Brien: Josh Hamilton: The race for this award was a great one all year. Truth be told I really want to vote for Robinson Cano, but Hamilton’s .359/.411/.633 slash line and .447 wOBA is just overwhelming. Yes, he missed a lot of time in September, but the Rangers already had their division throttled by that point, largely because of the insane level of production Hamilton gave them the rest of the season, so it really makes no difference. (Runner up: Miguel Cabrera)
Larry: Josh Hamilton: He had terrific conventional statistics – best batting average in the AL by about 30 points, 30+ home runs, plus he would have topped 100 RBIs if he hadn’t hurt his ribs and missed much of September. His advanced statistics are better: a best in baseball 1.043 OPS, a best in baseball .447 wOBA, and a best in baseball 7.9 WAR at FanGraphs (the WAR is particularly outstanding, given that Hamilton has only played 131 games).
The MVP is supposed to be given to the most valuable player, and not necessarily the best player. I think Hamilton wins on this score, too. The Rangers are going to the playoffs for the first time in 11 years, and no player helped them get there nearly as much as Hamilton. The closest Ranger to Hamilton in terms of WAR (as measured by FanGraphs) is Nelson Cruz, who is a full 3.1 WAR behind Hamilton.
By the way, I am paying no attention to “luck” statistics like BABIP. Yes, Hamilton’s BABIP of .393 was second only to A-Jax’s .400. It’s fair to doubt that Hamilton will repeat his 2010 year in 2011. So be it. If Hamilton was lucky in 2010, that was “most valuable” kind of luck. (Runner up: Jose Bautista)
The Common Man: Josh Hamilton: There is so much disagreement on the top of the WAR charts (the two methods only agree on two of the top 5), that I’m kind of just going with my gut here. Hamilton had a terrific season.
Tamar: Josh Hamilton: I love Robinson Cano and felt he was going to have a special year as soon as the season started. Still, I have to say I expect the award to go to Josh Hamilton. Hamilton’s numbers are phenomenal and he helped the Rangers get to the playoffs. I give Cano some bonus points for playing in (I think) every game except one, but his drop off in the second half probably means the award is Hamilton’s.
Jason: Hamilton: I’ve been trying to find a way to vote for Cano here and I really, truly think he deserves serious consideration. However, Hamilton’s numbers are outstanding. If Mauer can win the MVP last year while missing the first month, Hamilton can win it this year for missing the last.
Mark: Josh Hamilton: He didn’t play all season, he doesn’t walk enough, his BABiP (.390) is unsustainable, and I’m not convinced he was a league-average center fielder, but despite the warning signs for regression for next season, production is production. In 132 games, he was worth approximately 1 win more than his nearest competitor. Evan Longoria had an awesome season, but Hamilton’s was transcendent.
Brien: Felix Hernandez: We’ve gone over this for weeks. King Felix was the best pitcher in the American League this year. The end. (Runner up: C.C. Sabathia)
Larry: Felix Hernandez: King Felix. He simply pitched better than anyone else in the AL. We’ve debated Hernandez’s merits on this site in such fine detail, I won’t repeat the arguments in his favor. Oh, OK, I’ll repeat a few of them: best AL ERA, most innings pitched, second in strikeouts, third best xFIP … he did everything but win games, but on the Yankees he’d probably have gone 25-3. (Runner up: David Price)
The Common Man: Felix Hernandez: I think Felix is actually going to win it. If both Ken Rosenthal and Jon Heyman agree on it, I think there’s enough of a change among more traditionally minded voters. There should be absolutely no debate over this that Felix was both the best and most valuable pitcher in the AL. What other criteria can there be for this award?
Tamar: C.C. Sabathia; CC Sabathia is my pick, partly (mostly?) because he is one of my favorite players. He’s been great this year, with his 21 wins and a strong ERA in the hardest division in baseball. On top of that he’s been someone the Yankees have depended on and he’s been able to come through for them. Felix Hernandez’s numbers are obviously impressive and I will not be surprised to see him win.
Jason: Felix. I think the tide has turned on CC here. The win totals aside, Felix is quite simply the best pitcher in the AL this year, if not all of baseball. Period. That said, it wouldn’t surprise me if CC walks away with as yet another statement against the basement-dwelling, computer geeks who dare look at something one step advanced of win totals.
Mark: Cliff Lee: For all the talk of Felix vs. Sabathia, Cliff Lee leads AL pitchers by 0.8 wins, according to fWAR. His K/BB ratio is 10.28 vs. Felix’s 3.31, and he holds a half-run lead in FIP. Then again, Felix got a lot more groundballs (1.81 to 1.04), pitched in almost 40 more innings, and had a nearly identical xFIP. So, it depends on your beliefs regarding home runs. I usually prefer xFIP, but Lee has shown an ability to hold down home runs by 2% over his career. Both pitchers are 2% under their norms (6.3% for Lee, 8.5% for Hernanadez), so there’s not a big discrepancy there. Lee has “pitched better”, but is the 40 inning difference too much for him to overcome? In the end, I’ll take the guy who was the better pitcher, if only because I feel like he’s been lost in the discussion.
