National League—Mid-Season Award Winners

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Yesterday I listed my American League mid-season award winners. Now here’s the National League along with my preseason picks from my book.

MVP

1. Andrew McCutchen, CF—Pittsburgh Pirates

It’s a pleasure to watch a player who I knew would be a star the first time I saw him run out a triple begin achieve that vision; that he’s doing so for a team that hasn’t had a winning season since 1992 and suddenly finds itself in first place in the NL Central and is a legitimate playoff contender makes it all the more gratifying,

McCutchen is leading the Majors in batting at .362; he has a .414 OBP and .625 slugging with 18 homers and 14 stolen bases. It was almost as if he was sending a message on Sunday to let the world know that he’s not playing around; that this is the real McCutchen as he went 3 for 5 with 2 homers.

I’ve seen some random, inaccurate comparisons to Barry Bonds but in reality McCutchen is more like an Eric Davis-squared and is fulfilling what Davis was supposed to be but just barely missed becoming—an MVP.

2. Joey Votto, 1B—Cincinnati Reds

The Reds’ leader on and off the field is celebrating his new, long-term contract by replicating his MVP season of 2010. Votto is leading the Majors is OBP and OPS, has 35 doubles, 14 homers and is leading the NL in walks.

3. David Wright, 3B—New York Mets

It’s amazing what happens when a star player is healthy and playing in a home ballpark that no longer makes it necessary to change one’s swing to have a hope of hitting a few home runs.

Wright’s having his best season since 2007-2008 when he was an All-Star, MVP candidate, Silver Slugger and Gold Glove winner.

4. Ryan Braun, LF—Milwaukee Brewers

Those hoping he’d fall flat on his face after getting out of a PED suspension on a technicality are being horribly disappointed.

5. R.A. Dickey, RHP—New York Mets

Sylvester Stallone couldn’t conjure a story this ridiculous.

In my book I picked Troy Tulowitzki. He’s been injured.

Cy Young Award

1. R.A. Dickey, RHP—New York Mets

It’s not simply that he’s dominating and doing it with a knuckleball, but he’s throwing a knuckleball at 80+ mph and is able to control it. Hitters have looked helpless and he’s been the Mets’ stopper when they’ve appeared to waver in their greater-than-the-sum-of-the-parts play.

2. Matt Cain, RHP—San Francisco Giants

The ace of the Giants’ staff is not named Tim Lincecum anymore.

3. Johnny Cueto, RHP—Cincinnati Reds

Cueto’s ill-conceived comments about Tony LaRussa aside, he’s had a great year.

4. James McDonald, RHP—Pittsburgh Pirates

Another Pirates’ player whose talent I lusted after is fulfilling his potential. This is how fiction-style stories of teams rising from the depths are written.

5. Cole Hamels, LHP—Philadelphia Phillies

His rumored trade availability, pending free agency and “look how tough I am” antics are obscuring how well he’s pitched as the Phillies’ empire crumbles around him.

My preseason pick was Lincecum. I think we can forget that now.

Rookie of the Year

1.  Bryce Harper, OF—Washington Nationals

Considering his arrogant statements and behavior in the minors, I was dubious about his maturity. He’s proven me wrong and been an absolute professional handling the scrutiny like a 10-year veteran.

On the field, he’s the real deal.

2. Wade Miley, LHP—Arizona Diamondbacks

Miley has picked up for the inconsistent Ian Kennedy and the injured Joe Saunders and Daniel Hudson; the Diamondbacks would be buried in the NL West without him.

3. Todd Frazier, INF—Cincinnati Reds

He’s had more than a few big hits in picking up for the injured Scott Rolen.

4. Norichika Aoki, OF—Milwaukee Brewers

He’s 30 and a rookie in name only, but he’s batting .300 and has played well for the Brewers.

5. Wilin Rosario, C—Colorado Rockies

He’s struggled defensively and is a hacker, but he does have 14 homers.

My preseason pick was Yonder Alonso.

Manager of the Year

1. Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates

He…doesn’t…take…crap.

2. Davey Johnson, Washington Nationals

Johnson was always a bridesmaid in the Manager of the Year voting. He still is. He’s dealt with the new age game that clearly grates on him with the pitch counts and the relentless “experts” from the outside questioning him; he’s also dealt with the Harper/Stephen Strasburg sideshows far better than other veteran managers dropped into the middle of it would.

3. Don Mattingly, Los Angeles Dodgers

They Dodgers have slumped lately, but Mattingly has proven he can handle pretty much anything.

4. Terry Collins, New York Mets

What he’s done with this team amid all the off-field distractions and non-existent expectations is Amazin’.

