Posts Tagged ‘MVP’

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

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“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

2014 CSP/BBBA BALLOT REVIEW

 

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

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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

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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

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Seattle Mariners

It has been an interesting half-season of Baseball thus far. It is one that emerges from the break today with only one divisional lead that is greater than four games. The entire National League is wide open, while the American League East and West are shaping up to fight it out for the long run on the other half. Six teams are within four or fewer games in both Leagues’ Wild Card race. Simply put, it has been a vice grip of a struggle for position this summer.

As the second half takes off this afternoon and evening, who is in the driver’s seat for the awards that will outcome as the seasons turn, the fat is trimmed and the postseason takes charge.

Most Valuable Player

American League—Mike Trout, Angels: Every year of his career thus far he has posted an MVP-caliber campaign, while each has seen him reach a higher peak day-to-day. 2014 has been no exception that either, as Trout continues to do everything possible on the diamond with exceptional skill. This year’s Trout Version 3.0 has seen him launch impossibly long home runs with stunning ease, while leading the AL in on-base + slugging% at 1.005 and total bases (209). However, what’s best is that he’s getting to do it while leading a finally successful Angels club, and the numbers always mean more when they are stacking into W’s as well.

National League—Andrew McCutchen, Pirates: After leading the NL in hits two years ago and then winning its MVP a year ago, somehow The Cutch continues to get even better. He is keeping Pirates relevant in the game’s best division via a stunning campaign that seems him in the top 10 in eleven different categories and playing his usual swarming defense as well. It’s a tight race between himself, Troy Tulowitzki and Giancarlo Stanton, but his all-around masterpiece he’s half-finished with is stunning thus far.

Cy Young

American League—Felix Hernandez, Mariners: It looks almost too easy, but the King (who is just touching his prime) has made dominance the norm. He is the owner of the AL’s top ERA, an 11-2 record and comes in second in K’s and first in WHIP as well. Along the way he has allowed more than 2 earned runs only three starts and has nine games of at least 9 strikeouts and 2 or fewer walks.

National League—Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers: What is from Kershaw this year is simply awe-inspiring, as he sits in the top five in wins, ERA, strikeouts, WHIP and average against. But what’s most impressive is that he missed a full month and is still there. Imagine if he’d had that time to work? We would be looking potentially at one of the greatest seasons of all-time—not that we still couldn’t be, however.

Rookie of the Year

American League—Jose Abreu, White Sox: He has already exceeded most full-season expectations here as the second half is yet to begin. Abreu comes out the break the Major’s top home run mark, with 29 and is pushing on the door of 80 RBI already. If he keeps at this pace, he has a pretty good shot at meeting Mark McGwire’s record of 49 rookie home runs.

National League—Billy Hamilton, Reds: The Cincy speedster has delivered where expected on the base paths, with 38 first half steals and six triples to boot. But most impressively, he is putting to bed the rhetoric that he is all sizzle, but no steak at the plate, hitting .317 since the break of June.

Manager of the Year

American League—Bob Melvin, Athletics: In the midst of rapidly toughening division, Melvin has held the A’s head above all in the AL for the duration of the season. Armed with a completely all-in for ’14 Billy Beane in the front office and a full cupboard of perfect pieces in his dugout, the Oakland skipper has his club looking like they are ready to break out of the first round (at least) for the first time since 2006.

National League—Nick Price, Reds: The Reds entered the year, and spent a decent part of the beginning of it, in flux towards the bottom of the NL Central. Plagued by injuries both to the lineup and pitching staff, it was an unpredictable day-to-day situation. But their first year manager Price has done a masterful job of pulling the most of what has been available to him. This has included pulling into within ear shot of the Central lead, as well as sending five of his guys to the All-Star Game, with none of them being Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Mat Latos or Jay Bruce.

Comeback Player of the (Half) Year

American League—Albert Pujols, Angels: The reports of his death have proven to be greatly exaggerated. While he is not pumping out the .300+ batting average that used to be standard for him, Pujols has already reached 20 home runs, 19 doubles and driven in 64 runs. It is far from a one-man reason why Anaheim is looking newly minted this year.

