Predicting the Top 5 Vote-Getters for Every Major 2013 MLB Award

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystSeptember 10, 2013

Predicting the Top 5 Vote-Getters for Every Major 2013 MLB Award

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    Predicting the winners and nominating the top candidates for MLB's end of season awards is kind of our thing here at Bleacher Report. Since entering September there has been an updated stock watch for one award or another on what feels like an hourly basis.

    But listing the top five candidates for each major award in order and predicting how many votes they'll actually get? Well that's something of a new wrinkle.

    Just how close is the race between Jose Fernandez and Yasiel Puig for the NL Rookie of the Year? Conversely, will anyone actually steal a first place vote from Clayton Kershaw for the NL Cy Young?

    Will the Manager of the Year awards simply go to the skippers from each league's top team, or has Pittsburgh's first winning season in two decades clinched the award for Clint Hurdle?

    A few weeks ago, the only question about the AL MVP was whether Miguel Cabrera would get the maximum score possible or if a few writers might sheepishly cast first place votes for Chris Davis.

    But now? Now there's a pretty rock solid case and historical precedent for Mike Trout to win the award.

    Before we get to all that, let's get the party started with what might be an unpopular opinion about the American League Rookie of the Year race.

     

    *Unless otherwise cited, all statistics are courtesy of Fangraphs.com and are accurate through the start of play on Monday, September 9.

American League Rookie of the Year

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    PlayerStatsVotes (1st place)
    Jose Iglesias.320/.365/.408, 3 HR, 4 SB, 2.0 WAR119 (16)
    Wil Myers.292/.354/.471, 11 HR, 5 SB, 1.7 WAR102 (11)
    Chris Archer3.19 ERA, 4.30 FIP, 6.3 K/9, 0.8 WAR40 (3)
    David Lough.283/.306/.403, 4 HR, 5 SB, 2.0 WAR6 (0)
    Martin Perez3.41 ERA, 4.11 FIP, 5.97 K/9, 1.4 WAR3 (0)

    30 voters will give their top three picks for the Rookie of the Year Award. First place votes are worth five points, second place votes are worth three points and third place votes are worth one point for a total of 270 points available.

     

    When Jose Iglesias' batting average plummeted to .205 in the month of July, everyone (especially myself included) reasoned that BABIP was finally catching up to him; that he has one of the best middle infield gloves in all of baseball, but could become an offensive liability.

    He has responded to those criticisms by batting .297 since arriving in Detroit and playing a huge role for a likely division winner for the second time this season.

    The temptation will be to simply hand the award to Wil Myers because of the solid numbers he put up after his long-awaited arrival in the big leagues. However, Myers had a very sub-par month of Augustbatting .209 during a sample size which makes up more than one-third of his MLB service time thus far.

    If the Rays can hang on to the AL Wild Card lead they've been trying to give away over the past two weeks and Myers plays a big role in the process, I could still see him winning the award.

    It certainly doesn't help his case, though, that many will argue that Myers hasn't even been the best rookie on the Rays. With Myers and Chris Archer likely to split votes in Tampa Bay, I think it'll be enough for Iglesias to ultimately take home the award.

     

     

    Player outside my top five most likely to make the final cut

    J.B. Shuck (.293/.326/.370, 2 HR, 6 SB, 0.1 WAR)

    If you adhere to WAR as much as some of us do, then it's hard to imagine Shuck even receiving a single vote. How could the AL ROY go to someone who has just barely been above replacement level?

    The sheer aggregation of at-bats might work in Shuck's favor. Not only is he nearly batting .300, but he has done it while receiving nearly 400 at-bats on the season70 more than Iglesias and 129 more than Myers.

