortstop, left and right field, and nearly took the NL batting title as well, hitting for a .315 second place finish.
  7. Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers: He played a brilliant first base and led the NL in RBI at 116. Gonzo added 41 doubles to his resume as well, and was the key run producer for the talented Dodger lineup.
  8. Yaisel Puig, Dodgers: He did a little bit of this and little bit of that, providing whatever was needed for LA at the given time. Puig hit .296 with 16 homers, 69 RBI and played his sometimes awe-inspiring (and sometimes confounding) game on the bases and with the glove.
  9. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies: Oh what could have been. Tulo’s most brilliant campaign to date was once again curbed by injured. When his season ended in August, he was sporting a .340 average, with 21 homers and 69 RBI in just 315 at-bats.

Previous CSP Votes

2013: Yadier Molina, Cardinals

2012: Buster Posey, Giants

2011: Ryan Braun, Brewers



Stan Musial Players of the Year Awards

NL: Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins—.288 avg/37 HR/105 RBI, 31 doubles, .555 slugging %

AL: Mike Trout, Anaheim Angels—.287 avg/36 HR/111 RBI, 39 doubles, 115 runs scored


Walter Johnson Pitchers of the Year Awards

NL: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers—21-3 record, 1.77 ERA, 239 strikeouts, 6 complete games

AL: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners—15-6 record, 2.14 ERA, 248 strikeouts, .200 average against


Willie Mays Rookie of the Year Awards

NL: Jacob deGrom, New York Mets—9-6 record, 2.69 ERA, 144 strikeouts, 22 starts

AL: Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox—.317 avg/36 HR/107 RBI, 35 doubles, .581 slugging %


Goose Gossage Relief Pitcher of the Year Awards

NL: Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves—47 saves, 1.61 ERA, 92% saves converted, 13.9 strikeouts/9

AL: Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals—46 saves, 1.44 ERA, 96% saves converted, 90 strikeouts


Connie Mack Managers of the Year Awards

NL: Bruce Bochy, San Francisco Giants: 88-74 record, 2nd place NL West; Wild Card winner

AL: Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles: 96-66 record, 1st place AL East; First division title since 1997

2014 is now officially in the books in the Cheap Seats, and onward to 2015. Stay locked here for more on the upcoming free agent blitz, as w@CheapSeatFanell as a variety of other biz as well. And if you need to now in the moment, as always follow on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

The boys came to play in the American League this summer. Plenty of strong cases were made for the league’s top honor, with a mixture of standard bearers, returns to form and breakout campaigns. But in the end It was the coming of age proved to be undeniable in deciding who was the top gun in the junior circuit. And when all things are considered, it really ended up not being that close. Because the unstoppable force simply refused to be denied any longer.

2014 American League Stan Musial Player of the Year—Mike Trout, Anaheim Angels


The coming of age has come to be. The rise of Mike Trout has been far from a secret; he has been baseball’s hottest commodity for the past three summers. However, before this summer is that there has always been a caveat to his status as the prime property in the game. Whether it was Miguel Cabrera’s undeniable run at the plate or the struggles of the Angels in light of their expectation, there has consistently been something that has stood in the way of crowning the game’s most precociously best talent with its premier prize.

But the summer of 2014 saw the irresistible force breakthrough completely. What Trout has done most remarkably in his young career is answer the task that

His ever maturing game took another turn this year, as he embraced more of the run-producing element of his game this year. Trout muscled up and hit a career-best 36 home runs, the third best total in the AL this year. He added another career-high with 111 RBI, as well as total bases with 338, both ranking as the top totals in the AL. In addition, he paced the league in runs scored for a third straight year with 115 and finished in the top 10 in doubles with 39 and second with 9 triples.

Yet at the cost of power, some of the categories that he had previously dominated took a slight dip. His averaged finished at .287, the first time he posted a full-season total below .300 (although it still finished in the top 15 in the league) and his stolen bases clipped down to 16. Also, his strikeouts jumped up to a league-high 184.

