Tag Archives: Bryce Harper

MLB Award Predictions

The MLB regular season is less than a week from its conclusion and the races for the various awards are even closer than than that of the final playoff spots. With such a close competition between these top players, a strong last few games from any of them could put them ahead in the final stretch. Here’s a look at how the awards might pan out.

Nice shirt Miguel. Sadly, you’d probably be the best player on the Pistons. But Mike Trout is still better than you.

AL MVP: Mike Trout

The decision between Trout and Miguel Cabrera is the toughest one on this list. Cabrera is a currently a home run away from the Triple Crown and has bigger numbers in the power categories. Yet Trout’s all-around impact on the game, from his hitting to his base stealing to his incredible robbed home runs give him the edge here. And for a leadoff hitter, 29 homers and 78 RBI are pretty darn impressive power numbers.

NL MVP: Buster Posey

This race was close for a while, with Ryan Braun and Andrew McCutchen in the mix, but Posey has pulled away over the last month. Braun still has had an impressive season, leading the NL in home runs and RBI, yet the Brewers are unlikely to make the playoffs, which hurts Braun’s chances. Posey, meanwhile, is leading the majors in batting average (excluding Melky Cabrera of course) and on base percentage, and is also in the top three in slugging percentage and on base percentage. And he’s done all this while playing the most grueling position in the game.

AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander

As boring as it is to have a repeat winner, there’s no way around the fact that Verlander is the best pitcher in baseball right now. He had another great season, leading the league in strikeouts and being among the leaders in WHIP and ERA while also pitching the most innings.

NL Cy Young: R.A. Dickey

At age 37, Dickey’s success this season is fairly amazing. He’s pitched the best year of his career, mastering the art of the knuckleball while leading the league in strikeouts (as of now) and amongst the leaders in ERA, WHIP, and wins. Clayton Kershaw, Gio Gonzalez and Matt Cain could all give Dickey some competition in this award.

Trout’s rookie campaign has been nothing short of spectacular.

AL Rookie of the Year: Mike Trout

This is far and away the easiest decision of the bunch. Mike Trout’s rookie season has been one of the best in history. His arrival in the league was overshadowed by that of Bryce Harper, but all that attention has shifted to him since then. Yoenis Cespedes also had a nice year, but for a player touted for his power, Trout out-homered him.

NL Rookie of the Year: Todd Frazier

Frazier played in 41 games last year, but in his first full season this year he was a major reason for Cincinnati’s success. While Harper had more hype and attention throughout the season, Frazier simply did more, putting up bigger numbers than Harper and doing so in less at bats.

AL Manager of the Year: Buck Showalter

Looking at Baltimore’s lineup, it comes as a bit of a shock how successful they have been. After finishing with the fourth worst record in the MLB a year ago, the Orioles now hold the seventh best. Despite their shortcomings as a team, Showalter has shown them how to win and they’ve learned well.

NL Manager of the Year: Ozzie Guillen

Just kidding. Dusty Baker gets the nod here. Baker did another great job with the Reds this year. Cincinnati clinched an NL Central division with two worthy competitors in the Brewers and Cardinals and currently have a 10 game lead in the division. And to do this while missing key players Joey Votto, Scott Rolen and Ryan Ludwick missing significant time with injuries.

Buster Posey has shown that if you strike him down, he will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.

AL Comeback Player of the Year: Adam Dunn

Dunn was arguably the worst player in the league last year, hitting an abysmal .159 and just 11 home runs. He’s marginally better in batting average this year (up to .207), but his power numbers are back. He’s blasted 41 home runs, driven in 94 runs and his ability to take walks (he leads the AL with 104) has given him a respectable OBP which is pretty impressive given how terrible his batting average is.

NL Comeback Player of the Year: Buster Posey

Another obvious choice. Posey’s injury last season looked like it could be career threatening, or at the very least put his ability to play catcher in jeopardy. Instead, Posey returned better than ever, catching one of the league’s best pitching staffs while also handling the brunt of the offensive workload for the Giants. An incredible season for Posey.

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A Changing MLB Landscape

Take a moment and imagine, if you will, a world where the NL West reigned, where the Giants and Rangers were among baseball’s worst teams, and even crazier – where the Cubs finished in 1st place. Seems far fetched, does it not, given where those teams are today?

