I have my Hall of Fame vote scattered through a few posts detailing why I voted for those still on the ballot, who I reconsidered, and who among the the first time candidates I voted. I also explained why I would vote for players already inducted by the IBWAA. Pulling those lists together, here is my ballot:
- Tim Raines
- Jeff Bagwell
- Jeff Kent
- Mike Mussina
- Curt Schilling
- Larry Walker
- Fred McGriff
- Vladimir Guerrero
In year two of Hall of Fame voting, I was more forgiving, and I found room to vote for players like Fred McGriff and Vladimir Guerrero when I would not have voted for them last year. Even with my finding more reasons to vote for different players, there were still some players who just fell short. Here is a quick synopsis on each:
Jorge Posada, C
Stats: 17 seasons, .273/.374/.474, 1,664 H, 379 2B, 10 3B, 275 HR, 1,065 RBI, 20 SB
Advanced: 42.7 WAR, 32.7 WAR7, 37.7 JAWS
Awards: 5X Silver Slugger, 5X All Star
When you are an important member of the Yankees famed Core Four that won five World Series, you are going to get a long look for the Hall of Fame even if you won only four rings with the group.
While Posada had a good career, it is hard to make a Hall of Fame case for him. With the average catcher having a 52.7 WAR, 34.2 WAR7, and a 43.4 JAWS, Posada doesn’t quite measure up. Posada was a good hitter, but was rarely a great hitter averaging just 19 homers and 74 RBI in the 14 seasons he was a regular player. Behind the plate, he was slightly below average throwing out base runners, but his pitching staff did seem to tout his ability to catch a game.
While he does get some extra credit for all the World Series titles, Posada was rarely great in the postseason. In 29 series, Posada only had two series you would consider great. While he doesn’t get penalized for largely uninspired postseason play, he also doesn’t get extra credit for it.
Ultimately, Posada was a good to very good player for most of his career. Unfortunately, he didn’t compile big counting stats, nor was he an advanced statistic darling. With that, he falls just short.
Stats: 15 seasons, .256/.341/.435, 1,307 H, 306 2B, 14 3B, 193 HR, 757 RBI, 25 SB
Advanced: 24.3 WAR, 18.7 WAR7, 21.5 JAWS
Awards: Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, 3X All Star
When you get down to it, the best case for Varitek was he was a member of that 2004 Red Sox team that broke the Curse of the Bambino. Another factor was he was widely regarded as a leader on that team. However, it is really difficult to make a case for a player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame based upon intangibles when he falls so short with the traditional and advanced statistics.
Billy Wagner, RP
Stats: 16 seasons, 47-40, 2.31 ERA, 422 SV, 0.998 WHIP, 11.9 K/9
Advanced: 28.1 WAR, 19.9 WAR7, 24.0 JAWS
Awards: 7X All Star
While there are relief pitchers and closers in the Hall of Fame, we have yet to see the person who spent their career as a modern closer enter the Hall of Fame. For the most part, the closers in the Hall of Fame were multiple inning fireman (Rich Gossage) or pitchers who split time between starting and relieving (Dennis Eckersley).
Looking up and down the list of the closers that have been inducted, it is hard to make a case that any of them were as dominant as Wagner was. He was a guy that came into the game with a high 90s fastball and struck out the side. It’s why his ERA+ is higher than any reliever in or eligible for the Hall of Fame. He amassed 422 saves which is sixth all-time and second among left-handed relievers. No matter how you analyze it, Wagner was a truly dominant and great closer.
But he’s still short of being a Hall of Famer. The average closer in the Hall of Fame right now has a 40.6 WAR, 28.2 WAR7, and a 34.4 JAWS. Wagner falls short of those numbers. Keep in mind once Mariano Rivera is inducted into the Hall of Fame, those numbers are going to go higher. Wagner is a classic case where you could overlook the numbers if there was some postseason dominance. Unfortunately, Wagner was not a good postseason pitcher with him pitching to a 10.03 ERA and a 1.971 WHIP in 14 postseason games.
If you were building a Hall of Fame for closers and other specialists, Wagner is on the first ballot. However, for the Baseball Hall of Fame, he is unfortunately just short.
Trevor Hoffman, RP
Stats: 18 seasons, 61-75, 2.87 ERA, 601 SV, 1.058 WHIP, 9.4 K/9
Advanced: 28.4 WAR, 19.6 WAR7, 24.0 JAWS
Awards: 7X All Star
Basically, Wagner and Hoffman have the same Hall of Fame resume. However, there are two stark differences. In his career, Hoffman saved over 600 games, and at one point was the all-time saves leader. Despite the save totals, Hoffman was nowhere near as good a pitcher as Wagner was. Certainly, if Wagner is not a Hall of Famer, Hoffman isn’t either.
Overall, I have decided to vote for Vladimir Guerrero, Jeff Kent, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, and Larry Walker on my IBWAA ballot. If they were up for IBWAA vote, I would have also voted for Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell while not voting for Edgar Martinez. In looking at Kent, Mussina, and Walker, I went back over their careers, and I re-assessed whether or not I should vote for them. Ultimately, I did. I did the same with players I did not vote for, and as a result, I added one to my ballot:
Fred McGriff, 1B
Stats: 19 seasons, .284/.377/.509, 2,490 H, 441 2B, 24 3B, 493 HR, 1,550 RBI, 38 SB
Advanced: 52.4 WAR, 35.8 WAR7, 44.1 JAWS
Awards: 3X Silver Slugger, 5X All Star
During Hall of Fame voting, many times you will hear about a player being a compiler. There are two ways you can define compiler: (1) someone who put up a number of counting stats over a very good but not great long career; or (2) Fred McGriff.
