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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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Wild Card Within Reach for the Angels

In 2002, no one expected the Angels to come back.

It was the seventh inning of Game Six of the 2002 World Series and the San Francisco Giants had champagne on ice, leading 5-0 and 3-2 in the series.

Up to the plate stepped Scott Spiezio, a lifetime .255 hitter.  Sporting his trademark soul patch and the same can’t-lose attitude that has made him a postseason legend, Spiezio locked in and knocked a Felix Rodriguez pitch into the right field stands to narrow the margin to 5-3.

The now-retired Spiezio has had heroic efforts in his only two World Series, one with the Angels and the other in 2006 with the Cardinals.

The Angels would go on to win Game Six and then the World Series in Game Seven, their first and only title in franchise history.  And it all came down to that one moment.

Though the remainder of the 2012 regular season provides the Angels with a bit more time for heroics, gutsiness a la Speizio may be needed to vault them past either the Yankees, Orioles or Athletics for one of two Wild Card spots.

7.5 games back of the Rangers with 15 games to play, winning the AL West is all but impossible.  The Tigers recent woes have taken them out of the Wild Card race and into a dogfight with the Chicago White Sox for the AL Central title and the Tampa Bay Rays are now gasping for air after losing five of six against the Yankees and Orioles last week.

Now the AL Wild Card picture figures to be an odd-man-out three-team battle between the A’s, who are comfortably into the first Wild Card slot, the second-place finisher in the AL East and the Angels.

In Anaheim, the last mile of the season-long marathon will prove to be difficult.  9 of their remaining 15 games will be against division leaders (White Sox and Rangers) and the remaining six are face-offs with the Seattle Mariners, a team that is far better than many expected at 70-77.

The M’s have relied on solid pitching to compensate for an offense that fares no better than 29th in the MLB in runs, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage and now look forward to an opportunity to spoil any postseason plans the Angels may have.

In order to avoid a possible media circus this offseason, heart is a must down the stretch for the MLB’s third most highly-paid team at $154,940,524.

A 7-year, $126 million contract owed to Vernon Wells has many Angels fans shaking their heads.

With the second-best batting average in the MLB, one would think the playoffs would be a foregone conclusion, but for the latter part of the second half hitting hasn’t been an issue.

Instead, bullpen pitching has acted as their Achilles heel.  In a ten game road-trip in early August that made a tremendous comeback even necessary for the Angels, the team’s bullpen ERA was an atrocious 10.54.

Numbers aside, the “clutch” factor has at times been absent.  Last Sunday, the Angels had an opportunity to at least draw a tie with the A’s in a crucial four game set, trailing 6-5 with runners on first and third with no one out in the ninth.

Needing a mere sac fly to tie the game, the Angels buckled.  Kendrys Morales struck out and Howie Kendrick grounded into a game-ending double play.

While that is probably the most dramatic example of failing to deliver the Angels have had all season, it should serve as a reminder of what not to do in the coming two weeks.

They have the offense, they have the pitching, now it’s just a matter of clutching up as the season draws to a close.

Besides, growing a soul patch never hurt anyone, did it?



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All’s Unquiet on the Eastern Front

Though their manager is a Valentine, things certainly haven’t been all roses and chocolates for the Boston Red Sox this season.

Sitting at 62-74 with less than a month to play, Boston is having its worst season in recent memory.

Granted, they have won two World Series titles in the last ten years, but with a team that spends as big as the Red Sox do (and when curses no longer are excuses), victories are expected.  In fact, this entire season has given us a sense of what the bizarro-AL East is like—or is that just the AL East of the future?

Roughly 27 games are yet to be played this season and a new Wild Card format has all but guaranteed a dogfight to the finish in which every last game is going to count.

According to ESPN.com, there are three teams in the AL East with more than a 50% chance of making the playoffs, though Oakland is right in the mix and the Angels and Tigers are both a miraculous September away from sneaking in.

Baseball in September has a little bit to do with payroll and talent and a lot to do with heart.  With my own beating at 150 bpm, here are my predictions for the AL East’s standings on October 1st:

At 17-5 with a 2.54 ERA, Price is a leading candidate for the AL Cy Young.

1. Tampa Bay Rays-Currently 1.5 games back of both the Yankees and the Orioles for the Division lead, the Rays have consistently been the most clutch team in the MLB.  They have the starting rotation to take them the distance, too.  At a combined 30-13 record, David Price and James Shields have made for a very strong one-two punch, but the dangerous thing about them is that Alex Cobb has the worst starting ERA at 4.28.  Fernando Rodney being an absolute rock in the ninth (42 saves) hasn’t hurt either.  Still, as Evan Longoria goes, so do the Rays.  His hamstring will need to stay healthy if the Rays are to finish with the division title.

