World Series Recap: Red Sox def. Cardinals, 4-2

The 2004 World Series Trophy in City Hall Plaz...

The Commissioner’s Trophy (File) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the 3rd time in the last 10 baseball seasons, the team celebrating a World Series title is the Boston Red Sox, who defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in 6 games to win their 8th championship.  This title was historic, since it was the first one clinched at Fenway Park in Boston since 1918 (their titles in 2004 and 2007 were both clinched on their opponent’s field).  This was an odd series that included a lot of big hits, some big calls, and one Big Papi.  This was the 4th World Series meeting between the Red Sox and Cardinals, after the Cardinals won in 1946 and 1967, and the Red Sox won in 2004.  Let’s look at each game of this World Series.

Game 1:  Red Sox 8, Cardinals 1.  The Red Sox wasted no time making a statement in Game 1.  In the top of the 1st, with the bases loaded, Mike Napoli hit a 3-run double to make the score 3-0.  That occurred in the at-bat after a controversial sequence that included a Pete Kozma error, first incorrectly called as an out, before a conference of the umpires led to an overturned call.  In the 2nd, Dustin Pedroia singled, making it 4-0.  David Ortiz hit a fly ball to deep right, and Carlos Beltran made a tough catch to save a grand slam, but David Ross scored on the sacrifice, making the score 5-0 Boston.  Adam Wainwright settled down after that, but the damage was done.  David Ortiz added a 2-run homer in the 7th to make the score 7-0, and in the 8th, 21-year-old Xander Bogaerts added a run on a sacrifice fly that scored Daniel Nava, making the score 8-0.  Jon Lester threw 7 2/3 scoreless innings for the Red Sox, and the Cardinals scored their only run on a Matt Holliday solo homer off Ryan Dempster in the top of the 9th, once the game was practically out of reach.  The Red Sox had dominated Game 1, and had a 1-0 lead (this was their 9th consecutive win in World Series play, tied for 4th all-time).

Game 2:  Cardinals 4, Red Sox 2.  Game 2 featured a pitcher’s duel between John Lackey and Michael Wacha, and the game was scoreless through the first 3 innings.  The first run of the game scored on an RBI groundout, as Yadier Molina’s grounder to 2nd scored Matt Holliday, giving the Cardinals their first lead of the series.  When Michael Wacha threw a scoreless 4th, he became just the 4th pitcher in MLB history to allow 1 run or less in his first 25 postseason innings, joining Christy Mathewson (who didn’t allow a run), Babe Ruth (1 run) and Don Sutton (1 run); not bad company.  Both pitchers continued to dazzle until the bottom of the 6th.  In that inning, after a Dustin Pedroia 1-out walk, David Ortiz hit a Michael Wacha changeup the other way, elevating it enough to clear the Green Monster in left.  The homer gave the Red Sox a 2-1 lead.  The Red Sox needed a shutdown inning in the top of the 7th, but the Cardinals did not cooperate.  A Matt Carpenter sacrifice fly tied the game at 2-2 when Pete Kozma scored, before a throwing error on the play allowed Jon Jay to score, giving the Cardinals a 3-2 lead.  The next batter, Carlos Beltran, hit a single that scored Daniel Descalso and the Cardinals had a 4-2 lead.  Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal got the final 9 outs, and the series was tied.