National League Rookie of the Year

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    PlayerStatsVotes (1st place)
    Jose Fernandez2.23 ERA, 2.64 FIP, 9.89 K/9, 4.2 WAR128 (19)
    Yasiel Puig.344/.406/.558, 15 HR, 10 SB, 3.8 WAR106 (10)
    Shelby Miller3.19 ERA, 3.66 FIP, 9.44 K/9, 1.9 WAR19 (1)
    Hyun-Jin Ryu3.02 ERA, 3.24 FIP, 7.49 K/9, 2.7 WAR14 (0)
    Julio Teheran3.01 ERA, 3.77 FIP, 8.26 K/9, 2.0 WAR2 (0)

    30 voters will give their top three picks for the Rookie of the Year Award. First place votes are worth five points, second place votes are worth three points and third place votes are worth one point for a total of 270 points available.

     

    All five of these players would be landslide winners for the AL ROY. Nolan Arenado doesn't crack the top five, and even he would probably win the AL ROY if Colorado played in the American League.

    However, forced to pick one of these great young players, I'm going with Jose Fernandez every time.

    For a while there in August, it sounded like the Marlins might have already shut down Fernandez by now, robbing him (and us) of the final month of his season.

    However, he'll make one more start this Wednesday against the Braves before sitting out the final two weeks of the season. He'll end up with 28 starts and (as long as he makes it five innings on Wednesday) at least 170 innings pitched.

    Considering the most seasoned arms of the 2013 season (Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright) are going to wind up in the vicinity of 34 starts and 240 innings pitched, Fernandez's season is hardly as abbreviated as we expected when naming Yasiel Puig the front-runner for the NL ROY last month.

    If anything, Puig is the one who should be "punished" for length of service time, having not made his debut until June 3. Fernandez might be missing the last two weeks of the season, but Puig missed the first two months.

    What he has done since then has been phenomenal.

    If we double his home run and stolen base totals to project for a full 162-game season, that's 30 home runs, 20 stolen bases and a .344 batting average.

    You can count on one hand how many times a player has reached those plateaus in a single season. Chuck Klein (1932) is the only person who has done it while not playing for the late 1990s Colorado Rockies (Ellis Burks in 1996 and Larry Walker in 1997).

    He has his downsides, though.

    Puig is a free swinger who strikes out pretty regularly. And of course, there's the perceived attitude problem from his antics both on and off the field. I hate to bring up something like that in an award like this, but it's worth noting the complete lack of questions about Fernandez's attitude toward the game.

    As far as my rationale for having Shelby Miller ahead of Hyun-Jin Ryu, I believe Puig will get most of the Dodgers' votes, and I also believe Miller plays an important role down the stretch in the heated three-team race for the NL Central.

     

    Player outside my top five most likely to make the final cut

    Evan Gattis (.245/.303/.498, 18 HR, 0 SB, 1.2 WAR)

    Remember this guy? Gattis finished the month of May with a .281 batting average, a .952 OPS and 12 home runs.

    Between an oblique injury and reduced playing time, he's been practically invisible since then. However, he did belt two home runs this past Sunday and is getting more regular at-bats with Jason Heyward still missing from the lineup. With a good September, Gattis could at least snag a few third-place votes.

National League Manager of the Year

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    Manager (Team)RecordPreseason O/UVotes (1st place)
    Clint Hurdle (Pirates)81-6179 wins148 (29)
    Fredi Gonzalez (Braves)85-5786 wins84 (1)
    Don Mattingly (Dodgers)83-5990 wins31 (0)
    Mike Matheny (Cardinals)83-6085.5 wins6 (0)
    Dusty Baker (Reds)82-6288.5 wins1 (0)

    30 voters will give their top three picks for the Manager of the Year Award. First place votes are worth five points, second place votes are worth three points and third place votes are worth one point for a total of 270 points available.

     

    Let's follow up that lengthy NL ROY debate with a short-winded discussion about the NL Manager of the Year.

    Fredi Gonzalez is going to get his share of votes for surviving injury after injury in carrying the Braves to what still could be the best record of any MLB team in 2013.

    However, this one is no contest. Clint Hurdle took a team that hasn't won 80 games in a season since 1992 and made them a World Series contender.