Arguably, McGriff was never a truly great player. In fact, from a WAR perspective, he only had three seasons that you would rate him at superstar or MVP level. If you take out the partial seasons he played in his first and last year, McGriff averaged a 3.1 WAR. Basically, this means for most of McGriff’s career, he was a very good, but not quite All Star caliber player. In that sense, his five All Star appearances seem right on the money.
Like Guerrero. McGriff’s advanced statistics were held down by his perceived poor base running and defense. Certainly, McGriff was no Keith Hernandez out there. In fact, despite his appearance on the Tom Emanski videos, McGriff was not a particularly good first baseman. Certainly, his .992 fielding percentage was nothing special as far as first baseman go. It goes a long way in explaining why McGriff had a -18.1 dWAR in his career. With that said, I am not sure how reliable that -18.1 figure is.
One of McGriff’s contemporaries at first base was the man who replaced him at first base in Toronto – John Olerud. In Olerud’s playing days, he was considered a very good first baseman who won four Gold Gloves, and in reality, probably should have won more. That notion has been reinforced by some advanced metrics. For his career, Olerud’s dWAR was -2.
When reputation and advanced metrics agree a players is a good defensive player at his position, and dWAR completely disagrees, it gives you pause as to whether the calculation is entirely correct. Assuming McGriff was only half as bad as dWAR suggested, his career WAR would increase to 61.5, which would leave him only 4.4 WAR short of what the average Hall of Famer was. In fact, you could conclude McGriff was a poor first baseman that merited a negative dWAR and still have him reach the average WAR for a first baseman.
Despite all this hand wringing, the fact remains McGriff probably falls short of being a Hall of Famer due to his defense, and yes, defense matters. With that said, there are two other factors which give McGriff the benefit of the doubt.
First, McGriff was a money player that was typically at his best when there was a lot at stake. Using the baseline of his .284/.377/.509 career slash line, here are McGriff’s stats in big situations:
- RISP: .277/.403/.479
- RISP, two outs: .241/.399/.421
- High Leverage: .290/.385/.500
Typically speaking, McGriff was at a minimum slightly better in pressure situations.
Another example of how good McGriff was in pressure situations was the 1993 season. At the time the Braves acquired McGriff, the Braves trailed the San Francisco Giants by nine games in the National League West Standings. Over the final 68 games of the season, McGriff would hit an astounding .310/.392/.612 with 19 homers and 55 RBI. Essentially, McGriff was Yoenis Cespedes before Cespedes was Cespedes. The Braves needed each and every single one of those homers as they finished one game ahead of the Giants in the standings.
Granted, that was just one season. However, McGriff’s clutch hitting was also evident in the postseason. In 50 postseason games, McGriff was a .303/.385/.532 hitter with 10 homers and 37 RBI. His clutch postseason hitting helped the Braves win their only World Series with the vaunted Greg Maddux–Tom Glavine–John Smoltz rotation. In the 1995 postseason, McGriff hit .333/.415/.649 with four homers and nine RBI.
Overall, his postseason play combined with the question marks surrounding the defensive statistics that push his WAR outside Hall of Fame averages is enough for him to get my vote even if it is my the narrowest or margins.
There is one other small factor at play. Anyone who saw McGriff towards the end of his career knew he was sticking around to try to get to 500 homers. At the time, 500 homers was a golden benchmark which led to almost automatic Hall of Fame induction. Well, McGriff didn’t get there as he fell seven home runs short. He fell seven home runs short because he began his career in a de facto platoon with Cecil Fielder. He fell seven home runs short because of the 1994 strike. He fell seven home runs short because there were pitchers juicing while he wasn’t. He fell seven home runs short because he was washed up at age 40. Ultimately, he fell seven home runs short because he just wasn’t good enough to get those seven home runs.
Do you know where he would rank on the all-time home run list with those seven extra home runs? 11th. Do you know where he currently stands on the list? 11th. Ultimately, seven home runs over the course of a 19 year career is about one-third of a home run per season. One-third of a home run per season doesn’t amount to much. If that is the case, seven home runs should not be the line of demarcation between him being a Hall of Famer and him not garnering much support.
With or without the seven home runs, you can justify voting for McGriff who had a good career for almost all of his 19 seasons. He has certainly done enough to justify being inducted into Cooperstown.
- Batting Average .347 – second
- OBP .390 – seventh
- Slugging .595 – first
- OPS .985 – first
- Doubles 47 – first
- Homers 25 – 24th
- RBI 104 – fourth
- Offensive WAR 5.7 – third
- OPS+ 157 – third
- wRC+ 156 – second
The fact that Murphy did this as a second baseman is astounding. You would have to go back all the way to 1975 – 1976 with Joe Morgan to find a second baseman that was the top hitter in the National League. When you are put in the same category as Joe Morgan, you know that Murphy had a special year.
Murphy was also a huge difference in why the Nationals won the National League East this season. Last year’s MVP, Bryce Harper, had a down year by his standards. For example, Harper from a massive 198 OPS+ to a slighly above-average 116 OPS+. When your team’s best player takes a huge step backwards, someone needs to step up, and they need to step up in a big way. Murphy absolutely did that. In fact, Murphy was to the Nationals what Harper was in 2015. Murphy led his team in batting average, OBP, slugging, OPS, OPS+, doubles, homers, and RBI.