Those factors could be seen as it being a down year of sorts for Trout. Or perhaps a return to the mean after an unbelievably overwhelming start to his career. However, there was still no more important player in all aspects of the game for his team than Trout, as while he dipped in some areas, he morphed his game into exact what the Angels needed most this year.

With Josh Hamilton out of the mix with injuries, the need for a middle of the lineup run producer was needed much more than a table-setting spark plug at the top of the lineup. So when call was made for help there, Trout answered and channeled his talents into fueling one the AL’s most potent offenses. He drove in 20 runs in three separate months and hit at least five home runs in each month. While his overall average slid some, he hit .321 in April and .361 in June.

Measuring him at the plate alone still limits the overall contributions he made. He is still the glue that holds together the Angels outfield, covering the confines of centerfield easily with some athleticism to burn. On the base paths, he puts pitchers on alert and eats extra bases for any ball that either finds a gap or a step too slow outfielder. That is why is he the visual explanation to the mystery of the Wins Above Replacement figure—which he has led the Majors in each full year of his career, including the 7.9 indispensable wins he created this time around—there is simply nothing that is outside of his reach.

He plays the game hard every time out, puts on a the full buffet of talents seemingly on-demand and for the first time, is playing it to win, as the Angels took home the AL’s best record at 98-64. When the most talented player in the game also does all of the small things more consistently than anyone else, there is not much that can be done to stop him. And that is what makes Trout so special.

And the best part about it all: it’s only beginning. Trout Version 3.0 is the MVP, just as Versions 1.0 and 2.0 laid legit claim to, albeit in completely different fashions. It is fairly certain that Version 4.0 will take the same path, but I am already looking forward to how he goes about it.

Runners Up

  1. Victor Martinez, Tigers: He was a hitting machine this year for the Tigers, often being the team’s top bat, which is saying a lot when Miguel Cabrera is a part of your lineup. He led the AL in on-base percentage (.409) and finished second with a .335 batting average, and connected for a career-best 32 home runs. He only struck out in 6% of his 641 plate appearances (42 times).
  2. Jose Altuve, Astros: Houston mighty mite posted the top average in the game at .341 and led the AL with 56 stolen bases. He also ran up a club record 225 hits while becoming the first Astro to win a batting title.
  3. Michael Brantley, Indians: It all came together for Brantley this year, as he posted one of most well-rounded campaigns in the game this year. His .327 average was third in the AL, while he also hit 20 home runs, 45 doubles, stole 23 bases and 200 total hits.
  4. Adam Jones, Orioles: Jones carried the weight both at the plate and in the field for the beat up, yet still division champion O’s. He hit 29 home runs and drove in 96, while playing perhaps the best defensive center field in the league.
  5. Josh Donaldson, Athletics: The intense leader of the A’s played his usual brilliant two-way game, driving in 98 runs and playing a far and away best third base in the game with the glove (2.7 dWAR).
  6. Nelson Cruz, Orioles: He led the AL with 40 home runs during his comeback season, and drove in 108 runs as well.
  7. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays: Joey Bats health stayed faithful to him, and he got back to destroying baseball to the tone of 35 homers, 103 RBI and scored 101 runs scored.
  8. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: A “down year” for Miggy has basically become one where he doesn’t win at least a batting title, and while he did not reach that mark this year, he did lead the Majors with 52 doubles and crossed 100 RBI for the 11th straight year.
  9. Robinson Cano, Mariners: The home runs weren’t as high, but his Seattle debut was definitely a success. He hit .314 with 82 RBI while reviving competitive baseball in the northwest.

Past CSP Votes

2013: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

2012: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

2011: Justin Verlander, Tigers

The nod for this award in the Baseball Bloggers Alliance goes towards Walter Johnson, and rightfully so. He unquestionably dominated his era to the point that it is still a relevant mile marker for pitching greatness 90+ years later. However, the king of today’s hill is rightfully making his own impact as well, so for the easiest award of the year its not so much about proving it, but rather trying to ground it some in reality. Because what he’s doing right now seems to be unrealistically great….sort of like the namesake of this honor did back in his day.




