Results tagged ‘ Josh Hamilton ’

2014 MLB Bobblehead Battle: AL West

Is there any better ballpark promotion than the bobblehead?  The answer is no. This is part one of a six-part series, giving you the breakdown of what bobbling wonders will be at the stadium this spring and summer.  Each bobblehead will be rated 1-5 stars based on quality of subject, originality, number available, and overall awesomeness.  Teams will be ranked by total stars, so the more giveaways (especially quality ones) the better.  Let’s start it off with the AL West!

Seattle Mariners (Each giveaway is 20,000 fans)

cano

Saturday, May 31st, Robinson Cano: You knew the Mariners had to give a bobblehead to their new superstar player.  This is (surprisingly) the first bobblehead giveaway for Cano in MLB. ***

Thursday, June 12th, Macklemore: I’m not a huge Macklemore fan, but I love the Mariners creativity for the local musical star.  I’m not sure what it looks like yet, but at least they have Macklemore in a M’s jersey to go off of. **** 1/2

Saturday, July 12th, Hisashi Iwakuma: I’m a sucker for Iwakuma and would rate this higher for my collection.  In the overall scheme, nothing too spectacular.  **

Saturday, August 9th, Lou Pinella Mariners Hall of Fame: Lou Pinella is one of my favorite managers of all-time and I’m glad they’re comboing up a bobblehead with his induction day.  Should be a fun day in Seattle.  I truly hope it involves him kicking his cap. *** 1/2

Saturday, August 30th, Felix Hernandez: Another year, another Felix Hernandez bobblehead from the Mariners.  Wish they had made a Jesus Montero bobble belly instead. **1/2

Total: 15 1/2 stars

Texas Rangers (Each giveaway is for 15,000 fans)

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Saturday, April 19th, Yu Darvish Strikeout King: Standard fare, the teams best player in a standard pitching bobblehead.  Would’ve been fun if they had the “strikeout king” have a crown with a K on it.  **1/2

Sunday, May 18th, Prince Fielder: Another pretty standard bobblehead, but with the team’s best and newest hitter. **1/2

Saturday, July 12th, Eric Nadel: Now we’re having some fun!  Nadel has been with the Rangers since 1979 as their broadcaster and is the winner of the 2014 Ford C. Frick Award.  And now, his own bobblehead too.  Love it!  ****

Tuesday, August 12th, Pudge Rodriguez Gold Glove: I’ve got nothing against this one honoring one of the best players in Rangers history.  I also like that they’re honoring his defense.  There isn’t a picture of it yet, but it get a bonus 1/2 star if his glove is actually gold.  ***

Thursday, September 4th,  Shin Soo-Choo: Choo is also a new Rangers acquisition, but he’s not quite on Darvish or Fielder’s level.  It’s going to be tough for the Rangers to top the greatest Shin Soo-Choo bobblehead of all-time. **

Total: 14 stars

Houston Astros (10,000 fans each giveaway)

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Saturday, April 26th, Jason Castro All-Star: A nice honor to add on to Jason Castro’s all-star to give him his own bobblehead.  He’s not a major star though, yet.  **

Friday, August 1st, Lance Berkman: A great player in Astros history gets honored, because there aren’t many players on this current roster to give a bobblehead to. ** 1/2

Sunday, August 3rd, Roy Oswalt: See, Lance Berkman.  I do like that they made these the same weekend for fans. ** 1/2

Saturday, August 30th, Nolan and Reid Ryan: Not many executives get bobbleheads and I would go out on a limb to say that this is the first double executive bobblehead in MLB history.  I want to rate it higher, but only 10,000?  Then again, the Astros attendance isn’t the strongest.  ****

Total: 11 stars

Oakland Athletics (various amounts of fans)

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Saturday, April 19th, Josh Donaldson Diorama: First off, kudos to the Athletics for increasing their giveaways from 10,000 to 20,000 for Donaldson and 15,000 for the Catfish Hunter one.  Donaldson was the breakout star for the A’s in 2013 and the diorama is a nice little bonus.  ***

Saturday, May 31st-Catfish Hunter: Athletics have had a Hunter bobblehead before, but that was in 2002.  Here’s to hoping that they’ll add an Eric Sogard bobblehead giveaway if he wins the #FaceOfMLB contest.  A’s fans love that guy. ** 1/2

Total: 5 1/2 stars

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (amount of giveaway, not available)

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Tuesday, April 1st, Mike Trout: One of the games brightest stars gets his second bobblehead in two years.  This one doesn’t top last year’s edition, though.  Why is he not wearing a cap? *** 1/2

Friday, May 2nd, Josh Hamilton: If I’m an Angels fan and Hamilton’s 2014 starts off like his 2013, am I really going to want this bobblehead? **

Total: 5 1/2 stars

What’s your favorite bobblehead set in the AL West?  Let us know in the comments!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

The Mapes Top 20 Right Now, Part Two

Part one is in the books, if you’d like to check out who crack my list from 20-16 click here. There’s one Giant name on my list still that wasn’t on the MLB Network top 20.  Who is it?  Keep reading!

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 11.06.20 PM#15, Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers (MLB Network’s #11)

I really didn’t think I would have this much of a drop on one of the biggest sluggers in the game, but there are just other players I prefer slightly better.  He’s durable (13 games missed since 2006 and only one since 2009) and is the perfect hitter to give protection to another superstar.  Please note that he’s hit directly after an MVP in each of the past two seasons.  Would Braun and Cabrera have been the best in league without Fielder looming in the next spot?  I don’t think so.  He may never be an MVP himself, but Prince knows how to help bestow the crown.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 11.12.42 PM#14, Josh Hamilton, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (MLB Network’s #10)

Another player with a four spot drop in my rankings, which is amazing considering Hamilton is coming off a career-high 43 homer season.  I’m concerned with the drop that Hamilton had in the 2nd half last season where his OPS dropped from an other-worldly 1.016 to .833 in the second half.  I think his numbers will take another dip going from Texas to Anaheim, where the park plays more in favor of the pitcher.  He’s ahead of Fielder for me because unlike Fielder I think Hamilton CAN win an MVP award when he has it all together.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 11.21.46 PM#13, Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (MLB Network’s #14)

Hamilton had the great 1st half in 2012 and Pujols had the great 2nd half.  If both put together full seasons in 2013, the Angels lineup will be lethal.  I also think another year of adjustment to American League pitching will continue to help Pujols return to the MVP candidate he’s always been.  Pujols had his worst home run output last season and it was still good for 30 blasts.  Pujols has had at least 30 home runs AND 99 runs batted in in each of his twelve seasons.  The man truly is a machine.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 11.32.57 PM#12, Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants (MLB Network #21)

How can the reigning MVP not be in the top 20 in the game right now?  He led the National League in batting average and OPS+ while playing in one of the best pitchers parks in the league.  Posey handled one of the best pitching staffs in the league and brought them to a World Series title.  He’s only going to get better as he’s another year removed from that devastating ankle injury.  He was underrated by MLB Network, not by me.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 11.40.39 PM#11, Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers (MLB Network #13)

I don’t think there’s a player that does more quietly than Adrian Beltre.  I remember watching “MLB Player Poll” last season where they asked who the best third baseman in the game was and I was shocked that the players actually picked Beltre.  That’s the kind of respect he has from his peers and should get more of it from fans.  He’s blossomed into a complete player that can hit for average, hit for power, and can field his position better than anyone.  It’s up to Beltre to continue to improve to make up for Josh Hamilton’s departure from the Lone Star State.

That’ll do it for numbers 16-11.  Do I have Posey too high?  Who do you think should crack the top 10?  Let me know in the comments or hit me up on Twitter with the link below and use #MapesRightNow.

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

The 2nd Annual Jeremy vs. Mapes MLB Jersey Draft

I’m sure some or maybe all of you have heard that Jeremy and I made the top 52 for the MLB Fan Cave in 2013. We’ve been blown away by your support so far and we want to start by saying thank you.

Now for the main event! The 2nd annual jersey draft battle! I may have had the worst pick in the draft last year (Adrian Gonzalez, who’s no longer on the Red Sox), but I did score the NL MVP’s jersey (Buster Posey) with the 2nd to last pick. Plus, I got to give grief all season for Jeremy picking Matt Cain 4th overall.

The rules are simple: I will pick 1st because Jeremy had the first choice last year. Jeremy will get 2nd and 3rd picks and then alternate from there. What we’re looking for in our jersey investments are quality of player, potential time in uniform, and overall awesomeness. You can only have one player, per team on your own draft. Both of us can pick a player from the same team, for example Matt Cain/Buster Posey and Miguel Cabrera/Prince Fielder were all picked last year. It does play into strategy, because it let me wait on Posey, knowing Jeremy couldn’t take another Giants player. Without further adieu!