Game 3:  Cardinals 5, Red Sox 4.  Game 3 will long be remembered for a certain controversial call in the 9th inning (I’ll get there in a minute), but first let’s look at what was otherwise an excellent baseball game.  The Cardinals began the scoring in the bottom of the 1st, after Joe Kelly’s perfect inning in the top half, with RBI singles by Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina.  Nobody got past 2nd for either side until the bottom of the 4th, when the Cardinals had the bases loaded with nobody out but failed to score.  In the top of the 5th, Xander Bogaerts scored when pinch-hitter Mike Carp grounded out, making the score 2-1 Cardinals.  In the top of the 6th, a Daniel Nava singled scored Shane Victorino, tying the game at 2-2.  In the bottom of the 7th, a Matt Holliday RBI double scored 2, giving the Cardinals a 4-2 lead.  In the top of the 8th, the Red Sox answered, with runs scoring on a Daniel Nava fielder’s choice groundout and a short single by Xander Bogaerts, tying the score at 4-4.  In the top of the 9th, Red Sox manager John Farrell made a managerial mistake that may have impaired the Red Sox chances.  Believing that the game may go into extra innings, he sent relief pitcher Brandon Workman to the plate, instead of opting to pinch-hit Mike Napoli, who was on the bench since there was no DH (the game was being played in a NL park, under NL rules).  This was Workman’s first MLB at-bat, and he struck out.  That situation was only compounded when Workman didn’t pitch an extended outing, throwing just 1/3 of an inning and being pulled after giving up a hit to Yadier Molina.  Koji Uehara relieved Workman, and gave up a double to Allen Craig setting the stage for Jon Jay.  Jay hit a liner to 2B Dustin Pedroia, who somehow picked it and threw it to the plate, cutting down Yadier Molina.  Craig broke for 3rd late, so C Jarrod Saltalamacchia saw a potential play at 3rd.  3B Will Middlebrooks had to dive for his throw, which eventually went down the left field line.  Middlebrooks ended up on the ground after the dive, and Craig inadvertently tripped over Middlebrooks’ legs/feet as he broke for the plate.  LF Daniel Nava got to the ball and threw home, appearing to throw out Craig, but umpire Jim Joyce had called obstruction on Middlebrooks, which awarded Craig the next base.  Since the next base happened to be home plate, the Cardinals had a run, and a 5-4 win, giving them a 2-1 series lead.

Yes, the play looked awkward; it was.  That’s the first time any postseason game (much less one in the World Series) has ever ended on obstruction, and the first time I’ve ever seen any game end on obstruction.  In fact, I think I’ve only seen obstruction 2 or 3 times in my life.  Jim Joyce took some heat from the media, something he’s unfortunately used to after he blew a call in 2010 on what would have been the final out of a perfect game by Armando Galarraga.  Like that situation, he handled this one with class and dignity, or in other words, the right way.  But in this case, unlike the call he so obviously missed 3 years ago, he got the call right.  Whether there was intent or not (and I have no evidence that there was intent), Will Middlebrooks tripped Allen Craig, impeding his path toward home plate.  I went back and timed a couple of things on that final play.  First, I timed how long it took the ball to get to home from the time it got past Middlebrooks and went up the line, which was 6.5 seconds.  Next, I timed how long it took Craig to get home once he got up from the trip, which is how long it would have taken him had he not tripped, and that was 4.5 seconds.  In other words, if the trip had not occurred, Craig would have beat the ball to the plate by 2 whole seconds.  As is, he would’ve been out by a wide margin in the event Joyce had not called obstruction.  Therefore, this was absolutely te right call, as Middlebrooks inadvertent trip of Craig cost him the next base, which he was awarded.  The fact that next base happened to be home plate was a big part of the reason for the ensuing controversy.

This was the first World Series game to end on an error since, ironically, the Red Sox lost Game 6 in 1986 on Bill Buckner’s infamous error.  Luckily for Middlebrooks he will, unlike Buckner, not be the scapegoat, since the Red Sox went on to win the series in this case.  In fact, the unusual celebration at home plate by a shocked Cardinals team (Adam Wainwright claimed he thought he’d seen “the worst call of all-time” when plate umpire Dana DeMuth called Craig safe, before realizing it was the result of the events at 3rd base) was the last such celebration they would have in the series.

Game 4:  Red Sox 4, Cardinals 2.  As bizarre as the ending to Game 3 was, Game 4 also had a strange ending, although this time, there was very little controversy.  The pitching matchup was between Lance Lynn of the Cardinals and Clay Buchholz of the Red Sox, who pitched through nagging injury.  In the bottom of the 3rd, Carlos Beltran singled, scoring Matt Carpenter and giving the Cardinals a 1-0 lead.  Lance Lynn was perfect through 4 innings, but in the top of the 5th, after a double and 2 walks loaded the bases, a Stephen Drew sacrifice fly allowed David Ortiz to score, tying the game at 1-1.  Just before the top of the 6th, David Ortiz appeared to give a motivational speech to his teammates in the dugout.  Whatever he said worked; Jonny Gomes (who had been put in the lineup only 75 minutes before first pitch due to Shane Victorino’s back issues) hit a 3-run homer giving the Red Sox a 4-1 lead.  This game had become a bullpen game for Boston, as Buchholz only lasted 4 innings.  Felix Doubront and John Lackey were among the relievers who pitched for the Red Sox, although both had been starters in the regular season and Lackey had started Game 2, and was scheduled to start Game 6.  A Matt Holliday RBI single made the score 4-2, but the Red Sox were still in control.  Advance to the bottom of the 9th, when closer Koji Uehara was in to pitch for the Red Sox.  Allen Craig hit a 1-out single, and was pinch-run for by Kolten Wong (Craig battled a foot injury all series, he actually had not played since September 4 before the series began).  That single game Allen Craig a World Series-record 4th pinch-hit of the series.  After Matt Carpenter popped out, Carlos Beltran came to the plate, but didn’t get a chance to hit; Wong was picked off by Uehara, ending the game, with the Red Sox winning 4-2, and tying the series at 2-2.  Like Game 3, this was the first postseason game in history to end on a pickoff (according to STATS, only 1 game ended on a pickoff during the 2013 regular season).

