Most Valuable Player: Once again, it comes down to Old School vs. New School
Comeback Player of the Year
Manager of the Year
Rookie of the Year
Pat: This year, the AL MVP race looks remarkably similar to last year's heated battle. Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout are without doubt the top two candidates, and it's seeming extremely likely that Cabrera will win once again, for virtually the same reasons he won last year.
Of course, last year was the year that Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown. Despite the fact that he posted nearly identical numbers in the Triple Crown categories, he lost the HR and RBI title to Chris Davis of the Orioles.
Despite the fact that it really doesn't impact Cabrera's value at all, particularly when compared to Trout, the mere fact that Cabrera didn't win the Triple Crown might lead some of the mentally challenged voters to pass on him this year.
Other candidates include Josh Donaldson, who helped carry the A's into the postseason, Yankees 2B Robinson Cano, and the aforementioned Davis. All three had fantastic seasons, and Donaldson and Davis seemingly came out of nowhere.
WHO SHOULD WIN: Trout. He should have won last year, and he should win this year. It's not his fault Pujols and Hamilton massively underachieved. He's more valuable. Period.
My ballot: 1. Trout, 2. Cabrera, 3. Donaldson, 4. Cano, 5. Davis
WHO WILL WIN: Trout. I might be crazy to think that the voters will get it right this time, but I think the ones that were dumb enough to vote for Cabrera last year will be dumb enough to vote against him because he didn't win the Triple Crown this year. Even though that would be the most ignorant and inconsistent voting reasoning possible.
Eric: The MVP awards almost always produce the biggest debate. Everyone has their own definition of the word “valuable.” We saw what happened last year in the AL race. Will history repeat itself in terms of the rhetoric? The NL debate is less heated, but it’s arguably a tighter race.
Starting with the AL, where the top contender is, who else, Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera did not win the Triple Crown this year, and his power was basically nonexistent in September due to multiple injuries, but he still managed to improve from 2012 in all his slash lines. In fact, his .348/.442/.636 line led the league in each of those categories. His 44 HRs and 137 RBIs were both 2nd in the AL. There are issues with his defense and baserunning, but as a hitter, there is no one at the level of Miggy.
Sophomore slump, what sophomore slump? Mike Trout hit “only” .323 this year, three points less than last year, and slugged .557, seven points worse, but his OBP went up to .432, second in the league. The average ranked 3rd in the AL and the slugging 4th. He led the league in walks and times on bases, and while his stolen base total dropped to 33, that was still good enough for 8th in the AL. The defensive metrics weren’t as kind as they were in 2012, but those can be volatile. Trout’s true defensive ability is likely somewhere in between, which is still very good. Finally, yes, he did league the majors in WAR, both the Baseball Reference version (9.2) and Fangraphs (10.4).
The next contender is the Orioles Chris Davis, who’s here for one reason, home runs. He led the league with 53, and also lead in RBIs with 138. His average (.286) and OBP (.370) aren’t at the levels of Cabrera and Trout though, and as a big, lumbering first baseman, does not provide much defensive or base running value.
The “WAR candidate” isn’t Mike Trout per se, but Oakland’s Josh Donaldson. The 27 year old third baseman certainly had a breakout season, hitting .301/.384/.499 in a pitcher’s park. Park adjustments and good defense led Donaldson to ranking 2nd in the AL in WAR, making him the de facto star of a starless A’s lineup.
Other contenders include: Robinson Cano, who had a usual Cano season, hitting .314/.383/.516. David Ortiz, who didn’t have the plate appearance of the top contender and of course has no defensive value at all, but did finish 4th in OPS and helped lead the worst-to-first Red Sox. Manny Machado’s bat was clearly the weakest of the contenders, but his phenomenal defense at third base puts him in the down ballot mix.
WHO SHOULD WIN:
Don’t do it.
They’re going to laugh at you, call you a nerd, or come up with some other pejorative. David Price might egg your house.
*breathes* Ah, screw it. Here goes nothing.
