Baggs' NL MVP Award ballot

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Baggs' NL MVP Award ballot

SAN FRANCISCO Buster Posey had the stats, he had the narrative and he led his team to a division title. He was the NL batting champion and the Giants defensive captain on the field.It added up to an Ivy League-quality application for the Most Valuable Player Award, and it didnt hurt that Posey aced the character test, too. So it wasnt a surprise to anyone when he was named a runaway winner of the award on Thursday.NEWS: Buster Posey honored with NL MVP Award
I was among the 32 members of the BBWAA who held an MVP vote this season. Here is the ballot I turned in on Oct. 4, along with comments on each selection:1. Buster PoseyThe Giants only got better in August after Melky Cabrera went down, and while Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro deserve their share of credit for that, Posey was the one who led the uphill charge. The previous August, the defending champs crashed and burned. The obvious difference: That team didnt have Posey, who was unable to walk for four months because of that horrific collision at the plate. The Giants had him in 2012, and in every respect, he was their most valuable difference maker. Others had more impressive counting stats, but no player meant more to his team than Posey meant to the Giants.RATTO: Posey takes fun out of NL MVP race
2. Ryan BraunTake away the names on the stat sheet and Braun probably wins the award. The Brewers left fielder led the NL with 41 homers, 108 runs scored and a .987 OPS, while finishing second in RBIs and third in OBP behind Posey and Andrew McCutchen. And Braun compiled those numbers without Prince Fielder hitting alongside him in Milwaukees lineup. The only reason anyone would vote Braun lower than No.2 or No.3 on their ballot is to penalize him for last years positive testosterone test, which was thrown out on a technicality. Even if Braun knowingly cheated, Im not a moralist when it comes to voting for postseason awards. That happened in 2011, and Im voting on the 2012 season. So theres no need to do anything punitive like leave Braun off my ballot, or rank him below others who had inferior seasons.3. Andrew McCutchenOne of these days, the Pirates will see a season through all 162 games. Like his team, McCutchen tailed off badly in the second half and thats not how you win an MVP award. But while it might be a tiebreaker for me when a player has a strong finishing kick, I tend to look more at the entirety of the season. And for the first four months, nobody was more valuable than McCutchen. Almost any way you parse the numbers, Posey, Braun and McCutchen were the three best players in the league. I do think the advanced metrics overrate him a bit in center field, though.4. Yadier MolinaThe Cardinals lost Albert Pujols to free agency and Lance Berkman to the knee gremlin, but they still found a way to play baseball deep into October. Thats more a reflection on Molina than anyone else. Even though he struggled to hit in the postseason, he had his best offensive season when the Cardinals needed it most. Behind the plate, he has no peer and that includes Posey. Molina shuts down an opponents running game, he buys strikes for his pitchers with the way his magic glove almost seems to never leave the zone and hes valuable in the best sense of the word: He makes everyone around him better. I was tempted to rank him higher, and perhaps I should have.GALLERY: Posey joins rare company5. Craig Kimbrel
6. Aroldis Chapman
Im going to get some disagreement here, and that's perfectly OK. I believe the MVP is meant for everyday players, and yes, I see closers as everyday players. Even if Kimbrel or Chapman pitches three innings a week, theyre a threat every day they arrive at the ballpark. They govern an opposing managers decisions, they get in the head of hitters and they effectively shorten the game. I wont even spout off all the statistics. You can find them, and theyre devastating. Kimbrel and Chapman had two of the most dominant, strikeout-filled seasons by a closer in major league history, and that makes them among the most valuable players in the NL.7. Chase HeadleyNo, Headley doesnt make my ballot because he led the NL with 115 RBIs. We all realize, or should, that RBIs are heavily context-dependent. (That doesnt make them meaningless, though.) Headley appears here because he was a breakout star who finished top-10 in OPS despite playing in a non-threatening lineup in the worst hitters park in the league. So yes, context matters. Headley had a truly outstanding season, hes a good defensive third baseman, and every time I watched him, he did something to help the Padres win. He could even steal his way into scoring position. The Pads knew what they were doing when they resisted trade overtures for him.8. Ian DesmondThe bottom of the ballot is always hard. Seems like every year, youre trying to cram 10 worthy players into the last two or three spots. You also face the best team dilemma every once in awhile, and that definitely came into play in 2012. The Washington Nationals had the best record in the league, but they had no clear-cut top-5 MVP candidate. I really felt their best player was Ryan Zimmerman, but Adam LaRoche had more impressive statistics. I was trying to decide which of the two to put on my ballot. So I was surprised when I asked my Nationals beat colleagues for their thoughts and they said Desmond was their most worthy candidate. The anecdotal evidence agreed with them; Desmond was a wrecking crew when I saw him play against the Giants. Even though he ended up missing some time with injury, his defense at shortstop was impressive to those who saw him play every day. So his positional value earned him the nod on my ballot. The difference between Desmond, Zimmerman and LaRoche was not huge, though.9. David WrightHe didnt play for a contender, but theres no way I could leave Wright off my ballot entirely. His overall numbers were too good to ignore. Whens the last time you could call a New York ballplayer underrated?10. Angel PaganI usually allow myself some leeway for a prerogative vote with the 10th spot on the ballot. Ive used it in the past to vote for setup men, who are becoming more valuable every year but dont have an award of their own. I voted for Scott Eyre and Jeremy Affeldt in the past, and I nearly voted for Jonny Venters last year. I really wanted to throw Sergio Romo a vote this time around. Obviously, there was no way for me to know that hed throw the last pitch of the season a ballsy, 89 mph fastball down the middle that froze Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera to clinch the World Series. But when I filled out my ballot, there were too many solid position players to justify a prerogative vote. I left off Aramis Ramirez, who hit 50 doubles, and Aaron Hill, who pretty much had Chase Headleys season except in a more lively home ballpark. Matt Holliday was the other near-miss for me. Instead, I decided to vote for Pagan, who was emblematic of the improvement in a Giants offense that went from 570 runs in 2011, the fewest by an NL team in 19 years, to a better-than-average total of 718. The Giants hit the fewest homers in the majors, but had the most triples and Pagan hit 14 of them to lead MLB while breaking the San Francisco-era franchise record held by Willie Mays and Steve Finley. He did what so many mid-career newcomers at AT&T Park could not: He didnt curse the ballpark but instead made it work for him and used it to his advantage. Pagan took off after he was moved back to the leadoff spot on Aug. 3, and his constant presence on base is what allowed Marco Scutaro to put his considerable skills to work in the No. 2 spot. Pagan ended up being a defensive asset in center field, too, even if his routes didnt always inspire confidence. It turns out Carlos Beltran was right when he told me down the stretch in 2011 that the Giants needed a leadoff hitter above all. Pagan was that man. His overall numbers might grade lower than some of those omitted from my ballot, but I think Pagan was one of the leagues biggest difference makers and Im happy to recognize him with a 10th-place vote.

