In participation with a United Cardinal Bloggers project, my ballot for the 2013 Cardinal Blogger Awards:
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Among Molina’s many achievements in 2013:
_ Won his sixth consecutive National League Gold Glove Award.
_ Received the most votes (6.8 million) of any National League player selected to the All-Star Game team.
_ Established the Cardinals record for doubles by a primary catcher in a season, with 44. Molina topped the mark of 40 set by Ted Simmons in 1978.
_ Led the Cardinals in batting for the third consecutive season at .319.
_ Batted .373 (47-for-126) with runners in scoring position, ranking sixth in the National League.
_ Established his season-high career marks in runs (68), hits (161), doubles (44), RBI (80), batting average (.319) and extra-base hits (56).
_ Led all National League catchers in games (131), innings caught (1,115.1), total chances (1,043) and put outs (976).
PITCHER OF THE YEAR
_ Edward Mujica. The Cardinals were desperate for a closer after Jason Motte was injured and Mitchell Boggs flopped.
Mujica, who had just four saves in seven years in the big leagues, rescued the Cardinals season by earning 37 saves in 41 opportunities and posting a 2-1 record and 2.78 ERA. He converted his first 21 save chances in a row, stabilizing the bullpen and bolstering the Cardinals’ confidence.
Though he wore down in the season’s final month and was replaced by Trevor Rosenthal, Mujica was the pitcher who most enabled the Cardinals to win the division title for the first time since 2009.
GAME OF THE YEAR
_ Cardinals 8, Reds 6, Aug. 26, 2013, at St. Louis: The atmosphere was tense as the Cardinals opened a critical series with the Reds. The Cardinals and Pirates entered the day tied for first in the National League Central Division. The Reds were 2.5 games behind and sensed this series was their chance to overtake the Cardinals.
The tension mounted when the Reds led, 4-0, after two innings. They still were ahead, 5-3, entering the bottom of the seventh. The Cardinals scored, getting within a run at 5-4, and had the bases loaded with two outs. It seemed the momentum for the remainder of the season would swing to who won the matchup between Cardinals batter Allen Craig and reliever J.J. Hoover.
When Craig smashed a grand slam, giving the Cardinals an 8-5 lead, it seemed he lifted all of the pressure off his team’s shoulders and plopped it directly onto the backs of the Reds. Dusty Baker, the Reds’ manager, called Craig’s grand slam “devastating.”
SURPRISE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
_ Matt Carpenter. He went from being a question mark as a second baseman in spring training to an all-star selection who entered the record books amid Cardinals legends such as Stan Musial.
In 2013, Carpenter, providing an unexpected spark as a leadoff batter, led the major leagues in runs (126), hits (199) and doubles (55).
He also ranked among National League leaders in batting average (.318, 5th), total bases (301, 3rd) and extra-base hits (73, 3rd).
His 55 doubles broke the Cardinals franchise record for a left‐handed batter previously held by Musial with 53 in 1953.
DISAPPOINTING PLAYER OF THE YEAR
_ Mitchell Boggs. After posting a 4-1 record and 2.21 ERA in 78 games as a setup reliever in 2012, Boggs had a meltdown when asked to step in as the St. Louis closer in 2013. No one predicted this kind of collapse: 0-3 record, 11.05 ERA and five blown save chances in 18 games in 2013. His value diminished, the Cardinals gave away Boggs to the Rockies.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
_ Shelby Miller. In a season of several outstanding rookie performances, Miller delivered the best from start to end of the regular season, posting a 15-9 record and 3.06 ERA in 31 starts. He struck out 169 in 173.1 innings. No other big-league rookie in 2013 had more wins than Miller.
Miller also is the first St. Louis rookie pitcher since Rick Ankiel in 2000 to start 30 games. His 15 wins are the most by a Cardinals rookie since Dick Hughes had 16 in 1967.
Ankiel (194) and Dizzy Dean (191) are the only Cardinals rookies with more strikeouts than Miller.
ACQUISITION OF THE YEAR
_ Randy Choate. At 38, the left-handed reliever, acquired as a free agent, did his job well. He appeared in 64 games and didn’t allow a home run. He was 2-1 with a 2.29 ERA. Left-handed batters hit .176 (15-for-85) against him.
MOST ANTICIPATED CARDINAL
_ Oscar Taveras. Though his 2013 season was shortened because of an ankle injury, Taveras, 21, still rates as an exciting prospect who should play for the Cardinals in 2014. He batted .306 with 53 hits in 46 games for Class AAA Memphis in 2013.
BEST INDIVIDUAL CARDINAL BLOG
_ Fungoes. Consistently rates high marks for originality and thought-provoking information.
BEST TEAM CARDINAL BLOG
_ Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Always lively, fun, fresh.
BEST MEDIA CARDINAL BLOG
_ Bird Land. Good information with strong respect for franchise history.
BEST ROOKIE CARDINAL BLOG
_ Stl cup of joe. Blog is informative and easy to navigate.
POST OF THE YEAR
_ Memories Help Come to Terms at Aaron Miles’ Fastball: Nice writing. Smart stuff.
BEST UCB PROJECT
_ Top 7 prospects: Fun to research.
BEST UCB PODCAST
_ Conversations with C70. Consistently interesting.
BEST UCB TWITTERER
_ Bob Netherton and Dennis Lawson (tie). Big hearts. Funny. Compelling. Highly original.