Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Mariners Early Season Awards

by Jackson Safon

Forty-five games into the Mariners season and they are 20-25. After playing really well for a stretch and even getting within one game of .500, they got swept by the Indians and have now moved back well below .500. We are just over a fourth of the way through the season, which means of course that it is time for some awards. Who doesn't like awards? Also because I need something to cheer me up considering the Mariners just got swept by the Indians and are, as I’m typing, losing to the 17-27 Angels. I am going to give the standard awards and some creative ones as well.

Offensive MVP: Kyle Seager
-No surprise here as Seager probably would have won this award last year as well, but this choice wasn't as obvious as it would seem. Kendrys Morales is nipping at his heels in virtually all categories. Of players who get regular playing time, Seager leads the team in batting average, hits, runs, and RBI, which would make it obvious that he would win the award. But as I said, Morales is not far behind, as he is only three hits, one homerun, and one RBI behind Seager. Whatever the case may be, Seager has followed up his stellar season last year with a strong start to the season so far and is the offensive MVP through 45 games.

Kyle Seager has proven to be the Mariner's best option on offense this year.
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Cy Young: Felix Hernandez
-This was a VERY tough choice because Hisashi Iwakuma is having such a stellar season, and Tom Wilhelmsen has been virtually flawless as well, but as is the norm, Felix takes home the top pitching honors. One of the main reasons I gave him the nod over the other two guys is the fact that he might very well be the Cy Young of the American League, never mind the Seattle Mariners. He has been absolutely stellar this season, posting a 2.07 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and posting a great 6-1 strikeout to walk ratio. At this rate, Felix will not hit the 20 win mark I predicted for him before the season, but his pitching gives the team a great chance to win almost every time he goes out there and he gets my early season Cy Young.

Newcomer of the Year: Kendrys Morales
-A number of guys were up for this award and a number of guys could arguably have won it, but Kendrys is having the best overall season so far. He is second on the team in runs, RBI, and average among regular players. I just love the guy and think he has made a major impact in the middle of the lineup, even though the team’s offense hasn't been quite as good as everyone had anticipated. Honorable mention for this award goes to Michael Morse who leads the team in home runs, and Raul Ibanez, who isn't totally new to the team, but has been absolutely on fire recently and has 8 homers and 20 RBI in only 27 games.

(This is where it gets fun)

The David-Freese “Where has this been” Award: Justin Smoak
-This award is named so because of David Freese’s breakout performance for the Cardinals in the playoffs two years ago. He was always a good player, but one that people around the league thought could be so much better. He finally showed this and broke out in the playoffs that year. However, I hesitate to call this award the most improved award because it is specifically given to someone who we all expected to be good, but hasn't been up until this point. This is why this award is perfect for Justin Smoak. Everyone assumes he is having a terrible season because he has had a terrible career as a Mariner, but recently he has been playing terrific baseball. In fact, as Greg Johns of MLB.com notes, over the past 30 days Smoak is second among American League first basemen in on-base percentage (.422), fourth in batting average (.297), sixth in OPS (.922), and eighth in slugging percentage (.500). This is exactly the type of hitting we expected from Smoak when he came over from the Rangers, and if he can keep it up, he will be a force to be reckoned with. This improved hitting, plus his always stellar defense, makes him perfect for the David Freese (who also plays very good defense) award. The Smoakamotive has risen.

Justin Smoak has caught fire recently.
Steven Bisig - US PRESSWIRE

The Franklin Gutierrez “Needs to Stay Healthy” Award: Franklin Gutierrez*
-I’m just kidding. That wouldn't be fair to give the award to its namesake in the first year of its existence, but in all seriousness he does deserve it. To be fair to the rest of the team and to give it to the person that I really think means more to the team, this award goes to Michael Saunders. When Saunders is in the game the Mariners are just a different team, both on offense and defense. He obviously plays great defense, but his presence at the top of lineup absolutely makes a difference. Without him, there is so much less potency in the lineup and it just has a different feel with Endy Chavez leading off games. I really think Michael Saunders makes a huge difference to this team on both offense and defense, which is why he gets the Franklin Gutierrez Award.

The Omar Vizquel “Please God Let Me Hit the Ball Better” Award: Brendan Ryan
-This award really can only go to Ryan, because of the caveat that the award winner must play good defense, as Omar Vizquel did. Brendan Ryan is the modern day version of Omar Vizquel, who for those of you don’t know won nine gold gloves, but could never really hit the ball at a great level. I also happen to know Omar personally and used to be friends with his son, but I digress. The point is Brendan Ryan is the epitome of this award because his .178 batting average really doesn't cut it, but the fact that his defense is just so good almost makes up for it.

It’s time for my last early season award. I hope you guys have liked them.

The Hasheem Thabeet “Doesn’t Really Belong” Award: Jesus Montero
-Hasheem Thabeet is one of the more interesting players in the NBA in my opinion because he was drafted so highly at the second overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, was immediately sent to the D-League, but now has made it back up to the bigs. He has shown flashes of serious talent, but has never put it together for long enough to maintain relevance and every time I watch him play all I think is, “He really doesn't belong”. This is why the award goes to Jesus Montero. Occasionally, he will show what he’s got and blast a long home run, but his .208 average and lack of consistency really isn't cutting it. I personally think he should be sent down to triple-A where he can develop into a real player. I think he has shown enough potential to not quit on the project forever, but I don’t think he belongs in the MLB right now. 

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