Tagged: Matt Holliday

Jason Heyward has Emergency Appendectomy

Not a fun Monday for Braves fans.  First, their teams game gets snowed out in Denver.  Then early-Tuesday morning news that star outfielder Jason Heyward had an appendectomy tonight.

OF Jason Heyward underwent successful appendectomy surgery Monday night (April 22). Procedure performed at Rose Medical Center in Denver.

— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) April 23, 2013

No word yet if the successful surgery will land Heyward on the disabled list, but Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday had the surgery in 2011 after his Opening Day game on April 1st and was back in the St. Louis lineup on April 10th.  Holliday spent no time on the DL.  The typical recovery time is in the 2-3 week range.  The Braves could save a roster move by giving Heyward a full 15 days off, with first baseman Freddie Freeman returning to the lineup for the doubleheader on Tuesday.  A DL stint would keep Heyward out past the Braves next series with division rivals the Nationals and Mets.  He would be likely to return for a 10-game road trip at Cincinnati, San Francisco, and Arizona.

UPDATE: Jason Heyward has been put on the 15-day DL and the Braves recalled Tyler Pastornicky.

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

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Who Wins Game 7? Cardinals or Giants?

It’s the two most beautiful words not just in baseball, but in all of sports.  Game seven.  One game decides your playoff fate.  Everything you’ve put into the season comes down to one game where one pitch, one swing, one call, one stolen base, one error can be the difference.  The San Francisco Giants brought us to these two words with their 6-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday night.  Monday night at AT&T Park the Giants will look to come back from two games down for the 2nd straight series and advance.  Let’s try and figure out who will win.

Starting Pitcher: Kyle Lohse vs. Matt Cain

Have to start with the scheduled starters.  Both of these starters have arguably had a career year in 2012 and this game will define how they look back on this season.  Lohse has been great this postseason with a 1.96 ERA including giving up just one earned run over 5.2 innings in a victory over the Giants in game three.  Lohse was erratic though giving up 5 walks.  Lohse has has a history of not coming up big in huge games (see 2011 playoffs), but may have turned a new leaf in 2012.  Cain, on the other hand, has been “Bizarro Lohse.”  He was spectacular in big games previously (see 2010 playoffs), but has given up three runs in each start this postseason.  Cain got the win for San Francisco in game five against the Reds.  This one is close, but give me the previous elimination game winner.

Advantage: Giants

Bullpen

Both bullpens have been spectacular this series.  I’m sure everyone is going to be available for Monday’s game.  Jason Motte has become the big closer everyone thought he would be.  Sergio Romo has taken control of the closer role for the Giants and has the best slider in the game.  I think Mike Matheny left Chris Carpenter in game six through four innings to try and preserve his bullpen for a potential game seven.  St. Louis ended up using Shelby Miller for two innings, Fernando Salas for 1.1 innings, Marc Rzepczynski and Edward Mujica for 1/3 of an inning each.  Not on that list is Trevor Rosenthal and Jason Motte.  The Giants had to use their standard of Jeremy Affeldt (.2 IP), Santiago Casilla (.1 IP), and Romo (1 IP) to lock down a game seven.  I would not be surprised if we see Motte come in for a six-out save in game seven if needed.  This one is tough.

Slight Advantage: Cardinals

Lineup

The big question stemming from game six is will Matt Holliday be ready to play?  He may not be 100%, but if you think he’s missing this game I’ve got a giant bridge in San Francisco to sell you.  Buster Posey has been completely off offensively this series, hitting just .136.  Posey does have a flair for the deciding game dramatic as he hit a grand slam in game five of the NLDS against Cincinnati.  Marco Scutaro has been the hot bat for San Francisco hitting .458.  The other big question for the Cardinals lineup is with Holliday back, is there room for Matt Carpenter?  Carpenter owns Matt Cain it seems and had a home run off him in game three.  I think overall with Holliday, Yadier Molina, Allen Craig, Carlos Beltran, and David Freese this should be good for St. Louis.

Advantage: Cardinals

Manager: Mike Matheny vs. Bruce Bochy

I have nothing against Mike Matheny, but his team almost blew a 2-1 lead in the NLDS against the Nationals.  His team has now blown a 3-1 lead in the NLCS against the Giants.  It’s his first season.  It’s his first playoffs.  Give me the guy with the World Series ring on his hand, even though I’m sure Matheny is making a call to Tony LaRussa tonight.

Advantage: Giants

Random Stats!

The Giants have now won five straight eliminations games in these playoffs, only the 1985 Royals won more elimination games in a single postseason with six.  The Cardinals have won six straight elimination games, dating back to 2002, where they lost to….you guessed it!  The Giants.  Mike Matheny could become the first rookie manager to lead his team to the World Series since Bob Brenly got the Diamondbacks there in 2001.  The Giants have never won a game 7 as a team, they are 0-5, the worst mark in MLB history.  This is the first game seven in the NLCS since 2006, where the Cardinals beat the Mets.

I reached out to my fellow podcasters for their predictions.  Here’s what they have.

Jeremy Dorn: Cardinals 345, Giants 0.  No really, 5-3 St. Louis.  Lohse has been better than Cain this postseason and the Cards have never lost a game 7 right?

Brian Boynton: Giants 6-5

Kurt Peter: Giants 5-2

Angelo Feliccia: Lots of rain to help out my Tigers in the World Series.  I’ll take the Giants 4-0, but I could see Romo blowing this game though late.

