Rookie of the Year Awards upon us

I’ve given up the New Jersey minor league blog I’ve been attempting to write for NJ.com, so hopefully I’ll have more energy and inspiration to write here.

We shall see.

But the postseason awards are upon us — the Rookies of the Year will be announced tomorrow. To me, one seems obvious, the other an interesting situation.

First, the obvious…

American League Rookie of the Year

At different points this season, there were what seemed to be clear frontrunners. First there was Jonathan Papelbon, who shot out of the gate with a nearly perfect April and cruised for a few months from there. But he tired, then got hurt and didn’t finish September. He barely finished August, and his fall coincided with Boston’s.

Then came Francisco Liriano, who was moved from the Twins’ bullpen to the rotation and couldn’t seem to lose. Overlapping his emergence was another that was just as expected: that of Jered Weaver, who tied an AL record by winning his first nine decisions (or starts; I’m not positive which). Liriano, though, developed an elbow problem, had to take himself out of a September start, and underwent Tommy John surgery last week and won’t be seen on a mound again until spring training in 2008. Weaver pitched well enough, but struggled a little in his final starts, though that wouldn’t have been enough to take the award away from him on its own.

But what earns Detroit’s Justin Verlander the recognition is his steadiness and consistency throughout the season. The hard-throwing right-hander was pretty consistent each month, winning at least two games per month and losing more than two in a month only once. The only month in which he didn’t make at least five starts was July, when he was given two weeks off around the All-Star break to save his arm for the stretch run — which proved to be a very wise move.

This should be a pretty easy win for Verlander, with Liriano, Papelbon and Weaver following him in that order.

National League Rookie of the Year

Does the quietly solid and only sometimes spectacular player win it, or does the out-of-nowhere guy who made a big splash get it? Or does the latter player’s team hurt his chances?

Second guy first. Of all the rookies on the Marlins — I believe they used 33 this year, 28 of whom were regular contributors — Dan Uggla was the most spectacular and the most consistent. He also got all the pub, becoming the first Rule 5 draft pick to make an All-Star team in his rookie season. Uggla seemed to be the Marlins rookie who caught on the quickest, while the other solid hitter with a case — Hanley Ramirez — started slowly, then came on strong over the balance of the season. But will Uggla, Ramirez and pitchers such as Josh Johnson draw vote from one another? That’s a very strong possibility.

So I think Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman will take it. Z was the only rookie this season to drive in more than 100 runs, and he made highlight reels with more than a few game-winning walk-off hits, including a walk-off two-run homer to beat the Yankees in June. I think Zimmerman edges out Uggla for this one.

I’ll get to the other races as the week goes on.

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