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Baseball Hardware…

…so now that the World Series has concluded, Major League Baseball is about ready to announce their award winners.  The Gold Glove awards (yaaaaaaawn) were announced last night.  The Blowhard of course feels like he should add his two cents, starting with the American League…and remember, the postseason does not count:

Most Valuable Player:

  1. Aaron Judge, NY Yankees
  2. Jose Altuve, Houston
  3. Jose Ramirez, Cleveland
  4. Carlos Correa, Houston
  5. Mike Trout, LA Angels
  6. Nelson Cruz, Seattle
  7. Brian Dozier, Minnesota
  8. George Springer, Houston
  9. Josh Donaldson, Toronto
  10. Corey Kluber, Cleveland

Again, a 10 person ballot, so we did what we needed to do here.  Turns out MLB had the same top 3, though it appears there are really only two candidates in Judge and Altuve.  Spots 3 through even 20, I suppose you could have all kinds of different orders.  Since Ramirez had the same OPS as Altuve and was on the best team in the league, I went with him third.

Anyway, back to the top two candidates.  It appears that Altuve may have a leg up on the real ballot, based on what is being talked about nationwide.  And sure, he was consistent all year long, while Judge was miserable in August and not so good in July either.  Altuve hit 62 points higher.  And Judge struck out 124 more times.  But if you take a deeper dive, Judge’s OPS was 92 points higher, he scored 16 more runs (with Altuve being probably in a better overall lineup), walked a ton more and of course…the 52 homers.  For those of you who believe in sabermetrics and the WAR stat, Judge was on top 8.8 to 7.9.

You probably can’t go wrong either way.  But what sealed it for me?  Judge hit .311, with 15 homers, 32 RBI’s and a 1.352 OPS is September as the Yanks made their playoff push.  I know, he may have been hitting some of those bombs against minor league callups.  But one also probably should consider the pressure of a playoff race as a factor as well.  Along with the fact that everyone else is hitting off the same bums too.  Anyway…

As for the rest…the true MVP may well have been Correa if he hadn’t missed over 50 games.  Trout obviously still stakes a real claim to being the best player in baseball.  So despite Mikey missing almost 50 games himself, he’s still gotta be there.  Another member of the “about 50 games missed” club is Donaldson.  His team sucked after having high expectations at the start of the season.  But his numbers were sick in the games he did play.  So I found a place for him.

I felt that someone from that inexplicable Twin playoff team had to be in the Top Ten…so that’s why Dozier is here.  And he won a Gold Glove too…YAAAAY!  Cruz and Springer…I suppose Francisco Lindor, Gary Sanchez, Jose Abreu, Justin Upton, Jonathan Schoop, Edwin Encarnacion or whoever else could have filled those spots.  Lastly, as I’ve said in the past, I don’t love including pitchers in the MVP race.  Once every 5 days for a starter and once every 3 days or so for a closer aren’t the same as playing every single day.  But for one, I included 3 guys that missed about a third of the season here.  And for two, if a pitcher’s performance deserves consideration, then it deserves consideration.  Kluber’s 5-0, 0.84 in September helped him to deserve consideration.

Cy Young:

  1. Corey Kluber, Cleveland
  2. Chris Sale, Boston
  3. Carlos Carrasco, Cleveland
  4. Luis Severino, NY Yankees
  5. Craig Kimbrel, Boston

This race seems pretty cut and dried to me.  As opposed to last year where Kluber, Rick Porcello or Justin Verlander were pretty tight and any one of them could have won.  Porcello did and boy do the voters probably feel foolish about that now.  Maybe not, since each year is different.  But we all know Porcello was horrific this year.  Kind of makes me personally want to take the award away from him last year.

As for this year, Sale had his 300 strikeouts and all and had probably had a healthy lead in this race as the summer wore on.  But Kluber’s stretch run blew him past Sale to take the Cy.  Severino will be third in the real world, as he has already been announced as the third finalist.  I’m going with Carrasco though, maybe for the sole reason that I hate the Yankees, I don’t know.  Kimbrel was pretty dominant this year, so even though I don’t love relievers in this spot, his performance was hard to ignore.  If you put Verlander there, I could live with that.  But Ervin Santana or Drew Pomer…nevermind.

