Just a Bit Outside: Regular Season Awards
With the postseason around the corner, it seemed like a good time wrap-up the regular season by predicting each of baseball’s annual regular season awards.
AL MVP: Mike Trout, CF, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The American League MVP race effectively comes down to one question: Should the MVP go to the best player in baseball, regardless of how his team fares, or should only players on contending teams be considered for the League’s highest honor? Trout is, without a doubt, the best player in the AL; however, his Angels have not been in legitimate playoff contention all season.
The other name that merits consideration in this race is Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts, whose team has run away with the AL East title. In general, I believe the MVP should come from a winning team, but in this case, Trout is so far ahead of the field (he leads the league in on-base percentage and boasts an OPS nearly 90 points higher than Betts) that the award belongs to him.
NL MVP: Kris Bryant, 3B/OF/1B, Chicago Cubs
To me, this is the easiest pick of any of these awards. Bryant is by no means the only strong candidate for this award, but his resume, like Trout’s, is head and shoulders above the rest of the field. Bryant is the best player on the best team in baseball. The primary knock on the reigning National League Rookie of the Year was that he struck out too often in his first season in the big leagues; Bryant modified his swing in the off-season and has struck out over 40 fewer times in his sophomore campaign.
In addition to his prowess in the batter’s box, Bryant has been a versatile and highly effective defender for the Cubs, moving all over the diamond under Cubs tinkerer extraordinaire Joe Maddon (see more on him later). He has played all three outfield positions, third base and first base for the Cubs and succeeded in all of these roles.
The only possible slight to his candidacy is the fact that his team boasts other exceptionally good players, such as Anthony Rizzo, an MVP candidate in his own right.
AL Cy Young: Zach Britton, Closer, Baltimore Orioles
The AL Cy Young race is perhaps the most interesting of any of these awards. Britton has been absolutely lights out all season long, but he is a closer and by season’s end he will likely have pitched about a third of the innings as the starters in contention for this award like Rick Porcello or Justin Verlander.
However, I do not believe that any AL starter is having a truly exceptional season. Britton’s 2016 has been unbelievable. Going into Sunday’s games, Britton has had 47 save opportunities; he has converted them at a perfect rate of 47 for 47. He has surrendered just four earned runs all season for a sparkling 0.55 ERA. Forget about his relatively low inning count. Britton is the best pitcher in the American League, and he deserves the Cy Young.
NL Cy Young: Kyle Hendricks ’12, RHP, Chicago Cubs
Unlike in the AL, there are several starting pitchers having exceptional 2016 seasons. Earlier in the year, it appeared that Clayon Kershaw would run away with this race, but an injury has prevented him from building up the body of work necessary to win this award. Cubs teammates Hendricks and Jon Lester, first and second respectively in ERA in the League, both have strong resumes, as does Nationals ace Max Scherzer.
Two weeks ago, I detailed how Hendricks has been able to be so effective this season, and his numbers speak for themselves. The only reason Hendricks has not run away with this award is that he was so unknown prior to the season’s beginning.
AL Rookie of the Year: Gary Sanchez, C, New York Yankees
Sanchez was not called up until Aug. 3, and that fact may end up costing him this award. The reason Sanchez’s low at-bat totals do not matter to me is how good he has been in the games he has played. The Dominican-born catcher hit more home runs in his first 45 games than any other player in baseball history. In what has been a disappointing season for Yankees fans, Sanchez is an obvious reason for optimism looking ahead.
NL Rookie of the Year: Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
This pick is a relatively easy one: Seager is a legitimate MVP contender in the NL and could easily make the leap I anticipate Bryant making from Rookie of the Year to MVP next season. Seager has played a key role in the Dodgers NL West title and shown himself to be more than capable defensively and offensively on the season.
AL Manager of the Year: Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles
This was an incredibly tough pick for me. Terry Francona has done an excellent job guiding the Cleveland Indians this season. The reason I give the edge to Showalter is what he has done with what he has. The Orioles are not a particularly deep or gifted offensive team, and their starting rotation has been ineffective all season, yet Showalter has them in the running in one of baseball’s most hotly contested divisions.
NL Manager of the Year: Joe Maddon, Chicago Cubs
On July 31, the Cubs took on the Mariners on “Sunday Night Baseball.” The Cubs fell behind 6-0, played a pitcher in left field, came back to tie the game, and then used a pitcher as a pinch hitter in the bottom of 12th who laid down a two-strike bunt to score Jason Heyward . Every button Maddon pushed worked that night, and that’s how it has been all season in Chicago. The Cubs are baseball’s best team, and Maddon has played a key role in engineering a dominating 100-plus win season on the North Side of Chicago.