Blog Archives

2019 MLB American League Awards

Major League Baseball will start handing out the hardware for the 2019 season next week.  The finalists for all the major awards have also been announced.  The Blowhard has his opinions, and the finalists in real life won’t necessarily be the finalists in this “vote”.  We will list out our picks like it was a real ballot.  Meaning, 10 choices for MVP, 5 for Cy Young, etc.  And let’s please remember, the postseason results don’t count.  Real life ballots are finalized once the regular season ends.  Let’s dive right in:

Most Valuable Player:

  1. Mike Trout, LA Angels
  2. Alex Bregman, Houston
  3. DJ LeMahieu, NY Yankees
  4. Xander Bogaerts, Boston
  5. Nelson Cruz, Minnesota
  6. George Springer, Houston
  7. Marcus Semien, Oakland
  8. Rafael Devers, Boston
  9. Carlos Santana, Cleveland
  10. Jorge Soler, Kansas City

This is what I wrote last year:  “There will be at least one person upset that I put Trout third.  Mikey may still yet be the best player in baseball.  But again, for those who don’t remember, I am an advocate for giving the MVP award to the “most valuable” instead of the “best player”.  You will see from the list above that there are no players from bad teams and only one (Trout) from a mediocre team.  I know, these guys are only one of nine on the field at the same time.  And it’s hard to “carry” a baseball team by yourself.  But look at the difference J.D. seemed to make in the Boston lineup and maybe one player can?”

Welp, I give up.  Trout is the best player in baseball.  He looked like he was on his way to his best season before being shut down in early September with a foot injury…and by “best season”, that is really saying something with the career he has had.  It may have been his best season anyway.  His team still sucked, that is nothing new.  It will always make one wonder how “valuable” he actually is to the team.  But that matters not anymore.

Alex Bregman would be the only other real option.  But how “valuable” was he to his team?  Well, he had some great numbers and showed his defensive versatility when he played a great deal of the season at shortstop.  But he also had guys like Jose Altuve, George Springer, Yuli Gurriel, Carlos Correa to go along with a top rookie and 2 Cy Young candidates that we will talk more about later.  So even though Houston won 107 games, Bregman had a lot of help.

So Trout is the choice.  Some people (Pete?) would say that is abundantly clear and always has been.  Perhaps that is true…but moving on…

Semien is the third finalist in real life.  Helluva a year for him for sure.  But 3rd seems to be a stretch.  LeMahieu is my choice.  DJ wasn’t even going to necessarily have a full-time job when he first started the season with the Yanks.  And, silly me, I thought once he left the cozy confines of Coors Field, his numbers would take a hit.  Wrong again.  With all of the Yankee injuries, DJ was out there every day and his numbers, specifically his power numbers, were the best of his career.

Maybe Xander is a little high at 4th, and if you switched him and Semien…I don’t know.  X was 5th in the AL in OPS and as a shortstop, I felt like that meant something.  We likely would have had Cruz and Springer higher than X, but they both missed about 40 games, so we pushed them back a bit.

8-10 could have been anyone.  Per usual.  I thought the three here should be recognized for their awesome seasons.  Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Austin Meadows, Yoan Moncada, Jose Altuve, Matt Olson, a couple of pitchers…if you put any of those guys at the back of the top 10, I would not argue with you.

Cy Young:

  1. Justin Verlander, Houston
  2. Gerrit Cole, Houston
  3. Charlie Morton, Tampa Bay
  4. Shane Bieber, Cleveland
  5. Lance Lynn, Texas

It’s really Verlander 1A and Cole 1B.  It was THAT close.  I guess the tiebreakers included Verlanders’ lower WHIP and more consistent year.  Cole started a little slow and then dominated from June on in.  But if you gave the award to either you wouldn’t be wrong.  Morton is a distant 3rd.  Bieber could have made that spot as well.  I can’t believe I am writing Lynn into the last spot.  But who else would it be?  Mike Minor?  Lucas Giolito?  Eduardo Rodriguez?  A closer like Roberto Osuna?  I don’t know.  Does it matter?