Team Mapes Pick #1, #1 Overall: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Last year, I picked Albert Pujols at #3 overall based on the long length of his contract ensuring great use from his Angels jersey.  This year, Trout is the most exciting player in the game and is under team control through 2017.  Trout’s jersey’s the hands down top pick to me.  You’re getting five seasons of sweet-jersey wearing time. Bonus points for completing the Trout ensemble with a foam Trout hat. I might have just let Jeremy get a steal of Pujols or Josh Hamilton later in the draft though, time will tell. You’re up Mr. Dorn. I have a sneaking suspicion you’ll be repeating your top pick from 2012.

Team Jeremy Pick #1, #2 Overall: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles

Two things: First, Mapes is absolutely correct. No way I’m not going to take my first overall pick in last year’s draft, Matt Kemp. Not only is he under contract in Los Angeles through the decade, but when healthy he is the best all-around player in the game. Teammates like him, fans like him, and even opponents like the laid-back, uber-talented center fielder of the Dodgers. He came freakishly close to a Triple Crown and 40/40 season in 2011, and will look to return to that form after injuries derailed him last year. Oh, and secondly — give me crap all you want for the Cain pick, but the dude threw a perfect game last season and I hypothetically had that jersey!

Team Jeremy Pick #2, #3 Overall: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds

I snatched this pick off Mapes’ team from last year, and I’m glad I did. Votto has been one of the most consistent, destructive hitters (when healthy) since he entered the league, and will be mashing in Cincy through 2024 under his current contract. Votto should always be a favorite in the National League for the MVP award, given his batting average, on-base percentage, power numbers and defense in a given year. Plus, the jersey just looks GOOD!

Team Mapes Pick #2, #4 Overall: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

There are so many options at this pick it’s ridiculous. I don’t want to talk (or type) out loud and give you any ideas though! I think that Cutch was going to be your next pick so I’m grabbing him now. He’s under team control through 2018, a great player, and completely entertaining as evidenced by his MLB Fan Cave videos. He’s a player you WANT to root for and a baseball fan that has a Pirates jersey when they finally end their sub-.500 season streak will be looking good. That being said, I really hope you don’t take the player I strongly considered here. McCutchen moves up from the #8 jersey overall selected in 2012.

Team Jeremy Pick #3, #5 Overall: Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves

Oh, yes I did just pick the J-Hey kid from your own squad! No way I’m letting you stack your lineup with one of the best and most popular players in the game today. After a dismal sophomore season in 2011, Heyward bounced back to prominence and beyond in 2012, and will be a power-hitting, web gem-making, on-base getting (huh?) beast for at least the next four years in Atlanta. Snag his jersey now, before it’s too late. Mapes, when you’re done crying that I’ve drafted your boy, feel free to make your next pick!

Team Mapes Pick #3, #6 Overall: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants

WHAT DID I EVER DO TO YOU JEREMY?!?! I’ll have to console myself with the TWO Jason Heyward shirseys that I have hanging in my closet. Don’t worry, I have a plan for my Atlanta Braves pick later. There’s only one real way to get back to you and that’s with a picture of the Giants having a champagne celebration. When was the last time the Dodgers did that? Posey is a great jersey pickup, solid name, defending NL MVP, and safety of knowing he’ll be in the orange and black for a long, long time. Plus, Posey and I are birthday buddies on March 27th!

Team Jeremy Pick #4, #7 Overall: Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles

That is a low blow, my friend. I’ll pretend there is just a bubbly leak from the sprinklers in that clubhouse picture. Jones is quickly climbing the chart of all-around athletes in MLB and fans are really starting to take notice. Not only is Jones a graceful defender, but he’s only just starting to fully develop the offensive side of his game at age 27. He’s signed in Baltimore through the 2018 season and is extremely close to breaking into McCutchen popularity territory in my opinion. This is the only orange and black jersey in my collection this year, Mapes!

Team Mapes Pick #4, #8 Overall: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
Adam Jones is a solid pick, but I’d rather have a new Orioles hat than a jersey, I think. I’m going back to an MVP I took at #5 last year. Braun is basically going to be a Brewer forever, or at least 2020 seems forever away. He’s been consistently good so far in his career and I don’t think there will be much of a drop off later in his career. It’ll always be cool to wear a Braun jersey, especially in the Badger State. Eight picks in and we have six National League player jerseys…interesting.

Team Jeremy Pick #5, #9 Overall: Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals

Given recent news, that pick could become problematic for you. I really hope it doesn’t, and I’ll give you mad props for taking the risk. I’ll continue the run on National Leaguers with the first pitcher of the draft. Of all the exciting young pitchers who I was eligible to select here (remember, I already took Kemp, so Clayton Kershaw was out of the question), I wanted to snag one of the most popular pitchers in all of baseball. Strasburg is a freak of nature on the mound and lights up the radar gun and TV ratings every time he pitches. Not to mention, he’s locked up through at least 2017.

Team Mapes Pick #5, #10 Overall: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners

Thanks so much for letting me wait and just steal Bryce Harper at the end of the draft. This pick was basically made for me with the news of King Felix’s extension. He’s now the highest paid pitcher in the history of the game, that shows to how great he is. He’s a Cy Young award winner, the face of the Mariners franchise, and you’ve gotta love the King’s Court fan base. Seven years in a Seattle uniform and those trade rumors go away? I’m sure there will be a large influx of Hernandez jersey’s flying off shelves. Let’s just hope they don’t change their uniform scheme.

Team Jeremy Pick #6, #11 Overall: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees

I have a couple of things to say about that pick: First…SO LUCKY! If only that news had broken after you made your pick. Second, the Mariners should never change those awesome uni’s. Anyway, I’m going old-school with the Jeter pick. One of our criteria is length of contract, which will obviously not last forever for DJ. In fact, in the unlikely event that he declines his option for 2014, this could be his last year in baseball. But some players’ legacies live on forever, and this first-ballot Hall of Famer is one of them. His jersey was still the top-seller in all of baseball in 2012, and will be popular for years to come, and not just in New York.

Team Mapes Pick #6, #12 Overall: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays

I can’t hate on the Jeter pick even though his time is almost up. The Yankees #2 will join #3, #4, #5, #7, and #8 as timeless jerseys to wear for Bronx Bombers fans. You know who’s time isn’t almost up? Evan Longoria. The Rays all-star is under team control through 2023. I would type that year in all caps, but the year is numbers. Hmm… he will potentially be a Ray for the next DECADE. There that works. I’ve had a Longoria shirsey for three seasons now, I hope it doesn’t wear out over the next ten.

Team Jeremy Pick #7, #13 Overall: Josh Hamilton, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

You know what is a formula for success? Besides signing Albert Pujols and Hamilton in successive years, I mean? It’s taking the guy who had MLB’s second-highest selling jersey in Texas last year, and moving him to Los Angeles for at least five years, where his jersey sales will go flying off the shelves again. You’re going to see a ton of Hamilton jerseys in Anaheim this year, and if this draft weren’t hypothetical, I’d be sporting one myself.

Team Mapes Pick #7, #14 Overall: Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs

What’s not the formula for success? You taking your Angel when you could’ve waited until the end to grab him. Plus, I think I take the extra years of jersey wearing from an Albert Pujols Angels jersey over Hamilton, but I digress. Can you believe Starlin Castro is only 23 this season? Seems like he’s already been around forever. He’s under team control until 2020, which also gets you through Castro’s prime. You’ll be singing “Go Cubs Go” in the bleachers for a long time rocking the Castro jersey. Bonus that the Cubs will never really alter their jerseys.

Team Jeremy Pick #8, #15 Overall: Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays

Except that the Cubs might still be irrelevant in 2020. Just kidding. Castro is a cool pick, but I’m going with a different shade of blue on this pick. In his return from injury, Joey Bats will enjoy the comforts of a much-improved team in 2013. If the entirety of Canada didn’t already have his jersey, they will after this season when the Jays are sure to be featured on national TV broadcasts as much as possible. He’s signed through at least 2015, and will probably have his option for 2016 picked up by the team.

Team Mapes Pick #8, #16 Overall: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies

I really want to take Giancarlo Stanton, but his uncertainty in Miami worries me a ton. My final two picks I already have planned out in my head from teams you’ve already taken. That leaves Tulo, who is so talented, but has the injury problems galore. When he’s healthy, he’s an All-star and a potential superstar. He could be in the purple and black for the rest of this decade, so you’ll get plenty use of this jersey.