    Previous years theoretically have nothing to do with this award, but the Pirates were 57-105 in 2010 before Hurdle took the reins. They won 72 games in 2011, 79 games in 2012 and should be headed for at least 90 wins this season.

    Not only is he easily the NL Manager of the Year, but he may get nominated for a Nobel Prize for bringing peace to Pittsburgh.

    Don Mattingly will likely finish in third place for bringing the Dodgers back from the dead, even though they aren't going to exceed preseason expectations by much. As the only other managers of NL teams doing well, expect someone to at least throw a couple of bones in the direction of Mike Matheny and Dusty Baker.

American League Manager of the Year

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    Manager (Team)RecordPreseason O/UVotes (1st place)
    John Farrell (Red Sox)87-5879.5 wins142 (26)
    Bob Melvin (Athletics)83-6083 wins76 (2)
    Terry Francona (Indians)76-6677.5 wins34 (1)
    Buck Showalter (Orioles)76-6676.5 wins11 (0)
    Ned Yost (Royals)75-6879 wins7 (1)

    30 voters will give their top three picks for the Manager of the Year Award. First place votes are worth five points, second place votes are worth three points and third place votes are worth one point for a total of 270 points available.

     

    With 17 games left to be played, the Red Sox have already won 7.5 more games than the total with which they were expected to finish the season. In case we've all forgotten, Boston was supposed to finish in a dogfight with Baltimore for last place in the AL East.

    Yet, they're three games ahead of the second-best team in the American League. Kudos to John Farrell.

    Bob Melvin is currently in second place for bringing Oakland to what should be a second consecutive AL West crown. However, spots two through five on this list remain incredibly up in the air.

    I fully expect either Terry Francona or Buck Showalter to finish in second place if either Baltimore or Cleveland can overcome their current two-game deficit behind Tampa Bay.

    Meanwhile, Ned Yost is the AL's version of Don Mattingly, in my opinion. In late May, the team was in last place and angry fans and bloggers were calling for his head. But a terrible spring turned into a successful summer, and he now has the team in extremely favorable shape to exceed preseason expectations by at least half a dozen games.

    If the Royals can leapfrog New York, Baltimore, Cleveland and Tampa Bay to claim a wild card spot that they currently trail by 3.5 games, not only could I see Yost getting some votes, but I would almost expect him to actually win the award.

    Don't sleep on Joe Girardi sneaking into the top five, either. Sure, New York was projected for 86.5 wins and is only on pace for 86, but the Yankees overcame some extreme circumstances just to get this far. 

American League Cy Young

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    PlayerStatsVotes (1st place)
    Yu Darvish12-7, 2.91 ERA, 3.31 FIP, 12.02 K/9, 4.3 WAR154 (13)
    Max Scherzer19-2, 2.88 ERA, 2.73 FIP, 9.88 K/9, 5.7 WAR139 (11)
    Chris Sale10-12, 2.97 ERA, 3.09 FIP, 9.54 K/9, 4.8 WAR92 (3)
    Felix Hernandez12-9, 3.01 ERA, 2.59 FIP, 9.26 K/9, 5.8 WAR68 (3)
    Koji Uehara18 SV, 1.12 ERA, 1.76 FIP, 12.45 K/9, 2.8 WAR53 (0)

    30 voters will give their top five picks for the Cy Young Award. First place votes are worth seven points, second place votes are worth four points, third place votes are worth three points, fourth place votes are worth two points and fifth place votes are worth one points for a total of 510 points available.

     

    I have argued for months that Yu Darvish should and will win the AL Cy Young if he stayed healthy enough to reach 240 strikeouts on the seasona milestone he has already reached with at least four starts (including Monday night) left in his season.

    Please click the link in the previous sentence if you wish to read in more detail why I believe that his strikeouts are more than enough to win the award.

    Whether you like outdated statistics (wins) or advanced stats (wins above replacement), Max Scherzer is almost certainly going to lead the AL in both. And as much as I love Darvish's strikeout total, Scherzer is certainly no slouch in that department, either. He won't even come close to bypassing Darvish, but he's just 31 strikeouts away from reaching that magical 240 plateau.

