Tag:Royals
Posted on: September 27, 2011 2:40 pm
Edited on: September 28, 2011 12:59 pm
 

Breakout of Year Awards: Ellsbury, Morse shine

Ellsbury, Morse

By Evan Brunell

There's been plenty of discussion recently on who should win the awards baseball will hand out after the postseason. There are no shortage of opinions on who should grab the MVP or the Cy Young Award, to say nothing of Rookie of the Years, Gold Gloves and Comeback Player of the Year. But where's the category that rewards players who broke out? There hasn't one ... until now. Here's a top three, followed by two others.

MLB Awards
  • MVP candidates: AL | NL
  • Cy Young Award: AL | NL
  • Rookie of the YearAL | NL 
  • Comeback players: AL | NL
  • Gold Gloves: AL | NL
  • Tin Gloves: AL | NL
  • Manager of the Year: AL | NL
Eye on Baseball will chronicle the five top candidates per league for the Breakout Player of the Year. It's important to keep in mind the separation between a breakout and a comeback. By its very name, to win the Comeback Player of the Year, you have to have "come back" from something. Breaking out has no such restrictions. Who had a season for the ages that has most adjusted a player's value for the better? Last season, Jose Bautista would have ran away with this award in the AL. Who takes the top spot this year?

1. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox: Surprised? Don't be. Ellsbury is by all accounts one of the three top candidates to win the AL MVP award alongside Bautista and Justin Verlander. Just a year ago, Ellsbury played in just 18 games, struggling with fractured ribs suffered in an early-April crash. His commitment and toughness were called into question, and the 28-year-old was entering a make-or-break year. Safe to say he made it, with a .323/.378/.552 line with 31 homers and 38 steals, becoming Boston's first-ever 30/30 man. By Wins Above Replacement, Ellsbury has more than doubled his previous best season of 2008, his first full season in the bigs.

2. Doug Fister, Tigers: Last season, I picked up Fister in a fantasy baseball league midway through the season. That's how poorly he was thought of -- he was an injury replacement halfway through the year, even though he finished the season with 28 starts and a 4.11 ERA. While Fister displayed strong command, he didn't strike out many batters and averaged 88-mph on his fastball without a true out pitch. He wasn't considered a pitcher worth caring about. Except this year, his fastball velocity has ticked up and his slider has developed into a weapon. Then, he got traded to Detroit where he's gone bananas, giving Fister a total season ERA of 2.83 in 216 1/3 innings. Now, Fister is Detroit's No. 2 starter in October and no one thinks that's odd. So, yeah: Breakout.

3. Alex Avila, Tigers
: Fister's new batterymate in Detroit had a season truly out of nowhere. At least Ellsbury was a former first-round pick dripping with talent while Fister had previous success in the majors. Avila, though, struggled to a .228/.316/.340 line in 333 plate appearances last season. Certainly lower than his minor-league average line of .280/.373/.424, but even that didn't portend what was coming. In 2011, Avila was one of the best catchers -- strike that, one of the best players -- with a .298/.391/.513 mark in 543 PA, banging 33 doubles and 19 HR.

Also deserving:

Alex Gordon, Royals: One compared to George Brett, it took Gordon five years and a position switch, but he's finally delivering on his promise with a .303/.376/.502 figure.

Brandon McCarthy, Ahtletics: McCarthy had one of the best seasons a pitcher could have, dodging his way through a couple bumps and bruises to post a 3.32 ERA in 25 starts, allowing just 1.5 walks per nine and striking out 6.5. That's Doug Fister-ian. And just like that, the A's have yet another good pitcher.



1. Michael Morse, Nationals: Morse followed in Jose Bautista's footsteps by hinting toward a breakout season, slamming 15 homers in part-time duty. But a 30-homer season? That was tough to envision, and yet the 29-year-old broke out this year with just that and added to it by hitting .303. Now the Nationals have a fearsome middle-of-the-order bat at minimal charge and the ability to play either first base or left field. Morse's development is for real, and his power is here to stay.

2. Ryan Vogelsong, Giants: You had to know Vogelsong would land on this list. And why not? Vogelsong didn't throw one major-league pitch for four years before casually throwing up a 2.71 ERA over 179 2/3 innings this season. From 2000-06, Vogelsong was nothing short of an awful pitcher, so this is absolutely a breakout in every sense of the word ... and he began the year as a 33-year-old. His peripherals are strong enough that you can expect the fun to continue next season.

3. Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks: The former Yankees top prospect has found a home in Arizona, following up a solid 2010 with a sublime 2011 that should get him some Cy Young Award votes. Kennedy's soaked up 222 innings, posted a 21-4 record and a pristine 2.88 ERA, striking out 198 while at it. That's a fantastic pitcher through and through. While Kennedy may not have been ready for the AL East when he was with the Yankees, he'd certainly do just fine anywhere the way he's come along.

Also deserving:

Cameron Maybin, Padres: Maybin struggled for consistent playing time for years in Florida and finally got his chance with San Diego. His overall numbers are depressed because he plays in Petco Park, but his defense more than makes up for it. To give you an idea of how good he has been offensively, here are his road numbers: .294/.349/.457. Safe to say the Pads picked the pocket of Florida here.

Yadier Molina, Cardinals: Molina is a great defender with a fantastic arm. We all know that. He's also, for the first time in his career, been a significant contributor on offense with a .306/.349/.469 line, punching 32 doubles and 14 homers. It's power never seen before from Yadier.

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Posted on: September 27, 2011 1:50 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Big Game James



By Matt Snyder


James Shields, Rays. One of the biggest surprises in all of baseball this season went out and got the job done when his team needed him most. Yes, the Rays got some big offensive and defensive (hello, Desmond Jennings) plays, but Shields nearly completed another game and gave his boys the chance to win it. They trailed 2-0 early, but then Shields put the brakes on the Yankees' offense the rest of the way while his teammates did their jobs as well. Shields' final line: 8 2/3 innings, six hits, two earned runs and the win. The Rays are now tied for the AL wild card with two games to go.

Melky Cabrera, Royals. Raise your hand if you thought he'd collect 200 hits this season. Now quit lying and put that hand down. In a 7-3 Kansas City win, the Melk Man picked up his 200th and 201st hits of the season. His previous career high was 149. This was a guy picked up off the scrap heap.

Vladimir Guerrero, Orioles. The O's won (we'll get to that below), but Guerrero's single to lead off the bottom of the sixth was special from an individual standpoint. It was his 2,587th career hit, which moved him past Julio Franco as the all-time leader in hits by a Dominican-born player (Biz of Baseball via Twitter). Congrats to Vlad.



Red Sox. Even forgetting the dramatic collapse this month, the Red Sox played a pretty brutal game Monday night. All-Star starting pitcher Josh Beckett was given a 2-1 lead early, but ended up allowing seven hits, four walks and six earned runs in six innings. Jacoby Ellsbury lost control of what would've been a tough -- but makeable -- catch in center, allowing Robert Andino a three-run, inside-the-park homer. The Boston offense left 12 runners on base. And for some reason, manager Terry Francona used the incredibly valuable Alfredo Aceves for an inning when trailing 6-2. With Erik Bedard going Tuesday night, it's entirely possible Francona needs Aceves for multiple innings, so it's a questionable move to be sure. They lost 6-3 and are now tied in the AL wild-card race. All in all, it was an awful night for the Red Sox.

Nick Punto, Cardinals. My high school and college coaches hammered the point home for years to me, and I'll never forget it -- and probably because it keeps happening in the majors: A baserunner should only slide into first base to avoid a collision. That's it. There is no other reason. And then I think about all the times I've heard people -- Cubs color commentator Bob Brenly immediately comes to mind -- make the very salient point that if it was faster to slide, Olympic sprinters would slide through the finish line. It just boggles my mind how many guys are paid to play this game and still make the mistake. Punto made it Monday night in the eighth inning and it may have cost his team the playoffs. He hit a grounder that Astros first baseman Carlos Lee booted. Lee recovered in time to feed the pitcher the baseball in a bang-bang play. Punto dove head-first and was out by about a split-second to end the eighth. Had he run through the bag, he would have been safe and the Cardinals -- who had a runner on third -- would have scored. They ended up losing 5-4 in extra innings and still trail by one game in the NL wild-card race. With two games to play.

Ubaldo Jimenez, Indians. Is this what the Indians dealt two premium pitching prospects for? Jimenez was shelled again Monday night, allowing nine hits and six runs in five innings in a 14-0 loss. He now has a 5.10 ERA since coming over in that July trade. Oh, and the Tigers acquired the less-heralded Doug Fister before the July 31st deadline. He's 7-0 with a 0.61 ERA in his last eight starts after stifling the Indians for eight innings Monday. 

