The National League's big awards: Why I missed on 'em

Bob Levey

No, Zack Cozart won't be the National League's Rookie of the Year. Roy Halladay won't be the Cy Young, or Joey Votto the MVP. So where did your intrepid blogger go wrong?

Shortly into last season, we "previewed" the National League; by we, I am referring to Grant Brisbee, Al Yellon, and me. We spent a great deal of time predicting how the races were going to go, which of course was a fool's errand so I'm not going to belabor our ill-fated forecasts. You can check those if you like; I'll just mention that Grant and I both had two of five postseason teams (the Giants and Cardinals), while Al had one (Giants). These things are hard to figure.

But with Awards Season upon us, I thought I would spend a little time looking at our choices for the big awards, because maybe we can learn something there. Well, I'll look at my choices, anyway. And just mention that between the three of us, we probably went 0 for 9.

Most Valuable Player
My choice: Joey Votto
Likely winner: Buster Posey

Votto's not a candidate, at all. But not because he didn't play well enough. He simply didn't play enough, period. After 86 games, Votto hit the Disabled List with a knee injury, wound up going through two surgeries, and played 25 games the rest of the season. When he went on the DL, Votto had hit only 14 home runs and driven home only 49 runs. That wasn't really his fault, as pitchers simply weren't throwing him strikes and so he'd drawn 66 walks.

MVP voters are relatively unimpressed by walks, and high on-base percentages. They do appreciate high batting averages, though. And if Votto had stayed healthy and won the batting title, he certainly would have drawn some MVP support even if he'd failed to reach 100 RBI.

Meanwhile, considering that Buster Posey entered the season with a .294/.353/.462 career line and was coming back from a devastating injury, I'm not going to beat myself up about not guessing he'd bat .336/.408/.549 this season.

Cy Young
My choice: Roy Halladay
Likely winner: R.A. Dickey or Gio Gonzalez

I don't know. Maybe it was foolish to predict a Cy Young Award for a 35-year-old pitcher. On the other hand, this 35-year-old pitcher had led his league in strikeout-to-walk ratio. At 34, Halladay posted the highest strikeout rate of his brilliant career, and (roughly) the lowest home-run rate. There simply was no reason to think he wouldn't be an outstanding pitcher again in 2012.

In 2011, he'd finished second in the Cy Young balloting to Clayton Kershaw, who'd never pitched so well before. What I expected was that Halladay would pitch brilliantly again, and that Kershaw would regress somewhat.

Of course that's not what happened. Halladay got hurt, and went 11-8 with his highest ERA (4.49) since he posted a 10.64 mark a dozen years ago.*

* By the way, that 10.64 is the all-time record for a pitcher with at least 50 innings.

Meanwhile, Kershaw pitched brilliantly once more, and the only thing that's going to keep him from repeating as Cy Young winner is his 14-9 record. His league-leading ERA is impressive, but it's little better than those of Dickey and Gonzalez, both of whom won 20 games.

Rookie of the Year
My choice: Zack Cozart
Likely winner: Bryce Harper

Oddly, none of us predicted a Rookie of the Year Award for Harper.

Well, it looks odd now. Before the season, Harper was slated to open the season in Class AAA ... and he hadn't played particularly well the year before in Class AA. Which I suppose simply suggests something we've long known, which is that immense talent usually wins out, and often sooner than we expect.

My "reasoning" re: Cozart? He went into the season with an every-day job, he was regarded as an outstanding defensive shortstop, and in 2011 his half-season of Triple-A action produced a .310/.357/.467 line.

In the event, though, Cozart's hitting in the majors just wasn't good enough. Well, it was good enough for him to play almost every day for the Reds. Because his defense was outstanding. But his .288 on-base percentage torpedoed his production as a hitter, and while he did score 72 runs, he drove home only 35. Which makes him a non-candidate.

I didn't see Cozart's teammate Todd Frazier coming. Nor did I see Arizona's Wade Miley coming. Consider: Last year in the minors, Miley made 22 starts and struck out roughly twice as many batters as he walked. In the minors. This year? In the majors, Miley made 29 starts and struck out nearly four times as many as he walked.

Predicting what baseball players will do is a lot harder than predicting who will win elections. Ask anybody.

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