Final Mapes Prediction: Buster Posey shows why he’s the MVP and gets another big hit for the Giants.  While Lohse is erratic once again forcing Matheny to go to the bullpen earlier than he’d like and is bailed out by Rosenthal, Mujica, and Motte.  It’ll be too late as Cain gets the job done over seven innings and turns the ball over to Affeldt and then Romo.  Then again, it’s baseball, nothing is EVER that simple.  Giants 4 Cardinals 2, enjoy game seven everybody!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

The 3U3D Awards: NL MVP Edition

The NL MVP race is possibly the most wide-open of all the awards with three or four players that have a case to be tops in the National League. Here’s how we filled out our ballots at 3U3D:

Final Points

Here are our thoughts on NL MVP:

Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman): Numbers four through 10 don’t really matter all that much; this is a three-horse race. Even though the Pirates and Brewers both fell short in their postseason quests, you can’t discount the seasons each team’s star player had. But to out-gallop Posey, who has been the catalyst behind the Giants’ runaway division title, is much too difficult. That being said, I like Posey to take this award, as his team ran away with the NL West, and the rest of the field barely snuck into the playoffs or missed altogether. If the Brewers had made the postseason, Braun would have won. If the Pirates had even managed a slightly better August and September, I’d give it to McCutchen. But as it stands now, there is no more important player to one single team than Posey.

Angelo Fileccia (@GODF_TH_R): Buster Posey had the best 2nd half of any player in the majors and led the Giants to an NL West championship. Buster’s post-all-star numbers (.389/.462/.644) propelled him to an NL batting title (.336). Posey becomes the 2nd catcher in 70 years to win a batting title (Joe Mauer) and the first NL catcher in 100 years to win the on-base percentage stat.

Brian Boynton (@GingaBeard_Man): Ryan Braun proved this season that he may actually have been telling the truth about his alleged steroid use. His power numbers are better this year: Home Runs 41 to 33, RBI 112 to 111, and he did this without Prince Fielder being in the lineup. Buster Posey has been a stable force behind the plate and at it. He lead his pitching staff to the fifth best ERA in the NL. He played in 147 games hitting .337 with 24 home runs. McCutchen was almost able to lead the Pirates to their first winning season in 20 years. He set career highs in batting average (.327), Home Runs (31), and RBI (96). Was there a bigger surprise this season other than R.A. Dickey? The knuckleballer beasted up this season finishing with 20 wins for the New York Mets while having a 2.73 ERA. He set career highs in almost every statistical category. Not bad for a 37 year old.

Kurt Peter (@FalconKP): Looking at the NL MVP selection, people may still be hung up on this summer’s PED scandal, but Ryan Braun has been tearing the cover off of the ball. He leads the league in HRs, total bases, slugging, and OPS. He is in the Top 5 in runs, hits, OBP, and average, while being 9th in steals. Only he and Mike Trout have a 30/30 season and has only the 11th 40/30 season in Major League history. It’s no question: Ryan Braun is the NL MVP.

Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes): Andrew McCutchen was atop my rankings for the previous three months and I thought that if he got the Pirates to the playoffs he was a lock. If the Pirates finished above .500, he was going to have a good chance. Instead, the Pirates fell below the .500 mark again and I seriously debated dropping him to 4th, but his overall offensive numbers (1st in offensive WAR) saved him. This opened the door for Buster Posey and Ryan Braun to have a tight 1-2 battle for me. Braun’s raw numbers are better and is the better power-speed combo, but Posey led the NL in OPS+ which takes into account park factor and opponent that was the difference to me. I was surprised to see Braves Michael Bourn and Craig Kimbrel only on my ballot as Bourn provided a spark atop the Atlanta lineup and Kimbrel had arguably the most dominant season by a closer striking out more than half the batters he faced. I wish I had room for Chipper Jones, Jason Heyward, and Martin Prado. Prado did anything and everything for the Braves this year. I’m also sad that I had no room for one of my favorites Giancarlo Stanton, if he was healthy the whole season, things might have been different for Miami.

Congrats to Giants Buster Posey on winning the 3U3D NL MVP!

Who’s on your NL MVP ballot? Let us know in the comments or if you want to debate our ballot, hit us up on Twitter!

Making a Case for the Hall of Fame: St. Louis Cardinals Version

In case you missed it, Jeremy wrote a piece last week making a case for five players (Paul Konerko, Adrian Beltre, Juan Pierre, C.C. Sabathia and Adam Dunn) for the Hall of Fame. Check it out here! When in the process of narrowing the list to five, three unfortunate Cardinals players were left off.

We wanted to get perspective on those three players, so we turned to the biggest Cardinals fan we know! Former Three Up, Three Down podcast guest and 2012 MLB Fan Cave Top 30 Finalist Kelsey Shea is here today with a guest blog, detailing whether or not three of her team’s best players have a shot at Cooperstown. Take it away, Kelsey!

The St. Louis Cardinals are not exactly strangers to the Hall of Fame. In fact, a grand total of 38 players and 8 managers have both worn the historic birds on the bat and been inducted. And of course, there’s always talk of the two great presences lost by the team at the end of last year’s amazing World Series run: Tony LaRussa and a little old first baseman named Albert Pujols. But who currently on the Redbird roster might earn a ticket?

Lance Berkman, Carlos Beltran, and Matt Holliday, while maybe not long-standing fixtures in St. Louis, have each contributed greatly during their time under the Arch. And each came to town with an already-established, illustrious career. Let’s dive into some specifics…

The Case for Berkman:

Originally an enemy of the Cards, Berkman positioned himself as a favorite in Houston with his huge offensive numbers and his title as one of the “Killer B’s” alongside Astros royalty Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell. But after fading in his later years, he endeared himself to St. Louisans with his contributions to a World Series title (his first) and a Comeback Player of the Year award.