5. Bruce Bochy, San Francisco Giants

Lincecum’s been horrific and he lost his closer but still has the Giants hovering around first place in the NL West.

My preseason pick was Johnson.

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Tim Lincecum and the Giants Rewrite the New Age Rules

All Star Game, Ballparks, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, PEDs, Players, Playoffs, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, World Series

Tim Lincecum has never been a conventional pitcher.

From the way he and his stage-father dictated to teams that were interested in drafting him that there would be no deviation in his unique motion, to the Giants decision not to treat him as a delicate flower that would disintegrate at a strong wind by establishing ludicrous and random edicts on his workload, Lincecum’s always been different and the Giants, to their credit, have enabled him.

Unlike other pitchers like Stephen Strasburg, there was no long-term plan to count innings and pitches in a manner that was more applicable to keeping him from getting hurt and shielding the organization from criticism at the expense of developing him to be the best he could be. Lincecum pitched in 13 minor league games before heading to San Francisco. In the minors and majors in 2007, he threw a total of 177 innings. In 2008, he logged 227 and won the first of back-to-back Cy Young Awards. His innings totals have been over 212 in every year since his rookie campaign.

For an organization that’s been called antiquated in their personnel decisions, the Giants may be leading a full circle revival to a return of the old-school days by letting young pitchers pitch and not nitpicking their innings and pitch counts so they can stay healthy when they’re 28 and on the free agent market so the Yankees and Red Sox can give them the free agent money a team like the Giants can’t.

That Lincecum iconoclasm and Giants’ “antiquated” methods are extending to their contract negotiations.

If the performance of Lincecum were replicated in another venue, the team and player would have come to an agreement on a long-term deal after the first year or two of his career. Most would want the mutual security of a guarantee for the player and cost certainty for the team.

Not Lincecum.

He’s willing to put his money where his mouth is and function on what amounts to a biennial back-and-forth of threatening to go to the arbitration table before hammering out a very lucrative—and short-term—contract.

Confident enough to expect to continue having the same success he’s had so far, Lincecum deviates from the norm on and off the field. This uniqueness has led to him becoming something of a cultural phenomenon. He’s extremely small for a pitcher in today’s game; he shuns conventional postgame recovery tactics like icing his arm; and that personality extends all the way to his long flowing black hair and alternative, borderline hippie style.

Because he’s left to his own devices as a player, he’s not subject to the self-doubt that permeates the psyche of even the most established players.

With that in mind, he refused the Giants overtures to sign a 5-year, $100 million contract to buy out his remaining arbitration years and first three years of free agency.

This would’ve provided him with a 9-figure payday even if he never threw another pitch—something that’s a possibility with any pitcher regardless of his dedication and the team’s diligence in keeping him healthy.

But he decided that he wanted a shorter-term deal and to take his chances.

With that in mind, Lincecum and the Giants have reached a verbal agreement on a 2-year, $40.5 million deal to avoid arbitration for this year and next.

He wants to maximize his dollars and if he happens to get hurt before the day he’s on the open market, so be it.

For someone who puts forth the public face of the gentle soul who’d be comfortable living in a commune, Lincecum is ruthless on the field and an unfettered capitalist off it.

Most players would’ve taken the money and ran.

But most players aren’t allowed to think for themselves and figure out their issues on their own without interference from the front office, managers and coaches.

Lincecum is taking a risk by going the short-term route and waiting out his opportunity at free agency, but if he maintains his level of work, he’s going to make a lot more money than he would if he settled for safety rather than trusting himself and what he’s been taught.

The logic on the Giants part seems to be that if his bullets are going to be spent, they’ll be spent as a Giant.

For Lincecum, he’s investing in himself and his belief that the techniques taught to him by his dad will yield long-term durability.

In an age of baseball pitchers being something of an underdeveloped nation through overprotective paranoia, it’s somewhat refreshing.

No.

It’s very refreshing.

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Tim Lincecum Trade Pa-Troll

All Star Game, Ballparks, Books, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, Movies, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, PEDs, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, World Series

*NOTE 8:22 AM, NYC: The original piece on Bleacher Report that was linked was significantly altered after mine was published. The words “herky jerky” were removed and the entire context was changed.

Reading the teaser headline and you’d automatically take the “news” on a slow day as an inviting and irresistible lure to read the article.

But clicking and reading reveals the truth and the truth is that there’s no “there” there.

I saw the mentioning of the words “Tim Lincecum” and “trade” on Twitter and instantly knew it was nonsense and/or trolling because: A) the Giants aren’t trading Lincecum; B) the Giants aren’t trading Lincecum; and C) the Giants aren’t trading Lincecum.

