Absurdly early awards - NBC Sports

Absurdly early awards
If the Major League Baseball season ended today, it would be pretty weird
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April 3, 2013, 3:00 pm

Everybody knows that we don't have much patience in America. Truth is, you probably didn't even make it to the end of that sentence. We don't have time to wait for anything. Give you an example: Right now, this minute, you can go on the interwebs and find at least a dozen NFL mock drafts. You're probably thinking, "Are you crazy? A dozen? I could find 10,000 NFL mock drafts. It's in three weeks. You can go outside your house RIGHT NOW and you will likely run into a mock draft."

Right. But I'm talking about the 2014 NFL Draft .

We just don't have the endurance to wait. We want same day delivery. We want instant downloads. We want stream, we want push notifications, we want instant analysis. We are a refresh button society, and we pound that thing over and over to get the latest, the very latest, the absolute latest . and then we hit the refresh button again.

In other words, hey, look, every team in baseball has played at least one game now.

It's time for our early season baseball awards:

American League MVP: Matt Wieters, Baltimore

Many people expected Matt Wieters to be a superstar the day he arrived in the big leagues. You might remember those "Matt Wieters Facts" that (like Chuck Norris facts) were circulating for a while - my favorite being, "Matt Wieters is the reason I comes before E except after C." He became an outstanding player in 2012. He won his second Gold Glove Award - he has developed into a brilliant defensive catcher - and he hit 23 home runs.

But he emerged in 2013. In his one game, he hit a double and a homer, walked twice, drove in two runs, scored two more and led the Orioles to victory over Tampa Bay and into a first place tie in the American League East (and people thought Baltimore would fade in 2013!). Wieters led the league in batting average (.800), slugging percentage (2.000) and OPS (2.800).

Also receiving votes: Michael Morse, Seattle; Ian Kinsler, Texas; Yu Darvish, Texas; Jarrod Saltalmacchia, Boston.

American League Cy Young: Darvish

I was lucky enough to see Darvish pitch in the 2007 Japan World Series, when he had just turned 21. He was more or less unhittable. Mid-to-high 90s fastball. Ridiculous slider. It was hard to tell how his pitching would translate to American baseball because the Japanese game is much more about small ball - lots of bunting, lots of hit-and-run, lots of moving runners. In other words: Lots of free outs.

So, while it was obvious that Darvish had dominant stuff and uncommon command for such a young pitcher, it wasn't until his one game in 2013 that Darvish came into his own in America. Darvish led the league in strikeouts (14), innings pitched (8 2/3) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (infinite).

Also receiving votes: Felix Hernandez, Seattle; Jerry Blevins, Oakland; Justin Verlander, Detroit.

*As an aside, Darvish was the 11th pitcher to have a perfect game broken up by the 27th batter. The most famous of these was Armando Galarraga in 2010, who officially allowed an infield single Cleveland's Jason Donald with two outs in the ninth, though umpire Jim Joyce would tearfully admit he blew the call at first base.

Umpires blowing the call on the 27th batter, as you will see, is part of the near-perfecto story. The other nine are:

  • New York's Mike Mussina in 2001 (he gave up line drive single to Boston's Carl Everett)
  • Seattle's Brian Holman in 1990 (he allowed a home run to Oakland pinch-hitter Ken Phelps)
  • Toronto's Dave Stieb in 1989 (back-to-back hits by New York's Roberto Kelly and Steve Sax. Poor Stieb finally threw a no-no in 1990 after having THREE no-hitters, including this perfect game, broken up with two outs in the ninth).
  • Cincinnati's Ron Robinson in 1988 (single to Montreal Wallace Johnson, then a homer by Tim Raines).
  • Detroit's Milt Wilcox in 1983 (pinch-hit single by Chicago's Jerry Hairston Sr.)
  • Cubs' Milt Pappas in 1972 (walked San Diego's Larry Stahl on a 3-2 pitch he would forever be convinced was a strike. Replays are not of the best quality but they suggest that home plate umpire Bruce Froemming got the call right, at least on the 3-2 pitch).
  • White Sox' Billy Pierce in 1958 (double by Washington pinch hitter Ed Fitz Gerald, who would hit only three extra-base hits the entire season. The ball landed inches fair).
  • Detroit's Tommy Bridges in 1932 (single by Washington pitch hitter Dave Harris).
  • New York Giants' Hooks Wiltse in 1908 (he hit opposing pitcher George McQuillan on a 2-2 count. According to this charming SABR biography , home-plate umpire Cy Rigler believed he had blown the previous pitch, calling it a ball when it should have been strike three. Rigler would send Wiltse cigars in an effort to make it up to him.

