By: Gary Wise
Baseball offers know-it-alls like me some nice structure for best-player arguments with its end-of-year awards. Granted, the guys who do the actual voting get it wrong an awful lot, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to talk about who could, should or will win the Most Valuable Player, the Cy Young and the Rookie of the Year trophies.
It doesn’t feel like the 2010 baseball season is a quarter of the way done, but as of Tuesday, teams had played around 40 of their 162 games. That’s enough to take a look at what’s gone down so far and who’s lining up to take home the hardware.
Pre-season favorite: Probably Joe Mauer with a nod to Alex Rodriguez.
If the season ended today: Justin Morneau
Morneau has been an absolute beast in 2010. While Mauer and ARod have both faltered, the big first baseman has managed to jump out to quarter-mark AL leads in batting average (.366), on-base percentage (.482) and slugging percentage (.694) despite reported back issues in the spring. He’s dominating in more or less every way we determine who’s been most productive in a given at bat and he’s led the Twinkies to a 24-15 start, good for first place in the AL West. At this point, anyone else winning the award would be an upset.
Honorable mention: Miguel Cabrera, who is single-handedly keeping the Tigers afloat while avoiding nightcaps.
Pre-season favorite: Albert Pujols
If the season ended today: Andre Ethier
As I write this, Ethier is being placed on the disabled list due to a broken finger, a real shame since he was off to a potentially historic start. How it’ll affect him for the rest of the year is anybody’s guess, but I’m pretty confident that it won’t make him better than the .392/.457/.744 he’s put up thus far. He’s leading the major leagues 38 RBI, an overrated stat that the voters love, while leading the Dodgers to a 21-17 record, in the thick of the NL West race despite the team having two real starting pitchers and an owner more focused on his divorce than his club.
Honorable mention: Jason Werth, who the Phillies more or less ensured they couldn’t resign when they gave Ryan Howard one of the worst contracts in baseball. Pujols gets a nod too, despite seeming almost mortal this year.
AL CY YOUNG
Pre-season favorites: Zack Grienke, Felix Hernandez
If the season ended today: David Price
Grienke and Hernandez are a combined 3-7, leaving the door open for the next generation of starting pitchers to make a run at the big prize. Price, the #1 overall pick in the 2007 draft, is the one making the best run in the early going. He earned his sixth win Tuesday against one loss on the season to go with 44 strike outs against 59 baserunners in 54.2 innings, heading the staff of the best team in baseball thus far, the Tampa Bay Rays.
Honorable mention: Most of the New York Yankees, with Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes and C.C. Sabathia all putting up good numbers.
NL CY YOUNG
Pre-season favorites: Tim Lincecum, Roy Halladay
If the season ended today: Ubaldo Jiminez
OK, Lincecum and Halladay have been awesome, as has Adam Wainwright and about eight other guys, but Jiminez gets the nod here for going 7-1 with a 1.12 ERA and striking out…everybody. Really though, I’m not sure anyone in the NL other than Ethier is hitting worth a damn because the pitching numbers have been nuts. As good as Ubaldo’s been, if this keeps up, the National League is going to have to award some extra trophies this year when all four of these guys finish with 25 wins apiece.
Honorable mention: didn’t we already do this?
AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Pre-season favorites: Neftali Feliz, Brian Matusz
If the season ended today: Austin Jackson
If you’re a Yankee-hater, you’ve got to love that they traded they traded 23-year old Auston Jackson, he of the .332/.382/.446 line with 28 runs and six stolen bases as part of the deal that landed them Curtis Granderson. Granderson hit .225/.311/.375 in 91 at-bats before winning a luxurious, all-expenses paid trip to the DL at the start of May.
Honorable mention: Feliz, who’s served very capably as the Rangers’ closer since Frank Francisco imploded.
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Pre-season favorites: StephenStrasburg, Buster Posey, Jason Heyward
If the season ended today: Jason Heyward
While neither Strasburg nor Posey has spent a day on a major league roster, Heyward’s been as good as advertised. Originally expected to start the year in AAA, the kid more or less went from the prom to the major leagues (he’ll be 21 in August), arriving quicker than expected to help celebrate manager Bobby Cox’s final season. Heyward’s hit eight home runs, has 28 RBI and has managed an outstanding .403 OBP, showing patience that kids his age just typically do not have. He’s the best rookie in the NL like now and may end up being the best player in the league over the next 15 years.
Honorable mention: St. Louis’ Jamie Garcia has been sickeningly good, but voters won’t see past Heyward’s sparkle.