Blog Entry

Sizing up AL Comeback Player candidates

Posted on: September 15, 2011 12:21 pm
Edited on: September 15, 2011 8:48 pm
By Matt Snyder

We have officially moved past the two-week warning of this baseball season. In 13 days, it will be the final day of regular season baseball in 2011 and we'll move forward to the playoffs. So let's size up some of the players who have a shot at Major League Baseball's Comeback Player of the Year awards. Here we'll examine the American League, while the National League will be covered later Thursday.

The Comeback Player of the Year Award has been sanctioned by the MLB since 2005. It is voted upon by the 30 beat writers (one per team). The criteria for the award is incredibly subjective and open to interpretation. Voters are asked to name a player in each League "who has re-emerged on the baseball field during the season."

OK, so that's easy (please note sarcasm). Re-emerged from what? An injury? Sometimes. A horrible season -- like Adam Dunn's 2011 campaign? Maybe. It could really be anything, so it's tough to predict.

Here are the past winners, to help guide us:

Fun With Awards
2005: Jason Giambi, Ken Griffey Jr.
2006: Jim Thome, Nomar Garciaparra
2007: Carlos Pena, Dmitri Young
2008: Cliff Lee, Brad Lidge
2009: Aaron Hill, Chris Carpenter
2010: Francisco Liriano, Tim Hudson

So we can see it's either a return from injury or futility. Sometimes it's a player who had already returned from injury but hadn't found his past form until a year or more later.

With all this in mind, I believe there are three frontrunners for this year's award. Below those three, I'll list seven others who might have a shot at garnering some support in the voting. Just remember this is pretty difficult to predict due to the incredibly vague and subjective criteria. Also remember I'm not necessarily saying who I'd vote for. I don't have a vote. I'm trying to predict who will win and who is in the running.

The Frontrunners

Josh Beckett, Red Sox
2010 numbers: 6-6, 5.78 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 21 starts
2011 numbers: 12-5, 2.49 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 27 starts
Why a "comeback?" Beckett battled a back injury in 2010 and then later in the season badly struggled -- he would go on to say he was overcompensating for his back not being fully recovered. He also had the worst year of his career by many measures. Now he's having his best season by many measures and made the All-Star team for the third time.

Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians
2010 numbers: .276/.326/.346, 3 HR, 29 RBI, 39 R, 6 SB, 97 games
2011 numbers: .268/.328/.449, 22 HR, 82 RBI, 80 R, 17 SB, 142 games
Why a "comeback?" Cabrera fractured his forearm last season and missed a big chunk of time. This season, he would have been in the mix to win MVP at the halfway point. He started the All-Star Game and helped lead the Indians to a surprising first-place standing for a significant part of the season. The fact that both the Indians and Cabrera have tailed off might hurt, though.

Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox
2010 numbers: .192/.241/.244 in just 18 games
2011 numbers: .320/.379/.544, 27 HR, 94 RBI, 109 R, 42 2B, 5 3B, 36 SB
Why a "comeback?" Two sets of broken ribs not only ruined Ellsbury's 2010 season, they also raised questions about Ellsbury's toughness amongst many fans. So much for that. He couldn't have possibly done more this season, even adding the home run to his arsenal. If I had to guess, I'd say Ellsbury runs away with this award, but I'll reiterate it's very difficult to predict.

The Others

Erik Bedard, Red Sox. Between July 25, 2009 and April 4, 2011, Bedard made zero starts because of a serious arm injury. He's now made 22 starts and been a quality pitcher this season (3.50 ERA, 1.22 WHIP).

Melky Cabrera, Royals. He was awful for the Braves last season and many mocked the Royals' acquisition of Melky last winter, but he's shown himself a productive offensive player, setting career highs in almost every major offensive category.

Bartolo Colon, Yankees. He hadn't been useful in long stretches since winning the Cy Young in 2005. Colon wasn't even in baseball in 2010. But he's been productive in several stretches for the Yankees this season.

J.J. Hardy, Orioles. He still hasn't completely shaken the injury bug, but Hardy's back to his 2007-08 power form, with 26 home runs (he had 17 in the past two seasons combined).

