With all of the baseball for the year being concluded, it’s time for the MLB awards for the 2016 season to start being handed out... a week from now, after tonight where the BBWAA announces its “finalists” for each of the four big awards for each league: Most Valuable Player, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, and Manager of the Year.
The so-called finalists are not actually finalists because there will be no further voting. The results are in, and have been in since before the postseason began. What has happened tonight is merely the announcement of the top three finishers for each award, with the first place finisher to be announced starting with the rookies next Monday and running through the MVPs next Thursday the 17th.
But hey, it’s not like there’s any baseball to talk about now, so let’s join in the discussion of this farce as it connects to the Orioles.
Most Valuable Player
The Orioles have two players on the team who’ve finished in the top three of an MVP vote before, in Manny Machado and Chris Davis. There was no question of Davis finishing that high this year.
Machado had a great season, finishing with a .294/.343./.533 batting line, 37 home runs, and probably collecting another Gold Glove. But his fWAR among position players was “only” 6.5, good enough for fifth. The leader, Mike Trout, had 9.4. I expect Machado to finish in the top ten when the full results are announced next Thursday, maybe even top five, but top three was a stretch.
The actual top three vote-getters by this year’s BBWAA voters are: Trout, Boston’s Mookie Betts, and Houston’s Jose Altuve. As those are three of the four players ahead of Machado on the WAR leaderboard, that sounds about right. All there is now is to wonder whether the BBWAA correctly gives Trout the award or whether they screw him over again because their heads are up their butts.
At least those jokers didn’t get swept up in some kind of David Ortiz retirement euphoria and vote him into the top three, although I expect him to end up placing higher than a full-time DH should.
The Orioles haven’t had an MVP winner since Cal Ripken Jr.’s second award in 1991. This year isn’t their year.
For Cy Young, it’s been a drought lasting since Steve Stone won in 1980. Is this year going to be the year? Well, no... it’s not. Zach Britton’s perfect 47-for-47 save season, and near-historic dominant 0.54 ERA, was not enough to earn him a top three spot. It’s hard for a reliever to get Cy Young consideration in today’s game. They just don’t pitch enough compared to starting pitchers.
As great as Britton was, he faced 74 fewer batters this year than Mike Wright, 160 fewer than Tyler Wilson, and less than half the batters faced of both Yovani Gallardo and Ubaldo Jimenez. That’s a huge difference. Starters have more time to distinguish themselves, so good and great starting pitching stands out so much more.
The AL Cy Young finalists are: Cleveland’s Corey Kluber, Boston’s Rick Porcello, and Detroit’s Justin Verlander.
A mere 0.11 points of ERA separates those three gentlemen, with Verlander’s 3.04 the lowest and Porcello’s 3.15 the highest. Porcello will have the edge of being a 22-game winner, and Porcello and Kluber both will have the edge of having pitched on postseason teams.
MLB Network’s Harold Reynolds called Britton’s not making the top three “the worst omission I’ve ever seen” - which is how you know that Britton doesn’t deserve to be in the top 3 for Cy Young voting, much as it would be cool for Orioles fans if Britton had won the Cy Young.
Manager of the Year
The Manager of the Year award, given out since 1983, has been awarded to an Orioles manager three times, most recently to Buck Showalter in 2014. These days, the winning manager is often one whose team overachieved and made the postseason relative to preseason media expectations, for reasons that may or may not have even involved anything the manager did or didn’t do.
Still, the Orioles were definitely a team that exceeded their preseason expectations, given that almost no media outlets predicted them to make the postseason or even be in contention. So it’s not very surprising that Showalter is one of the 2016 finalists.
The other Manager of the Year finalists along with Showalter are Cleveland’s Terry Francona and Jeff Banister of the Rangers.
Rookie of the Year
The last Orioles Rookie of the Year was Gregg Olson in 1989. No, this year isn’t going to be their year either. It’s hardly even worth breaking down their rookies as if any might have gotten any consideration whatsoever. Maybe Hyun Soo Kim’s .302/.382/.420 batting line could get him a down-ballot vote or two, but that’s about it..
The Rookie of the Year finalists are: Detroit’s Michael Fulmer, Cleveland’s Tyler Naquin, and New York’s Gary Sanchez.
Sanchez hit 20 home runs in only 53 games. Naquin, playing mostly center field, batted .296/.374/.512 in 116 games - though Naquin’s defense, as we saw in the World Series, was a problem. That would not have influenced the voting, however. I would give a lot for an Orioles outfielder to hit like that, rookie or not.
Fulmer started 26 games for the Tigers, pitching to a 3.06 ERA in 159 innings of work.