Both the BBWAA and the IBWAA have announced all their awards this past week. I am a voter for the IBWAA, and it was certainly interesting to see how my ballot varied from the final vote, although I don’t have any major gripes with any of the awards, outside of maybe Manger of the Year. Fellow IBWAA member and ESPN SweetSpot Blogger Dave Scheonfield did an excellent job breaking down the votes, so I will more speak to the winners and my ballot.
The top reliever matched my votes as I too had Greg Holland and Craig Kimbrel atop my ballot. In the AL, I chose Dellin Betances and Zach Britton to round out my ballot. Betances was a dominant late inning reliever for the Yankees and looking past the completely overrated save statistic, he was as good as there was, but Holland was simply the best. In the NL, I also gave votes to Mark Melancon and Tyler Clippard. Melancon was the best reliever to me on a very good bullpen, and Clippard seemed to be the lone reliever that remained consistent throughout the year for the Washington Nationals.
For Manager of the year, Buck Showalter won in the AL, who was also my top choice. Showalter was able to help lead the Orioles to the AL East title despite major injuries/ suspensions to his top two players, Manny Machado and Chris Davis. I also selected Mike Scioscia despite the fact I largely don’t agree with his managing style, you can’t ignore his success over his tenure with the Angels and his team’s improbable division title. Lloyd Mclendon got my third vote as the work he did to keep the Mariners competitive all season was impressive.
In the NL, Matt Williams won, but he didn’t even crack my ballot. Outside of the Dodgers, the Nationals had the most talent of any team in the NL. Williams made the headlines with his dealings with Bryce Harper far too often. My top choice was Bruce Bochy, and yes this was before the postseason (our ballots were turned in September 28th). Bochy somehow keeps the Giants competitive regardless of talent and injury woes. Also making my ballot were Clint Hurdle and Mike Matheny.
The Rookie of the Year winners were quite simple. Jose Abreu and Jacob DeGrom were clearly the best in their respective leagues; the trouble was filling out the other two spots. In the AL, there were too many options to choose from, while the NL there weren’t enough. Masahiro Tanaka was a popular recipient of votes, but his injury shortened season just didn’t cut it for me. Coming in second for me in the AL was Yordano Ventura, who was purely dominant at times, which he continued to show into the postseason. My third vote in the AL was Danny Santana who flew under the radar of casual baseball fans, as he plays for the woeful Minnesota Twins, but he hit .319 in 101 games while stealing 20 bags and playing solid defense at both shortstop and centerfield.
In the NL, Billy Hamilton came in third on my ballot but, while his numbers leap off the page and he hit better than many expected, his season as a whole was a bit disappointing, but still good enough to crack my ballot. I was happy to see fellow IBWAA voters recognized the person I had second on my ballot, even if he finished third in the IBWAA vote. While playing for the awful Arizona Diamondbacks, Ender Inciarte has an excellent year.
Was there any question as to who would win the NL Cy Young? Of course Clayton Kershaw ran away with the vote, being selected as a unanimous winner. The next two on my ballot were obvious as well, Adam Wainwright and Johnny Cueto, but that is where I think I differed from most. Fourth on my ballot was Jake Arrieta, who seemed to take a no-hitter into the fifth of every outing this season, and wound up with a 2.53 ERA while striking out more than 9.5 per nine innings of work. My fifth and final spot in the NL was a Washington Nationals pitcher, but not the one that jumps out to most people. To me, and according to Baseball Reference’s WAR, the best pitcher for the Nationals this season was Tanner Roark and his 2.85 ERA and walking less than two per nine innings.
In the AL, Felix Hernandez won the vote, but my top pitcher was the same as the BBWAA, Corey Kluber. I actually selected Chris Sale ahead of Hernandez, but all three had excellent seasons. My final two spots on the ballot went to current free agents, Jon Lester and Max Scherzer.
In the MVP voting, Mike Trout was a pretty simple choice. We submitted ten names for the MVP votes, so let me run those off in order; Trout, Victor Martinez, Miguel Cabrera, Josh Donaldson, Alex Gordon, Nelson Cruz, Jose Altuve, Robinson Cano, Jose Bautista, and Michael Brantley. The one that jumped out to me when crunching the numbers and selecting my top MVP votes was Altuve. He led all of baseball in hits with 225; the only other player to reach the 200 mark was Brantley who hit it right on the nose. Altuve broke the Houston Astros team mark for hits in a season, eclipsing a player who should make the Hall of Fame this year, Craig Biggio. Altuve also led all of baseball in batting average and the AL in steals.
For the NL, Kershaw won the vote, but he didn’t even make my ballot. I have always been pro-pitchers on the MVP ballot until I had to fill one out myself. This is surely a topic that will be discussed on this coming weekend’s podcast here on The Stain, but I just couldn’t put Kershaw on my ballot. He was clearly the best player in baseball, but having to go 10 deep on the ballot made me realize that Kershaw would be the only pitcher that cracked the ballot in either league. This is simply because it is nearly impossible to compare a pitcher to a hitter, and it also wouldn’t be right to give the top spot to a pitcher but not have a pitcher land anywhere else on my ballot. It was then that I decided that my MVP ballot would be for position players only.
My votes went as follows; Andrew McCutchen, Jonathan Lucroy, Anthony Rendon, Giancarlo Stanton, Buster Posey, Yasiel Puig, Josh Harrison, Jason Heyward, Hunter Pence, and Matt Holiday. The NL voting was tough once I removed pitchers from the conversation. Stanton probably would have come out on top for me had it not been for his incredibly unfortunate and ugly injury to end his season early. Yadier Molina didn’t even make my ballot, despite me constantly trying to find a spot for him, but his injury plagued season just didn’t allow him to play enough to make my ballot. In the end it really felt like a war of attrition, but McCutchen won out for me.