Today, he remains on the DL for the rest of the 2012 season due to an unfortunate, recurring knee problem, leaving everyone wondering: is he done?

As far as accolades, Berkman is a six-time All Star with a habit for creeping into the MVP conversation. Although he never did get the MVP nod, he does hold the NL record for single season switch hitter RBIs with 136, and the NL record for single season switch hitter homers with 45…tied with another soon to be retiree and a sure Hall of Famer, Chipper Jones, for the latter. Berkman has a penchant for great postseason play, and let’s not forget The Big Puma also has another important and memorable attribute: a great nickname.

His numbers are impressive, though he fails to reach some key milestones with under 2,000 total hits (1,843) and less than 400 homers (360). He’s a .296 hitter, but are these HOF caliber? I’m not sure…We have to remember that he will be competing with likes of PED-free Chipper, Vlad Guerrero, Jim Thome, and Ken Griffey, Jr. Granted, the offensive monsters of the steroid era that ruled the game for the first eight or so years of his career rendered the ability to stand out no small feat.

Verdict: Not if he retires this year. His numbers just don’t match up to his competitors. And this one breaks my heart since he is probably one of the most likeable guys in the sport today. If anything gets him in, it will be his position as one of the game’s top switch hitters. However, without a few more seasons to boost his numbers, the Hall of Fame might be lacking one cuddly Puma.

The Case for Beltran:

Here we have another switch hitter, another former Cardinal killer, and another former Astro. But Houston was not the city that Beltran would call his baseball home if you asked him today. Spending the majority of his career in Kansas City with the Royals and in the Big Apple with the Mets, he has enjoyed many years near the top of the MLB’s premiere hitters list. And when Albert Pujols departed for Anaheim, Beltran was the Cardinals’ answer to their offensive hole.

He began his career with a Rookie of the Year award, and hasn’t slowed down much since. A seven-time All Star with one Gold Glove and one Silver Slugger, Beltran has proven himself to be an extremely well-rounded player. He has also been a huge postseason threat, tying the record for most home runs in a single postseason, with eight in 2004.

He currently has 333 career homers, 2,049 hits, and a .282 average. But his most impressive numbers lie in his switch-hitting and base running abilities. This year, Beltran became the 1st player to hit from both sides (8th overall) and attain 300 home runs and 300 stolen bases. He is 6th all time in homers among switch hitters and he also holds the MLB title for highest stolen base percentage since 2000 at 87%.

At 35 years old, it’s safe to say he’s nearing the end of his career. The question lies in how many good years he has left…He’ll probably end with just under 3,000 hits, but 400 homers are definitely within reach.

Verdict: Yes. He will likely have to continue to show us the good stuff for at least 3 or 4 more years, and he’ll have to stay healthy, but I’d say he has a good shot. He has some honorable accolades and could possibly rank just under Chipper as far as his switch hitting numbers. His legacy will probably light the way to the Hall of Fame!

The Case for Holliday:

Holliday made a name for himself in Colorado before spending a short half season with the Athletics, and coming to St. Louis. Of these names, he is perhaps the biggest fixture on the Cards, this being his 4th year with the club. And did I mention, he’s currently putting together a quiet bid for the 2012 NL MVP?

He may lose out to Andrew McCutchen or Buster Posey this November, but he did have a monster year in 2007. He was NLCS MVP, runner-up for the NL MVP, and he led the league in RBIs and extra base hits with a Batting Champion title. And he’s remained a consistent threat at the plate, although his fielding might leave something to be desired…

His 229 homers, 1,511 hits, and .313 average will hopefully continue to grow. With perhaps five more good years left (he’s currently 32 years old), I wouldn’t really expect him to reach 400 homers or 3,000 hits, but he may come close. And we have to consider who he’s up against playing in the mid-2000’s and beyond. With Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Matt Kemp, and many other big names, it will be a tough class when it comes to breaking into the Hall of Fame.

Verdict: Probably not. Unfortunately, Holliday seems to be one of those exceptional players who for the most part, goes unnoticed. And his Hall of Fame bid isn’t likely to be much different. Besides 2007, he just doesn’t have anything tangible to show for his consistent and superb play. I would like to hope he’ll prove me wrong and go on a tear for the next 5 or 6 years, but that remains to be seen.

Fell free to comment below! Did I make the right calls? Are there any other current Cardinals for whom you could make a case for Cooperstown? And don’t forget to VOTE!:

– Kelsey Shea (@KelseyShea11)

Don’t forget to follow @3u3d on Twitter, LIKE Three Up, Three Down on Facebook and FOLLOW our lovely guest blogger @KelseyShea11!

The “Almost On Time” MLB Awards

The 1st of September. The day baseball fans realize surprise teams are for real. (Looking at you Athletics, Orioles, and Pirates) There’s only one baseball holiday left to celebrate. (Happy Labor Day everyone!) However, it gives us a great chance to really figure out who could be going home with some hardware at the end of season. Going to stick with the Olympics theme and give a top three and “just off the podium” for each award.

National League Rookie of the Year

Bronze Medal: Michael Fiers, Brewers

True story on the podcast, we basically panned Fiers when he got called up. Since then, he’s been probably the best starter in the Brewers rotation. He’s tied for the best ERA among any rookie with 100+ innings pitched at 2.85 (we’ll get to the other player in just a little bit) and has had a great K/9 and K/BB. Fiers will be a solid piece in the Milwaukee rotation in the coming years.