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Posted on: September 21, 2011 1:13 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Papelbon falls in Sox loss



By Evan Brunell

Eric Hosmer, Royals:  Hosmer was lights out, going 5 for 5 on the night, driving in three runs and blasting his 18th home run of the season. His batting average is now a cool .300, and Hosmer seems like he should finish no lower than second in Rookie of the Year voting. Jeremy Hellickson likely has the award sewn up, but it's been a great year for Hosmer, whose five-night night was the first since Billy Butler accomplished the feat in July 2009.

Mat Latos, Padres:  Latos pitched his best start of the year on Tuesday, coughing up just one run in 8 2/3 innings against the Rockies. That lone run came in the ninth inning on a RBI single, but Heath Bell came on to finish out the game. Latos has only approached this kind of dominance once before, back on May 25 against the Cardinals. It's encouraging to see Latos finish the season strong, as his ERA has dropped in each of his September starts, entering the month at 3.82 and now resting at 3.60.

Ben Revere, Twins: Revere has hit in seven straight games, including a 4-for-5 night on Tuesday, swiping his 33rd stolen base. His batting average is now up to .264. Add in strong defense and the ability to swipe 40 bases a season, and Revere's stock is on the rise. The Twins will have to decide whether to keep both Revere and Denard Span and play one off the bench or deal one of the two for help. Odds are you'll see Span traded, likely to the Nationals, for middle infield and/or relief help.



Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox:  The last time Papelbon allowed a run, it was July 16. Unfortunately, that streak is now snapped after a bout of lousy timing thanks to a bases-loaded double scoring three Orioles runs that pushed Baltimore to a 7-5 victory. Papelbon came in with one out after Daniel Bard allowed two singles. While Papelbon punched out Chris Davis, he couldn't avoid another single and then a double to further send Red Sox fans into a pit of malaise.

Drew Stubbs, Reds:
Drew Stubbs punched out twice on Tuesday, giving him 200 strikeouts in a season. That gives him the distinction of being the first player not named Mark Reynolds to accomplish the feat. Even Adam Dunn hasn't done it, which shows you just how difficult it is to reach 200 strikeouts. "It is what it is," Stubbs told Eye on Baseball's C. Trent Rosecrans after the game. "It's not something anyone's ever proud of. I don't know. I don't know what else to say." Stubbs struck out a ton last season as well during a year where he notched a 20/20 season but has become a bit of a free swinger this year which may have something to do with his disappointing year at the plate. He's been increasingly hacktastic the last couple of months.

Rich Harden, Athletics: Ever since the trade deadline, Harden has been alternating clunkers with good games. There's the 10 strikeout game against the Royals... coughing up six runs to the Yankees ... blanking the Jays over seven innings... and Tuesday night, allowing five earned runs to the Rangers in just three innings, spiking his ERA to 5.17. Despite the late tailoff, Harden's talent is still so great that he'll get plenty of calls this offseason to be either a starter or reliever.

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Posted on: September 18, 2011 1:35 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Chipper gets the Mets again

Chipper Jones

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Chipper Jones, Braves: For the 39th time in his career, Jones knocked in the go-ahead run against the Mets. His two-out RBI single drove in the game's only run as Atlanta's Tim Hudson and New York's R.A. Dickey engaged in a fantastic pitcher's duel. Hudson struck out 10, while Dickey allowed just three hits, two to Jones. It was also Jones' 153rd RBI against the Mets, only Willie Stargell (182) and Mike Schmidt (162) have driven in more against New York. Only Stargell has driven in more go-ahead runs against the Mets (40).

Alex Rodriguez, Yankees: After missing six games with a sprained left thumb, A-Rod returned to the Yankees lineup and made an immediate impact, collecting two hits, including his 16th homer of the season, a three-run shot off Henderson Alvarez to pull the Yankees to within a run of the Blue Jays in the sixth inning. It was the 629th homer of Rodriguez's career, putting him one behind former teammate Ken Griffey Jr. for fifth on the all-time list.

