It is award season. This past week the award winners in Major League Baseball were announced. Certainly, in most years the voters (players/writers) get it right more often than not. But this year they certainly missed on a few.
Rookies of the Year
The Sporting News gave the award to two Florida-based players, Wil Myers (Rays, .293/.354/.478) and Jose Fernandez (Marlins, 12-6, 2.19 ERA with 187 strikeouts).
Myers was the obvious winner in the AL. Jose Iglesias of the Red Sox and then the Tigers came in second followed by Myers' teammate Chris Archer in third.
The Rays were three games over .500 when Myers got to the big leagues but went 56-38 after his arrival. He only played in 88 games but his power and run production had a major impact as he added length and depth to the order. He hit .293 with 13 home runs and 53 RBI in those 88 games. I can't wait to see what he can do in a full season.
Iglesias is a slick fielding but light-hitting shortstop who will continue to improve over time. He will be the answer for years in Detroit after they acquired him mid-season from Boston.
Archer was an effective starter and there is no doubting that but he had a number of peaks and valleys to accumulate his final numbers (9-7, 3.22 ERA). He was dominating at times but was just average at times as well.
AL Rookie of the Year: Wil Myers, Tampa Bay
Jose Fernandez at the age of 20 did some remarkable things this year. He was second in ERA to CY Young winner Clayton Kershaw (1.89 ERA). He led all rookies in most pitching categories. The Marlins (62-100) went 18-10 in his starts. All really great stuff for such a young player who gained 26 of 30 first place votes. But was he really the best in the NL?
Yasiel Puig came in second in the voting with only four first place votes. He was robbed. He hit .319 and slugged 19 homers and drove in 42 runs while scoring 66 in 104 games. His .391 on-base percentage and .534 slugging percentage were the best among NL rookies. The Dodgers were 23-32 before Puig's call up to the big leagues and were mired in last place in the NL West. They went 69-38 and won the division after his contract was added to the major league roster.
Puig made a huge impact. He sparked the fans, which in turn sparked his teammates. One could argue that he made baseball exciting again in LA. The Dodgers were on the verge of firing manager Don Mattingly and now he is negotiating a contract extension. Puig is a handful to manage, as he is a big personality with limited boundaries in his behaviour. But boy is he great. You can make the argument that he energized all of baseball and should be a candidate for the MVP Award. He was definitely better than Jose Fernandez and deserved to win the NL award.
NL Rookie of the Year: Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers
Managers of the Year
The Baseball Writers vote for the Managers of the Year. Remember the votes are submitted before the playoffs begin so the award is a regular season award. The writers awarded Terry Francona in the AL for the Indians' dramatic turnaround and they awarded Clint Hurdle in the NL for the Pirates' first playoff berth since 1992.
It had been an awfully long time since the Pirates last celebrated with champagne. They had shown flashes in recent years of being competitive only to fizzle out in the second half of the season. Hurdle did a remarkable job of blending youth with experience and maintaining a positive outlook even when voices of doubt might have started to creep in with his players.
Clint is an inspirational story as he lives a life of recovery from alcohol addiction. He is open about it because he believes his willingness to be vulnerable cultivates trust with his players and he was proven to be right. Hurdle was the AAA manager for the Mets back when I was running the minor leagues. He wasn't as clear thinking then as he is now. We parted ways after a difficult season but rather than feel victimized Clint fought for a life of health and serenity. He found it and he now is fulfilling the promise of his abilities. I am so happy for him.
I am a bit surprised the NL vote wasn't closer. Hurdle had 140 points including 25 first place votes compared to Dodgers manager Don Mattingly's second place total of 68 points and two first place votes. Mattingly did an amazing job in LA keeping things together when it looked like things were falling apart. Donnie Baseball maintained a positive demeanor even when people were calling for him to be fired.
He managed his team through a tremendous amount of adversity with injuries and a change in closer. I particularly love the fact that he disciplined Yasiel Puig when his behaviour on and off the field called for it. Not every manager would sit a young stud to teach him a lesson while battling for a pennant. Mattingly didn't get the award but he will be awarded with a contract extension.
NL Manager of the Year: Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates
In the AL, a case could be made for Indians manager Terry Francona, A's manager Bob Melvin, Red Sox manager John Farrell, Rays manager Joe Maddon and Yankees manager Joe Girardi to be the manager of the year.
The Yankees only won 86 games despite their lofty payroll but no team faced more injuries and adversity than the Yanks. They lost Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, and CC Sabathia for significant amounts of time. Girardi had to blend guys who were seemingly in witness protection in recent years (Travis Hafner, Lyle Overbay, Vernon Wells and Alfonso Soriano). I have no idea with all of the injuries and underperformance how the Yankees won 86 games. Girardi may have had his best year managing.
Joe Maddon always deserves recognition for getting so many young players to perform on such a consistent basis. He is a motivator and a teacher. He teaches his young guys how to win at the major league level. His support helps his players develop a sense of baseball maturity that you don't see elsewhere. The Rays always have one of the lowest payrolls as well. Just as remarkable is the quality of performance his Rays get from reclamation projects like James Loney, Davis DeJesus and Yunel Escobar.
