It’s that time of year again, when the Seattle/Northwest chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) picks its player of the year, pitcher of the year and Unsung Hero. We let the coaching staff choose the latter.
Normally, it would be a pretty close contest in the first two categories, but I’m not sure we’ll see that in 2010.
Ichiro has been far and away the most consistent performer on offense all season long and is again closing in on another 200-hit season. He has also been, according to metrics like Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), the club’s top defensive performer, slightly ahead of Franklin Gutierrez.
So, in my book, Ichiro should win the vote. We’ll see what the voters choose. Ichiro also won the award last year, edging out Gutierrez. For runners-up, we have…er, uh, well…there’s Russell Branyan, who joined the team halfway through. Um, uh…er…well…Gutierrez? Yeah, but he’s a below average (I’d put “below replacement-level” but that’s not accurate) hitter this season. Same with Josh Wilson. Mike Sweeney has actually been the club’s third-best hitter this year and is fifth in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) on the team amongst hitters. He’ll be having fun in Philly as he goes for his first World Series.
So, yeah, Ichiro it is. Moving right along…
Felix Hernandez should win the Cy Young Award for anyone living in 2010 and not 1960. His WAR of 5.9 is the highest of any Mariners player — period.
His closest competition, in my book, would be Jason Vargas, Doug Fister and Brandon League.
So, I don’t even have to argue this one. Hernandez will win and it will be unanimous.
But the Unsung Hero award will be a little tougher. Don’t forget, it has to be somebody unsung — flying somewhat below the e radar.
For me, it comes down to Josh Wilson or Jason Vargas.
I picked both because neither was supposed to do very much this season. Wilson even began the year in Class AAA.
But the injury to Jack Wilson thrust Josh Wilson into a full-time role for the first time in his career. He hasn’t hit much, but has provided solid defense at the most crucial spot in the infield for far longer than anyone expected.
Jose Lopez has had a solid defensive season as well and, like Wilson, also hasn’t hit much. But Lopez was expected to hit. And as an everyday starter, he was expected to be at least solid. So, no real “unsung” surprises from him. Unlike Wilson. As for Michael Saunders, the jury is still out. His offensive numbers have declined as the season wears on (though he did get hurt). His defensive metrics are right around average or even slightly below in left field. Not writing him off, but he needs to take a clear step up before I nominate him for any year-end prizes.
In the end, if I’m a voting coach, I go with Vargas, a guy pegged as the No. 4 or No. 5 starter coming out of camp. He’s been in the top-10 in ERA for much of the season and is closing in on 200 innings (will probably fall just short). Any guy who can deliver that from the back of the rotation is a valuable piece. So valuable, it allowed the Mariners to trade Cliff Lee and still have hopes of winning at least a few games a month when Hernandez wasn’t pitching.
Vargas looks to have a future in next year’s rotation. That’s more than can be said for any of the players I’ve just mentioned when it comes to being in next year’s lineup.
So, those are my picks:
We’ll see who the voters choose.