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The AL Comeback Award goes to ...
September 28, 2012 - Andy Heintz
With the Major League Baseball season nearing a regular season end, I thought about putting together some of my regular season honors in a series of blogs for the rest of the baseball season.
This list will include MVP, Cy Young, Manager of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year.
To kick it off, I announce the winner of the American League Comeback Player of the Year Award.
The comeback of the year award can go to someone who is back this season after missing last year with an injury. It can go to someone who stunk last year but bounced back in a big way this year. It can also go to someone who has been in the league for a while but never done much to be regarded as one of the best in his positions but broke out this year.
For me, I have narrowed it down to three candidates. I am going to start with my No. 3 selection and work my way down to the winner.
3. Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay Rays, Closer
In 2011, Rodney was not even a closer and compiled just three saves and 10 holds. He actually had more blown saves than saves and his earned run average was at 4.50. He allowed 16 earned runs, had more walks than strikeouts and would never have been regarded as one of the game's best closers. This season, he is just that -- one of the league's top closers. With less than a week to go in the regular season, Rodney is second in the American League with 46 saves and has just two blown saves. And he no longer walks more guys than he strikes out. He has 69 Ks this year to only 14 walks and has allowed just five earned runs. His earned run average is nearly four full run lower than in 2011 at 0.64. Rodney won't get many votes for the American League Cy Young Award but he has been one of the pitchers in the game in 2012.
2. Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays, Third Base
There is not much difference in Encarnacion and my winner but the deciding factor was the winner was much worse the year before. Encarnacion was left for dead in Cincinnati. He never lived up to the expectations of the Reds' fans or front office, so he was shipped to Toronto. Nobody in Cincinnati was complaining last year when he hit a modest 17 home runs and knocked in 55 runs. His OPS was only 0.787, he only walked 43 times and reached homeplate 70 times. Reds' fans may be barking a bit now after a breakout campaign in 2012. Encarnacion is among the league leaders in home runs with 42, RBIs with 110 and OPS at 0.953. He also has scored 21 more runs and nearly doubled his number of walks in 2012. The only major number that went down was doubles but the -13 in that category is more than made up for by his +25 in home runs.
Winner -- Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox, Outfielder
When Adam Dunn came to Chicago, White Sox were thrilled. They knew they had a guy who struck out a lot and played suspect defense, but they also thought they had a guy who could change the game with one swing of the bat and do it at a moments notice. Enter 2011 where Dunn hit just 11 homers, had just 42 RBIs and scored just 36 runs. With just 66 hits and not very much power, Dunn's slugging percentage was just 0.277 and his OPS was a pathetic 0.569. White Sox fans may not have been sure what they would get this year, but not many would have expected what they got from the man also known as Donkey. Another former Red, Dunn has not disappointed in 2012. He also is among the league leaders in home runs with 41 and he also has knocked in 94 runs. His run total jumped by 50, his hits jumped by more than 40 and his slugging improved to 0.481. The 2012 OPS is not one of the best in the league but much better than 2011 at 0.818. With Dunn, you are always going to get high strikeouts. He did have a league-high 212 of those and is just hitting 0.208. But Chicago did not acquire him to be the best hitter for average in the league.
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