Silver Medal: Todd Frazier, Reds

Has there been a rookie who’s stock has risen as much this season as Todd Frazier? The once top prospect came into the 2011 season as the 9th ranked prospect, in the Reds system, not even in all of the minor leagues. Frazier though has been fantastic, especially since filling in the lineup in the absence of Joey Votto. He leads National League rookies in OPS, slugging, and RBI. He’s second in home runs to only Wilin Rosario. Frazier is one of the key cogs why Cincinnati was the first team to 80 wins this season.

Gold Medal: Wade Miley, Diamondbacks

Frazier has one more month to try and track down Miley, who sits a top my Rookie of the Year rankings once again. Miley has the same ERA as Fiers, but has thrown 57 more innings than his Brewers counterpart. Miley also leads all MLB rookies in wins with 14. Even more impressive is Miley is 6th in the entire N.L. in WHIP and is tied for 3rd in WAR among pitchers. The gap between Miley and Frazier is small enough that September will decide who will be Rookie of the Year.

Just off the Podium: Bryce Harper, Nationals (though he’s heated up again this week), Wilin Rosario, Rockies, Norichika Aoki, Brewers, Anthony Rizzo, Cubs, and Yonder Alonso, Padres

American League Rookie of the Year

Bronze Medal: Scott Diamond, Twins

Despite the best efforts of Matt Moore (3-1, 2.19 ERA, 1.19 WHIP in August), Diamond has the better overall numbers (10-8, 3.21 ERA, 1.20 WHIP) to maintain his 3rd position for the 3rd straight month. Every other A.L. rookie is in a completely different tier from these next two who are both in a tier of their own.

Silver Medal: Yoenis Cespedes, Athletics

In most years, Cespedes would be the clear favorite for Rookie of the Year. He’s 2nd among A.L. rookies in batting average, OBP, slugging, home runs, runs batted in, hits, and runs. All while helping lead the surprising Athletics into playoff contention on Labor Day weekend. Sadly for Cespedes, he’s second in all those statistics and is getting blown out by this next player.

Gold Medal: Mike Trout, Angels

See all the stuff I said Cespedes was second in? He trails Trout in all of those categories. It’s not a question of if Trout is the Rookie of the Year anymore, it’s if he’s still the A.L. MVP.

Just off the Podium: Matt Moore, Rays, Yu Darvish, Rangers, Jose Quintana, White Sox, Ryan Cook, Athletics, Jarrod Parker, Athletics, Tommy Milone, Athletics, Addison Reed, White Sox, Wei-Yin Chen, Orioles, Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox, and Quintin Berry, Tigers

National League Cy Young

Bronze Medal: Johnny Cueto, Reds

This is the most wide open awards race in all of Major League Baseball. There are 10+ players who have a good to great case on why they should win the trophy. Here is Cueto’s case. He leads the senior circuit in wins, ERA, and pitcher WAR. Cueto has been the best starter on the team with the best record in the league. He’s still underrated if that’s possible.

Silver Medal: Aroldis Chapman, Reds

It took me all month to decide that with all of these starters with similar numbers, why not give it to a player that has been utterly dominant in a relief role? Then on the last day of the month I got swayed back to one of the starters that we’ll get to next. Chapman’s numbers have been video game-esque. He is 2nd in the N.L. in saves with 33, impressive considering he lost nine saves at the start of the season to Sean Marshall. Even more impressive though is his 1.27 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, and an astonishing 113 K in 64 IP, good for an eye-popping 15.9 K/9.

Gold Medal: R.A. Dickey, Mets

I’m back on the R.A. Dickey bandwagon! I’m sorry about that month where he wasn’t great and I dropped him out of the top 3 in my rankings. Let me apologize by putting him back in the top spot. I watched Dickey’s start against the Marlins on 8/31 and it was just awesome. Dickey posted his N.L. leading 3rd shutout of the season, 5th complete game, and tied Cueto with 17 wins. The shutout also lowered his ERA down to 2.63, good enough for a tied for 2nd with Jordan Zimmermann. Dickey is also top 3 in WHIP, strikeouts, innings pitched, and pitcher WAR. He’s been one of the best stories in MLB this season.

Just off the Podium: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, Matt Cain, Giants, Madison Bumgarner, Giants, Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals, Gio Gonzalez, Nationals, Stephen Strasburg, Nationals, Wade Miley, Diamondbacks, Cole Hamels, Phillies, Kyle Lohse, Cardinals, Craig Kimbrel, Braves

American League Cy Young

Bronze Medal: David Price, Rays

Oh no! The Sale spot is gone! It was fun while it lasted, but Sale and Jered Weaver’s sub-par August’s knock them out of my top 3. Enter David Price who leads the best rotation in the American League this season. Price is second in ERA (2.53), tied for 1st in wins (16), 5th in pitcher WAR (4.9), 6th in strikeouts (170), and 7th in WHIP (1.10).

Silver Medal: Justin Verlander, Tigers

Verlander has still been his usual great self this season leading the A.L. in pitcher WAR, strikeouts, complete games, and innings pitched. He’s provided solid peripherals while keeping the Tigers in the playoff hunt. Verlander having his worst month of the season though in August opened up the door for another pitcher to take his #1 position. Then again, Verlander’s worst month is still a pretty good month for most pitchers.

Gold Medal: Felix Hernandez, Mariners

This is not a “oh Felix Hernandez threw a perfect game, he should win the Cy Young” pick. King Felix has the goods to win his 2nd Cy Young award. He leads the American League in ERA (2.43), innings pitched, HR allowed/9 (0.2!) and shutouts (5). Hernandez has more shutouts than any pitcher in the American League, except Verlander, has complete games. Plus, that perfect game was pretty awesome.

