Yesterday we revealed the staff’s predictions for the American League and the World Series. Today it is the staff’s picks for the AL individual awards.
Robinson Cano was the leading vote getter among the staff. Myself, Brian, Fish and Delia will think hitting in the 3 hole will help him put up even more fabulous numbers. I think his protection going from Nick Swisher to Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira will help him see better pitchers than he saw last year. The other votes were split among Cabrera, Fielder and Bautista. Mike D sees no reason why Cabrera won’t be able to pound out another MVP season, while Matt S. thinks his teammate Fielder will put on a show. Those two teammates may have to deal with their votes canceling each other out. If the Jays do not make the playoffs it may be tough for Bautista to win with so many great players in the AL. The surprise I think is no votes were put in for Albert Pujols.
Matt Moore is the majority choice among the staff for very good reason.Moore threw 7 shutout innings in Game 1 of the ALDS against a potent Rangers lineup. That has everybody excited about him this year. I choose Lawrie to be a little different and because I think he will put up a very nice year. Lawrie hit .293, with 9 HR’s, 25 RBI, and a .953 OPS in 150 AB’s last year. He also had a big spring training. Delia is the only one going with the most experienced rookie Yu Darvish.
AL CY Young:
The first thing that jumps out at me the most is the bold picks by Mike P and Brian for Matt Moore to win the AL CY Young as a rookie. Despite his great talent, winning the CY Young as a rookie would be amazing, especially pitching in the AL East. In 1981 Fernando Valenzuela became the first and only rookie CY Young award winner, so Moore winning would be historic. Sabathia and Verlander tied Moore with 2 votes. Fish has Sabathia over Verlander because he thinks Sabathia’s BABIP will go down from .318 while Verlander’s will go up from .236. He also does not like Verlander’s defense behind him. Matt S. thinks the new rotation will take pressure off Sabathia. Mike D and Delia are sticking with Verlander until he proves otherwise. I was the only one to give Weaver a vote because of his improved team and him getting to face Oakland and Seattle so much.
AL Manager of the Year:
Matt B: Mike Scioscia Mike P: Joe Maddon Delia: Joe Girardi Matt S: Joe Maddon Brian: Mike Scioscia Fish: John Farrell Mike D: Mike Scioscia
Manager of the year usually comes from a surprise team that makes the playoffs. However, with so many strong teams in the AL not many surprises are being selected outside the top 6 teams. This makes predicting manager of the year this year very difficult. Scioscia is the leader among the staff with 3 votes and is Maddon 2nd with 2 votes. Delia was the only one to vote for Girardi. I think being the manger of the Yankees gives him no chance. If he did not get consideration last year when the Red Sox were projected by seemingly everybody to beat the Yankees than he never will.
The American League East is one of the toughest and fastest paced divisions in Baseball. Almost all of these teams have the potential to be American League East Champions in order to advance to the newly complicated playoffs. But just like it is fast paced and complicated for the offense, it is also fast paced and complicated for the defense, mostly the outfield. As an outfielder, you can’t second guess yourself when taking a direct route to the ball. Chances are if you second guess yourself, the chances are that the ball will drop in the outfield. When it comes to the American League East, there are a lot of Gold Glove worthy contenders, but who has the best Outfield in the AL East?
Boston Red Sox
Carl Crawford, LF: Carl Crawford is a very talented left fielder for sure, but his fielding isn’t used to the fullest of his potential because of one little flaw in Fenway Park; The Green Monster. What would normally be a HR in Yankee Stadium for example would go off the high wall and end up a double, and because of the angle the Green Monster makes, it makes fielding more difficult for Crawford. In 2010 with the Rays he had 7 assists and 2 errors. In 2011 with the Red Sox, he had 1 assist and 3 errors. Different ballparks make a difference, don’t they?
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF: I don’t usually offer much praise to the Red Sox, but when Jacoby Ellsbury is in CF it is a complete delight to watch what he’s going to do next. Ellsbury is a Gold Glove contender for sure, after all in 2011 he had 6 assists, 3 Double Plays and no errors. Ellsbury is what makes the Red Sox have a good outfield. Without him, there wouldn’t even be consideration as to who would have the best outfield in the AL East.
Darnell McDonald, RF: Typically a center fielder, McDonald played everywhere in the 2011 season but he mostly played right field. While he was a right fielder, he only had 1 assist and 1 error which isn’t a bad number at all. McDonald for the Red Sox would have been more of a utility outfielder. He was good at fielding, but with Cody Ross now in the picture, McDonald’s playing time might soon be lessened.