Game 5:  Red Sox 3, Cardinals 1.  Naturally, Game 5 was a big game, as the winner would be up 3-2 going back to Boston.  After the finishes of Games 3 and 4, people were wondering what oddity would occur in Game 5, but the game ended up being pretty pedestrian.  Game 5 was a pitching rematch of Game 1 between Jon Lester and Adam Wainwright.  The Red Sox hit Wainwright first, with David Ortiz doubling in Dustin Pedroia, giving the Red Sox a 1-0 lead.  After the pitchers exchanged a hand-full of scoreless half-innings, Matt Holliday tied the game at 1-1 on a solo homer in the 4th.  That was the first run Jon Lester had ever given up in World Series play, ending a streak of 16 1/3 scoreless innings to start his career, the 3rd longest in history behind Christy Mathewson and Jim Lonborg.  The pitchers continued to match scoreless innings until the top of the 7th.  After Daniel Nava struck out to lead off, Xander Bogaerts singled.  Stephen Drew came up to bat, and was behind 1-2, before taking 3 straight balls that were probably tempting to hit, and drawing a walk.  Immediately I remarked to some friends in the room that the Drew at-bat may have been one of the biggest of the series.  David Ross made that hypothesis possibly correct when he hit a ground-rule double down the left field line, scoring Bogaerts.  After Jon Lester grounded out, Jacoby Ellsbury singled, scoring Stephen Drew, and although David Ross was thrown out at home, the Red Sox now had a 3-1 lead.  Jon Lester was pulled after 7 2/3 innings, and Koji Uehara came in for the 4-out save.  When he retired his 4 hitters in order, the Red Sox were going back home with a 3-2 series lead.  By the way, Adam Wainwright became the first Cardinals pitcher with 10 strikeouts in a World Series game since Bob Gibson’s 5th such game in 1968, and the first with 10 strikeouts in a loss since Josh Beckett in 2003.

Game 6:  Red Sox 6, Cardinals 1.  The Red Sox came into Game 6 with an opportunity to clinch a World Series at home for the first time since 1918.  In the 1st inning, neither John Lackey of the Red Sox or Michael Wacha of the Cardinals allowed a hit.  In the 2nd, both pitchers allowed two baserunners but did not allow a run.  After Lackey pitched a perfect top of the 3rd, Jacoby Ellsbury led off the bottom half with a single.  A Dustin Pedroia groundout advanced Ellsbury to 2nd (only after Pedroia hit a foul ball that missed being a homer by inches), and David Ortiz was walked intentionally.  After Mike Napoli struck out, Jonny Gomes was hit by a pitch, loading the bases for Shane Victorino.  In Victorino’s last at-bat with the bases loaded, he had hit a grand slam in Game 6 of the ALCS.  This time, he missed a homer by a few feet, but hit it off the Green Monster for a 3-RBI double, giving the Red Sox a 3-0 lead.  In the 4th, after a Stephen Drew solo homer made it 4-0, Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino both added RBI singles, scoring 2 more and making the score 6-0.  Victorino’s hit came, once again, with the bases loaded, joining Billy Rogell in 1934 and Bobby Richardson in 1960 as the only players with 2 bases-loaded hits in a World Series game.  All 6 runs were charged to Wacha, after he had given up just 1 run coming into the World Series, and just 2 runs in Game 2 of the Series.  The rookie sensation had finally cracked, costing the Cardinals.  In their remaining 5 turns at bat, the Cardinals only had baserunners in 2 of them, and while a Carlos Beltran RBI single in the 7th made the score 6-1, and Allen Craig hit with the bases loaded in that same half-inning, it was the Red Sox night and the outcome of the game was never really in doubt.  Jon Lester went 6 2/3, and was relieved by Junichi Tazawa (1/3 inning), Brandon Workman (1 inning) and Koji Uehara (1 inning), who came in to pitch the 9th and retired the side, striking out Matt Carpenter for the final out, becoming the first Asian-born pitcher to record the final out of a World Series clincher.  The Red Sox had won the game 6-1, and the series 4-2, taking home another World Series championship.

