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Cullen: Checking MLB award races through three quarters

Scott Cullen
8/22/2012 5:19:00 PM
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Three quarters of the way through the 2012 Major League Baseball season, some of the award races are starting to shake out, but many remain up for grabs, which should make for a fascinating finish to the year.

The story of the year, from an individual standpoint, has to be Angels centre fielder Mike Trout, the recently-turned-21-year-old, who has been the game's top prospect for the last couple seasons while he's been in the minors and then he showed up in the majors and exceeded all expectations.

While Trout's overall contribution can't be ignored, the Angels' slide out of a playoff spot doesn't help his cause, particularly among old-school voters that like team results to dictate individual award recognition.

As such, runners-up Miguel Cabrera and Robinson Cano both have a chance to get to the postseason and have the numbers to deserve consideration.

In the National League, there isn't a runaway candidate, but Andrew McCutchen appears to have the edge and some of the most viable challengers are also on non-playoff contenders.

Here is my look at some individual awards, including Gold Gloves, All-Surprise and All-Disappointing teams heading into the final quarter of the 2012 season.

AL MVP
Mike Trout, CF, L.A. Angels of Anaheim (24 HR, 70 RBI, 39 SB, .344 AVG, 1.014 OPS)

Runners Up:
Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Detroit (31 HR, 105 RBI, .328 AVG, .980 OPS)
Robinson Cano, 2B, N.Y. Yankees (25 HR, 68 RBI, .302 AVG, .899 OPS)

Early in the season, it looked like Josh Hamilton would run away with the award, but a midseason slump leaves him as a contender for runner-up and rookie Mike Trout has just been so off-the-charts that it's tough to pick anyone else, even if the Angels, as a team, haven't performed up to expectations.

NL MVP
Andrew McCutchen, CF, Pittsburgh (24 HR, 76 RBI, .350 AVG, .999 OPS)

Runners-Up:
David Wright, 3B, N.Y. Mets (16 HR, 75 RBI, .320 AVG, .930 OPS)
Ryan Braun, LF, Milwaukee (33 HR, 83 RBI, .304 AVG, .969 OPS)

Joey Votto had a stranglehold for this until he got hurt and has now missed five weeks of action, making it tough to stay on top of the competition. Coincidence or not, it probably didn't help Votto's case any when the Reds went on a tear following his injury. Melky Cabrera might have been a contender for a runner-up spot but, well, the synthetic testosterone appears to be problematic. From those remaining, McCutchen has played like the star that he is, carrying the Pirates to playoff contention and whethey they make it or not, McCutchen has probably done enough to deserve the honour.

AL CY YOUNG
Felix Hernandez, Seattle (12-5, 2.54 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 179 K, 187 2/3 IP)

Runners Up:
Justin Verlander, Detroit (12-7, 2.53 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 180 K, 181 2/3 IP)
David Price, Tampa Bay (16-4, 2.28 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 167 K, 170 IP)

This race has become much closer, and Hernandez's perfect game was enough to vault him ahead of Verlander (not because he threw a perfect game, but the overall result in his stats following the game), but it could see-saw between them down the stretch. David Price has been great too and if pitcher wins get attention -- even when they shouldn't -- then Price might steal the votes.

NL CY YOUNG
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles (11-7, 2.87 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 175 K, 178 2/3 IP)

Runners-Up:
R.A. Dickey, N.Y. Mets (15-4, 2.82, 1.03 WHIP, 181 K, 175 1/3 IP)
Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco (14-7, 2.83 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 160 K, 171 1/3 IP)

Another race that should be close. Dickey, the 37-year-old journeyman knuckleballer would be a better story than Kershaw, but if the Dodgers are pushing for a playoff spot and Kershaw is doing what he has been doing for the past couple seasons, there is a good chance for the 24-year-old ace to get the nod. Washington's Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg deserve some mention, but Strasburg's limited workload holds him back from being ranked at the top of the league.

AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Mike Trout, CF, L.A. Angels of Anaheim (24 HR, 70 RBI, 39 SB, .344 AVG, 1.014 OPS)

Runners Up:
Yoenis Cespedes, CF, Oakland (16 HR, 60 RBI, .303 AVG, .878 OPS)
Jarrod Parker, RHP, Oakland (8-7, 3.48 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 97 K, 129 IP)

There is no competition here and that's not a slight on Cespedes or Parker, both of whom have been very good, but Trout is in another world.

NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Todd Frazier, 3B, Cincinnati (18 HR, 55 RBI, .294 AVG, .913 OPS)

Runners-Up:
Zack Cozart, SS, Cincinnati (14 HR, 30 RBI, .252 AVG, .712 OPS)
Norichika Aoki, RF, Milwaukee (6 HR, 30 RBI, 18 SB, .282 AVG, .755 OPS)

It's more of an open field in the National League, though it does appear that Todd Frazier, the 26-year-old utility man who has found playing time at the corner infield spots for the Reds, providing unexpected power, is the leader. Bryce Harper, while tremendous for a 19-year-old, has slumped and doesn't warrant the award unless he finishes with a flourish.

GOLD GLOVES
C - Yadier Molina, St. Louis
Runners-Up: Miguel Montero, Arizona; Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia

Steady as she goes; the same trio as the midpoint of the season and Molina is perennially the game's best defensive backstop.

