MLB award watch 2012
Taking stock of the major awards at the quarter pole of the season
Today on ESPN.com we are celebrating the fact that we have reached the season's quarter pole. With that in mind, we asked our experts to give their picks for the major MLB awards with 25 percent of the season completed.
The voters -- Jim Bowden, Jim Caple, Jerry Crasnick, Christina Kahrl, Tim Kurkjian, Buster Olney, David Schoenfield and Jayson Stark -- were asked to give us their top five choices (in order) for AL/NL MVP and Cy Young, as well as their top three choices for AL/NL manager and rookie of the year.
After tallying the votes, the results for each category are noted below. Note: The voters were asked who they would vote for if the season ended today, not who they think will win when the 2012 season is in the books.
Now, here are your quarter-pole award winners!
In any other year, Jones -- who's hitting .307 with 14 homers -- would have a legitimate case, but Hamilton currently leads the league in all three Triple Crown categories, and that will usually win you an MVP award. Jackson has been flying under the radar a bit because the Tigers have struggled, but that's not his fault, and his .414 OBP combined with tremendous speed and defense make him extremely valuable. Cabrera and Konerko are both picking up right where they left off last season, with the former hitting .309 with stellar defense, and the latter continuing to beat Father Time, putting up a 1.058 OPS at the age of 36.
@ESPN_MLB Josh Hamilton and this question is completely pointless no one should argue otherwise.— Mike O'Neill (@MIKESMD77) May 21, 2012
If we had taken this vote a couple of weeks ago, it probably would have been unanimous as well, but then Kemp ended up on the disabled list and Wright went on a tear, and now leads the National League in batting average and on-base percentage. Despite Wright's surge, our voters still heavily preferred Kemp, who got all but two first-place votes despite his recent injury. Beltran, at age 35, has quietly been putting together one of the best seasons of his career, and leads the NL with 13 homers. Braun paces the circuit with 99 total bases. Votto is leading the NL in doubles (17) and walks (40).
@ESPN_MLB The NL MVP is David Wright. Been as valuable to his team as any player in baseball. Home runs may not be there but OBP is over .500— Frank Marranzino (@Fzino) May 21, 2012
AL Cy Young
Verlander won the MVP and Cy Young awards last year, and our voters have him winning the latter again. Peavy's resurgence is one of the better stories of the season, and the 2007 NL Cy Young winner has a 2.39 ERA, while Weaver is 6-1, with a 2.80 ERA). Darvish is trying to become the second player in history (Fernando Valenzuela, 1981) to win Cy Young and Rookie of the Year in the same season, and he's making a strong case thus far. Morrow is finally learning how to harness his formidable stuff, and has by far the lowest walk rate (2.5 per nine) and ERA (2.63) of his career thus far.
NL Cy Young
This was by far the closest of any of our award votes, and is also the biggest surprise. Not that Beachy isn't a worthy candidate (his 1.33 ERA suggests otherwise), but no one would have considered him a possible Cy Young candidate when the season began. Kershaw's .876 WHIP is actually lower than his mark of a year ago, when he won this award. Gonzalez and Strasburg lead the NL in strikeouts with 69 and 60, respectively, and are big reasons the Nats are contending, while Cueto continues to mystify without missing a lot of bats. He fanned just 104 last year, and is on pace for roughly 150 this year.
AL Rookie of the Year
Even though Trout might fit the classic definition of a "rookie" a little better, it's hard to argue with Darvish's 2.60 ERA and more than strikeout per inning. However, those who think Darvish will run away with this award should be forewarned: Trout has his OPS up to 1.013. Chen has thus far survived the AL East meat grinder with an impressive four-pitch mix, and is 4-1 with a 3.35 ERA. Cook flies under the radar as a middle reliever in Oakland, but he has allowed just four hits in 21 2/3 innings. Smyly has managed to keep his ERA below 3.00, and if not for him the Tigers staff would really be in trouble.
@ESPN_MLB Mike Trout... His call up sparked the Angels and his numbers are incredibly impressive for anyone, much less a rookie.— Chris Stevens (@ChrisStevens612) May 21, 2012
NL Rookie of the Year
Note: Lance Lynn is no longer rookie-eligible because of service time accrued in 2011.
The D-backs have been one of the season's biggest disappointments, and just imagine where they'd be without Miley, who is 5-1 with a 2.14 ERA. Alonso has only one homer, but he's hitting .301 and is second in the NL with 14 doubles, which suggests he is driving the ball and being penalized by Petco Park. Harper's .792 OPS is remarkable for a teenager, though his low batting average (currently .256) could scare off some voters. Nieuwenhuis has cooled off since his hot start, but his versatility and keen eye (.359 OBP) help his cause. Pastornicky has no power, but is hitting .268 and holding his own in the middle of the diamond.
@ESPN_MLB Bryce Harper because he's a freakish 5 tool phenom that is only like 13 years old.— Ashley Chism (@ashleychism) May 21, 2012
AL Manager of the Year
This one was unanimous, and it's easy to see why. Most people assumed the Orioles would finish last in the AL East and possibly lose 100 games, and yet it's May 22 and they are in first. Can they sustain this? It's hard to know. But if the season ended today, there is no question Showalter would win this award. Acta has the Indians hanging strong atop the AL Central, and that is shaping up as a tough race, something few expected when the season began, while Maddon keeps doing what he does, competing in the tough AL East with one of the league's lower payrolls.
NL Manager of the Year
If the Orioles are the biggest surprise in baseball this year, the Dodgers are a close second. Not only are they in first place, but they have opened up a five-game lead despite losing Kemp to the 15-day DL. Johnson has also managed to navigate the injury minefield, and the Nats are hanging tough despite losing Michael Morse and Jayson Werth for extended periods of time. The Mets have avoided being the embarrassment many expected them to be thus far, and Collins deserves kudos for keeping his club's head above water.
"@ESPN_MLB: With 25% of the season completed, who is NL Manager of the Year and why?"Clint Hurdle - have u seen that offense & almost @ 500!— Tim Heffernan (@Heffernan33) May 21, 2012