Joe Nathan, Twins. The long-time closer missed all of 2010 after having Tommy John surgery. He would have probably either won this award or been neck-and-neck with Ellsbury if he returned to form. Instead, Nathan struggled early and has only gathered 13 saves. That doesn't make his return any less impressive at age 36, though.

Jake Peavy, White Sox. The bulldog battled his way back from a rare medical procedure that re-attached his lat muscle to its insertion point in his shoulder area. He had several bright spots, including a shutout in his second outing back, but overall hasn't been good enough to win.

Carlos Santana, Indians. His rookie year was cut short by a bad knee injury on a play at home plate, but Santana has returned and swung a power bat this season.

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Since: Mar 7, 2008
Posted on: September 16, 2011 5:57 pm

Sizing up AL Comeback Player candidates

Eric Bedard.  Eric Bedard???  The comeback player of the year, in my opinion, needs to have a very good year, not a less bad one.  I agree with Peralta.  He's been great.

Since: Sep 5, 2008
Posted on: September 16, 2011 5:23 pm

Sizing up AL Comeback Player candidates

This is an award that had to be thought of by a retired player to try to get something on the bargaining table for contract talks.  Had to be.  WQhere is the players union on this subject though?  They or it comes across as wanting to be nothing but fair, so if this "award" is justified shouldn't the winner, and probably everyone up for the award, have to give BACK most of the paid money for the year that they sucked?  Wouldn't that be nice, and I don't mean this for a player that got hurt, but like in the article, A. DUNN, he wasn't hurt this year, HE JUST SUCKED, smae with WERTH  in Washington.

Since: Aug 2, 2011
Posted on: September 16, 2011 4:29 pm

Sizing up AL Comeback Player candidates

Jerome Williams should be a candidate after how he has been for the Angels

Since: Nov 24, 2009
Posted on: September 16, 2011 4:05 pm

Sizing up AL Comeback Player candidates

Im going JP too....Hilariouis since the Injuns sucked so bad, they have to get something.

Since: Jun 15, 2011
Posted on: September 16, 2011 2:02 pm

Sizing up AL Comeback Player candidates

HOW IS Johnny Peralta not on this list? that makes no sense at all.

Since: May 27, 2007
Posted on: September 16, 2011 12:31 pm

Sizing up AL Comeback Player candidates

How in the world is Johnny Peralta not on this list?

Since: Sep 6, 2011
Posted on: September 16, 2011 11:21 am

Sizing up AL Comeback Player candidates

~ Meanwhile at <player> residence ~

New Girlfriend:  Wow I see you have one award up there!

Player:  Yeah, I got it playing baseball.  I'm a major league baseball player.

NG:  Really?  What did you do to get it?

Player:  It's the Comeback Player of the Year Award!

NG:  Ok ... so what did you have to do to get it?

Player:  Well, um ... I sucked one year then the next year I did better.

NG:  Umm, ok :rolls eyes:

Since: Sep 6, 2011
Posted on: September 16, 2011 11:08 am

Sizing up AL Comeback Player candidates

Comeback Player of the Year Award?

What the heck is that???

Comissioner:  <player> you sucked badly last year, but this year do did better son. Here's an A-ward for that!  Try not to suck so much again, ok.

Player:  Thank you so much comissioner.  I'll try not to suck so much again next year.  But be assured that if I do, I'll try hard again the year after and hope to get this A-ward again. I must admit, is suck badly sometimes, but today I am so proud of myself for this award.

Since: Oct 25, 2006
Posted on: September 16, 2011 9:38 am

Sizing up AL Comeback Player candidates

I know we're talking consideration here, but Jeff Francoeur has had one of his best seasons and has stayed consistent all year. Asdrubal has tailed off a bit, so maintaining his argument would be a challenge (in my opinion).

I think Ellsbury puts up a great argument too. Beckett is another that is of great consideration. Its too bad Frenchy is on the Royals, because I dont think that helps his argument at all. With all the offensive tools on that team, I would have thought there'd be better results to show for it in KC.

Since: Oct 5, 2006
Posted on: September 16, 2011 4:27 am

Sizing up AL Comeback Player candidates

No Casey Kotchman??? Are you kidding me? The guy hit .217 for seattle last year and is hitting .313 for the rays this year. Thats a huge comeback!

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