2014 MLB Award Race Odds Updates in Season's Final Week
The 2014 Major League Baseball season is coming to an end, and just as the pennant races and wild-card chases are wrapping up, so too are the individual award competitions.
With all 30 clubs making their way toward the regular-season finish line, players are putting exclamation marks on impressive campaigns that soon enough will result in some hardware.
Yes, it's time for one final check-in on the 10 prominent individual awards races as the final days play out.
Since last time, another week of performances has helped clarify where things stand in each league in terms of front-runners and challengers for Manager of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Cy Young Award winner and MVP.
Even though there isn't much time left in 2014, some of these end-of-year honors are coming down to, well, the very end. That's why, on the pages to follow, the top candidates for each category have been assigned odds to specify their chances of taking the trophy.
Because there is no award for participation.
AL Manager of the Year
|Buck Showalter||Baltimore Orioles||1-1|
|Mike Scioscia||Los Angeles Angels||12-5|
|Ned Yost||Kansas City Royals||4-1|
Although Buck Showalter's Baltimore Orioles are all but guaranteed to come up short of Mike Scioscia's Los Angeles Angels in the battle for the top seed in the AL—and the home-field advantage throughout the playoffs that comes with it—Showalter remains the overwhelming favorite for the job he's done all year.
Between the way he's guided the O's through injuries, fully utilized a deep bullpen, executed defensive shifts and generally made savvy tactical decisions, no manager has been better than Buck.
NL Manager of the Year
|Clint Hurdle||Pittsburgh Pirates||3-1|
|Bruce Bochy||San Francisco Giants||4-1|
|Matt Williams||Washington Nationals||4-1|
|Mike Redmond||Miami Marlins||11-2|
|Don Mattingly||Los Angeles Dodgers||9-1|
|Mike Matheny||St. Louis Cardinals||9-1|
This one hasn't changed much, but Clint Hurdle is getting the slightest of edges here, in part because his Pittsburgh Pirates clinched a postseason berth before the San Francisco Giants and Bruce Bochy did. Oh, and the fact that they've won 15 of their last 19 to get to that position doesn't hurt.
Although Matt Williams made some odd choices and looked like he wasn't always connecting with players early on in his first year helming an MLB club, he's done a better job over the second half and has his Washington Nationals looking like the class of the NL. He might not win MOY in his first season, but he's right up there with Hurdle and Bochy, who have 11 and 19 more years on the bench, respectively, than Williams.
AL Comeback Player of the Year
|Albert Pujols||Los Angeles Angels||1-1|
|Phil Hughes||Minnesota Twins||9-5|
|Melky Cabrera||Toronto Blue Jays||6-1|
Props go to Phil Hughes for making this one close in the end, but Albert Pujols remains the choice.
The Los Angeles Angels first baseman surpassed the 100-RBI mark for the 12th time in his career and has put 28 over the fence too, including his 500th back in April.
The Minnesota Twins right-hander was mighty impressive in his own right, completing his 2014 Wednesday by putting the finishing touches on baseball's best-ever strikeout-to-walk ratio, as Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com writes:
Hughes ended his season on a high note and set Major League Baseball's single-season strikeout-to-walk ratio in the process, as he tossed eight strong innings to lead the Twins to a 2-1 win over the D-backs on Wednesday afternoon in the last home game of the year at Target Field.
Hughes gave up just one run on five hits, while striking out five without issuing a walk to finish the year 16-10 with a 3.52 ERA. He also struck out 186 batters and walked just 16 on the season for an 11.63 strikeout-to-walk ratio to break Bret Saberhagen's record of 11.00 strikeouts per walk, set in 1994. Hughes didn't walk a batter in 19 of his 32 starts, and he walked more than one in just two outings to become the first player in the modern era (since 1901) to throw at least 200 innings and walk 16 or fewer batters.
That's going to garner Hughes some votes, but Pujols' comeback was from injury as much as it was from ineffectiveness in 2013 (99 games). Hughes was healthy last year, so his comeback is entirely about how bad he was (5.19 ERA).
NL Comeback Player of the Year
|Johnny Cueto||Cincinnati Reds||1-4|
|Matt Kemp||Los Angeles Dodgers||11-2|
|Casey McGehee||Miami Marlins||18-1|
Nothing changes here. Johnny Cueto bounced back from arguably his worst outing of the season with one of his best, hurling eight innings of four-hit, one-run ball with seven strikeouts to beat the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday, Sept. 23.
That effort helped the Cincinnati Reds righty tie his career high with 19 wins and brought his ERA back down to a career-best 2.29.
It should be stressed again, though, that Matt Kemp's second-half resurgence—his 164 weighted runs created plus (wRC+) ranks fourth-best since the break—makes him a worthy candidate. Had the Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder turned it on a month or so sooner, this might've turned out differently.
AL Rookie of the Year
|Jose Abreu||Chicago White Sox||1-20|
|Yordano Ventura||Kansas City Royals||40-1|
|Collin McHugh||Houston Astros||40-1|
But Jose Abreu and his .316/.381/.580 line, to go with 35 homers and 105 RBI, are simply too much to overcome.
Even if you don't like the idea of giving a former pro player from Cuba an award meant for a rookie, it's impossible—and silly—not to acknowledge that the Chicago White Sox first baseman has been the best first-year player in the sport this year.