Rookie of the Year:

  1. Aaron Judge, NY Yankees
  2. Trey Mancini, Baltimore
  3. Andrew Benintendi, Boston

There really is no 2nd and 3rd here.  Judge will be unanimous.  Mancini had a higher OPS than Benintendi (.826 to .776), so I went with him 2nd.  Plus, I was continuously furious with Andrew for all the boneheaded plays he made on the bases this season.  Deserves to be knocked down.  There really weren’t any other choices here.  Yuli Gurriel is apparently technically a rookie this year.  But since he is 33 years old, has played professionally since he was about 8 and had exactly 130 at-bats in 2016 (if he had 131, he would not have been considered a rookie in 2017), I’m passing on him for my ballot.  Honorable mention goes to Matt Olson of Oakland here, since he hit 24 bombs in only 59 games and 216 plate appearances this year.  Maybe I should have put him second…

Manager of the Year:

  1. Paul Molitor, Minnesota
  2. A.J. Hinch, Houston
  3. Terry Francona, Cleveland

Hinch’s Astros won the World Series.  Tito’s Indians had the best record in the league.  But Molitor is the ONLY choice here.  The Twins made the playoffs this year after losing 103 games in 2016.  How did they do that?  I have no idea.  Have you seen that squad?

Dozier had a good year.  Miguel Sano was having a good year…until he missed the last 6 weeks or so with some sort of shin problem.  Byron Buxton woke up in the second half (and won a Gold Glove…YAAAAY).  Jose Berrios developed some and Santana had a nice year leading the rotation.

But the rest?  Brandon Kintzler was an All-Star closer for the team…then was dealt to the Nationals at the trading deadline.  The corpse of Joe Mauer is still around…and did hit .305.  Kind of an empty .305 though.  The rest of the pitching staff was pretty horrendous…and they actually gave a 44-year-old Bartolo Colon 15 starts, AFTER he went 2-8, 8.14 in 13 starts for the Braves.

I can’t see how this team finished anywhere near the playoffs.  So Molitor should win this thing unanimously.  Though I’m sure some idiot voted for John Farrell because the Red Sox finished first this year.  After all, Nick Cafardo probably has a vote, eh?

Next:  The National League

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More hardware…

…now for the National League.  Full disclosure:  The Blowhard watches a whole helluva more American League baseball than National League.  This may be quick…

Most Valuable Player:

  1. Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs
  2. Daniel Murphy, Washington
  3. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs
  4. Nolan Arenado, Colorado
  5. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta
  6. Joey Votto, Cincinnati
  7. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona
  8. Yoenis Cespedes, New York Mets
  9. Buster Posey, San Francisco
  10. Corey Seager, LA Dodgers

10 guys is definitely steep here, as from what I can tell it’s Bryant and then 9 other guys to fill out the ballot.  Murphy 2nd?  Why not?  He led the league in OPS.  He was 13th in WAR?  Oh no!!  I can’t in good conscience put Arenado at #2.  Sure, his numbers are once again great.  But again…Colorado.  I felt like Murphs deserved to be higher than Rizzo and it feels like 2-4 is the next “tier” after Bryant.

5-7…MVP’s?  I don’t know.  These guys all had great years, but their teams were awful.  I have friends that would probably put Freeman 2nd, since he was 3rd in both OPS and WAR and well, it doesn’t matter that his team finished 26 and a half games out of first.  They also probably would put Jon Lester 3rd, since he is…Jon Lester.  You know who you are.

8-10 I was just throwing darts.  Even considered Wilson Ramos.  Ryan Braun had some decent numbers, but…

Speaking of Lester, he may well have been worthy of a top 10 nod, along with Max Scherzer.  And perhaps Madison Bumgarner.  Didn’t feel it here though.  If you do, I wouldn’t argue with it.  Like I said, the whole list was basically a crapshoot anyway.

