April 23, 2012
Every year when Major League Baseball gives out its postseason awards, there's always some debate, some years more than others.
The main point of contention is whether each league's Most Valuable Player, Cy Young Award, Manager of the Year, Rookie of the Year, etc., should be awarded based on just the regular season, as MLB does, or include postseason play, as well.
For better or worse, we here at the Gwinnett Daily Post typically include the postseason into consideration when we choose our Player of the Year, Pitcher of the Year and Coach of the Year each high school season.
Still, with the regular season entering its final week, it's not a bad time to kind of take inventory and see who the leading contenders are.
So with that in mind, I'd like to throw in my early two cents for our postseason awards.
A few disclaimers before I begin.
This is just one man's opinion based on what I've seen all season (and the stats reported to us by the county's coaches). And keep in mind, I'm just one vote of several on our staff when the final vote is taken at the end of the season.
Also, like I mentioned previously, we do take the postseason into account when making our decisions. So the bottom line is, this is far from the final word.
That said, here are my current picks:
• Player of the Year: Last year, Parkview's Matt Olson and Providence Christian's Christin Stewart shared this award.
Stewart's numbers aren't quite as insane as they were last year, when he set a new Georgia state record with 26 home runs and a new Gwinnett record with 70 RBIs. Part of that can be explained by the new composite bats that are less spring-like than the old metal bats, as well as the fact that several of his Stars teammates have also had a big year driving in runs, leaving fewer RBI opportunities for him. But it probably has to do mainly with the 25 walks he's drawn in 84 plate appearances this season, meaning opposing teams have figured out that pitching to him is not such a good idea. Still, Stewart is putting up really good numbers, including leading the county with eight home runs as of last week, plus standing among the county's top 10 in RBIs (with 20) and boasting a ridiculous 1.574 OPS.
Olson (.349, 7 HR, 23 RBIs), meanwhile, has kept up his usual strong numbers at the plate, and has become the Panthers' ace on the mound with a 7-0 record, 1.33 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 42 innings as of last week.
Hebron Christian's Jordan Hillyer and Brookwood's Lucas Sims have also been right up there with Olson among the county's top two-way players, but as of now, I've got to give the edge to Parkview's big cat, who has been a catalyst that has the Panthers poised for a strong run at defending their Class AAAAA state title.
Current choice: Matt Olson, Parkview
• Pitcher of the Year: There are several good candidates here.
Buford lefties Sam Clay and Troy Herterick could both be considered, especially Herterick, who has made a really quick adjustment to the starting rotation after spending most of his high school career in the bullpen.
North Gwinnett's Tucker Baca and Mill Creek's Shane Seckinger have made the most of their first opportunities at varsity baseball, and Duluth's Zack Erwin and Norcross' Chris Raasch have stood tall despite their teams' struggles.
And Grayson has had one of the deepest rotations in Gwinnett, with Jack Banda, Taylor Allum and Chris Erwin all standing out.
But in my mind, the battle really comes down to the aforementioned Sims and Hebron's Mason Felt right now.
Sims has been strong, to be sure, with an unblemished record, an ERA (0.89) that stands sixth in the county and averaging more than a strikeout per inning.
Felt's numbers, however, have been off the charts, with the Hebron lefty already placing fifth in Gwinnett history for single season strikeouts with 97, and having a real shot at single-season county records for strikeouts, wins and ERA if the Lions make a deep postseason run while defending their Class A title.
Current choice: Mason Felt, Hebron
• Coach of the Year: Again, there are a lot of good choices to go around.
With legitimate possibilities for guiding their teams to another state championship, Parkview's Chan Brown, Buford's Tony Wolfe and Hebron's Heath Kennedy have to be considered, especially considering how many players from last year the latter to had to replace this year.
Likewise, Mill Creek's Doug Jones and North's Frank Vashaw had both their squads hit hard by graduation last year, only to rebound nicely with newcomers stepping up, and have their teams battling for the title in über-competitive Region 7-AAAAA.
Grayson's Seth Rhine has guided the Rams to a major step up after missing the state playoffs last year, while Shiloh's Reggie Ingram has the Generals in position for their first postseason berth in years.
And who can forget what Jason Johnson has done at Mountain View this year, with the Bears perhaps poised for a postseason berth in just their third season of competition.
But on the other hand, there were signs Mountain View could make a leap this year, something most of the Bears' opponents would likely attest to if asked after having to work hard to beat them last year.
Few others could have foreseen a similar jump in one less year of existence at Lainer, where Chad Longe has boosted the Longhorns to playoff contender status in just their second season of varsity baseball. His team must still earn its way into the Class AAA state playoffs during this week's Region 8-AAA playoffs, but no matter what happens, Longe has done an outstanding job.
Current choice: Chad Longe, Lanier
Well, that's how I see it at this moment. Feel free to keep these picks around and tell me either what a genius or a clown I am when our final choices are made in June.