NL Rookie of the Year
|Jacob deGrom||New York Mets||1-1|
|Billy Hamilton||Cincinnati Reds||12-5|
|Kolten Wong||St. Louis Cardinals||4-1|
A late push from Jacob deGrom, including 23 strikeouts over his final two starts of the year, was enough to make him the clear favorite for a trophy that Billy Hamilton looked to have in hand at the All-Star break.
Even with the New York Mets shutting down their right-hander one outing early due to an innings limit, according to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York, the distance between deGrom and Hamilton is now larger than the gap between the Cincinnati Reds center fielder and Kolten Wong, who checks in third.
To wit, the St. Louis Cardinals second baseman's .249/.292/.392 triple-slash line is eerily similar to Hamilton's .250/.292/.355. Hamilton's up-the-middle defense and 56 stolen bases set him apart from Wong, though.
Ultimately, fast as Hamilton is, deGrom caught him.
AL Cy Young
|Felix Hernandez||Seattle Mariners||9-5|
|Corey Kluber||Cleveland Indians||3-1|
|Chris Sale||Chicago White Sox||4-1|
|Jon Lester||Oakland Athletics||9-1|
|Max Scherzer||Detroit Tigers||9-1|
Boy, Felix Hernandez sure picked the worst possible time to have the worst game of his best season, huh?
As David Schoenfield of ESPN.com writes:
This was the saddest of possible scenes for Mariners fans: Hernandez, trying to get into the playoffs for the first time in his wonderful career, essentially pitching the Mariners out of the playoffs by throwing 43 painful, heart-wrenching pitches in the fifth inning against the Blue Jays, leaving when he was unable to even get that third out. It was the first time all season he hadn't gone five innings and just the second time in two seasons. The inning began with Dalton Pompey, a kid barely out of A-ball, homering on a flat 92 mph fastball over the middle of the plate and ended with Felix walking Pompey on a 3-2 curveball in the dirt.
The effort—eight earned runs on seven hits and three walks over 4.2 frames—likely wasn't enough to derail Hernandez's Cy Young hopes, but it definitely was a big blow. Especially when juxtaposed against a furious finish from Corey Kluber.
Over his last four turns, the Cleveland Indians righty has allowed just five earned runs on 27 hits across 32.1 innings. On top of that, there's Kluber's ridiculous 43-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio, fueled by his back-to-back 14-strikeout games in his two most recent starts, which earned him AL Player of the Week honors.
"He has great command of three of his pitches," Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier said of Kluber via Jordan Bastian of MLB.com after striking out twice on Sept. 21. "He has electric stuff and is a high strikeout guy. If you get a pitch to hit, you can't really miss it against that guy. He's a big swing-and-miss guy."
And as fantastic as Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox has been—his 2.17 ERA is the best in the AL, while his 0.97 WHIP is second only to Hernandez's 0.94—he's going to finish 2014 with some 50 innings less than Kluber or the King. That's just too much to get past.
NL Cy Young
|Clayton Kershaw||Los Angeles Dodgers||1-20|
|Johnny Cueto||Cincinnati Reds||18-1|
On the same night, Clayton Kershaw became the majors' first 21-game winner this season and clinched the NL West for the Los Angeles Dodgers with an eight-inning, one-run, 11-strikeout gem Wednesday. That's just standard operating procedure for the left-hander these days.
Oh, and this tidbit from Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk just about says it all as far as the now four-times-in-a-row MLB ERA champ's Cy Young odds.
|Mike Trout||Los Angeles Angels||4-9|
|Victor Martinez||Detroit Tigers||16-1|
|Jose Bautista||Toronto Blue Jays||16-1|
|Miguel Cabrera||Detroit Tigers||16-1|
|Robinson Cano||Seattle Mariners||16-1|
|Nelson Cruz||Baltimore Orioles||16-1|
It's actually a bit tricky to decide where to cut the above list off, since there are plenty of other AL players with strong seasons and solid cases for the MVP, including the Cleveland Indians' Michael Brantley, the Oakland Athletics' Josh Donaldson, the Seattle Mariners' Kyle Seager, the Baltimore Orioles' Adam Jones and the Kansas City Royals' Alex Gordon.
But then you remember that Mike Trout is at the top of the table, so really, it doesn't matter where you cut the names off after that one.
|Clayton Kershaw||Los Angeles Dodgers||9-5|
|Giancarlo Stanton||Miami Marlins||3-1|
|Andrew McCutchen||Pittsburgh Pirates||3-1|
|Buster Posey||San Francisco Giants||11-2|
Clayton Kershaw overtook Giancarlo Stanton last time after the Miami Marlins slugger was lost for the season following his scary hit-by-pitch incident. In the week since, Kershaw hasn't given any reason to change that.
If anything, though, the hardest charge has been coming from Andrew McCutchen. The center fielder has been the engine behind the Pittsburgh Pirates clinching a playoff berth for the second straight season: He's now up to a .349/.443/.614 triple-slash in September as the club has gone 15-7.
Also? Because he dealt with a rib injury that cost him 14 games in August, the reigning MVP actually has fewer plate appearances than does Stanton. Could there be a repeat? Hmmm.
Still, once folks get over the whole pitchers-can't-win-MVP thing, it's clear (OK, pretty clear) that Kershaw has had the best campaign of any player in the NL this season.
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