David Ortiz was intentionally walked 3 times over the course of the game, and was unintentionally walked in the 1st, becoming the 7th player to draw 4 walks in a World Series game, and the 4th to be intentionally walked 3 times in a World Series game (Albert Pujols in 2011, Barry Bonds in 2002, Rudy York in 1946).  Ortiz was the series MVP, after hitting .688 with a .760 on-base percentage, becoming the 3rd oldest World Series MVP (37 years, 346 days), behind Willie Stargell in 1979 and Randy Johnson in 2001.  His .760 OBP was 2nd all-time behind Billy Hatcher (.800 in 1990).  He was the 2nd player in World Series history to reach base 3 times in 5 straight games, joining Barry Bonds in 2002 (although Bonds’ Giants didn’t win that Series).  Even with Ortiz’s success, the Red Sox hit just .211 for the series, which is the 2nd lowest average by a World Series winner since 1969, behind only the 1972 Orioles, who hit .209.  John Lackey became the 7th pitcher in history to win two World Series-clinching games, but the first to do it for 2 different teams, after he won Game 7 for the Angels in 2002 as a rookie.  The Cardinals did have 9 hits, meaning Lackey became just the 2nd pitcher to allow 9 hits and 1 run or less in a World Series clincher, joining Spud Chandler in 1943.

Red Sox fans could finally celebrate at fabled Fenway Park.  A few minutes after the game ended, as I absorbed the history unfolding on my TV, I said to everyone in the room that the curse (referring to the so-called Curse of the Bambino, often cited as a reason for the Red Sox World Series drought from 1918-2004) was now officially, completely over, since a title had now been clinched and celebrated on the field at Fenway Park.

This is the 3rd title for David Ortiz, the final holdover from the 2004 team that won the Red Sox first title in 86 years.  This was also manager John Farrell’s first title, in his first year with the Red Sox, after spending the previous two years with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Boston has the winter to celebrate.  As for the rest of us baseball fans, the countdown to spring training (which stands at about 15 weeks) now begins.

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NLDS Recap: Cardinals def. Pirates, 3-2

The St. Louis Cardinals have defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates in 5 games to advance to their third straight NLCS.  This series didn’t lack drama, as these teams knew each other well from their 19 regular season meetings, and the series included excellent performances by multiple players for both teams.  While the Pirates had most of the support around the country (outside of St. Louis) after reaching the playoffs for the first time in 21 years, the Cardinals had the home-field advantage and plenty of postseason experience after winning the World Series in 2011, and losing the NLCS in 7 games last year.  Let’s look at how the games played out.

Game 1:  Cardinals 9, Pirates 1.  Game 1 started quietly, as the game was scoreless with only 2 hits combined after two and a half innings, before the Cardinals opened up the scoring, and effectively ended the game, in the bottom of the 3rd.  It all started with an Adam Wainwright leadoff walk, followed by a Matt Carpenter single.  Carlos Beltran then hit his 15th career postseason home run (tying Babe Ruth), giving the Cardinals a 3-0 lead.  Matt Holliday doubled, Matt Adams was hit by a pitch, then Yadier Molina and Jon Jay both walked, scoring another run, making the score 4-0.  A David Freese single, and a subsequent throwing error by Marlon Byrd, cleared the bases and made the score 7-0, and there was still nobody out.  The next three hitters all made outs, but the damage had been done.  Pedro Alvarez homered in the top of the 5th for the Pirates lone run of the game, and the Cardinals added tack-on runs in the 5th and 6th on RBIs by Daniel Descalso and Yadier Molina.  The Pirates went down in order in each of the remaining innings, excluding an Andrew McCutcheon single in the 9th, and the Cardinals had made a big Game 1 statement, and led the series 1-0.

