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Your Awards Week Preview

Nov 14, 2010, 10:26 AM EST

Mariners' Hernandez throws against the Blue Jays in their MLB American League baseball game in Toronto

Starting tomorrow, the Baseball Writers Association of America will announce the winners of the major postseason awards. Tomorrow is Rookie of the Year Awards (both of them), Tuesday is the NL Cy Young Award, Wednesday is both Manager of the Year Awards, Thursday is the AL Cy Young Award, next Monday is the NL MVP and next Tuesday is the AL MVP. All awards will be announced at 2PM Eastern. And of course, we’ll report the winners and analyze the bejesus out of it after it happens.

In the meantime, let’s refresh ourselves on the top candidates and make some predictions while we’re at it:

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Who should win: I like Neftali Feliz in the AL, with his dominance making up for the fact that he only pitched 69 innings, but Austin Jackson — much more overall production in less spectacular ways — is a good choice as well.  In the NL it’s a battle between Jason Heyward and Buster Posey. That’s a really close call, as Posey was clearly more valuable defensively because he’s a catcher, but Heyward was pretty good in right too.  Posey was the better hitter thanks to Heyward’s midseason injury and his late swoon, but Heyward played all season, giving him an advantage in overall production. This is probably the toughest call of any award, but if I had to pick I’d probably say Heyward. Yeah, I realize I have a bias, but I’m doing my best to put it aside.  This, for me anyway, is all about that missing month for Posey and the acknowledgment that Rookie of the Year is not about the most valuable rookie, but who had the most outstanding regular season.  All of that said, you won’t hear me complaining if Posey gets it, because the dude was tough stuff this year.

Who will win: Remember: the ballots were sent in before the postseason, so none of the stuff Posey did in the playoffs — or that Heyward didn’t do — counts.  If it did, it would be Posey in a walk.  I think, however, that Heyward will edge him out by a very tight margin.

MANAGER OF THE YEAR

Who should win: I never know what to do with manager of the year. No one can explain a good way to measure the candidates against one another. It usually ends up with a “who did the most with the least” analysis, but there is all kinds of subjectivity that can be brought into that, if for no other reason than it’s hard to figure out exactly what a manager did to make a team overachieve expectations.  We give managers too much credit when they win and too much blame when they lose and likely always will.  Against that backdrop I’ll say that, if I had a ballot, I’d vote for Dusty Baker in the NL and Ron Washington in the AL. Ask me again tomorrow and I might say Bobby Cox and Ron Gardenhire. Ask me on Tuesday and I might say Bud Black and Joe Maddon.  I’m sorta conflicted about the whole thing, really.

Who will win: I’m guessing it will be Baker and Washington. If Bud Black wins, we’ll have to ask if his victory is less about the job he did as manager and more about the pundits’ serious misread of the Padres talent. We all were amazed by them, sure, but maybe we were just wrong, too. Wouldn’t a vote for Black really be about excusing our ignorance of how good that club really was? I mean, the team had a 10-game losing streak late that woofed them out of the playoffs. How many managers win the award when they do that?

AL CY YOUNG AWARD

Who should win: This has been beaten to death already. Felix Hernandez is my choice because wins don’t tell you jack about a pitcher’s value. I won’t rehash the arguments, though, because frankly, I think we’re all tired of it.

Who will win: So much of the Felix Hernandez Truther Brigade’s vehemence was based on our belief that those rotten know-nothings in the BBWAA would get it wrong and give the award to Sabathia. I’ll admit, however, with a month of perspective, we all went a bit nuts on that. The people who vote on the awards don’t write about who should win or lose beforehand. They’re prohibited from doing so. That means all of those people making boneheaded arguments in favor of Sabtahia and David Price are, by definition, non-voters.  I’ve talked to a few writers who have been around this block many times before, and they tend to believe that their voting colleagues actually favor Hernandez. We’ll see, of course, but there is probably some truth to the notion that those who derided Hernandez’s case the loudest are the least representative of the actual voting pool. Color me optimistic: I think King Felix takes this thing.

NL CY YOUNG AWARD

Who should win: Roy Halladay.

Who will win: Roy Halladay.

You were expecting more?  I’m not gonna bother, really, because I think Halladay taking this thing is the easiest call of any award so there’s no use wasting mental effort making a for-the-sake-of-argument case for Ubaldo Jimenez or Adam Wainwright or whoever. Doc was the best. QED.

