How quick did this regular season go by?
Seems like yesterday I was watching then-Houston Astros outfielder (and one of my all-time favorite players) Rick Ankiel hit a pinch-hit three-run homer against the Texas Rangers on opening night. The season ended for 19 teams yesterday, and after the Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays play a Game 163 tiebreaker for the second American League wildcard spot tonight, we’ll officially have our 2013 playoff field.
It’s been a very exciting year, and filled with a whole mess of storylines. The Pittsburgh Pirates not only broke their 20 year streak of finishing below .500, but they won 94 (!) games and are in the post-season for the first time since 1992. The Cleveland Indians, under new manager Terry Francona, are also in the post-season for the first time in six years.
There was the Biogenesis scandal that brought down former MVPs like Ryan Braun, and cast an even larger shadow upon baseball’s biggest villain, Alex Rodriguez. The Upton brothers fulfilled a childhood dream and hit back-to-back homers in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat the Cubs in April. Three pitchers threw no-hitters, including one from Henderson Alvarez yesterday that wasn’t decided when the right-hander threw his last pitch – he needed the Marlins to score in the bottom of the ninth to become a part of history.
With all of that being said, it’s time to hand out some hardware. Here are my ballots for the MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, and Manager of the Year awards.
1. Mike Trout, LF, Los Angeles Angels
2. Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Detroit Tigers
3. Josh Donaldson, 3B, Oakland Athletics
4. Chris Davis, 1B, Baltimore Orioles
5. Robinson Cano, 2B, New York Yankees
6. Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays
7. Adrian Beltre, 3B, Texas Rangers
8. Manny Machado, 3B, Baltimore Orioles
9. Max Scherzer, SP, Detroit Tigers
10. David Ortiz, DH, Boston Red Sox
I wrote last month that if the vote ended then, I was going to go with third baseman Miguel Cabrera as my choice for AL MVP, despite being a sabermetric guy. Things change sometimes.
Mike Trout somehow improved overall after his ridiculous rookie campaign, despite declining somewhat in the field and on the bases. The outfielder saw an increase in his walk rate (10.5% to 15.4%), on-base percentage (.399 to .432), wOBA (.409 to .423), and wRC+ (166 to 176), while managing to be less than 10 points worse in average (.326 to .323) and slugging percentage (.564 to .557).
Cabrera improved across the board as well, increasing his walk rate (9.5% to 13.8%), slash line (.330/.393/.606 to .348/.442/.636), wOBA (.417 to .455), and wRC+ (166 to 192). However, he provided negative value on the basepaths and in the field, ranking as the fourth and third worst at his position in those respective departments. Meanwhile, Trout ranked as the third best outfielder on the basepaths and the 12th best in the field, according to Fangraph metrics.
The race is a lot closer this year, and I’m not opposed to giving it to Cabrera in comparison to last season, but Trout earns my vote.
Josh Donaldson (24 HR, .301/.384/.499, .384 wOBA, 148 wRC+, 12 DRS, 11.1 UZR/150) had one of the more underrated seasons in recent memory and gets my third-place vote ahead of Chris Davis (53 HR, .286/.370/.634, .421 wOBA, 167 wRC+), who also had a fantastic year, but probably gets more love from the national voters if A) this was in the early 2000s where less statistics were available B) the Orioles made the playoffs and C) if Cabrera and Trout didn’t exist.
Robinson Cano (27 HR, .314/.383/.516, .384 wOBA, 142 wRC+) was the second-best second baseman on the planet this season and will be earning a huge payday in a few months, as he slots just ahead of three fantastic third basemen (Evan Longoria, Adrian Beltre, and Manny Machado) on my ballot. Max Scherzer and David Ortiz (30 HR, .305/.394/.564, .400 wOBA, 152 wRC+) make up the rest of the top 10.
1. Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
2. Andrew McCutchen, CF, Pittsburgh Pirates
3. Matt Carpenter, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals
4. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks
5. Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis Cardinals
6. Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds
7. Andrelton Simmons, SS, Atlanta Braves
8. Carlos Gomez, CF, Milwaukee Brewers
9. Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves
10. Russell Martin, C, Pittsburgh Pirates
(*ducks incoming tomatoes thrown from my Pittsburgh-area followers*)
Plenty of writers don’t believe that pitchers should be considered for the MVP award, and that the Cy Young was made solely as their MVP award. I’m not one of those people. I think if the pitcher is good enough and if the position player candidate poll is shallow, then someone who only works once every five days should get consideration for the award. This year is one of those years.
