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AL Central: End-of-Year Awards
With the Indians having locked up the division days ago and the Tigers clinging to the most tenuous mathematical probability for the wild card -- their elimination number is one -- 'tis the season for end-of-year awards.
Division's Most Valuable Player: Magglio Ordoñez. Though the Tigers fell off the pace down the stretch, it was through no fault of Ordoñez, who is hitting .358 with 27 homers and 133 RBIs. He'll likely win the batting title and finish second only to A-Rod in RBIs. And he stayed consistent while Gary Sheffield was alternately streaky and hurt, Craig Monroe was terrible, and the two corner infielders, Sean Casey and Brandon Inge, both have sub-.400 slugging percentages.
Finishing at a very close second is Cleveland catcher Victor Martinez. He's the only Indian with at least 100 RBIs (he's got 107), a .300 average (he's an even .300) and a .500 slugging percentage (he's at .505), and he's tied with Grady Sizemore for most home runs (24). And he's done all that while playing 117 of his 143 games at catcher.
Division's Least Valuable Player(s): It's a tie! When comparing the lack of merits on the hitting resumes of Minnesota's Nick Punto and Kansas City's Tony Pena, I just couldn't come to a decision about who hurt their team more this season. Punto has managed to play 145 games with 458 at bats ... and not even reach 100 hits! He's stuck on 97 for now, good for a .212 average. Well, he must at least have a lot of walks to justify that playing time, right? Wrong again! He's walked only 54 times, so his on-base percentage is a piddly .293. And with just 22 extra-base hits, he slugs only .273. Somehow, he's expected to start again next year.
Pena, meanwhile, reaches base even less frequently. In 146 games and 490 ABs, he has more hits than Punto, with 126, but has walked only 10 times, which is just one walk fewer than teammate Reggie Sanders accumulated in 122 fewer games. That means, at first glance, we can only confirm that Pena has taken 40 pitches this year. He has a .257/.275/.335 split for average/on-base/slugging.
Division's Cy Young: C.C. Sabathia. An 18-7 record, 3.19 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 205 strikeouts in 234 innings of being Cleveland's never-miss-a-start, superstar ace all speak for themselves. Sure, Detroit's Justin Verlander and Minnesota's Johan Santana both had outstanding seasons, with Verlander even throwing a no-hitter, but Sabathia led the Indians to a runaway division title while mentoring young Fausto Carmona, too.
Division's Mike Maroth: Cliff Lee. The award, so named for Maroth's 2003 season in which he posted a robust 9-21 record with a 5.73 ERA, goes to Lee, who is 5-8 with a 6.40 ERA and 1.55 WHIP. He not only lost his spot in the rotation but also was demoted to the minor leagues -- hard to do after going 46-24 the last three seasons. (For the record, Maroth, who was traded to St. Louis in June for the ubiquitous player to be named later, is 0-5 with a 10.93 ERA and 2.35 WHIP in 37 innings for the Cardinals.) I must apologize to Sidney Ponson, as he'd have been a shoo-in for this award had Minnesota not cut the cord when it did. Jose Contreras, John Danks, Todd Wellemeyer, Ramon Ortiz and Joe Borowski all receive honorable mention. OK, I'm kidding on Borowski. Mostly.
Division's Rookie of the Year: Brian Bannister. This was the toughest award to give, as so many players were very close, but not for the expected reason. Looking at the list of AL Central prospects in the preseason read like a roster of some of baseball's best: Bannister, Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Luke Hovechar, Matt Garza, Alexi Casilla, Andrew Miller, Josh Fields, Aaron Laffey and Jensen Lewis, among others who conceivably could make an impact on the 2007 MLB season. Sadly, none, sans Bannister, quite lived up to the unrealistic hype in Year 1. But Bannister has pitched very well (12-9, 3.61) for a team 21 games under .500.
Division's Disappointment of the Year: Gil Meche's lack of run support. Meche, Fungoes' unabashed favorite AL Central player, has a 3.69 ERA and 1.29 WHIP but is just 9-13 with the Royals' lineup failing to support him.
Manager of the Year: Eric Wedge. This one was unanimous. OK, they're all unanimous because I'm the only one voting, but I raised both my hands for Wedge. He led the Indians to the division title despite fielding an overall less talented team than Detroit, and Wedge did it despite several ups and downs, including a subpar year from Travis Hafner.
Best surprise: Carmona. But I've already written about him, oh, 6,287,948 times this season. And the close runner-up is the Indians' bullpen, led by Rafael Betancourt (5-1, 1.41 ERA, 0.76 WHIP) and Rafael Perez (1-1, 1.69, 0.90).
Worst surprise: Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye and Jim Thome. Apparently the fountain of youth is running a little low. The three are 31, 33 and 36 years old, respectively, and figured to be due for a small decline in which they didn't duplicate their cumulative 2006 production of .306, 121 HR and 342 RBIs. In 2007, however, with six games to play, the heart of Chicago's order has combined for only .260, 88 HR and 249 RBIs.
Breakout Player of the Year: Curtis Granderson. He has produced only the third 20-20-20-20 season in major league history (doubles-triples-homers-steals) and did so with style, humor and a wardrobe from Wal-Mart. Check out colleague Albert Chen's great feature on him in last week's magazine.
Best Season by a Guy with Too Many Letters in His Last Name: Mark Grudzielanek. He edged out A.J. Pierzynski.
Best Season by a Player with Repeating Initials: Placido Polanco. Honorable mention to Brian Bannister, Billy Butler and Jair Jurrjens. Dishonorable mention to Mike MacDougal and Boof Bonser.
Worst Cameo by a 40-something Player: Jose Mesa. Forget that he pitched for Detroit this season? Tigers fans don't, despite his not having appeared for them since May -- a 12.34 ERA in 11.2 innings is hard to repress. Dishonorable mention to Roberto Hernandez.
Best Quote: Casey Blake. After his 26-game hitting streak was broken in June, he had this to say about Joe DiMaggio's 56-game record: "I didn't want to break the record. People would have been wondering 20 or 30 years down the road, 'Who is Casey Blake?' You want the big name in that spot. It's better if I leave DiMaggio's record alone. That's a record that should be broken by somebody people have heard of."
Labels: AL Central
posted by SI.com | View comments |
Why the hate for John Danks? The kid is a 22 year old rookie who probably should have been in AAA this year, yet pitched very well for a good portion of the season...until his innings piled up...
hey, i'm the guy that wrote the critique of your interviewees' responses on firejaymariotti. saw you and other dodger fans commenting on it on dodger thoughts earlier. just a few clarifications-
1. i am definitely more into the attack than the critque, as one commenter guessed. that's just kind of how i work... can't really explain it. although you can't have the former without the latter, which i understand. i try to strike a balance.
2. not using caps is all the rage these days, contrary to what the commenters seem to think.
3. i am indeed a rockies fan with a chip on my shoulder, as one of the commenters guessed.
4. i do genuninely like your work here and have become a faithful reader. keep up the good work. thanks for your time.
Is part of your criterion for rookie of the year that the player has to be eligible for the leaguewide rookie of the year award? If not, then I think Asdrubal Cabrera should be the winner of this award. He was huge for the Indians down the stretch run and arguably their second half MVP
the tribe might not have made the playoffs, if it hadnt been for the stud rook cabrera. he did more for the indians than any of those other rooks did for there squads. when he was inserted in the indians two hole he brung a whole new dynamic to the offense.
i woud also argue that the rookie of the year should be rafael perez. he started the year at the craphole that is AA Akron for the tribe and worked his way into the left handed setup role, crucial to most (if not all) teams.
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