2014 MLB Award Race Odds Updates with 4 Weeks to Go
September is almost here, meaning that a look at some updated odds for the 2014 MLB awards race is in order.
True, this is a non-scientific undertaking. We are simply not in the practice of setting professional odds. But by looking at key performance indicators, a realistic idea of win probability can be ascertained.
In order to do that, several factors will be examined, including:
- Overall statistical accomplishment
- League-specific statistical rankings
- Team performance
To be clear, this is by no means meant to indicate who we feel should win. Rather, it is an attempt to quantify the outcome of the final vote based on the aforementioned factors.
Another thing to keep in mind is that not every factor will be measured for each award. Team performance, for example, has no bearing on Rookie of the Year consideration or on Comeback Player of the Year.
There will also be honorable mentions for most of the awards, as not every player who should be in the conversation has done enough to warrant winning based on the quality of the competition.
Here are the updates on the 2014 MLB awards race odds.
AL Manager of the Year
Ned Yost, Kansas City Royals (3-2)
Bob Melvin, Oakland Athletics (3-1)
Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles (5-1)
Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles Angels (5-1)
The voting for American League Manager of the Year will be one of the closest of the awards season.
Take Baltimore Orioles skipper Buck Showalter, for example. His club sat 6.5 games behind the Toronto Blue Jays on June 6, but less than one month later, the Orioles were in first place. They have never relinquished the lead.
Then there is Mike Scioscia from the Los Angeles Angels. Entering play Wednesday, he had led his club to a 78-53 record in the ultra-competitive AL West with a bullpen and rotation that have struggled all season. It helps to have Mike Trout and a resurgent Albert Pujols on the roster, of course, but there is no mistaking the job that Scioscia has done.
Meanwhile, Oakland A’s manager Bob Melvin is once again in position to take home the honor. It is quite amazing, actually, how effective he is at getting the most value out of his roster on any given night.
And who can overlook what Ned Yost has done with the Kansas City Royals? There isn’t a superstar on the roster, yet the Royals stand on the verge of reaching the postseason for the first time in 29 years thanks to his intense leadership.
If a favorite had to be identified, it would have to be Yost. Ending a 29-year drought is too momentous to ignore.
All told, there are four candidates deserving of the recognition. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the season plays out, since where each club finishes will go a long way toward determining the final vote.
Honorable Mentions: Lloyd McClendon, Seattle Mariners (10-1); Joe Girardi, New York Yankees (20-1)
NL Manager of the Year
Ron Roenicke, Milwaukee Brewers (5-2)
Don Mattingly, Los Angeles Dodgers (3-1)
Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates (5-1)
Mike Redmond, Miami Marlins (10-1)
The battle for National League Manager of the Year is an intense one.
For starters, Don Mattingly has led the Los Angeles Dodgers on a 14.5-game swing from 9.5 games behind the San Francisco Giants in early June to a five-game lead in the NL West when action began on Wednesday. Making the feat more impressive, he did it in the midst of intense criticism in advance of the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle also deserves consideration for the job he has done with a starting rotation that has suffered through injury and poor performance. Meanwhile, Miami Marlins manager Mike Redmond had his club toward the top of the NL East for the first half of the season before fading.
Milwaukee Brewers helmsman Ron Roenicke also deserves to be in the conversation. After all, his club has been in first place in the NL Central since the fifth day of the regular season, compiling the third-best record in the NL. It is truly remarkable.
While Matt Williams from the Washington Nationals and Bryan Price from the Cincinnati Reds have done fine jobs as well, this will likely come down to Roenicke and Mattingly.
Certainly, the race is too close to call, but as CBS Sports' Mike Axisa noted, should "the Brewers hang on to that NL Central lead and win the division for only the second time in the past 30 years, Roenicke will get a ton of Manager of the Year support and deservedly so." That support should push him over the top.
As with the AL, this will come down to where the clubs finish the regular season.