Cy Young:

  1. Max Scherzer, Washington
  2. Jon Lester, Chicago Cubs
  3. Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco
  4. Johnny Cueto, San Francisco
  5. Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs

Here’s a ballot that could use the 10 spots.  Not that all of those 10 could be considered the winner of the Cy Young.  But there were several others in the league that warranted “end of ballot” consideration.  These include, Noah Syndergaard, Clayton Kershaw, Carlos Martinez, Jake Arrieta and the late Jose Fernandez.  Perhaps Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon too, if you like your closers.  We know I don’t though.

I see this as between just Scherzer and Lester.  And, of course, as a Boston homer, I would’ve loved to give this to Jon.  But after going deeper into the numbers there was no way I could do it.  Lester had a better ERA by about a half a run.  But that’s where it ends.  Max had a better WHIP by a smidge, pitched about 26 more innings, had one more win, almost 90 more strikeouts…and for those who like WAR, it was 6.2 to 5.3 in favor of Max.  The competition in their divisions were similar with one playoff or near playoff team, one average team and 2 putrid ones.  Plus the Cubs won their division handily and surely faced less pressure…not a major consideration, but it was all part of the equation that added up to Max.

Bumgarner and Cueto were a pretty clear next tier to me.  Hendricks got the last spot largely because he led the league in ERA by a healthy margin and was 2nd in WHIP by a slim margin.  Pushed him ahead of Noah for me.  But I didn’t lose a ton of sleep over 5th place.

Rookie of the Year:

  1. Corey Seager, LA Dodgers
  2. Kenta Maeda, LA Dodgers
  3. Trea Turner, Washington

Seager was the clear-cut choice here.  No other hitter played enough to qualify, while Seager played the whole year at a high level.  I don’t love putting Maeda second, not after 8 years of pitching in the Japanese leagues.  Yes, Japan is not the majors.  But it’s probably better than Triple-A teams stateside.  Either way, the rules say he is eligible for this award.  Since he was also around for a full season and put up some pretty good numbers on a playoff team, he gets the runner-up position.

Third place could have gone a few ways, but I picked Turner.  Showed great speed (33 steals) and good power (13 dingers) in about half a season.  Throw in the high average (.342) and that sealed up third for me.  Trevor Story was on his way to throwing up some monster numbers before missing the last 2 months or so with injury, but…Colorado.  Aledmys Diaz also threw up decent numbers before he missed the better part of the last two months himself.  And he was an All-Star, for whatever that’s worth.  Seung-hwan Oh had a very nice year in relief for the Cards.  After 9 years in Korea and 2 in Japan.  Plus…reliever.  Junior Guerra, Steven Matz, etc.  There were a bunch of NL rookies who offered pretty good contributions for a half or three-quarters of a year.

Manager of the Year:

  1. Dusty Baker, Washington
  2. Joe Maddon, Chicago Cubs
  3. Bruce Bochy, San Francisco

Between Baker and Maddon and I hate Maddon, so gimme Baker.  Nah, that’s not the reason.  But it’s hard to vote for a guy that won the division by 17 and a half games and was on cruise control for pretty much the whole season.  That’s what I think anyway.  Sure, he had to keep the team full of All-Stars focused and all.  Sometimes that can be hard (see Francona, Terry and Torre, Joe, among others).  But I went with Baker for the top slot.  Dusty took over for Matt Williams and guided the Nationals to 12 more wins…despite a MAJOR drop off from 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper.

If you wanted to put Terry Collins of the Mets 3rd, that would be ok.  He had to deal with many injuries, specifically in his rotation, where among all his young studs 43-year-old Bartolo Colon ended up making the most starts.  The team suffered injuries in his lineup as well.  And Collins still got them to the playoffs.  Bochy didn’t necessarily have to deal with a boatload of injuries.  But he did have to deal with a subpar everything, other than Posey, Bumgarner and Cueto.  Either one works for 3rd for me.