Such was life in 2007. In just 5 seasons, baseball has largely flipped the tables, unseating the former division leaders and replacing them with teams accustomed to the bottom dweller role. Among the most surprising clubs enjoying this role reversal are the Orioles, Pirates, and Nationals who have combined for just 7 playoff appearances since 1981 and none since 1997.

Compared to the past 2 decades, this season has been a stroll in the park for Adam Jones and the Orioles.

This year, all three teams have put themselves in position to earn a playoff spot, thanks in part to the additional Wild Card Spot, but more so to the teams’ exceptional young talent. Players such as Baltimore’s Adam Jones, Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen, and Washington’s Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper have led their teams into unfamiliar territory: the playoff hunt.

For teams with such a history of losing, their success this season has been sudden and surprising.After years upon years of subpar teams, the three franchises have been sensational this season, despite all three finishing below .500 just 1 year ago. Even more spectacular is that these clubs have done all this while being among the bottom 12 teams in terms of payroll.

Meanwhile, some perennial contenders sitting atop the payroll rankings haven’t fared as well as their small market counterparts. The Phillies and Red Sox, in particular, have struggled for most of the season. A lot of this can be chalked up to unfortunate long term injuries to key players on both teams (Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury for Boston and Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Roy Halladay for Philladelphia), but David Ortiz is the only one in Boston replicating his strong play from last year. Adrian Gonzalez has followed up his MVP caliber season with a pretty forgettable performance, but despite all this, Boston is still 2 games over .500 and just .5  games back from a Wild Card spot. They’ve been disappointing, but not terrible.

Philadelphia on the other hand…

After finishing with an MLB best 102 wins last season, the Phillies are among the league’s worst, sitting at the bottom of the NL East, 13.5 games back.

This is a cool picture, but the Phillies suck this year.

Outside of these extreme examples, parity as a whole has increased throughout the MLB. 19 teams have realistic hopes for making the playoffs, a far cry from even just a year ago when that number hovered closer to 11. While payrolls remain incredibly unequal (the Yankees spend $198 million while the Padres spend just $55 million), the talent levels between teams is becoming increasingly more similar. Just as with the success of the Pirates, Orioles, and Nationals, much of the parity is the result of talented young players that still have small salaries due to their youth. Teams are developing exciting new players in their farm systems and can afford them while they are still a part of their rookie contracts.

The increased level of competitiveness will perhaps mark the beginning of a new era for baseball, where parity is more prevalent, as the league recovers from the steroid era of the past few decades. This season could be the start of a golden age for baseball.

Just don’t say so in Philadelphia.

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Baseball’s Wild Standings: Will They Hold Up?

So were at the All-Star break in baseball. You what that means? It’s time for some classic division races through the dog days of summer. It’s been the year of the underdog in baseball, with the Nationals, Dodgers, and Pirates atop their division, and the Phillies and Red Sox in last place. Here’s a look at all the current division leaders, and predictions on whether they will hold on to win, and if not, who will take the division crown instead.

AL East – Current 1st place: Yankees, 7 ½ game lead on Orioles

As long as the Yankees don’t choke like in the 2004 ALCS, they should wrap up this division with ease.

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Mike Trout and the Angels are on a collision course with the Rangers. They could meet in the ALCS.

AL West – Current 1st place: Rangers, 4 game lead on Angels

The streaking Angels are coming on strong and look like the second best team in baseball. Too bad the best team in baseball, the Texas Rangers, play in their division. The Rangers have it all: Pitching, hitting, defense, and experience.

AL Central – Current 1st place: White Sox, 3 game lead on Indians, 3 ½ game lead on Detroit

Weren’t the Tigers a sure fire pick to win the AL Central? Easy money in Vegas, right? In preseason, all 45 ESPN Baseball Analysts picked the Tigers to win the division. Well so much for that. The Tigers though still have two great hitters, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, in the middle of the lineup, and arguably the best pitcher in baseball in Justin Verlander. Eventually this talented Tigers team will figure it out, and should win a tight division race.

NL Central – Current 1st place: Pirates, 1 game lead on Reds 

How about another consensus? Before the season, not one ESPN Baseball Analyst out of 45 picked the Pittsburg Pirates to win the division, let alone win one of the two wild cards. Now that’s a surprise party! Heck, I wasn’t even born the last time the Pirates had a winning record, in 1992. The Pirates are 4th in the National league in pitching, one spot behind the Reds. Both are in the botton half of the NL in hitting. This dead-even race should come down to the final week of September. It’s a toss up, but I’m going with the ‘Cinderella’ Pirates.