Game 2:  Pirates 7, Cardinals 1.  Game 2 was almost identical to Game 1, except for the fact the visitors were the team who scored all the runs (and they didn’t do all their damage at once).  Both sides had a hit, but no runs, in the 1st inning.  In the top of the 2nd, Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole helped himself with a RBI single, giving the Pirates their first lead of the series, 1-0.  In the third, Alvarez homered for the second straight game, hitting a 2-run shot to give Pittsburgh a 3-0 lead.  When the Cardinals were hitting, Gerrit Cole was pitching superbly, mowing down the Cardinals.  In the top of the 5th, RBIs by Marlon Byrd and Russell Martin made the score 5-0, Pirates.  Yadier Molina had the lone Cardinals bright spot in the bottom of the 5th when he hit a solo homer to make it a 5-1 game.    Russell Martin added a sacrifice fly in the 7th and Sterling Marte hit a solo homer in the 8th to make the score 7-1 in favor of the Pirates, who got the final outs easily and had evened the series at 1-1.

Game 3:  Pirates 5, Cardinals 3.  Game 3 will be looked at, particularly in Pittsburgh, as a playoff classic (and might would’ve been even more so if the Pirates had won the series).  It began in the bottom of the 1st with a 2-RBI single by Marlon Byrd, giving the Pirates a 2-1 lead.  The Cardinals loaded the bases in the 3rd against Francisco Liriano, but Matt Holliday flied out to end the threat.  Carlos Beltran singled in the 5th to score 2 and tie the game at 2-2.  In the bottom of the 6th, Russell Martin hit a sacrifice fly to score Andrew McCutcheon and give the Pirates a 3-2 lead.  In the top of the 8th, Carlos Beltran hit a solo homer (to now pass Babe Ruth with 16 career postseason HR), tying the game, 3-3.  In the ensuing half-inning, RBI singles by Pedro Alvarez and Russell Martin gave the Pirates a 5-3 lead.  Closer Jason Grilli came in for the Pirates, and three outs later, the Pirates had a 2-1 series lead.  This game was so good because the Pirates led by 2, the Cardinals tied it, the Pirates led by 1, the Cardinals tied it, and the Pirates took the lead in the 8th and won by 2.

Game 4:  Cardinals 2, Pirates 1.  Game 4 is another game that will be considered a classic, this time particularly in St. Louis.  The Cardinals turned to rookie Michael Wacha, and not ace Adam Wainwright, even though they were facing elimination.  In Wacha’s final start of the regular season, he had come within one out of a no-hitter, and that form continued into this game.  Wacha had a perfect game into the 6th, before allowing a walk, and took a no-hitter 7 1/3 innings, before it ended on a Pedro Alvarez homer.  That made the score 2-1; the Cardinals had taken a 2-0 lead in the 6th on a Matt Holliday 2-run homer.  That had been Charlie Morton’s only mistake, but he couldn’t match the performance of Wacha.  Trevor Rosenthal pitched the 9th for the Cardinals, and put the tying run on with a 2-out walk of Neil Walker, bringing NL MVP candidate Andrew McCutcheon to the plate with a chance to tie or win the game.  When McCutcheon popped up, the Cardinals had tied the series, 2-2, and were going back home for Game 5.

Game 5:  Cardinals 6, Pirates 1.  Game 5 between Adam Wainwright and Gerrit Cole was much closer than the score would indicate, as it was actually a 2-run game before the bottom of the 8th.  Both pitchers didn’t allow a hit in the 1st, although Wainwright did walk Neil Walker.  In the top of the 2nd, a Marlon Byrd leadoff single was nullified when he was doubled up on a line drive by Pedro Alvarez.  In the bottom half, David Freese, who seems to always come up with big hits in the postseason, hit a 2-run homer to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.  From that point until the middle of the 6th, Wainwright allowed just 1 hit, and Cole allowed just 2.  In the bottom of the 6th, after Justin Wilson relieved Gerrit Cole, Jon Jay hit an RBI single that scored Matt Holliday to give the Cardinals a 3-0 lead.  In the top of the 7th, the Pirates cut into the lead after infield singles put Justin Morneau and Marlon Byrd on base, and Morneau scored when a Pedro Alvarez grounder hit the first base bag and bounced over Matt Adams head, making the score 3-1.  A big moment in the game came in the top of the 8th when, after a Jordy Mercer single, a Sterling Marte liner was caught by Cardinals 2B Matt Carpenter, who threw to first to double up Mercer in a very close play, ending the inning.  In the bottom of the 8th, with the Cardinals already leading by 2 and 3 outs away from the NLCS, Matt Adams hit a 2-run homer to make the lead 5-1, then a Pete Kozma infield hit scored Jon Jay to make the score 6-1.  Wainwright stayed in for the 9th to try for a complete game, and did give up 2 hits, but struck out Pedro Alvarez to win Game 5 and eliminate the Pirates, winning the series, 3-2.