Honorable Mentions: Bryan Price, Cincinnati Reds; Matt Williams, Washington Nationals
AL Comeback Player of the Year
Melky Cabrera, LF, Toronto Blue Jays (2-1)
Chris Young, SP, Seattle Mariners (5-1)
Albert Pujols, 1B, Los Angeles Angels (10-1)
Derek Jeter, SS, New York Yankees (15-1)
Pujols, for example has 32 doubles and a .469 slugging percentage after hitting just 19 two-baggers and finishing with a .437 slugging mark in an injury-shortened campaign last year. Meanwhile, Jeter is not setting the baseball world on fire, but after appearing in only 17 games and collecting 12 hits last season, his production is well-regarded.
And let’s not forget about Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Chris Young. After missing almost all of last season after “surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome,” via Bob Dutton from The News Tribune, Young is 12-6 and is pitching to a 3.17 ERA with a 1.164 WHIP.
For as good as they have performed, however, the favorite has to be Toronto Blue Jays left fielder Melky Cabrera. Going into action Wednesday, he was slashing out at .310/.362/.468 with 70 RBI and had scored an impressive 79 runs.
And when we consider that he collected 20 extra-base hits all of last season, compiling a .682 OPS in the process, the turnaround is remarkable.
Honorable Mentions: Phil Hughes, SP, Minnesota Twins
NL Comeback Player of the Year
Johnny Cueto, SP, Cincinnati Reds (2-3)
Starlin Castro, SS, Chicago Cubs (5-1)
Josh Beckett, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers (7-1)
Casey McGehee, 3B, Miami Marlins (20-1)
There was a point in time when Casey McGehee (.293/.361/.369) from the Miami Marlins and Josh Beckett (6-6, 2.88 ERA) from the Los Angeles Dodgers had realistic shots at making the vote for NL Comeback Player of the Year a close one.
Unfortunately, McGehee’s second-half slash line is an unimpressive .227/.295/.312, via Baseball-Reference, and Beckett ended up on the disabled list, limiting him to 20 starts.
That all but assures Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto will walk home with the hardware. Not like he doesn’t deserve it, though.
Consider: As of game time Wednesday, he was tied for the NL lead in wins (15) and games started (28) and was alone at the top in hits per nine innings (6.2) and innings pitched (199.0). He also has a scant 2.26 ERA and a minute 0.960 WHIP.
Frankly, if it weren’t for Clayton Kershaw, Cueto would likely lead the pack in Cy Young voting. He has been that good.
Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro also deserves mention. Going into action Wednesday, he had a .286/.334/.430 slash line with 13 home runs and 31 doubles. His improvement over last season is noticeable, but the increase in production likely won’t outweigh what Cueto is doing for the voters.
There is still quite a bit of time left in the season, but it looks like Cueto is the favorite here.
Honorable Mentions: Ryan Vogelsong, SP, San Francisco Giants; Ian Kennedy, SP, San Diego Padres
AL Rookie of the Year
Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago White Sox (1-9)
Matt Shoemaker, SP, Los Angeles Angels (10-1)
Dellin Betances, New York Yankees (10-1)
Masahiro Tanaka, SP, Yankees (15-1)
George Springer, RF, Houston Astros (25-1)
What hasn’t Chicago White Sox rookie Jose Abreu done this season?
He had a .308/.368/599 slash line with 33 home runs and 94 RBI when action began Wednesday en route to being named American League Player and Rookie of the Month in both April and July. True, it wasn’t very long ago that another rookie by the name of Mike Trout set the baseball world ablaze with his play, but that can’t diminish the sheer weight of Abreu’s numbers.
And when we dig deeper, the statistics become even more impressive.
He ranked second in MLB with a .294 ISO (difference between batting average and slugging percentage) and is fourth in both wRC+ (162) and offensive rating (33.7), per FanGraphs. Looking purely at production, he is in elite company.
Now Masahiro Tanaka (12-4, 2.51 ERA) from the New York Yankees could have laid claim to this award at one point, but given the significant amount of time he has missed, he will slip in the voting. There was also a fleeting moment when Houston Astros right fielder George Springer (.231/.336/.468, 20 HR, 51 RBI) made a charge, but like Tanaka, an injury hurt his chances considerably.