AL MVP AWARD

Who should win it: Yet another close one, with Josh Hamilton and Miquel Cabrera each being excellent choices. Hamilton will get votes because of his league-leading OPS, his defensive value and the “he carried them to the playoffs” thing, Cabrera will get votes because he had more plate appearances thanks to Hamilton’s late season injury and — oh yeah — had a hell of a year too. If I have a vote I give it to Hamilton, but again, this is not a year where my favored guy not getting it will be an atrocity or anything.

Who will win: I think Hamilton gets it, but it will be close. There are a lot of other viable options for those who would vote against him because of the playing time, such as Robinson Cano and Evan Longoria, so I think the anti-Hamilton vote — to the extent we can call it that — will be split.  Really, though, I’m more interested to see how the downballot candidates do this year, because it might give us a bit of a read on how much the BBWAA is weighing defense these days.

NL MVP AWARD

Who should win: Joey Votto and Albert Pujols had outrageously similar seasons. Really, if you switched their batting lines over at Baseball-Reference.com or something, I bet it would be weeks before any non-obsessives noticed something was amiss.  Pujols is a better defender, but I have a hard time getting animated about defensive differences at first base unless they’re just tremendous.  I give it to Votto, for the reasons explained in the “who will win” section below.

Who will win: Votto, for two reasons. First, his team beat the Cardinals for the division crown, and when all things are equal — as they are here — BBWAA voters will reward the player on the better team. Second, writers like a good story, and more importantly, they like a fresh story. Albert Pujols has hardware already, and for as nice a guy as he is, he’s a bit familiar by now while Votto is new blood in these debates.  I normally discount both of those things when it comes to the awards, but I’d be lying if I said that they didn’t tempt me in this case. Sure, if you can make an argument that clearly puts Pujols above Votto on the objective merits I’ll listen, but I just can’t see it right now. With nowhere else to turn, I find myself seduced by the narrative considerations.  Votto is the man.

While it has become great sport to deride the BBWAA, they’ve actually gotten a lot better at awards choices in recent years.  It’s been a long time since we’ve had a Mo Vaughn or Juan Gonzalez-style clunker in one of the biggies.  And this year, apart from the much-debated AL Cy Young Awards, the candidates all seem pretty plausible.  If I had to guess, I’d say that all of the winners will be deserving ones.  Which will be no fun for blogging purposes, but will be more than worth it.

  1. Richard In Big D - Nov 14, 2010 at 10:59 AM

    Of the four awards given in each league, you, Craig, have picked Texas Rangers personnel as likely winners of three. In all the time I’ve followed the Rangers, I NEVER would have suspected that a somewhat respected baseball writer not employed by the Dallas Morning News or Fort Worth Star Telegram would have made such a bold statement. I applaud your bravado, and hope to hell you’re right!

    • Craig Calcaterra - Nov 14, 2010 at 11:01 AM

      Of course, between Juan Gonzalez and Ivan Rodriguez, the Rangers have had more undeserved hardware than anyone in the past 20 years, so let’s not get too surprised when they get some awards love.

      • Richard In Big D - Nov 14, 2010 at 12:33 PM

        With Juando you have a point, but Pudge? Clearly the best defensive catcher of all time, with a bat. We didn’t know about the juice at the time, so how was he undeserving?

      • Kevin S. - Nov 14, 2010 at 2:00 PM

        Pudge had a good bat at a premium defensive position that year. Jeter had a phenomenal bat at the other premium defensive position that year. They had equal slugging percentages, but Jeter OBP’d 82 (!) points higher, and did it for a hundred more plate appearances. Pudge was outclassed by a player held to a very similar offensive standard, not a hulking slugger barely handling a corner position. There’s a LOT of territory for defense to make up there. I’m not saying it was as egregious as Juan-Gone, but Jeter was the better candidate that year, IMO.

      • frug - Nov 14, 2010 at 6:20 PM

        Eh. Pedro was better than Pudge and Jeter.

      • Kevin S. - Nov 14, 2010 at 7:45 PM

        No doubt, there are arguments for Pedro (and also Manny). I was trying to show someone at the same end of the position spectrum. I could have gone with WAR, arguing that while Jeter was only .6 higher than Pudge, Rodriguez had a three-win edge in fielding, and I find Total Zone less reliable to begin with, even moreso before it was able to use PBP data. But slugging equal, Jeter having the massive edge in OBP and PA is pretty damn strong, IMO.