That about sums it all up…

Time for some hardware…

…now that the Major League Baseball regular season has concluded.  Let’s get right to it, starting here with the American League:

Most Valuable Player:

  1. Mookie Betts, Boston
  2. Mike Trout, LA Angels
  3. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
  4. David Ortiz, Boston
  5. Adrian Beltre, Texas
  6. Josh Donaldson, Toronto
  7. Jose Altuve, Houston
  8. Manny Machado, Baltimore
  9. Robinson Cano, Seattle
  10. Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto

10 guys seems a little steep here, but that’s what the official ballot holds.  So I only do what I’m told.  Anyway, these ten all had pretty good years, how do you decide?  I just went with the guy from the home team.  Ok, that’s not exactly true.  The way I see it, the award probably comes down to Betts or Trout.  Trout is probably still the best player in the league, probably in the majors.  But his team was awful.  I have trouble giving MVP awards to guys on bad teams.  I know that many feel differently, simply because how can one guy make a team playoff caliber essentially by himself?  Fair enough point, but it’s my ballot, so that’s what I’m going with.

Trout’s OPS was almost 100 points higher than Betts’ and if you believe in sabermetric stats like WAR, then you would see Trout was better than Mookie there as well.  Both are good defensive players.  Betts had about 40 more hits, but Trout had about 70 more walks.  Many of their other statistics were similar.  Betts had a deeper lineup of course.  Trout power dropped from 2015 and he walked more this year, likely because of what was around him.  If you choose Trout, I won’t hold it against you.  I just went with the guy on the playoff team.

So as you can see, other than Trout, all of the players listed are from playoff or near playoff teams.  Though I am not sure there were many other legitimate candidates.  Brian Dozier?  Nah.  Khris Davis?  Ummmm…

I would’ve loved to have given this to Big Papi, being that it is his last year and I am a homer.  But I have to say not playing the field has to hurt him a bit.  I am not opposed to giving DH’s the award, but a DH would have to be clearly separated from the pack for me to do so.  Kind of like when Ortiz finished 2nd in the voting in 2005 to Alex Rodriguez.  That year, I would have given the MVP to Papi.  He had sick numbers, but also a slew of clutch hits that for me put him over the top.  Oh well.  As for this year, Papi falls behind Miggy here because Miggy had an insane 2nd half to help keep his team in the mix.  And he played the field all year.  If you wanted to flip-flop them, I wouldn’t argue there either.

5-8 is probably the next tier.  Beltre finished strong, Altuve and Machado did not and Donaldson was basically in between.  That explains that order.  Cano and Edwin seemed like solid choices for the last 2 spots.  But if you stuck Nelson Cruz or someone else in there, it doesn’t matter to me.  Even Dozier, if it makes you happy.

Pitchers?  I’m not opposed to it.  But it would have to be another case in which one would have to be extremely dominant.  I mean, how can you justify voting for a starting pitcher that pitches maybe 35 games over an everyday player that plays over 150?  Or a closer that pitches like 70 innings over that same everyday player?  I could, but only in extreme cases.  And none fit that bill this year.

Cy Young:

  1. Justin Verlander, Detroit
  2. Corey Kluber, Cleveland
  3. Rick Porcello, Boston
  4. Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox
  5. Zach Britton, Baltimore

In reality, Verlander is 1, Kluber is 1A and Porcello is 1B.  It was that close.  Then Sale is a distant 4th.  As far as pure numbers, Verlander made more starts, pitched more innings, had way more strikeouts and had the better WHIP and ERA than both Kluber and Porcello.  He also gave up only 4 unearned runs this year, where the other two gave up 7 apiece.  Hey, that counts.  Again, sabermetrics tells us that Verlander was better there too (6.6 WAR to 6.5 for Kluber and 5.0 for Porcello).  Verlander “only” won 16, compared to Kluber’s 18 and Porcello’s major league leading 22.  But what sealed it for me was Verlander’s 2nd half 8-3, 1.96, .180 batting average against, which topped the 2nd halves of the other two by a decent amount (Kluber, 9-1, 2.52, .215; Porcello, 11-2, 2.62, .203).  More importantly, Justin got only 3.97 runs a game for support.  Kluber got 5.16 and Porcello 6.61.  Seems like he was working with less margin for error.

Sale went 3-7 in the second half, but his ERA was actually better (3.28 to 3.38 in the first half).  His innings, WHIP, K’s and everything else were much better than the remaining candidates, so he was an easy pick for 4th.  I don’t love taking relievers.  But Britton had an ERA well under one and didn’t blow any of his 47 save chances.  So there is something to be said for that.  In reality, Andrew Miller probably had a more dominant year.  But he wasn’t asked to close many games, so I have to give Britton the nod here.