The Oakland A's surprised everyone in 2012 by winning the AL West. Bob Melvin won the Manager of the Year for his team's success; as well he should have last season. Despite their success in 2012 there were some who still didn't believe in the A's this year because of their youth and low payroll. But they did it again with solid pitching, timely hitting and very good defence. Melvin's calmness keeps his players focused and under control. Their talent prevailed in the end. He did another worthy job in 2013.
Terry Francona was back in the dugout this year in Cleveland and he showed why he is one of the best managers in the game. He led the Tribe to a 24-game improvement over their 2012 record and a playoff berth. When the season began I didn't think there was a chance this team could make the playoffs. The pitching staff just didn't stack up.
Francona did a great job setting his players up to succeed and the more they won the more their confidence grew. Francona has a unique ability to be a different manager for every player: some guys need a pat on the back and some need a kick in the pants. Francona can deliver either. Francona got 116 points including 16 first place votes while edging out John Farrell, his former coaching partner in both Cleveland and Boston. Francona had 12 first place votes and 96 total points.
John Farrell was the best offseason acquisition in baseball. He went back to Boston and fixed players who had struggled for a couple of seasons. He returned and helped blend a significant number of new faces on the roster. He helped heal the emotional damage from the Bobby Valentine era in 2012. The Red Sox had a number of injuries to their pitching staff in addition to weathering a major issue at the closer's role. He is stable, cool, calm and collected. His personality fit perfectly. Farrell managed his pitcher extremely well and his position players thrived. He effectively managed young players and veterans while maximizing their production. The Red Sox had a 27-game turnaround from the 2012 season - the most significant jump in baseball.
AL Manager of the Year: John Farrell, Boston Red Sox
Cy Young Award
The Baseball Writers Association of America voted the Dodger lefty Clayton Kershaw and Tigers' ace Max Scherzer as their respective league's Cy Young Award winners.
Kershaw won in a landslide vote, getting all but one first place tally. Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals was the clear second place finisher with young Jose Fernandez of the Marlins in third. Kershaw (16-9 1.83 ERA) won the award for the second time in three years. He won the ERA title for the third consecutive year while punching out an NL-leading 232 batters. He had the best WHIP in baseball as well. Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball and the Dodgers need to get him locked up with an extension ASAP. This award was a no-brainer.
NL CY Young: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
Max Scherzer won 21 games, the most in baseball this year. He finished the season with a 21-3 record and 2.90 ERA. He got off to a great start by winning his first 13 decisions. He led the league in wins and WHIP and was second in strikeouts. Scherzer was ranked fifth in ERA but overall had more dominant qualitative numbers than three of the four pitchers in front of him.
I am a bit surprised that Yu Darvish didn't muster more first place votes than he did. Darvish finished a distant second with only 93 points and no first place votes compared to 203 points and 28 first place votes for Scherzer. Darvish did have a slightly better ERA than Scherzer and 277 strikeouts compared to Scherzer's 240. Of course Scherzer won 21 games compared to only 13 for Darvish. But Darvish lost seven games in which his team scored three or less runs including four games he lost by a 1-0 score. Scherzer (5.59 runs per game) had the third-highest run support in baseball while Darvish (4.28) was ranked 36th.
After careful consideration, it is a close call with Darvish deserving the AL CY Young Award over Scherzer.
AL CY Young: Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers
Most Valuable Players
The Baseball Writers nailed the MVP Awards. Miguel Cabrera won the AL MVP for the second consecutive year and Andrew McCutchen won the award for the NL.
Cabrera (385 points, 23 first place votes) beat out Mike Trout (282 points, five first place votes) for the second straight year. Trout (.323/.432/.537) slugged 27 homers, drove in 97 runs, scored 109 runs and walked 110 times while stealing 33 bases as well. He had another great season but Cabrera may have actually outdone his Triple Crown season from a year ago. He hit a career-high .348 while tying a career high in homers (44) and driving in 137 runs. He also scored 103 runs. Cabrera put up these huge numbers with very little production coming in the month of September due to a myriad of injuries. Cabrera is clearly a first ballot Hall of Famer and is making a statement that he may be the best right-handed hitter of all time.
AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
Andrew McCutchen won the NL MVP in a landslide. It was far more lopsided than I anticipated. McCutchen received 28 of the 30 first place votes. I am sure some part of the draw to McCutchen for the voters was the fact that the Pirates hadn't made the playoffs since 1992. McCutchen hit .317 with 21 homers and 84 RBI. He also hit .360 in the final 55 games of the season when the Pirates were in the pennant race. The last few years the Pirates faded in the second half of the season but McCutchen didn't allow that to happen this year.
Paul Goldschmidt (.302, 38 HR and 125 RBI) of the Diamondbacks finished second in the balloting with Yadier Molina ending up third. I really anticipated Molina to finish a close second behind McCutchen. Molina is a manager on the field as he guided the Cardinals pitching staff and shut down the opponent's running game all season long. He also hit .317 with 80 RBI, 44 doubles and 12 homers. He hit .373 with runners in scoring position. He was as clutch a player as there was in the game. His contributions helped the Cards hold off the Pirates and Reds in the division race. Unfortunately for Molina his teammate, second baseman Matt Carpenter, stole some of his votes as Carpenter finished fourth in the balloting.
NL MVP: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
It was a great year in baseball with some amazing individual performances. I can't wait for pitchers and catchers to report for spring training.