MLB 2016 Awards: My IBWAA Ballot
It is MLB awards season, and as Major League Baseball hands out its formal honors, the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America will do the same.
With the 2016 MLB season winding to a close, various individuals and groups, including myself and the full body of the IBWAA (Internet Baseball Writers Association of America) will be honoring players and coaches as award winners for their performances this year.
The IBWAA was founded on the 4th of July back in 2009 “to organize and promote the growing online baseball media, and to serve as a digital alternative to the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA)” per the home website.
At the end of each regular season, the IBWAA membership receives an awards ballot. Each writer is then asked to vote and return the ballots promptly.
These ballots are then tabulated, and MLB awards winners are determined. The IBWAA is scheduled to begin announcing the winners of its writer balloting in mid-November.
MLB has already begun the process of announcing some of its awards winners. For instance, David Ortiz in the AL and Kris Bryant in the NL have been honored with the Hank Aaron Award as the top hitter in each league this season.
Each year, I publicly release my vote. I do this so that any followers get a sense of what I am thinking as far as the game is concerned, but also to spur conversation on our great game of baseball. I am quite sure that in at least a couple of these selections, you would choose differently. I would love to hear your choices for each of the awards. Feel free to leave a comment with those selections.
So now, on to my ballot. As writers we were asked to provide a top 10 in each league MVP vote, a top five in the Cy Young Award balloting, and top three in each of the top manager, top reliever, and Rookie of the Year categories.
AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR
It didn’t take much thought for me to select Cleveland Indians skipper Terry Francona as my American League Manager of the Year. Francona guided a club that had some key injuries and faced stiff divisional competition to first place in the AL Central with a 94-67 record during the regular season.
Coming into the season, most prognosticators had the Indians for no better than third place in the division. The Indians were just 10-12 after a loss on May 1, but played to an 84-55 record thereafter as Francona kept them upbeat and believing in themselves.
Just two games up in the division race as late as August 2, the Tribe would pull away with a 10-4 stretch of play that opened that lead up to 7.5 games in just two weeks.
Runner-up Scott Servais led the Mariners to a second place finish in the AL West, just three games back of an AL Wild Card berth, with a 10-win improvement over 2015.
Third place John Farrell guided a talented Boston club to the AL East crown and a 15-game improvement over their 2015 record.
MY BALLOT: 1 – Terry Francona (CLE), 2 – Scott Servais (SEA), 3 – John Farrell (BOS)
NL MANAGER OF THE YEAR
As easy as it was to pick Francona in the American League, it was even easier to select Joe Maddon of the Cubs as my NL top skipper.
In his second season on the North Side, Maddon guided the Cubbies to the best record in baseball. Their 103-58 mark was the most by any Cubs team in over a century, and the club won the division by a whopping 17.5 games over the arch-rival St. Louis Cardinals.
The Cubs entered the season as favorites. Sometimes it can be even harder to win when you are supposed to than when taking others by surprise. Maddon kept his young team focused and energized to the end.
Mike Matheny guided the St. Louis Cardinals to a distant second place finish in the NL Central behind Maddon’s Cubs, the team missing an NL Wild Card berth by just a single game despite numerous injuries.
Terry Collins turned the Mets around in the final two months for a second straight season. While they could not repeat as NL champions, the club did finish in second place in the NL East, losing the NL Wild Card Game to the San Francisco Giants.
I’m really happy with these two Manager of the Year selections, as the votes were cast prior to the playoffs, and both men guided their teams to the World Series.
MY BALLOT: 1 – Joe Maddon (CHI), 2 – Mike Matheny (STL), 3 – Terry Collins (NYM)
AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
The easy winners continued for me with my choice for the American League Rookie of the Year as right-handed pitcher Michael Fulmer of the Detroit Tigers.
The 23-year-old Fulmer was selected by the New York Mets at 44th overall in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft, and was sent to Detroit at the 2015 trade deadline as the key piece in the Yoenis Cespedes deal.
Fulmer received his call to the big leagues at the very end of April, making his debut a winning one on April 29 over the Twins in Minnesota.
For the season, Fulmer went 11-7 over 26 starts. He allowed 136 hits in 159 innings with a 132/42 K:BB ratio while registering a 3.06 ERA and 1.119 WHIP against the tough DH-bolstered lineups in the junior circuit.
My runner-up was Gary Sanchez, the 23-year-old New York Yankees catcher who crushed 20 home runs, had 42 RBI, and hit .299 over just 229 plate appearances.
Third place went to Texas Rangers outfielder Nomar Mazara, who at 21 years of age hit 20 homers for the AL West champions.
MY BALLOT: 1 – Michael Fulmer (DET), 2 – Gary Sanchez (NYY), 3 – Nomar Mazara (TEX)
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
At this point, I was still waiting for one of these 2016 MLB award votes to get difficult. This one wasn’t it, as Corey Seager should be the hands-down winner on any ballot.