Rookie of the Year:
Brien: Neftali Feliz: This was really an underwhelming group of rookies in the A.L. this year. Carlos Santana was far and away the best, but he got hurt and missed most of the season. Austin Jackson gets credit for starting the whole season in CF and leading off, but his combination of lots of strikeouts and not a lot of power isn’t exactly enthusiasm inspiring. Feliz was an impact reliever for Texas, lodging 40 saves and a 9.32 K/9, for the A.L. West champions. That gives him the edge over Jackson, in my opinion.
Larry: Neftali Feliz: I hate this award. It requires me to compare pitchers to hitters, and guys who have played all year against guys who were called up mid-season. Let’s see. The AL rookie hitters I heard the most about this year were Austin Jackson and Brendan Bosch, and both these guys ended up with OPS numbers around .750. I’m not impressed. How about pitchers? Well, there’s closer Neftali Feliz of the Rangers: 4-3, 2.77 ERA, 39 saves, only 3 blown saves. When I looked it up on FanGraphs, Feliz’s xFIP was exactly the same as Mo Rivera’s. That’s good enough for me. Feliz for AL ROTY.
The Common Man: Austin Jackson I don’t think there’s another viable candidate, and that’s unfortunate.
Tamar: Neftali Feliz: Did any other rookie contribute to their team as much as Feliz? 39 saves and a 2.77 ERA is good for any closer, nevermind a rookie. He has held opposing batters to a .180 average over 70 games and has helped the Rangers on their road to the playoffs. I think Austin Jackson probably comes in second. He had a solid first year (which has drawn mixed feelings from many Yankees fans), but he his numbers fell off in the last couple months.
Jason: Feliz. I was impressed with Austin Jackson (enough about his BABIP for a moment) to strongly consider him, but for a rookie to come in and be a dominating closer on a playoff team… that gets my vote.
Mark: Austin Jackson. He had a good season, even though he tailed off toward the end, in a lackluster crop of AL rookies. I wanted, tried, but ultimately failed to make an argument for Brian Matusz. Matusz pitched well in the AL East, but he only went 175 innings. Jackson produced for 151 games, and while I think he’s due for a regression (.396 BABiPs just don’t stay there), production is production, just as in the case with Hamilton. Matusz will probably be more valuable in his career, but that doesn’t count for this season.
Manager of the Year:
Brien: Terry Francona: With the number of injuries to crucial players plus ineffectiveness from Lackey, Beckett, and Papelbon, it’s amazing the Red Sox won 89 games, to say nothing of doing it in the A.L. East. It’s hard to imagine how anyone could have done a better job managing his team than Tito did this season.
Larry: Terry Francona: This award usually goes to the manager of the team that outperformed everyone’s expectations, and I figure this is as good a way as any to pick the winner. So, the obvious candidate is Ron Washington of the Rangers, whose team made the playoffs after an 11-year drought and despite the team’s being put on the auction block this year in a bankruptcy proceeding.
Instead, I’ll select a non-obvious candidate, Terry Francona of the Red Sox. Yeah, I find nominating a Red Sox about as easy as passing a kidney stone. But Francona managed a team whose basic parts kept failing, and he somehow got the team to produce the fifth-best record in the American League. Consider that Francona was forced to field a team where only five regulars had over 400 at bats, where the likes of Bill Hall, Darnell McDonald and Jeremy Hermida had more combined at bats than Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury. Somehow Francona kept the BoSox in contention until the last week of the season, with no evident turmoil or clubhouse drama. Plus, he kept faith with David Ortiz during Ortiz’s hellish slump at the beginning of the season, when ¾ of the Boston press urged Ortiz’s outright release. Ortiz rewarded Francona with 32 HRs, 102 RBIs and an .894 OPS. If Francona did not turn in Manager of the Year kind of work in 2010, then let’s retire the award and honestly admit that we have no clue how to judge managers.
The Common Man: Terry Francona: Given all the injuries he dealt with and the division they play in, 89 wins is pretty amazing.
Tamar: Terry Francona: I have to go with Terry Francona. A lot has been made of the fact that he has never even received a first place vote, which I think could work in his favor. The fact that the Red Sox held on as long as they did without most of their big players and with a lot of “no-names” speaks to Francona’s managerial skills. I’ve always kind of liked him, despite the Red Sox. Ron Washington would be my runner up. He’s had his fair share of adversity this season between the news of his failed drug test and the financial problems of the Rangers, yet he led them to the playoffs. Of course having players like Cliff Lee and Josh Hamilton helps.
Jason: Francona. I was all set to be the non-conformist and take Tito but it seems that our AL East battles with the Sox have impressed the lot here. Washington and Gardenhire deserve strong consideration, as does Cito Gaston. Heck, if the O’s had made the move earlier, I’d have considered Showalter! But what Francona did with a skeleton crew is downright masterful.
Mark: Ron Washington: Terry Francona did a nice job of wading through the injuries and lack of performance from guys like Josh Beckett and John Lackey, and Ron Gardenhire had to deal with injuries to Joe Nathan and Justin Morneau. Ron Washington also managed in the weakest division in baseball. So why him? He got the team to avoid being distracted by his drug issue, dealt with all the injuries to Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz, and Josh Hamilton, and believed in CJ Wilson enough to make him a starter when he’d never done so in the majors.
So looking this over, I think it’s pretty obvious who our winners are, don’t you?
- MVP: Josh Hamilton
- Cy Young: Felix Hernandez
- Rookie of the Year: Neftali Feliz
- Manager of the Year: Terry Francona.
Again, congratulations to all of the winners. Now, let’s get the playoffs started shall we?