American League Postseason Awards
By Bob Toth
With the completion of the 2012 regular season, it is that time of year to reflect back on the highs and lows of another entertaining year of Major League Baseball.
The following is our ballot for five American League postseason awards as members of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. The categories include – manager of the year, rookie of the year, top reliever of the year, Cy Young winner, and MVP.
Showalter, in his second full season as manager of the Orioles, led a 24-game turn around as the surprise team of the American League. The 93-69 Orioles claimed one of the two 2012 American League Wild Card spots and knocked out the defending AL Champions, the Texas Rangers, in Friday’s one-game play-in game.
Showalter managed a young team, with no consistent every day player over the age of 30, and maximized their efforts despite not making any big splashes at the trade deadline. In the juggernaut AL East, the Orioles posted a .500 record or better against rivals Boston (13-5), New York (9-9), Tampa Bay (10-8), and Toronto (11-7). From the beginning of August until season’s end, they won 38 games and lost 20, a .655 winning percentage during crunch time. They were 16-2 in extra inning games (.889) and 29-9 in one-run games (.763).
His juggling of a young pitching staff of relative unknowns for most of the season helped to keep them in contention. Only 26-year-old Wei-Yin Chen (12-11, 4.02) started more than 30 games and he was the only pitcher on the roster to accumulate a win total in double digits. Tommy Hunter (7-8, 5.45) and Jason Hammel (8-6, 3.43) each made 20 starts a piece in the rotation. The team used 12 different starters on the season. Late season acquisition Joe Saunders went 3-3 in seven starts while posting a 3.63 ERA.
Honorable mention: Bob Melvin, Oakland Athletics. In his first full season leading the Oakland A’s after taking over midseason in 2011 for Bob Geren, Melvin led the A’s to a 94-68 finish. The team spent exactly one day alone in first place – the final day of the season.
What didn’t the 21-year-old Trout do in his first full season in the major leagues?
Trout started the season in Salt Lake of the AAA Pacific Coast League. After batting .403 with a 1.091 on-base plus slugging percentage in 20 games, he was promoted to an Angels’ team that was already 6-14 and nine games out of first place. With Trout on the roster, the team went 83-59, allowing them an opportunity to chase for a playoff spot for most of the second half before falling four games short.
Trout led all of baseball with 129 runs scored, 20 more than Miguel Cabrera, despite playing more than 20 fewer games than most players atop the leaderboard. He also led the bigs with 49 stolen bases and was caught just five times. He was tied for third in the American League with his eight triples. His .326 batting average was good for second in the AL and fourth in all of baseball. He was fifth with a .399 on-base percentage.
His most significant contributions were his highlight reel catches throughout the season. He saved more than a handful of runs scaling the outfield walls bringing back home runs. He is an explosive outfielder and offensive threat that should be giving the opposition fits for years to come.
Rodney quietly dominated the opposition throughout the season and was a key pitcher in the Tampa Bay Rays’ pursuit of a postseason birth, one that fell just short.
In his first season in Tampa, Rodney (2-2, 0.60) allowed just five earned runs over the course of 74.2 innings. His 0.60 ERA was the best in all of baseball among any pitcher who had thrown 20 innings or more. He averaged more than one strikeout per inning. In 76 appearances, he saved 48 games, second in the AL to Baltimore closer Jim Johnson (51), and blew just two saves. The next highest saves total for a pitcher with just two blown saves belonged to Grant Balfour of Oakland, who had half as many saves (24) as Rodney did.
Rodney entered the 2012 season with a career ERA of 4.29 and his previous lowest total of 2.86 was back in 2005 for Detroit. His 48 saves on the season exceeded his previous best of 37 in 2009.
He gave up just two home runs on the entire season – a two-run, pinch-hit walkoff home run to Jarrod Saltalamacchia of the Boston Red Sox on May 26th in one of his two blown saves, and a solo homer to David Cooper of the Toronto Blue Jays on August 8th.
Prior to the Saltalamacchia homer, he had sixteen straight appearances without giving up a run. From mid-June through the first week of August, he went another 21 consecutive appearances without giving up a run while saving 15 straight games. He finished the season on a 23-game stint where he saved 14 games and allowed just two unearned runs in a blown save loss against Seattle on August 14th.
Weaver literally was unhittable at times throughout the season, including his 9-0 no-hitter against the Minnesota Twins on May 2nd, where he allowed just one walk and struck out nine in collecting his piece of history. Seven different times throughout the season Weaver allowed three hits or less while pitching a minimum of six innings.
The Angels’ ace, Weaver went 20-5 despite missing three weeks due to an injury after leaving in the first inning against the New York Yankees on May 28th. Already 6-1 on the season at the time of his injury, Weaver went on to win nine consecutive appearances after returning from the disabled list, all while maintaining an ERA in the low twos. He sported a 10-1 record at the All-Star break with a 1.96 ERA, earning him his third straight AL All-Star appearance.
Weaver finished the season with a 2.81 ERA, good for third best in the AL. He had three complete games (tied for fifth) and two shutouts (tied for third). He led baseball with a 1.018 WHIP and a stat of 7.0 hits per nine innings. His 20 wins and .800 win-loss percentage were tied with David Price for the league lead. The opposition batted just .214 against him, the best mark in the AL.
Price (20-5, 2.56) is worthy of an honorable mention. In 31 starts, he threw two complete games, including one shutout, and had a 1.10 WHIP and .226 batting average against him. He struck out 205 batters in 211 innings pitched.
Any time you see statistical dominance across the three major offensive categories – home runs, runs batted in, and batting average – you know you are seeing history in the making. Cabrera did just that, becoming the first player since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 to claim the offensive Triple Crown accolades. His efforts this season helped sneak the Detroit Tigers into the lead for the American League Central in the final games of the season.
Cabrera led the way for the Tigers while batting .330, leading runner-up Trout’s .326. He eked out one more homer (44) than Josh Hamilton and Curtis Granderson. He drove in eleven more RBI (139) than Hamilton’s 128 and 29 more than third-place Edwin Encarnacion’s 110.
He led the AL with a .606 slugging percentage and all of baseball with a .999 on-base plus slugging percentage. He was near the top in several other categories in the AL, including hits (second – 205), doubles (seventh – 40), runs (second – 109), on-base percentage (fourth – .393), at bats (ninth – 622), and games played (tied for fourth – 161).
He did all this while moving from first base to third base, and while he is not necessarily the most athletic third baseman in the game, his move allowed the Tigers to add the pricey but powerful left-handed bat of Prince Fielder in the offseason.
Cabrera stepped up the biggest when the Tigers needed him the most. In the months of September and October, he slugged eleven home runs, drove in 30 runs, and batted .333. He drove in 20 runs or more in every month of the season. He had only one month with a batting average below .300 (.298 in April) and had seven or more home runs in every month except May, when he had two. He batted over .300 against all divisonal opponents. He batted .353 on the season against opponents with a winning record.
Photo: AP Photo/Orlin Wagner