2014 National League Walter Johnson Award Winner—Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

Sometimes when one writes a defense for a choosing a particular player for an award, there is a need to justify it. In other cases there is the push to draw the line between that player and perhaps one or two others. But for Clayton Kershaw, it has reached the point that he is the presumptive holder of the award from the time he takes his first step on the mound in April, and then it is on everyone else to try to take it from him five months in advance. The game’s preeminent ace is far and away the top arm in the game; that is not in dispute. Yet showing just how far off he is from the pack—as well as the historic context he is beginning to reach—is truly what is most impressive about him from a pitching perspective only.

What sets the greats apart from the pack is how regularly superb they actually are. Not a ‘quality start’ (or whatever that is considered to be in today’s game), but a truly excellent outing that would be of huge note for most pitchers, but what’s standard operating procedure from him. For kicks, let’s just say that is eight innings, with at least nine strikeouts and two or fewer walks. Out of his 27 starts on the year, he met those measures eight times. That’s 29% of his outings that can be considered excellent. Moving on.

So let us say that we open up those parameters just a bit further, and lower the strikeout qualifier to eight, the innings requirement to seven and then add in 2 or fewer runs surrendered. Kershaw posted a line that meets those qualifications 19 times. So in 66% of his starts this year, he went at least seven innings, while surrendering two or fewer runs, walking two or less batters and striking out nine. That’s a highlight start for many a pitcher throughout the year, but he regularly met it.

Along the way, the a la carte numbers were stupendous as well: the seven games in double digit strikeouts, the eight walks over the course of two months in June-July, the 41 inning scoreless streak and obviously the no-hitter on June 18th which ranks among the greatest performances in MLB history.

Going back to the sustainable dominance idea, it continues to get more and more impressive. After June 29th, his ERA was never over 2.00 again for the rest of the season.  He had two months were he won every start he made, going 10-0 in June and September. From June 2 through August 5th, his ERA was 0.94 (nine earned runs over 86 innings). To round it all together, he led the NL in nine separate categories and came up three strikeouts short of his second pitcher’s Triple Crown.

And even with all of this accounted for, there is still a “what if” factor in this as well. He missed the entire month of April with a back injury, which left perhaps another five starts on the table. Despite this all, he still ranked first in the NL in wins with 21, second in strikeouts with 239 (three behind the leaders) and still pitched nearly 200 innings. In sort, he was nearly a fifth of the starts on the year behind most of the league but not only pitched to far higher quality per start, but it was such a high quality that it reached the same bar in quantity as well.

In the course of it all, he continued to push one of the great runs in starting pitching in any era to yet another level. He won the MLB ERA title for a record fourth consecutive year (2.28, 2.53, 1.83 and 1.77), and at the age of only 26, continues his precocious run through the game.

Personally, I have given him my best hurler in the NL vote for the past three years and it does not seem to be a push that will deviate any time soon. It is an incomparable run that is quickly placing him among the giants of any era on the mound; far more than just the year-to-year National League field.

Runners Up

  1. Johnny Cueto, Reds: Cueto’s coming of age season included him taking home a share of the NL strikeout lead (242) and meeting 20 wins for the first time as well. He also led the league in innings pitched (243.2) and lowest average against (.194), finished with a sub-1.00 WHIP and an ERA of 2.25, second to only Kershaw.
  2. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals: The Redbird workhorse reached 20 wins for the second time in his career, while posting a personal-best 2.38 ERA. He had led the MLB in most starts of over seven innings and 2 or fewer runs yielded and led the NL with three shutouts as well. He was the NL Pitcher of the Month in September, and was the NL All-Star Game starter.
  3. Zack Greinke, Dodgers: The game’s best #2 affirmed that fact again, winning a career-high 17 games while striking out 207. He completed an MLB record of 22 straight games of two or fewer runs yielded as well.
  4. Madison Bumgarner, Giants: Greater glory awaited in October, but the first six months of the year were not too bad for Mad Bum either. He won 18 games and finished fourth in the NL with 219 k’s, setting a team record for lefty strikeouts in the process.


Past Winners

2013: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

2012: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

2011: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers


Two awards left to give, and we’ll see how it shakes out in real-time as well. Until then follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan for the word in the works.

