Pictured above: Barry Bonds won the MVP award 7 times.
Baseball gives out awards in November: Most Valuable Player, Cy Young Award, Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year. This article will be a discussion of the players most likely to contend for these awards.
MVP, American League. There are many good candidates for the award this season. JOSH DONALDSON won last year and improved his OBP in 2016. JOSE ALTUVE had his 3rd consecutive 200 hit season and a second batting title (.338). He had a significant increase in home runs (15 to 24). A true team leader and wonderful player. MOOKIE BETTS is 23. He followed a VG year with a great one. He improved in everything (eg, BA: .291 to .318; HR: 18 to 31). He was so good, he got noticed even in the powerful Red Sox lineup. MIGUEL CABRERA has been here before: back-to-back MVPs in 2012-2013. 2016 was an average year for him –and a career high for anyone else. .316 BA, 38 HR, 108 RBIs. He is one of the game’s great hitters and has been for 13 years. ROBINSON CANO is a probable Hall of Fame second baseman. Good all-around hitter. MANNY MACHADO is another 23 year old star. Best year yet. Improved power. But, for me, the two brightest lights were: MIKE TROUT and DAVID ORTIZ.
Trout turned 25 and posted his 5th consecutive excellent season. He hit .315 and led the AL in walks (116). He had 29 home runs and 30 stolen bases. He drove in 100 runs and scored a league high 123. He is the most talented player in MLB. Not flashy, not controversial, just great. And playing on a poor team.
Ortiz (“Big Papi”), at 40, finished his career with a marvelous year –no one ever had a final year like his: 38 homers, an AL leading 127 RBIs, and tops in EBH (87), slugging percentage (.620) and OPS (1.021). Adored by fans, idolized by young team mates, respected by everyone.
So who gets my MVP vote? The answer is found in 1979. The best player in the NL that year was Keith Hernandez. He led the league in hitting (.344), doubles (48), and RS (116). He also had 105 RBIs and won a Gold Glove at first base. His team finished third in their division.
Winning that division were the Pirates. They were led by 39 year old Willie “Pops” Stargell. Playing first base, no longer able to patrol the outfield, but he was acknowledged by team mates as their senior citizen and leader –and respected throughout the league. His numbers were good, but not great: .281, 32 homers, 82 RBIs. (Post script: In the ’79 World Series, he was its MVP, winning game 7 with a home run.)
The NL’s MVP in 1979 was a tie between Hernandez and Stargell: the league’s best player and a team and league’s most important and respected. So, the AL’s MVP in 2016, IMO, is a tie: MIKE TROUT (the league’s most talented player) and DAVID ORTIZ (a team and league leader).
MVP, National League. There are some very young, very good players in the NL …and they can all hit. Some play for good teams, but some don’t –and that hurts their chances for this award. The best of them could be NOLAN ARENADO. He is 25 and has led in the NL in Home Runs, RBIs, and Total Bases in the last 2 years. He improved his BA, doubled his walks, and won a Gold Glove. If he was on a better team…. FREDDIE FREEMAN is 27 and had his best year yet. He hot .302 with 34 homers, 83 EBH, 91 RBIs and 102 RS. If he was on a better team…. JOEY VOTTO, a good hitter for years, started the year slowly –and hit .400 in the second half. He hit .326 overall, led the NL on OBP (.434), and had 29 homers. If he was on a better team…. ANTHONY RIZZO is the second best hitter on his team and won an award for his fielding this year. At 27, he could improve on his .292, 32 home runs, 109 RBIs next year. DANIEL MURPHY had a huge improvement over previous years (while his more famous team mate, Bryce Harper, went in the opposite direction). He hit .347 and missed the batting title by a point. He led the NL in doubles (47), had 104 RBIs, and only 57 strikeouts.
But KRIS BRYANT is the favorite to win the MVP award. He’s 24, handsome, and a very good ballplayer on a very good team. In 2013, he was the college player of the year; in 2014, he was the minor league player of the year; in 2015, he was the NL’s Rookie of the Year; in 2016, I think he’ll be the league MVP. See a progression there? He hit .292, with 39 HRs, 102 RBIs, 121 RS, and improved everywhere –including striking out 45 fewer times. What will he do in 2017?
Rookie of the Year, American League. It’s a two player race for this award in 2016. MICHAEL FULMER, age 23, pitched in the shadow of Justin Verlander in 2016. But he make his mark. His record: 11-7, with an ERA of 3.06 (just 0.02 behind Verlander), a WHIP of 1.119, and had 7.5 strikeouts every 9 innings. Between them, Detroit’s 2 best pitchers had one shutout. The pitcher who threw it had the initials MF, not JV.
GARY SANCHEZ, also age 23, arrived in NYC as the Yankees were saving good-bye to veterans and giving young players a chance in the majors. Sanchez made the most of his opportunity. In just 53 games, he burned through AL pitching hitting 20 home runs in 201 at bats plus having 42 RBIs. He was compared to Hall of Famer Willie McCovey who had a 52 game, 192 at bats rookie year in 1959. Willie had 13 homers and 38 RBIs. His BA was better than Gary’s (.354 to .299), as was his OBP (.429 to .376), but their Slugging percentage was almost identical (Willie .656; Gary .657).
My vote, by the narrowest of margins (because he helped his team for a longer portion of the season) goes to: MICHAEL FULMER.
Rookie of the Year, National League. Injuries played a part in competition for this award. TREVOR STORY began the year with a flurry of home runs. But an injury ended his season early. In 97 games, he hit 27 home runs and had 72 RBIs. His .272 BA gave an additional reason to hope next year will be even better than 2016. ALEDMYS DIAZ also had his year cut short by injury. Still, he hit .300 with 17 home runs in 111 games. TREA TURNER played center field and shortstop in his time with the Nationals in 2016. In 73 games, he displayed the ability to hit for average (.342) and power (13 home runs). Perhaps most impressive was his stolen base record: 33 steals in 39 attempts.
As in the American League, the race for the ROY award came down to 2 players. KENTA MAEDA was a 28 year old rookie in 2016. He had pitched 8 years in professional baseball in Japan before signing with the Dodgers for this year. With Clayton Kershaw out for a third of the year, Maeda season was as important as it was impressive. His stats: a record of 16-11, with a 3.48 ERA, in 32 starts totaling 175.2 innings pitched. He had 179 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.139. Impressive.
COREY SEAGER had some things in his favor going into 2016. He was young (22), playing in LA (with a history of producing fine rookies, beginning with Jackie Robinson in 1947), and had played a few games (27) with the Dodgers in 2015. He made a good impression batting .337 in 98 at bats. He continued his quality of play in a full season. At season’s end, his statistics included: .308 BA, 26 home runs, 72 RBIs and 105 RS.
My choice for the ROY award: COREY SEAGER, but by a smaller margin over his team mate than expected.
End of “Awards” Part 1. Second, and last part, next time.