Murphy also annihilated his former team, who also happened to be the only real challenge to the Nationals in the division. Murphy had a 19 game hitting streak against the Mets hitting .413/.444/.773 with six doubles, seven homers, and 21 RBI. He was a huge reason why the Nationals were 12-7 against a Mets team they put in their rear-view mirror. Quite possibly, without Murphy, the Nationals do not win the division. Largely because of that, Murphy is my choice for the National League MVP.
Second – Kris Bryant
While Murphy was the MVP, Bryant was probably the best player in the National League as evidenced by him being the league leader in WAR (7.7). Bryant also led the league in runs scored, and his 37 homers were good for third in the National League.
It is also notable with Kyle Schwarber suffering a season ending injury on the second game of the season, Bryant bought in and played anywhere and everywhere Joe Maddon asked him to play. Bryant was not only a good defensive third baseman, but he also proved to be a good left fielder. Overall, he was everything you want in a player.
In reality, he lost out on the MVP as he really wasn’t the most valuable. While the Nationals had a down year from Harper and another injury plagued season from Stephen Strasburg, the Cubs had a loaded lineup and a loaded rotation. It is why they ran away with the National League Central. In reality, even without Bryant, the Cubs run away with the Central. While we can argue whether or not it matters, the fact is that the voting rules (if you are following the BBWAA standard) state they do. With that Bryant finishes second. It’s an extremely close second, but second nevertheless.
Third – Corey Seager
Seager was not only the Rookie of the Year, he was an outstanding player in the National League. He played an outstanding shortstop, and he hit .308/.365/.512 with 40 doubles, 26 homers, and 72 RBI. His 6.1 WAR was the second best from any player that played in the postseason this year. Overall, Seager was a constant on a Dodgers club that faced a lot of adversity and won the National League West.
Fourth – Nolan Arenado
At some point you have to throw standings aside and just admire greatness. Arenado once against proved what a great player he is. Not only is the best defensive third baseman in baseball, he also led the National League in homers (40) and RBI (133). This man is a superstar. The only reason why he is not treated as such is his market and his team consistently failing to compete for a postseason spot.
Fifth – Anthony Rizzo
Rizzo was the second best first baseman in the National League, the second best player in his division, and he was the second best player on his team. Rizzo just had a monster year that saw him hit .292/.385/.544 with 43 doubles, 32 homers, and 108 RBI. Like Bryant, you could remove him from the team, and they still win the Central. Like Bryant, he was a big reason why this team was the most dominant team in baseball.
Sixth – Yoenis Cespedes
Cespedes proved his hot streak with the Mets last year was no fluke as he hit .280/.354/.530 with 25 doubles, 35 homers, and 108 RBI. In games he played, the Mets were 74-58. In games he didn’t play, the Mets were 13-17. His numbers and the Mets record would have been a lot better had he not been hobbled for a quad injury for a good part of the season.
Seventh – Freddie Freeman
Without Freeman having a monster year, the Braves would’ve actually challenged the 1962 Mets for the worst single season record in baseball history. Freeman hit .302/.400/.569 with 43 doubles, 34 homers, and 91 RBI. He very well could have been the best first baseman in all of baseball. By WAR, he was the second best player in the National League all season. Unfortunately, his great season gets lost in what was another poor year for the Braves.
Eighth – Joey Votto
Like Freeman, Votto had a great season lost amid what was a terrible season for his team. Votto hit .326/.434/.550 with 34 doubles, 29 homers, and 97 RBI. In the second half, his OBP was an unbelievable .490. It was a large reason why he led the league in both OBP and OPS+.
Ninth – Christian Yelich
Believe it or not, Yelich was the best outfielder in the National League in 2016 (as per WAR). This season, Yelich took the next step everyone was waiting for him to take in his path to becoming a star. In 155 games, Yelich hit .298/.376/.483 with 38 doubles, 21 homers, and 98 RBI. He did this while playing a solid left field, which for him is a disappointment.
Tenth – Asdrubal Cabrera
Cabrera dealt with a knee issue that was part of the reason why he struggled in the field and at the plate for the early part of the year. Finally, the injury got to the point where he was forced to the disabled list. Right before he came off the disabled list, the Mets were 60-61 leaving them 4.5 games behind the second Wild Card. Worse yet, the Mets were behind three teams for that spot.
From August 19th on, Cabrera was the best hitter in baseball hitting .345/.406/.635 with 11 doubles, one triple, 10 homers, and 29 RBI. Behind his hot hitting, the Mets finished the season on a 27-14 tear soaring to the top spot in the Wild Card race. If not for his hot bat, the Mets may very well have found themselves on the outside looking in come this postseason.
With Clayton Kershaw suffering a mid-season back injury and missing a somewhat significant chunk of time, the National League Cy Young race became wide open. For the most part, the season was very close with many viable choices. Here is my ballot:
1st – Johnny Cueto
Understandably, Madison Bumgarner gets all the publicity with his postseason heroics, but in reality, Cueto was the staff ace for the San Francisco Giants this year, and ultimately the one pitcher who should win the Cy Young Aaward this season.
In 2016, Cueto made 32 starts pitching 219.2 innings while throwing five complete games. Overall, Cueto was 18-5 with a 2.79 ERA, 1.093 WHIP, 8.1 K/9, 198 strikeouts, a 147 ERA+, 2.95 FIP, and a 5.7 WAR.
While complete games was the only category Cueto led, his name was spread out all over the National League Top 10 pitching categories. On the season , Cueto finished second in pitcher WAR, fifth in ERA, third in wins, third in win-loss percentage (.783), ninth in WHIP, third in walks per nine (1.844), second in innings pitched, sixth in strikeouts, third in starts, second in shutouts (2), fifth in strikeout to walk ratio (4.400), second in home runs per nine (0.615), second in batters faced, sixth in ERA+, third in FIP, fifth in adjusted pitcher runs (34), fifth in adjusted pitcher wins (3.6), second in WPA (5.0).