I’m not trying to discredit the work that Andrew McCutchen (21 HR, .317/.404/.508, .393 wOBA, 155 wRC+, 8 DRS) or Matt Carpenter (126 R, 199 H, 55 2B, .318/.392/.481, .381 wOBA, 147 wRC+) have done this year; they’ve been fantastic and should be talked about as such. But Clayton Kershaw – who has been the league’s best pitcher for a few years now and doesn’t get talked about nearly enough (in Los Angeles no less) – set new career-best marks in almost every category. He threw more innings (236.0) than he had before, had a sub-2.00 BB/9 (1.98) for the first time in his career, and posted an ERA of 1.83 – the lowest the league has seen since Pedro Martinez’s absurd 2000 season (1.74 ERA, 7 CG, 4 SHO, 291 ERA+, 0.737 WHIP, 11.8 K/9, 8.88 K/BB). Kershaw also led the league in ERA+ (194) and WHIP (0.915), and was among the league leaders in FIP (2.39).
On June 21st, the Los Angeles Dodgers were sitting in the NL West cellar, 9.5 games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks. Since that point in the season, Kershaw posted an ERA of 1.61 and a K/9 just a tick under nine, and opponents had a pitcher-esque slash line of .194/.233/.270 against him.
McCutchen, Carpenter, Paul Goldschmidt (36 HR, .302/.401./.551, .404 wOBA, 156 wRC+), and Yadier Molina (44 2B, .319/.359/.477, .362 wOBA, 134 wRC+, 43% CS%) round out my top five. Goldschmidt tore the cover off the ball this season and might get more consideration if the Diamondbacks made the playoffs (still an awful way to judge these things, you guys), and Molina might have locked up the award if he didn’t lose time to a knee injury in August. The national media sounded like they were going to just hand the award to the catcher, although he posted a season worthy enough for an argument.
Joey Votto (24 HR, .305/.435/.491, .400 wOBA, 156 wRC+) comes in at sixth, and he honestly could be higher (if he’d hit more homeruns instead of walking all the time – I kid, Reds fans) but the race is pretty tight between him and the four I mentioned in the previous paragraph. Andrelton Simmons (17 HR, 41 DRS, 23.9 UZR/150) slots in at seventh after a defensive season that could be considered the best in baseball history, and his teammate Freddie Freeman (23 HR, .319/.396/.501, .387 wOBA, 150 wRC+) gains a ninth-place vote, with the surprising Carlos Gomez (24 HR, .284/.338/.506, .363 wOBA, 130 wRC+, 38 DRS, 27.2 UZR/150) sandwiched in between them.
Rounding out my top 10 is a bit of a surprise considering his replacement-level offensive value (.226/.327/.377), but Russell Martin (40% CS%, 16 DRS) deserves more praise. He’s been stellar behind the plate and might end Molina’s string of consecutive Gold Gloves, but his handling of the Pirates pitching staff is what makes the difference. I honestly think that Pittsburgh would not be playing on Tuesday without Martin, and because of that he gets my last vote.
And besides, is there really any reason to complain about the 10th spot on a MVP ballot?
AL CY YOUNG
1. Max Scherzer, SP, Detroit Tigers
2. Chris Sale, SP, Chicago White Sox
3. Yu Darvish, SP, Texas Rangers
4. Felix Hernandez, SP, Seattle Mariners
5. Bartolo Colon, SP, Oakland Athletics
Max Scherzer is both the traditionalist and sabermetric’s dream. He has an absurd win-loss record (21-3) and strikes out a lot of guys (10.08 K/9), but he also holds an impressive FIP (2.74), and a SIERA (Skill Interactive ERA) of 2.98, which is better than Kershaw’s 3.06 mark.
Chris Sale (9.49 K/0, 1.93 BB/9, 46.6 GB%, 3.07 ERA) was the lone bright spot for White Sox fans and earns my second-place vote, while third-place Yu Darvish (11.89 K/9, 83.9 LOB%, 2.83 ERA) was the most second-most entertaining pitcher to watch this year. (I’ll mention the first very shortly.) King Felix (9.51 K/9, 51.4 GB%, 3.04 ERA, 2.61 FIP) and Bartolo Colon (80.0 LOB%, 1.37 BB/9, 6.0 HR/FB%, 2.65 ERA) round out the top five, with the big man in Oakland being moreso of a homer pick (just like my mid-season awards).
NL CY YOUNG
1. Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
2. Adam Wainwright, SP, St. Louis Cardinals
3. Jose Fernandez, SP, Miami Marlins
4. Matt Harvey, SP, New York Mets
5. Cliff Lee, SP, Philadelphia Phillies
Because I chose Kershaw as my MVP winner, he’s obviously the clear choice for Cy Young as well. Funny enough, he was third in line for most people between Adam Wainwright and Matt Harvey at the All-Star break.
