The World Series just concluded in historic fashion, meaning another baseball season is in the books. With many exciting moments and performances, there was plenty to keep fans busy in 2016. Soon, the sport will announce the winners of its awards, and there is plenty of competition for the top honors. Without further ado, here is my (unofficial) ballot.
American League MVP- Boston Red Sox Outfielder Mookie Betts: First, let’s get some business out of the way. If someone were to say Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout had a better season I wouldn’t put up much of an argument. However, both players are phenomenal five-tool talents and this is not the best player award. While Trout’s team was fighting to stay out of the baseman, Betts’ Sox took the tough American League East.
Having just turned 24 after the end of the regular season, Betts established himself as one of the best players in the game in 2016. Appearing in 158 games, he hit .318 with 31 home runs, 113 RBIs, 214 base hits, 122 runs scored and 26 stolen bases. This all helped contribute to a stellar 9.6 WAR. The converted infielder also proved himself as an elite defensive outfielder. His 32 defensive runs saved led the league and where a whopping 10 more than the runner up, Adam Eaton of the Chicago White Sox. Simply put, no player was more valuable to his team and their success than Betts.
National League MVP- Chicago Cubs Third Baseman/Outfielder Kris Bryant: Although he didn’t run away with it, Bryant is the clear choice here. Just 24 like his counterpart Betts, he was the best of a Cubs team that won an impressive 103 games and the World Series. Appearing in 155 contests, he hit .292 with a league-leading 121 runs scored, 39 home runs and 102 RBIs.
Splitting his time between third base and the outfield, Bryant is better in the field than he is given credit for. He compiled a positive dWAR and was also good enough for five defensive runs saved. He may be hurt a little by his teammate, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, having a similarly strong season. However, he was just a bit more productive and consistent and deserves to take home what will likely be the first of multiple MVP awards.
American League Cy Young- Boston Red Sox Starting Pitcher Rick Porcello: The right-hander bounced back from a miserable 2015 season in Boston to finally assume the mantle of an ace at the age of 27. Making 33 starts, he went 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA. His win total led the league, and he struck out a career-high 189 batters in 223 innings (also a best). His 1.01 WHIP was .008 behind the leader and possible Cy Young runner up, Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers.
Porcello gets the nod because he not only matched Verlander on ERA and WHIP but he notched six more wins, which is perhaps the sexiest stat taken into consideration by voters (no matter how right or wrong that is). He was also ridiculously consistent, pitching at least into the sixth inning in all of his starts. He was also tougher as the season wore on. He had matching 11-2 records in each half of the season, but his 2.62 ERA after the All Star break was a little more than a run better than his mark before that.
National League Cy Young- Washington Nationals Starting Pitcher Max Scherzer: There are few pitchers in baseball as consistent as the power right-hander. His ERA+ has sat between 123 and 144 in each of the past three seasons, which yielded a CY Young Award (2013) and two fifth-place finishes. He was in vintage form in 2016, going 20-7 with a 2.96 ERA and 284 strikeouts and a 141 ERA+. He led the league in wins, punch outs and innings (228.1). He also followed up two no-hitters in 2015 with a record-tying 20 strikeout game earlier this year.
There has been significant support for Chicago Cubs right hander Kyle Hendricks, who led the league in ERA (2.13) and ERA+ (188). However, he threw nearly 40 less innings, and went seven or more innings in a start seven times compared to 20 for Scherzer.
Somehow, Scherzer sometimes seems to fly under the radar, yet he is consistently one of the best pitchers in the game. He was in vintage form this season and should take home another piece of hardware for his trophy case.
American League Rookie of the Year- Detroit Tigers Starting Pitcher Michael Fulmer: This may not be the popular pick but it is the right choice. Sentiment may be on the side of New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, who hit .299 with 20 home runs in just 53 games. No matter how dominant Sanchez was, he should not be rewarded for what was such a relatively short hot streak.
In 24 August games, Sanchez hit .389 with 11 home runs. He hit .217 with nine home runs in his other 29 games. While he literally set records, the Rookie of the Year award should be about cumulative performance and not about portions of a season.
Enter Fulmer. The right-hander quietly performed like a veteran all season, going 11-7 with a 3.06 ERA in 26 starts. He struck out 132 in 159 innings while allowing just 42 walks and 136 base hits. He gave up two or fewer runs in 16 of his starts. Although he did not make the same splashy headlines as Sanchez, he submitted an impressive body of work and did so over the course of a full season.
National League Rookie of the Year- Los Angeles Dodgers Shortstop Corey Seager: Perhaps the easiest of all the awards to prognosticate, the 22-year-old will also be in the conversation for MVP. Appearing in 157 games, he hit .308 with 26 home runs, 40 doubles and 72 RBIs. He collected 193 hits and scored 105 runs, all while playing surprisingly solid defense for a player of his size (6’4” and 215 pounds).
The National League was chockfull of rookies this year, making Seager’s efforts all the more impressive. He looks to be one of baseball’s next superstars.
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