Team Jeremy Pick #9, #17 Overall: Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals

I’ll admit, I was hoping Tulo would slide to me at this pick. But a very nice consolation prize is somehow grabbing the best overall catcher in baseball this late. The Cardinal jerseys are classics, and Molina is the best all-around player wearing one right now. He had one of the top-selling jerseys last year (probably mostly Cardinals fans), and will be wearing the birds on the bat until at least 2017, likely beyond. He may be one of the least appreciated players in baseball, but I’m showing him some love in the jersey draft for the second straight year!

Team Mapes Pick #9, #18 Overall: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

Molina was on my short list, but after what the Cardinals have done to me the last two years I just couldn’t do it. Speaking of team jerseys I don’t want to wear, but I’m going to be objective here. Harper is a future star of the game and will be in the nation’s capitol for three years or more. I’d lean towards the or more part. I don’t like him, but I respect the way he plays the game. It’s a solid jersey for a fan to buy. Plus, I got out of picking David Wright at least?

Team Jeremy Pick #10, #19 Overall: Wil Myers, Tampa Bay Rays

This. Just. Happened. The reason I let you snag Evan Longoria earlier is because I knew I’d have this available to me for the last pick. Myers, the top prospect in baseball, isn’t a sure thing — no prospect ever is. But he’s going to get a chance to play every day for the Rays, who have him under control for at least six years, and will likely lock him up for longer as soon as he puts in a little service time. Judging by the last 15 position players who won Minor League Player of the Year (Derek Jeter, Manny Ramirez, Jason Heyward, Mike Trout to name a few), Myers is going to be a very good player in the Majors, and I’ll be the first to have his pretty-lookin’ Rays on my back. Top that, Mapes!

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Team Mapes Pick #10, #20 Overall: The Upton Brothers, Atlanta Braves

How do I top that? By going with the sweetest custom jersey in Braves history. You get not one, but BOTH Uptons. Special thanks to them for deciding to wear single digits to make this work. I went with the 82 because Justin plays in left, therefore his number goes on the left. This jersey will be good to go for 3-5 years and even if one leaves, just pull off one of the numbers and the S and you’re still set. Truly, saved the best for last!

Honorable Mention Team Mapes: Giancarlo Stanton-Marlins, David Wright-Mets, Justin Verlander/Miguel Cabrera/Prince Fielder-Tigers, Joe Mauer-Twins, Martin Prado-Diamondbacks, and Eric Hosmer-Royals

Honorable Mention Team Jeremy: Clayton Kershaw-Dodgers, Carlos Gonzalez-Rockies, Aroldis Chapman-Reds, Mariano Rivera-Yankees, David Price-Rays, Carlos Santana-Indians, Yoenis Cespedes-A’s, and Jose Altuve-Astros

There you have it. The 2nd annual Jeremy vs. Mapes jersey draft is complete. Now it’s up to you, readers! Vote in the poll below to tell us if Mapes will take home his second consecutive jersey draft title, or if Jeremy strengthened his squad enough to earn the victory. Here are the overall teams:

Team Mapes: Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey, Ryan Braun, Felix Hernandez, Evan Longoria, Starlin Castro, Troy Tulowtizki, Bryce Harper, Justin/BJ Upton

Team Jeremy: Matt Kemp, Joey Votto, Jason Heyward, Stephen Strasburg, Derek Jeter, Adam Jones, Josh Hamilton, Jose Bautista, Yadier Molina, Wil Myers

Remember, vote for the 10 jerseys YOU would rather have, not which group makes up the best hypothetical team. Let us know in the comments which jersey you want in your closet! Thanks for reading! You can like Three Up, Three Down on Facebook or follow @3u3d on Twitter!

- Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman) & Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

Grade That Trade! Mariners Finally Make a Move Edition

I won’t lie – I have a soft spot for the Mariners. That seems a bit strange because I live near Oakland and root for the A’s in my free time. Let me explain: I went to Washington State University and spent four years surrounded by sad, wandering M’s fans.

There’s that, and the fact that they have an awesome stadium, badass jerseys, and a slew of fan-favorite heroes (A-Rod, Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey, Jr., Edgar Martinez, Felix Hernandez, Ichiro, etc.). Anyway, it’s been disappointing to see GM Jack Zduriencik not really pull the trigger on any big moves in which Seattle was set up perfectly to do so.

The Mariners have a decently sized payroll, plenty of minor league depth, and a desperate need for hitters. Despite a lack of offensive punch, the Mariners managed to finish just a handful of games short of .500 in 2012, albeit still in fourth place.

With Hernandez leading the rotation, and a plethora of young pitching talent in Triple-A, the Mariners have the pieces to move to acquire a big bat. Today, this theory finally came to fruition. They went out and traded 14-game winner Jason Vargas to Anaheim for Kendrys Morales.

Let’s break this thing down:

Angels Get:

SP Jason Vargas

Mariners Get:

1B/DH Kendrys Morales

It’s hard to decide who wins this trade, but my gut tells me both teams come out pretty hot. The Angels, with the losses of Zack Greinke, Ervin Santana and Dan Haren this winter were in dire need of a pitching upgrade (and no, Joe Blanton doesn’t count). They made a nifty move in acquiring Tommy Hanson from Atlanta, but it wasn’t enough.

I’m not sure if you can say Vargas is the final piece they need, but it surely won’t hurt. This gives the Angels a pair of very good lefty starters in Vargas and C.J. Wilson to pair with Cy Young candidate Jered Weaver. We know Los Angeles added Josh Hamilton to the lineup, making Morales expendable.

But is it enough? Can the Angels improve on a 90-win ball club and return to A.L. West supremacy? Having Vargas in the third spot in that rotation will help them inch closer. And you have to expect a full season of Mike Trout, plus Hamilton, Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo, that they will be a better team.

For the Mariners, who are chasing the Angels (and everyone else for that matter) in the division, this should spell the end of the long-drawn out Justin Smoak experiment. Morales is an instant upgrade in all departments over Smoak, and will provide a good source of punch to the lineup.

With the emergence of Kyle Seager and a likely improvement next season from Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero, the Mariners could be a sneaky dangerous team in 2013. As long as the rotation can pick up the slack left by Vargas, I expect an improvement for Seattle, though I don’t think they are quite ready to be a contender yet.

That being said, Zduriencik knows he needs another bat or two, and may be chasing an Andre Ethier or Michael Bourn-type player as the winter evolves. If they can pair one more veteran power bat like Ethier’s, or a good top-of-the-order guy like Bourn, without giving up too much pitching, I see no reason why the Mariners can’t make like the 2012 A’s and take the league by surprise.

As for grading this trade, I’m giving a slightly higher mark to the Mariners, simply for going out and being aggressive in adding a bat to a flat lineup. They have pitching depth and are on the right track with getting some power in there with Morales and Jason Bay (well…you know…maybe). Mariners Grade: B+

The Angels got an underrated starting pitcher, but still haven’t made up for lost talent in the rotation. Not to mention, Morales was as good a hitter as they could ask for in that DH/1B slot. The offense did downgrade with the loss of Morales and Torii Hunter, even after the Hamilton signing. Overall, it’s a good move, but they better make a World Series run before 2014 when Vargas is a free agent or be prepared to shell out a pretty hefty extension. Angels Grade: B

 

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- Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)

Mapes vs. Jeremy V: Predicting the Silver Sluggers

This feels good to say: It’s MAPES’ turn for redemption. It feels good because that means in our two most recent challenges, I have taken commanding victories. After complete and utter embarrassment for Mapes in the Home Run Derby Challenge, and a shellacking revenge story in the Vin Scully vs. Sid Bream Bobblehead Battle II, Mapes needs some cheering up.

So this is another chance for him to re-assert dominance in sports predictionism (it’s a word now, okay?) over me. Just like the Derby Challenge, this one will not be left up to the audience. Instead, we will take one pick at a time guessing which players will win Silver Sluggers for 2012 in each league.

Similar to our Jersey Draft format, I will take the first pick, Mapes will take the second and third, and we will alternate from there. One small wrinkle this time, though: Once a position has been selected, it is gone. That means if I take Miguel Cabrera as the AL third baseman first (spoiler alert – I will!), Mapes can not later take Adrian Beltre because the AL third base position is already gone.

We will each take 9 positions and whoever gets the most right, wins. Simple as that. Here goes nothin’ – may the best man win:

Pick #1 – Team Jeremy: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers (A.L. 3B)

Told you I would take him. Triple Crown, potential MVP, best swing in all of baseball. I really have nothing else to say. This one is a lock.