    Less than a week ago, I would have considered this a four-horse race. With Felix Hernandez getting scratched from a start that was already pushed back a few days and Chris Sale both missing a few games earlier this season and the White Sox moving to a six-man rotation, I think we're down to two legitimate candidates.

    And, oh by the way, I wouldn't rule out Koji Uehara cracking into the top four.

    Uehara has the highest WAR among relief pitchers and has been nothing short of a godsend for a bullpen that has otherwise dealt with injuries all season. The last time he allowed an earned run to score30.1 IP agothe Dodgers were five games below .500 and in last place in the NL West.

     

    Player outside my top five most likely to make the final cut

    Anibal Sanchez (13-7, 2.61 ERA, 2.49 FIP, 9.55 K/9, 5.2 WAR)

    Back in mid-June, I had Sanchez pegged as the AL starting pitcher for the 2013 All-Star Game, which consequently means he was my favorite for the AL Cy Young Award as well.

    But then he went and missed nearly a month of action with an injured shoulder and fell out of sight and out of mind.

    Since the All-Star break, his 2.0 WAR is good for third-best among pitchers. If he can make a few more top notch starts while Hernandez and Sale lose a few steps in the eyes of the voters, Sanchez could realistically still finish in third place.

National League Cy Young

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    PlayerStatsVotes (1st place)
    Clayton Kershaw14-8, 1.92 ERA, 2.52 FIP, 8.67 K/9, 5.6 WAR207 (29)
    Craig Kimbrel44 SV, 0.94 ERA, 1.89 FIP, 12.95 K/9, 2.0 WAR96 (1)
    Adam Wainwright16-9, 3.03 ERA, 2.53 FIP, 8.21 K/9, 5.6 WAR86 (0)
    Jose Fernandez11-6, 2.23 ERA, 2.64 FIP, 9.89 K/9, 4.2 WAR59 (0)
    Matt Harvey9-5, 2.27 ERA, 2.00 FIP, 9.64 K/9, 6.1 WAR56 (0)

    30 voters will give their top five picks for the Cy Young Award. First place votes are worth seven points, second place votes are worth four points, third place votes are worth three points, fourth place votes are worth two points and fifth place votes are worth one points for a total of 510 points available.

     

    For no other reason than to ensure press coverage when the awards are announced, someone will inevitably cast a second place vote for Clayton Kershaw.

    He should be the unanimous winner. No one in their right mind has made a legitimate argument for anyone else to win the award since Matt Harvey's injury, but it's going to happen.

    And because it's impossible to argue that any starting pitcher has been more valuable and durable than Kershaw, my guess is that lone wolf casts his first place vote for Craig Kimbrel.

    Under normal circumstances, I could almost appreciate that vote. Kimbrel is having a historically great season for a closer.

    But Kershaw is not having a normal year. Save for Roger Clemens posting a 1.87 ERA in 2005 that may or may not have been helped by a B12 injection, the last time a National League pitcher finished a season with an ERA below 2.20 was Pedro Martinez during his days with the Expos in 1997.

    As long as he doesn't tank over his final three or four starts of the season, failing to give him the NL Cy Young unanimously would make the entire voting system a traveshamockery.

    Rounding out the rest of the top five, Harvey is obviously the biggest wild card. If I had a vote, he would be second on my ballot, but I fear he might be over-penalized for missing one-fourth of the season and facing perhaps the easiest schedule of any starting pitcher in the entire league.

    Not only does Jose Fernandez win the NL ROY, but that 2.23 ERA and 9.89 K/9 is bound to bring in some votes for the Cy Young. And if Adam Wainwright's seven-inning gem against the Pirates on Saturday is an indication that he's going to bounce back nicely from back-to-back bloodbaths against the Reds, it should be more than enough to keep him in the top five of all ballots.