Rookie of the Year:

  1. Yordan Alvarez, Houston
  2. Eloy Jimenez, Chi White Sox
  3. John Means, Baltimore

Alvarez only played 87 games.  But his numbers were so off the charts, he wins in a landslide.  Eloy had a better year than people think.  And Means actually made the All-Star team.  Though, yeah, someone had to go from the Orioles.

There were some other exciting rookies in the league this year.  But they either didn’t do as well as expected (Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, Oscar Mercado) or didn’t play enough (Bo Bichette).  Brandon Lowe was an All-Star and is up for the real award, but he missed the majority of the second half.  And didn’t have the numbers Alvarez had anyway.  Michael Chavis also contributed as a rookie then he himself missed the last several weeks.  Solid group here going forward though.

Manager of the Year:

  1. Rocco Baldelli, Minnesota
  2. Aaron Boone, NY Yankees
  3. Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay

I was tempted to give this to Boone with the way he had to navigate all the injuries the team had this year.  But they are the Yankees.  And have enough resources to combat injuries in the first place.  It’s also impossible to ignore a 23 win improvement in your first year as manager, as the Twins did under Baldelli.  Cash could win this every year.  His team doesn’t spend and he has to have “bullpen games” like 3 days a week.  Not to mention, his best starter, Blake Snell, missed significant time this year.  But Cash always seems to keep the Rays in the mix.  Bob Melvin deserves consideration for the job he did with the A’s as well.  AJ Hinch gets penalized for his team being too good in the first place, unfortunately.

Next:  The National League

David Price…

…simple as that.

Nope, I am not just copying the post from right before the previous series against the New York Yankees, though this may seem to be the case.

It’s just that this time a different starting pitcher may now be the key to the Boston Red Sox’ success in the American League Championship Series.

Last round, we talked about Chris Sale.  Though Sale wasn’t quite at the level we know he can get to, he was pretty good in Game One.  We all likely wondered how he would look the second time around in Game Five, but I think we are also all glad it didn’t get to that point.  Most importantly, the fact that Sale was able to come out in the eighth inning of Game Four and mow the side down on 13 pitches was hopefully pretty telling.  That he was able to bounce back nicely in between starts and would be even more good to go for his next one.  Hopefully.

That leaves us with the Sox’ other “ace”, David Price.  A disaster in Game Two at Fenway against the Yanks, he is now again slated for Game Two against the Houston Astros.  Mistake?  Perhaps.

We all know the postseason numbers, 0-9 in 10 starts, ERA over 6.00…yada, yada, yada.  Embarrassing for a pitcher of his caliber…and of course at his current salary level.

Can it change?  Can Price finally do something right in a start and be a “hero”?  Get the hometown fans on his side for once?

I deem that unlikely.  I would say most others do as well.

In addition to the poor career postseason stats, Price himself came up with some other beauties this year.  He can’t pitch in the cold…his fingers get tingly.  Or do they get tingly because of the carpal tunnel, from which he laughably says playing video games don’t affect that?  Sure buddy.  Then there was some stuff about being allergic to dogs or grass or something.  Honestly, the guy is such an arseclown that I’ve lost track of all the excuses.

Let’s face it, Price has to take a start in this series.  Because if he doesn’t, are you giving that one to Brian Johnson, Hector Velasquez or Drew Pomeranz?  No thanks.  Eduardo Rodriguez perhaps, but are we at the point where he can’t really give you a ton of innings now since he hasn’t started much in recent weeks?  I don’t know, but something to think about.  Either way, wouldn’t it be better to give Price only ONE start, say Game Four?  That way, since he actually has a good track record of pitching well in relief in the postseason, maybe he can throw a few innings in Game Seven, should the series get there.  Also, Houston will be warmer for him, though admittedly the dimensions of that field, as opposed to Fenway, may be a worse scenario for him.  But still…

This is not to say that Nathan Eovaldi or Rick Porcello are better pitchers than Price.  They are not, though they both pitched well against New York in the Division Series.  But Porcello doesn’t necessarily have a sterling postseason career record either.  And Eovaldi has only that one playoff start to his credit.  A great one, but just that one nonetheless.  But they maybe should have priority in the ALCS because they are quite simply pitching better NOW.

