As everyone knows, the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals advanced to the League Championship Series in the National League. Milwaukee outlasted the Arizona Diamondbacks in five games while St. Louis upset the Philadelphia Phillies in five games in the Divisional Series. With the Cardinals defeating the Brewers 12-3 Monday, the series is tied at one game apiece heading to St. Louis.
Just as the Diamondbacks in the first round, the Cardinals treated Shaun Marcum very rudely. He allowed five earned runs in four innings against St. Louis after being abused by Arizona for seven earned runs in four and two-thirds innings. For my money, however, the Brewers are the team that will represent the NL in the World Series. Albert Pujols notwithstanding, Milwaukee has too much offense and their pitching is deep enough to outlast St. Louis.
I’d most like to see Milwaukee face the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. Texas doesn’t do anything for me as far as being in a Championship Series. Detroit and Milwaukee would have a natural proximity to each other that would add to the excitement of the series that no other combination of teams would offer.
After the playoffs are finished, MLB will announce the winners of the regular season awards. I’ve already put forth my choice of the Cy Young Award in the NL. What about Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year? This week we’ll take a look at the Rookie of the Year candidates.
There are some serious contenders for the NL ROY award including Josh Collmenter, Wilson Ramos, Brandon Beachy, Vance Worley, Freddie Freeman, and Craig Kimbrel. In my honorable opinion, the winner of the award will come from that group.
Josh Collmenter made 24 starts for the Arizona Diamondbacks and was very instrumental in providing much needed starting rotation depth in Chase Field. The 25-year-old threw 154 1/3 innings striking out 100. Josh allowed 137 hits and 28 bases on balls for a 1.07 WHIP and 58 earned runs for a 3.38 ERA. Collmenter’s K:BB of 3.5 is favorable as is a 0.99 HR/9 and 1.63 BB/9. On the other hand, K/9 of 5.83 is a bit lower than one would like to see especially with a .264 BABIP – he can’t get the punch out as readily when needed. It didn’t hurt him too much this year but it very well could in the future pitching in the desert. Josh managed a .500 record at 10-10.
Wilson Ramos compiled 389 at-bats playing in 113 games for the Washington Nationals – 108 of them behind the plate. He put up a serviceable .267 batting average while smacking 15 HR for the improved Nats. Wilson is good defensively which can’t be overstated, handling a pitching staff without any real number one. Or number two. Or number three. When runners got on base and attempted to steal, Ramos threw them out about one-third of the time. Overall, he did a good job behind the dish for Washington.
The Atlanta Braves always seem to come up with home-grown pitching and Brandon Beachy is another. He made 25 starts for Atlanta this year after beating out Mike Minor for the fifth rotation spot coming out of spring. The 25-year-old pitched 141 2/3 innings after missing five weeks with a strained oblique and wound up with 169 strikeouts for a 10.7 K/9! That put Brandon tops amongst pitchers with that many innings that did not have enough innings (162) to qualify. To put that in perspective, of all pitchers who qualified for individual honors, Zack Greinke led the league with 10.54 K/9. One knock on Beachy is he averaged less than six innings per outing which limited his record to seven wins in ten decisions. A 1.21 WHIP and 3.68 ERA rounds out his stat line for the year.
After being called up to replace an injured Joe Blanton, Vance Worley did a good job the rest of the way for the Philadelphia Phillies. In 131 2/3 innings over 21 starts and four relief appearances, Worley finished with a very good 11-3 record. His 119 strikeouts equated to a very solid 8.1 per nine innings and this went very well with a 1.23 WHIP and 3.01 ERA. He did a very good job keeping the ball in the yard allowing only ten round trippers – a good quality to have pitching in Citizens Bank Park.
On the surface, Freddie Freeman did not acquit himself very well with a .167 BA at the major league level in 2010. However, that came in only 24 at-bats in 20 games – certainly not a fair chance to prove anything after hitting .319 in AAA. Freddie certainly got that chance in 2011 with 571 at-bats and proceeded to hit .282 with 21 HR and 76 RBI playing first base full time for the Atlanta Braves. Freeman easily outplayed another 22-year-old on the Braves roster – right fielder Jason Heyward, who was in his second year. In fact, Freeman’s 2011 season eclipsed Heyward’s rookie year of 2010. Freddie did see an uptick in strikeouts from once every 5.5 at-bats to once every 4.0 at-bats, but that is pretty common in first year players.
Last but not least on my list is closer Craig Kimbrel of the Atlanta Braves (the third rookie from Atlanta in contention if you weren’t counting). In fact, Kimbrel is my choice for NL Rookie of the Year, hands down. All he did was blow away the NL rookie saves record (36 by Todd Worrell in 1986) and the major league rookie record (40 by Neftali Feliz in 2010) with his 46. That tied John Axford of Milwaukee for the league lead. Kimbrel did have eight blown saves on the year but five of them came before the All-Star break. In 77 innings, the Braves’ 23-year-old had a 1.04 WHIP and 2.10 ERA. While he needs to reduce his bases on balls (32), he was downright overpowering with an amazing 127 strikeouts in those 77 innings – equating to a rate of 14.84/9! Kimbrel limited opposing hitters to a .170 average (.333 BABIP) and only three home runs.So to sum up my postseason awards to date, Ian Kennedy is my NL Cy Young winner and Craig Kimbrel is my NL Rookie of the Year. Next week will be a recap of the rest of the NL playoffs as well as MVP candidates.