Here’s a sad thing: this column will be posted on the final day of the regular season for the Boston Red Sox.
That’s right, 162 games are about to be in the books. Soon, it’ll be time for playoff talk (and an extra-special Playoff TrollBag next week), but before we get there, I’d like to take a look on how the regular season awards should pan out.
After all, the regular season may be ending, but that doesn’t mean we can’t savor it a bit longer, right?
Who will win: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
A month ago, Cabrera was on almost-10-WAR pace and a threat to post his second Triple Crown in as many years. Injuries struck in September, though, and Cabrera batted .265 with only one homer for the month.
That said, Josh Hamilton once won an MVP award despite barely taking the field in September, so I would suspect Cabrera’s MVP momentum hasn’t gone away. He’s still got gaudy offensive numbers on a playoff team, so this award remains his to lose.
That said, 8 WAR is nothing to sneeze at. Should Cabrera actually take home the hardware?
Who should win: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
I’m sorry, I know I waffled about this decision a while back – and in my defense, it was a very close decision at the time – but an absolutely absurd second half of the season swung me back onto Team Trout.
Trout is now the owner of 10.2 WAR this season, and his biggest leap from last season has been in terms of getting on base – Trout has walked 15.1% of the time this season, up from 10.4% last year. He posted an OBP of .500 for the month of August. No, that’s not a typo.
You can talk all day about the importance of team success, the definition of “valuable,” and all that stuff – nobody’s doing what Mike Trout is doing right now. He’s been the best player in baseball for the consecutive year, and he’s about to go 0-for-2 in the MVP category.
Something seems wrong with that.
Honorable Mention: Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics
Donaldson is the best player on the second-best team in the American League, and has arguably had a better season at third base than Evan Longoria has ever had in his career, and yet, very few people even know who he is. On my ballot, he’d be third behind Trout and Cabrera, above Chris Davis, but predicting MVP voters would put him there as well is probably optimistic.
Who will win: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
Who should win: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
For expediency’s sake, we’ll just lump those two together. All the factors came together for McCutchen this year: he’s been the best player on a playoff team, and not just any playoff team, but the first Pirates playoff team since 1992.
The Pirates have been the talk of the league for finally putting together an impressive start-to-finish season, and McCutchen has been at the center of it all. He’s also now second to only Mike Trout for WAR in the MLB.
In short, there’s something for everybody to get behind in McCutchen’s MVP candidacy. He’s the easy pick here.
(You will lose points on the test for any “Kershaw for MVP” silliness here.)
Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves
Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee Brewers
Donaldson might have Gomez beat for “most unexpected 7-WAR player” this year, but Gomez has had an absurd season on a bad Milwaukee team. With the Brewers in fourth place, I’d expect to see him fall below guys like Joey Votto and Yadier Molina/Matt Carpenter on most ballots, but there haven’t been many better combinations of offense
and defense than Carlos Gomez this year.
(We won’t discuss my preseason pick of Heyward for MVP. We just won’t.)
AL Cy Young
Who will win it: Max Scherzer
Who should win it: Max Scherzer
For a while, I was on the Felix Hernandez bandwagon here, but it looks as though Scherzer has pulled away with this one both on paper and in practice. He has a pretty 21-3 record, but more importantly, now outpaces Felix in most stat categories. He’s second in baseball in pitcher fWAR and has a K/9 over 10, across from very similar peripherals to Hernandez.
The real difference here? King Felix’s pair of drubbings at the hands of the Texas Rangers on August 17 and 28. Felix allowed 13 runs in eight innings against the Rangers, and it may very well have ruined his Cy Young candidacy.
Honorable Mention: Clay Buchholz, Boston Red Sox
Buchholz will get nowhere near this award, thanks to injuries that held him to only 108.1 innings this season, but when he was healthy, he was the best pitcher in the American League, bar none. There may have been a bit of luck involved, but a 1.74 ERA over that volume of work is a staggering accomplishment.
Maybe next year, Clay.
NL Cy Young:
Who will win it: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
Who should win it: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
Who should have won it: Matt Harvey, New York Mets
Let’s get this out of the way right now: Kershaw won this award on August 28, when,
after it was announced that Matt Harvey would miss the remainder of the season just a few days beforehand, Adam Wainwright gave up nine runs in two innings to the Reds.
With Harvey shut down, the statistical divide between Wainwright and Kershaw after that start became too big for Wainwright to make up. I do believe Harvey could have won this one – his 2.00 FIP was beautiful – but alas.
To his credit, Kershaw did have a sub-2.00 ERA, and that’s not something that often comes from a starting pitcher. Enjoy your hardware, Clayton.
Honorable Mention: Matt Harvey, New York Mets
AL Rookie of the Year: Wil Myers, Tampa Bay Rays
I wrote about this one as well, but such is the state of the AL’s current rookie class that Myers will win this one with under 90 games played.
That’s not to say he doesn’t deserve it, though; he’s looked like the player I’ve hoped he could be since his days in the Kansas City minors (Speaking of which, he has a higher OPS than any Royals bat. Oof.). His .353 wOBA ranks fourth in baseball among rookies, and he had over 100 more plate appearances than two of the four players above him (Scooter Gennett and Darin Ruf, the other two being Yasiel Puig and Matt Adams).
Myers had a great season, and I’m expecting big things from him, but any other year, his late call-up probably would have cost him this one.
Honorable Mention: Jose Iglesias, Detroit Tigers
Credit where credit is due, Iglesias (improbably) managed to keep his batting average up over .300 this season, and filled a crucial defensive need for the Tigers. He’s worthy of a second-place vote, in my book.
NL Rookie of the Year: Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins
This is an absolutely fascinating race, to me; maybe more interesting than any of the others.
On one hand, you have Yasiel Puig, the lightning rod outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers who batted .322/.393/.538 and warped space-time with his BABIP magic. On the other, there’s Jose Fernandez, who posted a 2.19 ERA and 9.75 K/9 while fighting off Marlins’ Disease (a condition that causes perpetual disappointment) all season long.
I settled with Fernandez here, perhaps due to a bias toward pitchers, but there really isn’t any going wrong either way here.
Any one of those guys probably would have won ROY in the AL this year. Yeah.
AL Manager: John Farrell, Boston Red Sox
Farrell is far from the only thing that took the Red Sox from “worst team in the AL East” to “best team in baseball,” but he was certainly a factor. The fact is, 69-win teams don’t often land a 1-seed the next season, and Farrell is about to accomplish exactly that.
Couple that with the clear benefits he’s had on the pitching staff and a little bit of East Coast Bias, and I’d say Farrell is probably the odds-on favorite here. Deservedly so.
Honorable Mention: Bob Melvin, Oakland Athletics
Bob Melvin should be in this conversation every year, forever, as far as I’m concerned.
NL Manager: Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates are headed to the playoffs for the first time in 21 years, and it’s happening
because they’re one of the best-run organizations in baseball at the moment.
Hurdle’s been a major factor in this, and the historic nature of the Pirates’ season should push him over the top here.
Did I mention they play in baseball’s toughest division?
Honorable Mention: Fredi Gonzalez, Atlanta Braves
Maybe not an exciting pick, but the Braves have cruised on top of the NL East all season long. They’ve hardly garnered the hype of teams like the Dodgers or Pirates, but they’ve nonetheless been excellent.
Since my imaginary vote doesn’t count for anything, here’s a shout-out to you, Fredi Gonzalez.