By Blaidd Drwg
The National League Awards picture is much muddier than the AL – in the NL, every award has multiple legitimate candidates, so picking the winner is going to be much harder.
MVP – My Pick = Ryan Braun/ Predicted Winner = Buster Posey
There are 4 legitimate candidates – Ryan Braun, Buster Posey, Yadier Molina and Andrew McCutchen. In terms of overall WAR, the NL Leaders went Posey (7.2), McCutchen (7.0), Braun (6.8), Molina (6.7), so not a ton of separation between them. It was actually the same order of finish in the NL batting race, with Posey taking the award thanks to Melky Cabrera DQing himself. Here is how the contenders ranked in some offensive categories:
A blank in the chart means they were not in the top 10 in the category. Molina had a fine season offensively, was stellar defensively and gets credit for his team making the playoffs, but I don’t think that is enough compared to the other candidates, so he is out. McCutchen hit the hell out of the ball in the first half of the season to the tune of a 1.039 OPS, but followed that up with a fine, but not MVP like .860 in the second half as the Pirates fell apart again at the end of the season, so he is out as a contender. That leaves Posey and Braun. Posey lit it up in the second half with a 1.102 OPS, carried the Giants offensively, especially after Melky Cabrera was suspended and his team made the playoffs, all major plusses. Braun was just about as good in 2012 as he was in 2011 (when he won the MVP), survived the loss of Prince Fielder’s protection in the lineup (Braun had 2 IBB’s in 2011, 15 in 2012), and was remarkably consistent hitting .990 OPS in the first half and .983 in the second. The knock on him is his team failed to make the playoffs, but they were in the race until the last week of the season. I think that the consistency and higher finish in several statistical categories gets Braun my vote. He won’t win because some voters will hold the failed steroid test last season over his head.
Cy Young – My Pick = Clayton Kershaw/ Predicted Winner = Johnny Cueto
Another award with 4 legitimate candidates – Kershaw, Cueto, RA Dickey and Gio Gonzalez. Here is a breakdown of the 4:
Gonzalez’s folio lies mostly in his 21 wins (leading the league) and the Gnats making the playoffs; the other 3 pitchers had better seasons than he did, so he is out. Dickey, it could be argued, statistically had the best season out of the group, but the Mets were terrible and that is going to cost him votes, so he is out. Kershaw had a better season statistically than Cueto, but there are 2 things working against him: his team did not make the playoffs and he only won 14 games. Yes there is precedent for picking the guy with the low win total, but not in a season where there was a 19, 20 and 21 game winner. That is what is going to prevent Kershaw from winning the award. Cueto is a fine pick; he had a stellar season, his team made the playoffs and he did it in one of the toughest parks in the NL to pitch in, so he does deserver the award should he win it.
ROY – My Pick = Bryce Harper / Predicted Winner = Bryce Harper
If you asked anyone for a prediction on who would win this award in June, they would have said Bryce Harper. Now, it is a three horse race with Harper, Wade Miley and Todd Frazier. Harper had a great season considering he is just 19 years old – .270 BA, 22 HR, 119 OPS+, 5.0 WAR, he made the AS team and his team made the playoffs. The knock on him is he faded at the end of the season. Miley went 16-11 with a 3.33 ERA, 125 ERA+ and 3.2 WAR, pitching in the tough confines of the BOB in Arizona and he also made an all-star team. His team did not make the playoffs though. Todd Frazier’s team, the Reds did make the playoffs and Frazier put up a .273 BA with 19 HR, 115 OPS+ but only a 1.9 WAR, hitting in the Great American bandbox. Given that, I don’t think that either Miley or Frazier, despite fine seasons, can match Harper’s output.