|Awards Time: The Rookie of the Year and The Cy Young Award||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on September 16, 2003
The Trophy Case
It is the time of the year when everyone is talking about awards and who should be getting them. In some cases there are some very competitive races for the awards. Particularly in the American League where almost nothing seems clear-cut this season.
Today we will take a look at some of the contenders, pretenders, and dark horses and take a gander at how we think the Rookie of the Year and Cy Young races might shake out.
Rookie of the Year:
Sadly, this is an award that will probably go to Yankee outfielder, Hideki Matsui. Matsui would certainly be worthy, but I have a real hard time considering someone with his background in the Japanese leagues a rookie. Because of this he overshadows solid rookies like Angel Berroa, Jody Gerut, and Rocco Baldelli - all of whom could have been legitimate contenders.
In the NL the favorite has to be Brandon Webb. Though a case can be made for Scott Podsednik. Dontrelle Willis has essentially fallen off the map in the last month after being roughed up in 5 consecutive starts. (prior to Saturday’s outing against the Braves, that is) Certainly Webb has been more valuable to his team overall - in picking up the slack left by Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson while they were on the DL. He filled some big shoes, which left the Diamondbacks in contention.
By the numbers they look like this:
Willis: 13-6, 124 Ks, 3.27 ERA .247 BAA
Webb: 9-7, 160 Ks, 2.62 ERA .212 BAA
Numerically there is no question that Webb has been more valuable - especially for the light hitting Diamondbacks.
It looks like this year may produce fewer 20 game winners than almost any in recent history, which opens up the races quite a bit especially in the National League where a very special closer might have to be considered the favorite.
This really seems like a three man race with Tim Hudson, Esteban Loaiza and Roy Halladay all making a strong case for themselves. Their numbers as of today look like this:
Hudson: 15-6, 150Ks, 2.66 ERA, and a .221 BAA
Loaiza: 19-7, 185Ks, 2.73 ERA and a .232 BAA
Halladay: 20-6, 180Ks, 3.30 ERA and a .249 BAA
A strong case could be made for each of these pitchers.
Roy Halladay is the only one pitching for a borderline .500 team and on a team neither noted for its defense (ranked 26th of 30), nor its pitching (ranked 22nd of 30), which says a lot for his ability. With a better fielding team behind him he might already have more than 20 wins.
Tim Hudson is one of the big three pitchers for the A’s and has put up remarkable numbers for a team whose offense is ranked 11th of the 14 teams in the AL (ranked only ahead of Tampa Bay, Cleveland, and Detroit in runs scored.) The A’s lack of offense can’t be held against him as he has been dominating when on the mound. With another team he would surely be a 20 game winner.
Esteban Loaiza came out of nowhere to shine like a star in Chicago. In Toronto the last two seasons he was 20-21 with an ERA over 5. This year he has turned it around and become a truly dominating pitcher. He is one of the main reasons, along with Bartolo Colon, that the White Sox are looking to win the AL Central. Without him, or with the Loaiza of the last few years the White Sox would have been dead in the water. His numbers however may be slightly elevated due to the imbalanced schedule and the fact that the AL central is the weakest division in the game today.
Regardless, I would have to favor Loaiza.
In the NL the cases are a little more convoluted. There really are four contenders – three that are starters Mark Prior, Jason Schmidt, Russ Ortiz and closer Eric Gagne.
By the Numbers:
Ortiz: IP 198.1, 19-7, 4.08 ERA, 139 Ks, BAA .229
Schmidt: IP 193.2, 15-5, 2.28 ERA, 195 Ks, BAA .201
Prior: IP 188.1, 15-6, 2.48 ERA, 208 Ks, BAA .230
Gagne: IP 76.0, 2-3, 51 Saves, 1.30 ERA, 129 Ks, BAA .128
Of the four, only Russ Ortiz is likely to finish as a 20 game winner and he appears likely to be the only one in the NL this season. He will be hurt by the fact that the Braves’ offense has been so strong all season. Looking at his numbers however he is not in the same class as Schmidt or Prior and should not be a real contender.
Jason Schmidt has been a spectacular pitcher this season and he has certainly evolved into one of the elite pitchers in the game. His numbers compare favorably with those of Mark Prior, although his win total may be slightly padded due to the Giants offense (read that as Barry Bonds). Having Bonds, a legitimate leader for the MVP, on his team will probably hurt his chances as will pitching in pitchers’ haven Pacific Bell Park.
Mark Prior has been outstanding all season but has been cursed in playing for a Cubs’ team, which has been offensively challenged, all season. In my opinion, he has proven himself to be the best pitcher in the NL this year and a worthy heir apparent for that title from Schilling and Johnson when they retire. However he just has not had enough of a chance to shine this year - mainly due to his teammates.
The amazing Eric Gagne makes this list because of his ability to totally shut down the opposition. He has not blown a save all season and he currently has the record for the most consecutives saves. He also has a legitimate shot at the single season save record of 57. What is truly amazing is to look at his strikeouts to innings pitched, which is over 1.7 strikeouts/inning. If Gagne does not blow a save this season, he seems likely to win the Cy Young. It has been an exceptional season for an exceptional closer and he would have my vote.
If Gagne fails, I’d pick Prior.