Hardware by the Metropolitans
The end of year means time to hand out the goods. Did any Mets do enough to deserve some praise? Maybe...maybe not. Riveting, I know.
National League MVP: Ryan Howard
This one was oh so hard for me. For the majority of the year, I was throwing my weight behind Carlos Beltran and was vehemently against Ryan Howard getting it. Top five showing for Howard? You bet. Then came September. With the Phillies in the Wild Card race he put up a .387/.561/.763 line with nine homers and was walked 35 times. That came after a .348/.464/.750 line with fourteen homers and a crazy 41 RBIs in August. In short, the guy is a beast. He finished 2nd in OPS with 1.084, 8th in batting average with .313, 1st in RBI with 149, 4th in OBP, 1st in homeruns with 58, 3rd in walks, and 2nd in SLG. Could he field? No. Could he steal bases? No. If Beltran kept it up in September and did not succumb to injury, I would have been all for him. Beltran was limited to only 140 games this season and had huge numbers despite that. If he was healthy, he would have broken three Met records this year instead of breaking one and tying another.
Pujols would have worked here two, but I went with Howard.
AL MVP: Johan Santana
The last pitcher to win the MVP award was Dennis Eckersely in 1992 and Santana should win it this year. In a baseball age when offense if king, Santana was 1st in the AL in wins (19), strikeouts (245), WHIP (1.00), BAA (.216), IP, and ERA (2.77). The closest person in strikeouts in the AL was Jeremy Bonderman with 202. The closest person in WHIP was 10% higher. The closest pitchers in BAA were Ervin Santana and Mike Mussina with .241. No qualifying pitching finished with an ERA lower than 3.19. Filthy. Just filthy. The Twins starters had a 4.50 ERA and 1.32 WHIP with Santana in the mix. Without Johan, the Twins starters had a 1.43 WHIP and a 5.07 ERA. The Twins were 27-7 in his starts and Santana threw seven innings or more in twenty four of them and never pitched less than five complete innings. Throw on top of that the fact that Santana allowed three or less runs in 27 of his starts and you have a special year by a special pitcher.
Derek Jeter was good this year, but not MVP good. He is in the conversation, but I'm going to roll with Johan Santana as he pitched the Twins into the playoffs.
AL Cy Young: Johan Santana
NL Cy Young: Mr. Billy Wagner
This was one of those years in which no starter stood out that much more than the others. The ERA leader Roy Oswalt is not much in the discussion and the three main candidates in Chris Carpenter, Carlos Zambrano, and Brandon Webb led the league in a combined three categories and one of those categories was walks by Carlos Zambrano. They were good. Sparkling at times, but not great. ESPN's Cy Young Predictor went with Billy Wagner over Trevor Hoffman and so am I. His 11.70 k/9, 1.77 g/f ratio, .219/.285/.315 opponents batting line, and 2.24 ERA are flat out nasty and while Hoffman was sick this year, Billy was devastating and simply more dominant.
NL Rookie of the Year: Ryan Zimmerman
The guy is a gold glove third baseman and hit .287/.351/.471 in his first full year with a 47 doubles, twenty homers, and 110 RBIs while playing in all but five games for the Nationals. He also gets the nod over anyone else because he is my only pre-season pick that actually panned out for the award which helped him along to a decisive victory. Watching him and Wright play for many, many years is going to be a treat for fans in the NL East. Both of them play the game right and are exemplary ball players.
AL Rookie of the Year: Jon Papelbon
This would have gone to Francisco Liriano if he started from opening day before getting injured or just never got injured and kept dealing until the end of the season. In fact, Liriano would have been in Cy Young discussions if he had lasted the entire season despite pitching significantly fewer innings and Jon Papelbon would have been in those Cy Young discussions as well if he had stayed healthy. Jon came out of nowhere to just flat out dominate for the Red Sox as their closer and had a 0.78 WHIP, .167/.211/.254 opponents batting line, 0.92 ERA, 9.88 K/9, and 5.77 K/bb. It is just nuts to see a pitcher put up those numbers much less a rookie. In my life, I have never seen a rookie just dominate on the mound like Liriano and Papelbon did in 2006, but Papelbon edges out Liriano in this one.
I am skipping manager of the year because I just do not care enough.
The Mets could pick up that lost speed from Endy Chavez. "Endy is the most underrated Met," offers one scout. "I'd start him in right field ahead of Shawn Green. Green has really gone backwards the last two years."
Chavez and Beltran would cover some serious ground out there and it certainly deserves a look if Green continues to struggle.
Mike Vaccaro thinks Cliff Floyd should be the one to sit, but I'd prefer to ride his bat out.
"Everybody knows about the little slump this team went in against left-handed pitching," the Mets third baseman said during a news conference at LaGuardia Airport. "But the last time I checked, we're facing Derek Lowe, Greg Maddux and Brad Penny, so unless those guys turn around and throw left-handed…. The left-handed thing is overrated."
New York Mets
Pedro Martinez is out. That alone affects the Mets more than any single injury to a playoff team. The question now is can the Mets overcome this, pushing Tom Glavine, Steve Trachsel, Orlando Hernandez and John Maine into more important roles.
The more pressing concern is the still-strained quad of Carlos Beltran. Once a solid MVP candidate, Beltran was rested down the stretch after the thigh injury but even the rest didn’t get him back to 100%. It's hard to get a straight answer on just how close to full-go Beltran is, but the Dodgers are going to try and find out.
The only other major concern for the team is Cliff Floyd, who's longstanding Achilles problems were called out by manager Willie Randolph as the month started. As expected, Floyd is on the postseason roster and his availability will be the difference between a very good lineup and a great one. There's enough offense here to overcome the loss of Martinez, but they'll only go as far as their pitching, making the bullpen the difference maker--and they're ready to go.