T2. New York Yankees- Like Derek Jeter said, “I don’t panic.”  That being said, the Yankees seriously need to kick things into gear if they want to remain in the AL East division title conversation.  A 5-2 loss at the hands of the Rays Tuesday night brings them to a tie with Baltimore for the division lead and they have not fared well of late, losing seven of their last ten.  What sets the Yankees apart is an unrivaled amount of veteran leadership—now those vets, namely Curtis Granderson, Ichiro Suzuki and Mark Teixeira—need to find a way to get on base more and provide a spark for a team that is in serious need of one.  Sabathia and Jeter surely can’t hold the weight of the Bronx on their shoulders without support.

T2. Baltimore Orioles- At 8-2 in their last 10 games, the “Fighting Showalters” have a serious chance to make the playoffs for the first time since 1997, or what many consider a generation.  Those were the days of Mike Mussina, the days of Yankee dynasty.  Now, a young cast led by rookie phenom third baseman Manny Machado and catcher Matt Wieters, who has 18 homers and 67 RBI on the season, has a chance to turn things around in a city with a great love of baseball but a not-so-great result in recent memory.  Their primary concern down the stretch should be starting pitching—only ace Wei-Yin Chen, at 12-8, has more than 10 wins on the season.  Just getting to the seventh inning will likely put them in the clear, though—the Orioles’ 3.00 bullpen ERA is good for 4th best in the MLB.

4. Boston Red Sox-Now that the Angels are starting to make a surge, the Red Sox are unrivaled as the most disappointing team in the league this year.  Manager Bobby Valentine is seemingly days away from being ousted and suddenly the decision to fire Terry Francona at the end of last season’s collapse appears to have been a mistake.  The “Paper Murderer’s Row” of Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia fell apart, all either spending significant amounts of time on the DL or being traded away.  One of the very few bright spots for the Sox has been third baseman Pedro Ciriaco, the 26 year-old rookie from the Dominican Republic who has hit .316 with 54 hits since being called up in July to take over a roster spot for an injured Pedroia.  The future looks somewhat bright for Boston, mainly because it can’t get much darker right now.

The absence of “Joey Bats” has seriously hurt both Toronto’s attendance and record.

5. Toronto Blue Jays- For about ten years, the Toronto Blue Jays have been the most average team around.  Division champs have come and gone, but 75 to 85 wins and a middle-to-back of the pack finish has remained a safe bet in Toronto.  This season will prove the same or slightly worse.  A starting rotation led by Ricky Romero has been inconsistent.  Normally, this problem could at least be helped by the MLB’s most homer-happy lineup.  But despite the breakout performance of DH Edwin Encarnacion, this year the bash-ful display was put on hold by Jose Bautista’s struggle-turned-injury, as he now sits on the DL after undergoing wrist surgery.  The team now finds itself a division-worst 60-75.  At least hockey season’s right around the corner!

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Dodgers’ Struggles Put them in a Giant Hole

They say money can’t buy happiness. Well the Los Angeles Dodgers have found the truth in that phrase pretty quickly.

After a slew of trades landed them Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, and Shane Victorino – as well as forcing them to take on several hefty contracts – the Dodgers have nothing yet to show for their spending spree. In fact, they’ve been worse since making this acquisitions.

Adrian Gonzalez and the Dodgers could be watching their playoff hopes drift away if they don’t start playing with more urgency.

Before trading for Ramirez, the Dodgers were 53-45 – a winning percentage of .540 – even with Matt Kemp spending a good portion of this time on the disabled list. Since then, with a healthy Kemp and Ramirez, Gonzalez and Victorino also joining the club, LA has gone just 19-18, barely keeping their heads above the .500 mark. And while Gonzalez has single handedly helped his new team secure a few victories, including a walk-off 2-run double last night, the Dodgers have limped to a 4-5 record since he came over from the Red Sox.

The Dodgers’ struggles are really quite remarkable. All the players they acquired were former All-Stars replacing fairly marginal players at their positions. Yet the result has been a net loss thus far. A tougher schedule can’t be to blame; 22 of their 37 games since the initial trade for Ramirez have been against teams with a losing record. For a team that has the most offensive talent of any National League team to struggle this much is baffling.

Angel Pagan has been red hot as the Giants have steadily increased their lead in the NL West since Melky Cabrera’s suspension.