More so than any pitcher across the National League, Cueto’s traditional and advance statistics hold up. In an era where going deep into games is a lost art, Cueto led the league in complete games. By the thinnest of margins, Cueto edges out the rest as being the best pitcher in the Naitonal League this season.
2nd – Max Scherzer
Like Cueto, Scherzer was a traditional and advanced statistic darling this season. For the season, Scherzer made 33 starts pitching 223.1 innings. Overall, he was 19-7 with a 2.82 ERA, 0.940 WHIP, 11.2 K/9, 277 strikeouts, a 148 ERA+, a 3.16 FIP, and a 6.5 WAR.
Looking over these stats, Scherzer is the National League leader in WAR (for pitchers), wins, WHIP, hits per nine (6.287), inning pitched, strikeouts, games started, and strikeout/walk ratio (5.130). Scherzer was also sixth in ERA, fourth in win-loss percentage (.731), third in K/9, eighth in complete games (1), third in batters faced (877), fifth in ERA+, fourth in FIP, fourth in adjusted pitching runs (35), fourth in adjusted pitching wins (3.8), and fourth in WPA (4.4).
Looking at his numbers as a whole, Scherzer leads in most of the important traditional ones like wins, strikeouts, WHIP, starts, and innings pitched. He is also scattered across the top 10 in the advanced statistics that were created to normalize pitching across teams and ballparks. Overall, he just falls short of Cueto as Cueto was better in run prevention with him having a better ERA, FIP, and WPA.
3rd – Noah Syndergaard
It was a tale of three seasons for Syndergaard. There was the first part of the season where he debuted a 95 MPH slider to go with his 100 MPH fastball that made you wonder how anyone could ever hit him. There was a second part where he was affected by bone spurs in his elbow leaving your wondering if he could finish out the season. The final part was him returning to form.
Syndergaard made 30 starts and one relief appearance (thanks in part to Chase Utley) pitching 183.2 innings. Overall, Syndergaard was 14-9 with a 2.60 ERA, 1.149 WHIP, 10.7 K/9, 218 strikeouts, 158 ERA+, 2.29 FIP, and a 5.2 WAR.
While Syndergaard did not lead in any of the more traditional statistics, he was the league leader in FIP. He was also the the league leader in HR/9 allowed (o.539). Coupling that with him ranking second in strikeout to walk ratio, Syndergaard was the pitching king of the three true outcomes this season.
In addition to the three true outcomes catergories, Syndergaard also ranks highly in WAR (sixth), ERA+ (third), adjusted pitching wins (seventh), and WPA (tenth). In the more traditional statistics, Syndergaard also rates highly. Syndergaard is third in ERA, eighth in walks per nine, fourth in strikeouts per nine, fourth in strikeouts, and second in strikeout to walk ratio.
Overall, you could justify Syndergaard being named the Cy Young for the 2016 season. However, with Cueto and Scherzer making more starts and throwing more innings, they were more valuable pitchers than Syndergaard was this season.
4th – Jon Lester
When people have addressed the Cubs rotation this season, many have focused on last year’s Cy Young Award winner, Jake Arrieta, or Kyle Hendricks, who is the major league ERA leader. People have overlooked Lester, who has been the most valuable pitcher of the group.
In 31 starts, Lester has pitched 197.2 innings. Overall, Lester is 19-4 with a 2.28 ERA, 0.997 WHIP, 8.87 K/9, 191 strikeouts, 176 ERA+, 3.35 FIP, and a 5.6 WAR. This has been just an outstanding year for Lester, and it is quite deserving of Cy Young consideration.
Like the aforementioned starters, Lester is in the Top 10 in several pitching categories. Lester ranks third in pitcher WAR, second in ERA, first in wins, first in win-loss percentage (.826), third in WHIP, fourth in hits per nine (6.739), eighth in strikeouts per nine, sixth in innings pitched, seventh in strikeouts, fifth in complete games (2), seventh in strikeout to walk ratio (3.898), eighth in home runs per nine (0.911), second in ERA+, seventh in FIP, first in adjusted pitching runs (41), first in adjusted pitcher wins (4.4), and first in WPA (5.2).
With Lester ranking this highly in each of these categories, he could very easily have finished in the top spot in the Cy Young voting instead of fourth. The reason why he is ranked lower than Cueto and Scherzer is that while Lester has a better ERA and is a league leader in wins, he also has pitched fewer innings than those pitchers. While Lester has thrown more innings than Syndergaard, he doesn’t compare to Syndergaard when it comes to the run prevention categories. In reality, it’s splitting hairs, and the way those hairs split leads to Lester being ranked fourth on the ballot.
5th – Jose Fernandez
Honestly, this was a toss up between Fernandez and Hendricks. Both were deserving given there statistics. However, overall, Fernandez was more dominating that Hendricks was this season.
In 2016, Fernandez made 29 starts pitching 182.1 innings. Overall, he was 16-8 with a 2.86 ERA, 1.119 WHIP, 12.5 K/9, 253 strikeouts, 137 ERA+, 2.30 FIP, and a 4.2 WAR.