Being it’s a slow day (do the math), I checked the search engines to see if there was anything to explain this silliness in a sensible, reasonable fashion.

I found this on Bleacher Report in which a Lincecum trade is speculated.

Sort of.

In the next two years.

But not now.

Of course it’s ludicrous in every sense.

It’s ludicrous that Lincecum and Barry Zito are compared in any way.

It’s ludicrous that Lincecum is treated like a normal pitcher.

It’s ludicrous that the Giants are going to start a rebuild in the next two seasons.

Ludicrous.

How do you compare Lincecum to Zito? With the Athletics, Zito was a contact pitcher who benefited from being on a very good team and having great luck on balls in play. Lincecum has left lineups in ruins. Zito’s fastball could never approach the Lincecum fast lane in spite of Lincecum’s fastball having dipped slightly from its upper-90s heyday; he’s still plenty fast enough to strikeout 230 hitters a year. Zito is trying to trick people and get by on guile.

Zito’s margin of error was nonexistent and it’s worse now; Lincecum gets by when he’s off his game because of pure quality of stuff.

Lincecum cannot be compared to “normal” pitchers, nor can he be placed in any specific category because he’s been treated differently since the time he signed. The Giants were not allowed to alter Lincecum’s mechanics; this was one of the reasons so many teams were reluctant to draft Lincecum. It’s the same way today even as he has two Cy Young Awards and a championship ring; to this day I wonder what pitching coach Dave Righetti says to Lincecum when the pitcher is struggling and Righetti visits the mound. Do they talk about girls? The weather? Fisherman’s Wharf?

Because Lincecum has always been left to his own (and his dad’s) devices, he’s something of a closed society about which nothing can be physically determined in a sociological baseball study. The conventional rules don’t apply to him and, by extension, nor do the concerns.

With that in mind, it cannot be said that the skinny pitcher with the unique motion is going to replicate other pitchers whose arms blew out in year three of an eight-year contract. He’s altered all the rules so far and can’t be pigeonholed.

As for a Giants rebuild, forget it.

You may have a short memory of the way GM Brian Sabean runs his club, but going back to the Barry Bonds years, it was always build around the stars; ignore the draft and minor league system; and try to win with veterans to augment Bonds.

In short, Build Around Barry.

The concept that Sabean is “stupid” because he’s old-school and follows a blueprint that doesn’t emanate from new age statistics is easier to process than trying to understand what he’s doing, but if you look at it, it makes sense.

Bonds was the most dangerous hitter in baseball and the Giants were contenders as long as he was around; it made perfect sense to run the team the way they did during that time. When Bonds was gone, the Giants rebuilt through the draft with pitching and they finally broke through and won the World Series that eluded them with Bonds. Sabean isn’t going to tear the thing down by trading Lincecum for a package of youngsters because that’s not what he does. He’ll ride it as long as he can and move on.

Simply because there’s a media-created “genius” across the Bay who always has a reason (excuse) for doing the things he does isn’t a determinative factor in which GM is better. If you go by the flexibility in knowing what he has and what to do with it, Sabean is a successful GM also functioning under a budget, but without the lusty propaganda.

As long as the Giants have two star pitchers, Matt Cain and Lincecum; an All-Star talent, Madison Bumgarner; and a top-tier closer, Brian Wilson, they’re going to be competitive if they hit at all. Whereas they were built around Bonds 10 years ago, now they’re Timmy’s Team.

The linked column doesn’t stop with simple practical idiocy; it delves into unprofessional randomness by ignorantly calling Lincecum’s motion “herky jerky”.

Doug Fister is herky jerky; Lincecum is a Tom Seaver-like study in using one’s whole body to generate power.

Then it says: “You give an eight-year contract to a fully built workhorse, not a small-framed pothead.”

You can question his size—I’ve done it myself—but to call him a “pothead” considering what some other pitchers have indulged in (Dock Ellis pitched a no-hitter on LSD) is a cheap shot to “prove” a non-existent theory and add a tier to the reasons to trade him.

These “rumors” of a Lincecum trade are crafted by those who attempt to see into the “future” with their mystical powers of prescience and are providing generalities that can be adjusted after the fact to make it appear as if they were “right”.

On a quiet day on the baseball front, it’s a non-story to accumulate webhits and pageviews—something that Lincecum’s name is always good for.

Honest speculation of a possibility is one thing; a flashy headline designed to fool the reader isn’t.

It’s the perfect storm—at least until you read the content and realize you’ve been played. Poorly.

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