The Pirates certainly have nothing to be ashamed of, after their first winning season and first playoff appearance since 1992.  They also were within one game of advancing to the NLCS; that would have given them their first playoff series win since the 1979 World Series.  Clint Hurdle’s team certainly has a bright future, with a lot of young players who played key roles in this magical season.  One of those is 3B Pedro Alvarez, who became the first player in MLB history to have an RBI in each of his first 6 career playoff games (including the NL Wild Card Game and the NLDS).

Big players for the Cardinals in the series included David Freese and Carlos Beltran, both of whom have reputations for performing well in the postseason.  That reputation for Freese started after Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, when he tied the game in the 9th with a 2-RBI triple and won the game in the 11th with a walk-off homer, and Game 7, when he had a 2-RBI double in a game that would eventually clinch the Cardinals’ 11th championship.  He added to that reputation in this series with the Game 1 RBI single and especially the homer in Game 5.  Beltran, as I mentioned, tied and passed Babe Ruth for postseason homers, and that puts Beltran 8th all-time in that category.  Beltran accounted for all 3 of the Cardinals RBIs in Game 3.

The Cardinals, as mentioned earlier, will now play their 3rd consecutive NLCS.  The last team to do that was actually the Cardinals from 2004-06.  They won two of those three, advancing to the World Series in 2004 and 2006.  For that trend to continue, after winning the NLCS in 2011 on their way to a World Series title, and losing it to the San Francisco Giants last year, they will have to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, who defeated the Atlanta Braves in 4 games to win their NLDS.  The last time these two franchises met in the playoffs, the Dodgers swept the Cardinals in the 2009 Division Series.  Their last meeting in the NLCS was in 1985, remembered for an Ozzie Smith homer won Game 5 for the Cardinals (Go crazy, folks!), before the Cardinals won the series in 6 games.  The Cardinals will have home-field advantage for the best-of-7 series.

MLB Postseason Awards

The baseball regular season is over, and while the postseason is upon us, and this year’s awards won’t be awarded until after the completion of the World Series, the balloting is taking place now.  I don’t have a ballot, but if I did, here’s how I would vote.

Note:  In MVP balloting, each writer votes for his top 10, and in Cy Young balloting, each writer votes for his top 5.  For the sake of efficiency, as well as not wasting your time or mine, I’ve listed stats and analysis for just my top 3 choices for each of these awards, and who else got my consideration

NL MVP

1. Pirates CF Andrew McCutcheon  (.317 BA, 21 HR, 84 RBI, 38 2B, 97 R, 27 SB).  McCutcheon is absolutely the leader of the first Pirates team to have a winning record since 1992, and the hosts of the NL Wild Card game on Tuesday.  His stats aren’t quite as good as Goldschmidt or Freeman, but this award doesn’t necessarily go to the player with the best stats.

2. Diamondbacks 1B Paul Goldschmidt (.302 BA, 36 HR, 124 RBI, 36 2B, 103 R).  Goldschmidt led the Diamondbacks, a team that led the NL West for a large portion of the season, before falling victim to the Dodgers charge.  Without Goldschmidt, the Diamondbacks, who finished 81-81, may have been struggling to win 70 or 75.

3. Braves 1B Freddie Freeman (.319 BA, 23 HR, 108 RBI, .438 BA with RISP).  The best hugger in the NL is also a big reason for the Braves success in winning the NL East.  He has been particularly hot in the second half, and is also one of the best defensive 1B in the game.

Also considered (ordered 4-9):  Cardinals 2B Matt Carpenter, Cardinals C Yadier Molina, Dodgers SS Hanley Ramirez, Rockies OF Michael Cuddyer, Dodgers P Clayton Kershaw, Braves P Craig Kimbrel (note:  I’m usually reluctant to give pitchers much MVP credit because they have their own award, the Cy Young.  For Kershaw and Kimbrel to be considered, I’m obviously impressed by their body of work).

NL Cy Young

1. Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw (16-9, 1.83 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 236 IP, 232 K, 52 BB, 164 H, .195 BAA).  This was a tough decision for 1st and 2nd, but Kershaw’s numbers are Maddux-like from his run of four straight Cy Youngs (1992-1995).  Any time a starter has an ERA of less than 2.00 and less than a .200 BAA, it is deserving of a Cy Young Award.

