Pictured above: Roger Clemens won the Cy Young award 7 times.
In Awards, Part 2, contenders for the Cy Young award and Manager of the Year will be discussed.
Cy Young Award, American League. The primary candidates for the award this season would include these pitchers. JUSTIN VERLANDER had his finest year in the past 4 seasons. His statistics: 16-9 W-L record, 3.04 ERA, 227.2 IP, and AL-leading 254 strikeouts and 1.001 WHIP. COREY KLUBER had a return to his 2014 Cy Young winning form. His record: another 18-9 W-L year, 3.14 ERA, 215 IP, 2 Shutouts, 227 strikeouts, and a 1.056 WHIP. RICK PORCELLO had his finest season of an 8 year career. A record of 22-4 (most wins in AL), 3.15 ERA, 223 IP, 189 strikeouts, 1.009 WHIP, and a league best 5.91 strikeouts to walk ratio. CHRIS SALE had his 5th consecutive fine year as a starter. His stats: 17-10 W-L record, 3.34 ERA, 226.2 IP, a league best 6 CG, 233 strikeouts, and a 1.037 WHIP. Plus, while not as dominant, two other pitchers had fine seasons: J. A. HAPP (20-4 W-L record, 3.18 ERA, 1.169 WHIP) and AARON SANCHEZ (15-2 record, AL-best 3.00 ERA, and 1.167).
And then there is ZACH BRITTON. It’s hard to argue with perfection. He was 47 for 47 in save opportunities. He gave up ZERO earned runs in 43 consecutive games. His ERA was 0.54 –the lowest EVER by a pitcher tossing a minimum of 50 IP in a season. Plus, he had 9.9 strikeouts per 9 innings and a WHIP of 0.836. With no starting pitcher putting up a season like Bob Gibson (1968), Steve Carlton (1972), or Pedro Martinez (1999 and 2000), a closer would be a good choice for the Cy Young Award for the 10th time.
Cy Young Award, National League. There was no shortage of fine pitching performances in the NL this year. JON LESTER was the Ace on the best staff in MLB. His record: 19-5 W-L record, 2.44 ERA, 202.2 IP, 197 strikeouts, 1.016 WHIP. KYLE HENDRICKS did a fine imitation of Greg Maddux. For example: 16-8 W-L record, 2.13 NL best ERA, 2 CG including a shutout, 190 IP, 170 strikeouts, and an 0.979 WHIP. JOHNNY CUETO was one of the Giants 2 best pitchers (the other is mentioned next). His numbers: 18-5 W-L record, 2.79 ERA, 5 CG (NL’s best), 2 shutouts, 219.2 IP, 198 strikeouts, and 1.093 WHIP. Also in San Francisco was MADISON BUMGARNER. Another fine year: 15-9 W-L record, 2.74 ERA, 34 GS (tie for NL’s most), 226.2 IP, 251 strikeouts, 1.028 WHIP, 10 strikeouts per 9 IP.
Special mention must be given to 3 pitchers who were unable to pitch the complete season. CLAYTON KERSHAW had a monster year in only 21 starts: 3 shutouts, 1.69 ERA, 0.725 WHIP, 10.4 strikeouts per 9 innings, a15.64 strikeout to walk ratio (!), and 11 walks in 149 IP (!!). STEPHEN STRASBURG in 24 starts also had a fine year: 15-4 W-L record, 1.104 WHIP, and 11.2 strikeouts per 9 innings. And JOSE FERNANDEZ gave us a 16-8 W-L record, 2.86 ERA, 1.119 WHIP, a NL best 12.5 strikeouts per 9 innings and joy that will always be remembered.
Now let’s talk about MAX SCHERZER. He was Washington’s work horse, especially without Strasburg. He started the most games (34, tied with Bumgarner), pitched the most innings (228.1), won the most games (20), struck out the most batters (284 –including 20 in one game), produced the finest WHIP (0.968), had the best strikeout to walk number (5.07), and had a fine ERA (2.96). I think it’s time for his 2nd CYA in 4 years.
Manager of the Year, American League. It could be a two man race. JEFF BANISTER’s Texas Rangers won a ton of one run games. They said good-bye to DH Prince Fielder, had Shin-Soo Choo for only 48 games, and patched together a pitching staff with Yu Darvish getting only 17 starts and Colby Lewis getting only 19. Still, they won an AL high 95 games and a division title.
But the AL’s Manager of the Year has to be TERRY FRANCONA. He began his managing career with the Phillies in 1997. After 4 years, 363 losses and a winning percentage of 44%, he got another job. He’s had a dozen consecutive winning seasons. This year was his best in Cleveland: 94 wins, a division title, and post-season success that has been well documented. He did it without his best player, Michael Brantley (who played in 11 games), catcher Roberto Perez limited to 61 games, and pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar only getting 25 starts apiece. Francona blended veterans (eg, Napoli and Davis) with youngsters (eg, Lindor, Ramirez, Naquin, and Chisenhall), plus unique/creative/effective use of his bullpen and came within a win of his 3rd Championship.
Manager of the Year, National League. There were a half dozen good managing jobs in the NL this year. I would give a Bronze medal to DUSTY BAKER. He got 95 wins and a division title from the Nationals despite significant difficulties. Much of the year he searched for a center fielder. Stephen Strasburg missed significant time. Bryce Harper had a season long slump. And Jonathan Papelbon flamed out. Better luck next year.
Silver goes to LAD manager DAVE ROBERTS. With one game of managing experience, he led the Dodgers to a 91 win season and a division title. He was without the best pitcher in baseball for 2+ months. Carl Crawford was gone after 30 games (.185 BA and 0 Homers). Howie Kendrick and Yasiel Puig had less than ideal years. Many voters will give Roberts the Gold medal, but…
I have to give JOE MADDON the top prize. He lost his left fielder (Kyle Schwarber) two games into the season. Expectations for a championship were placed on his team before Spring Training began. He managed veterans (eg, Zobrist, Ross, Lester, Lackey) and talented youngsters (eg, Bryant, Baez, Russell, Contreras) to a 103 win year –the best record in MLB by a wide margin. He had the best pitching and 3rd best offense in baseball. His unique managing style kept players fresh (many individuals played numerous positions) and loose. Road trip dress code included everyone wearing “onesies” or “if you look hot, wear it” outfits. Comedian Bill Murray practiced with the team. He had 2 bear cubs visit players in Spring Training. The result: Cubs playing with cubs. Is there any reason not to choose him as Manager of the Year? Some might say: “He won the award last year (and also in 2008 and 2011).” That’s a poor reason. For me, he earned the award –and he and his team enjoyed their Championship journey instead of cracking under pressure. Plus, to quote Maddon after game 7 of the World Series: “We did not suck.”