2004 Awards Already
After yesterday's column on the 2003 awards, I got a suggestion from Rich Lederer about a new article. Instead of talking about the 2003 awards, keep my futuristic hook going by making some early predictions on next season's awards. Here's my best shot...
GARY SHEFFIELD- YANKEES
What George wants, George gets. The Yankees lose significant salary off their payroll this season (Mondesi, Hitchcock) and have the money to sign Sheff. He is supposedly favored in the Big Apple to Vladimir Guerrero. Here's a look at Sheffield's 2003 vs. Manny Ramirez, Frank Thomas, A-Rod, and Nomar Garciaparra:
Sheffield: .322/.427/.611 34HR 108RBI 110R 17SB in 476AB
Ramirez: .317/.418/.573 31HR 90RBI 100R 3SB in 489AB
Thomas: .267/.385/.565 36HR 84RBI 71R 0SB in 453AB
Rodriguez: .301/.396/.594 37HR 95RBI 102R 16SB in 508AB
Nomar: .321/.361/.545 22HR 86RBI 101R 15SB in 549AB
So Sheffield doesn't lead in HR, but leads in BA, OBP, SLG, RBI, R, and SB. Historically moving to the American League helps a player, as the quality of pitching isn't as great. This season, for example, the American League has a cumulative ERA of 4.53 against the National League's 4.28. That is a huge discrepancy, and for the record, the American League gives up more hits and home runs per nine innings.
In conclusion, Sheffield's numbers would rank as the best in the American League this season. His main competition would come from A-Rod, Ichiro, and possibly Vladimir Guerrero.
BRIAN GILES- PADRES
It was between Giles and Bonds, and although I'm wrong, I keep forecasting a slight Bonds dip. But mark my words, when the Padres make the playoffs next season, Giles won't be underrated anymore. The only thing that bothers me:
And for what doesn't concern me:
If a 39-year old Bonds flirts with sixty home runs, the MVP title is his. Giles must regain the power he's had the last few years, and finally break 40 homers. He will have the chance for RBIs, with Ryan Klesko protecting him in the lineup.
And what about Pujols? Well, I don't see him having quite as good of a season, and I think these two will dominate the voting. If Giles comes up with a .300/.450/.550 season with 40HR and 120RBI, he'll definitely get some votes. But nowadays the MVP voting goes through San Francisco, and through the bat of Bonds.
AL CY YOUNG
PEDRO MARTINEZ- RED SOX
OK, not quite an out-on-a-limb, Esteban Loaiza-like prediction. But in his contract year, you think Martinez will sit out on starts? Do you believe he'll allow Grady Little to let him pitch only 98 pitches per start? No way.
Consider that Pedro hasn't had an ERA in the 3's since 1996 when he was pitching in Montreal. Since the Boston trade he's been a God:
With Boston: 87-27 2.27 823H/1129.6IP 1416K/242BB
Amazing. But look at his recent K rates:
Although, that's not bad at all. It proves that even a bad Pedro is great. He needs to last longer in games to get more wins, and a steadier 2004 bullpen will also help. Lock in Pedro for 20 wins and a sub-2.50ERA next season.
NL CY YOUNG
19-11 2.82 235H/284.1IP 332K/76BB
These are unprecedented statistics, no pitchers start out like this. Doc Gooden is the only name I can think of that has had this kind of beginning, so quick. Prior is living up to his billing as the Greatest College Pitcher Ever, and will soon have some hardware. His record is because of bad Cubs offenses, but its improving every month and every season. For example, consider his last five starts:
Last 5: 5-0 0.69 21H/39IP 35K/4BB
I've watched almost all of these games, and it isn't even the best he can pitch. His strikeout numbers are lower than normal, as he isn't quite back to full strength. But to make up for it, he's really not walking anybody. The Cubs offense is putting up runs for him, and they are winning games. Remember 39 innings in five starts is almost eight a game, which usually ensures victory.
Prior keeps getting better, and smarter, after every start. He has the best mechanics in baseball, and the perfect pitcher's body. He throws all of his pitches for strikes, and thinks like a mix between Tom Seaver and Greg Maddux. Prior will win the 2004 Cy Young, and then proceed to win the next five after that.
JUSTIN MORNEAU- TWINS
It is feasibly, and actually likely, that the Twins will have the next two great rookies. The key to picking the Rookie of the Year is a player who is talented, and will get significant at-bats. With the likely non-tender of Mientkiewicz, Morneau will get the full-time call-up. Although he struggled in his first Major League stint, this was a great season. Here's all you need to know:
Morneau's 2003 HR total prorated to 500AB: 33.74
And as Jim Callis points out in his newest Ask BA, power tends to go up as you move through the levels. Morneau won't hit 35 homers next season, although I wouldn't bet against it. The 2003 class is kind of weak, and a .275/.360/.520 season with 30 homers might be enough.
Honorable Mention: Joe Blanton, Matt Riley, Travis Blackley, Jeremy Reed
GARRETT ATKINS- ROCKIES
A look at Atkins in AAA:
.325/.383/.490 with 13HR, 302B, 67RBI in 431AB
Atkins' stock took a major jump this Spring Training, when he hit .525 in 40AB with the Major League team, including seven doubles and 12RBI. The team held back though, because he hadn't exactly been earth-shattering before then:
2000 Rookie League: .303-7-17, 12 2B in 251AB
2001 High-A: .325-5-67, 43 2B in 465AB
2002 AA: .271-12-61, 27 2B in 510AB
So while Atkins showed fairly good plate discipline, and doubles power, there wasn't much hope. But he kept it going after Spring Training, and has had a great 2003. Remember he'll get 300AB in Coors next season, where you can be sure that some of those doubles will become home runs.
Honorable Mention- Kaz Matsui will make noise if he comes over, as will the Korean slugger whose name eludes my grasp. I like Khalil Greene, Terrmel Sledge, Chase Utley, and Joel Hanrahan also.
There's too many rumors of potential managerial firings for me to predict 2004 Manager's of the Year, although my guess is that the Baltimore manager (it won't be Hargrove) and Bruce Bochy will get some mention.
I'm pretty sure I'll be posting a notes column this weekend (think Sunday), and will be back on Labor Day. Have a good weekend, and if you find yourself bored, head over to Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT or For Rich or Sporer.