Since the Indians missed the playoffs and no offensive player was within the top 10 in the AL in any stat (except Carlos Santana at 3rd in walks), there probably won’t be any MVP votes coming to Cleveland, but that doesn’t mean the Indians don’t have anything to look forward to in the coming weeks. Most are long shots, but the Indians did make waves this year and may get some post season credit for it.
The Indians ace is the team’s choice for the Roberto Clemente award and has an extremely long shot at the AL Cy Young Award. There are at least 10 pitchers who were more successful than Masterson this season, most notably Justin Verlander who is a shoe-in for the award, but he does have a shot at the Clemente. The Roberto Clemente award is given away for a combination of on and off the field work. This award isn’t always just given to the most talented player, so Masterson does have a chance at beating Verlander for this one. It is decided by popular vote and you can vote for Justin Masterson right here. Jim Thome was the Indians last Roberto Clemente award winner back in 2002.
One of the two offensive players to have a half decent season in 2011 was Carlos Santana. While he has no chance at any other award, he may have a case for the silver slugger at catcher. While he only hit .239, he did lead all qualifying catchers in at bats by more than 50, runs by 12, doubles by 2, home runs by 5 and walks by 24. He was second in hits, triples and steals and was within 5 of each stat. Santana actually does have a decent shot at this award since there were only 5 players that qualified for the batting title while playing catcher. The favorite for this is another Tiger, starting catcher Alex Avila. Avila leads the league in every stat the Santana is second, but the biggest advantage he has is his .295 batting average for 2011. While the Silver Slugger does take more in consideration than batting average, it is usually the most important part.
The Indians #1 star of 2011 not only has a shot at a Silver Slugger, but a Gold Glove as well. While there was some early season MVP talk about Asdrubal, that died down as his batting average did. Cabrera was second among AL short stops in home runs, doubles and runs and lead the league in hits and RBI. His batting average of .273 wasn’t anywhere near as terrible as Santana’s .239, but his competition is tougher as well. Ex-Indian Jhonny Peralta is his main competition for the Silver Slugger, because did almost as well as Cabrera in the counting stats, but didn’t have as many at bats. All of Peralta’s slash stats are better than Cabrera’s. In fact, he lead all AL short stops in batting average and was second in slugging percent.
Cabrera should have a better shot at the Gold Glove as it is an award that is often based on reputation and Cabrera certainly has a good one. Asdrubal made a name for himself around the league this year by being a regular on Baseball Tonight’s Web Gems with amazing play after amazing play. He certainly made the best plays on the Indians this year as can be seen in the Burning River Top 10 Plays. His direct fielding stats don’t reflect his level of play as he had the 4th most errors in the league at short stop this year with 15. His .976 fielding percent was only good enough for 6th, but most of the voters understand that it was because of his much larger range than most shortstops. A more accurate representation of his play is Zone Rating, where he came in third with a ZR of 6.121. Derek Jeter, Marco Scutaro and Asdrubal were the only short stops with a Zone Rating above 6. Cabrera’s main competition may come from Orioles short stop J.J. Hardy who lead the league in fielding percent and lead short stops in home runs, which shouldn’t matter, but often does in Gold Glove voting.
Asdrubal is also the Indians representitive for the Hank Aaron award for the leagues best hitter. He has absolutely no shot at winning this award, but did deserve the nomination as the best hitter on the Indians. No Indian has won this award since Manny Ramirez took home the first one given out in 1999.
Rookie of the Year
Not only will an Indian not be winning this award this year, they probably won’t next year either. The Tribe has a way of not letting rookies start until so late in the season they have no chance to catch up with the early leaders, but late enough to give them so many at bats they will not be eligible the next season. It happened last year with Carlos Santana and this year with Ezequiel Carrera, Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis. Eric Hosmer has a good chance to win this year’s award if it goes to a hitter. Vinnie Pestano was the Indians top rookie and has a little better chance, but it would be hard to give this years award to a relief pitcher with starters like Jeremy Hellickson and Michael Pineda available as choices.
Manny Acta’s name has been thrown around in the discussion for Manager of the Year in the American League. From outside of Cleveland it looks like Acta took a terrible team and almost turned them into winners, but there are a couple reasons he probably shouldn’t be considered for this award. First, he over used players that shouldn’t have been on the team in the first place (Austin Kearns and Chad Durbin) in an effort to justify them being there. He also fired Jon Nunnally as a scape goat, following which the team performed even worse than they did before. He also possibly coddled his players a little too much, leading to the team breakdown at the end of the season. During the entire season he never let a single pitcher throw an entire 9 inning game. As Ron Washington has learned from Nolan Ryan, you have to get pitchers used to throwing more than they have to. By never throwing a pitcher 9 innings, the pitcher will then feel more tired after pitching 7. The same thing is true for the position players. Almost every injury this year was some sort of muscle issue. The way you work through those injuries is with extra strength and conditioning work. I’m not saying that Acta isn’t a good manager. I like him and am glad the Indians resigned him for 2012, but he could not have been the best in the American League this year.