Wainwright had maybe his best year as a pro (241.2 IP, 8.16 K/9, 1.30 BB/9, 49.1 GB%, 2.94 ERA, 2.55 FIP) and anchored a very green Cardinals pitching staff that saw 52 starts from rookies and another 48 from second-year starters. In any other non-Kershaw year he would probably win this, but second place isn’t a bad option either.
In third and fourth you have two of the most exciting “young” pitchers to come around in a decade. No one agreed with the Miami Marlins’ decision to put Jose Fernandez on the opening day roster after spending last season in A-ball, but thankfully the Marlins didn’t listen to the critics. All Fernandez did was post one of the best rookie years in history (9.75 K/9, 2.19 ERA [!], 0.979 WHIP, 5.8 H/9, 2.73 FIP) at the ripe age of 21 – and become my favorite pitcher to watch in the entire league.
Matt Harvey might have won the Cy Young award if he wasn’t on an innings limit, but his season shouldn’t go unnoticed. He led the league in FIP (2.01), and posted outstanding numbers in K/9 (9.64), BB/9 (1.56), ERA (2.27), and WHIP (0.931). Hopefully the UCL tear that forced him to not reach his scheduled shutdown date doesn’t shut down his 2014.
Cliff Lee (8.97 K/9, 1.29 BB/9, 2.87 ERA, 2.82 FIP) was his dominant self in 2013, but the lack of success from his team made his individual success come and go quietly.
AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
1. Wil Myers, RF, Tampa Bay Rays
2. Jose Iglesias, SS, Boston Red Sox / Detroit Tigers
3. Chris Archer, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
Off-season acquisition Wil Myers stands out in an unappealing group of rookie candidates. My pre-season choice Jurickson Profar was misused by his manager Ron Washington, leaving the door open for someone else to win the award. Myers was very good (13 HR, .295/.353/.482, .358 wOBA, 132 wRC+), but the fact that he only played 87 games shows how weak the rest of the crop was.
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
1. Jose Fernandez, SP, Miami Marlins
2. Yasiel Puig, RF, Los Angeles Dodgers
3. Trevor Rosenthal, RP, St. Louis Cardinals
Fernandez is the pretty obvious choice, but Yasiel Puig will make the actual vote interesting. The Dodgers outfielder is deserving of honors, however, as he posted a fantastic rookie campaign (19 HR, .319/.391/.534, .398 wOBA, 160 wRC+) after coming out of the gates on fire.
My last choice is somewhat shocking, since Trevor Rosenthal’s teammate Shelby Miller will probably get the majority of third-place votes. (Other pitchers such as Gerrit Cole, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Julio Teheran will get consideration.) However, Rosenthal rode a stellar 2012 post-season into a great rookie year, becoming one of the game’s best relief pitchers (75.1 IP, 12.9 K/9, 5.4 K/BB, 1.91 FIP) from the get-go.
AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR
1. Joe Girardi, New York Yankees
2. Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians
3. John Farrell, Boston Red Sox
Another somewhat controversial selection. Terry Francona and John Farrell have done great jobs with their teams, but I’m picking Joe Girardi here. Yes, the Yankees’ payroll is north of $200 million, but the roster they trotted out for most of the year wasn’t worth a third of that. He kept a team who regularly started Eduardo Nunez, Lyle Overbay, and Vernon Wells in the Wild Card race until the last week of September, and handled distractions such as the Alex Rodriguez suspension very well.
NL MANAGER OF THE YEAR
1. Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates
2. Fredi Gonzalez, Atlanta Braves
3. Don Mattingly, Los Angeles Dodgers
Very easy choice here. Clint Hurdle could run for mayor in the city of Pittsburgh and win it in a landslide at this point. Besides him, I was impressed with what Fredi Gonzalez did with the Braves this season, despite their team benefiting from a weak division and a Nationals team who couldn’t live up to unreal expections. I went back and forth between Mattingly and Mike Matheny in the third spot, but gave it to Mattingly because of the comeback run I mentioned in the NL MVP paragraph. Matheny’s been very good this season, save for a few instances.
I won’t do post-season predictions since my team is involved and I’m somewhat superstitious about that, but I will say I’m hoping for a World Series that involves the Oakland Athletics. I don’t think anyone can say with a straight face that they hate the A’s, because of how they operate. They have been the most interesting team in baseball over the past two seasons, and I would love to see the green and gold back in a Fall Classic.