2012 Burning River Awards

"The Lee Award" for Most Improved Player – Shin-Soo Choo

No Indians had amazing comeback seasons this year, although just like last year, there were plenty of contestants. Instead, the award goes to Choo, who has been a great hitter over his entire career with the Tribe, but fell off a little last season. This year he came back to what he had been in each of his previous seasons, only better. Choo set career highs with 43 doubles and 88 runs scored. He also recorded his third season of 20 or more steals.

2011 Winner – Justin Masterson

"The Super Joe" Rookie of the Year Award – Zach McAllister

The Indians had very few rookies playing prominent roles on the team this year after using a whole slew last season. The only choice for the 2012 ROY is McAllister. In fact, he was not only the best rookie on the team, but the best starting pitcher overall. He had a lower ERA, BAA and WHIP than every other primary starter although he didn't pitch enough innings to qualify for rate stats (placing him around the 11th best pitcher on the team in these stats, unqualified). He did start 22 games, third most on the team, despite not being on the team for opening day. He did fall off a bit during the last month of the season, but still ended up ahead of all the other starters. 

2011 Winner – Vinnie Pestano

"The Steve Olin Memorial Award" for Best Reliever – Vinnie Pestano

The back end of the Indians bullpen was absolutely fantastic this year, helping the Indians win more games than they should have according to Pythagorean Theory. This was primarily three pitchers, last year's winner, Joe Smith, Chris Perez and Vinnie Pestano. Pestano lead all pitchers (who pitched at least 20 innings) in ERA, WHIP and BAA. He also struck out more batters than all but three starting pitchers, 76, good for a 9.77 K/9, also best on the team. Pestano set a new team record with 36 holds, only blowing 3 of 41 potential save/hold opportunities.

2011 Winner – Joe Smith

"The Big O" for Most Outstanding Defender – Michael Brantley

There may be a "Big O" curse as last season's winner ended up being one of the worst defenders on the team in 2012. The ultimate choice was really hard for this season, with two players earning consideration. Casey Kotchman was exactly as expected at first and still remains the top defensive first baseman in MLB history with a .9977 fielding percent. He certainly saved an unknown amount of runs and errors from the wild throws coming from the left side of the infield. He was constantly tested and never failed. Brantley was not tested as much, but when he was, the tests were much harder. Brantley made just a single error all season and was able to make diving catches as well as a few impressive wall climbing grabs. He also had five outfield assists, second most just to Shin-Soo Choo.

2011 Winner – Jack Hannahan

"The Golden Belle" for Most Outstanding Hitter – Shin-Soo Choo

Not only did Choo improve himself this season, he beat out every other Indians player offensively. Choo lead the Tribe in games, at bats, runs, hits, doubles, OBP and SLG. He did all this while batting lead-off for a large part of the season as Manny Acta felt he couldn't trust any other player to get on base to start an inning. He still knocked in 67 runs (Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana lead the team with 76), despite being moved out of his usual power position into one that asked for more patience at the plate and more speed. He complied with the speed part as well, stealing 21 bases and only being caught 7 times.

2011 Winner – Asdrubal Cabrera

"The Addie" for Best Overall Pitcher – Vinnie Pestano

In addition to the basic statistics mentioned before, a very important part of this award is confidence. The best pitcher on the team should be the one that the team turns to when it needs a win. There were no starters who garnered any confidence this season, not a single one that could change a losing streak into a winning streak. However, the bullpen was as close to perfect as it could have been and this was mostly to do with Pestano and Perez. Whenever these two came into the game, Indians fans just knew it would be a win. The two pitchers combined for seven total blown saves in 131 total games. Pestano was just a little bit better than Perez with 12 more innings pitched and three less runs allowed. 

2011 Winner – Justin Masterson

"The Rose Award" for Best Overall Player – Jason Kipnis

Choo and Kipnis had almost identical seasons offensively. While Choo had more doubles and home runs, Kipnis had more RBI, triples and steals. Choo had better rate stats, but struck out 40 more times. The slight edge that Choo had to take the Golden Belle Award was not enough to surpass Kipnis' superior defense this year. Kipnis' .991 fielding percent was the highest among all regular starters, except for Kotchman and Choo and he plays a much tougher position than either of them. Choo's defense was also more conservative this year, with very few diving plays and only 7 assists compared to 34 over the past three seasons. Kipnis on the other hand, was constantly getting dirty. He also has become a very dependable double play partner for Asdrubal, turning 94 twin killings in 2012.

2011 Winner – Asdrubal Cabrera

Check here for the 2011 Burning River Award recap.

Joseph Coblitz

About Joseph Coblitz

Joseph is the primary writer and editor of BurningRiverBaseball.com and has been since its inception in 2011. He also writes for The Outside Corner and the Comeback and hosts the Tribe Time Now podcast. He is a graduate of the University of Akron and currently resides in Goodyear, Arizona the Spring Training home of the Cleveland Indians. Follow on twitter @BurningRiverBB