'The Kid' Arroyo continues wildly impressive first week with Giants

'The Kid' Arroyo continues wildly impressive first week with Giants

SAN FRANCISCO — In a quiet moment in the dugout Friday, manager Bruce Bochy tried to figure out a nickname for his new budding star. During a week where Christian Arroyo has made the game look so easy, this has turned out to be the most difficult part. 

Bochy briefly settled on “Yo” before that was scuttled because the team’s video coordinator is Yo Miyamoto. Joe Panik said some players have tried C.A. or YoYo, but admitted that neither is all that good. The team’s Twitter account spent a few days trying to make Boss Baby a thing, but Arroyo wasn’t thrilled with that one and the experiment appears to be over. In a back room of the clubhouse, there’s a printout showing Arroyo and Buzz from “Home Alone,” but that comparison is much better made with Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman. 

Perhaps the answer is as simple as the path Arroyo’s bat takes to a fastball. As he watched Arroyo field grounders during batting practice, Dick Tidrow was asked about the 21-year-old. Tidrow, the team’s senior VP of player personnel, has seen and worked with Arroyo since he was drafted. 

“We always just called him The Kid,” Tidrow said. “He would turn around when I called him Kid.”

The Kid is growing up quickly. Arroyo’s second homer of the week was the game-winner Friday, an eighth-inning blast that put a lead in Mark Melancon’s hands. The new closer made sure the new third baseman’s homer didn’t go to waste, clinching a 4-3 win that got the Giants out of the National League West’s cellar. 

The homer might have surprised Arroyo as much as anyone. He came here with a reputation as a mature and talented hitter, but power is not his calling card. 

“I’m not trying to hit a homer there,” he said. “Get the head out, see a pitch over the plate, barrel something, just keep the line moving. I got a good pitch, elevated it, and fortunately it went out.”