Just off the Podium: Jered Weaver, Angels, Chris Sale, White Sox, Hiroki Kuroda, Yankees, Matt Harrison, Rangers, Jim Johnson, Orioles, Fernando Rodney, Rays

National League MVP

Bronze Medal: Ryan Braun, Brewers

If the award was “Most Outstanding Player” Braun’s case would be that much better. He leads the National League in home runs (36), runs batted in (92), slugging, and OPS. Braun is doing all of this without the protection he had from Prince Fielder in his MVP season just a year ago. If Fielder was still around and the Brewers were in the playoff hunt, it might be Braun in the pole position for back-to-back MVP’s. Instead, he’s merely in the hunt.

Silver Medal: Buster Posey, Giants

Posey has been a man on a mission in the 2nd half of season hitting .388 with a 1.131 OPS. Posey is top 6 in batting average, slugging, OBP, OPS, and offensive WAR. He also has handled one of the top pitching staffs in the league at catcher, while leading them to the top of the N.L. West at the start of September. Posey will need to stay hot as San Francisco continues to look for offense with Melky Cabrera suspended for the rest of the season.

Gold Medal: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates

McCutchen tailed off considerably in the month of August, but his overall numbers and his team’s standing is still enough to warrant the top spot again. He leads the National League in offensive WAR, hits and runs scored, 2nd in batting average, OBP and OPS, 3rd in slugging, plus throws in 24 homers and 15 stolen bases because he’s nice like that. Don’t forget his Gold Glove-caliber fielding as well.

Just off the Podium: Matt Holliday, Cardinals, David Wright, Mets, Michael Bourn, Braves, Jason Heyward, Braves, Yadier Molina, Cardinals, R.A. Dickey, Mets, Aroldis Chapman, Reds

American League MVP

Bronze Medal: Robinson Cano, Yankees

The “Sale Spot” might now be the “Cano Spot” as the Yankees 2nd baseman finds himself in 3rd place for the 3rd straight month. Cano is top four in offensive WAR, total bases, doubles, and hits. He’s been carrying along with Derek Jeter a Yankees offense that has been without A-Rod and Mark Teixeira lately. Cano is also the favorite at second base for a Gold Glove award.

Silver Medal: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

The gap between Cabrera and his first MVP award is closing. Cabrera stayed hot in August hitting .340 while the Tigers continue to try and get into the playoffs. Cabrera is top 3 in offensive WAR, batting average, slugging, OPS, total bases, RBI, and extra-base hits. If the Tigers get to the playoffs, while the leader’s team falters. This award could end up a toss-up by the end of the season.

Gold Medal: Mike Trout, Angels

Trout is doing things never seen before in baseball. He’s the youngest player to have 25 home runs and 40 stolen bases in a season. He’s on pace to become the first rookie and youngest player to go 30-30. He leads the American League in offensive WAR, batting average, stolen bases, and runs scored. The only mark against Trout, his team is floundering right now among their lofty expectations. If the Angels make the playoffs, Trout is a lock to win MVP.

Just off the Podium: Josh Hamilton, Rangers, Adrian Beltre, Rangers, Adam Jones, Orioles, Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays, Josh Reddick, Athletics, Austin Jackson, Tigers, Josh Willingham, Twins, Paul Konerko, White Sox, and Adam Dunn, White Sox

My quick Manager of the Year picks: Bob Melvin just over Buck Showalter and Joe Maddon in the A.L. and Clint Hurdle just over Davey Johnson in the N.L. Who are your picks for the awards right now? Let us know in the comments!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

The “Slightly Early” MLB Awards

July is in the books with Mike Trout of the Angels and Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates taking home player of the month honors. Was it enough though to stay atop my MVP rankings? Let’s find out. Keeping with the Olympics theme as a protest to baseball and softball still not being included. All statistics are through play of August 1st.

National League Rookie of the Year

Bronze Medal: Todd Frazier, Reds

Update: Our sources tell us Lance Lynn, though not reaching the minimum innings total in 2011, was on the active roster for more than 45 days and is therefore NOT eligible as a rookie in 2012, awkward because MLB had him on the “Top Rookies Tracker” for a while.

Lucky for Reds fans, that means Todd Frazier gets the nod as the bronze medalist for NL Rookie of the Year. A first time appearance on the medal stand is largely due to his .275 average, 13 homers and 40 RBI this season. Frazier has basically rendered Scott Rolen useless for the Reds, especially in July when Frazier hit over .300 with 5 home runs and 15 RBI. Besides, how can we not include a guy who hits home runs by throwing his bat at the ball?

Silver Medal: Bryce Harper, Nationals

I was THIS close to dropping Harper to the bronze for this month. Harper quite frankly looked like a 19 year-old this past month hitting just .222 in July with one home run and seven RBI in 99 at-bats. I’m giving Harper some credit for the intangibles that he brings to Washington and helping keep them in first in the N.L. East. Most pundits will have Harper winning Rookie of the Year, but at this moment I don’t think it’s the case. Harper is closer to dropping down than overtaking my leader. Take a close look at the numbers and you could even say Reds Todd Frazier has been a better rookie hitter than The Chosen One. It’s a great 19 year-old season, just not the best rookie season in the N.L. right now.

Gold Medal: Wade Miley, Diamondbacks

Where would the Diamondbacks be without Wade Miley? He’s just been so consistently good. Lance Lynn has had better months, but Miley hasn’t gotten blown up at all like Lynn has. July was just another ho-hum month for Miley going 3-2 with a 3.31 and 1.13 WHIP. Miley is 12-6 on the year and 2nd among NL rookies in wins, ERA, and strikeouts, plus 1st among N.L. rookies in WHIP. Miley is the real deal.