1B - Adrian Gonzalez, Boston
Runners-Up: Mark Teixeira, N.Y. Yankees; Casey Kotchman, Cleveland

A disappointing year at the plate hasn't hurt Gonzalez in the field and Kotchman is nothing if not accomplished with the glove. San Francisco's Brandon Belt isn't too shabby in the field, either.

2B - Darwin Barney, Chicago Cubs
Runners-Up: Dustin Ackley, Seattle; Dustin Pedroia, Boston

Robinson Cano could be a viable runner-up as well, but Barney, Ackley and Pedroia have all excelled in both Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved.

3B - Brett Lawrie, Toronto
Runners-Up: Brandon Inge, Oakland; Adrian Beltre, Texas

Health could cost Lawrie this spot by season's end, but his edge in Defensive Runs Saved keeps him ahead of a whole host of quality fielders at the hot corner. In addition to Inge and Beltre, Placido Polanco, Mike Moustakas and David Wright are all worthy candidates.

SS - Brendan Ryan, Seattle
Runners-Up: Yunel Escobar, Toronto; J.J. Hardy, Baltimore

This trio has been established at the top of the position for much of the season. If not for getting injured, Braves rookie Andrelton Simmons might have had more to say about this. Maybe next year.

LF - Desmond Jennings, Tampa Bay
Runners-Up: Alex Gordon, Kansas City; Martin Prado, Atlanta

The numbers in left field suggest that Alfonso Soriano should be a contender, which seems unlikely, and Pittsburgh's Alex Presley has been pretty good too, but Jennings and Gordon are above the rest.

CF - Mike Trout, L.A. Angels of Anaheim
Runners-Up: Michael Bourn, Atlanta; Craig Gentry, Texas

It's no surprise that Trout, with his speed, has the range to be a dominant centre fielder and he's already the best in the business. Jon Jay, Chris Young and Carlos Gomez are all having strong seasons in centre as well.

RF - Ichiro Suzuki, N.Y. Yankees
Runners-Up: Josh Reddick, Oakland; Ben Revere, Minnesota

Ichiro remains a premier fielder, but there is a crop of young challengers, including Reddick, Revere, Jason Heyward and Giancarlo Stanton.

(I realize there are Gold Gloves awarded in both leagues.  I'm just trying to recognize the best fielders at each position.)

ALL-SURPRISE TEAM
C - Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia (14 HR, 58 RBI, .335 AVG, .959 OPS)
1B - Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona (18 HR, 65 RBI, .295 AVG, .886 OPS)
2B - Aaron Hill, Arizona (17 HR, 55 RBI, .300 AVG, .857 OPS)
SS - Alcides Escobar, Kansas City (4 HR, 40 RBI, 24 SB, .303 AVG, .746 OPS)
3B - Kyle Seager, Seattle (13 HR, 68 RBI, .247 AVG, .706 OPS)
LF - Josh Willingham, Minnesota (31 HR, 91 RBI, .263 AVG, .916 OPS)
CF - Dexter Fowler, Colorado (12 HR, 44 RBI, .306 AVG, .890 OPS)
RF - Josh Reddick, Oakland (25 HR, 63 RBI, .249 AVG, .803 OPS)
SP - Kyle Lohse, St. Louis (12-2, 2.61 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 101 K, 162 IP)
SP - R.A. Dickey, N.Y. Mets (15-4, 2.82, 1.03 WHIP, 181 K, 175 1/3 IP)
SP - Chris Capuano, Los Angeles (11-8, 3.18 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 143 K, 157 2/3 IP)
SP - Jonathon Niese, N.Y. Mets (10-6, 3.49 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 129 K, 152 IP)
SP - A.J. Burnett, Pittsburgh (15-4, 3.63 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 133 K, 151 1/3 IP)
RP - Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay (2-2, 38 SV, 0.78 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 57 K, 57 2/3 IP)

ALL-DISAPPOINTING TEAM
C - Alex Avila, Detroit (7 HR, 35 RBI, .252 AVG, .743 OPS)
1B - Gaby Sanchez, Pittsburgh (3 HR, 18 RBI, .217 AVG, .579 OPS)
2B - Jemile Weeks, Oakland (2 HR, 20 RBI, 15 SB, .220 AVG, .607 OPS)
SS - Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox (7 HR, 54 RBI, .260 AVG, .645 OPS)
3B - Mark Reynolds, Baltimore (12 HR, 42 RBI, .222 AVG, .742 OPS)
LF - Jason Bay, N.Y. Mets (6 HR, 13 RBI, .151 AVG, .517 OPS)
CF - Cameron Maybin, San Diego (6 HR, 37 RBI, 22 SB, .230 AVG, .634 OPS)
RF - Jeff Francoeur, Kansas City (11 HR, 33 RBI, .240 AVG, .660 OPS)
SP - Ricky Romero, Toronto (8-11, 5.63 ERA, 1.57 WHIP)
SP - Dan Haren, L.A. Angels (8-10, 4.90 ERA, 1.39 WHIP)
SP - Tim Lincecum, San Francisco (7-13, 5.30 ERA, 1.48 WHIP)
SP - Jon Lester, Boston (7-10, 5.03 ERA, 1.36 WHIP)
RP - Heath Bell, Miami (2-5, 19 SV, 5.69 ERA, 1.63 WHIP)

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.



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