The annual awards were voted on by local members of Seattle’s chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Even at first glance, the choices seem logical and expected. And upon deeper examination, each was more than deserving. On Friday, the Seattle chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America presented its annual awards for the 2017 Mariners season as voted on by the local membership.
- Player of the Year: Nelson Cruz
- Pitcher of the Year: James Paxton
- Unsung Hero: Nick Vincent
Cruz was an easy choice as player of the year. Despite dealing with a myriad of leg issues and an upper back injury, he’s played in 146 games — more than any other player on the team. He’s hitting .286 with a .914 on-base plus slugging percentage, 27 doubles, 35 homers and a league-leading 112 RBI.
“You have to trust what you are doing and see some results,” he said of his consistency. “Every day, I just try to improve and get better.”
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Not bad for a guy that turned 36 this season. Seattle signed Cruz to a four-year, $57 million contract before the 2015 season and he’s been a bargain considering his production. He’s the fourth player age 33 or older to hit 35 or more home runs in four straight seasons. He could reach the 40-homer plateau for the fourth straight season.
“To do what he’s doing and defying the odds or all the studies that say where the decline hits the certain age of a big league player, there are outliers and he’s one of the outliers,” manager Scott Servais said. “It’s not easy. It’s by design. It’s his approach, his film study, his game preparation, it’s the whole ball of wax. And you put on top of that the type of teammate he is and what he does in the clubhouse and it’s the entire package. He’s really, really one of my favorites. Everybody has got their guys. I’ve just known him longer than anybody else.”
Cruz was a feared home run hitter when he was with the Rangers earlier in his career, but he’s worked to become a complete hitter in these later years. It’s not something Servais thought would happen when they were both together in Texas.
“No chance,” Servais admitted. “But he has evolved. That’s getting smart and an awareness of the strike zone and what people are trying to do to him and being able to make adjustments. The talent lines up with the aptitude. And when the talent…