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The NL Comeback Award goes to ...
October 4, 2012 - Andy Heintz
With just one of my awards in the book, I may have to put these series into top speed in the next few weeks. The awards are meant to be regular season so I will try my best to avoid how certain players fare in the postseason.
The American League Comeback Player of the Year went to Adam Dunn of the Chicago White Sox. Unfortunately, the National League version of that award is more challenging and may even offer more an argument and a better debate.
I am going to eliminate R.A. Dickey, Buster Posey and Kris Medlen from the discussion right now because Posey and Dickey will re-surface for another award down the line. Medlen has been great and if he pitched the whole year, he would have won this award. But 12 starts is not enough and he didn't impact the team as much in the pen as he would have as a closer or a starter. Both players are worthy of this award, but the three in the running for my award are everyday players who had drastically improved seasons compared to a season ago.
3. Alfonso Soriano, Chicago Cubs
He may have won the award if the Cubs were better or hadn't loss 100 games. He had 19 more runs, 30 more hits, 20 more RBIs and hit 20 points better in batting average this season than he did in 2011. Last year, Cub fans wanted him to be traded. This year, some still may want him traded but it is no longer because of production. It is a money issue at this point. You can't ask for much better than an OF who hits .286 with 32 home runs, 108 RBIs and has 147 hits.
2. Chase Headley, San Diego Padres
I remember Chase Headley's name floating around as a potential sleeper in fantasy drafts coming into the 2011 season. It only took a few games that year to see that that was not going to be the case. In 2011, Headley hit just four home runs and drove in 44 in 113 games. He also scored just 43 times. This past season, the numbers weren't even close and it was a good thing. He missed just one game in 2012 and hit 31 home runs and had 115 RBIs, which are remarkable improvements from the previous season. The runs also went up from 43 to 95 and he had 72 more hits. The batting average was right at an all-star kind of level at .286.
1. Adam LaRoche, Washington Nationals
While I think major league umpire Tim McClelland is off when say LaRoche is the 2012 NL MVP, I do think his season needs to be recognized. The Nationals have many good stories this year and in some way all those stories played a role in the team grabbing the best record in the majors. LaRoche made incredible improvements from one year to the next and is my winner for NL Comeback Player of the Year. He played in 43 games in 2011. That number grew to 154 this season. The 15 runs he scored in 2011 went up to 76 in 2012. His hit number went from 26 in '11 to 151 in '12. And his power numbers grew as well, finishing with 33 home runs, 35 doubles and 100 RBIs. In 2011, those numbers were three, four and 15, respectively. LaRoche's batting average also grew from .172 in 2011 to .270 in 2012. There is no question he was improved and because he helped his team secure, homefield throughout the playoffs, I feel like he was the most improved.
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