He received a 113 plate appearance MLB debut in the 2015 season, when his 98 at-bats left him still rookie-eligible for the 2016 season. That little taste of the big leagues, which included another five NLDS starts against the Mets last year, showed that he was ready to compete at the highest level this year as a 22-year old.
In his first full season this year, Seager hit for a .308/.365/.512 slash line with 26 homers, 72 RBI, and 105 runs scored while making the NL All-Star team.
Seung-hwan Oh came out of nowhere, well more correctly out of South Korea and Japan, to earn my runner-up vote. The 33-year-old went 6-3 with 19 saves, a 1.92 ERA, and a 0.916 WHIP mark after pitching for nine seasons in the KBO (Korea) and two in the Japanese Central League.
Kenta Maeda was another international import, the 28-year-old righty going 16-11 with the LA Dodgers. He allowed 150 hits over 175.2 innings with a 179/50 K:BB mark after eight seasons in the Japanese Central League.
MY BALLOT: 1 – Corey Seager (LAD), 2 – Seung Hwan Oh (STL), 3 – Kenta Maeda (LAD)
AL RELIEF PITCHER OF THE YEAR
If we factored in the postseason, this one might have flip-flopped between my #1 and #2 choices. However, in the regular season there was a clear top relief pitcher in the AL for me.
A 28-year-old lefty, Zach Britton was as shutdown as a closer can get for his Baltimore Orioles. He registered a 0.54 ERA and 0.836 WHIP while allowing just 38 hits in 67 games for the AL Wild Card club.
Britton pitched in 69 games, recorded 47 saves, and had a 74/18 K:BB ratio in what was his third season as one of the game’s elite relief pitchers. This year, he was the top one in my book.
As everyone knows by now, Andrew Miller went on to become a postseason legend this October (and November) as the Indians fought all the way to the seventh game of the World Series.
In the regular season, Miller went a combined 10-1 with the Yankees and Indians with a dozen saves. He had a cumulative 1.45 ERA, 0.686 WHIP, and allowed just 42 hits over 74.1 innings with a 123/9 K:BB ratio.
Roberto Osuna at just age 21 allowed 55 hits over 74 innings with an 82/14 K:BB ratio for the Blue Jays. He registered a 2.68 ERA and 0.932 WHIP while recording 36 saves.
MY BALLOT: 1 – Zach Britton (BAL), 2 – Andrew Miller (CLE), 3 – Roberto Osuna (TOR)
NL RELIEF PITCHER OF THE YEAR
Kenley Jansen just completed his seventh season in Major League Baseball, and the now 29-year-old right-hander has been dominant in every single one of them.
It is fairly amazing to me that to this point he has very little hardware on his shelf. Jansen was a first time NL All-Star this year, and is finally getting his due. Just days ago, Jansen was named as the winner of the Trevor Hoffman Award, which goes to the top relief pitcher in the National League.
In 2016, Jansen had 47 saves over 71 games in which he allowed just 35 hits in 68.2 innings. He demonstrated his dominance with an incredible 104/11 K:BB ratio as well.
Runner-up Jeurys Familia with the New York Mets pitched in 78 games, allowing 63 hits over 77.2 innings with an 84/31 K:BB ratio. He registered a 2.55 ERA and a 1.210 WHIP mark with 51 saves.
Aroldis Chapman recorded 36 saves combined between his work with the Yankees and Cubs. He allowed 32 hits over 58 innings with a 90/18 K:BB ratio. Chapman would ultimately prove a major final piece to what would become the Cubs’ World Series winning formula. Of course, voting took place before all that October/November drama.
MY BALLOT: 1 – Kenley Jansen (LAD), 2 – Jeurys Familia (NYM), 3 – Aroldis Chapman (CHI)
AL CY YOUNG AWARD
Yet another vote of mine that would have been a lot easier to cast were the postseason factored in, this ballot with the name of Corey Kluber on the top was turned in just after the regular season had ended.
Kluber was the 2014 AL Cy Young Award winner, and this year marked his third consecutive as one of the game’s elite starting pitchers. It was also his first as an AL All-Star team member.
The Indians ace went 18-9 with a 3.14 ERA, 1.056 WHIP, 3.26 FIP, and a 149 ERA+ mark. He allowed 170 hits in 215 innings with a 227/57 K:BB ratio.
Justin Verlander went 16-9 for the Tigers with a 3.04 ERA and 1.001 WHIP. He allowed 171 hits over 227.2 innings with a 254/57 K:BB ratio.
Rick Porcello at age 27 finally lived up to long-awaited expectations, going 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA, 1.009 WHIP, and 193 hits allowed over 223 innings. He registered a 189/32 K:BB ratio as well.
The ChiSox lefty Chris Sale went 17-10 with a 3.34 ERA, 1.037 WHIP, and 190 hits allowed over 226.2 innings. He struck out 233 and walked 45 batters.
