The MLB regular season is over, so it’s finally time to talk about awards because we have a full body of work, that will remain unchanged, to work with. I already did my National League picks, so here are my American League ones.
Manager of the Year
Usually, this goes to the team with the best record, especially one that made a 15-game jump in the win column (Boston Red Sox) under a rookie manager (Alex Cora). But, this year, that is not the case. There is a much better story happening out west in the Bay Area. Bob Melvin has quietly turned the Oakland A’s into one of the game’s elites.
Through May 31, Oakland was 29-28, but since then they have torn the league apart, going 68-37. In doing so, they made the playoffs for the first time since 2014 and did so with the lowest Opening Day payroll from all 30 teams. They finished the season at 97-65, which is the fourth-best record in baseball and would place them first in four of the six divisions.
He’s done this without having an “elite” player outside of reliever Blake Treinen. Matt Chapman in on the verge of that title and Khris Davis does not get on base as much as you’d see from a top-level player. But he got everyone to buy in and put egos aside. He helped shore up the holes in the rotation by leaning strongly on the bullpen and handling it correctly.
He took a team that was at least a year or two away from playoff contention to a team with serious World Series aspirations and did so in a tough AL West.
Winner: Bob Melvin, Oakland Athletics
Rookie of the Year
On the surface, the New York Yankees have the two best candidates for the award. Miguel Andujar has the pretty batting average (.297) and RBI total (92) and helped the Yankees win 100 games. And Gleyber Torres was a top prospect who had a good OPS and the second-most home runs and RBI among AL rookies. And they have the number of plate appearances you want.
But neither compare to Angels phenom Shohei Ohtani, who lived up to his immense hype. Yes, his 367 plate appearances don’t compare to Torres’ 484 and Andujar’s 606, but it’s still a healthy amount, and his per-plate-appearance production wipes the floor with the Yankee duo.
He has the best on-base percentage (.361), slugging percentage(.564), wRC+, wOBA, OPS+, and HR/PA (16.8) among AL rookies. He has a better fWAR in significantly less time and a comfortable lead in bWAR. Oh, and he has thrown 51.2 innings, posting a 3.31 ERA and 63 punchouts. He’s simply been the better player.
Winner: Shohei Ohtani, Anaheim Angels
This one is going to be interesting because we will see what the voters value the most. Is it volume+quality? Is it wins? Is it extreme quality in the lack of quantity? It’s a wide-open race with numerous candidates that are deserving.
Justin Verlander is second in innings by one, has the most strikeouts, and a good 2.53 ERA. Corey Kluber led in innings and cracked the shiny-old 20-win barrier while having a 2.89 ERA but seeing a drop in his strikeouts. Those two have the volume that gives them the advantage.
But Chris Sale and Blake Snell have been better in their fewer innings. Sale missed qualifying for leaderboards by just four innings, but if he were to, the lefty would have the second-best ERA, best WHIP, and K/9. And even with the lack of innings, Sale has the second-highest fWAR to just Justin Verlander, and second-highest bWAR to only Blake Snell.
Speaking of which, Snell broke out in a big way. A trip to the DL during the summer hurt his chance at cracking 200 innings, which will be the biggest knock against him. But he still hit 180 innings and was easily the best performer in the AL during those. The 25-year-old had a 1.89 ERA (first), 0.974 WHIP (second), while being pure filth, striking out over 11 batter-per-nine innings and 31.6% of total batter faced.
He also led baseball wins (21) for what that’s worth. It was the reason Rick Porcello won in 2016. Snell also joined elite company, being just the fourth pitcher to qualify for the ERA title, post an ERA under 2.00, WHIP under 1.000, while striking out over 30% of batters.
Winner: Blake Snell, Tampa Bay Rays
Most Valuable Player
This is a three-headed race among Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, and J.D. Martinez. Martinez has no doubt taken the Red Sox offense to another level with his 43 home runs and 1.031 OPS, but his defense works against him. He plays mainly as a designated hitter, and when he does take the field, he is lousy.
Thus, the race is primarily between Trout and Betts, the two best players in the baseball this season. Betts won the batting title and had a 1.078 OPS, which was second in baseball. He played elite defense in right field and ran the bases well. He is the best player on the best team, and an argument can be made that he was the best player this season overall. He also led in bWAR and fWAR and had a slight lead in wOBA.
Trout, on the other hand, had 39 home runs, compared to Betts’ 32, has the sport’s best OPS, OPS+, wRC+ on-base percentage (which is more impressive than having the best batting average and should be the batting title), graded out as a really good defender at a premium position be the batting title, and essentially walked the same amount of times as he struck out.
Mike Trout, Anaheim Angels