Abel Salas launches another home run (photo by Paul Holdrick)
Project COBB has published the 2014 National Baseball League award winners in the various categories and Herts Falcons’ ace Abel Salas has scooped up all three of the Most Valuable Player awards. These are the most prestigious prizes awarded to individual players and are the equivalent of MLB’s MVP and Cy Young Awards.
MOST VALUABLE BATTER
Abel Salas’ outstanding offensive numbers secured the Most Valuable Batter Award after he led or was among the top players in all of the main batting categories. He had the highest slugging average (.848), tied with Maikel Azcuy of the Essex Arrows for most home runs (3), third in batting average (.435) behind Martin Tucker of the London Mets (.525) and Fraser Duggan of the Bracknell Blazers (.522), fourth in on-base average (.567), third in runs batted in (20). We understand that the formula used to determine the winner indicated that the race for the Most Valuable Batter title was very close and Abel Salas’ grand slam home run against the South London Pirates in the final game of the season may have clinched it.
MOST VALUABLE PITCHER
NBL batters struggled to make contact with Abel Salas’ pitches all season long (photo by Paul Holdrick)
In the pitching category Abel Salas was just as impressive. He led in wins (5) a 4-way tie, strike-outs (56), was second in earned run average (3.73) behind Pietro Sollecito (2.95) of the London Mets. It was the strike outs per 9 innings where Salas stood apart from the rest with 12.3. We have to go back to 2009 when Cody Cain had 12.8 and 2008 when Ryan Bird led this category with a mind-boggling 16.9.
BEST TWO-WAY PLAYER
If the top batting and pitching awards were very closely fought, the Most Valuable Two-Way Player Award must have been easier to determine given Abel Salas’ offensive and defensive numbers. It is very rare for a player to dominate both the batting and the pitching categories. Baseball has become a game where players specialise in one or the other so Salas’ feat is significant. We have to go back to 2005 and 2002 when Simon Pole won both the Most Valuable Batter and Most Valuable Pitcher Awards playing for the London Warriors.
Ryan Hackel filled the hole in the Falcons infield left after the departure of Robbie Unsell and Xavi Gonzalez (photo by Paul Holdrick)
The Herts Falcons’ biggest weakness in 2104 was fielding. It was the main reason for the team missing out on the postseason for the first time in 3 years. However, it is not a surprise to see Ryan Hackel named as the best shortstop in the NBL this season. Hack’s arrival at the end of May played a key role in bringing the team back into the playoff race after a string of injuries to key players resulted in the team’s poor start of the season.
FALCONS AMONGST THE LEADERS
John Blose played hard all season long (photo by Will Baxter)
John Blose led in the Runs Scored category (27) to round of a season in which his numbers have exploded compared to 2013, making him one of the most productive players for the Herts Falcons. Jamie Gregory’ batting average was .429 which puts him fourth overall in that category. There were two Herts Falcons players whose season was cut short due to injury to Cris Hiche and transfer to the USA in the case of Ryan Bird. If their season was not cut short, they would have been right up with the leaders. Cris Hiche had a batting average of .778 with 1 home run from 14 plate appearances. Ryan Bird batted 1.000 with 1 home run from his 5 plate appearances. 17-year-old Will Zucker also impressed with a batting average of .571 from 7 at bats in his NBL debut season, while another Herts youngster Carlos Casal Jr had an average of .400 from his 25 at bats – a very promising sign for the future of the club.
WHAT WILL 2015 BRING?
In 2013 Robbie Unsell won the Most Valuable Pitcher and Most Valuable Two-Way Player Awards. This was his final season in the NBL as he moved to America. Ryan Bird won the Most Valuable Batter Award and also moved across the Atlantic shortly after the 2013 season. 2013 team MVP Xavi Gonzalez signed with Stuttgart Reds. 2014 was Abel Salas’ final season in the NBL as he too will be moving to the USA so there is a trend for the Herts Falcons to attract the league’s star players and lose them shortly after that, however the noise coming out of the club’s front office is that there are positive signs that the Falcons will be able to make the player acquisitions needed to get back in the playoff race in 2015. We will keep you updated as soon as the club makes any announcements in the coming months as we build up to the 2015 season.