     

    Player outside my top five most likely to make the final cut

    Mat Latos (14-5, 3.02 ERA, 2.94 FIP, 8.25 K/9, 4.5 WAR)

    Each of Cincinnati's primary six starting pitchers has been great while healthy, but if the Reds win the NL Central and voters choose to put a division winner ahead of Fernandez and Harvey on their ballots, Latos is going to be that pitcher.

    Latos has very quietly been one of the best pitchers in the National Leaguenot just this season, but over the course of the past four years. His 3.23 ERA since the beginning of 2010 gives him a WAR of 14.6 that ranks sixth among NL pitchers.

National League Most Valuable Player

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    PlayerStatsVotes (1st place)
    Andrew McCutchen.322/.403/.514, 19 HR, 27 SB, 7.2 WAR364 (16)
    Yadier Molina.320/.359/.482, 11 HR, 3 SB, 4.9 WAR297 (9)
    Clayton Kershaw14-8, 1.92 ERA, 2.52 FIP, 8.67 K/9, 5.6 WAR268 (5)
    Joey Votto.303/.430/.494, 22 HR, 5 SB, 5.8 WAR208 (0)
    Paul Goldschmidt.293/.398/.533, 31 HR, 13 SB, 5.2 WAR185 (0)

    30 voters will give their top 10 picks for the MVP Award. First place votes are worth 14 points. The second ballot spot is worth nine points with each successive spot being worth one less, finishing with the 10th place votes worth one point each. In total, there are 1,770 points available. A unanimous winner would receive 420 votes.

     

    This race is rapidly devolving into Clayton Kershaw vs. the best hitters in the NL Central.

    From a WAR perspective, it's not even close. Andrew McCutchen enters play on Monday a full 1.1 wins ahead of the next-best NL playerCarlos Gomez. Yet, a lot of people want to make a case for Yadier Molina and his conveniently-can't-possibly-be-calculated positive effect on the Cardinals pitching staff.

    And similar to the notions about Mat Latos on the previous slide, doesn't Joey Votto suddenly become a top candidate if the Reds complete the comeback and win the division? For my money, this remains the most difficult race to handicap until the final hierarchy of the NL Central has been decided.

    But if there isn't enough separation between those batters to declare a winner today, doesn't that leave a giant barn door hanging wide open for Kershaw to win the award?

    According to the Baseball Writers' Association of America FAQ page, most writers vote for just one award each year. As such, there won't be many situations where a voter decides, "Well, I gave Kershaw the first place vote in the Cy Young ballot, so I'm going to give the first place vote in the MVP ballot to someone else."

    More often than not, a voter only gets one ballot. If I felt passionately that Kershaw deserves the Cy Young Award for having the best season in recent memory but I only get to vote for the NL MVP, I would have to at least consider giving my 14-point vote to Kershaw.

    At any rate, it's hard to imagine him placing outside the top three or four in anyone's ballot, aside from the occasional fuddy-duddy who holds steadfast to the belief that MVPs are for position players and that Cy Youngs are for pitchers.

    To anyone who feels that pitchers aren't worthy of an MVP because they only pitch every fifth day, might I point out that Kershaw has faced 834 batters this season while the MLB leader in plate appearances (Dustin Pedroia) has only come to the plate 652 times.

     

    Player outside my top five most likely to make the final cut

    Craig Kimbrel (44 SV, 0.94 ERA, 1.89 FIP, 12.95 K/9, 2.0 WAR)

    I know. I know. "A closer contending for the Cy Young Award? Yeah. OK. I'm willing to accept that. But a closer coming close to winning an MVP? Now you're crossing the line!"

    Well, here's the thingclosers actually have come close to cracking into the top five before.

    In 2008, Francisco Rodriguez finished in sixth place in the AL with 143 points while Brad Lidge finished in eighth place in the NL with 104 points. In both cases, the closer's team won its division despite not having a starting pitcher finish in the top five of the Cy Young voting.

    In 2006, Trevor Hoffman was dealt a similar hand, finishing in 10th place in the NL MVP race for the first-place Padres. Mariano Rivera finished in ninth place for AL MVP in both 2004 and 2005 for the first-place Yankees.

