Ken Rosenthal’s 2016 MLB awards

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Pitchforks ready! It’s time for my 2016 awards.

As usual, I’ll list the number of candidates the way the Baseball Writers Association of America ballots require — 10 for MVP, five for Cy Young, three for Rookie and Manager of the Year.

I’m voting for two awards, but we are not allowed to reveal the categories and our selections until after the winners are announced in November. So for now, it’s up to you to guess which two categories I’m screwing up.

The envelopes, please:


1. Mike Trout

2. Mookie Betts

3. Josh Donaldson

4. Jose Altuve

5. Manny Machado

6. Adrian Beltre

7. Francisco Lindor

8. David Ortiz

9. Miguel Cabrera

10. Robinson Cano

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I prefer my MVP to come from a contender. A preference, though, is not an absolute. Trout has been the best by such a wide margin — his OPS is nearly 100 points higher than Betts’, thanks to his league-leading .441 on-base percentage — it would be foolish to deny him.

Frankly, I had a difficult time narrowing down the list to 10. Brian Dozier, Ian Kinsler, J.D. Martinez and Kyle Seager all warranted consideration outside of the top five, and I’m sure readers will politely inform me of a few others.

David Ortiz eighth? Putting the league leader in OPS that low makes me cringe, but voters are instructed to consider “strength of offense and defense.” Big Papi played only five innings in the field this season.


1. Kris Bryant

2. Daniel Murphy

3. Corey Seager

4. Anthony Rizzo

5. Nolan Arenado

6. Justin Turner

7. Freddie Freeman

8. Joey Votto

9. Yoenis Cespedes

10. Jean Segura

Closer than people think.

As I wrote at the end of August, I lean toward Bryant because of his unprecedented defensive versatility. But Murphy is the league leader in OPS. Seager offers greater defensive value at an up-the-middle position. Rizzo maintains a 1.086-.858 edge over Bryant in OPS with runners in scoring position and is one of the top defensive first basemen in the game.

Bryant, though, was willing to change positions from game to game, even inning to inning. No, he is not as good at any of them as Arenado is at third (and Arenado’s home-road splits, while influenced by Coors, are not large enough to disqualify him.)

Still, Bryant started at four positions and played two others, enabling the Cubs to construct better lineups. He was more than adequate defensively, and still managed to be one of the best offensive players in the league.

AL CY Young

1. Zach Britton

2. Rick Porcello

3. Justin Verlander

4. Corey Kluber

5. Chris Sale

I know, I know — Britton’s innings total, currently 65 1/3, would be the lowest ever for a Cy winner.

Problem is, the top nine starters in the league are virtually indistinguishable, with ERAs between 3.06 and 3.21. And the last AL pitcher to win the Cy with an ERA above 3.00 was CC Sabathia in 2007.

So, it’s a good but not great group of starters vs. a record-setting reliever. Or hadn’t you noticed? Britton is a perfect 47-for-47 in saves. His 0.55 ERA would be the lowest in history for a pitcher with a minimum of 50 innings.

Porcello’s 22-4 record is partly the product of his league-leading run support, but he also has produced the lowest opponents’ OPS among qualifiers. Yet, even in that category, the difference between first and eighth is minuscule; all of the starters are that close.

It’s not unprecedented for a reliever to win the Cy; it just takes unique circumstances. I would say these are pretty darned unique.

NL CY Young

1. Kyle Hendricks

2. Jon Lester

3. Max Scherzer

4. Noah Syndergaard

5. Jose Fernandez

You wouldn’t know it from my AL pick (!), but I prefer my Cy Young winners to pitch a sizable number of innings.

Scherzer holds the clear edge in that category, leading the league with 223 1/3 — 38 1/3 more than Hendricks, 25 2/3 more than Lester. Scherzer also is first in strikeout-to-walk ratio and WHIP, and does not get the benefit of pitching in front of a historically strong defense, as Hendricks and Lester do.

Lester, though, has allowed one or zero earned runs in 21 starts, five more than anyone else, matching the highest total by a left-hander since Ron Guidry accomplished the same feat in 1978. Lester also has mounted the same kind of second-half push that teammate Jake Arrieta did to win last year’s Cy, with a league-leading 1.34 ERA in 87 innings.