The main case for Fernandez is him leading the majors in strikeouts per nine and having the second best FIP in the majors. In sum, what this means is he was about as dominating a pitcher in the National League this season. He was striking out batters at a higher rate than any other pitcher, and in the hypothetical neutral setting, he was the second best pitcher at keeping runs off the board. Like the aforementioned pitchers he ranked highly in several categories ranking seventh in ERA, fifth in wins, sixth in win-loss percentage (.667), tenth in WHIP, ninth in hits per nine (7.355), second in strikeouts, fourth in strikeout to walk ratio (4.600), third in home runs per nine (0.642), eighth in ERA+, ninth in adjusted pitching runs (23), ninth in adjusted pitching wins (2.4), and sixth in WPA (3.5).
For reasons we are all too familiar, Fernandez wasn’t able to catch up to Scherzer in strikeouts, nor was he able to pitch in more innings to bolster his case. As such the strength of his case was how dominating he was viewed through the prism of the advanced statistics. Looking through that prism, he feel short of putting up the type of season Syndergaard did. As such, he finished behind Syndergaard.
As you will see across baseball, the voting for the AL Rookie of the Year Award is going to be across the board. Many will want to reward a player putting together almost a full year while others want to reward a players who got called up and was insanely hot for a short stretch of time. There is room for both types of players on the ballot, and as you will see in my ballot, the player that did both, should win the Rookie of the Year Award:
1st – Michael Fulmer
Other than Corey Seager, Fulmer was the most impressive rookie in baseball this season. Consider that if not for a long rain delay, Fulmer would have pitched enough innings to qualify to have the best ERA in the American League. Overall, on the season, Fulmer was 11-7 with a 3.03 ERA, 1.119 WHIP, and a 7.5 K/9. He was also one of 14 pitchers in the American League who would throw a complete game shut out.
When Fulmer was first called up by the Tigers, he was only supposed to be the rotation for a short duration due to the Shane Greene injury. Fulmer laid those plans to rest by putting together the best rookie season out of any pitcher in baseball this year.
If you are more interested in short bursts of greatness over longer periods of work where a player’s performance is permitted to ebb and flow consider that Fulmer was 3-1 with a 0.61 ERA and a 0.910 WHIP in five June starts. Consider that in a stretch from June 1st to August 14th, Fulmer made 13 starts going 6-2 with a 1.57 ERA and a 0.872 WHIP while averaging 6.2 innings per start. No rookie in the American League put up a two and a half month stretch that can compare to the run Fulmer went on over the summer.
That run was also part of the season for Fulmer falling off. As he far exceeded his innings limits for a team in the middle of the Wild Card race, his performance would noticeably suffer. However, that’s part of the reason why Fulmer is the Rookie of the Year. He was put in position to have a long run of success while also having to deal with being put in a position to fail. Ultimately, as Fulmer had the most dominant stretch of any American League rookie while also having a successful season stretching from April to September, he is the Rookie of the Year.
2nd – Nomar Mazara
Mazara was called up to the majors earlier than he was ready due to an injury to Shin-Soo Choo. Despite Mazara not being ready, he would jump right out of the gate winning the AL Rookie of the Month Award for April and May. In fact, if you took a straw poll around the All Star Break over who was the Rookie of the Year, Mazara would have won it hands down.
In that April and May stretch, Mazara hit .302/.348/.479 with three doubles, nine homers, and 24 RBI while being the Rangers everyday right fielder. Mazara played an above averaged right field too with a 5.3 UZR. Yes, Mazara would regress just as any other 21 year old rookie not quite ready for the majors would. Mazara finished the season hitting a respectable .266/.320/.419 with 13 doubles, three triples, 20 homers, and 64 RBI. Mazara would be only one of two rookies, Cheslor Cuthbert being the other, that had enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title.
Among rookies, Mazara had the most at-bats, runs, hits, and RBI. He is tied for first in homers. When you lead all rookies in these categories while playing well defensively, all for a first place team, you are among the top rookies in the sport, and you should be considered the top rookie among position players.
3rd – Gary Sanchez
In August and September, there has been no player, rookie or otherwise, discussed than Sanchez. After the Yankees decided to sell by trading away Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, and Carlos Beltran, Sanchez was among the rookies called-up by the Yankees to see which ones were ready to contribute next year to a rebuilding ball club. Sanchez came out and immediately announced he was ready to contribute.
In 51 games, Sanchez has hit .299/.372/.650 with 12 doubles, 20 homers and 42 RBI. Naturally, he leads all major leagues in homers during that stretch, and he’s tied with Mazara for the most amount of homers by a rookie. If you extrapolate those numbers over the course of a full 162 game season, Sanchez would finish the year with 37 doubles, 62 homers, and 131 RBI. After a full season like that, the Yankees would probably be best advised to just give him a monument and retire his number 57. You get numbers from a catcher like this, especially one with a cannon behind the plate, you are talking about a top five regular season in major league history.
But that’s part of the issue. Sanchez hasn’t played a full season. He’s played just two months. They’ve been two awesome months, but it’s still only about one-third of a full season. As we have seen with Fulmer and Mazara, a rookie who has a bright major league career ahead of them can have an incredible run for two months. Because Sanchez only played one-third of a season, we didn’t get the opportunity to see the league adjust to him and see if he could respond. While Sanchez’s rookie year was definitely the best, the brevity of his season coupled with how others have dominated in similar stretches that he did bumps him down to third on my ballot.
Across the National League, there have been a number of standout performances. Consider for a moment that this ballot omits pitchers like Kenta Maeda, Steven Matz, and Junior Guerra. It also doesn’t include the terrific shortstops Trevor Story and Aledmys Diaz. In any other season, each of these players could not only be on the ballot, but they also could win the award. In what was a loaded field, here is my NL Rookie of the Year ballot:
1st – Corey Seager
Short of Jackie Robinson and Mike Piazza, Seager has put together the best rookie season by a Dodgers player. That’s high praise especially when you consider the Dodgers organization has accumulated more Rookie of the Year Awards than any other team in baseball.
