It's October, and in the baseball world, that means the playoffs are on the horizon. The Pittsburgh Pirates have already dispatched the Cincinnati Reds, and the Rays and Indians set to play their Wild Card game tonight.
Baseball takes its sweet time to announce the winners of their individual awards, so we have plenty of time to speculate. Some of these races are wide open, while others are pretty open-and-shut. Here are my picks for the men who deserve to have their names etched on some hardware.
American League Most Valuable Player - Miguel Cabrera (DET)
It seems to be a foregone conclusion that Miguel Cabrera will successfully defend his MVP crown after winning it last year. And just like in 2012, we have sabermetric geeks hyping up Mike Trout again -- and for good reason, he had another record-setting season. Unfortunately, until Trout's Angels become relevant, he will continue to have an uphill battle against Miguel Cabrera. Who should, and will, win the MVP again.
Miggy put up gaudy hitting numbers in 2013, more than enough to make up for his "shortcomings" in terms of advanced statistics. His .348 BA, .442 OBP, .636 SLG and 1.078 OPS were all the best in the Majors. He finished second to Chris Davis (who if baseball had a Most Improved Player award, would win in a landslide) in home-runs and RBI. The Mike Trout debate is once again prominent, Crush Davis became must-see TV whenever he was at-bat and Josh Donaldson came out of nowhere for Oakland -- but the numbers speak for themselves, and Miguel Cabrera is the best player in baseball.
National League Most Valuable Player - Andrew McCutchen (PIT)
The Pittsburgh Pirates are in the playoffs for the first time in 21 years, and Andrew McCutchen is one of the biggest reasons why. He has been the Bucs' best player for a few years now, and with a little talent and spark around him, he was able to help lead them back to October. When your team makes the playoffs, and you finish with a WAR above 8, you know you have done something right. And that is what 'Cutch has done.
Nobody had a ridiculous season in the National League this year. Yadier Molina deserves some votes, while his teammate Matt Carpenter will likely steal some votes away from him. Thanks to no player having a Miguel Cabrera-type season, a guy like Clayton Kershaw deserves some MVP votes as well. McCutchen's superb defensive work in CF, mixed in with his consistent hitting (.317 BA and .404 OBP) as well as inserting himself into the 20/20 club with 21 HR and 27 stolen bases will nab him his first MVP award.
American League Cy Young - Max Scherzer (DET)
I think a lot of people believe Max Scherzer wins this award by default. He led baseball in wins with 21, but honestly, wins mean nothing to an individual pitcher. It's archaic to use that as a stat in making an argument, so you have to dig a little deeper. Scherzer has better and comparable numbers to all of his competitors, so the 21 wins are certainly not a fluke or product of a good Detroit team around him.
Felix Hernandez and Yu Darvish are my guys to consider in this race, but Scherzer dominated in 2013. Darvish led baseball in SO with 277, while Scherzer notched 240 of his own. His 2.90 ERA was good for fifth in the American League, and the 0.97 WHIP was at the top. He will likely win this award simply for his wins (being the only 20 game winner in baseball) but he deserves it for his dependable performance all season long.
National League Cy Young - Clayton Kershaw (LAD)
This should be unanimous. I strongly considered naming Kershaw my MVP for the National League as well. This guy straight dominated the competition, and it didn't matter if the Dodgers were underachieving or going on ridiculous runs.
I don't want to hear about Adam Wainwright, and it's a shame Matt Harvey got hurt, but Kershaw blows them out of the water. His miniscule 1.83 ERA for the ENTIRE SEASON is absurd. He had a 7.9 WAR for a pitcher, and led the National League in SO with 232. Kershaw has placed his name in the same company as Sandy Koufax being the first Dodgers' pitcher to have an ERA below 2.00 since the legendary Koufax did it. Kershaw has now won three straight ERA titles, and is the third NL pitcher to do so (along with Koufax and Greg Maddux).
American League Rookie of the Year - Wil Myers (TB)
Consider this our introduction to Tampa's OF phenom Wil Myers. It was a modest one, yes, but still the best in the thin class of rookies for the American League. He only played 87 games due to the Rays delaying his promotion because of the pesky Super Two arbitration deadline, but he had stretches of dominance, flashing the immense potential he has.
Myers' solid .293/13/53/.354 line is enough to separate himself from defensive wizard Jose Iglesias of Detroit and Martin Perez of the Rangers. I'll take this space to hype up Myers for the future, and implore anyone reading this to check him out in the playoffs. Should the Rays defeat the Indians in their Wild Card playoff game, we will get to see a lot more out of this future All-Star in October.
National League Rookie of the Year - Jose Fernandez (MIA)
The National League has far more pazazz in this race than the American League, but it's Fernandez who should take home the award. The 21-year-old was filthy in his first season with the Marlins. He tossed 172.2 innings and posted a 2.19 ERA (second in the National League).
A lot of people are going to say Yasiel Puig should be handed this award due to his presence sparking the Dodgers' incredible turnaround, but I'm not buying it. Puig-mania aside, he didn't finish the season with the Dodgers on a stellar note, and his numbers became a bit more pedestrian. Fernandez had a 9.8 k/9 rate, which was just behind A.J. Burnett's 9.9 league-leading rate. Fact is, if Clayton Kershaw didn't exist, you could make a very viable argument that Fernandez is the National League's Cy Young.
American League Manager of the Year - John Farrell (BOS)
What a difference a year makes. Last year the Red Sox were the laughing stock of baseball with Bobby Valentine proving to be the most futile manager in baseball. In steps John Farrell, and Boston is back to winning Division championships.
I feel like I could write the exact same summary for Terry Francona in Cleveland, save for the Valentine portion. How many people had the Indians in the playoffs? In his first season, Francona helped turn this team around and back to playing in October. I can't predict a tie, so I'll give the edge to Farrell, though both guys deserve it.
National League Manager of the Year - Clint Hurdle (PIT)
Helping lead a team into the playoffs after being absent from them for two decades will earn you some accolades. He may not be heralded as a genius or spectacular overall manager, but the guy stabilized the roster and kept the Pirates from another collapse.
Don Mattingly was nearly fired early in the season, now the Dodgers are World Series contenders. He deserves some recognition, but this is Clint Hurdle's award.
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