It’s coming down the awards season stretch here in the CHEAP SEATS, and now the heavy lifting is getting under way. In a year that saw many men carry the role, pulling apart the best arm in the American League this year is no easy task. However, when the dust settles, there was a standard issue performance from one of the game’s top hurlers that set the mark yet again. And this time around, he deserves the oft-missed spotlight for his works…


2014 American League Walter Johnson Pitcher of the Year—Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners

Without a doubt, Felix Hernandez has long sat among the upper rung of the elite pitchers in the game. I mean, while the validity of some nicknames (ah em, ‘Big Game’ comes to mind) can be disputed, “King Felix” is not one that is contested too often. Every season he turns in as an excellent of an all-around performance as could be imagined, but it always seems to come with a caveat of some sort—mostly created by his teammates.

The Mariners have long been a middling club that has kept him from what should be a career overflowing with victories. However, just once in his career has Hernandez come even close to 20 victories, when he notched 19 back in 2009. Otherwise, his season totals have ranged mostly between 12 and 14 a year, not exactly what you would expect from an “elite” starter, regardless of the emphasis one places on pitcher victories as a marker of success.

However, one thing that Felix has mastered is the art of bringing to the forefront art of measuring a pitcher’s worth in spite of lack of creditable victories. And once again in 2014 the King showed that he showcases the best-rounded dominance of any arm in the AL, and that the true success is in the details.

So, from the very beginning of this assessment of his year, throw out the wins category, at least for now. We will come back to it later. But here is what he did otherwise: finished in the top five in innings pitched (236, 2nd), strikeouts (248, 4th), WHIP (0.92, 1st), games started (34, 1st), quality start percentage (79%, 3rd) and batting average against (.200, 1st).

That is an awesome assortment of areas that show just how impressive his summer was in how they contradict each other. He held batters to the lowest average against in the league while pitching the most innings. He was a regular terror as well, making the most starts in the MLB this year, but surrendering the least amount baserunners by his own cause, with a walks + hits figure of under one per inning. His 248 strikeouts were a new career-high as well, while his 46 walks tied his career-low set a year ago.

However, what’s more is that he finally pitched in some meaningful baseball games. It was the first time that he got to perform in a true ace-like environment, in the midst of a September push for the postseason, which despite finishing on the fringe of, he proved his mettle in completely. As the stretch went on, he remained equally effective. Posting first and second half splits of a 2.12 ERA before the break, and a 2.16 mark after, including a 1.66 ERA in 38 September innings. He lowered opponents averages to .197 in the second half and allowed one run or fewer in four of six starts in the season’s final month.

And as for the victories, they came. 15 in total, his second highest single-season mark of his career. And while there were a number of hurlers that finished ahead of him in that category, none made a more indelible mark off the mound than the King did. And that’s why he deserves the throne and they deserve the court.


Runners Up

  1. Corey Kluber, Indians: The breakout star of the year in the AL, Kluber rose to the top of the Cleveland rotation and in the course of the season, became one of the league’s premier power arms. In his third year, he finished tied for the league lead in victories with 18, while he finished second in strikeouts with 269 and third in ERA at 2.44. His second half ERA of 1.73 was tops among all full-time starters in the MLB.
  2. Chris Sale, White Sox: It was high quality over sheer quantity for Sale, but he continued his ascension up the hill of premier pitchers in the game. The side winding lefty finished with the second best ERA in the AL at 2.17 and held opponents to a .205 batting average. He worked at least six innings in 18 of his final 19 starts, while striking out at least nine in eight of those contests.
  3. Max Scherzer, Tigers: He decisively proved the critics wrong that said the 2013 Cy Young winner was foolish for not taking the money while his stock was at its peak. His 2014 effort, while not an award winning one, was once again among the best in either league. He went 18-5, while posting a career-best 252 strikeouts, so the evidence does still point towards he’s getting even better.
  4. Jon Lester, Athletics/Red Sox: The grizzly lefty carried over his World Series momentum into the new year and posted one of his best all-around seasons ever. Split between Oakland and Boston, he a 16-11 record and finished with a 2.46 ERA, the lowest mark of his career by nearly a full run.