Even more distressing for LA is that the Giants, who despite losing one of their best hitters Melky Cabrera to a suspension, have actually played better without him. Prior to the suspension, LA and San Francisco were tied atop the NL West at 64-53, but since then, the Giants have gone 12-5, while the Dodgers have fallen 5 games back entering Monday’s matchup against the Padres.

The Giants have really been the bizarro-Dodgers during this stretch. Despite sending out a weaker lineup and some recent pitching struggles, San Francisco has found way to scrap together wins, albeit against some weaker opponents. Regardless, the Giants have had four come from behind victories in their past six games, a feat which will only fortify their confidence and help them going forward.

While the Dodgers haven’t been bad, their underperformance is gradually pushing them further from the playoffs. This could all be explained as growing pains for the Dodgers as they work to build team chemistry after a fairly drastic overhaul of the lineup. Unfortunately, the time for gelling as a unit has long since passed. As the season draws to its conclusion, slipping backwards in the NL West standings is not the direction Los Angeles wants to go if they hope to make the playoffs. Things could be looking bleak for the Dodgers if they can’t turn things around soon.

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Freeze Frame Friday II: Jordan Schafer and Eminem

I think “I Need a Doctor,” because I’m definitely seeing double.

After nearly a month-long hiatus, it’s back!  Having to go through pun withdrawals is quite troubling, so it’s time to change things up again ( cue the drum set, I’m feeling a series of rim-shots).

This week, we have Houston Astros center fielder Jordan Schafer and multiplatinum recording artist Eminem.

Currently on the 15 day Disabled List with a left shoulder injury, Schafer, the 25 year-old Indiana native feels as though he hasn’t played in a major league game in “Forever.”

2012 has been Schafer’s third consecutive attempt to break out into stardom after a positive HGH test in 2008 left him suspended for 50 games.  Experts rationalized the decision to enhance his training, saying, “He needed a little controversy.”

The left-handed speedster is batting a feeble .216 on the season but is 2 for 3 against Detroit rap legend Papa Doc after defeating him in an open mic night last weekend.

Schafer has been far from the Astros’ only disappointment this season.  At 40-91, Houston finds itself a study in mediocrity, trailing the NL Central-leading Cincinnati Reds by 39.5 games.  The rest of the MLB just stood there to watch the Astros burn through all their players as they essentially cleaned house by gutting their more expensive contracts towards the end of last season.

The perennial cellar dwellers need to remind themselves that “it’s not so bad…it’s not so bad.”  Before they know it, they’ll be trying their luck in the AL West.

Still, Schafer remains unfazed and brutally honest with critics as well as people who insist he is Eminem.  “It’s a little too late to say that you’re sorry now, you kicked me when I was down, but what you say just don’t hurt me,” he said.

Note: the real Jordan  Schafer prefers to stand during interviews.

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Red Sox and Dodgers Complete Star-Studded Trade

This weekend, a blockbuster deal was made in baseball that amassed more contract dollars for the Los Angeles Dodgers in one day than another blockbuster, Borat, made in two months at the box office. 

In the unlikeliest of post trade-deadline moves, the Red Sox sent infielder Nick Punto, outfielder Carl Crawford, pitcher Josh Beckett and power-hitting first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to the Dodgers for first baseman James Loney and a host of Boston’s most promising prospects.

For the Red Sox, the deal offers a chance to rebuild as their worst season in recent memory has them effectively out of playoff contention.  Their 60-67 record has them in fourth place in the AL East and 9.5 games out of the American League’s second Wild Card spot. 


The addition of Gonzalez this season and Crawford next season offers Matt Kemp some protection in one of the league’s most anemic lineups.


Boston overnighted a considerable amount of Major League experience and $262.5 million in payroll over the next several years but welcomed in significant potential. 

Pitchers Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster have combined for .2 innings in the MLB but are likely to be consistent inning eaters for the Red Sox in the next couple seasons and infielder Jerry Sands is poised to hit his stride after getting his feet wet with the Dodgers. 

The minor league phenom is hitting a sub-Mendoza Line .174 but only had 23 at bats this season with Los Angeles before being dealt.  Loney, the other position player now being sent to Boston, offers a good-enough veteran bat that should take Boston to the end of the season with no glaring issues.

In Los Angeles, obtaining Crawford, Punto, Beckett and Gonzalez frees up a substantial amount of cash to pursue free agents in the off-season…pause not (as our friend Borat would so eloquently put it).

After picking up Hanley Ramirez, who is owed $15.5 million in 2013, just a few weeks ago, the Dodgers front office is now throwing more money at the wall, hoping a National League pennant will be what sticks. 