2. Braves closer Craig Kimbrel (50/54 saves, 1.23 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 66 IP, 98 K, 20 BB, 38 H, .165 BAA).  Kimbrel’s numbers are also ridiculously good, and he has a chance to become the first reliever since 2003 to win the Cy Young.  He is only the second pitcher in history with 50 saves and less than 40 hits allowed in a single season, and also struck out approximately half of the batters he faced.  Kimbrel had a stretch of 37 straight saves snapped late in the year.  His numbers were actually even better last year, and for the second straight year, he may be just short of a Cy Young.

3. Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 241.2 IP, 219 K, 35 BB, 223 H, .248 BAA).  I’m a little reluctant to put him 3rd because of that .248 batting average against.  Wainwright did lead the league in innings pitched, and yet still only gave up an average of 1 BB per start.  He is the unquestioned leader of a very good Cardinals rotation and pitching staff.

Also considered (ordered 4-9): Mets starter Matt Harvey, Marlins starter Jose Fernandez, Phillies starter Cliff Lee, Nationals starter Jordan Zimmerman, Pirates starter Francisco Liriano, Reds starter Mat Latos.

NL Rookie of the Year

1. Marlins P Jose Fernandez (12-6, 2.19 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 172.2 IP, 187 K, 58 BB, 111 H, .182 BAA).  Fernandez may win this award unanimously, as he has numbers that put him in Cy Young contention.  Keep in mind his 12-6 record is with the Marlins offense backing him up; he didn’t really have much help.

2. Dodgers P Hyun-Jin Ryu (14-7, 2.97 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 188 IP, 150 K, 48 BB, 174 H, .247 BAA).  I hesitate to vote for players for Rookie of the Year who have played in the majors in Japan and then come play here.  Ryu is one of these, but since he is eligible, I’ll put him in 2nd.  Very solid year pitching for the NL West Champions, the Dodgers.

3. Braves C/OF Evan Gattis (.238 BA, 20 HR, 63 RBI, 21 2B, 42 R).  This was a tough pick between Gattis and Shelby Miller, who probably has better stats than Gattis.  However, Gattis’ story going from janitor and ski lift operator to the Braves cleanup hitter, coupled with his tendency to perform better in the clutch, gave him a slight edge.  9 of Gattis’ 20 HRs have been in the 7th or later, and 12 have either tied the game or given the Braves the lead.  His 20 HR and 63 RBI is in somewhat limited playing time.

Also considered (ordered 4-10):  Cardinals P Shelby Miller, Pirates P Gerrit Cole, Dodgers OF Yasiel Puig, Padres 2B Jedd Gyorko, Braves P Julio Teheran, Mets P Zach Wheeler, Reds P Tony Cingrani

NL Manager of the Year

1. Clint Hurdle (Pirates).  Led the Pirates to the playoffs after 21 straight losing seasons.  Enough said.

2. Don Mattingly (Dodgers).  Led the Dodgers to a division title after a 30-42 start, going 62-38 the rest of the way.

3. Fredi Gonzalez (Braves).  Led the Braves through the disappointment of last year’s Wild Card loss and multiple injury issues to the East title.

Also considered (ordered 4-6):  Mike Matheny (Cardinals), Dusty Baker (Reds), Kirk Gibson (Diamondbacks)

AL MVP

1. Tigers 1B Miguel Cabrera (.348 BA, 44 HR, 137 RBI, 193 H, 103 R, .636 SLG, .442 OBP).  Cabrera becomes the first right-handed hitter to win three straight batting titles since Rogers Hornsby (1920-25).  In doing so, he also led the league in RBI and was second to Chris Davis in HRs.  This is a tough choice between 1st and 2nd, but also remember Cabrera is on a playoff team and Mike Trout is not.

2. Angels OF Mike Trout (.323 BA, 26 HR, 96 RBI, 39 2B, 9 3B, 108 R, 33 SB, .431 OBP).  Trout is the ultimate five-tool player, as he has proven in his two years he can hit for average, hit for power, play defense, throw, and run the bases.  He will be a star in Los Angeles for a long time.  He would be the MVP if a future Hall-of-Famer wasn’t in his way.