Ivan Nova was one of the big reasons the 2011 Yankees rotation was an unexpected success. Nova, who was not even assured of a rotation spot in spring training, ended up as the clear number 2 starter by seasons end. Nova finished 2011 going 16-4, with a 3.70 ERA, and a 1.33 WHIP. A lot is expected out of Nova to build on last year and continue to be the number 2 starter on the Yankees barring a trade. A sophomore slump is common for a rookie coming off a good rookie season. Whether or not Nova has a sophomore slump will be a huge key to the Yankees in the 2012 season.
It is hard to quantify whether Nova will have a sophomore slump or not. With so little career data to go by that determination is tough to make. I was fond of Nova from when he made his major league starting debut on August 23, 2010 against the Toronto Blue Jays. I liked his stuff, but what really endeared me to him was when he went at Jose Bautista up and in after Bautista showed him up with a home run, the previous at-bat. It showed me Nova had the mental toughness and fearlessness to succeed. To challenge one of the best hitters in baseball like that showed me something, and it really stuck in my mind.
In 2010 Nova’s main issue was the lack of a true out pitch. Nova had a great curve but when it wasn’t working he had nothing to go to, to put hitters away. However, after Nova returned from the minors in the 2nd half of 2011, he featured a dramatically improved slider. This allowed him to get a lot more swings and misses, and to take his game to the next level. However, Nova will have to continue to get better in this area to be an elite starter. He only averaged a 5.33 K/9, and as a result only a 1.72 K/BB ratio.
What also made Nova successful was his heavy 2 seam fastball that allowed him to only have a 0.7 HR/9, and get ground balls 52.7% of the time. Being a ground ball pitcher at Yankee Stadium is an excellent thing for Nova. If he can get a reasonable amount of strike-outs, and a lot of ground balls, Ivan will have plenty of success at Yankee Stadium moving forward.
I think now that he has four legit pitches in his 4 seam fastball, 2 seam fastball, curve, slider, and even a changeup mixed in, Nova can really benefit from mixing his pitches up well. Such ability to keep hitters off balance should continue to get better as he becomes more mature as a pitcher.
How all of this will translate to 2012 is the big question mark. The Yankees really need Nova to at least come close to repeating his 2011 performance. You pretty much know what you will be getting from C.C. Sabathia, Freddy Garcia, and (unfortunately) A.J. Burnett, as his performance is unlikely to change much. So that leaves Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes as the wildcards. Even though Hughes fell off a bit at the end of 2010, everybody expected a big 2011 – but it didn’t happen. That should be seen as a warning sign that there is no guarantee that Nova will be as good this season.
The Yankees can’t afford Nova to take the same kind of nose-dive, unless Hughes returns to first-half of 2010 form. Bill James is projecting a 10-10 record, with a 4.28 ERA, 4.11 FIP, and a 6.10 K/9 in 183 innings for Nova. That seems considerably worse than last year, but those numbers are in now way set in stone. I think if Nova repeats his last year’s numbers, that would be a huge success, but you should probably expect at least a slight drop off considering he did out-pitch his peripheral numbers last year. However, in the long run I still have complete faith in Nova to be a staple in the Yankees rotation. This is big, as the Yankees have not developed a legit starting pitcher since Andy Pettitte. I would say Phil Hughes has to prove more to be taken into consideration.
I like Nova’s improving strikeout potential stuff, his ability to keep the ball on the ground, and his smooth and sound mechanics. Most of all I like what you cannot decipher in stats about him. I love his mound presence, mental toughness, and confidence. All of this was evidenced by Nova performing well on the biggest stage- the playoffs. While he may be due for a little slip this year, Ivan Nova should be a big part of the Yankees rotation for the foreseeable future.
Update: (In the thank you to the little weasel Randy Levine department) via Lohud Soriano is going to see Dr. Andrews (never good when you have to see him)
and here’s the lineup
Derek Jeter DH
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Russell Martin C
Nick Swisher RF
Brett Gardner LF
Eduardo Nunez SS
From MLB.com’s Thomas Boorstein:
NEW YORK — With two outs and nobody on in the top of the first inning, Bartolo Colon challenged Jose Bautista and paid the price. With a runner on second and no one out in the top of the sixth, Colon and the Yankees elected a more passive approach against Bautista. Other Blue Jays made sure the Yankees paid an even steeper penalty.
