Here is what I wrote before the season started.
Aside from my pick for the Yankees to miss the playoffs, Minnesota winning the AL Central, Oakland winning the AL West and our very own Rockies winning their division, my picks were OK. Well, maybe not, but I can pretend. Heck, most mornings I wake up and look in the mirror and convince myself I am looking at the second coming of Zeus.
My award picks were a bit safer and a bit better. For the AL MVP I picked Adrian Gonzalez and in the NL Albert Pujols. Gonzalez is being mentioned by many as a candidate for the AL MVP and take a look at Pujols numbers, even after missing time he is still right there. For AL CY Young I whiffed with Jon Lester and in the NL I took the ultra safe Roy Halladay who does have a chance. Jeremy Hellickson (AL) and Brandon Belt (NL) were my Rookie of the Year winners.
Now that we have one day left in the regular season (maybe two if things go nicely today!) who do I pick to win the awards? Glad you asked!
MVP: Off the top of my head I think of Troy Tulowitzki, Matt Kemp and Ryan Braun. I could possibly see the trio in St. Louis having something to say about the winner but with all three of them having a good year it would be hard to pick one over the other two.
First I look at WAR on both BR and Fangraphs. On BR the top three in WAR (position players) are Kemp, Braun and Joey Votto and that list and order is the same on Fangraphs. Continuing to look at some advances stats on Fangraphs I see Braun leads in wRC+ with Kemp and Fielder trailing and it is the same order for wOBA. On BR Braun, Kemp and Lance Berkman are 1-2-3 in OPS+. I do have some love for the triple slash and Braun is second in batting average, fourth in on-base and first in slugging.
I am voting for Braun for NL MVP. He even has that intangible that the baseball writers love in that his team went from non-playoff team in 2010 to winning the NL Central in 2011.
Cy Young: I am not opposed to giving a pitcher the MVP trophy but I think that pitcher has to be utterly dominant to have a chance. I am talking Bob Gibson circa 1968 good. My initial inclination is to give Clayton Kershaw the Cy Young for 2011 but I don’t think of him being good enough to warrant the MVP, also.
Back to the stats. Halladay, Kershaw and Cliff Lee are the top WAR earners according to BR.com and Fangraphs. According to FIP the top three are Halladay, Kershaw and Lee and when we look at xFIP Zack Greinke makes an appearance at #1 with Lee and Halladay rounding the top three and Kershaw coming in fourth. According to ERA+ Halladay is #1 – again – with Kershaw and Lee trailing just slightly. I am a big fan of strikeouts and base runners allowed and Greinke leads the NL in K/9 with Kershaw and Annibal Sanchez (WHO KNEW!!??) coming in second and third, respectively. Finally, Kershaw leads the NL in WHIP with less than one base runner per inning and Cole Hamels is the only other pitcher in the NL to allow less than one per. Lee comes in third and allowed 1.027 base runners per inning.
Tough choice. Halladay leads in WAR (both sites), FIP and ERA+. The name of the game is winning games and not allowing runs and Halladay does that better than anyone else in the NL. He might not strikeout as many as Kershaw or allow as few base runners as the lefty in Cali either, but he is the best pitcher in the NL in 2011.
Rookie of the Year: I know Craig Kimbrel has been pretty darn dominant for the Braves in closing out ballgames, but he has only appeared in 76 innings and only 268 at-bats against. Kimbrel has added 3.1 wins above replacement in the closers role which is really good but I still have to go with Freddie Freeman who is also on the Braves squad. Freeman is only worth 1.0 WAR according to BR.com but most of the negative is due to defense. His offense has been great with a line of .283/.347/.449 with 21 home runs and he has outperformed the much more popular Jason Heyward. Lastly, in comparing Kimbrel to Freeman I am looking at 76 innings and 268 at-bats against for Kimbrel versus 1,357 innings 566 at-bats for Freeman. Give me the position player over the late inning reliever all the time.
Freeman is my ROY choice.
MVP: Has to be Jose Bautista, right? The SABR crowd would say so. While I do look mostly at stats, if the race is close I tend to give the nod to the guy on the winning team. This goes against guys like Keith Law who just don’t care about wins but I have a hard time giving an MVP award to a guy who is on a team that stinks vs a guy on a winner if all else is fairly equal.
Not so fast! Jacoby Ellsbury actually has a sizable lead in WAR over Bautista according to Fangraphs. According to BR the order in WAR goes Bautista, Ellsbury and then Miguel Cabrera. Bautista is number one in OPS+, wOBA and wRC+. Bautista has a sizable lead in slugging percentage and even leads the AL in on-base percentage. Ellsbury does have a lot more stolen bases than Bautista but I am not sure it is enough to overcome the significant difference in their bats. Ellsbury is a much better defender and plays a premium defensive position in a park that is hard to play (that nook in CF is tough), but again, not sure it is enough.
If I was to look for someone to vote as my MVP over Bautista it would have to be Cabrera in Detroit. He is second to Bautista in wOBA, wRC+, slugging, OBA and the only category he is much higher than Bautista is batting average as he has about a 40 point lead. If I tally up how many times Bautista is was on base in 2011 he was on base only about 30 times fewer than Cabrera. Not enough to give Cabrera the nod over Bautista even with Miggy on a division winning team.
If I take teams out of the picture I don’t think this is a close race. The fact that Ellsbury is on a team fighting for a playoff spot and Cabrera’s team is already in the playoffs makes the race closer, but neither has enough to beat Bautista for the MVP award.
Cy Young: Justin Verlander leads the AL in WAR on BR.com and trails C.C. Sabathia ever so slightly on Fangraphs. Verlander also has the lowest ERA, WHIP, H/9 and is third in K/9. He has the best ERA+, second best xFIP and fourth best FIP. Oh, and he also pitched the most innings in the AL in 2011.
I know some might want Jered Weaver to win or C.C. Sabathia but I do not think it is close: Verlander wins in a landslide.
Rookie of the Year: I think the ROY is in Seattle (good news for the folks in the upper west coast). Both Dustin Ackley and Michael Pineda make a case for the award. According to BR.com both have almost identical WAR numbers.
Pineda has appeared in 28 games with 171 innings pitched and nearly 700 plate appearances against. He was an All-Star this year and at times completely baffled opposing hitters. He struck out more batters than innings pitched and had a WHIP of 1.099. He struck out almost three batters for every one batter he walked. Through the first three months of the year he had an ERA well under 3.00, a batting average against under .200 and was giving the folks in Seattle a reason to be giddy at the thought of he and King Felix going 1-2 in the Seattle rotation for years to come. The last three months haven’t been as good but he is still only 22 and it is his first big league season.
Ackley has been good in batting .277/.352/.422 but not good enough to beat out Pineda. The pitcher wins the ROY race in the AL.
Those are my awards for 2011. Who you got?