Seager was incredible this year leading all rookies in WAR, doubles, and RBI. He was also second in home runs. He was the only rookie in the National League who played enough games to qualify for the batting title. He’s also played a great shortstop with a 10.9 UZR. Overall, there is no knocking his overall game, nor is there any reason to not give him the Rookie of the Year Award
2nd – Trea Turner
It’s one thing to be a well regarded prospect. It’s another thing to come up and show the world why you were a well regarded prospect. It’s a whole other thing to do that while playing out of position.
Given Ben Revere‘s failures in center field, the Nationals had two options to fill-in the position. One was Michael Taylor, who is a well regarded prospect in his own right despite his weak bat, or move your best prospect to center field. The Nationals chose the later, and they really benefited from it.
In 73 games, Turner hit .342/.370/.567 with 14 doubles, eight triples, 13 homers, and 37 RBI. With that, he had a 3.6 WAR, which was the second highest position player WAR accumulated in the non-Seager division. In center field, Turner had a -2 DRS, which means he was slightly below average, which is really remarkable when you consider he had never played an inning in center field before the 2016 season. All of this is even more impressive when you consider Turner did this to help a team win their division.
Given the totality of the circumstances, Turner’s 2016 season might have been the most impressive by any rookie. If not for Seager, it was the best season any rookie had this year.
3rd – Seung-Hwan Oh
Where would the St. Louis Cardinals be this season had they not signed The Final Boss out of the Korean Leagues? For most of the year, the Cardinals team and bullpen has dealt with injuries. Most notably, Trevor Rosenthal went from ineffective to injured in the span of the year. With those issues, the Cardinals needed someone to step up. That person was Oh.
In 74 appearances, Oh showed all of baseball how he earned the nickname The Final Boss. He made 76 appearances going 6-3 with 19 saves, a 1.92 ERA, 0.916 WHIP, 11.6 K/9, 214 ERA+, and a 2.13 FIP. He took over the closer’s job in the beginning of July, and he was converted 19 out of 22 save chances with a 2.27 ERA, 0.958 WHIP, and an 11.3 K/9. Not only was Oh one of the top rookies in baseball this year, he was also one of the best relievers in the game. With that in mind, The Final Boss deserves to be on the Rookie of the Year ballot.
The IBWAA Hoyt Wilhelm Award is for the best relief pitcher in the National League. While the National League has had a number of good relievers this past season, there have been three clear standouts over the course of the season that deserves this award:
1st – Addison Reed
Given how Terry Collins has ridden his two best bullpen guys all season, this was a toss up between the two of them. Looking at the numbers, Reed just had a better season.
Time and again, Collins has leaned on Reed in the high leverage eighth inning of games to preserve the Mets lead. For a vast majority of the time, Reed has done that in impressive fashion. In 80 appearances, Reed is 4-2 with a 1.97 ERA, a 0.940 WHIP, a 10.5 K/9, 209 ERA+, and a 1.98 FIP. Those 78 appearances are the third most in the majors (and National League). His 1.97 ERA is fifth among National League relievers with at least 60 innings pitched. His 2.9 WAR is the highest among relievers. His WHIP ranks fifth among relievers. By the way, Reed has made more appearances than the pitchers that are ahead of him in those categories.
This all speaks to how exceptional Reed has been in his role as the Mets eighth inning guy. In fact, Reed’s 40 holds this season is the most in the majors. In fact, it is 10 more than Kyle Barraclough who is in second place. Reed is a huge reason why the Mets are close to unbeatable when they have the lead after seven innings. In terms of a bullpen role, no one has done their job better than Reed, which is why he should be the Hoyt Wilhelm Award Winner.
2nd – Jeurys Familia
For the second straight season, Familia has been the most used, most durable, and best closer in the National League.
In 2016, Familia made more appearances, more innings pitched, and more saves than any other closer in all of baseball. His 51 saves this season surpassed Francisco Cordero and Jose Valverde for the most saves in a single season by a Dominican born pitcher. He has obliterated the Mets single season save record he once shared with Armando Benitez. Keep in mind, a large part of his breaking the save records was because Familia kept the ball in the ballpark. Over the course of the entire 2016 season, Familia has only allowed one home run.
Familia was also at his best when the Mets needed him to be at his best. With the team needing each and every win possible in August and September, Familia was as dominant as he has ever been. In that two month stretch, Familia made 27 appearances recording 14 saves with a 1.62 ERA, a 1.000 WHIP, and a 10.6 K/9 while limiting batters to a .186 batting average.
Overall, for the season, Familia was 3-4 with 51 saves, a 2.55 ERA, 1.210 WHIP, 9.7 K/9, 161 ERA+, and a 2.39 FIP. When you put up these numbers while your manager keeps throwing you into games without giving you much time off to rest, you have been the best closer in your league. .
3rd – Seung-hwan Oh
Choosing the third reliever for this vote was a difficult task. Both Mark Melancon and Kenley Jansen, who both had outstanding years again as closers for postseason teams. However, the nod here went to The Final Boss for a number of reasons.
