Pickard: Explaining my picks for IBWAA end-of-season awards

It’s official, folks. I submitted my end-of-season award ballot for the Internet Baseball Writers’ Association of America this morning. Here’s who I penciled in for each award, and why.

American League

Most Valuable Player: Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels

It’s really hard to vote against Mike Trout. So, I didn’t. Although the future Hall of Famer was shut down for the final few weeks of the regular season, he still had the best season out of every player in the American League. While his team didn’t secure a playoff bid this year, it surely won’t be long until Trout is playing October baseball. In 134 games this year, Trout posted a 8.6 fWAR. He has slashed .291/.438/.645 with a .436 wOBA while knocking in 104 runs and scoring 110 times. Trout leads all of the American League with a wRC+ score of 179. Trout clobbered 45 homers and stole 11 bases.

Picks 2-10, in order: Alex Bregman, Rafael Devers, Marcus Semien, Matt Chapman, Xander Bogaerts, George Springer, Yoan Moncada, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Santana

Cy Young: Gerrit Cole, SP, Houston Astros

Due to be a free agent in just over a month from now, winning the AL Cy Young award would provide Gerrit Cole with when negotiating with teams interested in acquiring his services this offseason. For now, though, he’s focused on the Astros’ playoff run. Cole, who is 18-5 to this point with a 2.61 ERA in just over 200 innings through 31 starts, has posted a solid fWAR score of 6.7. Cole is the only pitcher in the American League with an xFIP score below 3.0. While his BB/9 and HR/9 numbers are higher than some of his competitors’, so is his K/9 ratio of 13.57.

Picks 2-5, in order: Justin Verlander, Charlie Morton, Shane Bieber, Lance Lynn

Rookie of the Year: Yordan Alvarez, OF, Houston Astros

Another award recipient from the Astros? You bet! While Alvarez’s rookie campaign hasn’t been as strong as some of his competitors from across baseball, his has been better than his American League opponents. In 81 games this season, Alvarez has slashed .316/.415/.670 with 77 runs knocked in and 27 homers. Alvarez’s fWAR of 3.8 is the best of all AL rookies and the second-best rookie score in all of baseball. There aren’t many people vying to steal Alvarez’s award this fall; he appears to have the honor locked up.

Picks 2-3, in order: Luis Arraez, Brandon Lowe

Manager of the Year: Aaron Boone, MGR, New York Yankees

In just his second year as manager of the New York Yankees, Aaron Boone has found himself making do with what he has. The Yankees have been plagued by injuries literally all season long, and they are still dealing with them to this day. Despite all this, the Bronx Bombers have managed to win 102 games so far, a figure that is tied for baseball’s best. Boone has secured an AL East title, and while he did get to play the Blue Jays and Orioles a combined 38 times, he also had to manage a club that saw more than three dozen games against the reigning champion Boston Red Sox and the East’s other challenging club, the Tampa Bay Rays.

Picks 2-3, in order: Rocco Baldelli, A.J. Hinch

Reliever of the Year: Liam Hendriks, RP, Oakland Athletics

Hendriks has made a name for himself this season, and he is by far the top choice to be named the best reliever in the American League. In 70 relief appearances this year, Hendriks has gone 4-3, recorded 23 saves, and has a terrific 1.46 ERA in 80.1 innings. Additionally, Hendriks’s 3.5 fWAR is the best out of all relievers in baseball. The A’s bullpen guy averages more than 13 strikeouts per nine innings, as well as more than two walks and half a homer over that same timeframe.

Picks 2-3, in order: Brandon Workman, Aroldis Chapman

National League

Most Valuable Player: Christian Yelich, OF, Milwaukee Brewers

For me, this wasn’t too hard of a decision. While many people around the game see Yelich’s season-ending injury as the clear deciding factor that would give Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers this award, I think it’s all in the stats. Yelich slashed .329/.429/.671 with 44 home runs, 97 runs plated, and 100 home runs in 130 games. He walks less and strikes out more than some of his closest competitors, but he has the edge in fWAR, of which he has 7.8. The one factor that dampens my hype for Yelich is that the Brewers have played great baseball without him, but I’m still satisfied enough to cast a vote for the reigning NL MVP.

Picks 2-10, in order: Anthony Rendon, Cody Bellinger, Ketel Marte, Max Scherzer, Ronald Acuna, Jr., Trevor Story, Nolan Arenado, Pete Alonso, Juan Soto

Cy Young: Max Scherzer, SP, Washington Nationals

There are a lot of good pitchers in the National League, but Max Scherzer is easily the best of all. The seven-time All-Star and three-time Cy Young award winner should be dubbed the best pitcher for a fourth time. In 26 starts this year, Scherzer is 10-7 with a 2.81 ERA and 2.92 xFIP. Scherzer averages more than a dozen strikeouts per nine inning frame while allowing just 1.73 walks and 0.87 home runs in that same timeframe. This is Scherzer’s award to lose, and it doesn’t appear he will lose it.

Picks 2-5, in order: Hyun-Jin Ryu, Jacob deGrom, Stephen Strasburg, Walker Buehler

Rookie of the Year: Pete Alonso, 1B, New York Mets

It wasn’t too hard for me to pencil in Alonso for this award. After all, he is the best rookie in all of baseball. Alonso, who won the Home Run Derby, leads all rookies with 4.8 fWAR. (The next best score, Yordan Alvarez’s 3.8, is more than one whole point behind.) Alonso has slashed .264/.364/.589 with 115 runs knocked in and 50 home runs. Trading off a slightly lower slash line for a slightly higher home run total seems like a fair swap and could be beneficial as votes are compiled.

Picks 2-3, in order: Bryan Reynolds, Fernando Tatis, Jr.

Manager of the Year: Torey Lovullo, MGR, Arizona Diamondbacks

Call it magic, or call it the power of Torey Lovullo. The Diamondbacks were hovering right around .500 at the trade deadline and then a surge pushed this team into the playoff discussion — and all of this went down despite Arizona trading ace Zack Greinke to the Astros. The Diamondbacks are now nearing elimination and appear to be missing the playoffs, but Lovullo still deserves credit for the above-.500 season he has led his ball club to. In addition to trading Grienke at the deadline, we cannot forget that the D-backs deal Paul Goldschmidt to the Cardinals prior to the season. And Lovullo still led his team to a great season.

Picks 2-3, in order: Dave Martinez, Dave Roberts

Reliever of the Year: Kirby Yates, RP, San Diego Padres

Penciling in the winner for this award was the easy part, believe it or not, as determining the second and third picks was a much more challenging task. I suppose that just speaks to the talent and value of Yates, as it shows there is a vast difference in talent level between him and the second and third picks. Yates, whose 2.3 fWAR is one whole point better than Seth Lugo, who ranks second in NL WAR, has 41 saves in 59 relief appearances this year. He has a beautiful xFIP score of 2.24 and an ERA of 1.21. Yates averages more than 15 K/9 while keeping his BB/9 score below 2.0 and his HR/9 rate around 0.3.

Picks 2-3, in order: Seth Lugo, Josh Hader

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