No fooling around about MLB award picks

By Dave Fultz

Last spring, I used this very space on April Fool’s Day to proclaim my picks for the 2008 MLB awards and not only was I pretty far off on every single one, but I gave myself an out just in case.

I wrote this in an attempt to absolve myself of the predictions that I knew would surely backfire on me once I put them into print:

“I’ve given it my best shot and if I’m way off base, I can just say this whole thing was an April Fools’ joke, right?”

Well, I’m not going to cop out like that. I’m actually going use this column to pick apart my preseason selections and give you my picks for who should win now that we’ve had the opportunity to watch these guys play ball for the last seven months.

Given that I think most of the baseball writers who vote on these awards do a fairly bad job – I mean, Jimmy Rollins over Matt Holliday in 2007, come on – I don’t expect my picks to match up with who will win, but rather who should win based on the numbers.

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Here goes nothing.

AL MVP: Kevin Youkilis

At the beginning of the season I pretty much put all of my American League eggs in the Detroit Tigers’ basket. I picked them to win the AL Central, picked Miguel Cabrera to win the MVP and picked Justin Verlander to take home the Cy Young.

And even though our sports editor Jim Shay rooted as hard as he could for his Tigers, they were a miserable failure of a baseball team this season.

Regardless of how inept Detroit was this season, Cabrera didn’t have a bad year – he has an OPS of .882 – but there were better choices. Milton Bradley is surely the statistical MVP of the league, but I’m a believer that unless there is a guy that is head and shoulders above the rest, it helps to be a big part of a winner.

Bradley was mired on a terrible team in Texas and that really isn’t his fault. But Youkilis has the numbers – hitting .310 with a .938 OPS entering play on Monday – and another October appearance to boot.

AL Cy Young: Cliff Lee

The Verlander pick turned out to be just plain awful, and Lee didn’t need to play for a winner to get my vote.

Lee was far and away the best starting pitcher in the big leagues this season; the numbers back it up and he did it all on one of the worst teams in baseball. The lefty came back after an ineffective 2007 campaign to go 22-2 with a 2.36 ERA in 210 innings so far this season.

After spending time in the minors last year, Lee should be a lock for both the Comeback Player of the Year and Cy Young.

NL MVP: Albert Pujols

Another no-brainer for me. I don’t want to hear any of the Carlos Delgado talk that is coming out of Bristol, Conn., and New York with all of the East Coast bluster.

The truth of the matter is that there is no argument that could convince me anyone except for Albert Pujols is the MVP. Pujols is a monster at the plate, plays Gold Glove caliber defense at first base and pretty much did the whole thing with one arm this season.

The only thing that kept me from picking Pujols before the season was the rumors that his elbow was blown out and he’d need Tommy John surgery. The Cardinals slugger decided to forgo the surgery, play through the pain and have one of his best seasons ever. He’s hitting .360 with a .465 on-base percentage and slugging .650.

I picked David Wright to win during the preseason, and he didn’t have a bad year, but baseball hasn’t seen numbers like Pujols’ 2008 stats since Barry Bonds packed up “the cream” and “the clear” and left San Francisco for good.

NL Cy Young: CC Sabathia

This one was tough because there are a few deserving pitchers in the National League that could have taken home the trophy.

The Giants’ Tim Lincecum was downright filthy this season, and Brandon Webb was stellar as usual. But Sabathia was so good after being traded to the Brewers, there was no way I could choose anyone else.

Sabathia has dominated the NL to the tune of a 9-0 record with a ridiculously low 1.59 ERA in 102 innings since moving to Milwaukee. To make matters worse for the hitters in the senior circuit, the big lefty has struck out 102 batters while walking just 21.

Add those gaudy statistics to the fact that Sabathia and the Brewers might make their first postseason appearance in over a decade, and you have yourself a Cy Young Award winner.

Dave Fultz is a senior in Media. He can be reached at [email protected].