Pick #2 – Team Mapes: Robinson Cano, New York Yankees (A.L. 2B)

I’m already ahead because you picked first. Enjoy figuring out the NL pitcher Silver Slugger, sucker! My first pick I also believe is a lock. Cano led second baseman in every major statistical category and will grab his 3rd straight Silver Slugger.

Pick #3 – Team Mapes: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers (N.L. OF)

Ryan Braun put up arguably the best offensive season in the National League, leading in homers (career-high 41), runs, OPS, and total bases. Braun decided to throw in a .319 batting average to boot In my opinion, he’s a lock for his 5th straight Silver Slugger. I’ve already got two in the bank. I’m glad I came up with this challenge.

Pick #4 – Team Jeremy: Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays (DH)

I’ll admit that I originally listed Billy Butler here, forgetting that Encarnacion actually played the majority of his games at DH in 2012. Bad research by me. Yes, Adam Dunn always has a case here, but he hit .204, and struck out approximately 598 times. With the breakout season Encarnacion had (.280/42/110), it would be a monumental travesty if he didn’t win the DH Silver Slugger.

Pick #5 – Team Mapes: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (A.L. OF)

Butler is in the discussion at designated hitter, but I agree that Edwin Encarnacion, who started at DH more than any other position, does get the Silver Slugger there.  Adam Dunn has a chance too if they just fall in love with his home runs.  Too early for that kind of risk, in my opinion, but I respect your guts.  I’ll go with another lock on my board with Mike Trout, who hit .325, blasted 30 homers, and led the American League in runs scored. Easy call, I’m 3 for 3 guaranteed.

Pick #6 – Team Jeremy: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants (N.L. C)

I was a little bit unsure about this pick, simply because there were a few other hot-hitting catchers in the league this year. While Posey is the leading MVP candidate in the National League, you can make a pretty good case for Yadier Molina, Wilin Rosario, or even Carlos Ruiz. After Posey’s scorching second half and huge grand slam in Game 5 of the NLDS, I have no doubt that he will get the vote for Silver Slugger.

Pick #7 – Team Mapes: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates (N.L. OF)

Look at you redeeming yourself.  I thought about taking Posey at five, but the Yadier Molina risk with Trout still on the board made me pass.  Instead, I’ll go to the 2nd National League outfielder on my list in Andrew McCutchen.  Cutch led the NL in offensive WAR and was tops among N.L. outfielders in batting average (take that Melky).  The Pirates star also led the senior circuit in hits, which I think make him a lock for his first Silver Slugger.  That’s right, I’m calling all FOUR of of my picks so far LOCKS.

Pick #8 – Team Jeremy: Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals (N.L. SS)

Look at you thinking all your picks are “locks.” That’s cute. This pick here is a lock – Desmond was by far the best offensive shortstop in the National League this season, helped by the fact that Troy Tulowitzki was injured. Even if Tulo was healthy, it might have been a tight race. Desmond really busted out in 2012, posting career highs across the board (.292/25/73) and the only guy who comes close to matching him is Jimmy Rollins, who hit .250 with less homers and RBI.

Pick #9 – Team Mapes: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees (A.L. SS)

Desmond is a lock?  We’ll see what Jose Reyes, Rollins, and Starlin Castro have to say about that.  This one might not be a lock, but why should I go against a player that led the American League in hits?  Who else are they going to give it to?  Alcides Escobar?  Ben Zobrist?  (Not sure he would qualify there)  Elvis Andrus?  This would be Jeter’s first Silver Slugger since 2009.

Pick #10 – Team Jeremy: Chase Headley, San Diego Padres (N.L. 3B)

All those guys will be saying is “Congratulations, Ian!” I do, however, think Jeter will be congratulating J.J. Hardy at season’s end. My pick here is a tough one, because the third base position in the National League is stacked with pretty good candidates. Headley won the NL RBI title and was huge in the second half. Regardless of the team he plays for, I think coaches and managers will remember the type of season Chase had in 2012 when it comes time to vote.

Pick #11 – Team Mapes: Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers (A.L. OF)

J.J. Hardy?  Hardy finished 18th at shortstop on the ESPN Fantasy Player Rater. A.L leader in hits or dude who hit .238?   I’ll send you a J.J. Hardy shirsey if he wins.  David Wright has a better chance at stealing Headley’s Silver Slugger than Hardy stealing Jeter’s.  I’ll continue my run on the outfield awards and I think getting Josh Hamilton here is a steal.  He’s clearly one of the top three offensive American League outfielders hitting .283 with 43 homers and knocking in 128 runs.  I love this pick, I would date this pick if I could.

Pick #12 – Team Jeremy: Aaron Hill, Arizona Diamondbacks (N.L. 2B)

Hamilton definitely was a top three hitter in the A.L. outfield, but will he get the vote with people like Adam Jones, Josh Willingham and Curtis Granderson also in there? We shall see. I feel totally fine calling this pick a lock, considering the usual suspects (Dan Uggla, Brandon Phillips, etc.) can’t hold a candle to the numbers Hill (.302/26/85) put up this year. He hit for the cycle twice in one week. That’s EPIC!

Pick #13- Team Mapes: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins (N.L. C)

True story, I like A.J. Pierzynski’s numbers and that makes me not too confident here.  True story, no one likes A.J. Pierzynski which makes me confident in this pick.  Mauer was 4th in the A.L. in batting average and led the league in OBP.  Good enough for me to give him his 1st Silver Slugger since 2010.  Plus, he led me and Lindsay Guentzel to a fantasy baseball title.  Love that guy.  P.S. loved that Aaron Hill pick.

Pick #14 – Team Jeremy: Adam LaRoche, Washington Nationals (N.L. 1B)

You know what? Even if I lose this contest, getting props on the Hill pick from you is a victory in itself. See, good sportsmanship people! The National League first base crop definitely got weaker with the defections of Albert Pujols and prince Fielder to the A.L. and the injury to Joey Votto. That being said, I like LaRoche (the only NL first baseman with 100 RBI) to get the vote over guys like Freddie Freeman and Paul Goldschmidt. LaRoche hit .271 with 33 homers and 100 RBI.

Pick #15 – Team Mapes: Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers, (A.L. 1B)

It took us forever to go to first base, but might as well knock them out back to back.  Fielder had the most consistent season at the position hitting behind Miguel Cabrera.  Pujols is in the mix, but the voters could still remember his slow start.  Fielder finished 6th in batting average ( a career-high .313) and 5th in RBI in the American League, while hitting 30 homers for the 6th straight year. The middle of the Tigers lineup is crazy good, huh?

Pick #16 – Team Jeremy: Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals (N.L. OF)

Even though his own teammate, Matt Holliday, had better overall numbers, I think Beltran has earned the votes of managers and coaches across the league. You would be hard pressed to find an opposing team who didn’t get burned by Carlos Beltran heroics at some point in 2012, and I doubt that it will be forgotten when tallying votes for Silver Slugger. Beltran finished with a line of .269/32/97. The middle of that Cardinals lineup is crazy good, huh?

Pick #17 – Team Mapes: Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles (A.L. OF)

You stuck me with A.L. outfielder?  Let’s see if I can nail all three with Trout, Hamilton and now Adam Jones.  There are a couple of other options with Alex Rios, Curtis Granderson, and Josh Willingham.  However, I think that the story of the Baltimore Orioles will carry Jones to his first Silver Slugger.  They already snubbed Willingham for the A.L. All-Star team, why not for Silver Slugger too.  At least I gave him a 10th place MVP vote.  Good luck picking the right pitcher for a Silver Slugger!

Pick #18 – Team Jeremy: Mike Leake, Cincinnati Reds (P)

I figured I’d give you a shot at sweeping the outfield in the American League. You’ve got a lock on Trout, though I think Hamilton might get upset, and you never know about that third spot. As for N.L. pitcher, this was easier than expected. After crunching the numbers, it came down to Leake and Stephen Strasburg. I’m sacrificing a probable winner by taking Leake, because Strasburg has the name recognition (yes, even among coaches and managers) that Leake doesn’t. But I must point out so the world knows: 18 hits, .295 average, 2 home runs for Mike Leake as a pitcher this year. Give him the Silver Slugger!

Team Jeremy:

Miguel Cabrera, Edwin Encarnacion, Buster Posey, Ian Desmond, Chase Headley, Aaron Hill, Adam LaRoche, Carlos Beltran, Mike Leake

Team Mapes:

Robinson Cano, Ryan Braun, Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Derek Jeter, Joe Mauer, Josh Hamilton, Prince Fielder, Adam Jones

Who do you think will be taking home some fancy Silver Slugger awards?  Let us know in the comments!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes) & Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)

The 3U3D Awards: American League MVP Edition

We gave you taste of our MVP ballots on this week’s podcast, with the great debate between Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera for the honors in the American League. Here are our full ballots and winners of our 3U3D MVP awards.