Past Winners

2013: Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers

2012: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

2011: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers


For more of the Award Tour as it makes its rounds, stay tuned here on CSP. For the in the moment words and reaction, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan, which is built for that type of thing. Ya know.

The MLB awards season continues here today, but where the games usually ended this past summer. It’s time to recognize the top relief pitchers in each league, one that is fairly familiar to these parts, and another that may very well be on his way to digging in the same fashion…



2014 National League Goose Gossage Winner—Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves

It is becoming old hat at this point for this nod to go the Braves fireballer. Well actually, the hat probably looks about as worn out as Kimbrel’s does by September, because since he took ahold of the Braves’ reins in the ninth innings four years ago, he has set the curve for all relievers in the game.

For the fourth consecutive year, he landed at least a share of the NL saves title, this time notching 47 in 51 opportunities. It is the third straight season he converted at least 92% of his save chances, and by reaching at least 40 saves this past year, he became the third player to ever reach that mark in four consecutive seasons.

To be only 26 years old, his performances are becoming regularly aligned with history at quite an early rate. He is already the all-time saves leader in Atlanta, as well as becoming the only player to begin his career with four saves titles. Via his combo of power fastball, which he varies between 95-to-100 mph at will, and spiking curveball that scrapes 90 mph itself, he has become a strikeout factory. He became the fastest pitcher to ever reach 400 K’s this year, needing just over 230 innings to reach the mark (a rate of 14.8 k’s per nine innings). For his career, he has rang up strikeouts against 42% of his opponents, and he allowed six less baserunners than innings pitched this year.

The numbers are regularly impressive, but what he represented in Atlanta has continued to increase in value yearly. He is the lynch pin of the Brave pitching staff, the truest example of what it means to make playing a team an “8 inning affair”. In a year where the Braves bullpen had to confront more injuries than in many others, his presence assured that the end result remained the same.

And has long as he continues to man the ninth with that signature glare into home plate, beating the Braves stands to be task done much easier earlier than later.

Runner Up 1: Aroldis Chapman, Reds

Runner Up 2: Mark Melanco, Pirates



2014 American League Goose Gossage Relief Pitcher of the Year—Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals

The American League’s answer to Kimbrel is another compact, fireballer that keeps the opportunities to an absolute minimum. In fact, Holland was even more proficient in slamming the door shut, closing out 46 of the 48 opportunities he was presented with. It was a continuation of the reputation he put into the atmosphere last year: Greg Holland is the best in the biz in the junior circuit.

His 5’10 and barely 200 pound structure belies the fact that he possesses some of the most overpowering raw stuff in the game. Holland’s 46 saves were good for second in the AL, while he converted at least 96% of his chances, the top mark in the league. The top gun in the three-headed KC monster pen of Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera continued his dominant fashion in how he goes about his business, striking out 90 batters in just over 60 innings and allowing only 57 baserunners on the year—of which only 10 runs were credit against him, for an ERA of 1.44.

One of the Royals great strengths as they made their first run to the postseason in 29 years was the reliability of its bullpen. With Holland—who made his second All-Star appearance in as many years—leading the way, the KC bullpen tied for the AL lead in saves, led in save percentage and yielded the third fewest bases of any AL unit. For Holland, it continued a two year streak where he has posted an unworldly

line of converting 93-of-99 save opportunities, while posting a 1.32 ERA over his last 129.1 innings and striking out 193 batters against only 38 walks and a .170 average against him.

The question of who would be the next standard bearer in the ninth inning after Mariano Rivera walked away seemed to be simply answered by saying Kimbrel. But Holland is making quite the push to make that a “not so fast” conclusion.

Runner Up 1: Fernando Rodney, Mariners

Runner Up 2: Jake McGee, Rays


Past Winners:

2013: Craig Kimbrel (Braves), Koji Uehara (Red Sox)

2012: Craig Kimbrel (Braves), Fernando Rodney (Rays)


For more commentary on the awards year, the free agent bonanza to boom and the game just being the game, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan


MLB award season continues on here in the CHEAP SEATS, as it is time to turn to the youth of the game and give a nod to the best first time around the block in each league this year. All in all, it was not the most impressive or impact year for rookies as a whole, at least not to the standards that we have gotten accustomed to in recent years. But that does not mean there were not a few exceptions to the rule and here are my selections for the best of the both baseball world’s rookie classes this season.