I suppose, either way, manager Alex Cora is going to do plenty of mixing and matching with his pitching staff all series long.  Starters pitching in relief and all that.  Anything to get outs.  Unless you want to see Joe Kelly in a close game, that is.  Which absolutely no one wants.  Except for the opposition.

So maybe it all doesn’t matter?  We’ll see…but with Price having to potentially make two starts in this series is concerning.  And he better not lay two more eggs.  That makes him a huge key to the series.

Since it seems that all we do in this space is make predictions, let’s see how things stack up on paper for the teams:

Lineup:

The Red Sox top four of Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts are pretty damn good.  But are the Astros’ top four of George Springer, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel even better?  Could be.  But let’s call it a wash.  The rest of the lineup?  Astros all the way.  Looks like 5-7 is some combination of Marwin Gonzalez, Carlos Correa and Josh Reddick.  None of those guys have performed like they did in 2017 when the Astros won the World Series.  Correa has been hurt of course.  But wouldn’t you still take these guys over the Sox’ 5-7 of Steve Pearce/Mitch Moreland, Eduardo Nunez/Rafael Devers and Ian Kinsler/Brock Holt?  I would.  Top it off with anyone the Astros throw out there at 8-9 will be better offensively than Jackie Bradley Jr. and whoever the catcher is.  Looks to me like the Astros have the edge here top to bottom.

Defense:

Not going to spend a lot of time here because I have to admit I don’t watch a lot of Houston Astros games to know specific defensive skill sets.  But on a macro level…at catcher, while Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez can certainly handle the defense for the Sox, Martin Maldonado won a Gold Glove last year, for whatever that’s worth.  If Pearce, Holt and Devers are out there, the Sox infield defense probably pales in comparison to the ‘Stros.  Though, I know, Holt is good enough at second.  The outfield most certainly goes to the Sox.  Sssssooo…an edge here either way?  I’m not sure there is one.

Starting pitching:

Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton against Sale, Price, Eovaldi and Porcello.  Can’t be any debate here.  At first, I was thinking Astros by a mile.  But at a deeper glance, it’s probably closer than we think.  Sale and Verlander are probably a wash.  Cole a huge gap over Price.  But the other four could go either way.  Though Morton was sensational last year in the playoffs.  So you kind of have to give the edge to Houston here, no doubt.

Relief pitching:

We have written (and spoken) ad nauseam about the Red Sox’ bullpen woes.  And now their closer has had problems getting people out.  With Lance McCullers likely in the ‘pen for the ‘Stros, along with Collin McHugh and Ryan Pressly, who seemed to have been lights out, there are some strong middle guys right off the top.  Add in some other useful pieces such as Hector Rondon, Tony Sipp and Joe Smith before you get to Roberto Osuna, now you’re talking.  Although Osuna is apparently a piece of crap in real life and the Sox have had success against him in the past, how does he look compared to Craig Kimbrel at this very moment?  Shoot, it looks like the Astros don’t even have Chris Devenski, Will Harris and Brad Peacock on their active roster for this series.  And those guys have been pretty valuable over the years.  Landslide here for Houston.

Coaching:  

People locally have been acting like Cora and A.J. Hinch are equals.  But didn’t Hinch’s team win the World Series last year?  Yes, with Cora’s help of course.  But still.  And though Cora has done a great job with the Sox this year, this is still his first year managing anywhere, so also we need to remember it is his first foray into the postseason.  We all saw first-time manager Aaron Boone puke on himself in the ALDS.  Who is to say Cora doesn’t do the same in the ALCS?  I’m not saying he will, but we have to consider the possibility for sure.  Hinch has been there.  Cora has not…as a head guy.  That counts.