American League

 

Here are everyone’s thoughts on MVP:

Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman): I am a huge Miguel Cabrera fan, but even though he pulled off the Triple Crown, Mike Trout has to be the MVP. His WAR is off the charts, and a 30/49 season is even more impressive than a Triple Crown. Let’s not forget that Trout is doing all of this as a barely legal rookie. When you add the whole package (average, power, speed, defense), Trout is far and away the best player in the league and the Majors. Cabrera joined the ranks of few by snatching the Triple Crown – Trout joined the ranks of…well, one. He is the only player in Major League history to hit 30 home runs, steal 45 bases and score 125 runs. And don’t forget the .325 average, gold glove defense and that he’s only been caught stealing FIVE times. The future for this kid is terrifying. In the year of the underdog, I tip my cap to guys like Adam Jones and Josh Reddick for bringing their teams to a playoff appearance, but the talent across the league is just too strong this year.

Angelo Fileccia (@GODF_TH_R): Miguel Cabrera wins the first Triple Crown in 45 years. Mike Trout becomes the first player in history to hit 30 HRs, steal 40 bases, and score 120 runs. Both players are completely different from each other. Miguel can’t beat out an infield hit like Trout can, but no-one is as clutch as Miguel is. Trout’s numbers started off hot when he started the year but the last two months have been far from great. Could it have been the fact that pitchers know him better now? Possibly. But Miguel Cabrera got stronger as the season wore on. 25 HRs, .327 BA, .401 OBP, and 65 RBIs since the All-Star break. How about his 17 HRs, .330 BA, .405 OBP, and 45 RBIs in the 7 th inning or later this year? That’s what Miggy did. You can say Trout’s WAR is almost 4 points higher than Cabrera’s and his defense is far superior. Miguel will be playing in the playoffs, Trout will not. Cabrera will win MVP, Trout ROY and quite possibly a gold glove (didn’t have a top 3 AL fielding % at CF).

Brian Boynton (@GingaBeard_Man): Cabrera gets my vote because of what he has been able to do when his team needed it the most. In the month of September he hit a slash line of .308/.378/.654 with 10 home runs, and 27 RBI. Winning the Triple Crown while leading his team to the playoffs puts him just over Trout. While Trout has put together one of the best seasons ever, and not just for a rookie. What he has been able to do this season at such a young age is phenomenal. He is a tremendous outfielder providing a highlight full of home run stealing catches and getting under fly balls most other outfielders wouldn’t dream of getting to. However he was not able to do enough to lead his team to the playoffs. (I swear I’m not biased) While most of the Rangers team was struggling during the months of July and August Beltre was just starting to heat up leading the team in almost every offensive statistic. Also arguably being the best third baseman in the game making tough plays look routine. (Okay maybe I’m a little biased)

Kurt Peter (@FalconKP): Starting with the AL MVP, there’s not a valid reason why Miguel Cabrera shouldn’t win the AL MVP. The man plays in one of the toughest stadiums to hit home runs and won the Triple Crown. Mike Trout has undoubtedly brought a lot of fire power to the Angels, but not leading them to the playoffs hurts his resume. (Don’t worry, he’ll get his shot at MVP, I’m sure of it)

Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes): Everything else is a sideshow in the AL MVP ballot compared to the main event that is Trout vs. Cabrera. Now I love Cabrera, but Trout is the no-doubt MVP to me. The goal is to help your team win games. Trout did that better than any player in the American League. The Angels called up Mike Trout when they were 6-14 and since then he sparked them to the best record in the American League. There have been seven American League Triple Crown’s, but there has never been an American League season in which a player had 30 homers and 49 stolen bases. When you add in leading the league in runs and stolen bases, while hitting a near .325 with amazing defense (he robbed FIVE home runs) Trout wasn’t just the most exciting player, but the most valuable one in the league. Josh Hamilton dropped to 7th in my rankings as the Rangers collapsed like the fly ball he dropped in game 162. Rodney will be behind David Price in my Cy Young rankings, but I believe closers are more everyday players and have him in my MVP ballot. Rodney was even named the Rays MVP by teammates. Josh Willingham gets some love from me for having a great season that went largely unseen in Minnesota. There was no bigger breakout player than Edwin Encarnacion in Toronto. Adam Jones led the surprising Orioles to the playoffs and was the heart of the team. Curtis Granderson, Jim Johnson, Derek Jeter, Josh Reddick, Austin Jackson, and Ben Zobrist just miss my list.

Congrats to Tigers Miguel Cabrera on winning the 3U3D AL MVP!

You’ve seen our ballots!  Who would be on yours?  Let us know in the comments!  Feel free to tweet at any of us individually to debate our points as well. Don’t forget to vote in the poll:

The “Almost On Time” MLB Awards

The 1st of September. The day baseball fans realize surprise teams are for real. (Looking at you Athletics, Orioles, and Pirates) There’s only one baseball holiday left to celebrate. (Happy Labor Day everyone!) However, it gives us a great chance to really figure out who could be going home with some hardware at the end of season. Going to stick with the Olympics theme and give a top three and “just off the podium” for each award.

National League Rookie of the Year

Bronze Medal: Michael Fiers, Brewers

True story on the podcast, we basically panned Fiers when he got called up. Since then, he’s been probably the best starter in the Brewers rotation. He’s tied for the best ERA among any rookie with 100+ innings pitched at 2.85 (we’ll get to the other player in just a little bit) and has had a great K/9 and K/BB. Fiers will be a solid piece in the Milwaukee rotation in the coming years.

Silver Medal: Todd Frazier, Reds

Has there been a rookie who’s stock has risen as much this season as Todd Frazier? The once top prospect came into the 2011 season as the 9th ranked prospect, in the Reds system, not even in all of the minor leagues. Frazier though has been fantastic, especially since filling in the lineup in the absence of Joey Votto. He leads National League rookies in OPS, slugging, and RBI. He’s second in home runs to only Wilin Rosario. Frazier is one of the key cogs why Cincinnati was the first team to 80 wins this season.

Gold Medal: Wade Miley, Diamondbacks

Frazier has one more month to try and track down Miley, who sits a top my Rookie of the Year rankings once again. Miley has the same ERA as Fiers, but has thrown 57 more innings than his Brewers counterpart. Miley also leads all MLB rookies in wins with 14. Even more impressive is Miley is 6th in the entire N.L. in WHIP and is tied for 3rd in WAR among pitchers. The gap between Miley and Frazier is small enough that September will decide who will be Rookie of the Year.

Just off the Podium: Bryce Harper, Nationals (though he’s heated up again this week), Wilin Rosario, Rockies, Norichika Aoki, Brewers, Anthony Rizzo, Cubs, and Yonder Alonso, Padres

American League Rookie of the Year

Bronze Medal: Scott Diamond, Twins

Despite the best efforts of Matt Moore (3-1, 2.19 ERA, 1.19 WHIP in August), Diamond has the better overall numbers (10-8, 3.21 ERA, 1.20 WHIP) to maintain his 3rd position for the 3rd straight month. Every other A.L. rookie is in a completely different tier from these next two who are both in a tier of their own.

Silver Medal: Yoenis Cespedes, Athletics

In most years, Cespedes would be the clear favorite for Rookie of the Year. He’s 2nd among A.L. rookies in batting average, OBP, slugging, home runs, runs batted in, hits, and runs. All while helping lead the surprising Athletics into playoff contention on Labor Day weekend. Sadly for Cespedes, he’s second in all those statistics and is getting blown out by this next player.

Gold Medal: Mike Trout, Angels

See all the stuff I said Cespedes was second in? He trails Trout in all of those categories. It’s not a question of if Trout is the Rookie of the Year anymore, it’s if he’s still the A.L. MVP.

Just off the Podium: Matt Moore, Rays, Yu Darvish, Rangers, Jose Quintana, White Sox, Ryan Cook, Athletics, Jarrod Parker, Athletics, Tommy Milone, Athletics, Addison Reed, White Sox, Wei-Yin Chen, Orioles, Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox, and Quintin Berry, Tigers

National League Cy Young

Bronze Medal: Johnny Cueto, Reds

This is the most wide open awards race in all of Major League Baseball. There are 10+ players who have a good to great case on why they should win the trophy. Here is Cueto’s case. He leads the senior circuit in wins, ERA, and pitcher WAR. Cueto has been the best starter on the team with the best record in the league. He’s still underrated if that’s possible.