National League—Tim Hudson, Giants: After that gruesome ankle injury ended his 2013 in Atlanta, Hudson declared himself ready to go this winter much earlier than anticipated. In turn, the Giants took a flier on him and in return he has given them an All-Star in return. That’s more than fair return on investment, I’d say.

Reliever of the Year

American League—Greg Holland, Royals: The emerging dominance he showed in his first year in the ninth in KC has carried over, and it is fair to say that he has a more than fair claim to be the AL’s premier closer. His strikeouts-per-nine rate is still absurd at 13.7 and has converted 25-of-26 save ops thus far.

National League—Craig Kimbrel, Braves: Let’s see—MLB-best 29 saves, sub 2.00 ERA, batters surviving to a .131 average against and over 20 more strikeouts than innings pitched. In other words: just another run of the mill year at the office for Kimbrel.

Injury Setback of the Year

American League—Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees: After putting to bed any and all doubts about his effectiveness translating to the America and the $120M+ the Yankees inked him to as well, Tanaka took the tumble of many a pitcher this season, by tearing his UCL. He was authoring one of the best seasons in the Majors this year, and now will join CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda as injured impact starters for a Yankee team that is suddenly out of answers off the hill again.

National League—Jose Fernandez, Marlins: The most deflating injury of the year is easily Fernandez’s, who joined the Tommy John list in May after getting off to another sensational start. While the game lost one of its most exciting young properties, the surprisingly competitive Marlins lost the biggest difference maker in what could potentially be a stunning breakthrough season for the franchise.

jimmy-rollins-dive

Last summer, I started an ongoing project to look at the Hall of Fame prospects of many of the contemporary stars of the game. This year we are picking that series back up again with a few more current MLBers that have some impressive long-term prospects—potentially.

To get this summer’s edition going the spotlight first will land on longtime Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins. It has been a seesaw season for Rollins so far, who has run the gamut with the Phillies over his career in general, but perhaps no year has been as severe as this one. From a brief controversy over his playing time future with the team with manager Ryne Sandberg in Spring Training, all the way to surpassing the franchise’s crown jewel in Mike Schmidt atop the Phillies’ all-time hits list last month, Rollins has had quite the summer even just at the halfway point.

But now as the summer moves on (and potentially the end of his run in Philly as well) it is as good of a time as any to take a look at the surprisingly complete career of Rollins and if it has been enough to build a bridge into Cooperstown potentially for him not too far down the road.

 

The Numbers (as of July 1, 2014)

15 Seasons (age 35): .268 average, 207 home runs, 863 RBI, 2250 hits, 1284 runs scored, 470 doubles, 439 stolen bases, .327 on-base percentage, .434 slugging percentage

1. The Case For: In taking a stand for Rollins career, it is important to look at how well he has displayed every skill that is asked of a shortstop, as well as some that are borderline exceptional for the position. What jumps off the page first is his outstanding athleticism at his peak. He was one of the most dangerous speed elements in the game from his debut into well into his mid-career prime. From 2001-09, he stole at least 20 bases a season, with four seasons of 40 or better, including leading the National League with 46 as rookie and a career-best 47 in 2008. His 438 career stolen bases are the 11th best total ever for a shortstop.

This was also a tool he put to constant use as an offensive presence as well, as he led the NL in triples four times including an absurd 20 in 2007. Of shortstops whose careers began after 1950, his 109 triples is the third best total overall after Robin Yount and Jose Reyes. His athletic skills also were put to great use in the field as well. Able to cover much ground and possessing a strong throwing arm, he was a winner of three (legit) Gold Glove Awards from 2007-09 as well.

Yet what truly began to set him apart from the pack was a deceptive amount of power that he began to develop about halfway through his career. As his swing and knowledge of the game matured, he began to become a threat to go deep as well and four times in his career he has topped 20 home runs in season. Overall, he has 10 seasons of double digit home run totals, including 30 in 2007. His 207 career homers are the 9th best total for a shortstop all-time. Although he has never had a season hitting .300, he did amass a 36 game hitting streak at the end of 2005 year.

