With a little less than a month left in the season, and the talk of postseason awards picking up, I thought I'd look at the major races in the American League and throw it out there for discussion.
From where I stand, two Tigers have a chance to take home some hardware: Miguel Cabrera, as the MVP; and Austin Jackson as the Rookie of the Year. Honestly, if I expanded this to Gold Glove awards, I think nothing changes.
So with a month to go? How do I rank the contenders?
1. Josh Hamilton, TEX
2. Robinson Cano, NYY
3. Miguel Cabrera, DET
The easy thing about guessing award winners is that you really don't have to look past the mainstream statistics, so it saves time. The bad thing is that you don't have to look past the mainstream stats, so the outcome of the awards is sometimes wildly debatable.
In this case, Josh Hamilton and Robinson Cano both get a checkmark in the "Team made the playoffs" category. (Can a player control who his teammates are? No. Except where he chooses to play in free agency. Nonetheless, people vote that way.) Cano gets a checkmark in the "East Coast media market" category. (Yes, it doesn't affect how many votes come out of the area. But when they're on TV and the top story more than most, it certainly helps.)
Hamilton leads in batting average with .361, which is 28 points above Cabrera and 43 above Cano. He's also got more home runs and more RBI than Cano. And he's got the backstory of struggling with drug and alcohol problems. The writers can defend this vote relatively well. Unless he's injured the entire month of September, he should be considered the major front runner.
What about Cabrera? Well, he's No. 2 in average, No. 1 in RBI and No. 2 in HR. He's No. 1 in OPS at this point. And he has totally had to carry the Tigers' offense for months. He would make a great choice, obviously. But he won't win.
Cy Young Award:
1. David Price, TB
2. CC Sabathia, NYY
3. Francisco Liriano, MIN
This race feels like it could go anywhere, but I feel pretty confident the top two guys I listed will be involved. Yes I know I did not type "Felix Hernandez." Remember, this isn't me writing who should win the award. (But check the bottom of the post for my shoulds). This is who I think will win the award. And Mr. Herandez is sadly lacking in the column sportswriters look at. "Does he know how to win?" 11-10 (as of this writing) record. So, no, Hernandez does not "know how to win." That's just the way it is.
Not that David Price is a bad choice, what with a 2.87 ERA and a fair shot to get to 20 wins. Plus he's got that plucky underdog Rays thing going for him, another good storyline! (Yes, anyone who followed baseball closely picked the Rays to go far, but that's beside the point.) If it's not Price, I think Sabathia has the next-best shot to win it. He will almost certainly lead the AL in wins, finish with an ERA near 3 and finish in the top 10 in strikeouts.
Guessing the third finalist is hard. Jon Lester? Lotta strikeouts. Lotta wins. Was treated for lymphoma. Jered Weaver? Not this year, doesn't have the hype and the Angels didn't do him any favors. Hernandez? As I already covered, I don't see it happening but maybe he'll get some smart votes. So I went with another playoff pitcher with nice stuff: Francisco Liriano. He too has solid ERA, a large number of strikeouts and a fair amount of wins.
I'll say this, the award this season will tell us more about the voters than about the candidates.
Rookie of the Year
1. Austin Jackson, DET
2. Neftali Feliz, TEX
3. Brennan Boesch, DET
This one is basically a two-man race at the top. I wasn't really sure what direction to go for the third-place finisher. Boesch is qualified for the batting title and has a nice line, but he isn't helped by the fact his past two months have been so bad. Wade Davis doesn't really have very beautiful stats at all, but he is a starting pitcher. Danny Valencia of the Twins has been up since early June. His OPS is nice, but his counting stats aren't all that beautiful. In the end it really doesn't matter who finishes third.
So it's Jackson or Feliz. The latter is a reliever for the Rangers who has 36 saves and just three blown. He's pitching for a playoff team. (Remind me again why there is always so much clamoring that a reliever get experience in the seventh inning for a season, then the eighth for a year or two?) He's got 59 strikeouts in 58 innings, a WHIP of less than 1 and an ERA of 3.26. So there's some gaudy stats, but the ERA isn't doing him any favors as a reliever.
Then we have Jackson. While Feliz has been in the game for 58 innings, Jackson has 1075 innings in the field under his belt. And they're pretty good innings. Slightly above-average by saber stats, way above average if you're just watching the game or talking to people like most of the voters. He's one of two AL batters qualified for the batting title, and he's got a .305 average as well as 22 stolen bases and 43 extra-base hits. (It totals a .774 OPS if the sportswriters are into that sorta thing).
Last season I spent a lot of time analyzing how writers tend to give out the award. I was able to narrow it down to Andrew Bailey winning, back when most people didn't even put him in the conversation. So I say with confidence I don't thnk Feliz will get it. I don't think relievers will win it back-to-back. I don't think his ERA is low enough. I don't think his strikeouts total will be high enough. And Jackson plays daily at an important defensive position while putting up pretty nice numbers. So I think Jackson wins. But if I'm wrong, Feliz is deserving.
Manager of the Year
Best bets to win:
MVP: Josh Hamilton
Cy Young: David Price
Rookie of the Year: Austin Jackson
Manager of the Year: Don't care!
MVP: Josh Hamilton
Cy Young: Francisco Liriano
Rookie of the Year: Austin Jackson
Manager of the Year: Ron Gardenhire
Why Hamilton? Speaking saberly, his wOBA is 16 points above Cabrera's and he plays a more difficult defensive position above average while doing it for a playoff team. I'm still rooting for Cabrera to win.
Why Liriano? Because the W-L record is an awful way to give an award out. He's having a solid season in ERA and strikeouts, and when you look deeper you see that he is completely dominating even if he does only have 13 wins. He has more strikeouts per nine innings than Felix Hernandez. His FIP (2.37) and xFIP (3.05) are both the best in the AL.
Why Jackson? He plays above-average defense at difficult defensive position, plays there near daily, gets on base and has strong baserunning skills.
Why Gardenhire? I suspect it would annoy Twins fans.
Who's on your list for "will win" or "should win"?