My MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year picks

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Here are my picks for the MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year awards for each league. Obviously, these are all for fun. I’m not a BBWAA member and do not have ballots for any of these awards.

Feel free to flame away.

AL MVP
1. Mike Trout
2. Miguel Cabrera
3. Robinson Cano
4. Adrian Beltre
5. Justin Verlander
6. Austin Jackson
7. David Price
8. Josh Hamilton
9. Adam Jones
10. Alex Rios

I put down my thoughts on Trout vs. Cabrera earlier this week. Cabrera is going to win the MVP, and I’m OK with that. I think Trout was pretty clearly the better player, but he did play in 22 fewer games after opening the season in the minors.

As for the rest, Cano’s awesome finishing kick thrust him from somewhere in the 7-10 range up to No. 3. That spot appeared likely to come down to Beltre vs. Hamilton a couple of weeks ago, but Hamilton’s disappearing act nearly knocked him off the ballot entirely.

I went for Jones over Matt Wieters as the token Oriole. I really wanted to give the last spot to Edwin Encarnacion, but I couldn’t quite justify it. Joe Mauer and Ben Zobrist were also in the running, but Rios had a pretty terrific season.

AL Cy Young
1. Justin Verlander
2. David Price
3. Felix Hernandez
4. Fernando Rodney
5. Chris Sale

Price had the ERA lead, the wins and the tougher schedule. Strictly on an inning-by-inning basis, I’d give him the edge over Verlander here. Still, I think the difference is pretty small and doesn’t make up for the fact that Verlander made the equivalent of four more starts that Price did. Considering the infield defense behind him, the fact that Verlander finished second in the league in WHIP and batting average allowed is pretty amazing.

AL Rookie of the Year
1. Mike Trout
2. Yu Darvish
3. Yoenis Cespedes
4. Jarrod Parker
5. Tommy Milone

Not only does it have maybe the greatest rookie ever at the top, but the AL class is so very deep. Scott Diamond, Wei-Yin Chen, Will Middlebrooks, Matt Moore, Jose Quintana, Ryan Cook, A.J. Griffin, Manny Machado, Hisashi Iwakuma, Addison Reed, Sean Doolittle and Robbie Ross all made valuable contributions. Jesus Montero still projects very well too, though he was a disappointment this year.

NL MVP
1. Yadier Molina
2. Buster Posey
3. Ryan Braun
4. Andrew McCutchen
5. David Wright
6. Chase Headley
7. Aramis Ramirez
8. Aaron Hill
9. Joey Votto
10. Clayton Kershaw

I’ve flip-flopped a few times here.

Molina is the game’s best defensive catcher, and he started 22 more games behind the plate than Posey did this year. Yeah, he’s the worst hitter of the top six here, but it’s not by all that huge of a margin. He’s 87 points of OPS shy of Posey, 113 points shy of Braun.

One seemingly minor factor that swayed me in the end; Molina somehow hit into just 10 double plays this year. He came in at 21, 27, 19 and 21 the previous four years. It’s really a pretty amazing total given that he’s pretty slow, he hits plenty of grounders and he rarely strikes out. If Molina had made those 10-12 extra outs he usually does on twin-killings, I probably would have gone Posey first.

NL Cy Young
1. Clayton Kershaw
2. R.A. Dickey
3. Johnny Cueto
4. Kris Medlen
5. Matt Cain

I spent pretty much the entire year believing Dickey was the choice here. And he still would have been if Kershaw had succumbed to his hip injury. Kershaw came back and made a couple of more starts, though, and he proved to be the best pitcher. He led in ERA, strikeout ratio and WHIP while pitching just six fewer innings than Dickey. He also faced the tougher schedule. Consider that his opponents OPS was .760, even though quality left-handed hitters often sat out against him. Dickey’s was .750, the lowest mark of the top five pure starters (including Gio Gonzalez, not including Medlen).

As for Medlen, his schedule was the weakest of the bunch. But he was amazing, amassing a 1.57 ERA in 138 innings. I think that’s quite a bit more valuable than what Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman did. I also think it trumps Gio Gonzalez’s performance. Gonzalez gave up 43 additional runs (40 earned) while pitching 61 1/3 innings more innings than Medlen. That’s a 5.87 ERA. In comparison, Medlen allowed 19 more runs (17 earned) in 75 1/3 innings more than Kimbrel pitched. That’s a 2.03 ERA.

NL Rookie of the Year
1. Bryce Harper
2. Wade Miley
3. Norichika Aoki
4. Todd Frazier
5. Wilin Rosario

Miley seemed to have this one in the bag for most of the year, but he went 2-2 with a 5.40 ERA in his final six starts. Harper, meanwhile, hit .330 with seven homers and 27 runs scored in 112 at-bats between September and October. It’s still terribly close, and I’ve gone back and forth on my choice a few times. It’s too bad they can’t tie.

As for Rosario, he was just too sloppy defensively to justify a higher spot. He did lead all major league catchers and rookies in homers, but I think Aoki and Frazier were more valuable this year.

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

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There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).