After Bautista burned Colon with a first-inning home run, the Yankees acted more carefully and intentionally walked the slugging right fielder in the sixth. But their new approach didn’t work any better. That walk helped fuel a big inning that turned what had been a taut pitchers’ duel into a 7-3 loss to the Blue Jays on Monday.
“I went out there and told him what I wanted to do, and he said, ‘Whatever you want to do here, let’s do it,'” manager Joe Girardi said of his mound meeting with Colon. “And we [had] a ground-ball pitcher on the mound. We took a shot, and it didn’t work.”
Hoping for a double play that never came, the Yankees instead saw the Blue Jays produce five runs in the inning on only three hits. Following Corey Patterson’s leadoff double, the Yankees put Bautista on first. Yunel Escobar then sacrificed the runners to second and third. With first base open, Girardi again elected to issue an intentional walk, this one to Juan Rivera. Colon (2-3) helped that decision backfire by allowing a go-ahead ground-ball single to Aaron Hill, a four-pitch bases-loaded walk to Eric Thames and a three-run double by J.P. Arencibia.
“I was trying to throw a pitch outside so that he could hit a ground ball for a double play,” Colon said through an interpreter about his approach to Arencibia. “Sometimes it happens so quick that you don’t even notice. So all I [can] do is think about the next outing.”
“He’s a tough out,” catcher Russell Martin said of Bautista. “Every at-bat it seems like he’s zoned in. It probably seems like everything is slowing down for him at the plate. He’s a tough out. He seems like he’s on everything. He’s definitely a guy that you don’t want to beat you.”
Bautista had opened the game’s scoring when he deposited a Colon fastball into the visiting bullpen in left-center. It was his Major League-leading 19th home run — and his third in six games against the Yankees. Colon allowed two more singles in the first but then gave up only one hit during the next four.
Bautista, who popped up in his final two at-bats, has now reached base in 14 of his 27 plate appearances against the Yankees. Since the beginning of 2010, he has nine homers and a .463 on-base percentage in 108 plate appearances vs. New York.
“I don’t want to say they did us a favor, but they put extra baserunners on for us,” Bautista said. “And J.P. really came through for us with that double.”
The Yankees (25-21) drew even in the fourth inning. Curtis Granderson, second in the Majors with 16 home runs, drew a leadoff walk. He advanced to third on a Mark Teixeira single and scored on a sacrifice fly by Robinson Cano, who knocked in all three Yankees runs.
Toronto’s Carlos Villanueva, making his first start since Oct. 3, 2009, when he was with the Brewers, held the Yankees in check with his curveball and changeup. Derek Jeter, Granderson and Teixeira all struck out in the bottom of the first, and the Yankees didn’t do much after that, managing only one run on two hits in five innings before Villanueva made way for the Blue Jays’ bullpen.
“He did a good job of keeping guys off balance,” Brett Gardner said. “A lot of guys, when you’re 2-0, 3-1, you’re going to get a heater, and he did a good job of throwing offspeed pitches in hitters’ counts.”
Through the first five innings, it looked as though Colon would continue his surprising run, which began with a start against Toronto on April 20. After the trouble in the first, the right-hander pounded the strike zone. He struck out eight overall, but the walks — both unintentional and otherwise — proved too much to overcome.
“[He] wasn’t quite as sharp as we’ve seen him,” Girardi said. “When you measure up against his last start, that’s about as good as you can get. He really kept us in the game, and we had a hard time scoring off Villanueva.”
“One batter, one time,” Martin said of Colon’s sixth inning. “It’s going to happen. He pitches like he’s a machine out there. One tough inning can happen.”
As for the decision to put Blue Jays on base in that decisive sixth, Girardi doesn’t feel the need to second-guess himself.
“You can’t, because it’s thought out,” he said. “And it’s a situation where you do get the ground ball, it just happens to be in the hole.”
|Rodriguez, A, 3B||4||0||2||0||0||1||2||.289|
|Colon, B(L, 2-3)||6.0||7||6||6||4||8||1||3.77|
and here is the lineup
Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Russell Martin C
Jorge Posada DH
Brett Gardner LF
Chris Dickerson RF (Swisher has to be upset that he is given another day off. Hopefully this will fire him up to start hitting)