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The IBA’s, Part II


Time for the National League to get some run


By Adam Hoff


By the time you read this, the season will be over.  Or will it?  Right now it is Saturday morning and the Phillies still have a shot, the Yankees and Red Sox are tied, and the Indians are sweating it out after losing to Chicago’s bench last night in 13 innings.  I wonder how things will look on Monday afternoon when this goes up?  It’s like opening a time capsule.  Anyway, the reason we are here is to hand out the NL half of the regular season awards.  The AL Awards went up on Friday, and yes, I picked Big Papi to win the MVP and no, I don’t care about A-Rod’s 21 stolen bases, so please stop emailing to tell me that I’m an idiot.  The big change between that column and this one is that we’re going shorter here.  Apparently 2,700 words can test the old attention span.  I hear you people!  Short and sweet this time (no more than 2,00 words, I promise).


NL MVP.  I suppose a case can be made for Andruw Jones and his appealing 51 home runs and 128 RBI, but I won’t be the one to do it.  I know he plays great D and I know the league-leading power numbers are nice and I know that he was a big part of the Braves winning yet another division title … but the man is hitting .263.  I’m sorry, that just doesn’t cut it.  (Plus, he has a horrendous average with runners in scoring position and he ranks only 10th in the league in OPS.)  Which means that it comes down to Derrek Lee and Albert Pujols.  Lee never did collapse like the naysayers predicted and he wound up with amazing numbers.  He snagged a batting crown (.338 at the moment), led the majors in slugging percentage and OPS, and hit 46 home runs.  Plus, he delivered in the clutch time and time again and manned first base with tremendous skill.  However, he doesn’t get my vote. 


I’m going with Albert Pujols for a variety of reasons, but I’ll sum them up with this email I sent during an exchange with reader and WIS legend Dave Newman: “Pujols is my guy.  He is underrated defensively, he crushes the ball, he anchored an offense that was commonly and incorrectly assumed to be just as potent as last year's when in reality it was shredded by injuries.  He carried that team after Rolen and Sanders went down.  Plus, he stole 15 bases.  PLUS, I'm not trying to turn this into a lifetime achievement award like the Oscars, but I give him any tie-breaker points for all of the MVP awards he should already have and would already have if it weren't for Barry Bonds. Pujols has enjoyed the best ‘first five seasons’ start to a career in the history of baseball and the Cardinals are running away with the NL for the second straight year with a ravaged lineup ... how can you fail to reward that with an MVP trophy?  I think Pujols is in danger of being like Shaq in the NBA - a consistently dominant force that always produces and always wins and yet 12 years from now will inexplicably only have one MVP award to show for his troubles because the media somehow took him for granted.  I sure hope that doesn’t happen.”


(Sorry, that was still kind of long.  Crap.)


Apologies to:  Derrek Lee. 


NL Second Half MVP.  To be honest, none of the big guns came down the stretch in scorching fashion.  For that reason, the door is open for Carlos Delgado to collect some Insider hardware.  He picked up the slack for a struggling lineup and hit .325 with a 1.089 OPS, 22 home runs, and 48 RBI to keep the suddenly dysfunctional Marlins in the playoff race until the final weeks of the season.


Apologies to: Pujols (still great numbers), Lance Berkman (came alive when the Astros needed him most), Jason Bay (probably the best second half player, too bad the Pirates suck), and Randy Winn (seriously, check out the numbers he posted after joining the Giants). 


NL “Quietly Good Player” Award.  If there is any place that one can put up enormous numbers in absolute obscurity it is Pittsburgh.  The Pirates have been really bad for a really long time, but they finally have something to get excited about: Jason Bay.  The second year player started slowly as he battled some injuries, but once he got rolling he never looked back.  Three NL players hit 30 home runs, drove in 100 runs, scored 100 times, hit .300, posted an OBP of .400, and slugged at least .550.  You know two them pretty well: Derrek Lee and Albert Pujols.  The other?  That’s right, it was Bay.  Plus, he hit 43 doubles, six triples, and stole 21 bases in 22 attempts.  Fantasy owners, start your engines!


Apologies to: Morgan Ensberg, Pat Burrell (other than the homers, his numbers are just as good if not better than those of Andruw Jones), David Wright, and Chase Utley (more on those last two guys in a minute).


NL Breakout Player Award.  I was going to set up a big Tale of the Tape debate to calculate whether to pick Chase Utley or David Wright for this one, but instead decided to give it to them both.  In Utley’s case, he shrugged off an annoying platoon situation that cut into his ABs for the first two months of the season, posted extraordinary numbers for a second baseman (.292 average, .910 OPS, 28 home runs, 105 RBI, 16 stolen bases, 72 extra base hits), and was the most important bat in the Phillies lineup as they battled for the Wild Card.  As for Wright, he quickly became New York’s best position player and probably the best third basemen in franchise history.  His numbers are eerily similar to those of Utley (.308, .911 OPS, 26 home runs, 100 RBI, 17 stolen bases, 69 extra base hits) and he too is doing it at a young age and at an infield position.  It is safe to say that half the starting infield for the NL All-Star team is set for the next decade.


