Nov 16, 2015, 6:00 AM EDT
They’ve handed out the Gold Gloves and the Silver Sluggers and the Players Choices and awards named for Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente and Marvin Miller. Now come the most prestigious of baseball’s end-of-season honors: the BBWAA awards.
MLB’s eight major awards — MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year in each league — will be announced over the next four nights. Local fans will have to wait until 6 p.m. Thursday for the big prize: Bryce Harper’s all-but-certain NL MVP. There’s not much drama with that one, aside from the question of whether Harper will be a unanimous choice or not.
But several of the other awards are wide open, with legitimate cases to be made for several candidates. Let’s attempt to predict all eight of them, keeping in mind that it’s never easy trying to find consensus when you’re polling two members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America from each major-league city.
(Remember: All of these votes were submitted at the end of the regular season, so postseason performance did not figure into any of the awards.) …
ROOKIES OF THE YEAR
Announcement: Monday, 6 p.m. EST
Predicted NL winner: This was a fantastic season for rookies across baseball, but one easily stood above the rest in the NL: Kris Bryant. The Cubs third baseman was everything he was expected to be, hitting 26 homers with 99 RBI, a .275 batting average and .858 OPS in 151 games. On a team loaded with young talent, Bryant really was something special. He should win this award in convincing fashion, ahead of fellow finalists Matt Duffy and Jung Ho Kang.
Predicted AL winner: Speaking of special rookies, the AL had a couple of them in Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor. (Third finalist Miguel Sano wasn’t too shabby, either.) Correa had 22 homers and 68 RBI in only 99 games for the Astros, posting an .857 OPS and a 4.1 WAR that would’ve ranked among the league’s best had he simply been in the big leagues all season. Lindor didn’t garner as much attention playing for a lesser Indians team, but in 99 games himself he hit 12 homers, drove in 51, hit .313 with an .835 OPS and actually posted a better WAR (4.6) than Correa. You could go either way here, but we’ll predict Correa gets the nod based on his contributions to Houston club that made its first postseason appearance in a decade.
MANAGERS OF THE YEAR
Announcement: Tuesday, 6 p.m. EST
Predicted NL winner: These are always so tough to pick, because who truly knows what difference a manager makes on his club. This tends to end up going to the manager of the team that surprised the most, which would give Joe Maddon and Terry Collins a leg up on Mike Matheny (even though the Cardinals skipper did a fantastic job guiding an injured-decimated roster to an MLB-best 100 wins). Collins, managing with no job security beyond 2015, had the perfect mentality to lead the Mets through a wild season that culminated with their first division title since 2006 and ultimately a World Series berth (though remember that doesn’t figure into this award). But Maddon gets credit for changing the culture in Chicago. Yes, the Cubs have tons of young talent. But it was Maddon who gave them instant credibility when he was hired and who used his experience to help that young group to 97 wins much sooner than most thought that could happen.
Predicted AL winner: All three finalists (Jeff Banister, A.J. Hinch, Paul Molitor) were inexperienced managers who led teams that weren’t predicted to win anything in 2015 into a pennant race (with the Rangers and Astros ultimately reaching the postseason while the Twins fell just short). Any would be deserving of this award, but we’ll say Banister gets the trophy after leading an injury-plagued Texas team through a stunning second-half turnaround that culminated with an unlikely AL West title.
Announcement: Wednesday, 6 p.m. EST
Predicted NL winner: Man oh man, it’s simply not fair that only one NL pitcher can win this award this season. Any of the three finalists (Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw) would be a runaway Cy Young choice in just about any other season. Shoot, Max Scherzer probably would’ve won it in plenty of previous seasons but won’t finish any better than fourth this year. This one comes down to an epic battle between Arrieta and Greinke, whose stats are nearly identical. Arrieta: 22-6, 1.77 ERA, 229 IP, 236 K, 48 BB, 0.865 WHIP. Greinke: 19-3, 1.66 ERA, 222.2 IP, 200 K, 40 BB, 0.844 WHIP. What’s the deciding factor between these two? I’ll say it’s performance down the stretch. Over his final 12 starts, Arrieta wasn’t human: 11-0, 0.41, with an opponents’ OPS of .354. That’s insane. And so, the guess here is that Arrieta will barely nudge out Greinke in one of the closest Cy Young votes we’ve ever seen.
Predicted AL winner: This one is no cakewalk, either. David Price was outstanding (18-5, 2.45, 225 K, 47 BB in 220.1 IP). So was Dallas Keuchel (20-8, 2.48, 216 K, 51 BB in 232 IP). What separates the two? We’ll say it’s Keuchel by a nose based on a few more innings pitched, a slightly better WHIP (1.02 to 1.08) and the fact he faced 23 more batters than Price. But that’s victory by the slimmest of margins.
Announcement: Thursday, 6 p.m. EST
Predicted NL winner: I had an MVP vote this year, and while we’re not allowed to reveal our selections until the announcement is made Thursday evening, you shouldn’t have to spend much time guessing who I picked. Bryce Harper had a season for the ages, only the ninth player in history to hit .330 with 42 homers and a .460 on-base percentage. And to anyone who thinks his performance shouldn’t be rewarded because he didn’t play for a team that reached the postseason, remember this: Harper played more than five months of the season in a pennant race, carrying a Nationals lineup that had only one other consistent bat (Yunel Escobar). He didn’t put up big numbers in meaningless situations. Actually, he cooled off in the season’s final week, at which point the Nats had very little at stake. He absolutely is deserving of the MVP honor, and the only real question now is whether he’ll be a unanimous pick over fellow finalists Paul Goldschmidt and Joey Votto.
Predicted AL winner: If we’re discussing the AL MVP race, Mike Trout must be involved. He always is, and this year is no different. And as has been the case most seasons, Trout is engaged in a tight battle with another worthy candidate. This year, that’s Josh Donaldson. Trout gets the edge in WAR (9.4 to 8.8) and OPS (.991 to .939). Donaldson gets the edge in runs (122 to 104) and total bases (352 to 339). What’s the deciding factor? Here’s a case where voters might just give the nod to the guy whose team made the playoffs. They’ve shown in recent years that matters less and less, but when a race is this close, team performance can serve as something of a tiebreaker. It’ll be close, but the guess here is that Donaldson narrowly tops Trout, who winds up second in the MVP vote for the third time in four years.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
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