Mike Moustakas, Royals: There were plenty of raised eyebrows when the Royals' third baseman struggled in his first two months in the big leagues. He was hitting just .182/.237/.227 in his first 53 games in Kansas City with just one home run. That .182 batting average after an 0-for-4 night on Aug. 16 against the Yankees was a low point. The next night he went 3 for 3 against the Yankees and since then he's hitting .385/.418/.548, raising his season line to .252/.301/.338. Saturday he went 3 for 5 with his third homer in four days, as the Royals picked up their seventh straight win.


Ervin Santana, Angels: In what may have been the Angels' last shot at the postseason, the right-hander gave up two homers in a five-run first in Baltimore. Los Angeles has now lost four of its last six games, while the Rangers won in Seattle. Santana retired just two of the first nine batters he faced, allowing a two-run homer to J.J. Hardy and a three-run homer by Mark Reynolds. He allowed just one more hit in his final six innings of work, but the damage was already done.

Rafael Furcal, Cardinals: St. Louis had a chance to get out of a sticky situation in the eighth inning, trailing by two, but with bases loaded and two outs, Octavio Dotel got Hunter Pence to ground into what appeared to be an easy play to end the inning. Furcal looked first at second for a force but couldn't get a hustling Chase Utley. Furcal had to double pump and try to get Pence at first, but with Pence running down the line, the Phillies outfielder was safe, scoring a run and leaving the bases loaded. The next batter, Raul Ibanez, hit a grand slam, making a close game a laugher. St. Louis had scored two in the eighth to pull within a run of the Phillies but then gave up six runs in the bottom half of the inning, in no small part to Furcal's mistake.

Robinson Cano, Yankees: It didn't end up hurting the Yankees, but Cano did cost the team a run in the fourth inning with a base running gaffe. Cano was on second and Mark Teixeira was on third with one out when Nick Swisher hit a liner into center. Cano assumed it would drop, while Teixeira was waiting to see what happened. Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus ran it down and as Teixeira went back to third to tag up, Cano raced around him for the inning's third out.

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Posted on: September 15, 2011 7:50 pm
 

Royals shut down Hochevar, Francis next

Luke HochevarBy C. Trent Rosecrans

After throwing a career-high 198 innings, the Royals are shutting down starter Luke Hochevar. The former top overall pick of the draft went 11-11 with a  4.68 ERA in 2011, the most innings he's thrown in his professional career.

Last year he threw 108 innings -- 103 for the Royals -- after throwing 191 innings in 2009 between the Royals (143) and Triple-A Omaha (48).

Hochevar picked up his 11th victory of the season on Wednesday, throwing six innings in his 31st start of the season. The 28-year-old went 6-3 with a 3.52 ERA in 12 starts after the All-Star break.

"Could he finish the year? Yeah. He wants to," manager Ned Yost told reporters (via the Kansas City Star). "But for me, it just doesn't make any sense to continue to push his innings when he's in a good spot. It gives us an opportunity to look at somebody else."

Hochevar would have made two more starts, on Tuesday and on Sept. 25. The Star's Bob Dutton speculates right-hander Luis Mendoza could take Hochevar's spot if the Triple-A Storm Chasers finish out the Pacific Coast League playoffs in a timely fashion. Omaha currently leads Sacramento 2-0 in the best-of-five championship series. Omaha plays at Sacramento on Friday with heralded left-hander Mike Montgomery scheduled to pitch in what could be the clinching game. Mendoza isn't on the team's 40-man roster, but the Royals currently have an open spot. Right-handers Vin Mazzaro and Sean O'Sullivan are on the 40-man and could also get the call, with at least one of them likely to make a start for Kansas City before the end of the season, if not both.

Kansas City has already shut down lefty Danny Duffy. Duffy went 4-8 with a 5.64 ERA in 20 starts this season. Left-hander Jeff Francis will also be shut down after his start on Thursday against the White Sox. Francis entered the night 5-16 with a  4.88 ERA.

Felipe Paulino, Everett Teaford and Bruce Chen are left in the rotation to finish out the season.

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Posted on: September 14, 2011 2:05 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Rivera saves No. 600, Guerra bombs

RiveraBy Evan Brunell

Mariano Rivera, Yankees: Rivera became the second closer with 600 saves when he set the Mariners down (but giving up Ichiro Suzuki's 170th hit of the season) to close out a 3-2 victory. Trevor Hoffman is the lone other closer to reach the mark, finishing with 601, so Rivera is also close to setting history in a record that will not be broken for a very long time. It was also his 41st save of the year, two behind Jose Valverde of the Tigers to lead the league in yet another impeccable season for the ageless wonder.

Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox: Both Pedroia and Ellsbury rapped out a 4-for-5 night, with the Laser Show recording his first multi-homer game of the season with two blasts. Overall, he notched five RBI during a night where Pedroia joined the 20/20 club, scoring four times as well. Ellsbury added another four runs scored in the 18-6 trouncing, blasting his 27th homer of the season and driving in three. Ellsbury is now at .321/.380/.542 with the year, and Pedroia snaps a little slump with the night and is now slashing .300/.384/.471. Tim Wakefield grabbed his 200th win in the game.

Bruce Chen, Royals:  It's not often you see someone like Bruce Chen on 3 Up, but he blanked Minnesota over eight innings, whiffing eight and allowing just three baserunners. It was a dominating night for the journeyman who has settled into a nice career with the Royals over the last two years. His ERA is now at 4.04 and should receive some interest on the free-agent market with his second straight strong year. He returned to the Royals when no other team was willing to bite on Chen's resurgent year, but things will change now for the 34-year-old.



Javy Guerra, Dodgers: Javy Guerra spectacularly imploded night, handing the Diamondbacks a 5-4 victory in a positively awful top of the 10th. Here's how it went: Guerra gave up a leadoff single to Gerardo Parra, who earlier had drawn the ire of L.A. by getting into an argument with Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis, staring at pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo after a brushback, then pimping a home run. He missed a pitchout, which allowed Aaren Hill to bunt. If he hadn't been bunting, the pitch would have gone to the backstop. Then he whiffed Justin Upton before intentionally walking Miguel Montero. All inning, he's been jittery, and he combusted by allowing a walk to Paul Goldschmidt on four straight balls. It's more of the same to Chris Young, with two significantly high fastballs followed by a ball low and outside, then another high fastball to walk in the winning run.

Cole Hamels, Phillies:
It wasn't a good night to be a Phillies ace, as Cole Hamels drew his eighth loss by lasting just five innings, allowing five runs (one unearned) en route to losing to baseball's worst team, the Astros. Hamels struck out six and walked one, so fared rather well there but couldn't buy an out in the field, giving up nine hits, a season-high. He's had such a good year overall, though, that the outing only set his ERA back to 2.71.

Justin Masterson, Indians:  Masterson got crushed in his continuing regression to the mean, coughing up six earned runs over five innings. He allowed eight hits and three walks, punching out just two as his ERA rose to 3.20 after ending July with a 2.56 mark and August at 2.83. He also gave up three homers in the losing effort. Masterson has taken a major step forward this year and make have evolved into an ace, but it will take until the end of 2012 to find out.

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Posted on: September 13, 2011 12:29 pm
Edited on: September 13, 2011 12:46 pm
 

What if MVP was decided like Manager of the Year?



By Matt Snyder


As my esteemed colleague C. Trent Rosecrans pointed out Monday in a really creative and entertaining way, the Manager of the Year award is routinely roped off for certain managers. For example, heading into this season, the Phillies and Red Sox were heavily predicted to make the World Series. The Yankees are the Yankees, and the Giants and Rangers went to the World Series last season. So right there, Charlie Manuel, Terry Francona, Joe Girardi, Bruce Bochy and Ron Washington are virtually eliminated from the chance at winning the Manager of the Year award in their respective leagues.

I'm not saying it's right or wrong, because managing is far different from playing. It's totally apples vs. oranges. But it's fun to imagine if the MVP awards were decided in the same fashion. Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez would have zero chance at winning. Former winners like Joey Votto, Josh Hamilton and Dustin Pedroia? Sorry. Heavily predicted 2011 winner Adrian Gonzalez? Cross him off. Sluggers Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Braun and Ryan Howard? Nope, you guys are supposed to hit for all that power.

Instead, the candidates would be guys having amazing seasons that we might not have expected. Like Kirk Gibson being the runaway NL winner over Manuel. For example, Jose Bautista would have easily won last season in the AL.

Here are four candidates for the MVP of each league, if voters reacted as they did in the Manager of the Year voting -- along with who I think would win and why.

