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MLB Individual Award Analysis

Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge took home Rookie of the Year honors, after he hit over 50 home runs in his first season in pinstripes. PHOTO/ Flickr Creative Commons
Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge took home Rookie of the Year honors, after he hit over 50 home runs in his first season in pinstripes. PHOTO/ Flickr Creative Commons

By Ivan Morrobel

Published: December 6th, 2017

Each year, Major League Baseball awards top-tier players and managers after the World Series has concluded. Among the major annual awards are Most Valuable Player (MVP), Cy Young Award, Rookie of the Year (ROY), and Manager of the Year.

The Baseball Writers’ Association of America cast their votes prior to the playoffs. Therefore, a player’s postseason performance is a nonfactor when votes are tallied. Despite the awards being given to individual players as opposed to teams, fans tend to favor a player who has helped their team clinch a playoff spot. 

This year’s National League MVP race was the fourth closest vote in MVP history. Miami Marlins’ right fielder Giancarlo Stanton edged Cincinatti Reds’ first baseman Joey Votto by two points, 302-300. The Arizona Diamondbacks’ first baseman finished in third place with 239 points. Stanton went on a tear in 2017, hitting 59 home runs and driving in 132 runs for Miami. Surprisingly, it came down to two players whose teams didn’t participate in postseason play, which shocked many fans; Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon made it to the playoffs and led all of baseball in runs (137), hits (213), and triples (14), but failed to receive enough points to be considered as a finalist.

The Toronto Blue Jays’ starting pitcher Marcus Stroman’s famously known phrase “Height Doesn’t Measure Heart” is the perfect slogan for the outcome of the American League MVP race. At five-feet-six-inches, Houston Astros superstar Jose Altuve outdueled New York Yankees phenom Aaron Judge by a wide margin, 405-279. The Cleveland Indians’ second baseman Jose Ramirez ended up in third with 237 points.

Judge, who could’ve won the award had he not struggled offensively in July (.230 batting average) and August (.185 batting average), was no match for Altuve. The consistency that Altuve maintained for the entire season was remarkable. Altuve led all of baseball in batting average (.346) and garnered his fourth straight 200-hit season. To top it all off, Altuve carried his regular season success into the postseason to help the Astros capture their first World Series Championship.

The American League Cy Young race was one-sided for the entire first half, as Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale went 11-4 with a 2.74 ERA and 178 strikeouts. However, 2014 AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber had other plans. Kluber ran away with this year’s award after posting an 11-1 record to go along with a 1.79 ERA post-All-Star break. The two-time Cy Young winner had the lowest WHIP (0.87) and ERA (2.25) in baseball, and also finished in a tie for first place in wins with 18. New York Yankees pitcher Luis Severino finished in third place with 73 points as Kluber and Sale accumulated a score of 204-126.

Clayton Kershaw has always been a favorite to win the award since winning his first back in 2011. Yet, two straight injury-plagued seasons have cost the three-time National League Cy Young Award winner more awards. Washington Nationals pitching maestro Max Scherzer won the award for a second straight season, making it three total Cy Young Awards on his resume. Scherzer defeated Kershaw and teammate Stephen Strasburg 201-126-81. Scherzer led the National League in strikeouts (268), WHIP (0.90), and held opponents to the lowest batting average (.178).

Both Rookie of the Year Awards were captured with ease. In the NL, first baseman Cody Bellinger won the award unanimously, which makes it back-to-back ROY winners for the Los Angeles Dodgers after Corey Seager won in 2016. The 22-year-old demolished St. Louis Cardinals’ Paul DeJong and Pittsburgh Pirates’ Josh Bell by a score of 150-56-32. Bellinger hit 19 home runs in his first 50 career games and a total of 39.

In similar fashion, Judge effortlessly won the American League ROY, making him the first Yankees rookie to win the award since Derek Jeter in 1996. Judge led the AL in home runs (52), runs (128), and walks (127). Behind the Yankees sensation finished Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi and Trey Mancini of the Baltimore Orioles, 150-75-31. During his historic rookie season, Judge broke Mark McGwire’s record of 49 home runs by a rookie in a single season.

Managers don’t receive praise as much as they receive criticism, but MLB acknowledges their efforts, too. The case for AL Manager of the Year could’ve gone to either manager that finished within the top four this season. Paul Molitor, Terry Francona, A.J. Hinch, and Joe Girardi accomplished great things with their clubs, but it was Molitor that came out victorious. Twins manager Molitor helped his team reach the playoffs after they lost 103 games in 2016. It was the first time in MLB history that a feat such as Molitor’s had been achieved. Francona, Hinch, and Girardi rounded off the ballot behind Molitor’s 112, 90-56-12.

Finally, the NL Manager of the Year race seemed to belong to Dave Roberts once again for most of the season, who propelled the Dodgers to the best record in baseball (104-58) in his second season as the team’s manager. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America thought otherwise and decided to grant first-year Diamondbacks skipper Torey Luvullo with the award. Like Molitor, Luvullo’s team missed the playoffs in 2016 but were able to turn things around as he was named the club’s new manager for 2017. Arizona lost 93 games a year ago and managed to do the exact opposite this year going 93-69 en route to clinching a Wild Card spot. Roberts, and Rockies manager Bud Black finished in second (55) and third (43). 

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