American League Rookie of the Year: Jose Iglesias, Boston

While there was a lot of hype for his teammate Jackie Bradley Jr., who tied for the league lead in walks (3) and was second in runs scored (2), Iglesias quietly hit .600 in helping Boston overcome its troubles the previous two seasons and tie for first in the American League East.

Also receiving votes: Bradley, Boston; Carter Capps, Seattle.

American League Comeback player of the year: Lance Berkman, Texas

After a rough and injury plagued 2012 season in St. Louis, Berkman regained his game in Texas. He hit .625 and led the league in plate appearances (9), hits (5) and intentional walks (1).

pagebreakUp Next: Who makes history as NL MVP?true

National League MVP: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles

Normally, I do not like voting for pitchers as MVPs - and Bryce Harper had an amazing 2013 -- but you simply cannot argue with Kershaw. Not only did he lead the league in wins (1), winning percentage (1.000), ERA (0.00) complete games (1) and innings pitched (9), he also was fourth in the league in home runs (1) and slugging percentage (1.333).

Here's an interesting detail about Kershaw: He will soon pass 1,000 innings (he has now pitched 953) and his career ERA is 2.77. The last starting pitcher to have a career ERA under 3.00 after 1,000 innings? Pedro Martinez.

Sir Pedro is also the last starting pitcher to end his career with an ERA under 3.00. Before him, you have to go back to Tom Seaver.

National League Cy Young: Kershaw

Kershaw makes history, becoming the first National League pitcher to sweep the MVP and Cy Young since Bob Gibson in 1968. It's a funny thing; there have been six American League pitchers who have won the MVP since Denny McLain won it in 1968, but the National League - supposedly the pitcher's league - has not had a single pitcher as MVP since Gibson.

Kershaw's amazing season overshadowed great years from San Francisco's Madison Bumgarner (1-0, 0.00 ERA), Washington's Stephen Strasburg (1-0, 0.00 ERA), Chicago's Jeff Samardzija (1-0, 0.00 ERA). Milwaukee's Brandon Kintzler struck out every batter he faced.

Also receiving votes: Bumgarner; Strasburg; Samardzija.

National League Rookie of the Year: Pete Kozma, St. Louis

The rookie phenom introduced himself to America during the postseason last year, but in 2013 he hit .333 and led all rookies in baseball in home runs (1). Arizona's A.J. Pollock hit .500 and led rookies in RBIs (2).

Also receiving votes: Pollock; Hyun-jin Ryu, Dodgers.

National League Comeback player of the year: Chase Utley, Philadelphia

He had been struggling with injuries for the better part of three seasons, but in 2013 Utley roared back by hitting .600 with a 1.600 slugging percentage and a league-leading one triple.

For five years - 2005-09 - Utley was an amazing baseball player. Hall of Fame good. He hit, hit with power, he got on base, he played a beautiful second base. Though he never got any serious MVP consideration, he probably should have gotten some every one of those five seasons. He might have had the quickest bat in baseball.

From 2010-12, though, he was not the same player; he just couldn't stay healthy. And because he was generally underrated, I'm not sure people fully appreciated the sadness of that. It was good to see him rebound and be a great player again in 2013. You know. In his first game.

Joe Posnanski is the national columnist for NBC Sports. Follow him on twitter @JPosnanski

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