2007 is a reoccurring theme in referencing Rollins, and for good reason. It was the year that he put on one of the finest all-around displays of talent in the history of the game in route to winning the 2007 NL Most Valuable Player award. It was a year that he became the first player in MLB history to turn in a 200 hit season, with 20 triples, 30 home runs and 30 steals in one year. In addition, he became the seventh player to ever have 20 doubles, 20 triples and 20 home runs in one season, joining among others Hall of Famers Jim Bottomley (1928), George Brett (1979) and Willie Mays (1957).

2. The Case Against: While he has been steadily good, injuries began to take away from some of the range that he had early in his career in the field around 2009 and also decreased the steadiness of his offensive output as well. After 2007, he only hit over .260 once, while hitting .250 or lower three times. Despite hitting around the top of the lineup for most of his career (leadoff in 1,457 games, second in 303 and third 123 times) he has never been much of an on-base threat, owning a single-season best of .348 in 2004. In his decline years since 2009, he has only once reached base more than 33% of the time despite having over 600 plate appearances in four of his five full seasons over that run.

While All-Star Games appearances can be considered trivial, in many cases it is a fair barometer of a player’s impact in their era. And Rollins has made only three All-Star appearances in his 15 year career, which is a curiously low number for a player at position that is usually easy for elite talents to lock down a spot in (conversely, Ozzie Smith made 12 consecutive ASG appearances and Barry Larkin had two stretches of at least three appearances, only separated by one absent season). Rollins has not reached the All-Star Game since 2005, a stretch of nine seasons that is continuing.

Rollins has ranged from a great, to exceptional, to excellent, to questionable contributor over the course of his career. Can a balancing act in his final years seal his legacy as a Hall of Famer.

Rollins has ranged from a great, to exceptional, to excellent, to questionable contributor over the course of his career. Can a balancing act in his final years seal his legacy as a Hall of Famer.

3. Similar Players (through age 35)

– Edgar Renteria (.286 average, 140 home runs, 923 RBI, 2327 hits, 294 stolen bases)

– Alan Trammell (.288 average, 174 home runs, 936 RBI, 2182 hits, 224 stolen bases)

– Craig Biggio (.291 average, 180 home runs, 811 RBI, 2149 hits, 365 stolen bases)

4. Cooperstown Likelihood (what it is going to take): The case for Rollins is perplexing, because in many regards he is the class of NL shortstops for his era. While Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki all have had great runs, Rollins has had the longest sustained presence since Larkin retired. Yet the perplexing situation is just how between the lines where he currently stands is at.

Look at the players that he is most like just above. Renteria was a multiple time All-Star and champion, but not a Hall of Fame caliber player, although he did have a ‘Rich Man’s Retirement’, with plenty of more baseball he could have played. Moving along to Trammell, who he perhaps best mirrors from an impact standpoint (one-time World Series winner, same amount of Gold Gloves, 15+ year everyday presence with lower than expected All-Star total) and the brink of immortality for Rollins really is made clear. Trammell has lived on the fringe of the Hall of Fame ballot for 14 years now and is not gaining any traction to get before he is removed from it.

The final comparison is a man that is destined for the Hall of Fame in Biggio, who offers similar skill set as Rollins, but differs in the fact that he stayed more consistent for longer and therefore hit a unique spread of accomplishments that will gain him membership to Cooperstown potentially as soon as this year.

Despite all of this, there the element of “it just doesn’t feel like” he has done it all. Perhaps it is because his very best was done in a short span of years and otherwise he has just been very steady at being steady. Meaning he has done certain thing very well, but few of them have been the type of happenings that are highlight worthy. You have to look back to see that he has a Silver Slugger and as many Gold Gloves as he does. Seeing the brilliance of that 2007 season takes some prompting as well, just like the hitting streak of ’05 and the brash confidence that he guided the Phillies back to prominence in the mid-2000’s with as well.

The complex of where Rollins is at is that he has made a definite impact, but is in a purgatory of relevancy. He has to keep pushing and producing regularly to reach out of the “great in his era” range of the Renteria’s and to find the gap between Trammell and Biggio that would reach him to Cooperstown. He has all of the intangible accomplishments that can be asked for: a World Series Champion, MVP, Gold Glover, Silver Slugger and All-Star all under wraps. But to really make a more than compelling case for himself, he will need to hit a few milestone stat hurdles as well.

