Annual disclaimer: Note that this blog is called On The Field of Play. Awards aren't on the field of play. So this is going to be short. I'm going to list who I think should get each award and who I think will receive it. Then let's move on, OK? It's the postseason.
Disclaimer: I don't feel a team's won-lost record is relevant. I don't think awards should be limited to players whose teams play in the postseason. I also don't buy that pitchers shouldn't be eligible for the MVP award. That's my opinion. You might not agree. Many voters don't. That's cool. Just want you to know where I'm coming from.
Who should get it: Last year, I agonized over this one. This year, it's one of three absurdly easy awards to call. The Angels' Mike Trout led the league in runs, RBI, and total bases; was third in slugging percentage, home runs, and OPS; and played a key defensive position (center field), and played it well.
Who will get it: The only question is whether it'll be unanimous.
Who should get it: There are several players who, in my view, had good years. I'll list them by OPS:
However, the question isn't which hitter had the best year; it's whether the award will go to a hitter or a pitcher. Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw went 21-3, led the league in ERA for the fourth straight year--his 1.77 ERA was less than half the league average of 3.66--and he was first in WHIP (0.86), strikeouts/walks (7.7), and complete games (6) and third in strikeouts (first in strikeouts per nine innings) despite starting only 27 games due to an early-season stint on the disabled list. I voted for Pittsburgh's McCutchen (followed by Miami's Stanton) because of that DL stay; I weighted McCutchen's 648 plate appearances (tied for 16th) over Kershaw's 749 batters faced (37th). But I'd be fine with Kershaw winning...
Who will get it: ...which is a good thing, because he will.
AL Cy Young
Who should get it: I thought Cleveland's Corey Kluber and Seattle's Felix Hernandez stood out this year. Let's break them down:
Kluber generated his record despite playing with a weak defense behind him. Hernandez pitches in a pitcher-friendly ballpark but got limited run support (3.5 runs per 27 outs when he was in the game, 12th lowest in the league). Both pitched for teams that made a run for, and fell short of, the post-season. I was all set to vote for Hernandez given that he played in the same division as two of the best teams in baseball (Angels and A's) while Kluber pitched in the weak American League Central, but Behind the Box Score calculated that Kluber's opponent-adjusted run prevention was superior. So I voted for him.
Who will get it: With no obvious choice among the three division winners, I suspect King Felix will win his second award of the decade.
NL Cy Young
Who should get it: Kershaw, obviously. Adam Wainwright of St. Louis and Johnny Cueto of Cincinnati had good years, but there is not a race.
Who will get it: As I said, there are three absurdly easy races to call this year. Trout for AL MVP is the first. This is the second.
AL Rookie of the Year
Who should get it: And this is the third. Chicago slugger Jose Abreu was fifth in batting average and on base percentage, first in slugging, third in homers, and second in OPS. Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka was an early favorite but was sidelined from early July to late September with elbow woes, limiting him to 20 starts.
Who will get it: Abreu. It won't be close.
NL Rookie of the Year
Who should get it: The favorite much of the season was Cincinnati's Billy Hamilton, who had a surprisingly good glove in center field settled into the Reds' leadoff position, stealing 56 bases. I give him two major demerits, though. First, his .292 on base percentage really doesn't cut it for a leadoff hitter. The league average was .326, and the Reds were second to last in leadoff hitter on base percentage. That's why Hamilton, despite his blazing speed and starting 136 games in the leadoff position, was tied for only 34th in runs scored. Second, Hamilton somehow managed to get caught stealing on 29% of his steal attempts, worse than the league average of 28%. So my pick is Mets starter Jacob deGrom, who compiled a 9-6 record with a 2.69 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning after being called up in mid-May.
Who will get it: It'll be close between Hamilton and deGrom. I think the voters will probably be swayed by Hamilton's raw steals and strong defense without considering his poor on-base skills and pedestrian stolen base success percentage.
AL Manager of the Year
Who should get it: I voted for Baltimore's Buck Showalter, New York's Joe Girardi, and Cleveland's Terry Francona, in that order. Showalter guided a team picked by many to finish last in its division to the second-best record in the league. Girardi had to deal with injuries to his entire starting rotation, two free agent busts (Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran), and (ahem) the worst OPS in the league from the shortstop position, and still got 84 wins. Francona led a team expected to decline after a postseason appearance last year to 85 wins and postseason contention well into September.
Who will get it: I imagine Showalter will walk away with it. Angels manager Mike Sciocia will probably get votes too.
NL Manager of the Year
Who should get it: My pick's Pittsburgh's Clint Hurdle who, like Francona, guided a team to a surprising playoff bid in 2013 but was expected to decline in 2014. Instead, the Pirates made it to October again (barely, getting bounced in the wild card game). I suspect San Francisco's Bruce Bochy will get support too, as will Washington's rookie skipper Matt Williams. Again, these votes take place before the postseason, so the voters didn't have the benefit of seeing Bochy kind of manage circles around Williams in their Divisional Series.
Who will get it: I imagine this will be horse race between Bochy, who was dealt a tough injury hand this year, and Williams. I hope for the sake of the Baseball Writers Association of America electorate that it's Bochy.