Silver Medal: Aroldis Chapman, Reds

It took me all month to decide that with all of these starters with similar numbers, why not give it to a player that has been utterly dominant in a relief role? Then on the last day of the month I got swayed back to one of the starters that we’ll get to next. Chapman’s numbers have been video game-esque. He is 2nd in the N.L. in saves with 33, impressive considering he lost nine saves at the start of the season to Sean Marshall. Even more impressive though is his 1.27 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, and an astonishing 113 K in 64 IP, good for an eye-popping 15.9 K/9.

Gold Medal: R.A. Dickey, Mets

I’m back on the R.A. Dickey bandwagon! I’m sorry about that month where he wasn’t great and I dropped him out of the top 3 in my rankings. Let me apologize by putting him back in the top spot. I watched Dickey’s start against the Marlins on 8/31 and it was just awesome. Dickey posted his N.L. leading 3rd shutout of the season, 5th complete game, and tied Cueto with 17 wins. The shutout also lowered his ERA down to 2.63, good enough for a tied for 2nd with Jordan Zimmermann. Dickey is also top 3 in WHIP, strikeouts, innings pitched, and pitcher WAR. He’s been one of the best stories in MLB this season.

Just off the Podium: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, Matt Cain, Giants, Madison Bumgarner, Giants, Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals, Gio Gonzalez, Nationals, Stephen Strasburg, Nationals, Wade Miley, Diamondbacks, Cole Hamels, Phillies, Kyle Lohse, Cardinals, Craig Kimbrel, Braves

American League Cy Young

Bronze Medal: David Price, Rays

Oh no! The Sale spot is gone! It was fun while it lasted, but Sale and Jered Weaver’s sub-par August’s knock them out of my top 3. Enter David Price who leads the best rotation in the American League this season. Price is second in ERA (2.53), tied for 1st in wins (16), 5th in pitcher WAR (4.9), 6th in strikeouts (170), and 7th in WHIP (1.10).

Silver Medal: Justin Verlander, Tigers

Verlander has still been his usual great self this season leading the A.L. in pitcher WAR, strikeouts, complete games, and innings pitched. He’s provided solid peripherals while keeping the Tigers in the playoff hunt. Verlander having his worst month of the season though in August opened up the door for another pitcher to take his #1 position. Then again, Verlander’s worst month is still a pretty good month for most pitchers.

Gold Medal: Felix Hernandez, Mariners

This is not a “oh Felix Hernandez threw a perfect game, he should win the Cy Young” pick. King Felix has the goods to win his 2nd Cy Young award. He leads the American League in ERA (2.43), innings pitched, HR allowed/9 (0.2!) and shutouts (5). Hernandez has more shutouts than any pitcher in the American League, except Verlander, has complete games. Plus, that perfect game was pretty awesome.

Just off the Podium: Jered Weaver, Angels, Chris Sale, White Sox, Hiroki Kuroda, Yankees, Matt Harrison, Rangers, Jim Johnson, Orioles, Fernando Rodney, Rays

National League MVP

Bronze Medal: Ryan Braun, Brewers

If the award was “Most Outstanding Player” Braun’s case would be that much better. He leads the National League in home runs (36), runs batted in (92), slugging, and OPS. Braun is doing all of this without the protection he had from Prince Fielder in his MVP season just a year ago. If Fielder was still around and the Brewers were in the playoff hunt, it might be Braun in the pole position for back-to-back MVP’s. Instead, he’s merely in the hunt.

Silver Medal: Buster Posey, Giants

Posey has been a man on a mission in the 2nd half of season hitting .388 with a 1.131 OPS. Posey is top 6 in batting average, slugging, OBP, OPS, and offensive WAR. He also has handled one of the top pitching staffs in the league at catcher, while leading them to the top of the N.L. West at the start of September. Posey will need to stay hot as San Francisco continues to look for offense with Melky Cabrera suspended for the rest of the season.

Gold Medal: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates

McCutchen tailed off considerably in the month of August, but his overall numbers and his team’s standing is still enough to warrant the top spot again. He leads the National League in offensive WAR, hits and runs scored, 2nd in batting average, OBP and OPS, 3rd in slugging, plus throws in 24 homers and 15 stolen bases because he’s nice like that. Don’t forget his Gold Glove-caliber fielding as well.

Just off the Podium: Matt Holliday, Cardinals, David Wright, Mets, Michael Bourn, Braves, Jason Heyward, Braves, Yadier Molina, Cardinals, R.A. Dickey, Mets, Aroldis Chapman, Reds

American League MVP

Bronze Medal: Robinson Cano, Yankees

The “Sale Spot” might now be the “Cano Spot” as the Yankees 2nd baseman finds himself in 3rd place for the 3rd straight month. Cano is top four in offensive WAR, total bases, doubles, and hits. He’s been carrying along with Derek Jeter a Yankees offense that has been without A-Rod and Mark Teixeira lately. Cano is also the favorite at second base for a Gold Glove award.

Silver Medal: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

The gap between Cabrera and his first MVP award is closing. Cabrera stayed hot in August hitting .340 while the Tigers continue to try and get into the playoffs. Cabrera is top 3 in offensive WAR, batting average, slugging, OPS, total bases, RBI, and extra-base hits. If the Tigers get to the playoffs, while the leader’s team falters. This award could end up a toss-up by the end of the season.

Gold Medal: Mike Trout, Angels

Trout is doing things never seen before in baseball. He’s the youngest player to have 25 home runs and 40 stolen bases in a season. He’s on pace to become the first rookie and youngest player to go 30-30. He leads the American League in offensive WAR, batting average, stolen bases, and runs scored. The only mark against Trout, his team is floundering right now among their lofty expectations. If the Angels make the playoffs, Trout is a lock to win MVP.

Just off the Podium: Josh Hamilton, Rangers, Adrian Beltre, Rangers, Adam Jones, Orioles, Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays, Josh Reddick, Athletics, Austin Jackson, Tigers, Josh Willingham, Twins, Paul Konerko, White Sox, and Adam Dunn, White Sox

My quick Manager of the Year picks: Bob Melvin just over Buck Showalter and Joe Maddon in the A.L. and Clint Hurdle just over Davey Johnson in the N.L. Who are your picks for the awards right now? Let us know in the comments!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

The “Early” MLB Awards

Another month of of the MLB season in the books!  Means it’s time to knock another adjective off and dub this the “Early MLB Awards”.  I waited til the All-Star break to reveal my awards.  There was some movement compared to last month’s as we’ll have our third different player in three months leading for National League Cy Young.  With the Olympics coming up in a few weeks, going to do this in medal fashion once again.  Let’s get to the awards!

National League Rookie of the Year

Bronze Medal: Lance Lynn, Cardinals

A drop for Lynn in the rankings as he was in the top spot after both April and May.  June was not kind to the Cardinals rookie as he went 2-3 with a 5.67 ERA to bring his ERA up to 3.41 on the season.  Still solid numbers with the eleven wins on the year, but he’s been surpassed by the next two players.

Silver Medal: Bryce Harper, Nationals

Another month, another step up the ladder in the N.L. Rookie of the Year rankings for Harper.  Harper was named the youngest position player All-Star in history replacing Giancarlo Stanton.  He’s been as advertised for the Nationals hitting .282, with eight homers and ten stolen bases.  Can he take one more step up the ladder in the 2nd half of the season?

Gold Medal: Wade Miley, Diamondbacks

Who’s holding back Bryce Harper from being Rookie of the Year?  It’s not a clown question, bro.  The answer is Wade Miley.  Miley leads all National League rookies in ERA and is 2nd in wins behind Lance Lynn.  Miley’s numbers are more impressive when you realize he’s pitching in hitter-friendly Chase Field.  Will his season end up like 2011′s Ian Kennedy or Josh Collmenter?  That’s the clown question that decides if he can hold off Harper for the top spot.

Just off the Podium: Andrelton Simmons, Braves, Norichika Aoki, Brewers, Wilin Rosario, Rockies, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Mets

American League Rookie of the Year

Bronze Medal: Scott Diamond, Twins

This was a tough call for 3rd place, but I’m going to mix it up since last month and give the nod to Scott Diamond over Ryan Cook.  Cook got the All-Star Game so we’ll call this even then.  Diamond is 7-3, with a 2.62 ERA and has been a bright spot for a Twins team that has really struggled this season.  Even more impressive has been Diamond’s control, just 1.4 BB/9 innings so far this season.  He’s been a diamond in the in rough for Minnesota.  (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

Silver Medal: Yu Darvish, Rangers

Just like in the National League, the leader for Rookie of the Year the first two months of the season has been knocked off at the midway point in the season.  Darvish is 10-5 on the season with a 3.59 ERA.  Those numbers are higher than his 3.21 ERA after May.  Where Darvish is helped is by his tremendous strikeout numbers, he’s 4th in the American League with 117 and has 21 more punch outs than the next highest rookie in all of MLB.  (Matt Moore)

Gold Medal: Mike Trout, Angels

There is no holding Mike Trout back any more.  This is his award to lose and it’s not even close.  Trout didn’t even play the first month of the season and leads the American League in stolen bases.  Could we see him in this blog post again?  Keep reading.

