Yadier Molina biggest surprise among finalists for BBWAA player awards
For the second year in a row, the Baseball Writers' Association of America has preceded the announcements of the winners of its major player awards with a list of the top three finalists for each award in each league. Those finalists were announced live on MLB Network on Tuesday evening; the winners will be revealed Monday through Thursday of next week. I've listed the finalists below alphabetically and will have full coverage of the voting, as well as my take on who should and who will win each award, all through next week.
National League MVP
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks
Andrew McCutchen, CF, Pirates
Goldschmidt was the most productive hitter in the National League this past season, and McCutchen was the league's best all-around player, but I thought that the league's best pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, who generated some MVP hype in August, would also be among the finalists. I also thought that Matt Carpenter was the Cardinals' most valuable player this season and had the Reds' Joey Votto ahead of Molina, as well, making Molina's inclusion here a surprise.
Then again, there may be no other player in baseball who gets more credit for on-field attributes that we cannot adequately measure (in Molina's case, his handling of a pitching staff, pitch calling, pitch-blocking, plate-blocking and other on-field leadership attributes), while recent advances in measuring pitch framing have revealed the truth behind Molina's excellent reputation in that facet of the game. What trips me up is that Molina had a better year in 2012, when he was clearly St. Louis' best player, yet finished fourth in the voting, while this year Carpenter was arguably more valuable on Molina's own team (in addition to a superior batting line at another premium defensive position, Carpenter played in 21 more games and made 176 more plate appearances) yet did not receive the vote support that Molina did.
American League Most Valuable Player
AL Cy Young
Max Scherzer, RHP, Tigers
Darvish over the White Sox' Chris Sale was expected given Sale's losing record (11-14) and Darvish's tremendous strike-out numbers (277 Ks, the most in either league since Randy Johnson in 2004, and a rate of 11.9 per nine innings, the ninth highest by an ERA qualifier in major league history).
NL Cy Young
Adam Wainwright, RHP, Cardinals
Kershaw should win this award unanimously. The only question concerned who the runners-up would be. Would the voters favor the veterans with high innings totals and impressive strikeout-to-walk ratios? Or the kids with miniscule ERAs but fewer innings pitched? As it turns out, they took one from column A (Wainwright over the Phillies' Cliff Lee, the right choice from that duo) and one from column B (Fernandez over the Mets' Matt Harvey). Assuming Lee and Harvey occupy the next two spots in the final voting (in either order, but ideally Harvey fourth and Lee fifth) there's nothing to complain about here.
AL Rookie of the Year
Wil Myers, RF, Rays
The same top three as my final Awards Watch of the regular season.
NL Rookie of the Year
Jose Fernandez, RHP, Marlins
Shelby Miller, RHP, Cardinals
Yasiel Puig, RF, Dodgers
The only question here was which pitcher out of the group of Miller, the Braves' Julio Teheran and the Dodgers' Hyun-jin Ryu would accompany Fernandez and Puig. I would have gone with Teheran, who led the trio in ERA+, WHIP and strikeout-to-walk ratio while throwing 12 1/3 more innings than Miller, but Miller was at worst the fifth-best rookie in the league as part of that tightly-bunched trio.
AL Manager of the Year
John Farrell, Red Sox
Terry Francona, Indians
Bob Melvin, A's
Farrell and Francona were the obvious choices, and Melvin is a good one that I'm glad to see recognized again after having just won the award last year. Joe Girardi, who kept the Yankees in contention all year despite a catastrophic confluence of injuries, and Ned Yost, who led the Royals to just their first winning season since 2003, would also have been deserving finalists.
NL Manager of the Year
Fredi Gonzalez, Braves
Clint Hurdle, Pirates
Don Mattingly, Dodgers