Arroyo already speaks like a hitting coach, but he is not afraid to admit that there are things he doesn’t know. It’s easy to get film on opposing starters, but there’s little a rookie can do to prepare for late-inning pitching changes. Arroyo consulted Buster Posey and Conor Gillaspie before facing Ryan Buchter, who has been in the division for two years. Gillaspie told him Buchter’s fastball has some late life and gets on a hitter. 

“I wanted to see it and the first pitch was a little low so I got a good read on them,” Arroyo said. 

The second one was right at the belt and Arroyo pulled it down the line for his second big league homer. He had just three last year in Double-A, but the Giants felt the 36 doubles showed that power was on the way. 

“He’s got pop,” Bochy said. “He’s not a guy trying to hit homers. He tries to put a good swing on it. But he drives balls and you saw it tonight. We see him more as a gap guy, but he’ll get more power as he gets older. We’re not asking him to hit homers, trust me, but it’s good to see him letting it go.”

The homer secured a win on a night when a lot went right. Jeff Samardzija was sharp, paying for one pitch to Ryan Schimpf that left the park but otherwise pitching seven strong. Panik and Brandon Belt ignited the offense early and Michael Morse came through with a game-tying sacrifice fly in the fifth. Derek Law and Mark Melancon closed it out, with Melancon getting help from Panik, who made a spectacular tumbling catch on a flare to shallow right-center. It was a big first out given that Melancon was pitching for the third straight day. 

“It was going to be in no man’s land,” Panik said. “You give it everything you’ve got. Fortunately the ball stayed in the glove.”

When it was over, the youngest Giant was in for another round of interviews to cap a hectic week. On Monday he made his debut and on Tuesday he picked up his first hit. Wednesday brought the first homer and Thursday was the first multi-hit game. What will the weekend include? Maybe a real nickname? 

For now, the Giants are fine with leaning on The Kid, because many of them didn’t even know how young the star of the week was until he was a couple of days into his big league career.

“I was thinking he was 23 or 24,” Samardzija said. “This has been really impressive.”

Instant Replay: Arroyo's late-game heroics lifts Giants past Padres

Instant Replay: Arroyo's late-game heroics lifts Giants past Padres

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — On Monday, Christian Arroyo made his MLB debut. Tuesday brought his first hit and on Wednesday it was the first homer. Thursday’s game was his first multi-hit game as a big leaguer. What was in store Friday? The best swing yet.

Arroyo hit a go-ahead shot to left while leading off the eighth, giving the Giants a 4-3 win in their series opener with the Padres. The player coaches simply call “The Kid” has two homers in his first five games, and both have come in huge spots. Friday’s sent another jolt through AT&T Park and got a lead to Mark Melancon, who closed out the Padres. 

For four innings, a long-haired right-hander was no-hitting the Padres. Jeff Samardzija was sharp early and he got a nice cushion in the first. Joe Panik and Brandon Belt led off with singles and Panik scored on Erick Aybar’s two-out error. A Conor Gillaspie knock made it 2-0. 

The first hit allowed by Samardzija was a painful one. He plunked Yangervis Solarte to open the fifth and Ryan Schimpf hit a long dinger to dead center to tie the game. Cory Spangenberg followed with a single to left that skipped under Belt’s glove. Spangenberg went to third on the play and scored on a bloop. 

Belt made up for the play in the bottom of the inning, beating the outfield shift with a double and scoring on Mike Morse’s sacrifice fly to right two batters later. Samardzija ran into trouble in the seventh, but with two in scoring position and one out, he got a strikeout and a grounder to third. The Giants put the go-ahead run on second in their half, but Hunter Pence and Morse struck out. 

Starting pitching report: Samardzija has allowed six homers. He’s tied for fourth in the NL with a handful of players, including Johnny Cueto and Matt Moore. 

Bullpen report: Melancon has five straight saves since blowing his first opportunity as a Giant. 

At the plate: Belt reached base four times. His on-base percentage is sitting at a cool .390. 

In the field: Panik made a brilliant diving catch in center for the first out of the ninth. 

Attendance: The Giants announced a sellout crowd. One of the fans looked just like Samardzija, possibly on purpose. 

Up next: Matt Cain has a 2.42 ERA but he left his last start with a tight hamstring. He’ll face Jhoulys Chacin (2-3, 5.90).