Post-World Series Predictions for Every Major 2013 MLB Award Race
The end of the World Series is a sad time for baseball fans because it signals the end of the season. The good news is that we still have plenty to talk about with the Baseball Writers' Association of America getting ready to hand out awards.
Much has been said, written and debated when it comes to awards like the Cy Young and Most Valuable Player, and we are now on the precipice of getting answers to our many questions. Once we get those answers, talk will center on whether or not the voters got it right.
Since I don't have patience to wait and see which way the BBWAA voting will go, I wanted to take one final look at the races for each major award and predict winners in these categories.
However, in an effort to provide you with even more to debate, I am going to split things up a little bit. I will offer a prediction on who will win, but I'll also tell you who should win, because seldom are they ever the same.
American League Rookie of the Year
Should Win: Wil Myers, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
In a mediocre year for American League rookies, Wil Myers was the clear standout. He didn't get called up until June 18, yet he still led AL freshmen in on-base percentage (.354), slugging percentage (.478), isolated power (.185), weighted on-base average (.357) and FanGraphs' wins above replacement (2.4).
I am also a believer in the idea that part of the Rookie of the Year is to highlight a player who projects to be a star. Myers has been on the prospect radar since the Kansas City Royals drafted him in 2009, was a top-five prospect in most rankings before the season and played at a high level in Triple-A before Tampa Bay brought him up.
When you combine all of those factors, no other rookie in the AL this season came close to Myers.
Will Win: Myers
The only other AL "contender," using that word loosely, is the Detroit Tigers' Jose Iglesias. The 23-year-old shortstop got a chance to play every day in 2013, splitting time between shortstop and third base with the Boston Red Sox before taking over at his natural position of shortstop following a midseason trade to Detroit.
Overall, Iglesias' numbers look strong, with a .303/.349/.386 line in 350 at-bats, but the bulk of that production came in a fluky first half when he hit .367/.417/.461. He isn't that kind of hitter, nor is he a very good hitter. The second half was much closer to what Iglesias will be (.235/.274/.306).
Iglesias' calling card is defense, which was OK in 2013 but not good enough to push him over the top. He was credited with zero defensive runs saved and a 3.4 ultimate zone rating at shortstop.
Myers is the best and most logical candidate for AL Rookie of the Year.
*Winner announced on November 11
National League Rookie of the Year
Should Win: Jose Fernandez, SP, Miami Marlins
The rookie race in the National League is far more compelling than in the AL. There are no fewer than five strong candidates who would be justified winning the award in most years. However, we all know this race comes down to the Miami Marlins' new ace, Jose Fernandez, and the Los Angeles Dodgers' newest superstar, Yasiel Puig.
Puig was fantastic after being brought up on June 3. He led all rookies with a minimum of 300 at-bats in batting average (.319), on-base percentage (.391), slugging percentage (.534) and weighted on-base average (.398).
Puig also finished second among NL rookies with 11 stolen bases and had eight outfield assists in just 175 chances. He did have rookie moments where sloppy play or trying to do too much cost him and the Dodgers, but the overall production was nothing short of brilliant.
Unfortunately, it happened the same year as one of the best debut seasons by a pitcher in history. Fernandez, a surprise addition to the Marlins' roster out of spring training at the age of 20, was marvelous for a franchise no one wanted to watch.
He finished with the third-lowest ERA (2.19) in history among pitchers who qualified for the ERA title aged 20 or under*. The two guys ahead of him, Harry Krause and Smoky Joe Wood, did it in 1909. He also finished second in the NL with 9.75 strikeouts per nine innings and fourth in fielding-independent ERA (2.73). He led all rookies with 4.2 FanGraphs wins above replacement.
Puig was great, but Fernandez was better.
*Fernandez did turn 21 during the season, but since his birthday happened after June 30, this was classified as his age-20 season.
Will Win: Puig
I had a long internal debate with myself about actually picking the winner. Fernandez was the better player and would get my vote.
However, there are two factors at play that will help Puig, whether fair or not.
First, the narrative of the Dodgers turning their season around and winning the National League West after Puig's debut will resonate with some voters. That would also be wrong. Hanley Ramirez, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke were just as important to the turnaround, but don't let facts get in the way of a good narrative.
Second, as great as Fernandez was in 2013, how many people were watching Marlins games? Los Angeles is a huge media market with a team people went out of their way to watch on a daily basis, especially after Puig's arrival because they wanted to see what he would do.
