Thursday, October 02, 2014

My Choices for the 2014 Baseball Blogger Alliance Post Season Awards - It Might Surprise You

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance is a five-year old organization that brings together hundreds of Baseball blog writers from throughout North America to foster communication and collaboration.  We are encouraged to use one another to deepen our understanding of the game and the teams that play it. It is for this reason that I enjoy being a part of the group

A side benefit to membership is having an opportunity to vote on end of the year awards; much like the more established BBWAA.  Take note that, like the BBWAA, we are tasked with choosing the best three for the manager, rookie and reliever awards, the top five for pitcher, and the top ten for MVP.  I have included a little write up for my top pick for each award.  Check out my choices for the years best in the National League. 

The Willie Mays Award is given to the top rookie each year.

Jacob deGrom.  This man came out of nowhere to take the spotlight from highly touted prospect Billy Hamilton.  Jacob deGrom had a phenomenal rookie season on a team that provided little offensive support.  He finished the season with a 2.69 ERA, an impressive FIP of 2.67 and had a struck out per nine innings ratio of 9.2.  DeGrom was also the NL Rookie of the month in July; where he went 4-1 with a 1.39 ERA and threw 38 strike outs in 32.1 innings.
  1. Jacob deGrom, Mets
  2. Billy Hamilton, Reds
  3. Ender Inciarte, Diamondbacks

The Goose Gossage Award is given to the top reliever each year.

Craig Kimbrel. If there is any one player who deserves to be considered Kershaw-like at his position it is Craig Kimbrel. For the fourth straight season he lead the National League in saves, and posted an ERA under 2.00 for the third straight year (leading all other top-flight relievers).  In 2014 he recorded 47 saves, a 1.63 ERA, a WHIP of 0.91 and a batting average against of just .139.  Even more amazing, he gave up only two home runs in 63 appearances.  BTW, if you haven't seen the video of the fans in Philadelphia making fun of him just this past Saturday then you're missing out.  To see what I mean go here.  BTW, even with those fans making fun of him he still recorded a save.
  1. Craig Kimbrel, Braves
  2. Kenley Jansen, Dodgers
  3. Trevor Rosenthal, Cardinals

The Walter Johnson Award is given to the top pitcher each year.

Clayton Kershaw.  I think it's safe to say that there is no doubt about this pick.  Clayton Kershaw has been an absolute beast this season.  Even after missing over a month worth of games to start the year, Kershaw still lead the Majors in wins with 21.  He also lead in ERA with 1.77, WHIP with 0.857 and complete games with 6.  When you also consider that he threw his first career no-hitter this season and pitched 41 scoreless consecutive innings this choice becomes even more obvious.  There was not a better pitcher in all of the Major Leagues.
  1. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
  2. Johnny Cueto, Reds
  3. Jordan Zimmerman, Nationals
  4. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
  5. Zack Greinke, Dodgers

The Stan Musial Award is given to the top player each year.

Clayton Kershaw. You can call me a homer all you want, but this was clearly one of those seasons where not a single non-pitching position player established themselves as the leagues best.  So, it's only appropriate that a pitcher of Kershaw's class be considered for MVP.  After all, no batter came close to eclipsing Kershaw's 8.0 WAR for the season, and no player was more impactful to their teams regular season success.  Consider this, when Clayton started his 41 inning scoreless innings streak on June 13th the Dodgers were 8 games back of the Giants.  By the time the streak was over they had a 0.5 game lead in the division.

Of note, back in late-July there was a series of incidents during a game against the Cardinals where Hanley Ramirez was hit by a pitch around the head by the infamous Joe Kelly.  Kershaw, seeing the lack of respect that pitcher had for his own abilities and the Dodgers, retaliated in the most professional of ways.  He threw a purpose pitch in the perfect spot - on Matt Holliday's bum.  No harm, but a slight foul.  Then later on he said this:
“But what I will say is, though, it’s tough when you see Hanley get hit like that so many times. It’s one thing to miss in[side], but when you’re missing up and in at a guy’s face like that, that’s really scary. … When you throw that hard, you need to have a better idea where the ball’s going.”
That's the kind of message your best player, a leader and the MVP candidate has to make.  Enough is enough, and nobody is better at delivering that kind of message than Clayton Kershaw.
  1. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
  2. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins
  3. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
  4. Buster Posey, Giants
  5. Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers
  6. Anthony Rendon, Nationals
  7. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
  8. Johnny Cueto, Reds
  9. Josh Harrison, Pirates
  10. Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers

The Connie Mack Award is given to the top manager each year.

Don Mattingly.   I know exactly what you're thinking.  This Ernest guy is a huge HOMER... Like, big time!  And, for the most part, I kinda am... But keep this in mind, when I first thought about who I believe should win this award Don's name did not first come to mind.  In fact, I considered just about every winning manager in the National League before I finally realized what an incredible job he really did this season.  Not only did he have to contend with the expectations of a team with a huge payroll, but he also had to do it with a ownership filled with Wall Street behemoths looking over his back.  Furthermore, he had to juggle huge egos in the clubhouse.  No other manager had to deal with what he had to; while at the same time improving on his record from last season. 

Do you remember back in early June when the Dodgers were treading water and playing .500 ball?  They were 8.5 games back of the Giants and most national prognosticators were already calling the division for our foes up north.  Well, Don gave a rather exasperating press conference in Chicago after finishing up a lackluster roadtrip and declared that the Dodgers were "shitty."  S-H-I-T-T-Y-!  He complained that the club just wasn't very good and that selfishness had taken hold in the clubhouse.  His public shaming of the Dodgers was not seen by the players as Don's failure.  Instead, they appeared to realize it was all on them, and they responded by taking out their bats.  Over the next five games they scored 29 runs, and went on to erase a 10 game deficit in the standings to overtake the Giants less than a month later.

I call that a BIG BRASS BALLS move by a skipper willing to risk his job to motivate the club the only way he thought they would respond - by kicking their proverbial butts for all to see.  And you know what, it worked.  For that alone he deserves to be the Manager of the Year.
  1. Don Mattingly, Dodgers
  2. Matt Williams, Nationals
  3. Clint Hurdle, Pirates

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