Thoughts from the Dugout: Awards Fever

Image of MLB Awards

So, in spite of what the scheduling gods and MLB marketing wizards may have told you, the postseason races this year have been, well, rather uninspired. I say this while living in the heart of Cub-Fandom on Earth – most of those involved have been decided for several weeks at least. It’s exciting and great that teams like Toronto and Kansas City are pushing each other for home field advantage, but at the moment, the only race is for who will win the AL West and which team will get to face the Yankees in the Wild Card play in.

So, on that note, here’s my picks and reasoning for the MLB awards.

Reliever of the Year

Apparently, this is an award I vote on for the IBWAA, and I’ll be honest – until someone shows me something different, I’m going to vote Wade Davis for the American League honor. Dude’s just flat out impressive, and has stepped into the closer’s role ably and without losing a single step, though Dellin Betances is a close second. He’ll win in the years to come as he takes over for Mariano Rivera as the most unhittable reliever in New York. Meanwhile, in the NL, I’m going with Mark Melancon because of the consistency he brings to the best team in the National League. Other votes went to Ryan Madsen for a nice bounce back after effectively being out of baseball and to Aroldis Chapman because holy hell 100 mph strikeouts are awesome.

Manager of the Year

I join much of the online community in feeling relative disdain for this award, if only because of the inability to accurately gauge just what a manager brings to a ball club. Case in point, Matt Williams won this award last year, and he’ll be fired in a matter of weeks.

Image of Joe Maddon

Having said that, Joe Maddon is unquestionably your Manager of the Year because of what he brings to the Chicago Cubs day in and day out. His ability to keep Starlin Castro from exploding into a multi-million dollar head case has been absolutely brilliant in my mind. Meanwhile, Jeff Bannister of the Texas Rangers has them in prime position to make the postseason after going through a similar injury hell as they did last year. They might even win the AL West. That’s pretty cool. He ekes out a win in my mind over AJ Hinch of the Astros if only because of the late swoon by the Astros and the fact that the Astros were supposed to be this good eventually.

Rookie of the Year

The AL race comes down to which of two shortstops you like better, and which you feel has been more valuable to his team. (I guess.) Miguel Sano has been a pleasant, albeit expected, surprise for the Twins, keeping them in surprising playoff contention deep in the season. But both Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor have a larger wealth of playing time to provide, and the larger sample size wins out here. Correa has settled in with amazing power for the Astros, but I’m going with the more well-rounded package of Francisco Lindor here, if only because his arrival contributed to a late season turnaround for Cleveland. They’ll have a great battle for the All-Star starting spot for the AL for years to come, I’m sure.

Meanwhile, this ought to fit nicely on Kris Bryant‘s soon-to-be-overflowing awards shelf.

AL Cy Young

3. Sonny Gray, Oakland A’s
2. Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros
1. David Price, Detroit Tigers/Toronto Blue Jays

Man, I didn’t realize how badly I screwed the Astros in these awards until just now…

The following three races, I have zero clue as to who will actually win. This is a big difference from years past, where you could pencil in some combination of Clayton Kershaw/Mike Trout/etc. and come away looking pretty good. This year is all over the place.

Image of Dallas Keuchel

Dat beard though…

Gray places third due to a late September swoon, though his overall numbers help to hold off the Chris’s Archer and Sale. Keuchel actually places higher on another ballot of mine (as well as the Brian Wilson Most Valuable Beard), but is beaten out because of just how lights out David Price has been since migrating north to Toronto. The Troy Tulowitzki trade made headlines, but Price gives Toronto the dominant ace to pair with the best offense in the game.

NL Cy Young

3. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
2. Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs
1. Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers

Or flip it. Or put Arrieta first. Hell, a three way tie. I don’t know.

Kershaw has a chance to become the first pitcher to top 300 strikeouts since Randy Johnson in 2002 and still probably finishes no better than third. (Holy shit) That’s because an ERA of 2.12 and 15 wins, normally outstanding, are purely average for Kershaw these days.

jake arrieta

Which brings it to Arrieta and Greinke, they of the sub-2.00 ERAs (1.82 and 1.65 as of today). Greinke has been the more consistent overall this year, posting a 9.4 bWAR, his best since his first Cy Young campaign, and he hasn’t exactly lost any steam. Meanwhile, Arrieta has come on strong by allowing only 2 earned runs in his last 52 innings pitched.

(Checks for typos.)

Yep.

I’m going with Greinke as my winner, although I feel like Kershaw will take a few votes from him, leading to Arrieta claiming the trophy. Again, any of these three would fully deserve to win. We might even see a tie. Who knows?

(It also does Greinke no favors that his player profile picture from MLB.com looks like one taken of a psychotic biker from Terre Haute at the local BMV…)

It also does Greinke no favors that his player profile pic from MLB.com looks like one taken of a psychotic biker from Terre Haute at the local BMV...

You decide.

AL MVP

5. Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros
4. Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles
3. Lorenzo Cain, Kansas City Royals
2. Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays
1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Let’s be real – slots 5 through 3 are each worthy of winning their respective Team MVP’s. Keuchel has been the most consistent cog in the Astros rotation, Machado combines elite glovework with spectacular offensive play, and Lorenzo Cain embodies what makes the current iteration of the Royals work with such fantastic aplomb. Props to them all.

Image of Mike Trout

This was Donaldson’s award to lose until Mike Trout remembered that he’s Mike Trout earlier in September. Since then, Mike Trout has put on a clinic against MLB pitching, and when Mike Trout is playing as well as he can play and driving the Angels towards a postseason chase, this award is his to lose. He seriously seems to get better this year, and by bWAR, he’s already the 42nd most valuable center fielder of all time after only four full seasons of play.

And yet, I feel as though Donaldson’s combination of narrative (the Blue Jays ended the majors longest playoff drought this year), run production, and solid glovework will win over enough voters that he’ll actually win. Either one could win and it wouldn’t be a crime.

I don’t know, I just watch the games.

NL MVP

5. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
4. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
3. Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers
2. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
1. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

Votto makes an appearance for making a second half run that’s only really been equaled by Ted Williams and Barry Bonds. (His post-All-Star slash line of .377/.553/.656 is just downright stupid) McCutchen is the engine that drives the Jolly Roger, even if his hair cut robs the world of baseball’s best haircut. And Greinke has been the most consistent piece of an overpaid Dodgers team that’s been up and down all year long. Goldschmidt just had a 20 HR/20 SB season as a 1st baseman – which makes him the first to do so since Jeff Bagwell in 1994. He’s woefully unappreciated as he toils for a mediocre D-Backs squad in Phoenix.

And yet, this is the most boring race of the big four, if only because Bryce Harper turned into Ted Williams circa 1941 and has feasted on the National League to the tune of a 1.125 OPS, which is a hundred points higher than his closest competitor. This might be the first year of both Harper and Trout winning MVP in a trend that might eventually become boring.

bryce harper

In the meantime, though, it’s exciting that the games two best players are both under 25. The best is yet to come.

Travis J. Cook

Travis J. Cook

Travis J. Cook is the Editor-in-Chief and one of the original founders of the Addison Recorder. He writes about baseball, movies, and music, among other topics. He resides in a hole in the ground near Wrigley Field.

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