Just off the Podium: Ryan Cook, Athletics, Robbie Ross, Rangers, Jarrod Parker, Athletics, Addison Reed, White Sox, Yoenis Cespedes, Atheltics, and Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox

National League Cy Young

Bronze Medal: Johnny Cueto, Reds

There is incredibly deep pitching depth at National League starting pitcher this season that players like Cueto and James McDonald who have delivered for their teams don’t even make the All-Star team.  Hopefully being 3rd in my rankings will make Cueto feel a little bit better.  This easily could have gone to any one that I’ll list on “just off the podium”, but Cueto leads the N.L. in pitcher WAR along with R.A. Dickey.  He’s 4th in ERA while throwing the 2nd most innings so far this year, just .1 IP behind Clayton Kershaw.  Cueto does lead in adjusted ERA, when you factor in he pitches in Great American Ballpark.

Silver Medal: Matt Cain, Giants

The Giants are looking like geniuses after signing Cain to an extension at the start of this season.  Cain is 9-3 with a 2.62 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP, while again throwing the same amount of innings (120.1) as Johnny Cueto.  I have no qualms with him getting to start the All-Star Game for the National League as he has been magnificent.  Cain is 2nd in innings, WHIP, complete games, 4th in strikeouts and leads in shutouts and K/BB ratio.  Plus, I haven’t even mentioned the perfect game he pitched on June 14th, the first in Giants history.  How isn’t he #1 in the Cy Young rankings then?

Gold Medal: R.A. Dickey, Mets

R.A. Dickey, that’s how.  What’s more impressive that a perfect game?  Back-to-back one-hitters is.   There have been twenty-two perfect games in MLB history, but only seven occurrences of back-to-back one-hitters, the last by Dave Stieb in 1988.  Dickey leads the senior circuit in wins, WHIP, pitcher WAR, complete games, and shutouts.  He’s also 2nd in strikeouts, while maintaining a nifty 2.40 ERA.  Not bad for a 37 year-old knuckleballer.

Just off the Podium: Gio Gonzalez, Nationals, James McDonald, Pirates, Zack Greinke, Brewers, Cole Hamels, Phillies, Ryan Vogelsong, Giants, Stephen Strasburg, Nationals, Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, Kyle Lohse, Cardinals, Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals and Craig Kimbrel, Braves

American League Cy Young

Bronze Medal: Chris Sale, White Sox

Sale stays in the bronze medal position for now.  You can make a case he should be #2 or even #1 as he is 2nd in the American League in ERA (2.19), pitching WAR (4.2), plus 3rd in wins (10) and WHIP (0.96).  It will be a huge 2nd half story line for the White Sox as Sale already has pitched about innings this season (102.1) as he had in 2010 and 2011 combined (104.2).

Silver Medal: Jered Weaver, Angels

Weaver has been an absolute dream for Angels fans in 2012.  He leads the A.L. in ERA (1.96) and WHIP (0.90), while having a 10-1 record for the Halos.  Just mind-boggling numbers in the much better hitting American League.  There’s only one thing holding me back from putting him in the top spot at this juncture.  The three weeks he missed at the end of May/start of June with back spasms.  Luckily for Weaver he has the entire 2nd half to chase down the pitcher in the top spot.  If he stays healthy, I have a feeling he will.

Gold Medal: Justin Verlander, Tigers

If you want to be the American League Cy Young Award, you have to knock the king from his throne.  Verlander’s peripheral numbers aren’t as good as Weaver’s, with a 2.58 ERA and 0.95 WHIP.  However, factor in that Verlander has pitched 35 more innings than Weaver, you can’t argue who has been more valuable to their team at this juncture of the season.  Verlander leads the A.L. in strikeouts (128), innings pitched (132.2), complete games (5) and pitcher WAR (4.3).  They should just rename him Justin Bullpensaver.

Just off the Podium: David Price, Fernando Rodney, Rays, Jim Johnson, Orioles, Jake Peavy, White Sox, Matt Harrison, Rangers, C.J. Wilson, Angels, Felix Hernandez, Mariners, and Ernesto Frieri, Angels

National League M.V.P.

Bronze Medal: David Wright, Mets

The man who should be starting at third base for the National League (thanks again, Giants fans).  Wright leads the N.L. in WAR, while being in the top 5 in batting average (.351), on-base percentage (.441), OPS (1.004), and doubles (27).  He’s also 5th in runs batted in with 59.  He’s come through time after time for the surprising Mets.  Here’s just one example.

Silver Medal: Joey Votto, Reds

When I put Joey Votto in the top spot last month I thought I wouldn’t remove him from that top spot for the rest of this season.  Here we are just a short month later and Votto is dropped to number two.  It’s not Votto’s fault, he’s still been fantastic, leading the National League in on-base percentage (.471!), OPS (1.087), doubles (35), and is hitting a robust .348 (only good enough for 5th).  The difference in value between Votto and the player I have in the gold medal position is Votto’s teams is in second place, while this next player sits atop his division’s standings.

Gold Medal: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates

Has there been a better player since June 1st than Andrew McCutchen?  The numbers say no.  He’s hit .401, with 30 runs, 35 runs batted in, and 10 home runs in 137 at-bats.  Even more importantly, the Pirates are 23-11 in that span, and have taken over 1st place in the N.L. Central.  McCutchen leads the National League in batting average (.362), offensive WAR (4.9), total bases (193) and slugging (.625).  He is top 3 in OPS, hits, runs, AND RBI.  McCutchen has blossomed and could lead the Buccos to their first winning season and playoff appearance since 1992.

Just off the Podium: Ryan Braun, Brewers, Michael Bourn, Braves, Carlos Ruiz, Phillies, Melky Cabrera, Giants, Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies, Carlos Beltran, Cardinals, R.A. Dickey, Mets

American League M.V.P.

Bronze Medal: Robinson Cano, Yankees

The Yankees have the best record in baseball, so there has to be someone from that team in the top 3.  None have been better than Robinson Cano.  He leads the American league in total bases and is top eight in offensive WAR, OPS, batting average, slugging, OPS, runs, hits, doubles, and home runs.  All the while playing a Gold Glove-caliber second base.  He’s evolved into the next great Yankee.

Silver Medal: Josh Hamilton, Rangers

Similar to Joey Votto, I thought Hamilton was going to go wire-to-wire in taking home his 2nd A.L. M.V.P. award.  Not so fast.  Since June 1st, Hamilton is hitting just .217 and has struck out 37 times in 117 at-bats and opened the door for someone to pass him.  Hamilton’s season numbers are still great as he leads the A.L. in slugging, OPS, and home runs for a team that is in 1st place.

Gold Medal: Mike Trout, Angels

Trout was called up April 28th, essentially missing the first month of the season.  The Angels record was 6-14, they were falling quickly behind the surging Texas Rangers.  Since then, the Angels are 42-24, the best record in baseball in that span.  Trout has been the reason why.  He’s been amazing on the basepaths leading the A.L. in stolen bases with 26.  He’s hitting .341.  He’s 6th in the A.L. in runs scored with 57 in 64 games.  He’s top six in OBP, slugging, and OPS.  He leads the American League in offensive WAR at 3.8.  Now imagine those numbers if he had played in the first 20 games of the season!  He’s played a superb center field and has the defensive play of the season.

He’s probably been the best player in the league, but there’s no doubt to me that he’s been the most valuable.

Just off the Podium: Paul Konerko, White Sox, Miguel Cabrera, Tigers, David Ortiz, Red Sox, Jose Bautista, Blue Jays, and Adam Jones, Orioles

There they are.  My midseason picks for the MLB awards.  Quick hit picks on the Managers of the Year.  I would take Clint Hurdle over Davey Johnson and Terry Collins in the N.L. and Buck Showalter over Robin Ventura, Ron Washington, and Joe Girardi in the A.L.  Let me know who you should be in line for some hardware at this point in the MLB season.

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

Should they have to play?

The MLB All-Star Game takes place every July and features the biggest names in the sport. Pinning them in a series of events culminating with the All-Star Game. The MLB All-Star Game is the only one of the four major sports that has any bearing on the postseason with the winner having home field advantage in the World Series. So when players choose not to compete it could have ramifications on the playoffs.