Aaron Sanchez, Masahiro Tanaka, Cole Hamels, Jose Quintana and JA Happ with his 20 wins will get some love.  I saw them a step or more below all of the above however.

Rookie of the Year:

  1. Michael Fulmer, Detroit
  2. Nomar Mazara, Texas
  3. Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees

Fulmer runs away with this one.  He was 3 innings shy of qualifying for the ERA title, where he was leading for a stretch and would have finished third at 3.06, behind Sanchez at 3.00 and Verlander at 3.04.  Mazara was one of only two rookies who had enough plate appearances to qualify for a full season (Cheslor Cuthbert being the other).  Mazara started strong and cooled off a bit, but seemed like the best bet for 2nd.  Only 53 games and 201 at-bats for Sanchez and he gets 3rd?  Yup.  20 homers in those 53 games.  Among an otherwise quite barren Yankee lineup.  Good enough for me.  Cuthbert?  Nope.  Tim Anderson?  A shortstop, so maybe.  Max Kepler?  Meh.  Tyler Naquin or Ryon Healy?  Not today.

Manager of the Year:

  1. Terry Francona, Cleveland
  2. Scott Servais, Seattle
  3. Buck Showalter, Baltimore

TIIIITTTTOOOOO!!!  Yup.  Love Tito, but not being nostalgic here at all.  The Indians improved 13 wins from 2015, though their best player, Michael Brantley, totaled a mere 43 plate appearances during the 2016 season.  The lineup is clearly improved from 2015, but other than Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor and Carlos Santana, the rest of them are probably really platoon players on good teams.  Sure, Mike Napoli and Jose Ramirez had pretty good years out of nowhere.  But they also gave almost 250 plate appearances to an old and fat Jose Uribe.  Yan Gomes hit a solid .167 in about the same amount of chances.  The pitching is of course the strength, bullpen with Cody Allen and a dominant 2 months from Andrew Miller leading that charge.  The rotation was solid, with Kluber in the Cy mix as noted above.  But behind him, Carlos Carrasco battled injuries and after Danny Salazar had an All-Star start, he had his problem with injuries as well.  Some challenges there that Tito had to navigate as well.

Servais took over the Mariners this year and led them to 10 more wins.  It helped that Cano had a rebound year.  And Cruz is Cruz.  Kyle Seager is pretty good.  Not much else to write home about in that lineup.  As for the staff, Felix Hernandez made only 25 seemingly “un-King Felix” like starts.  Hisashi Iwakuma won 16, but with an ERA over 4.  Tijuan Walker never took that “next step”.  And after Steve Cishek became shaky at closer, they went to a young Edwin Diaz, who got the saves, but whose ERA did spike as well.  I’m not sure how Seattle improved so much actually.  Side note:  JA Happ went 4-6, 4.64 and Mark Trumbo hit 13 homers in 96 games for the 2015 Mariners.  Then Happ won 20 for the Jays and Trumbo hit 47 bombs for the O’s in 2016.  What?

Buck won 8 more games this year than last, with a lineup that seemingly only hit homers or struck out and a putrid rotation.  That’s good enough for 3rd for me.  And it doesn’t count him not pitching Britton in the wild card playoff game, which was inexcusable in my eyes.  People may ask, “where is John Farrell”?  After all, the Sox won 15 more games than 2015.  Farrell may well win the award in real life.  But when I spent all year trying to get him fired, I couldn’t put him in my top three.  They really should’ve won 5-10 more, but Farrell held them back.  I still believe that and still wouldn’t mind not seeing him back next year.  But I’ve beaten that like a dead horse.  I’d love to give Joe Girardi a vote.  I hate the guy and I hate the Yankees.  Another secret, I know.  But how he has kept that team in the playoff race until the last week or so the last few years, I have no idea.  Old team, half the pitching staff I’ve never heard of, his 2 best relievers were traded at the deadline this year, A-Rod circus, etc.  But they lost 3 wins from 2015, so it would be hard to justify a vote for him all that being said.  Texas won 7 more games for Jeff Banister this year, but he won the award last year and…that team is pretty good anyway.

Next:  The National League

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