American League

Alex Avila, Tigers
2010 numbers: .228/.316/.340, 7 HR, 31 RBI, 28 R, 12 2B
2011 numbers: .302/.392/.523, 18 HR, 74 RBI, 60 R, 31 2B
The best part about these numbers is they came from out of nowhere. Avila only hit .264 with an .814 OPS in his only season of Double-A. It's not awful, but those are hardly the type of numbers that scream future All-Star. And Avila's likely to get some real MVP votes this year (remember, each ballot gets 10 entries). Don't discount what kind of stamina he has to have to catch 120 games and still keep hitting like this, either. It's been an absolutely stellar campaign for Avila, and he's going to be a starting catcher in the playoffs.

Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox
2010 numbers: Doesn't matter, it was a lost season due to injuries. He only played 10 games.
2011 numbers: .317/.376/.533, 26 HR, 91 RBI, 104 R, 36 SB, 41 2B, 4 3B
He's got a real shot at the real MVP, and it's all due to his power increase. The average, OBP, doubles, triples, runs and steals aren't surprising at all, if you go back to Ellsbury's numbers pre-2010, and he's only 28. So we knew he had a real shot to drastically improve -- but he's approaching 30 home runs and 100 RBI. No one would have predicted that.

Alex Gordon, Royals
2010 numbers: .215/.315/.355, 8 HR, 20 RBI, 34 R, 10 2B, 1 SB (only 74 games due to demotion to minors and injury)
2011 numbers: .299/.371/.500, 21 HR, 82 RBI, 95 R, 45 2B, 16 SB
This wouldn't have been surprising in 2007 ... or 2008 ... or 2009 ... or maybe even 2010. But after four relatively failed seasons in the face of lofty expectations, people kind of gave up on Gordon. He went from a No. 2 prospect in all of baseball to an afterthought. And just when people gave up on him completely, he broke through in a huge way. Those 45 doubles lead all of baseball and he's doing pretty much everything well.

J.J. Hardy, Orioles
2010 numbers: .268/.320/.394, 6 HR, 38 RBI, 44 R
2011 numbers: .264/.304/.483, 26 HR, 68 RBI, 65 R
This is a return to where Hardy was in 2007 and 2008, though his home run rate is the highest it has ever been. He worked his big season into a multi-year contract extension for the Orioles and has solidified the middle infield.

And the winner is ... Alex Avila. It's a really close call over Gordon. With Ellsbury, I believe we all knew the potential was in there and injuries killed him in 2010. The power increase is nice, but Avila and Gordon are more surprising. Hardy's done it before and he's not old. Plus, his numbers pale in comparison to these other three. Sure, Gordon has far exceeded expectations, but I think if you asked most people before the season who was more likely to impress this year between Gordon and Avila, Gordon would be the answer simply based upon minor-league pedigree. That kind of talent doesn't just abandon someone. Gordon starred -- albeit years ago -- but Avila had never hit enough to believe this kind of monster season was possible. I could easily be wrong on this decision, though, as this is total guesswork. To reiterate, it's really close.

National League

Lance Berkman, Cardinals
2010 numbers: .248/.368/.413, 14 HR, 58 RBI, 48 R
2011 numbers: .290/.405/.551, 30 HR, 86 RBI, 79 R
The newly slender "Fat Elvis" shed loads of pounds this past offseason as he was determined to revert back to vintage "Puma." He did. Many mocked the signing by the Cardinals, especially as Berkman had to return to right field. Well, he hasn't been good defensively, but he's swinging the bat like he did back in his prime and the protection he's provided to Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols has been instrumental in keeping the Cardinals in contention for much of the season.

Matt Kemp, Dodgers
2010 numbers: .249/.310/.450, 28 HR, 89 RBI, 82 R, 19 SB
2011 numbers: .318/.397/.566, 33 HR, 108 RBI, 97 R, 38 SB
If he doesn't win the real MVP award it won't be because he didn't do enough for his team. It will be because his team didn't do enough for him. Kemp has absolutely carried the Dodgers' offense this season in every facet. He has an outside shot at the triple crown and the 40/40 club, but he'd have to get scorching hot. Still, from a guy who didn't even hit .250 last season, this has been a rebirth. On the flip-side, we knew Kemp had this potential.

