With only a month left in the season, just about all everyday players have accumulated five full months of statistics that will give us a good idea of who is actually good at baseball and who deserves consideration for major awards. These awards include the Silver Slugger, Gold Glove, Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year, Cy Young and Most Valuable Player for both leagues. There are about a billion ways to try to figure out who deserves what, so to standardize things we elected to use Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, to put everyone on an even playing field. There are different ways to calculate WAR, and unlike traditional counting stats like hits and RBI, WAR can fluctuate depending on how productive the player is. Therefore, while you can never take a home run or a run-batted-in away from a player, his overall WAR can decrease due to lack of productive and even adverse production that causes his team to lose. So let’s have at it…
Because of the multiple ways of calculating WAR, I’m actually using two sortable databases. One is the FanGraphs leaderboard which can be gated on batting, pitching, fielding etc. and also allows one to look at just rookies. The other is Baseball-Reference.com, which provides leaderboards for American League and National League pitching, and also AL and NL batting. Where possible I’ll try to elaborate on their numbers etc. but for the most part the player stats can be found in those links. Around November we’ll see how much of a Nostradumbass I am. Here we go…
Rookie of the Year
In the American League there is only one logical candidate, and that’s Mike Trout. Trout is insanely good at baseball. I wish he’d fallen to the Cubs that year (Cubs had to settle for Brett Jackson, boo hoo). I still like Brett Jackson, but Trout is probably going to be the first rookie to win the MVP since Ichiro Suzuki. That’s astonishing. I think Jose Quintana of the White Sox, among the Chicago-area boys, may get a few votes as well, but if Mike Trout doesn’t win then the baseball writers association needs to be disbanded immediately.
The National League is a bit more convoluted. The best rookie pitcher, among the league leaders in fact, is Wade Miley of Arizona. Mike Fiers of the Brewers may also get some first place votes. Among position players, the better ones include Todd Frazier of the Reds and Fiers’ teammate, Norichika Aoki. Bryce Harper has fallen off quite a bit from his hot start but at age 19 he’s still been impressive. The Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo came up a bit late and has been slumping but has been worth more than a win, so I think he’ll get some votes too. But my money is on Miley, who has been really good for a Diamondbacks team that has underachieved all year long.
For this I am using wOBA, which uses linear weights to assign proper values to every walk, single, extra-base hit, etc. collected by the offensive player. Let’s check through each league then…
First base – Prince Fielder
Second base – Robinson Cano
Third base – Miguel Cabrera
Shortstop – Derek Jeter (I know, right)
Second base – Aaron Hill
Shortstop – Ian Desmond
Catcher – Buster Posey
That was pretty easy.
For this one, we’re going to the fielding stats and checking UZR for most of the position guys, and DRS for the pitchers and catchers. They started awarding Gold Gloves for the individual outfield positions again recently so we’ll look at that as well.
Pitcher – probably David Price
Catcher – Matt Wieters (I was actually surprised that AJ’s DRS was so bad, he usually has a reputation for being a good defender despite being subpar at throwing out baserunners)
First base – Adrian Gonzalez was traded to the Dodgers, so Mark Teixiera probably gets this.
Left field – Alex Gordon
Catcher – Yadier Molina (duh)
Second base – Darwin Barney is so far above the rest that it’d be a shame if he didn’t win. He might not, so the alternative is probably Danny Espinosa of the Nationals or Brandon Phillips of the Reds.
Third base – David Wright
Center field – Michael Bourn (not even close)
Right field – Jason Heyward has been sensational according to UZR.
Manager of the Year
I’m looking at run differential for this one and relating it to overall record.
In the American League, the only team that is in contention right now and actually has a negative run differential is the Baltimore Orioles. The O’s should be 62-70 and instead they’re 73-59. Buck Showalter deserves some kind of medal if the O’s manage to hold on and get into the postseason. Even if they don’t, he deserves a ton of votes. The other obvious candidate is Robin Ventura, who took a White Sox team not expected to do anything and had them in first place for the majority of the season. Bob Melvin of the A’s also deserves some kudos.
In the National League, the Reds and Nationals have the two best records and therefore Dusty Baker and Davey Johnson are both legitimate choices. Bruce Bochy should get some votes for keeping the Giants in the lead in the West. I’m guessing this one goes to Davey Johnson because while they were expected to be good, nobody really thought the Nats would be THAT good.
The most valuable pitchers in the AL are Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander. Verlander won last year (and the MVP too) but Felix has won before while he didn’t have a great W/L record and his team sucked. I think that might happen again. Other choices include Chris Sale (who is having a great season as a first-time MLB starter) and David Price, but I doubt they overtake Felix and Verlander.
In the NL, there’s a logjam at the top of the WAR leaderboard. The cream of the crop is led by Clayton Kershaw, last year’s Cy Young winner. Right behind him is Johnny Cueto, who has a better ERA and W/L record, as well as Gio Gonzalez, who has a better FIP and strikeout rate. R.A. Dickey will probably get a good portion of the vote as well. Tough call here, I think they give it to Cueto though. Cueto, incidentally, leads in B-Ref’s WAR.
Most Valuable Player
In the AL, it almost has to be Mike Trout. He’s miles ahead in terms of WAR and his raw numbers back it up. If not Trout (because the Angels are floundering) then I guess Miguel Cabrera will snag the bulk of the votes. But if the writers have any brains they have to pick Trout.
In the NL, there’s again a logjam at the top of the WAR leaderboard and the funny thing is that several players in that logjam aren’t on contending teams or at least are longshots for contention. David Wright leads B-Ref’s WAR board while Ryan Braun is the FanGraphs WAR leader. Andrew McCutchen and Michael Bourn are on contending teams and are near the top of both lists, but I think most people don’t think as highly of Bourn as the WAR calculators do. McCutchen will probably get the nod, but don’t be surprised if Wright or Braun take the award.
That was fun. What do you think? Who’s going to snag the hardware this November? Keep in mind that things could change drastically in this final month.