Baltimore Orioles: Predicting the BBWAA award winners

American baseball player Jim Palmer holds up his Cy Young award, one of three he won over the course of his career, 1975. (Photo by Hulton archive/Getty Images)
American baseball player Jim Palmer holds up his Cy Young award, one of three he won over the course of his career, 1975. (Photo by Hulton archive/Getty Images) /
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As expected, the Baltimore Orioles don’t have any finalists for the BBWAA awards this season. No matter, it’s still a big moment for a bunch of major leaguers

With the season they just had, we wouldn’t expect anyone from the Baltimore Orioles to be in the running for one of the prestigious BBWAA awards this year.

However, the finalists were announced on Monday evening for each league’s MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, and Manager of the Year. We’ll go over each and predict the winners, who’ll be announced early next week.

AL MVP

Finalists: Mookie Betts, Jose Ramirez, Mike Trout.

Betts had the best season of the three, posting a 1.079 OPS with 32 homers, 30 steals and a 185 wRC+. His 10.4 fWAR led MLB, and he’s one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball, winning his third Gold Glove award this year.

Trout is the best player in baseball, without question, and his 1.088 OPS and 191 wRC+ led the majors. Betts out-performed him in several categories, but Trout is the better player.

Ramirez posted a .939 OPS with 39 homers, 34 stolen bases and 106 walks to just 80 strikeouts. Ramirez was one of four qualified hitters with more walks than strikeouts, and his 1.33 BB/K rate easily led the majors. If Ramirez were in the NL, he’d easily win the MVP award. However, because he’s in the AL, he’s going to finish behind Betts and Trout.

This argument comes down to whether you give the award to the best player, or whomever had the better season. My brain says Trout should be the MVP every year, similar to how LeBron James should be the NBA MVP every year. But because the Red Sox won the World Series and the Angels missed the playoffs, I’m going with Betts.

NL MVP

Finalists: Nolan Arenado, Javier Baez, Christian Yelich

Arenado had a very good year, hitting .297/.374/.561 with 38 homers and 5.7 fWAR. He also won his sixth-straight Gold Glove award at third base.

Baez is an excellent defender and his .880 OPS and 131 wRC+ are nothing to sneeze at. He’s one of the most fun players to watch in MLB, but he’s easily third best in this conversation.

Yelich hit .326/.402/.598 with 36 homers and 22 steals, but he really secured his place in this discussion with his 25 homers and .367 AVG in the second half. His 7.6 fWAR and 166 wRC+ easily led the NL.

The NL MVP race was wide open until mid-August, when Yelich caught fire. He was able to separate himself from the competition in the second half, and although postseason stats don’t count toward the awards, he was able to showcase his talents to the world in October. Yelich should win this one easily.

AL Cy Young

Finalists: Corey Kluber, Blake Snell, Justin Verlander

Snell had the best peripherals for sure, however he pitched just 180.2 innings. His 1.89 ERA led all qualified pitchers by over .30 points, and for what it’s worth (not much), his 21 wins led the AL. He had an elite 11.01 K/9 with a 2.95 FIP, and his 7.5 bWAR led the AL. His second half was absurd; he allowed 8 earned runs in 11 starts, and posted a 1.17 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 61.2 innings.

Kluber pitched to a 3.12 FIP in 215 innings, posting a 9.29 K/9 (his worst since 2013) and his 5.9 bWAR was good for fourth in the AL. 2018 was a down year for Kluber and he’s still in the discussion for top-5 pitchers in the American League.

Verlander had another incredible season, pitching 214 innings and posting a 2.78 FIP, a 12.20 K/9, and 6.2 bWAR. Even at 35, he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Chris Sale isn’t here because he missed the final month of the season, but Kluber’s inclusion as a finalist over Gerrit Cole is laughable and speaks to the BBWAA’s outdated reliance on pitcher wins as a valued measure of pitcher performance; as good as he is, Kluber doesn’t belong on this list.

This comes down to whether you value Verlander’s reliability or Snell’s pure dominance more. My vote is for Verlander because those starts matter in the regular season. The Rays missed the playoffs by 7 games; if Snell is healthy, can they make up that difference? Because Kluber is on this list, I’m led to believe that Snell wins the award. He’s more than deserving of it, but he shouldn’t win because of the 21 wins; he was great despite them.

NL Cy Young

Finalists: Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, Aaron Nola

deGrom was outstanding this year, posting a 1.99 FIP, a 26.7% K-BB rate, and 9.6 bWAR in 217 innings. His problem is that his record stands at 10-9, and we just went over how the BBWAA thinks pitcher wins matter greatly in discussions like these.