Pablo Sandoval, Giants
2010 numbers: .268/.323/.409, 13 HR, 63 RBI, 61 R
2011 numbers: .301/.345/.516, 19 HR, 60 RBI, 50 R
If the counting stats don't look overly impressive this year, that's because he's only played in 103 games. Last season it was 152. He was so disappointing in 2010 that he only started five playoff games -- just once in the World Series. It's been a huge bounce-back season for Sandoval, despite the fact that his team has regressed a bit.

Justin Upton, Diamondbacks
2010 numbers: .273/.356/.442, 17 HR, 69 RBI, 73 R, 27 2B, 18 SB
2011 numbers: .296/.378/.547, 30 HR, 86 RBI, 100 R, 38 3B, 21 SB
Here's another guy who will get real-life MVP consideration. While 2010 was a disappoining campaign, this is the Upton the D-Backs drafted first overall in 2005. Look at the number jumps across the board for Upton, and he's still only 24. And his team appears headed for the postseason. Like Kemp, however, we knew this was inside Upton.

And the winner is ... Lance Berkman. The other three players are young and have tons of potential, so their big turnarounds aren't entirely surprising, even if incredibly impressive. At least Upton, probably Kemp and maybe Sandoval were all predictable to have seasons like this. Kemp was definitely a bounce-back candidate, but not many would have envisioned him to be this huge in 2011. Berkman is 35 and many believed he was done as a productive major leaguer -- especially since the Cardinals were moving him back to the outfield. This one feels obvious, as opposed to the Avila/Gordon decision, which I'm still second-guessing ...

Wednesday: What if the Cy Young was decided with Manager of the Year criteria?

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Posted on: September 10, 2011 7:49 pm
Edited on: September 10, 2011 7:51 pm
 

Gold Glove rules change outfield eligibility

FrancouerBy Evan Brunell

Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star writes that Gold Glove balloting will change this offseason in a long overdue move.

Instead of awarding a Gold Glove to three outfielders regardless of specific position, outfielders will now be broken down by which outfield spot a player plays in. That means a left fielder, center fielder and right fielder will all win the award, with candidates limited to those who play a specific amount of games at said position.

It's a great move to make, as the previous system was antiquated. Perhaps it made more sense in the olden days, when it was believed the best defenders in the outfield were always center fielders. In addition, defense was not as heavily prioritized as it has become the last few seasons due to a downturn of offense. Also helping matters is an increased understanding of the impact on defense each specific outfielder can have on the game. With multiple advanced defensive metrics easily available -- to varying degrees of effectiveness -- it's easier to figure out which defenders truly shone through as opposed to just handing the award to those who looked good in center.

The change in the award could potentially help Kansas City sweep the AL outfield Gold Gloves, as the three outfielders -- Alex Gordon in left, Melky Cabrera in center and Jeff Francouer (pictured) in right -- are currently on pace to be the first outfield trio since 1978 to rank first or second at his position in assists. (The Expos had their outfielders all finish first: Warren Cromartie, Andre Dawson and Ellis Valentine.) Unsurprisingly, K.C. leads the majors in outfield assists with 48, including an impressive 25 at home. Credit is being given to first-base coach Doug Sisson, who is in his first year on the coaching staff after previously serving as minor-league field coordinator for three seasons for K.C.

“We throw every three days to the bases,” Francoeur, the only Royal with a previous Gold Glove award (Braves, 2007), said. “And if we don’t do it right, Siss will hit another one. I give him a lot of credit for that. Siss has been a huge part of this team this year. He’s put us in position to make plays.”

Sisson believes throws should arrive on one hop, which helps outfielders not overthrow cutoff men, and passes credit onto the outfielders.

“It’s a product of putting in the time,” Sisson said, “making it important and throwing to the bases without cut-off men. That way, in their minds, they’re thinking about throwing guys out. Not hitting cutoff men.

“I’ve always believed the cutoff man’s job is to get in the way of the throw. It’s not an outfielder’s job to hit a cutoff man. If you’re trying to throw guys out, but your mind-set is to hit the cutoff man, then you’re not really trying to throw guys out.”

Clearly, that approach has worked to date. Combined with the rule changes, it could lead to the Royals being the first-ever team to sweep the outfield Gold Gloves. Two outfielders on the same team winning the award has happened multiple times, most recently in 2010 when Seattle's Franklin Gutierrez and Ichiro Suzuki achieved the honor. Seattle has accomplished the feat four times (1996, 2001, 2003, 2010), tops in the majors.

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