3. Orioles 1B Chris Davis (.286 BA, 53 HR, 138 RBI, 42 2B, 103 R, .634 SLG).  Davis is a distant third, but only because most of these huge numbers came from a big first half, not his slumping second half.  If the two halves of the season had been reversed, or if the Orioles had gotten in the playoffs instead of falling just short, Davis might would be under more consideration.

Also considered (ordered 4-7):  Yankees 2B Robinson Cano, Red Sox DH David Ortiz, Athletics 3B Josh Donaldson, Tigers P Max Scherzer.

AL Cy Young

1. Tigers starter Max Scherzer (21-3, 2.90 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 214 IP, 240 K, 56 BB, 152 H, .192 BAA).  This was a pretty easy pick.  Scherzer was at one point 13-0 and later 19-1 on the year.  The 21-3 mark ties him for 14th in single season winning percentage in MLB history.  A WHIP under 1.00 and an BAA under .200 are also very good for any pitcher, particularly a starter.

2. Red Sox closer Koji Uehara  (21/24 saves, 1.10 ERA, 0.56 WHIP, 73.1 IP, 100 K, 9 BB, 32 H, .129 BAA).  Nobody’s talking about this guy so I will.  He has been ridiculously good all year, particularly since becoming the Red Sox closer at midseason.  His numbers are arguably even better than Craig Kimbrel, who pretty much everyone claims as the best closer in baseball.

3. Athletics starter Bartolo Colon (18-6, 2.65 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 190.1 IP, 117 K, 29 BB, 193 H, .264 BAA).  Colon’s numbers don’t touch Scherzer’s, and might not normally be in the top 3 for a Cy Young race.  However, Colon threw his heart out for the AL West winning Athletics at the age of 40.  He should be well past his prime by now, but he keeps getting better.

Also considered (ordered 4-10):  Rays starter Matt Moore, Rangers starter Yu Darvish, White Sox starter Chris Sale, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, Rays starter David Price, Royals closer Greg Holland, Angels starter CJ Wilson, Twins closer Glen Perkins.

AL Rookie of the Year

1. Rays OF Wil Myers (.293 BA, 13 HR, 52 RBI, 21 2B, 48 R, .476 SLG).  Some would argue Myers isn’t even the best rookie on his own team (Chris Archer), but I think he’s the best in all the AL.  His stat line may not have anything that jumps out at you, but he put this together in just 87 games.  He also brings a lot of speed and defensive skill to the Rays.

2. Rangers P Martin Perez (10-5, 3.55 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 119 IP, 79 K, 125 H, .268 BAA).  The stats I just listed aren’t really why he’s here.  He’s gotten better throughout the season, and the Rangers are trusting him, a rookie, to start tonight’s one-game playoff against the Rays David Price.  I think that trust and confidence speaks for itself.

3. Tigers SS Jose Iglesias (.305 BA, 3 HR, 39 RBI, 16 2B, 39 R, .352 OBP)  Once again, the stats don’t jump off the screen,  but Iglesias has been a very good SS (and occasionally 3B), starting the season on the Red Sox, before being traded to the Tigers.  For a rookie to be a big piece of two playoff teams, and one of the two centerpieces of a big deadline deal (along with Jake Peavy), this is quite an accomplishment.

Also considered (ordered 4-5):  Rays P Chris Archer, Indians P Cody Allen

AL Manager of the Year

1. John Farrell (Red Sox).  Led the Red Sox from a last place finish under Bobby Valentine last year to the AL’s best record.  Has done a great job and put the Red Sox into definite World Series contention.

2. Joe Girardi (Yankees).  Led the Yankees, despite millions of dollars worth of injuries and the distractions of the A-Rod drug situation and Mariano Rivera’s retirement, to within 6 games of the Wild Card.  It is remarkable the Yankees were still in the race in the final week.

3 (tie).  Ned Yost (Royals).  On the real ballot, you can’t have a tie, but I just can’t decide between these two, because both deserve recognition.  Yost led the Royals to the first winning record since 2003 and very nearly made the playoffs for the first time since 1985.

3 (tie).  Terry Francona (Indians).  After a year in the broadcast booth, came back to lead the Indians from a 68-94 record to the AL Wild Card with mostly the same roster.  He won 2 World Series titles in Boston and confirmed this year he is one of the best.

Also considered (ordered 5-9):  Joe Maddon (Rays), Bob Melvin (Athletics), Jim Leyland (Tigers), Buck Showalter (Orioles), Ron Washington (Rangers).