Scherzer pitched to a 2.65 FIP and a 12.24 K/9 in 220.2 innings, with 8.8 bWAR. He was the only pitcher in baseball with 300 strikeouts. Scherzer’s case is based on people not voting for deGrom because of the wins.

Nola had a breakout year, posting a 3.01 FIP, 224 strikeouts in 212.1 innings and his 10.5 bWAR led the majors. However, similar to Scherzer, Nola’s case is predicated on voters shying away from deGrom because of the wins.

This is deGrom’s award to lose. Pitcher wins are a terrible measure of performance. Judge deGrom on his sub-2.00 FIP, his 0.41 HR/9, the strikeout minus walk rate; whichever performance indicator you want to look at, deGrom dominated. He’s the most deserving candidate for the award and it’s time the BBWAA stopped using outdated statistics as indicators of performance and true talent.

AL ROY

Finalists: Miguel Andujar, Gleyber Torres, Shohei Ohtani

Coming into 2018 as the Yankees number 2 prospect, Andujar hit .297/.328/.527 with 27 homers in 149 games. The bat carried Andujar in 2018, as he posted -25 DRS at third base for the Yanks, significantly below average. His 36% hard hit rate is encouraging, however the 4.1% walk rate is less than so.

As the number one prospect in the Yankees system, Torres hit .271/.340/.480 with 24 homers in 123 games. Torres was a serviceable, if not great, defender for the Yanks but like Andujar, the bat carried him through 2018. Both Torres and Andujar being present on this list speaks volumes about the Yanks’ front office and player development department, and is scary for Orioles fans as we move forward.

Many people thought Ohtani wouldn’t be able to both pitch and hit in the majors this year, but he proved them very wrong. In 51.2 innings, he pitched to a 3.57 FIP and posted a 10.97 K/9; the splitter is a devastating out pitch. At the plate, Ohtani posted a 152 wRC+ with a .925 OPS, 22 homers and 10 steals.

It’s incredibly disappointing that Ohtani wont pitch in 2019 as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, but he ran away with the Rookie of the Year award in 2018. His 2.8 fWAR at the plate in 114 games outranks both Andujar’s 2.7 and Torres’ 1.9. Add to that his value on the mound, and Ohtani walks away with this one.

NL ROY

Finalists: Ronald Acuna Jr, Juan Soto, Walker Buehler

Acuna was exceptional for the Braves in 2018, hitting .293/.366/.552 with 26 homers and 16 steals in 111 games. He spent time on the disabled list after suffering a knee injury running out a grounder in Boston, but when he was on the field he was electric.

Soto came on strong after the Nationals dealt with injuries to Adam Eaton and Michael Taylor. In 116 games, Soto posted 3.7 fWAR, a 146 wRC+, a .923 OPS and 22 homers. He wasn’t heralded like Acuna was coming into 2018, but he proved he’s on the same level in a short period of time.

Buehler came into 2018 as one of the top prospects in a deep Dodgers system and proved the ranking with his 3.04 FIP in 137.1 innings. Buehler has an explosive fastball that touches 98-99 and a wipeout slider that helped him strike out 151 batters this year.

As good as Buehler was this year, especially in the postseason, I have a hard time not pulling for Acuna here. He helped lead the Braves to their first Division title since 2013 and is one of the most exciting players to watch in MLB.

AL Manager of the Year

Finalists: Bob Melvin (A’s), Alex Cora (Red Sox), Kevin Cash (Rays)

It’s tough to differentiate between managerial candidates during award season, especially in the American League where very little tactical management is required during the regular season. Alex Cora won the World Series in his first year in Boston, while Melvin and Cash both led teams expected to be at the bottom of the AL this year to the playoffs, or the very brink of them in the Rays’ case. I’ll take Cora here. 

NL Manager of the Year

Finalists: Bud Black (Rockies), Craig Counsell (Brewers), Brian Snitker (Braves)

Again, it’s tough to say how much influence a manager really has on in-game performance. Black led the Rockies back to the playoffs for the second straight year, while Snitker helped pull the Braves out of their rebuild a year early. However, Counsell led the Brewers to the cusp of the World Series with a completely dead rotation. He managed his bullpen as good or better than any other manager in baseball, and he’s deserving of this award.

dark. Next. Reacting to fresh 2019 projections

You still with us? It feels unlikely that the Orioles will have any players nominated for BBWAA awards in 2019, but you never know. Maybe there’s a surprise Rookie of the Year candidate in Baltimore next year. We can only hope.