2014 Willie Mays American League Rookie of the Year Award—Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox

The “Easy Button” award pick for the year was to come to the conclusion that Jose Abreu was the top rookie in the American League this season. Really, it may be the most far and away easy calls in the award’s history, which is a fairly significant nod because it was not a bad year for AL first timers by any stretch. Masahiro Tanaka was phenomenal for half of the year, while Jordano Ventura showed some exhilarating promise as well. George Springer set the world on fire for a while, and his teammate Colin McHugh made his presence felt all summer.

More often than not, Rookie of the Year nods are the best comparable numbers available. But Abreu’s season transcended his service time; he has instantly become one of the best hitters in all of baseball. His prodigious debut included 36 home runs, 107 RBI and a .317 batting average, totals that were good enough for top five finishes in the AL in each category. He led the White Sox in over eight statistical categories and twice was named not only Rookie of the Month, but also Player of the Month as well.

Coming into the year, his power potential was mythical of sorts, known from his appearances in the World Baseball Classic and varied stories of his feats pulled off in the various leagues in Cuba he dominated as well. The White Sox wasted no time in making a major commitment to the tone of $68 million over six years to the slugger, a deal that now looks like a deal.

He made an instant impact by setting an MLB-record with 10 first month home runs, including two multi-homer games. In the course of setting this mark, he also broke the rookie record for RBI in a month with 31. In his months of winning the Rookie/Player of the month, he hit for a .269/10/31 slash in April, and then a .374/6/19 in July across 109 plate appearances.

He later added on a 21-game hitting streak to his second half total, and garnered an All-Star Game nod during his debut year as well. It was the type of debut that sets quite a standard for an encore, but the White Sox new cornerstone has the tools to remain a fixture among the league’s elite.

Runner Up 1: Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees

Runner Up 2: Yordano Ventura, Royals



2014 Willie Mays National League Rookie of the Year—Jacob deGrom, New York Mets


Jacob deGroom did not show up to the season with the hype of a top prospect build or the expectation of carrying the weight from the onset of his rookie year. But by May the young righty found himself making his Major League debut—against the ultimate crosstown rivals in the Yankees no less—and affirmed the fact that he was going to be more than just a spot fill in. He spun seven innings of one run ball that day and launched his path towards becoming the preeminent rookie hurler in the Majors this year.

He was stunningly consistent for his age, with out of his 22 outings, 17 counted as quality starts. deGrom finished with a record of 9-6 and an ERA of 2.69, while notching 121 strikeouts in 140.1 innings pitched. He reached double digits in K’s in three separate outings, including notching 13 versus the Marlins in September, in which he struck out the first eight batters he faced, tying the MLB record to begin a game. Overall, he only surrendered more than three earned runs twice over the course of the year, and either lost or took a no-decision in four games where he went at least six innings and surrendered two or fewer runs.

His strong debut assured the Mets that they could potentially feature one of the strongest young trios of arms in the Majors over the next few years, with Zack Wheeler and the returning Matt Harvey. And while he doesn’t boast the overwhelming power potential that either of his rotation mates does, he understands the game and how to attack hitters in a cerebral fashion. The understanding of the game is there, the results are clear and one the more impressive Rookie of the Year sleepers in recent memory will definitely continue to turn more heads in his direction as his career continues on.

Runner Up 1: Billy Hamilton, Reds

Runner Up 2: Kolten Wong, Cardinals


Past Winners:

2013: Jose Fernandez, Marlins; Wil Myers, Rays

2012: Bryce Harper, Nationals; Mike Trout, Angels

2011: Craig Kimbrel, Braves; Jeremy Hellickson, Rays



As a part of my annual duties as a member of the Baseball Blogger Alliance of America, I submit my picks for Major League Baseball’s annual award parade via a series of entries here in the Cheap Seats. Without further delay, it is time to begin this year’s round up as I see fit.