Apologies to: Bay (snubbed only because he kind of already broke out last year AND because he already received an award), Chad Tracy (.309 with 27 jacks), and Matt Holiday (.307 with 87 RBI in two-thirds of a season, including a Rockies’ record 32 RBI in September).


NL Cy Young.  This is a tough one.  Roger Clemens had an amazing season at age 43 and makes a great case for his 29th Cy Young Award.  Chris Carpenter faded terribly down the stretch but was Santana-esque from May through August for the best team in the league.  Andy Pettitte was arguably the best pitcher in the league from June through September.  Who to choose?  They are all integral performers for playoff teams (probably, in the case of the ‘Stros), so lets just lay out the stats and see what happens (* denotes that they were in the top five in the NL in that category):


Clemens: 12-8, 1.89 ERA*, 1.00 WHIP*, .197 BAA*, 204 IP, 180 K’s,  25 QS*, 0 SO

Carpenter: 21-5*, 2.83*, 1.06 WHIP*, .231 BAA, 241 IP*, 213 K’s*, 27 QS*, 4 SO*

Pettitte: 17-9*, 2.39*, 1.03 WHIP*, .230 BAA, 222 IP, 171 K’s, 27 QS*, 0 SO


Clemens was in the top five in four categories, Carpenter in seven, and Pettitte in four.  Therefore, my choice is Chris Carpenter.  It wasn’t easy though.


Apologies to: Obviously Clemens and Pettitte, but also to Pedro Martinez (was a few blown saves away from a magical season), and Dontrelle Willis (proved me and a lot of other people wrong by staying strong to the end and going 22-10 with a 2.59 ERA.)


NL Second Half Cy Young.  I’m glad we have this award, because if anyone deserves it, Andy Pettitte is the guy.  He went 11-2 with a 1.72 ERA, .92 WHIP, and 85 strikeouts in a major league-leading 104 innings.  He pitched the Astros through horrendous hitting slumps, Clemens’ back problems, and Roy Oswalt’s brief rough stretch.  He’s also my vote for Comeback Player of the Year, over Griffey. 


Apologies to: Billy Wagner (stud closer posted .55 ERA in second half), Noah Lowry (kept Giants in it with 2.43 ERA), and Derrick Turnbow (21 saves and a .93 ERA for the surprise closer of the year). 


NL “Quietly Good Pitcher” Award.  Hard to believe that Pedro Martinez can accomplish anything quietly, but the guy posted a major league best .95 WHIP and barely raised an eyebrow.  He also finished in the top five in the NL in ERA, BAA, and strikeouts. 


Apologies to: Roy Oswalt (steady Roy went 19-12 with 25 quality starts and a 2.86 ERA), Jake Peavy, and Carlos Zambrano.  


NL Breakout Pitcher Award.  AJ Burnett took a run at it but imploded a few too many times, Chris Capuano has the W’s but not the other numbers, Noah Lowry certainly finished strong, and Brett Myers had flashes of brilliance, but ultimately, the only young gun that did it from start to finish was John Patterson of the Nationals.  He posted a 2.90 ERA and 1.17 WHIP and struck out almost a better per inning, but never got the run support so his record is only 9-6.  Looks like a star in the making though. 


Apologies to: Lowry, Turnbow, and Myers. 


NL Closer of the Year.  It’s close, but I have to go with Chad Cordero for his 47 saves, 1.82 ERA, and .96 WHIP.  47 saves for a last place team is an amazing total. 


Apologies to: Brad Lidge (incredible 102 K’s in 68 innings to go with 40 saves, but the ratios aren’t as sparkling this year), Billy Wagner, Trevor Hoffman, and Derrick Turnbow.


NL Rookie of the Year.  I know that guys like Willie Tavarez played all season, but for me it comes down to two half-season guys: Ryan Howard of the Phillies and Jeff Francoeur.  In half a season, Howard hit .284 with a .558 slugging percentage, 21 home runs, 50 runs, and 58 RBI.  How would a full season have looked?  You do the math.  More importantly, he did most of his damage in clutch spots, hitting two game-winning homers, eight blasts after the seventh inning of games, and 10 home runs in September.  Francoeur also played about half a season and hit .306 with a .908 OPS, 14 home runs, and 45 RBI.  Plus, he gunned down about 7,000 baserunners and provided Atlanta with a huge spark when they needed it most.  The only problem with Francoeur?  He didn’t play an integral role in leading my fantasy baseball team to a title.  Ryan Howard did, so he gets the vote.  Actually that isn’t true, I’m giving it to Howard because he had to step in and fill the shoes of Jim Thome and he was more than up to the task. 


Apologies to: Francoeur. 


Adam Hoff is a columnist for WhatifSports.com and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers of America.  He can be reached at ahoff@uchicago.edu or by sitemail at adamo112.

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