Fernandez might have had that same impact for the Marlins, but the team around him was so bad that I can imagine a scenario where not enough people watched him pitch to appreciate his brilliance.
*Award announced on November 11
AL and NL Manager of the Year
AL Manager of the Year
Should/Will Win: John Farrell, Boston Red Sox
I have often said that evaluating everything a manager does is impossible. We can look at the tangible on-field things, like lineup construction or bullpen management, to form some opinion.
There are also things behind the scenes, like managing 25 different personalities every day for seven months, that we can't see and don't know how to evaluate.
Tampa Bay's Joe Maddon is the best manager in baseball, but narratives define this award more than any other. That's not to say John Farrell, Terry Francona and Bob Melvin aren't worthy of winning AL Manager of the Year, because they are excellent at what they do.
Ultimately, given how far the Red Sox fell in 2012 and their rebound to achieve the best record in the AL this year, Farrell will win the award.
NL Manager of the Year
Should/Will Win: Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates
There are many things to pick apart about the job Clint Hurdle does. He is not a good tactical manager, his bullpen management leaves a lot to be desired and some of his strategic moves leave you scratching your head.
That said, I am all for going with the narrative on this award. The Pittsburgh Pirates were a tremendous story in 2013, ending a 21-year streak of losing in spectacular fashion. They won 94 games and made the playoffs for the first time since Barry Bonds' final game with the team.
It also helps that there isn't another strong candidate in the National League. Mike Matheny got better in his second year with the St. Louis Cardinals, but only because his insistence on bunting whenever a runner got on base subsided. The Atlanta Braves' Fredi Gonzalez and Cincinnati Reds' Dusty Baker are among the worst tacticians in baseball. Los Angeles' Don Mattingly didn't do anything to elevate the Dodgers.
Davey Johnson might be the No. 2 choice in the NL, but he won't get any support because the Washington Nationals underachieved this year based on preseason expectations.
*Awards announced on November 12
American League Cy Young Award
Should Win: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
The AL Cy Young is another tight race that could go one of two ways with no real complaints from me. The top candidates, Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners and Detroit's Max Scherzer, were two of the best in the league and are more than deserving of holding the hardware.
What separated Hernandez, ever so slightly, was the caliber of competition he faced. King Felix made 31 starts this season, with 19 coming against teams that ranked in the top 10 in runs scored. Scherzer made 32 starts, but just 12 came against teams in the top 10 in runs scored.
Jonah Keri of Grantland also noted that Hernandez's weighted opponents' OPS this season was 20 points higher (.751) than Scherzer's (.731).
Hernandez finished with a slightly higher ERA (3.04 to 2.90), but he also played in front of the worst defense in baseball. His FIP was slightly better than Scherzer's (2.61 to 2.74), and Seattle's ace had a commanding lead in xFIP (2.66 to 3.16).
Scherzer finished with more strikeouts (240 to 216), but he had a lower strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.29 to 4.70).
It's a tight race based on numbers, but the quality of competition and factors under a pitcher's control (i.e. ignoring defense) gives the edge to Hernandez.
Will Win: Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers
Even though I think my case for Hernandez is strong and valid, a lot of voters are going to use Scherzer's 21-3 record as the basis for declaring him the best pitcher in the AL.
Sadly, that outdated criteria will also cost Hernandez second- and third-place votes because he only went 12-10 for one of the worst teams in the league.
There are arguments to be made on Scherzer's behalf that don't revolve around wins. Striking out 10.08 hitters per nine innings and 240 total in 214.1 innings is a good start. Allowing 152 hits and having the lowest WHIP in the league (0.970) are also a nice feather in his cap.
Whatever criteria the voters use, Scherzer is going to capture his first AL Cy Young award. His teammate, Anibal Sanchez, will probably finish ahead of Hernandez, but I wouldn't put him on the ballot because he finished 30th in the league with 182 innings.
*Award announced on November 13
National League Cy Young Award
Should Win: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
Sometimes, there are things that need no explanation. Clayton Kershaw winning the NL Cy Young award is one of them, though I am more than happy to offer a few thoughts on why this is a slam dunk.
We can start with Kershaw leading the league in ERA (1.83) and WHIP (0.915) for the third consecutive season. He also led the league in strikeouts (232) for the second time in three years.
Kershaw's 1.83 ERA was the lowest for a starting pitcher qualified for the ERA title since Roger Clemens in 2005.
While there will be some competition from St. Louis' Adam Wainwright, who had a lower xFIP than Kershaw (2.80 to 2.88) and led the NL with 241.2 innings pitched, it won't be enough to win the award.
Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball, had the best season of any starting pitcher and should have another Cy Young award to put on his mantel.
Will Win: Kershaw
There might be a St. Louis voter who gives Wainwright a first-place vote, but this should be a unanimous decision given how dominant Kershaw was compared to every other starter in the NL.
Matt Harvey and Jose Fernandez would have had interesting cases given what we saw from them this year, but Harvey's injury and Fernandez being shut down put them so far behind Kershaw in innings pitched they are non-factors in this discussion.
Cliff Lee is a forgotten man in this category because the Phillies were a bad team. He had a great season that warrants a few second-place votes.
*Award announced on November 13
American League Most Valuable Player
Should Win: Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels
No, you have not fallen asleep and woken up back in 2012. The AL MVP debate will once again center on Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera.
Like 2012, the player who should win won't. Trout gets punished because the Los Angeles Angels' front office isn't as good as Detroit's. Make no mistake about it, though: Trout is the best and most valuable player in baseball.
Sometimes, you will hear that a player can be the best without being the most valuable, which makes no sense when you think about it.
Trout had sky-high expectations placed on him after one of the greatest rookie seasons ever, only to get better in 2013. His 10.4 FanGraphs wins above replacement this year was the highest since Barry Bonds' 11.7 in 2004.
The 22-year-old finished in the top three of AL hitters in batting average (.323), on-base percentage (.432) and weighted on-base average (.423). He was second in extra-base hits (75) and fourth in slugging percentage (.557).
Since I can see Detroit fans saying Cabrera beat Trout in average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, just know those numbers are only part of the MVP debate.
Trout was one of the best baserunners in the AL, adding 8.1 baserunning runs this season and stealing 33 bases in 40 attempts. His defense took a step back this year, but when you have his offensive prowess, it doesn't hurt much to be adequate with the glove.
By the way, putting up those offensive numbers while playing primarily as a center fielder absolutely helps Trout's cause. It is one of the most important and difficult positions on the field to fill.
Hopefully, Arte Moreno and Co. can figure out a way to do their jobs better so Trout can get at least one of the MVP awards he so richly deserves one of these years.
Will Win: Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Detroit Tigers
It will be interesting to see what the narrative for Cabrera will be when he wins the AL MVP award.
Last year, it was how he single-handedly carried the Tigers to the playoffs, even though they were the best team in the AL Central, underachieved all season and also had two other legitimate MVP candidates (Justin Verlander and Austin Jackson).
There was also the Triple Crown story last year, which was a story for a long time this year until he got hurt and didn't perform in September (.278/.395/.333 in 72 at-bats). He clearly wasn't right at the end of the season, though that should positively impact his candidacy because it was value he wasn't adding.
When healthy, Cabrera is the best hitter in baseball. No one disputes that. There is more to the game than just being a great hitter, though, which is where Miggy's candidacy suffers. He is a bad baserunner, costing the Tigers 4.4 runs because of his inability to run.
Cabrera also rated as the worst defensive third baseman in the AL and second-worst among all position players, just ahead of teammate Prince Fielder.
Great hitters add a lot of value on the field. Cabrera is one of the best and most valuable in baseball, but he's not No. 1.
*Award announced on November 14
National League Most Valuable Player
Should Win: Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
Nothing brings a bigger smile to my face than when the narrative and performance line up to reward a superstar for a superb season.
Andrew McCutchen has been one of the best players in the National League the last three years. He could have won the MVP award last year, but the field was very close, and Buster Posey had a compelling case to go along with the narrative of the San Francisco Giants making the playoffs, so you couldn't argue against the vote.
Now, it is McCutchen's turn, and it is well deserved. He led the league with 8.2 FanGraphs wins above replacement, was one of only two NL players in the .300/.400/.500 club (Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt was the other) and had statistically the best defensive year of his career.
McCutchen saved seven runs, made 62 plays out of his zone and had a 6.9 ultimate zone rating. Combined with being the best offensive player in the National League, Pittsburgh's superstar has earned the MVP award.
Will Win: McCutchen
In addition to his performance, which should be enough to get McCutchen the award, the narrative of being the best player on a Pirates team that ended a 21-year playoff drought will resonate with a subset of voters who like that sort of thing.
The only player who figures to challenge McCutchen is Clayton Kershaw. His level of dominance this season could be enough to make this an interesting race, though we know there are voters who won't put a starting pitcher on the MVP ballot.
*Award announced on November 14
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