First, Oh made the second more appearances than Melancon and Jansen. His 2.8 WAR was also the second highest WAR posted by any relief pitcher in the National League. He also helped saved a Cardinals bullpen and season by first being a dominant set-up man, and then being a dominant closer once Trevor Rosenthal went down with injury. As a closer, Oh was 4-3 with 19 saves, a 2.27 ERA, 0.958 WHIP, and an 11.3 K/9. For the season Oh made 76 appearances going 6-3 with 19 saves, a 1.92 ERA, 0.916 WHIP, 11.6 K/9, 214 ERA+, and a 2.13 FIP.
With that, Oh was about as dominant a relief pitcher as there was in the National League. With him mastering multiple roles, and his stepping up to fill a huge void for a Cardinals team in the thick of the Wild Card race, he deserves the last spot on the ballot.
This was a fun year in the American League where we saw the managers who were presumed to be among the best in the sport get the most out of their team’s talent and put their team in position to go to the postseason. When you’re picking between the best managers in the sport, and they all did tremendous jobs, you are really picking nits in ranking them. With that said here’s my nit picking ballot:
1st – Buck Showalter
Could you possibly imagine where this Orioles team would be right now if they had just a league average starting staff? It’s incredible to think about how far the Orioles have gone when Chris Tillman and his career 4.13 ERA and 1.310 WHIP is far and away your team’s ace. The question is how did the Orioles do it?
For starters (pun intended), Showalter uses his bullpen masterfully, probably better than anyone else in the sport. When you have no starting pitcher who averages six innings a game, you are going to have to be masterful if you are going to give your team any chance to win a game. Showalter not only was able to put his relievers in the right position to get outs, he was also able to keep most of them healthy over the course of a full season. And yes, it certainly helped that Zach Britton had one of the great seasons a closer has ever had. Still, he’s just one guy that pitches one inning for a bullpen that routinely had to pitch over three innings a game.
Showalter also got the most out of his flawed power bats. Mark Trumbo was signed to be the right fielder, and he hit 46 homers. Pedro Alvarez was the primary DH. With Showalter shielding him from left-handed pitching for most of the year, Alvarez would hit 22 homers.
It also helps that Showalter has two of the best young players in the game in Adam Jones and Manny Machado. Even in what has been Jones’ “worst” season, he still hit 28 homers. Machado had an underappreciated year where he was not only his usual MVP level, Gold Glove caliber third baseman, he also had to handle going to shortstop when J.J. Hardy went down for an extended time due to injury. Couple that with Showalter navigating the issue of Hyun Soo Kim arguably not being ready to start the season, refusing a demotion to the minors, Showalter handled the situation well. He not only eased Kim into the season, but he also got a tremendous season out of him.
Arguably, Showalters is the best manager in the game, and he proved it once again this season. For that, he is my selection for AL Manager of the Year.
2nd – Jeff Bannister
When a team has a +8 run differential, the team is expected to go 82-80. The Texas Rangers would go 95-67 while running away with the AL West. A big part of the reason why is Bannister who, in his second year as a manager, has established himself as one of the best managers in the game.
Bannister had a lot on his plate this season, including but not limited to the run differential. He was helping Ian Desmond convert from a shortstop to an All Star center fielder. He had Rougned Odor, who has shown himself to be an incredibly gifted player, but also as we saw with him punching Jose Bautista, he can be a hot head. There was the demise and sudden retirement of Prince Fielder. There were tough waters to navigate surrounding Yu Darvish, who was returning from Tommy John surgery, and his brother being convicted in Japan for illegal gambling. The Rangers also entered the season without a good catching or first base option. High priced outfielder Shin-Soo Choo would miss most of the year with injuries leaving the team without a good left fielding option either.
The reason this all worked was the Rangers had a good starting rotation led by Cole Hamels and a no-name very underrated bullpen that included the reclamation project of all reclamation projects in Matt Bush, and first time closer, Sam Dyson, who had a breakout season. There were also great seasons by Mostly, this worked because Bannister is a great manager that put his players in the best spots to succeed.
Because this team had more pitching, especially starting pitching, Bannister is barely ranked below Showalter.
3rd – Terry Francona
Heading into the 2016 season, the Indians were largely constructed like the 2015 Mets. They were a team built on young pitching with a highly questionable offense. In order for it all to work, the team would need its manager to do a great job. Francona did.
Again, the one thing everyone knew the Indians had to start the season was starting pitching, and boy did they pitch. Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar each had an ERA+ of 122 or better. Fact is, when Trevor Bauer is your fourth best starting pitcher, you know your starting staff is loaded. Ultimately, it was this staff that separated Showalter and Francona in my mind in terms of casting the vote for Manager of the Year. Still, that does not mean Francona had an easy job this season.
He lost his starting catcher Yan Gomes for the season before the All Star Break. He lost his best outfielder Michael Brantley, in the beginning of May. He had an offense that was too reliant on the rejuvenation of Mike Napoli (he hi (he would be released t 34 homers) and Juan Uribe (released on August 5th). The team also desperately needed Carlos Santana‘s power to return (it did). Couple that with a middle infield of Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez showing he can offensively handle a corner infield spot, and some smoke and mirror, the Indians generated a sufficient amount of offense to match their starting pitching. Francona goes a long way in much of this happening and that is why he deserves Manager of the Year consideration.
As he frankly had smoother sailing than Showalter and Bannister during the regular season, he gets ranked just below the other two. Frankly, if you came up with a different permutation of these three managers, no one could definitively say you were wrong.
This was a strange year in the National League Manager of the Year race. All the teams that were supposed to be contenders were actually contenders despite most of those teams suffering brutal injuries.