Just off the Podium: Wilin Rosario, Rockies, Michael Fiers, Brewers, Norichika Aoki, Brewers, and Anthony Rizzo, Cubs

American League Rookie of the Year

Bronze Medal: Scott Diamond, Twins

Blind resume time! Player A: 11-7 record, 4.38 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 10.2 K/9 ratio, and 2.07 K/BB ratio. Player B: 9-5 record, 2.93 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 4.9 K/9, and 3.93 K/BB ratio. You’d rather have player B right now, right? Congrats, you just picked Scott Diamond over Rangers Yu Darvish, welcome to the club. We have a meeting every 5th day when he makes a start.

Silver Medal: Yoenis Céspedes, Athletics

A new addition to the rankings. I had been hesitant to add him due to his injury early in the season and players being ahead of him still. Since returning on June 1st, Céspedes is hitting .347, with 9 homers, a .391 OBP, and a .984 OPS. The Athletics are 29-15 over that span and are the biggest surprise in the American League in playoff contention. He’s 2nd among A.L. rookies in home runs, slugging, OPS, batting average, and runs scored. The only problem? Céspedes is 2nd in all those statistics to this next player.

Gold Medal: Mike Trout, Angels

All of those numbers that I said Céspedes is 2nd in among A.L. rookies, Mike Trout is first in and it’s not even close. Tack on leading not just A.L. rookies, but the entire American League in stolen bases as well and we can move on to the next award. We’re going to Trout again in this blog I promise you.

Just off the Podium: Ryan Cook, Athletics, Jarrod Parker, Athletics, Tommy Milone, Athletics, Tyson Ross, Athletics (not really on Ross, but you get the picture), Yu Darvish, Rangers, Jose Quintana, White Sox, Addison Reed, White Sox, Matt Moore, Rays, Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox, and Quintin Berry, Tigers

National League Cy Young

Bronze Medal: Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals

If you thought the A.L. rookies was deep just now, wait until you see the National League pitching pool. For as amazing as R.A. Dickey was in June, he was that bad in July with a 5.13 ERA. That’s the life of a knuckleballer. Dickey goes from 1st to “just off the podium” and we welcome Jordan Zimmermann to the top three. When you think Nationals pitching you think Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, but it’s Zimmermann that’s been the best of the three so far. His 8-6 record doesn’t reflect it, but he’s 2nd in the N.L. in ERA (I’m excluding Ryan Dempster), 5th in WHIP, 2nd in WAR and has shown great control in 4th in BB/9 and 9th in K/BB ratio. You’re more than welcome to make the case for Strasburg and it’s a great one, but Zimmermann deserves this spot.

Silver Medal: Johnny Cueto, Reds

Cueto takes another step up the podium in his pursuit of becoming the first Reds pitcher to win the Cy Young Award. Cueto leads the National League in pitcher WAR and is tied for the league lead in wins. He’s great at all times, but he’s a spectacular 9-0 in day games for the Reds. What’s the most impressive statistic on Cueto this season though? He is tops in the National League in home runs allowed per 9 innings at just 0.32. That’s incredible considering he pitches his home games in one of the easiest parks to hit a bomb.

Gold Medal: Matt Cain, Giants

Cueto moved up a spot, so I might as well move Matt Cain up another rung. Cain didn’t have the greatest July, but it was good enough to keep his overall numbers looking spectacular. He leads the league in WHIP at 1.00, 4th in ERA, 2nd in innings pitched, 1st in shutouts, and 7th in strikeouts. Cain becomes the 4th different pitcher in four months to be at the summit of my N.L. Cy Young rankings. With how wide open this race is, we could see a 5th at the start of September.

Just off the Podium: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals, Gio Gonzalez, Nationals, R.A. Dickey, Mets, Craig Kimbrel, Braves, Madison Bumgarner, Giants, Ryan Vogelsong, Giants, Wade Miley, Diamondbacks, Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, Kyle Lohse, Cardinals, Cole Hamels, Phillies, and A.J. Burnett, Pirates (Yes, that A.J. Burnett)

American League Cy Young

Bronze Medal: Chris Sale, White Sox

Remember on MTV’s “Total Request Live” when the band Korn was always 3rd behind the Backstreet Boys and N*SYNC? Alright you probably don’t, but like how #3 was the Korn spot, in these rankings #3 is the Sale spot. He’s there for the 3rd straight month. The young White Sox ace is 2nd in the American League in ERA and pitching WAR, 3rd in wins, WHIP and HR/9 ratio. It’s just not enough to get above the next two pitchers, one who has better numbers in a similar amount of innings and a pitcher with slightly worse numbers, but has tossed an extra 36 innings.


Co-Gold Medals: Jered Weaver, Angels and Justin Verlander, Tigers

Am I copping out this month? You bet I am. Last month, I said that the difference between the two pitchers was razor thin, but I gave the edge to Verlander because of the extra innings he’s thrown. Weaver answered by going 6-0 with a 2.23 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in July. Verlander was “only” 3-2 with a 2.43 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP last month. Overall numbers are pretty close too. Weaver leads in wins, ERA, and WHIP. Verlander leads in WAR, innings pitched, and complete games. Verlander also is 2nd in strikeouts by just one to Felix Hernandez and has great peripherals. Give me another month and we’ll discuss again.