In 57 appearances, Betances is 5-0 with a 1.42 ERA, 0.737 WHIP and averages 13.4 strikeouts every nine innings. No doubt, he has been fantastic.
Shoemaker is also pitching very well, compiling a 13-4 record with a fine 3.33 ERA and a 1.084 WHIP. And with the injuries to Tyler Skaggs and Garrett Richards, he is being counted on to shoulder a large load.
For as good as they have been, though, Abreu would seem to trump each one.
We must all remember, however, that the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) gave the 2003 Rookie of the Year to Angel Berroa from the Kansas City Royals over Hideki Matsui from the Yankees when the latter was clearly the better player.
In other words, Abreu’s chances could take a hit because of his age and advanced standing entering the league. The odds are certainly in his favor, though.
Honorable Mentions: Yordano Ventura, SP, Kansas City Royals; Danny Santana, IF/OF, Minnesota Twins
NL Rookie of the Year
Billy Hamilton, CF, Cincinnati Reds (1-9)
Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals (10-1)
Jacob deGrom, SP, New York Mets (10-1)
Tommy La Stella, 2B, Atlanta Braves (15-1)
Gregory Polanco, RF, Pittsburgh Pirates (25-1)
It didn’t look that way at the beginning of the season, though.
From the beginning of the season through the end of May, for example, he put up a .251/.290/.339 slash line and had scored a mere 22 runs, per splits over at Baseball-Reference. Since then, however, his slash is .269/.299/.403, and he has crossed the plate 44 times. The improvement is noticeable.
Frankly, it’s unlikely that the BBWAA seriously considers anyone else.
True, Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco (.241/.308/.349, 6 HR, 30 RBI), New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom (6-6, 3.13 ERA, 1.223 WHIP) and St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong (.248/.289/.388, 18 SB) could garner a few votes.
Polanco doesn’t have enough at-bats, though, and he was recently demoted to Triple-A, while deGrom lacks volume. And even though Wong is having a nice season on a contending team, his WAR and defensive metrics don’t stack up to Hamilton’s, per FanGraphs.
It should be a runaway win for Hamilton.
Honorable Mentions: Chris Owings, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks; Ender Inciarte, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
AL Cy Young Award
Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners (1-2)
Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians (5-1)
Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox (7-1)
Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers (10-1)
Phil Hughes, Minnesota Twins (20-1)
The field for the AL Cy Young Award is incredibly deep.
Max Scherzer from the Detroit Tigers is another pitcher who is having a fantastic season, posting a 15-4 record with a 3.13 ERA while averaging 10.4 K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings). While not as dominant as he was last season, the right-hander is still in the conversation.
Not to be outdone, Chicago White Sox left-hander Chris Sale edges Scherzer in K/9 (10.5), ERA (2.03) and FIP (2.43). Unfortunately, he missed several starts earlier in the season with a flexor muscle strain in his left elbow, impacting his candidacy.
And let’s not forget about Cleveland Indians right-hander Corey Kluber, who became part of the national conversation thanks to one of the better seasons in recent memory. All told, he is 13-7 with a 2.46 ERA, 2.47 FIP and has a 1.079 WHIP. He has been special.
Unfortunately, none of them can touch the accomplishments of Seattle Mariners righty Felix Hernandez.
Consider: Hernandez leads the AL in FIP (2.22), WHIP (0.885) and hits allowed every nine innings (6.4). On top of that, he’s won 13 out of 17 decisions and had “a streak of 16 consecutive starts of pitching at least seven innings while allowing two or fewer runs,” per Bob Dutton from The News Tribune.
He is simply unmatched at the moment.
That said, the competition is fierce between Kluber and Hernandez. It shouldn’t surprise anybody to see the voting get spread so thin that this is a closer race than it may at first appear.
Honorable Mentions: David Price, LHP, Detroit Tigers; Masahiro Tanaka, RHP, New York Yankees; Yu Darvish, RHP, Texas Rangers
NL Cy Young Award
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers (1-9)
Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals (10-1)
Jordan Zimmermann, Washington Nationals (15-1)
Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds (15-1)
Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants (25-1)
Unlike in the AL, where there are 10 starters with a WAR over 4.0, the NL has only one such man—Clayton Kershaw.