That Nationals lost Stephen Strasburg for a good part of the year and will likely not have him in the postseason. The Mets lost Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, David Wright, and Lucas Duda for a good portion of the season. At one point, the Dodgers entire starting projected rotation was on the disabled list with the most crushing blow being a Clayton Kershaw trip to the disabled list. The Cardinals have had their shortstops, Jhonny Peralta and Aledmys Diaz, on the disabled list with injuries, and they lost their closer Trevor Rosenthal. Even the Cubs suffered a huge injury with Kyle Schwarber going down with a torn ACL. With these teams overcoming those injuries, it could be quite difficult to determine who was actually the best manager in the National League this season. Taking all that into consideration, here is my ballot:
1st Place – Dave Roberts
A large part of his award goes to Roberts because of what he did despite his team being the most injured team in all of baseball. By the first week of the season, he lost two members of his starting rotation with Brett Anderson and Hyun-Jin Ryu. He would also lose important bullpen arms in Carlos Frias, Yimi Garcia, and Chris Hatcher for the year. He’d also deal with the most dramatic injury of all when Kershaw went down with a back injury.
When Kershaw made his last start before heading to the disabled list, the Dodgers were 41-36, eight games behind the Giants in the West and a game behind the Marlins for the second Wild Card. From that point forward, the Dodgers have the second best record in baseball. They have won the NL West for the second year in a row, and they seem poised to make a deep run in the postseason.
That’s not the only reason why Roberts is the Manager of the Year. He’s also capably handled a number of tricky situations that would have the potential to flummox other managers and potentially poison some clubhouses. He had to get Howie Kendrick to accept being a utility player and eventually an outfielder. He had to get one last great season out of Chase Utley. He would pull rookie Ross Stripling while he had a no-hitter going because it was the best thing for the young player’s career and the Dodgers’ future.
Clearly, Roberts has been unafraid to make the tough decisions. He had control of the clubhouse. He avoided near disaster, and he led his team from eight games back to win the NL West. That’s Manager of the Year material.
2nd – Joe Maddon
In reality, any other year this award would go to Maddon. Maddon has established himself as the best manager in the game.
Maddon was handed a roster that was easily a World Series favorite, and he delivered during the regular season. Not only did he get another great season from Jake Arrieta, but he also got better years from Jon Lester and John Lackey. By the way, somehow he got a Cy Young caliber season out of Kyle Hendricks.
We also saw Maddon play mad scientist like he loves to do. When Schwarber went down, Maddon took his budding superstar Kris Bryant and turned him into a Ben Zobrist type of player. It probably helped Bryant that he had the actual Zobrist on the team to give him some pointers. Additionally, never one to stay at the status quo, Maddon experimented using multiple relievers on the field.
On June 28th, Maddon would actually play Spencer Patton and Travis Wood in the outfield in a 15 inning game against the Reds. It actually worked out well for the Cubs. Patton started the 14th inning on the mound and Wood in left field. When Jay Bruce came up to bat, Maddon would switch them around to get Bruce out. After the Bruce at bat, Maddon switched them back so Patton could get Adam Duvall out. This was reminiscent of the 1986 game where Davey Johnson was forced to shift Jesse Orosco and Roger McDowell between left field and the pitcher’s mound due to a Ray Knight ejection leaving the Mets without another position player. However, Maddon wasn’t forced into the decision. There wasn’t an injury or an ejection. Rather, Maddon did it because he simply believed it gave the Cubs the best chance to win the game.
That is the type of progressive thinking that has made Maddon the best manager in the game, and it has helped the Cubs to a 100 win season with the best record in baseball. If not for the terrific season Roberts had, Maddon would have won this quite easily.
3rd – Dusty Baker
Last year, the Nationals were done in by a toxic clubhouse and a terrible manager in Matt Williams. In the offseason, the Nationals did what they had to do in firing Williams, and then they had to settle on Baker as their manager.
Baker has always been a curious case. He has never been a favorite of the Sabermetrically inclined. He makes curious in-game decisions (hello Russ Ortiz), and he has a tendency to over rely on veterans over young players that are probably better and can do more to help the team win. Despite all of that, Baker has won wherever he has gone. He has brought the Giants, Cubs, Reds, and now the Nationals to the postseason. The reason is Baker is a manager that gets the most out of his players.
It wasn’t easy for him this year. Bryce Harper had a down year, Jonathan Papelbon wouldn’t last the season as either the closer or as a National, and Ben Revere would show he was not capable of being the center fielder for a good team. Worse yet, Strasburg went down with injury despite Baker actually being someone careful with his young pitcher. So how’d he do it. Well, he got career years from Daniel Murphy and Wilson Ramos. In a sign of growth, Baker trusted a young player in Trea Turner to not only play everyday, but also to play out of position. Mostly, Baker was Baker.
Overall, it is clear that Baker has some innate ability to get his teams to play well. He did that again this year in turning around a Nationals team that fell apart last year to a team that comfortably won the NL East.
Honorable Mention – Terry Collins
By no means did Collins have a strong year this year. You can point to the injuries, but he did do a lot to exacerbate them by playing players who he knew was injured. He had a year where he messed around with Michael Conforto‘s development and threatened the career of Jim Henderson by abusing his surgically repaired shoulder for a “must-win” game in April. Furthermore, he flat out abused the arms of Hansel Robles, Addison Reed, and Jeurys Familia. So no, Collins is not deserving of the award.
However, he is deserving of an honorable mention with the class and dignity he comported himself in the aftermath of Jose Fernandez‘s death. He made sure his team was there to console the Marlins, and he prepared his team to win games when some of his own players were devastated by Fernandez’s death. This was one of the many acts of kindness Collins has shown as the Mets manager, and it should be highlighted.