2016 MLB Awards: Mookie Betts, Gary Sanchez Lead American League Races

Goodbye, regular season and welcome, award season. With only 10 teams remaining in the hunt for the World Series, people with no vote for any of the major baseball awards: Most Valuable Player, Cy Young, etc., can now take to the internet to give their useless thoughts about who should win what award. Does anyone really care what you think?

All right, now let me take to the internet to give my useless thoughts about who should win what award. Today, we’ll start off with the American League, also known as the league with more competitive races. Unlike the National League where almost every award winner has already been decided, things are a bit different in the junior circuit; there are obviously frontrunners, but with the exception of one award, there’s not a single lock pick in sight.

So, who is taking home hardware in a few weeks? For the sake of easiness, we’ll only be talking about the Most Valuable Player, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, and Manager of the Year for now. As for Comeback Player of the Year, that will come in a later article because there’s just too many candidates, and with that being a bit of an intriguing award, deserves its own piece.

MVP: Mookie Betts, OF, Boston Red Sox

The stats: .318/.363/.534 in 157 games for the Boston Red Sox with 42 doubles, five triples, 31 home runs, 113 runs batted in, a 26-4 stolen base-caught stealing ratio, an 80-49 K-BB ratio, and a 9.6 WAR (Wins Above Replacement).

The facts: We may as well just get the toughest one out of the way because, really, the argument about which player in the American League had the best stats this year is a debate that could span hours. You have Betts, who is quickly joining the ranks of the league’s best outfielders; Mike Trout, who again put up fantastic numbers for the Angels (more on him in a second); Betts’ teammate David Ortiz, the owner of the greatest farewell season in baseball history from a hitter; Houston’s Jose Altuve and Seattle’s Robinson Cano, the two best second baseman in the majors, and plenty of others.

Yet, Betts has something that only Ortiz has on his side: a playoff berth. I hate to play this card, especially after making the argument in past years that Trout deserved the American League MVP trophy over Miguel Cabrera despite the Angels not making the postseason, but I can’t deny Betts is MVP when his team is the only one among the true MVP candidates to even win their division. For the fifth straight year, Trout — who is still just 25-years-old — led the majors in WAR with 10.6 and also hit .315/.441/.550 with 32 doubles, five triples, 29 home runs, 100 RBI, and a 30-7 stolen base ratio, but his team was two games shy of losing 90 on the year.

How can I give the MVP to a player whose team nearly lost 90 games? I can’t, and as much as it pains me to say it, because Trout nearly re-joined the 30-30 club, Betts should win the American League MVP as the Millville Meteor finishes second for the fourth time in five years.

Cy Young: Justin Verlander, SP, Detroit Tigers:

The stats: 16-9 and a 3.04 ERA in 227.2 innings across 34 starts for the Detroit Tigers with a 254-57 K-BB ratio, two complete games and a 6.6 WAR.

The facts: Is it fair to give a Cy Young to a pitcher who didn’t lead the league in wins and gave up 30 home runs? Nope. Am I going to do so anyways? Yes, and my reasoning isn’t like the other trend going around that Rick Porcello and Aaron Sanchez each had fluke years in Boston and Toronto, respectively. In a decimated Tigers rotation that saw Anibal Sanchez, Mike Pelfrey, Jordan Zimmermann, and Matt Boyd combine to go 26-35 with a 5.08 ERA across 84 starts, Verlander managed to put two subpar, injury-filled seasons behind him for his best numbers since 2012.

Justin Verlander Cy Young 2016
[Image by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images]

I know, it seems weird to name Verlander the Cy Young when his team didn’t make the playoffs, but the Cy Young is not only different than the MVP, but the four-time AL strikeout leader has better stats than the two frontrunners from playoff teams. What stands out most when I go back and watch some of Verlander’s starts this year is that at age 33, he’s not trying to force himself into pitching like he did in 2011 or 2012; Verlander’s adjusted to his age, workload, and even the shoulder injury that plagued him in 2014 to bounce back and re-join the ranks of the American League’s elite. Chances are, voters will be more inclined to give Sanchez their vote, but I’m giving mine to the 2011 Cy Young winner.

Rookie of the Year: Gary Sanchez, C, New York Yankees

The stats: .299/.376/.657 in 53 games for the New York Yankees with 12 doubles, 20 home runs, 42 runs batted in, one stolen base, a 3.0 WAR, and a 41 percent ratio of throwing baserunners out.

The facts: Am I biased? Yes. Do I think Gary Sanchez will have the same home run success from the past two months across the next 10 years of his career? No. Do I think Sanchez and the magic he displayed over those two months is worthy of a Rookie of the Year Award? I do. We’re talking about a guy who was called up on August 3 and hit more home runs than any other player in history who wasn’t called up after August 1. We’re talking about a player who nearly carried a .500 team that sold all of their pieces at the trade deadline to a playoff berth in an extremely competitive American League this year by becoming the quickest player to reach 20 home runs.

Michael Fulmer had a great season for the Detroit Tigers with his 11-7 record and a 3.06 ERA across 26 starts, but Gary Sanchez has to be the Rookie of the Year. Sanchez likes to end his tweets with #IAmGary. Soon, he can end his tweets with #IAmRookieOfTheYear.

Gary Sanchez Rookie of the Year
[Image by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images]

Manager of the Year: Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians:

The stats: 94-67, first place in the American League Central division.

The facts: No Michael Brantley? Fine. No Marlon Byrd? All right. Getting a 100 RBI season from Mike Napoli? And that, friends, is why Terry Francona is the frontrunner for Manager of the Year. Do I need to say anything else about a manager who got a 2.7 WAR from reliever Dan Otero? There is a part of me that would love to see Red Sox manager John Farrell win after missing part of last year due to cancer treatment, but more people expected bigger things from the Red Sox than they did the Indians. My vote, with all due respect to John Farrell and Joe Girardi, goes to Francona.

[Featured Image by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images]