AL MVP-1. Jose Bautista
2. Jacoby Ellsbury - This was the hard part, really. The two were more or less equal, with each one bettering the other in different categories. Ellsbury was the better fielder (at a harder position), Bautista was the better hitter (while playing multiple positions). Ellsbury led the AL in fWAR (9.4 to 8.3), while Bautista led in bWAR (8.5 to 7.2). In both of those cases, they were 1-2 (with Verlander tying Baustista in bWAR; however, I trust fWAR for pitchers a little more, and I have already explained my reasons for not voting for him repeatedly).
In the end, I went with Bautista for 2 reasons: first, a lot of Ellsbury’s value came from his fielding, which was suddenly improved. Fielding stats are both less certain than hitting stats and more prone to random fluke fluctuation, meaning that we can be much more certain of Bautista’s value. Second, Bautista played about two dozen games at third base. While Ellsbury did play the harder position (center field is definitely harder to play than right, although it’s similar in difficulty to third base), WAR (both versions) accounts for position difficulty; it does not account for versatility. So, I felt comfortable using that as a sort of tiebreaker. Really, though, both were fine choices, and would have made fine MVPs (the next five players or so would also be decent choices, although I don’t think any of them had as good a claim to the trophy as these two).
3. Miguel Cabrera
4. Curtis Granderson
5. Dustin Pedroia
6. Justin Verlander
7. Adrian Gonzalez
8. Ian Kinsler-Really, I think this next chunk goes together. These were the guys that I thought were really good, but not quite good enough to be MVP. Cabrera seemed to be a sort of good compromise third place; he was fourth in bWAR behind Bautista, Verlander, and Ellsbury, and fifth in fWAR behind Ellsbury, Bautista, Pedroia, and Kinsler. Kinsler and Pedroia got a lot of value from their fielding; however, like Ellsbury, both of their fielding spiked unusually this year. Cabrera got most of his value from his strong batting, which seemed more stable. Granderson was the exact opposite; his defensive value seemed abnormally low, so I guess I bumped him up a bit for that. Pedroia, Kinsler, Gonzalez, and Verlander were all great, and I felt most comfortable for them in that order for some reason. Really, these spots were sort of their own tier below the top two. These six could have in just about any order and I wouldn’t complain too much.
9. Alex Gordon -Like I said earlier, I’m sort of inconsistent in my down-ballot voting. In this case, Gordon was seventh among position players in both bWAR and fWAR. Ninth in the league seemed like a good place for him. I would definitely vote for him for breakout player of the year (for the AL, at least).
10. Evan Longoria-Longoria’s WAR wasn’t as high (tenth among position players in fWAR, sixth in bWAR), but he also missed nearly 30 games due to injury. The missed time does actually count against him, but I figured he deserved a spot on the ballot. Also, his late season heroics and the fact that he’s a third baseman also probably helped him claim the last spot in my ballot.
Really, there are a bunch of ways I could have filled out this ballot. Even now, going over it, I’m thinking of all the changes I would make. But I’m pretty sure these were the best players in the AL, and I’m almost positive in my choices of Bautista and Ellsbury as best of the best.
NL MVP-1. Matt Kemp
2. Ryan Braun-I have to say, I was kind of expecting Kemp to take this. The two were similar enough in batting (Kemp had a .324/.399/.586 line, with 39 home runs and a 171 OPS+; Braun had a .332/.397/.597 line with 33 homers and a 166 OPS+), with the major differences being that Kemp played more games, played in more of pitchers park, and played center field as opposed to left. Really, I can see the games played argument going either way; Braun may have amassed his numbers in less time, but at the same time, Kemp was there for his team more. The other two arguments solidly favor Kemp, though. If two players have similar offense and defense, but one played a harder position in a worse park to hit in, it seems like that player would win the award. This is evidenced by their differences in WAR; Kemp leads in both forms, 10.0 to 7.7 in bWAR and 8.7 to 7.8 in fWAR. All I can figure is that the BBWAA decided to use team performances as a tie breaker rather than position or home park or anything else.
3. Joey Votto-You know, Votto’s season wasn’t too different than his almost unanimous MVP season last year (.324/.424/.600 with 37 homers, 7.3 fWAR vs. .309/.416/.531 with 29 homers and 6.9 fWAR). I have no idea why he didn’t get more attention this season.
4. Troy Tulowitzki
5. Justin Upton-Both were young players having great seasons. The two WARs like Tulowitzki a little more overall, plus he played shortstop, so he got the higher spot (and speaking of shortstops, looking back, I have no idea why Jose Reyes didn’t make my ballot.
6. Roy Halladay-I figured, if I put Verlander on the AL ballot at sixth, I’d have to put Halladay at least as high considering I figured he did more or less as well. And I still didn’t manage to get Kershaw on here, for some reason I can’t remember, even though I thought they were pretty equal in value. Really, the NL seemed to have fewer deserving winners than the AL, but many more of the “second tier” candidates I mentioned earlier. This made filling out the down-ballot spots even more of a challenge than usual.
7. Albert Pujols-Pujols did have a bad season (for him), but luck played a huge part of that. I’d expect something of a rebound next year, despite the fact that he had an All-Star level season this year. In this case, I think the tiebreaker that got Pujols this high on my ballot was playing for the Cardinals. Hey, I left Carpenter off my Cy ballot, so I’m allowed a little bit of favoritism.
8. Pablo Sandoval
9. Andrew McCutchen
10. Shane Victorino-Again, I’m not really sure how I filled out the rest of this ballot. I think Sandoval and McCutchen got my vote for being young stars (similar to my Alex Gordon vote), with Sandoval also getting helped by being a third baseman. I’m not sure why Victorino got my last spot; he had a great season, but I’m not sure what the tiebreaker was the got him on to my ballot. I probably actually decided that he had the best season among those I hadn’t voted for yet. I remember considering putting Lance Berkman in this spot also, but I think I decided one favoritism vote was enough.
I might have one more Awards post in me, but for now, the main thrust of the Awards Season is over.