AL Most Valuable Player - Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
It's almost cliché at this point to anoint Trout as the MVP, considering (1) he's the obvious choice, and (2) he isn't going to win the actual award. The 25-year-old led all of baseball in bWAR and fWAR, runs scored, walks, runs created, OBP, wRC+, and OPS+. He was in the top-five in the AL in WARP, batting average, SLG, OPS, and stolen bases, to boot. He is, as Michael Schur (a/k/a Ken Tremendous) put it, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, or Ken Griffey, Jr. - and many of us don't appreciate that enough.
As an aside, the best argument that I can think of for "valuable" in Most Valuable Player meaning "best" is this: imagine there are two rolls of money in front of you. The outer bill is $100, and it is stuffed with $1 bills. The other has an outward facing $50 bill, and it is wrapped around a bunch of $20s, $10s, and $5s. Mike Trout is the $100 bill, and therefore has the most value of any single bill. Mookie Betts is the $50 bill, and his roll is the Boston Red Sox. You'd rather have the second roll, but that doesn't depreciate the value of the $100 bill.
AL Cy Young - Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers.
Two years ago, Justin Verlander fell off a cliff. He posted the worst strikeout rate and ERA+ of his career, producing just 1.1 bWAR in 206 IP. Verlander opened 2015 on the disabled list (the first DL stint of his career), and picked up where he left off upon his return. He had a 5.05 ERA heading into his 10th start, and it seemed as though he was pulling a CC Sabathia. And then, just as quickly as he had fallen apart, he pulled himself back together, posting a 2.12 ERA the rest of the way, with 73 K in 76.1 IP.
And in 2016, Verlander proved that he was back, leading the AL in both bWAR and fWAR, and placing second in WARP. He also led the league in strikeouts and WHIP, while placing in the top-5 in IP, H/9, K/9, and ERA+.
AL Rookie of the Year - Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees
We promise that this isn't a product of bias.
Sanchez led all AL rookies in fWAR, and was one of the best players in baseball after the All-Star break. His 176 wRC+ was fourth in the Majors following in that time, and only five players hit more home runs (despite Sanchez giving up two or so weeks of plate appearances to most players in this sample). His 3.2 fWAR in the second half was 9th in the Majors, and 65th overall for the season as a whole.
I know that this isn't a second-half award, and Michael Fulmer did have a hell of a season for the Tigers. However, Sanchez's brilliance outweighs Fulmer's full-season of goodness.
NL Most Valuable Player - Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs
Bryant cut his strikeout rate by 8.6 percentage points this year, and his overall numbers improved across the board, leading to a 149 wRC+ (good for 4th in the league). He led the NL in bWAR and fWAR, and led the Majors in WARP, due in no small part to his ability to play strong defense at third base and in the corner outfield. He also placed in the top-five in the league in runs scored, home runs, OPS+, and runs created.
It is worth noting that Bryant truly towered over the competition by WAR(P) metrics, and it will be interesting to see how he progresses going forward. He produced a great deal of value on defense, as the metrics loved his play at multiple positions, and there have long been rumblings that WAR(P) may overstate the value in that. He is my choice regardless.
NL Cy Young - Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins
The death of Jose Fernandez hit us all rather hard, but this is not a simple vote of sentimentality. Fernandez led the NL in WARP, K/9, K%, and DRA, and finished second in fWAR, FIP, and K-BB%. Only Clayton Kershaw was more dominant on a per-inning basis - and Fernandez had a 33.1 IP edge on the Dodgers ace. At the very least, he was having a Cy Young caliber season that was cut tragically short.
NL Rookie of the Year - Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers
Seager was one of the ten-best position players in all of baseball (5th in fWAR, 7th in bWAR and WARP), and it is almost a disservice to compare him to other rookies. His 7.5 fWAR more than doubled the next best NL rookie (Jon Gray of the Rockies, at 3.7), and even the torrid pace of Trea Turner (3.2 fWAR in 73 games) doesn't extrapolate out to match Seager's production.
The 22-year-old shortstop played strong defense, and was among the best hitters in all of baseball. This choice may actually be easier than the AL MVP selection - and that's saying quite a bit.
Comeback Player of the Year - CC Sabathia, New York Yankees
We went with one overarching award, as there aren't many worthwhile candidates - this essentially boils down to Verlander and Sabathia. The key difference here is that Verlander was back in form for the last two months of 2015, and only really struggled for one season. Sabathia, on the other hand, was a hot mess for three straight seasons, producing a grand total of 0.7 bWAR from 2013 through 2015. He was an above-average starter this year, and appears to be an integral piece of the Yankees rotation in 2016.
- Gary Sanchez.
- CC Sabathia rebounding to such a significant degree.
- Clayton Kershaw somehow getting even better.
- Daniel Murphy proving that his epic 2015 postseason wasn't entirely a fluke.
- Alex Rodriguez falling off so abruptly, and failing to reach 700 home runs.
- The death of Jose Fernandez.
- Mark Teixeira's swan song (particularly as compared to David Ortiz's).
- Clayton Kershaw's injury-shortened season.
Yankees co-MVPs - Gary Sanchez and Masahiro Tanaka
What more can I say about Sanchez? He was the team's best position player this year in 50-something games. And I'll give Tanaka his due in the next award:
Yankees Cy Young - Masahiro Tanaka
I wrote about Tanaka's understated brilliance at the end of August, and it still holds true. The 27-year-old was the backbone of the Yankees pitching staff this season, and he was one of the five best starting pitchers in the American League. He finished 3rd in bWAR, 3rd in ERA, 3rd in BB/9, 4th in ERA+, 6th in fWAR, and 10th in IP. The Yankees were 23-8 in his starts, and 61-70 when anyone else started.
And, just because I found it interesting, he finished the season with a lower ERA than the embattled Dellin Betances. Only the departed Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman tossed more than 30 IP for the Yankees with a lower ERA than Tanaka.
Yankees LVP - Mark Teixeira
This is piling on, considering Teixeira took this "honor" at the mid-point of the season, as well. 203 players had 400-plus PA this season. Among those, Teixeira ranked 192nd in wRC+ and 200th in fWAR ... so this was unavoidable.
I'm choosing to remember his 2016 season for this moment, though.