Friday, October 18, 2013

2013 Awards: My Picks

I made picks at the 1/3 mark, and at the 2/3 mark.  I couldn't decide when to make my final pick.  Should I do it before the BBWAA announced?  After?  Release my picks on the same days as theirs?

Well, I don't have the patience necessary to wait that long.  But even if I did, I already posted my Internet Baseball Awards ballot over at Baseball Prospectus.  So I figured, with that done today, and while I'm clichedly sitting in a coffee shop (actually a Barnes & Noble) on my computer, it's a perfect time for blogging.  Especially about baseball, since I just did the awards ballot!  Anyway, on to the picks, and the justifications:

As I did in my last article, I'll list my pick from the 1/3 mark, my pick from the 2/3 mark, and who I predict will actually win the award, when the time comes.

AL Manager of the Year
My Ballot:
1.  John Farrell, BOS
2.  Terry Francona, CLE
3.  Bob Melvin, OAK
1/3 Pick:  Joe Girardi, NYY
2/3 Pick:  Farrell
Predicted BBWAA Winner:  Farrell or Francona

Personally, I think that Farrell will be the winner.  Worst-to-first is basically always a recipe for the MOY award.  And Farrell did a great job.  The pitching was outstanding, but it was mostly the 'pen.  Which means no-name guys.  Which means that most people say thing like, "Well, besides Pedroia and Ellsbury and an over-the-hill Ortiz, who d'they got?"  And they won anyway.  Francona's work in Cleveland is also impressive.  Bob Melvin, winning with Josh Donaldson as his best player... wow.  He won't get enough credit, because Oakland made the postseason last year.  But he should have strong consideration, too.  I'm going with Farrell, because... well... I have no idea how to evaluate managers, and his team went worst-to-first.  I'm not beyond simplistic analysis when it's called for by the situation.

NL Manager of the Year
My Ballot:
1.  Clint Hurdle, PIT
2.  Mike Matheny, STL
3.  Don Mattingly, LAD
1/3 Pick:  Hurdle
2/3 Pick:  The manager whose team wins the central
Predicted BBWAA Winner:  Hurdle

Pittsburgh didn't end up winning the central.  Matheny's Cardinals did, just like they do every year.  I'm so sick of the Cardinals.  But, credit where credit's due:  people thought the end of the LaRussa/Pujols era spelled the end of the Cards.  And yet, here they are, in the NLCS again.  Still, the story in Pittsburgh is too good.  It's not so much that Hurdle deserves the award over Matheny as it is that Pirates fans deserve as many awards as we can send their way.  Mattingly gets a vote because of Yasiel Puig.  I don't know how else to put that.  I guess I have to say that going with the flashy, foreign rookie was an inspired choice with his job on the line.  Baseball managers are, by nature, conservative creatures; they don't shake up the status quo unless necessary, and when necessary, they tend to go with "safe" over high-risk, high-reward.  And yet, here was Mattingly, with his job on the line, going with an unproven player.  And it worked out so well that the Dodgers were the best team in baseball once Puig came up (Kershaw and Greinke sure didn't hurt, though)!

AL Rookie of the Year
My Ballot:
1.  Wil Myers, CF, TBR
2.  Nick Franklin, 2B, SEA
3.  David Lough, LF, KCR
4.  Jose Iglesias, CF, BOS/DET
5.  Brad Miller, SS, SEA
1/3 Pick:  None
2/3 Pick:  Myers
Predicted BBWAA Winner:  Myers
I hated this year's AL rookie class.  There's a bit of promise, but no dominant, no-doubt winner.  I went with Myers, because he was the best prospect of the bunch.  There was a lot of WAR-based voting for this one, because no one made a big enough splash.  That's how a good-not-great-half-season by Miller wound up on my ballot.  Iglesias is up there because of the name.  Lough did a nice job filling in for Alex Gordon in left for Kansas City.

NL Rookie of the Year
My Ballot:
1.  Yasiel Puig, RF, LAD
2.  Jose Fernandez, SP, MIA
3.  Julio Teheran, SP, ATL
4.  Hyun-jin Ryu, SP, LAD
5.  Shelby Miller, SP, STL
1/3 Pick:  Miller
2/3 Pick:  Puig
Predicted BBWAA Winner:  Fernandez

Now THIS was a rookie class to remember.  The pitching!  My oh my!  Fernandez, Teheran, Ryu and Miller were all outstanding!  And yet, I had them all behind Puig.  Obviously, this should be a two-horse race between Fernandez and Puig.  Fernandez posted the better overall numbers, but Puig was churning out wins at a faster clip.  I voted that way this time, but it's by no means the "right" way to have voted.  I expect Fernandez to be the winner, and if/when he does, a deserving player will have won.  It's a lot like the last couple of NL MVP votes:  lots of players having MVP-type seasons.  There aren't "wrong" choices in years like that.  Just lots of right ones.  When awards season goes wrong, it becomes about calling the "other" side stupid for their choices.  When awards season goes right, it's about celebrating the performances of people who brought us a tremendous amount of enjoyment, just by watching them play a beautiful game.  This rookie class will be an exciting one for years to come.  You just can't help but feel excited.

AL Cy Young
My Ballot:
1.  Max Scherzer, SP, DET
2.  Anibal Sanchez, SP, DET
3.  Chris Sale, SP, CWS
4.  Felix Hernandez, SP, SEA
5.  Hisashi Iwakuma, SP, SEA
1/3 Pick:  Hernandez
2/3 Pick:  Hernandez
Predicted BBWAA Winner:  Scherzer

It's been close among all these guys all year.  Pleasantly, like the NY ROY race, this is just a time to celebrate great performances by great players.  The argument for a guy like Iwakuma is easy to make.  Even an argument for Yu Darvish, who didn't even make my ballot is easy to make.  There were a lot of excellent pitching performances, but nothing like the Verlander and Halladay performances of recent years, such that there was a no-doubt winner.  But Scherzer has the best "traditional" stats, and when the sabermetrics are pretty even, I have no problem with looking at the traditionals, so he will win.  In fact, I didn't use the "traditional" stats (ERA and W-L record) at all, and I still picked Scherzer as the winner.  But it's a lot closer than the W-L record would indicate.

NL Cy Young
My Ballot:
1.  Clayton Kershaw, SP, LAD
2.  Cliff Lee, SP, PHI
3.  Adam Wainwright, SP, STL
4.  Matt Harvey, SP, NYM
5.  Jose Fernandez, SP, MIA
1/3 Pick:  Kershaw
2/3 Pick:  Kershaw
Predicted BBWAA Winner:  Kershaw

And we have our first (and only!) unanimous, season-long choice!  Kershaw led the league in ERA and strikeouts.  He led in WAR.  He was, quite simply, the best pitcher in the NL this season.  Wainwright and Lee seem to be in always-a-bridesmaid mode.  That's unfortunate, because they're both outstanding pitchers. Lee, at least, has won a Cy Young.  Wainwright may never be so lucky.  Speaking of Lee, did you even notice how quietly excellent he was this year?  222 innings, 222 K, a 2.87 ERA in a park that was about 3% higher scoring than average this year.  Very quiet, very solid.  He won't get much support, but that's a shame.  And Harvey may have given Kershaw a run for his money, but his injury prevented that discussion.  Fernandez, again, could be considered for the second spot, but in a year like this, it wasn't to be.  The field is just too deep.

AL Most Valuable Player
My Ballot:
1.  Mike Trout, LF, LAA
2.  Josh Donaldson, 3B, OAK
3.  Miguel Cabrera, 3B, DET
4.  Robinson Cano, 2B, NYY
5. Chris Davis, 1B, BAL
6.  Max Scherzer, SP, DET
7.  Evan Longoria, 3B, TBR
8.  Manny Machado, 3B, BAL
9.  Anibal Sanchez, SP, DET
10.  Dustin Pedroia, 2B, BOS
1/3 Pick:  A debate between Cabrera and Trout
2/3 Pick:  A debate between Cabrera and Trout
Predicted BBWAA Winner: Cabrera

Okay, if you want to count this one as unanimous all way through the year, go ahead.  I did mention Trout in each one.  And, after all, what more can be said about the Millville Meteor (besides the fact that his is the best nickname in MLB in decades)?  He's too incredible.
By the way, if you were going to be impressed by the 3 Tigers on this list, just look at the number of third basemen:  4 of the top 8 players in the American League!  It reminds me of the A-Rod-Jeter-Garciaparra days, when the league was just stacked with shortstops.  Hopefully, these guys all continue the way they're going now.
Davis, Carbrera, and Trout have gotten the majority of the press.  And I don't want to go on too long about any one of these guys.  But they're all wonderful.  The hardest spot for me was the 10th.  I considered a couple of pitchers, but went with Pedroia because at least those pitchers get Cy votes; without this, Pedroia's got nada, and that didn't seem fair to his excellent season.

NL Most Valuable Player

My Ballot:
1.  Andrew McCutchen, CF, PIT
2.  Carlos Gomez, CF, MIL
3.  Clayton Kershaw, SP, LAD
4.  Matt Carpenter, 2B, STL
5.  Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, ARI
6. Cliff Lee, SP, PHI
7.  Joey Votto, 1B, CIN
8.  Adam Wainwright, SP, STL
9.  Yadier Molina, C, STL
10.  Troy Tulowitzki, SS, COL
1/3 Pick:  Gomez
2/3 Pick:  Gomez
Predicted BBWAA Winner:  McCutchen

Just as there were three Tigers in the AL top-9, so too there are three Cardinals in the NL top-9.  It's therefore no surprise to see both of those teams in their respective LCSs.  A lot of these NL guys flew under the radar:  Carpenter, Goldschmidt, and Tulo, in particular.  But nice seasons from them all.
Like the AL, I debated some pitchers for the last spot or two.  But Molina and Tulo would only get votes here, while the pitchers got something for the Cy, so I went with position players here.
As for the winner, I went with McCutchen.  Gomez got hurt shortly after the 2/3 column I wrote.  And, ultimately, that's the difference between him and McCutchen for me.  By the way, I've been voting in the IBAs for three years now, and I've had a Brewer in the top-2 each year:  Braun in 2nd two years ago (to Matt Kemp), Braun as my personal winner last year, and Gomez in 2nd this year, to McCutchen.  These aren't just homer picks; the team has actually had players that good.  That would have been unthinkable when I was young, growing up watching the terrible, mid-90s and early-00s Brewers.  But this has been a fun almost-decade to be a fan of this particular mid-market team.  I hope things only improve from here.

Any agreement or disagreement?  Want to tell me why I'm wrong?  I'd love to hear from you, so please comment!

A special thanks in this article to The Baseball Gauge, Baseball-Reference, Fangraphs, and Baseball Prospectus.  All were invaluable.  And if this column interested you at all, please consider following our RSS.  Also, consider joining Baseball Prospectus.  Even a free membership there gets you a daily e-mail with free content, as well as a vote in the IBAs.

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