Just off the Podium: David Price, Rays, Jake Peavy, White Sox, C.J. Wilson, Angels, Fernando Rodney, Rays, Jim Johnson, Orioles, Felix Hernandez, Mariners, and Matt Harrison, Rangers

National League MVP

Bronze Medal: Matt Holliday, Cardinals

No player made a bigger jump in the rankings for any award this month than Holliday. He went from not even “just off the podium” to bronze medal position. Holliday hit .363 with 7 home runs, 22 RBI and an eye-popping 1.130 OPS in July. The best hitter in the Cardinals lineup is now 1st in RBI, 3rd in offensive WAR and runs, 4th in OBP and 6th in batting average, slugging, and OPS and 5th in HR. He’s kept St. Louis alive in the wild card race.

Silver Medal: Ryan Braun, Brewers

Blind resume part two time! Player A hit .332 with a .397 OBP, .597 slugging, .994 OPS, 33 home runs, 109 runs, 111 RBI and 33 stolen bases. Player B hit .313, with a .398 OBP, .604 slugging, 1.002 OPS, 45 home runs, 112 runs, 114 RBI, and 30 stolen bases. You’d lean towards player B again I think. Player A is Ryan Braun in his MVP season of 2011. Player B is Ryan Braun current projection for this season and is leading the league in runs and home runs. I know the Brewers aren’t in playoff contention like last season, but Braun isn’t the reason why. He’s been remarkable with the distractions of the offseason and no Prince Fielder protection in the lineup. Braun’s numbers are better this season, but he’s denied by one player who’s been even better.

Gold Medal: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates

McCutchen had grabbed the gold medal in my N.L. MVP rankings last month and was even better in July. McCutchen his .446 with a crazy 1.249 OPS in taking home N.L. Player of the Month honors. McCutchen leads the league in offensive WAR, batting average (.372), slugging, total bases, and runs scored. He’s 3rd in home runs and chips in another 14 stolen bases. He’s the most complete hitter in the National League at this moment. Plus, having the Pirates in contention for the playoffs makes him the N.L. MVP hands down.

Just off the Podium: David Wright, Mets, Joey Votto, Reds, Melky Cabrera, Giants, Buster Posey, Giants, Michael Bourn, Braves, Carlos Ruiz, Phillies, Yadier Molina, Cardinals, Carlos Beltran, Cardinals, Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies, and Jason Kubel, Diamondbacks

American League MVP

Bronze Medal: Robinson Cano, Yankees

Remember when Josh Hamilton was “running away” with the A.L. MVP and was a threat for the triple crown. Hamilton’s terrible June and atrocious July have officially knocked him from my top three. Cano has been the best hitter on the best team. He’s tied for 3rd in offensive WAR, tied for 5th in runs scored, 7th in slugging and OPS, and 9th in batting average and home runs. Add in his usual gold glove defense and Cano’s a contender for his 1st MVP.

Silver Medal: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

I think it’s kind of funny that I have the guy Prince Fielder left and the guy Prince Fielder joined both at runner-up for MVP right now. Moving to 3rd base wasn’t a distraction at the plate as Cabrera has been his usual, fantastic self hitting .323, good for 2nd in the A.L. El Miggy Poco is 1st in RBI, extra-base hits, and total bases, 2nd in offensive WAR, 3rd in OPS, 4th in slugging, tied for 5th in runs, and 8th in OBP and home runs. He won’t win a Gold Glove any time soon, but his offensive firepower makes him one of the most valuable players in the league.

Gold Medal: Mike Trout, Angels

When I put Mike Trout in the top spot for A.L. MVP last month I thought it was going to have some backlash. Surprisingly, there wasn’t any. Like McCutchen, Trout took over the top spot and was even better in July also winning Player of the Month honors while hitting .392, with 10 homers and 9 stolen bases. Trout has turned the fortunes around after a 6-14 start, sparking them to a 49-33 record and a wild card playoff spot at this writing. Trout leads the A.L. in batting average, stolen bases, runs scored and offensive WAR. He’s also top 3 in OBP, slugging, and OPS. We’re witnessing the greatest season by a 20 year-old in the history of baseball.

Just off the Podium: Paul Konerko, White Sox, Adam Jones, Orioles, Mark Trumbo, Angels, Jered Weaver, Angels, Justin Verlander, Tigers, David Ortiz, Red Sox, Adam Dunn, White Sox, Curtis Granderson, and Josh Reddick, Athletics

Can’t believe we’re already through July of the 2012 season. With the 2nd Wild Card added the playoff races are crazy tight as it seems like more teams than not are still alive for a playoff spot. I don’t think any one will or should completely agree with my rankings, so let me know in the comments what you think!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

Projecting the NL All-Star Roster

Yesterday, I gave you my projected A.L. All-Star roster that can be found down below this post. Today with the final voting update being released for the National League, let’s see if I can figure out what the N.L. roster will look like. I’m really glad that Tony LaRussa retired and has a ton of time on his hands to figure out the roster, because this thing is pretty tough. Especially trying to put a Padres representative on the team.

Catcher

Starter: Buster Posey, Giants

Reserves: Yadier Molina, Cardinals and Carlos Ruiz, Phillies

This will be a close battle all the way to the end as Molina may still end up starting the game. Posey could be in danger of not making the game if not named the starter as Molina and Ruiz are the two clear-cut top catchers this season. LaRussa could decide that two catchers are enough and go with an extra back-up somewhere else.