True, Adam Wainwright from the St. Louis Cardinals, Johnny Cueto from the Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals teammates Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann are having great seasons, but they don’t compare to what Kershaw has been able to do.
The comparisons aren't fair if we look at the numbers as of game time Wednesday.
|*Courtesy of FanGraphs|
Say what you will about the fact that he has thrown only 153.1 innings. It won't matter. Kershaw has been better than anyone else this season.
Per Baseball-Reference.com (subscription required), he also has a chance to become the first pitcher since Tom Seaver in 1971 to toss 200.0 innings, amass 200 strikeouts and finish with an ERA and an FIP under 2.00. He has been dominant.
While nothing here is guaranteed, Kershaw is the odds-on favorite to win the NL Cy Young—in a landslide.
Honorable Mentions: Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals; Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies; Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers
AL Most Valuable Player
Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels (1-2)
Alex Gordon, LF, Kansas City Royals (5-1)
Josh Donaldson, 3B, Oakland A’s (7-1)
Felix Hernandez, SP, Seattle Mariners (10-1)
Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago White Sox (25-1)
Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout is having such a fine year that he enters the final weeks of the season as the favorite to take home the American League MVP.
True, Felix Hernandez is setting records for the Seattle Mariners and has helped lead them to a 72-59 record entering play Wednesday. And Jose Abreu has meant the world to the Chicago White Sox, who are getting minimal production from several key positions and have no bullpen to speak of.
Trout’s numbers, however, are simply overwhelming.
According to FanGraphs, he either leads or is in the top five in home runs (29), RBI (92), runs (89), ISO (.269), slugging (.558), wRC+ (164), wOBA (.401), offensive rating (42.6) and WAR (6.1). That is a level of statistical dominance that no one else can touch.
Throw in the fact that the Angels had the most wins in baseball when play began Wednesday, and the results appear self-evident.
Honestly, the only player who comes close here is left fielder Alex Gordon (.283/.356/.454, 16 HR, 59 RBI) from the Kansas City Royals. But for as much as he means to them, his overall numbers can’t compete with Trout’s.
Honorable Mentions: Edwin Encarnacion, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays; Robinson Cano, 2B, Seattle Mariners, Nelson Cruz, DH, Baltimore Orioles; Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit Tigers
NL Most Valuable Player
Giancarlo Stanton, RF, Miami Marlins (3-1)
Andrew McCutchen, CF, Pittsburgh Pirates (5-1)
Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers (7-1)
Jonathan Lucroy, C, Milwaukee Brewers (10-1)
The race for National League MVP is impossible to call.
Should Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton get the nod? He leads MLB in RBI (97), on-base percentage (.403) and total bases (273). He also leads the NL in home runs (33), walks (86), slugging percentage (.562) and OPS (.966).
Stanton is so ferocious at the dish that manager Mike Redmond said that he didn't think he could "come up with a word that describes his power," via Greg Cote from the Miami Herald. Sadly, he is on a third-place team.
What about Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw? As we discussed earlier, he is having a dominant season for the Dodgers, and his value can’t be understated. He takes the ball just every fifth day, though, limiting his impact on the club’s performance.
It is also impossible to exclude Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen from the conversation. After all, he has a .307/.403/.539 slash line, plays fantastic defense and is the unquestioned leader of a team that won’t go away.
And we can’t overlook the fact that Jonathan Lucroy from the Milwaukee Brewers has turned into the best catcher in the game. To that effect, he leads all backstops in WAR (5.5), runs (65), batting average (.302), on-base percentage (.369), slugging (.485) and wRC+ (136) and is second in defensive rating (12.7), trailing only Salvador Perez from the Kansas City Royals, per splits over at FanGraphs.
Since we're setting odds, Stanton has to have the edge based on sheer volume. That said, the BBWAA could take the vote any direction it wants.
Honorable Mentions: Carlos Gomez, CF, Milwaukee Brewers; Yasiel Puig, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers; Hunter Pence, RF, San Francisco Giants; Pablo Sandoval, 3B, San Francisco Giants
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