Mainly, he has to keep running up the hit total. With another 300 hits he would top 2,500; an impressive total for a shortstop of any era. That would give him more than Ozzie, Larkin and Trammell, which are important to pass as two are established Hall of Famers and standard bearers for the decades that preceded him and puts him over the proverbial eligibility hump that Trammell has become. One thing that he can still do is run well and run smart, and when Rollins tops 500 stolen bases he’ll have a really plus, round number to lean on as well.

A career of 200 home runs, 500 steals, 2500 hits and 1300 runs scored is awfully impressive. And what’s more, if Rollins is to meet this package of feats, he would be the only shortstop to ever do so. Only the greats Honus Wagner and Derek Jeter come close to that type of display, and when a player is close to that class, they are doing something right. And Rollins has done all lot right for a long time.

However, he will need to finish out his career strong to meet these marks and there is work to be done still. If he can do so, I think Rollins has a more than suitable case to make it in. But if he does not, he could be lost in the haze of the Hall of Very Good, and perhaps rightfully so.

So when it’s all said and done, when the question is asked: is Jimmy Rollins In, Out or In-Between the Hall of Fame, as it stands today, he is IN-BETWEEN, but closer to the rights to the keys to the Hall than it may be believed.

 

For more on the season as it unfolds, follow my columns at The Sports Fan Journal, I-70 Baseball and tune into ‘Live From The Cheap Seats’ as well. For up to the moment words, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

Joey_Votto

A few years ago, first base was clearly a class system. There were the handful of elites, and then just the rest of the guys, many of which were young up and comers. But the cows have come home to the barn and how the first base spot is the deepest of any in the game, due in part to many of those young talents panning out in a major way.

Of the the top 4 finishers in both league’s Most Valuable Player voting in 2013, the three will man first this summer. Of current starting first basemen, nine have won the league’s MVP at one point or another in their career, and of that group only three will even qualify for this Top 10 list.

That’s the type of depth that is at work right now around the game, and that is why even a surefire Hall of Famer couldn’t crack this list. Here’s what’s in store at a position that is sure to create some frustrated almost All-Star by mid-summer…

10. Eric Hosmer, Royals: He kicked his sophomore slump out of a moving car, hitting over .300, with 188 hits and 34 doubles to boot. He won his first Gold Glove in the process, with his 122 assists being far and away the best total of AL first basemen.

9. Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers: One of the most consistent run creators in the game, he’s topped 100 RBI for four straight years, while keeping his average over .293 over the course as well. He has owned the alleys, hitting 124 doubles since 2011 started.

8. Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays: He’s hit 78 home runs over the past two seasons, due in part to the discipline he has developed at the plate. He cut his strikeouts by 32 and walked 20 more times than he whiffed.

7. Freddie Freeman, Braves: The axis of the Atlanta lineup raised his average 70 points while keeping his power numbers steady and driving in 100 runs for the first time. Also a superb fielder, he’ll challenge for his share of Gold Gloves moving ahead.

6. Prince Fielder, Rangers: He will move to the perfect ballpark for his prodigious power in Arlington. Until last season he owned a streak of six years of at least 30 home runs, and has driven in 100 RBI in six of the last seven seasons.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Minnesota Twins

5. Joe Mauer, Twins: The move to first could very well extend, and improve, the career and quality of Mauer’s performance. He won the Silver Slugger at catcher a year ago, hitting just a point higher than his career average at .324.

4. Chris Davis, Orioles: Crush was making an assault on history early in the year, cranking out 30 first half homers. He led the Major Leagues with 55 long balls and 138 RBI, and added 42 doubles as well, joining Babe Ruth and Albert Belle as the only players to reach those marks in a single season.

3. Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks: It all came together for the first time for Goldy a year ago, and he’s only getting started. He led the NL in RBI, and tied in home runs as well. He finished second in the MVP and won his first Gold Glove as well. He is becoming one of the best all around players in the game, and the type of talent that a winner could be built around.

miguel-cabrera

2. Joey Votto, Reds: The criticism is that he does not drive in enough runs and is overly obsessed with getting on base at the cost of taking more swings. However, he chooses his shots often enough to hit .317 average and to lead couple that by leading the NL on on-base for four consecutive years. So the game’s best line drive hitter continues to make his impact in one way or another.

1. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: The move back to first changes nothing about the productivity. One of the great hitters all-time in the middle of his prime. The winner of the of consecutive MVP awards, he has a .338/.417/.620 average split over the last two years, while averaging 44 home runs, 138 RBI and 199 hits per year over the stretch as well.

 

Just A Bit Outside: Albert Pujols, Mike Napoli, Brandon Moss

For more on the game in the real time, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan. For further content, find me at I70 Baseball and The Sports Fan Journal.

One of the great debates of any year is what exactly is “most valuable”. Does it mean the player with the best numbers, the one that made the most irreplaceable difference or the best player on the best team? Every year there is a case for each type of candidate for the award, however in this year’s National League, there is more variety than ever before.

There are the candidates with the raw power numbers, as well as those with the balance of impact across the board. In the same vein, there are the engines that pushed the league’s best teams, as well as those that had major seasons, but couldn’t quite pull their team along with them. Also, there were those that made major impacts on the pennant chase, but did so around injury. Yet then, there were those that had such a unique touch across the board, which numbers alone can’t quite account for it all.

Yes, it was a grab bag year from the National League’s best, but in the end, the most all-encompassing impact comes from the player who’s impact simply blanketed not only every game he participated in, but also the rest of the fortune of not only his club, but the approach of every team that faced them.

2013 Stan Musial Most Valuable Player—Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals

World Series - Boston Red Sox v St Louis Cardinals - Game Three

The Numbers: .319, 12 HR, 80 RBI, 161 hits, 68 runs, 44 2B, 3 SB, .836 OPS, 5.7 WAR

What Yadier Molina brings to the St. Louis Cardinals simply crosses over just what he does at the plate or how many snap throws he makes on would be base runners. Because it could be argued that there is a player that impacts the game in more ways than Molina does, but it would be a losing debate. Ranging from what could be the finest glove in the game, to the game’s best quarterback behind the plate and concluding with a bat that carries its own weight as well, there’s literally nowhere to escape Yadi’s grasp.

If you are a raw numbers guy, Molina is not your man. Likewise, for the mathematical baseball crowd, he won’t be thrilling either. Yet, for a dye in the wool baseball guy, Molina had a season that was of epic proportions. This was not always the case, but now Molina has become among the more consistent hitters in the game. He finished fourth in the NL batting average, second in doubles and struck out a mere 55 times in 541 plate appearances. With runners in scoring position, he turned it up to a .373 clip.

Behind the plate, he was once again the measuring stick for all catchers, throwing out 43% of the few runners that challenged him on the bases and allowing a paltry three passed balls in over 1115 innings caught. One of the toughest feats in sports is to quantify the value of a catcher in calling a game, but it was there in-between the lines that he had his defining impact. Tasked with a pitching staff that lost three of its projected Opening Day starters in the first half of the year, as well as its first two closers shortly thereafter, he worked wonders behind the plate. By the end of the year, he made a staff that deployed 12 rookies across the year into a 96-win team, who finished in the top five in NL ERA and opponent average against. By their own acclimation, the success of Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha and Trevor Rosenthal was tied to “throwing whatever Yadi put down.” And all of this was a bonus to stellar return to form that Adam Wainwright authored following his lead as well.

The individual numbers at the plate do tell a great story, yet in the terms of “most valuable” the story can go far beyond one component of man’s year. And Yadier Molina touched more parts of the success of the National League’s best team than any other, and in that, he defined every definition of the award’s purpose this summer. Those 96 wins say more about what Molina pulled off than the average, RBI and Gold Glove say combined. Sometimes, less truly is more–especially in the ultimate game of inches.

The Rest

2. Andrew McCutchen-Pirates: .317, 20 HR, 84 RBI, 185 hits, 97 runs, 31 2B, 27 SB, .911 OPS, 8.2 WAR

Another whose impact was bigger than his numbers showed, the numbers were lower in several areas for The Cutch than they were a year ago, but his 2013 effort led the Pirates back to prosperity. Along the way, he finished in the top 10 in three in the NL in hits, on-base percentage and hit .339 after the All-Star Break.