As with most roster moves, however, the Dodgers are getting more on paper than in reality. 

Crawford is a long-term investment and will have five years remaining on his contract at season’s end but is out at least until Spring Training after undergoing Tommy John surgery two days ago. 

Gonzalez has been effective this season with 16 home runs and 87 RBI but will be turning 31 next May and Beckett, 5-11 with a 5.23 ERA, is putting up KFC-in-the-clubhouse type numbers in his 2012 campaign. 

Keep in mind, Beckett is just one season removed from going 13-7 with a 2.89 ERA.

L.A. currently finds itself 2 games back of the Giants in the NL West and a half-game out of the second Wild Card position. 

Despite his rocky start, look for Beckett to pitch well in the month of September.  The right-hander has had success in pressure situations before (see: 2003 World Series) and the turmoil in Boston’s clubhouse with Manager Bobby Valentine certainly hasn’t helped this season.  His presence will bolster the back end of a rotation that currently features a shaky-at-best Joe Blanton. 

Sometimes a change in scenery is exactly what three talented players need.  Carl Crawford looked as though he hit with the weight of the world (equivalent to the expectations of Red Sox Nation) on his shoulders last season and Adrian Gonzalez, a San Diego native, will once again enjoy the luxury of not having to worry about things like wind chill come late September.

Despite all the questions surrounding this late-season shuffle, it seems as though everyone is now in the right place.  The Red Sox return to their “farm system-built” feel, while the Dodgers come one step closer to making Magic Johnson look like a combination savior-genius. 

With the dust finally settling after the dropping of this unexpected bombshell, Boston now provides some legitimacy for its long-term hopes; without immediate production in Los Angeles, the Dodgers playoff hopes for this season “will be execute.”

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A Resurgent Tim Lincecum Toes the Rubber

For the entire first half of the 2012 MLB season, Tim Lincecum has been hearing about how he just isn’t good enough.

He’s been told that his speed has gone down, that his workout regimen is insufficient, that his pitching windup has too many moveable parts to be diagnosed properly after a few bad starts.

That if he screws up one more time, his season as a starter for the San Francisco Giants will be effectively over.

Clearly, this past week’s All-Star break allowed Lincecum to escape the speculation and criticism and he responded in a big way in his first start of the second half, blanking the Houston Astros over eight innings of brilliant work on Saturday night.


Lincecum showed signs of his former self on Saturday night, fanning 11 Astros in a dominating performance.

Lincecum entered the game with an NL-worst 6.42 ERA (among qualifying pitchers) and 10 losses and the expectation was that he would undergo yet another one of his early-game meltdowns.  On this night, that nightmare inning never came.

The Freak’s performance came as a pleasant surprise to the more than 40,000 Giants fans who witnessed his season high in innings pitched (8), strikeouts (11) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (11:1).

After an eighth inning in which he completed his own strikeout against the last batter he faced, flipping a dropped third strike that had dribbled up the first base line to Brandon Belt to retire the side, Lincecum received a standing ovation from a Giants crowd that was as appreciative as it was excited.

As Lincecum’s fate would have it, the crowd’s elation was short-lived.  Giants interim closer Santiago Casilla couldn’t hold the 2-0 he had been handed, blowing his fifth save of the season in one of the most bizarre turn of events imaginable.

With the Giants ahead by one and with two outs already recorded in the top of the ninth inning, Casilla got Astros catcher Chris Snyder to chase a curveball in the dirt to earn his third strikeout of the inning.

The ball then bounced off the shin guards of Giants catcher Hector Sanchez, who tracked down the ball and threw wildly to first base, allowing centerfielder Justin Maxwell, who had not stopped running, to score from second base and tie the game.

The miscue handed Lincecum a no-decision on the night, but the Giants were able to overcome.

Sanchez would later redeem himself by driving in the winning run in the bottom of the 12th and Lincecum remained encouraged by his performance following the win.


Replacing an injured Brian Wilson at the start of the season, Casilla has struggled to shut the door as of late.

“I’m going to take the small steps as they come,” Lincecum said. “Even though we won I’m going to go home and reflect on this and think about the things I did well and try to duplicate them in my next start.”

After his ability to respond to the widespread doubt on Saturday, all signs point to a resurgent Lincecum.  Sure, his speed might not be what it once was, but “The Freak” appears to once again have confidence in his ability—often times all it takes for a struggling pitcher to turn a disappointing season around.

His ERA now sits at 5.93, which is still not good enough in the eyes of many, but certainly a good enough improvement in one night of baseball.

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