    Noticing a trend?

    The Braves are going to win the NL East with nary an MVP candidate outside of Kimbrel. Whether he cracks the top five is yet to be seen, but I guarantee he'll finish in the top 10.

American League Most Valuable Player

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    PlayerStatsVotes (1st place)
    Mike Trout.338/.437/.574, 23 HR, 32 SB, 9.8 WAR352 (17)
    Miguel Cabrera.353/.446/.667, 43 HR, 3 SB, 7.3 WAR335 (13)
    Chris Davis.295/.378/.652, 48 HR, 3 SB, 6.5 WAR243 (0)
    Manny Machado.293/.323/.447, 13 HR, 6 SB, 5.9 WAR191 (0)
    Shane Victorino.295/.353/.456, 14 HR, 20 SB, 5.3 WAR168 (0)

    30 voters will give their top 10 picks for the MVP Award. First place votes are worth 14 points. The second ballot spot is worth nine points with each successive spot being worth one less, finishing with the 10th place votes worth one point each. In total, there are 1,770 points available. A unanimous winner would receive 420 votes.

     

    Here we go again.

    If WAR says that the NL MVP race is a blowout, then the AL MVP race is nothing short of a TKO...by Mike Trout.

    Trout is 2.5 wins ahead of every other player in baseball.

    Of course, Trout was also 3.1 WAR ahead of Miguel Cabrera during last season's heated AL MVP race, so why should this result be any different? Also, didn't I just argue less than a month ago that Cabrera was clearly the MVP and it would take something of a miracle for Trout to win?

    Well, the past two weeks have changed things.

    Fourteen days is a pretty small sample size over the course of a six-month season, but this past eight percent of the season has given Trout the upper hand.

     

    Since August 26

    Miguel Cabrera: .227/.370/.227, 0.597 OPS, 0 SB

    Chris Davis: .204/.278/.388, 0.666 OPS, 2 SB

    Mike Trout: .431/.545/.614, 1.159 OPS, 4 SB

    Cabrera doesn't have an extra base hit since August 26. At the end of play on August 21, Davis was averaging a home run for every 11.4 plate appearances; since then, he has hit two in 67 plate appearances.

    While those former favorites have played their way back to the pack, Trout is once again separating himself from the world.

    Could either Cabrera or Davis get back to form, hit 50 home runs and win the AL MVP? No doubt. But Trout is on pace to finish the year with a WAR of 11.2, which would merely be the 19th greatest season in MLB history.

    In the last 70 years, only 12 times has a player posted a WAR of 10.6 or better. All 12 won the MVP that year. Say what you want about WAR, but 12 for 12 is a pretty good batting average.

     

    Player outside my top five most likely to make the final cut

    Jason Kipnis (.282/.367/.462, 17 HR, 26 SB, 4.1 WAR)

    This would be dependent upon the Indians getting the second wild card in the AL, but I could see him coming in as high as number four on the list.

    Regarding Evan Longoria and Josh Donaldson, I'm starting to get the feeling that 2013 WAR is fundamentally flawed to favor third basemen. Allow me to demonstrate with a blind resume comparison:

    PlayerTriple SlashHRSBFldBsR
    Player A.293/.398/.53331134.10.6
    Player B.266/.346/.49829114.3-1.0
    Player C.297/.372/.4962149.8-0.1
    Player D.287/.339/.46819215.15.5

    If you like slugging, Player A is your man. If you prefer fielding at the cost of batting average and base running, then you love Player B. Player C has a little more pop than Player D, but Player D also has considerably better base running skills.

    Feel free to guess who is who and/or which player deserves the highest WAR before reading on.

    Players B and C are Longoria (6.0 WAR) and Donaldson (6.4 WAR), respectively. Player A is Paul Goldschmidt with a WAR of 5.2, while Player D is Hunter Pence with a WAR of 4.5.

    If you can rationally explain to me why Donaldson is worth two more wins than a player like Pence, then and only then will I consider him a candidate for MVP.