3. Paul Goldschmidt-Diamondbacks: .302, 36 RBI, 125 RBI, 182 hits, 103 runs, 36 2B, 15 SB, .952 OPS, 7.0 WAR

Goldschmidt gave the stat sheet the Thanksgiving turkey treatment all summer, leading the NL in RBI, tying for the circuit lead in home runs and finishing in the top three in four other categories as well.

4. Matt Carpenter-Cardinals: .318, 11 HR, 78 RBI, 199 hits, 126 runs, 55 2B, 3 SB, .873 OPS, 6.6 WAR

Carpenter’s breakout season provided the spark to the Cardinal punch. He led the NL in hits, runs and doubles, as well as double plays turned in his first season at second base.

5. Freddie Freeman-Braves: .319, 23 HR, 109 RBI, 176 hits, 89 runs, 27 2B, 1 SB, .897 OPS, 5.5 WAR

Freeman was perhaps the most underrated player in baseball this season. Along the way, he finished third in both RBI and average, and was elected to his first All-Star Game.

6. Clayton Kershaw-Dodgers: 16-9, 1.83 ERA, 236 IP, 232 Ks/52 BB, 3 CG/2 SHO, 0.92 WHIP, .195 BAA

7. Hanley Ramirez-Dodgers: .345, 20 HR, 57 RBI, 105 hits, 62 runs, 25 2B, 10 SB, 1.040 OPS, 5.4 WAR

8. Joey Votto-Reds: .305, 24 HR, 73 RBI, 177 hits, 101 runs, 30 2B, 6 SB, .926 OPS, 6.4 WAR

9. Allen Craig-Cardinals: .315, 13 HR, 97 RBI, 160 hits, 71 runs, 29 2B, 2 SB, .830 OPS, 2.3 WAR

10. Jayson Werth-Nationals: .318, 25 HR, 82 RBI, 147 hits, 84 runs, 24 2B, 10 SB, .931 OPS, 4.8 WAR

Here it is, the full run of the CHEAP SEATS’ Baseball Bloggers Alliance Award rundown—the Award Tour.

Stan Musial Most Valuable Player Award

National League—Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals

American League—Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

Walter Johnson Pitcher of the Year Award

National League—Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

American League—Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers

Connie Mack Manager of the Year Award

National League—Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates

American League—John Farrell, Boston Red Sox

Willie Mays Rookie of the Year Award

National League—Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins

American League—Wil Myers, Tampa Bay Rays

Goose Gossage Relief Pitcher of the Year Award

National League—Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves

American League—Koji Uehara, Boston Red Sox

Each award in the Baseball Bloggers Alliance is named after a player that portrays the values best exemplified by the award. Appropriately, the Most Valuable Player in each league receives the Stan Musial Award for their exploits. Musial is easily within the conversation for greatest hitter of all-time; his not a pure power hitter, but still topped 400 home runs. He attacked in volume, topping over 3,600 hits and the second most total bases ever.

The current owner of best hitter in the game has all of these things in common with Musial, as well as a few more. He’s a multiple-time batting champ, that has power to burn, but wastes no at-bats by reaching for the home run only. The best approach to facing Musial, as described by Dodgers pitcher Preacher Roe was to “Throw him four wide and try to pick him off first base”. And judging by the success that AL pitchers have had against Miguel Cabrera over the last few years, this tactic may be one worth dusting off next summer.

2013 American League Stan Musial Most Valuable Player: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

Cabrera_Miguel_MVP

The Numbers: .348 avg, 44 HR, 137 RBI, 193 hits, 103 runs, 26 2B, 3 SB, 1.078 OPS, 7.2 WAR

For Miguel Cabrera, 2012 could have easily been the crown jewel of his career. He took home the first Triple Crown in 45 years, won his first MVP and reached another World Series as a capper. However, it was clear by mid-April that last season may have just been a warm up, because Cabrera arguably played better baseball than he ever had before. If not for a superhuman season from Chris Davis aligning with an annoying hip injury, he was running away with adding another Crown to his head.