Mike Trout is the best player in the game and should win the MVP. I do not feel he should be punished because Cabrera has a great supporting cast and pitching staff behind him, while Trout is stuck with disaster contracts and mostly terrible pitching. Baseball is not designed for one guy to carry a team to the promised land over the course of a season. Yes, Cabrera was the better hitter. However, the way I see it, Trout’s advantage in defense and base running* overcome Cabrera’s 90 point advantage in OPS, especially when only 10 of those points involve the much more important OBP. I love watching Miguel Cabrera hit. It’s the one of the best things about baseball right now, but Trout is the better player and the MVP. If you want to accuse me of an agenda or say I need to get out of mom’s basement, so be it, but that’s how I feel about it.
* It’s funny. When Moneyball came out, the knock on stat nerds is that they ignored defense and base running (which to a point was true). Now they consider those things and it’s still the same backlash. The goalposts always change.
My Ballot: 1. Trout, 2. Cabrera, 3. Donaldson, 4. Davis, 5. Cano
Cano should realistically be 4th over Davis given positional adjustment, but I’m a homer. Sue me.
WHO WILL WIN: Cabrera.
Eric: Turning to the NL, where the favorite is the Pirates Andrew McCutchen. He hit .317/.404/.508 with very good defense in center field. On the narrative side, he was the best player of a Pirates team that made the postseason for the first time since 1992.
Even though his team didn’t make the playoffs, Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt is on many people’s short list, and with good reason. His 36 homers tied for the league lead, and he also led the league in RBIs, slugging, OPS, and OPS+. He was also 4th in OBP (behind McCutchen though).
The third major contender might just be a pitcher, and not surprisingly that’s Clayton Kershaw. The MVP talk has cooled a bit, but while pitcher MVPs are rare, one who had a year as great as Kershaw’s has to at least be in consideration.
Other contenders include: Carlos Gomez, who had a breakout year at the plate and actually led in the NL in bWAR. The ever underrated Yadier Molina (.836 OPS while being the best defensive catcher in the game) and Matt Carpenter (.392 OBP) give the Cardinals two possibilities. Joey Votto led the league in OBP and should be a candidate, but won’t because of the RBI fetishists. Andrelton Simmons isn’t much at the plate, but forces his way into the discussion after having one of the greatest defensive seasons ever.
WHO SHOULD WIN: McCutchen. The main difference between him and Goldschmidt isn’t team success, but position. McCutchen was only 41 points of OPS behind, but Cutch is a center fielder, while Goldschmidt is a first baseman. The offensive norms at first are much higher than at center, meaning those numbers at center are more impressive than they are at first.
My Ballot: 1. McCutchen, 2. Goldschmidt, 3. Kershaw, 4. Molina, 5. Votto
As you see, I don’t think pitchers can’t win this award. Also, I have this feeling I’ve underrated Molina again.
WHO WILL WIN: McCutchen. The narrative rules all in MVP voting, but in this case, the narrative is right.
Pat: The NL race is far less interesting than the AL version, in my opinion. There are still some great players, but there's one candidate who is pretty far ahead of the pack. And that's absolutely Andrew McCutchen.
Paul Goldschmidt had a great year for the Diamondbacks, but as Eric mentioned, his team wasn't all that great and he doesn't play as valuable a position as McCutchen. Given the small differences in their offensive numbers, the peripheral factors give McCutchen the edge.
Yadier Molina was once again arguably the best defensive catcher in baseball, and he hit extremely well also. He's not an offensive monster to the level of guys like McCutchen and Goldschmidt, but you don't really expect that from a Gold Glove caliber catcher anyway.
One of the more underrated candidates is Braves 1B Freddie Freeman. He has been their rock all year, leading their offense despite slumps, injuries and inconsistency from their other big hitters.
Joey Votto of the Reds was once again one of the best hitters in baseball. Unfortunately, his meager RBI numbers, though no fault of his own, will drastically hurt his candidacy among old-school voters.
For the record, I'll never vote for a pitcher for MVP. As far as I'm concerned, if Pedro Martinez didn't win it in 1999 and 2000, then no pitcher will ever do enough to deserve the MVP in my mind. Sorry, Clayton Kershaw.
WHO SHOULD WIN: McCutchen.
My ballot: 1. McCutchen, 2. Molina, 3. Goldschmidt, 4. Votto, 5. Freeman
WHO WILL WIN: McCutchen. It's too easy.
What's your take on the AL and NL MVP awards? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.