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Will the Braves or Mets chase down the Nationals in the NL East? Well we already know what Bryce Harper thinks, “That’s a clown question, bro.”

NL East – Current 1st place: Nationals, 4 game lead on Atlanta, 4 ½ game lead on Mets

The 2012 Nationals first place run is the latest surprise in a baseball season full of them. They’ve done it with a major-league best, team 3.20 ERA. Hitting can come and go, but pitching is usually a constant. Nationals will win the division.

NL West – Current 1st place: Dodgers, ½ game lead on Giants

In preseason, only 5 out of 45 ESPN Baseball Analysts picked them to make the playoffs, and that includes the division crown and either of the two wild card spots. And those predictions were based on a healthy Matt Kemp, who has been anything but that. What the Dodgers have done so far has been a fairly tale run. They’ve played far above their heads and everyone’s expectations. But even Matt Kemp’s return won’t save the anemic Dodgers offense. Unless the Dodgers add another bat via trade, the Giants should edge them out for the division crown, and if Tim Lincecum ever figures out his issues, they should run away with it.

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Discovering “The Chosen One”

If you were a D.C. or Maryland native and decided to attend your first ever major league game locally, you would be in for quite a surprise.

You would notice the new stadium structure, a crowded Nationals Park not synonymous with what you’ve read about how Olympic Stadium in Montreal used to be and an extremely talented man playing right field.

“How old is that right fielder?” you hesitantly ask the die-hard, chest paint-loving Nationals fan sitting next to you, “He certainly looks and plays like a veteran.”

Slowly, this fan covers his right hand with his newly-purchased foam finger, points to right field and says, “That right there is the future of this franchise.  His name is Bryce Harper, and he is only nineteen years old.”

“Nineteen years old?  You must be joking!  This young man should be hitting the bars in Canada, not playing in front of tens of thousands of fans.”

After the game, your Google inquiries tell you that Bryce Harper is no average 19-year old.  After being one of only three amateur athletes ever to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated (along with high school basketball stars Shabazz Muhammad and Lew Alcindor) back when he just got his drivers’ license, the rookie out of Las Vegas has certainly not disappointed.

The world was introduced to the phenom left-handed hitter as “The Chosen One,” quite the entrance for just a teenager.

Posting numbers consistent with urban legend, Harper is rumored to have hit a ball over 600 feet as a sophomore for Bishop Gorman High School.

He even wowed scouts at a high school showcase at Tropicana Field in Tampa, Florida when he regularly drilled batting practice balls off the back canvas of the stadium over  450 feet away.

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Harper chose the number 34 because 3 and 4 add up to 7, the number of the legendary Mickey Mantle.

After obtaining his GED in 2009, Harper went on to play just one season at the College of Southern Nevada, posting a .443 batting average and hitting 33 home-runs in just 66 games before being drafted first overall by the Washington Nationals in the 2010 MLB Draft and winning the Golden Spikes Award, given to the most outstanding amateur baseball player each year.

Despite claims of his being cocky and purely a product of hype, Harper made the Nationals after spending just over a season in the minor leagues.

Now batting second as an everyday player for the team, Harper has proven he belongs, batting a solid .289 with 7 home-runs and 19 RBI thus far.

Sure, you discover, he’s had his teenage moments, like when he blew a kiss to an opposing pitcher after hitting a home-run in Class A, but he’s also shown how he’s matured.

It takes a man to be able to stand up to a hack reporter asking about your favorite type of Canadian beer as a 19 year-old practicing Mormon with the ever-iconic, “That’s a clown question, bro.”

Despite his success, your newfound internet research on Bryce Harper tells you that it will take even more of a man to be able to remain in the league for what has the potential to be a Hall of Fame career.

Even more of a man to lead the Nationals to their first ever World Series along with Stephen Strasburg, to make a positive impact in a D.C. community that often struggles with crime and finally to live up to this title as “The Chosen One.”

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Strasburg and Harper have the Nats in contention for their first NL East title in franchise history.

And to think you were just going to eat a few hot dogs and watch this “veteran” in silence.

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