2014 Connie Mack American League Manager of the Year—Buck Showalter

Keeping the boat steady without one of your most pivotal players is a tough, yet expected job for any Major League Manager. In an extreme case, even two of them. However, being able to do that while continuing to both lose talent, but rise up the standings is the divider mark between a good and great manager. It is safe to say to say that Buck Showalter is firmly established in the fraternity of extraordinary managers in the game today.

In a year where the Baltimore Orioles lost no less than catcher Matt Wieters, third baseman Manny Machado and first baseman Chris Davis, all either current or just a year removed All-Stars, Showalter produced his finest finish in the Orange and Black thus far. He managed to guide the Orioles to their first division championship in 18 years—and by a 12 game margin. It was the largest margin of victory for an American League East crown since 2001.

However, the loss of those standard bearers for the team was far from the only situation that he kept the wheels of the club moving forward with, in spite of other malfunctions. When original closer Tommy Hunter proved not to be up to chops, he handed the job to a formerly middling starter in Zack Britton, who went on to become one of the most effective ninth inning men in the game.

As always, he fearlessly blend his full pitching staff into one cohesive unit that was able to thrive despite not having a clear cut frontline starter amongst them. As a team, the Baltimore pitching staff’s 3.43 team ERA was third best in the AL, while as individual units the starting and relief staffs both finished with top five ERAs.

Buck’s all in approach carried over to the everyday lineup as well, where he was able to pull a prolific team offense out of his depleted troops. While it is easy to “stick with” Adam Jones and Nelson Cruz, he used Steve Pearce, Delmon Young, Alejandro De Aza and Nick Hundley in vital spots to make up for the everyday impact losses.

All things considered, Showalter won because knew his guys and put a blend of them together that was not quite the B team, but it is beyond fair to say their final result was far greater than it should have been. But it was Showalter who made all the difference in nearly B team turning out a grade A result.

Runner Up 1: Mike Scioscia, Angels

Runner Up 2: Terry Francona, Indians


2014 Connie Mack National League Manager of the Year—Bruce Bochy, San Francisco Giants

Bruce Bochy is not new to the elite manager scene. After all, he’s won more World Series than any other active manager in baseball and is the longest tenured skipper in senior circuit, having guided the San Francisco Giants since 2006. Yet while many other managers have their names brought up more frequently as the best in the business at guiding the game, there have been few that have done as concisely good of a job as Bochy has. And his 2014 campaign may be his greatest feat to date.

Saddled with a banged up team, that was paired with one of the league’s powerhouse collections of talent as their direct competition within their division, the Bochy’s boys weathered a several storms to stay among the top teams in the National League and put themselves in position for yet another run to October glory.

Coming out the gates, the Giants took the NL West by its neck, jumping out to as large as a 10 game lead in the division at one point. But when injuries took Angel Pagan, Brandon Belt and Michael Morse from their everyday lineup, as well as Matt Cain from their starting rotation, that gap was not only narrowed by their rivals in LA, they were passed by.

However, that is when the ever-present guiding hand of Bochy really bared down and made his presence known. Pulling up rookie Joe Panic gave the team a spark it had missed since the loss of Pagan, while the combination of Yusmeiro Petit and Jake Peavy brought the annually tough Giant pitching staff back to life. Trusting rookie Hunter Strickland and handling the full-time closer reins to Santiago Casilla steadied the bullpen, and before long the Giants were finding themselves back in the thick of the postseason race.

These complimentary moves aided by the well timed surges from Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner in the second half made the Giants one of the best teams in baseball in August and September, propelling them into the postseason on a great trajectory to add a third title in five years for his personal trophy case. But it was Bochy who was able to guide his club through a number of identity shifts, peaks and valleys, with the steady hand that has become his standard.

Runner Up 1: Clint Hurdle, Pirates

Runner Up 2: Matt Williams, Nationals


Past Votes:

2013: Clint Hurdle (Pirates), John Farrell (Red Sox)

2012: Davey Johnson (Nationals), Buck Showalter (Orioles)

2011: Kirk Gibson (Diamondbacks), Joe Maddon (Rays)