But here’s the thing:

Hendricks has been virtually as good as Lester since the All-Star break, with a 1.36 ERA in 86 1/3 innings. For the season, he holds an edge in ERA of 0.29 runs per nine innings over Lester — and an edge of 0.83, nearly a full run per nine, over Scherzer.

It’s not a fluke, folks. Yes, Hendricks averages less than a strikeout per inning, but his soft-contact rate is the best in the majors, proving that he is not simply a product of his defense.

Fernandez was not quite at the level of the top three, but he led the majors by a whopping margin with 12.49 strikeouts per nine innings. It’s hardly a stretch to include him in the top five, even over Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto.

NL Rookie

1. Corey Seager

2. Kenta Maeda

3. Trea Turner

The only question for me was who to pick third — Seager could be unanimous in the top spot, and Maeda’s 3.28 ERA in 173 innings more than merits second.

Turner has played fewer games (70) than shortstops Trevor Story (97) and Aledmys Diaz (107), but he has the highest park-adjusted OPS as well as 29 stolen bases in 35 attempts while playing second base and center field.

AL Rookie

1. Michael Fulmer

2. Gary Sanchez

3. Tyler Naquin

Argh, this one is impossible.

Sanchez has made an incredible splash, hitting 20 homers in 220 plate appearances and recording the second highest number of extra-base hits by a Yankee in his first 53 games since 1913, trailing only Joe Dimaggio.


The rap against Fulmer is his 4.76 ERA in September — but even with his late fade, he is within three innings of becoming the first rookie to win an ERA title since Mark Fidrych in 1976. His one bad month was preceded by three outstanding months — which is one more than Sanchez has been in the majors.

Frankly, I’m comfortable with either winning. As for third, Naquin has played 113 games to Nomar Mazara’s 143, but leads him in OPS, .896-.746. Honorable mention to Astros reliever Chris Devenski.

NL Manager

1. Dave Roberts

2. Joe Maddon

3. Dusty Baker

A strong case can be made for Maddon, who challenged the Cubs to “embrace the target,” managed his roster creatively and sustained a culture of excellence that was particularly evident in the team’s attention to detail on defense.

Roberts, though, dealt with a record 28 players on the disabled list, including ace lefty Clayton Kershaw for two months, and used 15 starting pitchers, tied for the second-most in the majors. He also succeeded in changing the Dodgers’ vibe, helping instill more of a grinding mentality, and even resuscitated right fielder Yasiel Puig following a demotion to Triple A.

Baker, too, presided over a culture shift, motivating yet relaxing his players from the first day of spring training. It’s not an accident, folks: The guy just wins.

Terry Collins, who has guided the Mets to the brink of the postseason amid a slew of injuries, questionable moves and all, was close to cracking my top three.

AL Manager

1. Terry Francona

2. Buck Showalter

3. Jeff Banister

Mix ‘em up, shake ‘em up, put ‘em in any order. Each is worthy, and if the Orioles make the postseason with a one-dimensional offense and the third-worst rotation ERA in the AL, I might be inclined to go with Showalter.

Francona, though, is my current choice — I wrote recently about his ability to combine analytics with the human element, and the Indians won the AL Central despite losing one outfielder, Michael Brantley, to injury and two others, Abraham Almonte and Marlon Byrd, to PED suspensions. Give Francona extra credit as well for his creative deployment of Andrew Miller in high-leverage spots rather than just the ninth inning.

As for Banister, some accuse his Rangers of being lucky, seeing as how they rank next-to-last in the AL in bullpen ERA yet are 36-11 in one-run games. But truth is, they had their share of bad luck, too. First baseman Prince Fielder’s career ended, and outfielder Shin-Soo Choo and starting pitchers Yu Darvish, Colby Lewis and Derek Holland missed significant time with injuries.

Banister presided over Ian Desmond’s transition to the outfield and integrated youngsters such as infielder Jurickson Profar and right fielder Nomar Mazara. He would be only the second manager to win the award in back-to-back seasons, joining Bobby Cox (2004-05).

The Red Sox’s John Farrell, Yankees’ Joe Girardi and Astros’ A.J. Hinch all warrant consideration as well.