First Base

Starter: Joey Votto, Reds

Reserve: Martin Prado, Braves

This is where I had to get creative. No offensive position has gone without a backup since Derrek Lee in 2005 for the N.L. In that game, Morgan Ensberg who was designated as a 3B moved over to replace Lee in the game. In 2002, Alfonso Soriano was the only 2B for the American League and Omar Vizquel switched over from SS to play 2B. There is precedent to not have a backup 1B and I don’t think there should be. The only one I can make a case for is the Diamondbacks Paul Goldschmidt, but it would be bad if he becomes Arizona’s lone representative over a deserving Wade Miley. Prado is a versatile player that plays outfield, third base, and first base for the Braves. He’s a deserving All-Star, but N.L. outfield is so deep (we’ll get to that soon) that this is a way to get Prado on the team. I’m still figuring out why there are 873,526 wasted votes on Ryan Howard who hasn’t played this season.

Second Base

Starter: Dan Uggla, Braves

Reserve: Jose Altuve, Astros

Uggla has fallen off hitting just .179 in the month of June, but Braves fans have continued to vote for him. He has a healthy lead on Brandon Phillips going into the final stage of voting. Altuve has been a find for the Astros hitting over .300 and being 5th in the league in hits. Phillips gets bumped to the Final Vote as the only infielder represented.

Shortstop

Starter: Rafael Furcal, Cardinals

Reserve: Starlin Castro, Cubs

The injury woes of Troy Tulowitzki will allow Furcal to make his 3rd All-Star team in 13 seasons and it’s deserved. Furcal looked done after last season, but has bounced back to hit .287 and be solid atop the Cardinals lineup. Castro is the Cubs lone representative for the 2nd straight year. Pretty impressive for a 22 year-old.

Third Base

Starter: David Wright, Mets

Reserves: Chipper Jones, Braves and David Freese, Cardinals

I’ve made it clear previously that I think that Chipper Jones should be starting the All-Star Game in his final season. Here’s my solution. The National League will need a designated hitter, so who better than Chipper Jones? He could have his moment like Cal Ripken did in 2001 and David Wright still gets to start at 3B like he deserves. I’m sure Chipper’s knees would also appreciate not having to play the field. Freese has been solid for the Cardinals as he’s top 10 in the league in HR’s and RBI. I’m sure LaRussa will bring him along after his postseason heroics in 2011.

Outfield

Starters: Matt Kemp, Dodgers, Carlos Beltran, Cardinals, and Ryan Braun, Brewers

Reserves: Melky Cabrera, Giants, Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies, Andrew McCutchen, Pirates, Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins and Andre Ethier, Dodgers

This is by far the deepest position in all of the Majors. Not making the team includes Michael Bourn, Matt Holliday and Hunter Pence who have all been fantastic. Mike Trout was able to make my A.L. squad, but the deepness at the position here blocks Bryce Harper from making the initial squad at 19 years old. There is still a tight battle for the final starting spot between Braun and Cabrera, but both will make the team. Gonzalez and Stanton are being snubbed by voters, but will be the solo representatives for the Rockies and Marlins respectively. Ethier sneaks in the final outfield spot as he’s helped keep the Dodgers afloat in Matt Kemp’s absence. Kemp’s injury will hopefully open up an extra spot for Bourn, Holliday, or Pence.

Starting Pitcher

Starter: R.A. Dickey, Mets

Reserves: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals, Matt Cain, Giants, Gio Gonzalez, Nationals, Wade Miley, Diamondbacks, Johnny Cueto, Reds, James McDonald, Pirates, Lance Lynn, Cardinals, Chris Capuano, Dodgers, and Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

The battle to be the starting pitcher couldn’t be any closer between Dickey, Strasburg, and Cain. I just think that Dickey is such a wonderful story that it would be amazing to have him start the game, so I gave him the edge. My American League roster had eight starters, but there are so many options in the N.L. that I upped it to ten. Even that wasn’t enough as Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke get snubbed. I believe that LaRussa will err on the side of the Cardinals and take Lance Lynn for the last pitching spot. Wade Miley is rightfully Arizona’s only representative.

Relief Pitcher

Reserves: Craig Kimbrel, Braves, Aroldis Chapman, Reds, and Huston Street, Padres

Kimbrel has been lights out all season. Chapman had been perfect up until recently, but they are the two fireballers that the senior circuit needs to close out the game. Street goes to the game because I couldn’t figure out another way to get a Padre on the roster. I couldn’t have Carlos Quentin take a spot from one of the outfielders, Chase Headley over David Freese, or have Yonder Alonso be the back-up 1B. Street missed time with an injury, but has a 1.50 ERA and 0.78 ERA when healthy this season.

Final Vote

Michael Bourn, Braves, Cole Hamels, Phillies, Brandon Phillips, Reds, Matt Holliday, Cardinals, and Bryce Harper, Nationals

When I originally wrote out my roster Harper making the Final Vote didn’t even cross my mind. Then I had an epiphany, there is no way MLB doesn’t put Harper in, just to stir up some excitement for it. There are great voting fan bases represented in this final vote and I sadly couldn’t put in Zack Greinke. Greinke and Hamels will hopefully make the team on the “pitcher pitching Sunday” rule. Bourn has been wonderful leading off the Braves lineup and is among the league leaders in WAR. Brandon Phillips might make the All-Star game as a starter still, but him being in the Final Vote let’s him use his social media skills to the fullest.

Team Breakdown

Cardinals-5

Dodgers and Braves-4

Giants and Reds-3

Mets, Nationals, and Pirates-2

Diamondbacks, Padres, Rockies, Cubs, Brewers, Astros, Phillies, and Marlins-1

Unlike the American League, I feel like there are a ton of snubs on my National League team. Joel Hanrahan, Tyler Clippard, Kenley Jansen, Zack Greinke, Hunter Pence, Ryan Vogelsong, and Jed Lowrie just to name a few. Who would make your National League roster? Let me know in the comments!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)