It’s award season for Major League Baseball and the Cleveland Indians have been shut out thus far, with the only notable surprise being Francisco Lindor’s somewhat expected yet still disappointing second place nod in the American League Rookie of the Year voting on Monday night. Technicalities also kept him out of the running for the AL Gold Glove Award.
Locally, Mike Aviles was recognized by the Cleveland chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America with the 2015 Steve Olin-Frank Gibbons Good Guy Award. Michael Brantley was named recipient of their Bob Feller Man of the Year Award, honoring Brantley as the Indians’ best player from this past season.
With a clean sweep looking imminent on the national level for the Tribe this season, let’s take a look at some made up organizational awards for those who deserve a good job, good effort pat on the back.
LOU BOUDREAU MOST VALUABLE INDIAN AWARD
Jason Kipnis, second baseman and leadoff man
What a bounce back year it was for Kipnis, who not only led the club at the top of the lineup but took on a much more predominant role in the clubhouse as a leader there, too. Kipnis never seemed to recover fully in 2014 from the oblique injury that took the punch out of his bat. In 2015, the pop was not there with a changed role from two and three hitter to leadoff man, but he hit almost all season long and kept the Indians in many ballgames that they would have otherwise lost.
He hit .303 in 141 games. He led the team in hits (171), triples (seven), and runs scored (86); was second in doubles (43), plate appearances (641), on-base percentage (.372), and games played; and third in batting average, stolen bases (12), RBI (52), and walks (57). A late season slump took him out of the top spot in the league in the batting title race.
Brantley, by the numbers, was more than deserving of recognition for this fictitious award, but in the spirit of the player-manager Boudreau, the visible public leadership of Kipnis and the sacrifice he gave to his own personal statistics for the betterment of the team to move up to the top spot in the lineup were taken into consideration. The Indians desperately needed someone to set the table, and Kipnis took on the role with gusto.
BOB FELLER PITCHER OF THE YEAR
Carlos Carrasco, number two pitcher
In looking at what Carrasco did on the mound for the Indians this season, it is also important to remember where this man has been in prior seasons for the Tribe. At one point in time, the trade of Cliff Lee in 2009 was an absolute wash with nothing to show for it but failed prospects. Carrasco, after being sent to mop up in purgatory in 2014, found himself and was resurrected back to the starting rotation and, in 2015, in a prominent role as one of the best arms in the league.
Not only did he flirt with no-hitters on multiple occasions, including taking the Tampa Bay Rays within one out of ending a 34-year drought, he carried the staff when Corey Kluber was lost and lacked support during the first couple of months.
This was a significantly difficult decision, as Danny Salazar and Kluber both had individual numbers and performances worthy of recognition. Carrasco was tied for the club lead in wins (14 with Salazar), tied for second in starts (30 with Salazar and Trevor Bauer), was second in strikeouts (216 trailed Kluber’s 245) and complete games (three trailed Kluber’s four), and had a 3.63 ERA. He also threw the only complete game shutout by the staff and led the rotation with a 10.6 strikeout per nine rate. His 1.07 WHIP was second among the regulars.
BOB WICKMAN RELIEVER OF THE YEAR AWARD
Cody Allen, closer and former chicken
Allen notched 34 saves in 38 opportunities in his first full season as the Indians’ closer, a role he earned after John Axford struggled with the club in 2014. The saves total was good for the sixth-most in the AL. He led the league by finishing out 58 different games of his 70 opportunities.
Possibly even more impressive is the high rate of strikeouts that Allen gets. In the present day of specialized relief pitchers, hitting triple digits on a season total for strikeouts is an impressive feat and puts one in an elite category among those types of pitchers. After striking out 88 in his first full season on the Indians roster, he struck out 91 last year. In 2015 and with one fewer out retired, he struck out 99 batters in 69 1/3 innings, a club-leading rate of 12.9 strikeouts per nine innings. Only three relievers in all of baseball struck out more batters than Allen – New York’s Dellin Betances (131), Cincinnati’s Aroldis Chapman (116), and New York’s Andrew Miller (100). Two are left-handers and all three are considered the cream of the crop as some of the league’s top firemen and setup men.
Tip of the hat goes to Akron’s Jeff Johnson, who saved 27 of 28 opportunities for the RubberDucks in his first full season back after Tommy John surgery.
SANDY ALOMAR ROOKIE OF THE YEAR AWARD
Francisco Lindor, shortstop and the franchise
No surprise here. This award really needs no explanation, as Lindor was not only the shining star of the second half for the Indians, but one of the more electric and exciting players to watch in all of baseball.
Lindor disappointingly finished second to Houston’s Carlos Correa in the AL Rookie of the Year voting after hitting .313 in 99 games. Despite not playing the full season with the club, he finished fourth in hits (122), tied for fourth in runs (50), home runs (12), and doubles (22), and third in stolen bases with 12 thefts in 14 opportunities. He led all position players in the Majors with 13 sacrifices. Defensively, he finished tenth in the AL in defensive WAR with a 1.7 and led the league in total zone runs by an AL infielder with 14.
Oh, and he just turned 22 on Saturday. Enjoy him, Cleveland. He’s going to be something special.
OMAR VIZQUEL DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Francisco Lindor, shortstop and the vacuum
JIM THOME SLUGGER OF THE YEAR
Bobby Bradley, first baseman, Lake County/Lynchburg
Bradley earns the Thome for posting an organization-leading 27 home runs over the course of his impressive first full season in the minors.
Bradley was the Indians’ third round pick in the 2014 draft out of Harrison Central High School in Mississippi. He hit .361 in the Arizona League, appearing in 39 games last season. This season, he hit .264 while putting on his impressive display of power at two levels, hitting all 27 blasts for Lake County before a two-game stint with Lynchburg. The knock on the big first baseman are the 150 strikeouts posted in his 110 games last season.
Bradley will not turn 20 until the end of May.
TRIS SPEAKER GOOD EYE AWARD
Carlos Santana, first baseman and media public enemy
With 108 walks this season, Santana drew the fifth-most free passes in baseball and was second only to Toronto’s Jose Bautista and his 110 in the AL. Combined with his 113 walks in 2014, he owns two of the top ten highest single season walk totals in Indians history. Only Jim Thome finds himself with a single season better than Santana.
Speaker was the long-time franchise leader in walks until surpassed by Thome. Unlike Thome, who also leads the club in career strikeouts, Speaker struck out just 146 times to his 857 walks.
SAM MCDOWELL K KING AWARD
Corey Kluber, starting pitcher and cyborg
Kluber deserves an award and being the Indians’ organizational strikeout king is a crown he deserves to wear. Kluber had a tough year and an especially rough start in his defense of the AL Cy Young Award he won in 2014. It did not stop him from his own Tribe tease of a no-hitter in mid-May, when he masterfully sliced and diced through the St. Louis Cardinals’ roster for an incredible 18 strikeouts in just eight innings of work.
He finished the season with 245 strikeouts, third in the league, and had the fourth-best strikeout rate in the AL among regular starters, trailing just Chris Sale, Chris Archer, and Carrasco. Cleveland’s rotation as a whole occupied four of the top seven spots in the AL in their strikeout rates by year’s end.
Hat tips to Michael Clevinger (162 Ks between Akron and Columbus), Justus Sheffield (138 Ks for Lake County), and Adam Plutko (137 Ks for Lynchburg and Akron) as being among the best of the best down on the farm.
Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer