The Baseball Writers Association of America will roll out its awards results beginning Monday, Nov. 14. To whet your appetite—and give a contrasting, sabermetrically flavored view—we asked THT’s contributors to make their selections for each league’s four big awards—MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year.
Fifteen voters made their choices, and now it’s time to open the envelopes and reveal the winners.
In the American League, one thing is clear: It was a good year to have a first name starting with “J.” Every AL vote for MVP, Cy Young and Manager of the Year went to someone with that first initial, and the plurality of the Rookie of the Year votes did, too. There was more variety in the National League, though “M,” “C” and “K” did well at the polls. (This is starting to feel like an episode of “Sesame Street.”)
AL Cy Young
Let’s look first at the one unanimous decision , which was for the AL Cy Young. Justin Verlander captured every vote, which is about as shocking as spying Cookie Monster eating a cookie. (Might as well continue the theme.)
Winning the pitching Triple Crown (wins, ERA and strikeouts) typically leads to a dominating finish in the polls, and 24 victories, a 2.40 ERA and 250 Ks (in 251 innings pitched)—along with league-best hits-per nine (6.2), WHIP (0.920) and ERA+ (170)—cemented Verlander’s case.
CC Sabathia edged him out in FIP (2.88 to 2.99), xFIP (3.02 to 3.12) and fWAR (7.1 to 7.0), but those gaps are very slight. And some will point to Verlander’s unsustainable .236 BABIP (vs. Sabathia’s slightly high .318), but can we hold good luck against him? Not in the eyes of THT voters.
Verlander’s name even came up in the AL MVP discussion: He captured two votes in that category. However, he was trumped by the eight ballots in favor of Jose Bautista, who was trailed by Jacoby Ellsbury, the choice of five voters.
Joey Bats is no fluke, as his .302/43/103 Triple Crown line (provided for the traditionalists), .447 on-base percentage and .608 slugging percentage demonstrate. In addition to leading in homers and SLG, Bautista also paced the AL field in OPS (1.056), OPS+ (181), walks (132) and intentional walks (24).
Ellsbury gets credit for a significant fWAR edge (9.4 to 8.3) and a much higher steals total (39 to nine), but he loses out in bWAR (8.5 to 7.2, with Verlander at 8.6). It’s a fairly close call, but Bautista wins in a split decision.
NL Cy Young
In the senior circuit, two-thirds of the electorate pegged Clayton Kershaw as deserving of the Cy Young. He captured the NL pitching Triple Crown with 21 wins, a 2.28 ERA and 248 punchouts, while also pacing the league with 6.7 hits per nine innings and a 0.977 WHIP.
When looking at WAR, Roy Halladay wins both battles. His fWAR of 8.2 far supercedes Kershaw’s 6.8, and bWAR gives Doc a 7.4 to 6.9 advantage. The Phillies’ ace (well, one of them) also has better marks in FIP (2.20 to 2.47) and xFIP (2.71 to 2.84) and had to contend with a .298 BABIP to the Dodger hurler’s .269.
While none of these stats calls out a clear winner, the total package presented by Kershaw was enough to give him the edge among THTers. It also should be noted that Ian Kennedy collected one vote—from our fearless leader, Dave Studenmund.
The winner in a landslide is the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp. His .324 BA/39 HR /126 RBI totals (with his homer and RBI totals leading the league) made his real-world and fantasy owners quite happy. Kemp also topped the league in runs scored (115), OPS+ (171), total bases (353), bWAR(10.0) and fWAR (8.7), while chipping in 40 stolen bases and playing at least a competent center field.
The only thing close to competition for Kemp was Ryan Braun, who received two votes and paced the league in slugging percentange and OPS. He also had a 30/30 season, 7.7 bWAR and 7.8 fWAR. Close, but no cigar for the Hebrew Hammer. Halladay and Prince Fielder each were chosen on one ballot.
AL Rookie of the Year
Hellickson impressed with his 2.95 ERA (126 ERA+) and 1.153 WHIP over 189 innings, good for 4.2 bWAR. That nice WHIP was fueled by a low 7.0 hits allowed per nine innings but betrayed slightly by 3.4 walks per nine. His 5.6 strikeouts per nine and 1.0 homers per nine were both mediocre, reflected by his 4.44 FIP and 4.72 xFIP that led to only 1.4 fWAR.
Pineda had a notably higher ERA at 3.74 and lower ERA+ at 103, but his FIP (3.42) and xFIP (3.53) trounced Hellickson’s marks. While Pineda’s 7.0 H/9 and 0.9 HR/9 are quite similar to Hellickson’s, his 9.1 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 are significantly better. His bWAR is far back at 2.8, but his fWAR comes in at 3.4—a full two wins higher. No wonder people get confused by WAR.
Nova posted a 16-4 record, which is sure to impress some BBWAA voters, but he threw fewer innings that the Rays’ or Mariners’ hurlers mentioned above. Nova’s ERA (3.70), FIP (4.01) and xFIP (4.16) put him in the middle of the three, and his 3.6 bWAR and 2.7 fWAR further muddy the waters. His leading attribute was his ability to limit gopher balls to the tune of 0.7 HR/9.
Ackley was a solid second sacker, with 2.5 bWAR and 2.7 fWAR, though he accumulated only 376 plate appearances.
NL Rookie of the Year
Two-thirds of our voters chose Craig Kimbrel for the National League’s top rookie. He broke Neftali Feliz‘s year-old rookie record by notching 46 saves and struck out an astounding 127 batters in 77 innings (14.8 K/9). He allowed only 5.6 hits and 0.4 homers per nine, and his 3.7 walks per nine—while less than ideal—was a vast improvement over 2010’s 7.0 BB/9.
Kimbrel’s competition consisted of Freddie Freeman (two votes), Danny Espinosa, Brandon Beachy and Vance Worley (one vote apiece). Freeman’s 118 OPS+ in a full season’s work is nice but far from impressive for a first baseman, while Espinosa’s .236 batting average didn’t win him many friends, though he was otherwise solid.
Beachy is a fireballer (10.7 K/9), but he registered only 10 decisions (seven wins) in 25 starts with a 103 ERA+. Worley pitched a bit less, though he did record 11 victories and a 129 ERA+.
AL Manager of the Year
The stats are just about useless here, though Joe Maddon’s and the Rays’ win total—just enough to make the playoffs—allowed him to collect nine votes. Jim Leyland’s work with the division-winning Tigers got him four tallies, and Joe Girardi similarly won his division, and the Yankees led the AL with 97 wins, which helped him take the remaining two votes.
NL Manager of the Year
Ten voters thought Kirk Gibson‘s leading his D-backs’ charge from consecutive 90-plus loss seasons to an NL West crown was enough to make him the NL Manager of the Year. Ron Roenicke of Milwaukee and Charlie Manuel of Philadelphia led their teams to division titles, too, and received two votes apiece. Don Mattingly‘s stable rudder at the helm of the dysfunctional Dodgers brought him one vote.
Below are each individual’s picks for the various awards.
Staffer AL MVP NL MVP AL Cy Young NL Cy Young Brad Johnson Jose Bautista Roy Halladay Justin Verlander Roy Halladay Dave Studeman Jacoby Ellsbury Prince Fielder Justin Verlander Ian Kennedy David Wade Jose Bautista Matt Kemp Justin Verlander Clayton Kershaw Derek Ambrosino Jose Bautista Matt Kemp Justin Verlander Clayton Kershaw Jeff Gross Jacoby Ellsbury Matt Kemp Justin Verlander Clayton Kershaw John Barten Jose Bautista Matt Kemp Justin Verlander Roy Halladay Kevin Lai Jacoby Ellsbury Matt Kemp Justin Verlander Clayton Kershaw Lisa Gray Jacoby Ellsbury Ryan Braun Justin Verlander Clayton Kershaw Mat Kovach Justin Verlander Matt Kemp Justin Verlander Clayton Kershaw Matt Filippi Jose Bautista Matt Kemp Justin Verlander Clayton Kershaw Mike Clark Jose Bautista Matt Kemp Justin Verlander Clayton Kershaw Nick Fleder Jacoby Ellsbury Matt Kemp Justin Verlander Roy Halladay Richard Barbieri Justin Verlander Matt Kemp Justin Verlander Roy Halladay Steve Treder Jose Bautista Matt Kemp Justin Verlander Clayton Kershaw Vince Caramela Jose Bautista Ryan Braun Justin Verlander Clayton Kershaw
Staffer AL Rookie NL Rookie AL Manager NL Manager Brad Johnson Michael Pineda Craig Kimbrel Joe Girardi Charlie Manuel Dave Studeman Jeremy Hellickson Craig Kimbrel Jim Leyland Kirk Gibson David Wade Jeremy Hellickson Craig Kimbrel Joe Maddon Kirk Gibson Derek Ambrosino Jeremy Hellickson Freddie Freeman Joe Maddon Kirk Gibson Jeff Gross Jeremy Hellickson Craig Kimbrel Jim Leyland Ron Roenicke John Barten Dustin Ackley Craig Kimbrel Joe Maddon Ron Roenicke Kevin Lai Michael Pineda Danny Espinosa Joe Maddon Kirk Gibson Lisa Gray Jeremy Hellickson Craig Kimbrel Joe Maddon Kirk Gibson Mat Kovach Ivan Nova Vance Worley Joe Maddon Kirk Gibson Matt Filippi Ivan Nova Freddie Freeman Joe Girardi Kirk Gibson Mike Clark Ivan Nova Craig Kimbrel Jim Leyland Kirk Gibson Nick Fleder Michael Pineda Craig Kimbrel Joe Maddon Charlie Manuel Richard Barbieri Jeremy Hellickson Craig Kimbrel Joe Maddon Don Mattingly Steve Treder Jeremy Hellickson Craig Kimbrel Jim Leyland Kirk Gibson Vince Caramela Michael Pineda Brandon Beachy Joe Maddon Kirk Gibson