Adding it all up?  What it says “on paper” to me is Houston in five.  That’s what the Blowhard is going with.  Hope the Sox make it closer of course.  And if they can get it back to Fenway for Games Six and/or Seven, maybe things go their way.  And that’s why they play the games…

Chris Sale…

…simple as that.

If the All-Star Chris Sale shows up for the Red Sox/Yankees series starting tonight, then I likely give the edge to the Sox.  If not, I probably go with the Yankees.

How’s that for an observation?  Obvious, I know.

But the fact of the matter is it hits the nail right on the head.  If Sale is throwing 89 mph and firing 104 pitches in three and a third in Game 1, welp, see ya.  Cuz who thinks David Price is going to win Game 2?  I thought so.

Sox manager Alex Cora says Sale is ready to go.  Full tilt, he says.

Hard to believe.

I think I heard this week that Sale has pitched 17 innings since the end of July.  I knew it wasn’t a lot, but even that number seems disturbingly low.  A couple of DL stints.  A shoulder that I would bet is still not quite right.  And decreased velocity along the way.

How is all that giving anyone comfort that he is “ready to go”?  Not me.  Not even close.  Could the Sox have just been being delicate with him…TOO delicate…so that he would be ready for the postseason?  Doubtful.  If they were, they would have still gotten him his 162 innings this year (he fell 4 innings shy), so he would qualify for ERA (though he likely would’ve ended up second to Blake Snell, after leading the category for much of the year) and presumably boost his Cy Young chances.  Teams/managers don’t care about individual awards/stats, you may say.  They are just trying to win the World Series, you may say.  I beg to differ.  Cora spoke openly the last couple of weeks of the regular season talking about Mookie going 30/30 and Xander getting to 100 RBI among other individual things.  But I digress…

So although of course we are stating the obvious here, Sale’s performance is really almost all that matters.

If he pitches well and the Sox take Game 1, maybe Price feels less pressure and finally does something in the playoffs.  Same could be said for Rick Porcello.  If he gets blasted and the Sox lose and the bullpen throws a ton to boot, then all the pressure is on Price.  We know how that usually goes.

I know, I know, I know…there is the issue of the bullpen.  If Sale goes 7 and leaves with the lead and the bullpen blows it, then maybe Sale isn’t the key.  We know he isn’t going 9.  At best, Sale probably goes 6.  That gives the bullpen 9 outs to blow the game if they are in that position.

Fair point.

But didn’t we know that already?

We have no idea what Sale is going to give the team.  Still making him the most important story.

Speaking of the bullpen, how did Joe Kelly get on the playoff roster?  Not sure.  We had him out in the projection.  Thought there was a chance he would get on anyway…but in place of Brandon Workman.  Turns out Kelly got Heath Hembree’s spot.  Hembree was less than average down the stretch too, so I guess it doesn’t matter.  But still…Joe Kelly.  Ugh…

As for the lineup, the top four for the Sox are nice, but there is a drop after that.  The Yanks have a stout lineup top to bottom.  Especially with the late-season emergence of someone named Luke Voit.  That should scare Sox fans as well.

Don’t forget the Yankee pitching staff.  The bullpen is great.  And the starters get the job done.  CC Sabathia for some reason pitches awesome against the Sox.  Will it be different in the playoffs?  Hard to say.  Along with all the rest of the Yank starters.  But I think the Sox can do enough damage against the Yankee starters.  As long as Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez don’t get too many at-bats.  Hell, Corey Kluber gave up three dingers today.  So I suppose you never know.

A prediction?  Sigh…I know, I love doing predictions even if most of them kinda stink.  But there is just so much uncertainty around Sale, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around things now.

Maybe I’ll just do this:  If the “good” Sale shows up, Red Sox in 5.  If he isn’t ready, Yanks in 4.

That’s the best I can do…

%d bloggers like this: