It’s the start of the off-season, and you know what that means: Ruben Amaro will spend an absurd amount of money on an overrated free agent! I kid. Tomorrow, the Baseball Writers Association of America will begin doling out awards, starting with the Rookies of the Year, followed by the Managers of the Year on the 12th, the Cy Young award winners on the 13th, and the Most Valuable Player award winners on the 14th. We’re going to preempt it all by handing out our own hardware. If you’re interested, you can find our picks from last year by clicking here.
The five of us here at Crashburn Alley retreated deep into our underground bunkers, pulled out our calculators and test tubes, and got to work coming to a consensus on our award winners. Feel free to leave your own picks and opinions in the comments below. Without any further ado, let’s get started.
For placement, first place votes were given a value of five points, second place votes three points, and third place votes one point. This system varies from that of the Baseball Writers Association of America, but our ballots only run three deep and we have just five voters, so this system is quite simple.
American League Most Valuable Player
- Winner: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels (25 of 25 possible points)
- Runner-up: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers (13)
- Consolation: Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics (4)
Mike Trout once again gets our unanimous vote for AL MVP, leading Cabrera in WAR 10.4 to 7.6, per FanGraphs. Cabrera will likely get the majority of votes from the BBWAA, though, as he led the AL in batting average while finishing 9 HR and 1 RBI short of Chris Davis for the AL lead while playing hurt and leading his team to the playoffs. Trout’s Angels were big disappointments with back-to-back off-seasons in which they added Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. Somehow, their 78-84 third place finish is Trout’s fault. Tough luck for Davis, having a fantastic year but in the same era in which Cabrera and Trout are playing, so he had no chance. That’s not unlike Pujols from 2001-04 when Barry Bonds won four consecutive NL MVP awards.
National League Most Valuable Player
- Winner: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates (25)
- Runner-up: Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks (6)
- Consolation: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers (5)
Another unanimous selection by the Crashburn crew. I wrote about his candidacy at ESPN Sweet Spot back in September. Trout was the only player in baseball to finish with a higher WAR than McCutchen (8.2). He was one of four, along with Cabrera, Trout, and Paul Goldschmidt to finish with a .300/.400/.500 or better line. McCuthchen and Trout were the only ones to add 20 or more stolen bases as well. McCutchen’s defense was also much-improved, thanks in part to Pirates stats guru and Baseball Prospectus alum Dan Fox, as the Pirates at long last broke their playoff drought extending all the way back to 1992. Behind McCutchen, we see Goldschmidt and Kershaw. Pitchers don’t often land on MVP ballots as the Cy Young is considered the pitcher version of the MVP award, but with a season like the one Kershaw had in 2013, sometimes there isn’t enough hardware to reward the guy. There is a legitimate argument that Kershaw ought to win over McCutchen, but it’s not one that we subscribe to.
American League Cy Young
- Winner: Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers (16)
- Runner-up: Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers (11)
- Consolation: Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle Mariners (9)
After years of inconsistency, Max Scherzer finally put it all together and had a wonderful season, finishing with a sterling 21-3 record, but that isn’t why he got the Crashburn nomination. He had the second highest strikeout rate in baseball at 28.7 percent, a few points behind Yu Darvish. Scherzer averaged 4.3 strikeouts for every one walk and finished with a 3.16 ERA. As expected, ERA retrodictors think he was even better than his ERA indicates. Darvish finished second for similar reasons.
My nomination of Iwakuma is indicative of a philosophy that has risen in recent years with the prominence of defense-independent statistics: should the Cy Young award reward pitchers for what happened on the field, luck, defense, and all, or reward them for what xFIP, SIERA, et. al. say should have happened? I subscribe to the former philosophy, rewarding a pitcher even if he happened to benefit from an exorbitant amount of luck, played most of his games in a pitcher friendly park, and was helped by a great defense.
National League Cy Young
- Winner: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers (25)
- Runners-up: Matt Harvey, New York Mets (6) and Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies (6)
The only pitcher to show up in the MVP voting should be expected to unanimously take home the Cy Young award. No surprise here. Kershaw led the league with a 1.83 ERA (good for an adjusted ERA of 194!) along with 232 strikeouts in 236 innings. The last pitcher to qualify for the ERA title and finish with an ERA lower than 2.00 was Roger Clemens in 2005 (1.87). Clemens did not win the NL Cy Young award, somehow. Before Clemens, Pedro Martinez did it twice, in 2000 and 1997. As for ERA+, the last to finish above 190 was Zack Greinke in 2009 (204). Clemens was at 226; Martinez was 291 (!!!!!) in 2000 and 219 in 1997.
Mets phenom Matt Harvey and Marlins phenom Jose Fernandez both made an appearance, with Harvey tying Cliff Lee in second place. It’s a shame that Harvey will miss the 2014 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, as the NL East is chock full of elite pitching.
American League Rookie of the Year
- Winner: Wil Myers, Tampa Bay Rays (21)
- Runner-up: Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays (12)
- Consolation: Jose Iglesias, Detroit Tigers (5)
If you wonder how the Rays do it year in and year out, this is a great example. Not only did outfielder Wil Myers get our vote by a large margin, teammate and pitcher Chris Archer got our second place nod by a country mile as well. Myers finished with a .293/.354/.478 line in 373 trips to the plate as a 22-year-old. Archer, 24, finished with a 3.22 ERA, averaging two and a half strikeouts for every one walk. Third place was a hodgepodge of candidates, including Brad Miller and Jose Iglesias.
National League Rookie of the Year
- Winner: Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins (23)
- Runner-up: Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers (17)
- Consolation: Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers (5)
This is about as clean a 1-2-3 as you will get during awards season. Fernandez and Puig were very clearly, in either order, the 1-2 with Ryu finishing a distant third. We here at the ‘burn thing Fernandez was slightly more deserving than Puig, with Longenhagen the only one willing to stray from the pack. The argument can go either way.
Who would you pick for each of the six awards we considered above? Where do you think we went wrong, and with whom did we get it right? Let us know in the comments.