Many players, for various reason, have decided not to compete in the All-Star game and the activities that surround it. For instance, any pitcher who starts the last game before the ASG and is voted onto the team can not play in the game. I for one am a fan of this rule. A pitchers arm is comparable to a crystal bowl in that when it is functioning the right way and undamaged it is an amazing sight to see, but the smallest defect in it can ruin even the most pristine arm.

Last season Justin Verlander could not partake in the All-Star Game, despite being among the league leaders in votes for pitchers, because he had started the last game before the break.

The same can be said for players who refuse to partake in the Home Run Derby which can be argued is the most popular event during the break. Many players have said that participating in the Home Run Derby has ruined their swings for the rest of the season, and there are numbers to back this up. Look at Josh Hamilton’s second half of 2008. By the All Star Break he had slugged 22 home runs and had 95 RBIs. After his memorable first round in which he smashed the single round record by hitting 28 home runs, he went on to hit only 10 the rest of the season finishing with 32 home runs and 135 RBIs.

Major League Baseball changed the rules last year regarding the Home Run Derby by allowing a player captain to pick his league’s “team”. One player has been targeted by the American League’s captain, Robinson Cano, and he has refused to take part in the event. Josh Hamilton has been asked twice to take part and has turned down the offer, citing he does not want to mess with his swing.

This is not the first time he has turned down the offer to participate though. In 2009, during an injury riddled season, he did not want to take part. He was just coming off an injury when the All Star Game was to take place and he didn’t want to reinjure himself.

He would easily be the biggest draw to the American League team with what he did at Yankee Stadium in 2008 but with his free agency looming he doesn’t want to do anything to jeopardize that. He will be the biggest name this winter if he hits the market.

The “Perfect” American League All-Star Ballot

Major League Baseball announced the 2nd round of voting for the All-Star game over the past two days. The American League voting is still being dominated by the legions of Texas Rangers fans voting at will and having their players hold down five starting spots. With just over two weeks left before the starters are announced, I think it’s time to announce what my ballot will be for my 125 votes. (Like you don’t have more than one e-mail account to use too.) My National League ballot will be coming out tomorrow, but for now here’s who I think should start for the American League. I will break this up into my pick, who’s acceptable to vote for, and players that are currently placing that you probably shouldn’t be throwing support to.

Catcher

Mapes Pick: A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox

American League catcher is a mess right now. Mike Napoli, Matt Wieters, and Joe Mauer have been slight disappointments so far. It’d be a nice final All-Star appearance (probably) for Pierzynski who last made the Midseason Classic in 2006. Pierzynski leads AL catchers in OPS and RBI currently, while being 2nd behind Mauer in batting average (.288), and 3rd in home runs, just one behind Napoli and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. (Author’s Note: As I was writing the blog, Pierzynski tied Napoli and Saltalamacchia with his 11th HR of the year.)

Acceptable to Vote For: Joe Mauer, Twins, Mike Napoli, Rangers, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Red Sox

Please Stop Voting For: Russell Martin, Yankees

First Base

Mapes Pick: Paul Konerko, White Sox

I’d like to think my first All-Star injustices column helped propel Konerko past Mark Teixiera into the #2 spot at first base. Konerko leads the American League still in batting average and OBP. Plus, he leads A.L. 1st baseman in OPS and has more home runs than current leader Prince Fielder. Fielder does have the advantage in runs scored and batted in.

Acceptable to Vote For: Prince Fielder, Tigers

Please Stop Voting For: Mark Teixiera, Yankees, Mitch Moreland, Rangers, and Albert Pujols, Angels

Second Base

Mapes Pick: Robinson Cano, Yankees

Ian Kinsler has six more runs scored than Cano. Cano just has four more home runs, the same RBI, a better batting average and OPS and is playing Gold Glove 2nd base compared to his Texas counterpart. Kinsler is having his typically solid year and I think should be picked by his skipper Ron Washington to head to Kansas City, but Cano should be getting the starting nod.

Why Jason Kipnis is in 5th is beyond me, he’s the only 2nd baseman with double digit steals and home runs. Kipnis is hitting .285, is tied for 2nd in the A.L. in runs scored (behind Kinsler), and is tied for the A.L. lead in stolen bases with someone we’ll get to later.

Acceptable to Vote For: Ian Kinsler, Rangers and Jason Kipnis, Indians

Please Stop Voting For: Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox and Robert Andino, Orioles

Shortstop

Mapes Pick: Derek Jeter, Yankees

It’s closer than the near million votes that Jeter is leading the pack by. It’s Derek Jeter though, if he’s having a good season, then he should start the All-Star Game. Fans are getting this one right.

Acceptable to Vote For: Elvis Andrus, Rangers and Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians

Please Stop Voting For: Alcides Escobar, Royals

Third Base

Mapes Pick: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

Like his fellow teammate on the left side of the infield Elvis Andrus, Adrian Beltre should be coming off the bench for the All-Star team not starting it. Cabrera is one of is the not the most feared hitter in the American League. Cabrera is better than Beltre in every statistical category this season. If I was to choose one player currently not starting to track down his positions leader, it’s Cabrera first, then Konerko.

Please stop voting for Evan Longoria, I beg of you. You’re making all of us look bad. You’re better off trying to swing the vote for hometown player and underrated this season Mike Moustakas. It’s also pretty embarrassing that Angels Mark Trumbo isn’t in the top five at this position. I mean he’s only 4th in AVG, 2nd in OBP, 3rd in OPS, and 7th in HR’s in the entire league.

Acceptable to Vote For: Mark Trumbo, Angels, Adrian Beltre, Rangers, Alex Rodriguez, Yankees, and Mike Moustakas, Royals

Please Stop Voting For: Evan Longoria, Rays

Designated Hitter

Mapes Pick: David Ortiz, Red Sox

Hard to go against Adam Dunn who has bounced back from a horrific 2011 to have over 20 home runs already. The difference between Ortiz and Dunn is seven home runs, but I value Ortiz’s lead in average (massive), OBP, SLG, and OPS more. Fun Adam Dunn stat: he currently leads the American League in both walks AND strikeouts.

The underrated player in this position is Edwin Encarncacion who has been fantastic for the Blue Jays this year, but doesn’t make the top 5. Michael Young is one of my favorite players of the past decade, but doesn’t belong 2nd based on what he’s done. He’s just getting the Ranger fan bump.

Acceptable to Vote For: Adam Dunn, White Sox and Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays

Please Stop Voting For: Michael Young, Rangers and Raul Ibanez, Yankees

Outfield

Mapes Picks: Josh Hamilton, Rangers, Adam Jones, Orioles, and Mike Trout, Angels

I’ve spent enough time this season talking about Hamilton, he’s the clear-cut A.L. MVP right now and should be the top vote-getter.

Adam Jones has done everything in his power to carry the Orioles. He’s the top reason that Baltimore is in contention right now in the A.L. East. In addition to Gold Glove defense he’s top five in the league in home runs, total bases, hits, and offensive WAR. Plus, Jones is adding a .300 batting average and nine stolen bases to the mix. The closest battle for a starting spot right now is for the 3rd A.L. outfielder. Nelson Cruz, Jose Bautista, and Jones are separated by a shade over 80,000 votes. Jones is the clear-cut choice of those three to me.

Curtis Granderson is 2nd in the voting and will be included in my “acceptable to vote for”, but who wouldn’t want to see Mike Trout in the outfield. Trout has turned the Angels fortunes around since getting called up. If Trout currently qualified, he would be 2nd in batting average, 4th in OBP, 9th in SLG, and 6th in OPS. For good measure he’s tied for the American League lead in stolen bases and he didn’t even play the first month! Trout has earned a spot. Only problem is you have to vote for him as a write-in candidate.

The true atrocity at this position is Josh Reddick and Josh Willingham not cracking the top 15 at the position. They are both having breakout seasons and will more than likely be their respective teams solo representatives (unless the A’s Ryan Cook is picked over Reddick). Willingham is 2nd in the league in on-base. How can you not be #WildForWillingham after watching this either?

http://mlbfancave.mlb.com/shared/video/embed/embed.html?content_id=22031457&topic_id=19224580&click=fancave_video&width=400&height=254&property=mlb

Acceptable to Vote For: Curtis Granderson, Yankees, Josh Reddick, Athletics, and Josh Willingham, Twins

Please Stop Voting For: David Murphy, Rangers, Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox, Brett Gardner, Yankees, Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners, and Nick Markakis, Orioles

Anything you think I’m completely crazy on? Want to defend a player that currently has a starting spot? Let me know in the comments or hit me up on Twitter.

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

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