Masahiro Tanaka made 31 starts for the Yankees, going 14-4 with a 3.07 ERA, 1.077 WHIP, and 179 hits allowed over 199.2 innings. He had a 165/36 K:BB ratio.
1 – Corey Kluber (CLE), 2 – Justin Verlander (DET), 3 – Rick Porcello (BOS),
4 – Chris Sale (CWS), 5 – Masahiro Tanaka (NYY)
NL CY YOUNG AWARD
Picking the top starting pitcher in each league was particularly rough this season. There were a number of outstanding candidates in both circuits. But for me, the top arm overall in the National League belonged to Max Scherzer of the NL East champion Washington Nationals.
The 32-year-old right-hander led a talented pitching rotation in the nation’s capital. On May 11 against his former team, the Detroit Tigers, Scherzer tied the major league record with 20 strikeouts in a nine-inning game.
Scherzer went 20-7 with a 2.96 ERA, 0.968 WHIP, 3.24 FIP, and a 141 ERA+ mark. He allowed just 165 hits over 228.1 innings with a dominating 284/56 K:BB ratio.
Kyle Hendricks went on to become another of the Cubs’ postseason heroes. But prior to that, the 26-year-old righty went 16-8 with a 170/44 K:BB ratio over 190 innings in which he allowed just 142 hits.
Madison Bumgarner went 15-9 with a 2.74 ERA and 1.024 WHIP while allowing 178 hits over 226.2 innings with a 251/54 K:BB ratio.
Jon Lester – another Cubs postseason hero. He went 19-5, 2.44 ERA, 1.016 WHIP while allowing 154 hits over 202.2 innings. He recorded a 197/52 K:BB mark.
Jose Fernandez, what is there to say beyond “rest in peace” – what a devastating loss to the game. He went 16-8 with a 2.86 ERA, 1.119 WHIP, and 149 hits allowed over his final 182.1 innings pitched.
He struck out 253 batters before we were forced to say goodbye. He was just 24 years old when he died in a boating accident on September 25 in Miami.
1 – Max Scherzer (WAS), 2 – Kyle Hendricks (CHI), 3 – Madison Bumgarner (SFG),
4 – Jose Fernandez (MIA), 5 – Jon Lester (CHI)
AL MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Fact of the matter is that Mike Trout could have legitimately been named the American League’s Most Valuable Player in each of his five full seasons in Major League Baseball. That he only has one MVP trophy on his mantle at home in New Jersey is a testament to a few great individual seasons.
In addition to the lone MVP, Trout has finished second in the voting each of his other three full seasons. This year, he should add a second MVP for the other side of that mantle.
Trout hit for a .315/.441/.550 slash line with 29 home runs, 100 RBI, 123 runs scored, and 30 stolen bases.
Still at just 25 years of age, he was the hands-down best all-around offensive player in the game, and in fact is universally considered the best player in the world at this time.
1 – Mike Trout (LAA), 2 – Manny Machado (BAL), 3 – Jose Altuve (HOU), 4 – Mookie Betts (BOS), 5 – Josh Donaldson (TOR), 6 – Brian Dozier (MIN), 7 – Kyle Seager (SEA), 8 – Ian Desmond (TEX), 9 – Xander Bogaerts (BOS), 10 – David Ortiz (BOS)
NL MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
While I have a feeling that the runner-up on my ballot is going to take this thing in the official MLB voting, for me the Nationals’ free agent signee, second baseman Daniel Murphy, was the Most Valuable Player in the National League this season.
The Nats won the NL East during a season in which they suffered injuries and downturns in performance from some of their other key performers. Murphy, who made his second career NL All-Star team, was the major reason from a lineup standpoint.
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The 31-year-old Murphy did not sign until early January, but he proved to be a tremendous pickup, hitting for a .347/.390/.595 slash line with 25 homers, 77 extra-base hits, 104 RBI, and 88 runs scored.
If you would prefer Kris Bryant, you won’t get much of an argument from me. I just felt that the Cubs’ third-sacker had more overall talent around him, and that Murphy performed as well.
Corey Seager and Nolan Arenado are fantastic talents, and each may win an MVP before their young careers are over with. Anthony Rizzo is the Cubs’ leader in many ways, but is at best the second-most valuable on his own team to Bryant.
You might take note that I threw out a “spiritual leader” vote in my #10 slot to one of my all-time favorite players. His stats didn’t earn it, but ask his teammates. The Dodgers don’t reach the postseason without Chase. Period.
1 – Daniel Murphy (WAS), 2 – Kris Bryant (CHI), 3 – Corey Seager (LAD), 4 – Nolan Arenado (COL), 5 – Anthony Rizzo (CHI), 6 – Jonathan Villar (MIL), 7 – Freddie Freeman (ATL), 8 – Paul Goldschmidt (ARZ), 9 – Christian Yelich (MIA), 10 – Chase Utley (LAD)