And while this didn’t finish with a repeat of that rare feat, in 13 less games, Cabrera equaled his home run total from the previous year and came within two RBI and eight hits of his 2012 numbers. He hit an MLB-best .348 (18 points better than 2012) to win his third consecutive batting title. He hit over .360 in three separate months, and .356 in another. Led the AL in on-base and slugging percentage, while striking out only 94 times. He finished in the top two in the MLB in six separate categories.

He’s in the midst of one of the classic runs of excellence at the plate in MLB history, and it actually is tough to blame pitchers for challenging him, because they did it less this time around. He drew 24 more walks in 2013, but he responded by striking out less and making his hits matter more (a career best 1.078 on-base + slugging percentage). All in all, over the last three MLB seasons, his average season has been a .340 average, with 39 home runs, 38 doubles, 127 RBI and a batting title a season. And the way things are going, these ridiculous numbers are a substandard effort for what he’s really doing—and unfortunately for those cunning AL pitchers, there is no sign of any let up soon.

The Rest:

2. Chris Davis-Orioles: .286 avg, 53 HR, 138 RBI, 167 hits, 103 runs, 42 2B, 4 SB, 1.004 OPS, 6.4 WAR

It takes an extraordinary performance to reach the altitudes that Cabrera is living at now, and that is exactly the right word to sum up what Crush did this summer. He led the Majors in home runs, RBI and total bases, and became one of three players to ever hit 50 homers and 40 doubles in the same season.

3. Mike Trout-Angels: .323 avg, 27 HR, 97 RBI, 190 hits, 109 runs, 39 2B, 33 SB, .988 OPS, 9.2 WAR

The most talented player in the game put his buffet of skills on full display again, leading the AL in runs scored and walks, while topping .320 yet again. He set career highs in hits, doubles, RBI and on-base percentage…and continued to reach Wins Above Replacement levels that only that only a player that can do literally everything as well as him can find.

4. Robinson Cano-Yankees: .314 avg, 27 HR, 107 RBI, 190 hits, 81 runs, 41 2B, 7 SB, .899 OPS, 7.6 WAR

The Yankees were far from their usual form this year, but Cano decided not to include himself in that mix, as he put up yet another strong season. He finished in the top five in hits, doubles, average, RBI and played another superb year in the field.

5. Josh Donaldson-Athletics: .301 avg, 24 HR, 93 RBI, 174 hits, 89 runs, 37 2B, 5 SB, .883 OPS, 8.0 WAR

The leader of the Oakland ensemble became Donaldson, who in his first full season in the Majors proved to be a formidable presence in the Oakland lineup. He had 56 multi-hit games on the year and saved his best for last, winning AL Player of the Month honors in September, hitting .337 with 17 extra base hits while helping the A’s to close out another improbable AL West Championship.

6. David Ortiz-Red Sox: .309 avg, 30 HR, 103 RBI, 160 hits, 84 runs, 38 2B, 4 SB, .959 OPS, 4.4 WAR

7. Adrian Beltre-Rangers: .315 avg, 30 HR, 92 RBI, 199 hits, 88 runs, 32 2B, 1 SB, .880 OPS, 5.5 WAR

8. Evan Longoria-Rays: .269 avg, 32 HR, 88 RBI, 165 hits, 91 runs, 39 2B, 1 SB, .842 OPS, 6.3 WAR

9. Dustin Pedroia-Red Sox: .301 avg, 9 HR, 84 RBI, 193 hits, 91 runs, 42 2B, 17 SB, .787 OPS, 6.5 WAR

10. Adam Jones-Orioles: .285 avg, 33 HR, 108 RBI, 186 RBI, 100 runs, 35 2B, 14 SB, .811 OPS, 4.4 WAR

The Awards run is almost complete, but there are is still just a ways to go…and one final big splash with the National League Most Valuable Player to close things out.

November 6: NL/AL Goose Gossage Relief Pitcher of the YearKoji Uehara and Craig Kimbrel

November 7: NL/AL Willie Mays Rookie of the YearWil Myers and Jose Fernandez

November 8: AL Walter Johnson Pitcher of the YearMax Scherzer

November 11: NL Walter Johnson Pitcher of the YearClayton Kershaw

November 12: NL/AL Connie Mack Manager of the Year

November 13: NL Stan Musial Most Valuable Player