by Howard Bender
As the end of the season draws near it becomes a much more difficult task to offer up fantasy advice to those of you left reading. Those that still search the internet looking for fresh fantasy columns at this time of year are usually the ones that are at the top of their standings and just like to peruse what's out there to see if there is even the smallest stone left unturned. More often than not, there isn't. You've done your due dilligence, you've scoured the waiver wire, and there isn't a name out there that you haven't already considered. For that, I applaud you. It's a job well done, and as a fantasy sports writer, I appreciate your patronage. It's a long season and your level of committment should receive major accolades, even if people out there like your wife or girlfriend don't understand the obsession.
So with that, we're going to step out of the fantasy box and look at Major League Baseball as strictly a fan of the game rather than a fantasy hound. We'll be covering the fantasy all stars once the season comes to a close, but for today, we're going to do a little award presenting in the traditional style. I know there's a little more than 3 weeks left of games, but for right now, I'm going to throw out my choices for MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year. These guys have fought long and hard this season and have produced some solid totals this year. I don't know if MLB will agree with me on all counts, but I think I'm pretty on the ball here.
AL -- Mark Teixeira 1B NYY
Sometimes it can be difficult to give someone the nod here when they play alongside a guy as valuable as Derek Jeter, but Texeira has more than earned it from me here with both his offensive output as well as his defensive prowess. A notorious slow starter, Tex finished the first month of the season with a .200 average, 3 HR and 10 RBI and then officially began his onslaught on American League pitching. His .330-13-34 May ignited the team and has been the offensive hero on more than just a few occasions. His presence in that lineup changes everything that the Yankees have been lacking in the last few years. His bat is feared around the league. As for his defensive play, how about a .997 fielding percentage and only 3 errors? I know the Yankees are stacked, but I just don't think they'd be as fierce as they are today without Teixeira in there every day.
NL -- Albert Pujols, 1B STL
Probably the easiest to call here. There's no question about it. In the wake of Ryan Ludwick's return to earth and a rash of injuries to anyone else considered a "hitter" in the Cards lineup, Pujols has, once again, carried his team to a divisional title and the playoffs. I mean really...what more can I say about him? A batting line of .331-47-124? 14 stolen bases? The Cards have an 84-57 record and an 11 1/2 game lead in the division and if wasn't for Pujols, they wouldn't be anywhere close to that. Sure they've had strong years from Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, but neither of them touch the prowess of Prince Albert.
AL -- Zack Greinke, SP KC
This was actually a lot tougher to pick than you think, but Greinke's numbers across the board are strong enough for me to give him the nod over the likes of Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, and yes, even dark horse candidate Scott Feldman. While Greinke's 13-8 record is more indicative of the Royals as a whole, his 210 Ks in 198 1/3 innings along with a league leading 2.22 ERA and a rock solid 1.08 WHIP make him the strongest candidate in my eyes. Verlander's K's and wins are better, but so is the entire Tigers team supporting him. King Felix has been fantastic this season, but his ratios fall second to Greinke's, and Feldman, while a clever choice for some, just doesn't have the total pitching line regardless of the park he calls home. This one could go differently come season's end, but for now I'm sticking with my choice.
NL -- Chris Carpenter, SP STL
Folks out in the Bay Area might string me up for bypassing Tim Lincecum and a Cards fan or two might send me some hate mail for overlooking 18 game winner Adam Wainwright, but the year Carpenter is having is not just Cy Young worthy, but magical as well. Who would have thought that after pitching only 21 innings in the last 2 years that Carpenter would be leading all NL starters in ERA (2.16) and WHIP (0.97) along with a 16-3 record and 20 quality starts in 24 games started? I know Wainwright has more wins and Lincecum's strikeouts are huge, but barring some sort of late season collapse, he's well on his way to granbbing this trophy.
Rookie of the Year
AL -- Gordon Beckham, SS CHW
If you take a look at the numbers for Beckham (.274-45-10-52-6) and put them next to those of Orioles outfielder Nolan Reimold (.274-46-14-43-8), it'd be pretty hard to differentiate between the two for the ROY honors. Both have been playing exceptionally well and both really deserve to share this award. Maybe MLB will allow a tie, but I can't and for that I have to choose Beckham. First off, he was called up later in the season so he's done it all in 41 less at bats. Secondly, Beckham's play at third must be taken into effect. He's got a .949 fieldign percentage and sits just below the league average with 12 errors. But also note that third is not his natural position. He's a born shortstop and has had to make adjustments along the way. Throw in the pressures of playing for a guy like Ozzie Guillen and I think the kid has more than held his own. He's a little banged up right now, so Reimold can definitely power up and take over, but for now, the award belongs to Beckham.
NL -- Chris Coghlan, OF FLA
This was another tough one as Phillies starter J.A. Happ is a serious contender here. But since Happ only throws every 5 games and even has a splash of big league experience, I'm giving the nod to Coghlan who was brought up for the first time in mid-May and played his way into the lineup with some seriously gritty efforts. A natural infielder, Coghlan was brought up to fill a gap in left field and after a slow start, really took off. He's currently hitting .307 with 9 HR and 40 RBI and has helped the Marlins tremendously. With moving Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla down in the order for better RBI opportunities, Coghlan was eventually moved up to fill the void in the 2 hole and he's delivered every step of the way. Sure he had a bit of a swoon in July, but a .385 August and a current .400 average in September pushes Coghlan over the edge for Rookie of the Year honors.
So there they are -- my award picks for 2009. I, of course, reserve the right to change my mind over the next 3 weeks of baseball, but I have a strong feeling that this is where my head will be at come the last day of the year. What do you think? I'm always up for some feedback, so if you've got a better candidate, I'd love to hear your reasons why.
Still looking for that late September sleeper? Can't decide which pitchers to start each week? Then come check out what's going on over at RotoBuzz.com. We're still very much into the fantasy baseball season and would love to help you into that championship seat too. Good luck and I'll see you all in the money this year!
Howard Bender is a freelance fantasy sports writer and champion in both rotisserie and head to head leagues. For questions, thoughts or comments, you can email him at Howard.Rotobuzz@yahoo.com.