      • Kevin S. - Nov 14, 2010 at 7:49 PM

        Put another way, Jeter had 109 more PA. He reached base 98 more times. And plays at the same end of the defensive spectrum. I can’t accept that Pudge’s defense made up for that.

  2. crankyfrankie - Nov 14, 2010 at 11:20 AM

    My home town bias is showing but I am puzzled about the lack of consideration that Charlie Manuel receives considering all the games lost to injury he had to deal with this season. Having 5 out of 8 position players spend time on the DL appears to be swept under the rug.

  3. mangothefruit - Nov 14, 2010 at 11:33 AM

    I’d say Charlie Manuel and Terry Francona for MOY’s. Both papered over the cracks of injury ravaged squads and had strong seasons, and both managed to get decent performances out of a mediocre bullpen.

    • pisano - Nov 14, 2010 at 12:17 PM

      I agree , but my pick would be Francona . What he did with a team that seemed to have a key player or two on the DL most of the time was unbelievable . The man is an underrated manager . He gets the most out of his team and those players seem to love him .

  4. Charles Gates - Nov 14, 2010 at 3:02 PM

    Buck Showalter managed the Orioles, the Orioles, to a .596 winning percentage over the 57 games he was managing.
    Thank you baseball-reference.com :
    Manager: David Trembley (15-39), Juan Samuel (17-34) and Buck Showalter (34-23)
    For those of you that think a manager plays a critical role in how a team plays, cite this as your example.
    That win/loss disparity has to at least put him in the conversation, admitting full well that voting for someone that only managed 57 games of the season is hard to do.

  5. jhu1997 - Nov 14, 2010 at 3:50 PM

    Hey, I’m a huge Giants and Posey fan, and I still pick Heyward over Posey, by a hair. Either one would be a great, worthy victor, but I feel that Heyward’s playing time and OBP trump Posey’s positional value. And, really, it’s just the ROY. The Hall of Fame voters won’t care if Posey has fewer ROY awards than Todd Hollandsworth.

  6. 11hawkinst - Nov 15, 2010 at 7:35 AM

    I suppose it’s pretty easy to have over 20 injuries all year (including your best players for months at a time) and still end up with the best record in baseball.

    Charlie Manuel should get the NL MOY, hands down.

    I don’t honestly think Bobby Cox should even be in consideration of the MOY considering the other NL candidates like Bud Black or Dusty Baker. He really did a poor job of coaching his team at the end of the year (after holding the NL East since late May). The same could be said of Bud Black, I suppose, but the Padres really came out of nowhere this year.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Nov 15, 2010 at 7:55 AM

      I won’t knock Manuel — a good job by him this year — but what could possibly possess you to say that Cox did a bad job at the end of the year? He lost two of his best hitters to injury in Prado and Jones — gone, not just slowed down — and his best hitter, Heyward, was suffering from an injury as well. He also lost one of his top three starters in Jurrjens, and replaced him with a rookie. Who got hurt, and who was replaced by another rookie. With perhaps the worst active roster in the history of contending teams, he held on to the wild card and then played the Giants a lot tougher than Manuel’s Phillies did. And he didn’t have three aces at his disposal.

      • Utley's Hair - Nov 15, 2010 at 12:16 PM

        If anybody should have as good a track to the MOY as Cholly, it would have to be Bochy. The only reason the Bravos stuck around to claim the wild card is that they didn’t suck as bad at the end as the Friars. Cox’s boys lost how big of a division lead to the Phightins, who had a handful of games with the whole lineup? I feel Cox won’t get it for that very reason. As for the playoffs—which I didn’t think was supposed to have any impact on the voting?—the Bravos only won a game to stave off a sweep, whereas the Phils were in it—somehow with those golf clubs they were holding at the plate—until Ryno watched strike three.

        So Cox doesn’t deserve the MOY. But then you have the sentimental crap about his last year, blah, blah, blah, which of course means he’ll take it.

  7. willmose - Nov 15, 2010 at 8:51 AM

    Craig, I would have thought by now Heyward would be in the HOF, I know it would require a special election, but why aren’t you lobbying for it? After all, he is the great player ever to put on cleats.

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