MLB Awards Primer: Looking at favourites for hardware

Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career in 2017. (Nathan Denette/CP)

Before we fully transition to the juicy portion of baseball’s off-season, the hotstove, we must first get through the important task of handing out hardware.

Think of it as the appetizer before a winter full of nourishing news, rumours and speculation.

MLB will hand out its main awards this month, so here’s a look at some of the favourites.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Aaron Judge
.284/.422/.627 | 52 HR | 114 RBI | 8.2 wins above replacement
Judge is looking to join Fred Lynn (1975) and Ichiro Suzuki (2001) as the only players to ever win MVP and rookie honours in the same year. The first-year award is the easy part as Judge is a lock.

Andrew Benintendi
.271/.352/.424 | 20 HR | 90 RBI | 2.2 wins above replacement
The 23-year-old was one of the most important players in the Red Sox lineup and is just scratching the surface of his abilities. Any other year and Benintendi would be the shoe-in.

Honourable mention: Yuli Gurriel

CY YOUNG

Corey Kluber
2.25 ERA | 203.2 innings | 265 strikeouts | 36 walks | 7.3 wins above replacement
A monster second half has Kluber poised to snatch this award from Chris Sale, who looked like the favourite for much of 2017. Kluber led the league in ERA, WHIP (0.87), and, for what it’s worth, wins (18).

Chris Sale
2.90 ERA | 214.1 innings | 308 strikeouts | 43 walks | 7.7 wins above replacement
Sale’s first year in Boston was a major success — he authored his finest season to date and quickly became the team’s unquestioned ace in the absence of David Price. However, the strikeout artist faded slightly over his final eight starts (4.30 ERA), likely costing him that elusive first Cy Young.

Honourable mentions: Luis Severino, Carlos Carrasco

MVP

Aaron Judge
.284/.422/.627 | 52 HR | 114 RBI | 8.2 wins above replacement
This is as tight a race as you’ll find. Judge produced superior power numbers than Altuve and, by some measures, was a more valuable hitter — his .430 wOBA and 173 wRC+ trump Altuve’s marks of .405 and 160. What could doom the rookie’s MVP hopes, though, is that he led MLB in strikeouts and essentially disappeared for a six-week stretch during the season.

Jose Altuve
.346/.410/.547| 24 HR | 81 RBI | 7.5 wins above replacement
While Altuve lags behind in run creation, he was remarkably consistent, posting an OPS of at least .832 in each month. His 204 hits were most in the AL, his 32 stolen bases ranked third and Altuve’s one of the toughest players in the league to strike out.

Honourable mentions: Mike Trout, Jose Ramirez

MANAGER OF THE YEAR

Paul Molitor
Team record: 85-77 | Tenure with current club: Three seasons
Molitor will likely win this award for shepherding a young Twins team to a wild-card spot. In doing so, Minnesota became the first club to ever follow a 100-loss campaign with a post-season berth.

Terry Francona
Team record: 102-60 | Tenure with current club: Five seasons
The veteran skipper took a 94-win club and improved it by eight games in 2017. Francona’s deft touch was highlighted during the Indians’ 22-game win streak, which set a new AL record.

Honourable mention: A.J. Hinch

NATIONAL LEAGUE

MVP

Giancarlo Stanton
.281/.376/.631 | 59 HR | 132 RBI | 6.9 wins above replacement

Stanton’s historic season will garner plenty of love from voters. After all, he became just the sixth player to ever reach the 59-homer mark.

Joey Votto
.320/.454/.578 | 36 HR | 100 RBI | 6.6 wins above replacement

Stanton’s surface stats are gaudy but if you dig deeper, you could make the argument Votto had the superior season. The 34-year-old led the league in a number of offensive categories, including walks (134), wOBA (.428), OBP (.454) and OPS (1.032). Perhaps more impressive is Votto dramatically reduced his strikeout clip to a career-low 11.7 per cent during a season in which whiffs were at an all-time high in baseball.

Charlie Blackmon
.331/.399/.601 | 37 HR | 104 RBI | 6.5 wins above replacement

If voters adhere to the MVP-must-be-on-a-contender standard, then Blackmon might be their pick as he was the best hitter on a Rockies team that earned a wild-card berth. However, should those voters take a stance on players who hit at Coors Field, then Blackmon’s chances will decrease — his home-road splits are markedly different.

Honourable mentions: Anthony Rendon, Kris Bryant

CY YOUNG

Max Scherzer
2.51 ERA | 200.2 innings | 268 strikeouts | 55 walks | 6.0 wins above replacement

Scherzer won the 2016 Cy Young award and was, in many respects, an improved pitcher this year. He lowered his ERA and home run rate, while upping his strikeout clip to 12.02 K/9 — the best of mark of his career. His standout stat from 2017? Scherzer held batters to a .176 average, the lowest mark among qualified starters.

Clayton Kershaw
2.31 ERA | 175 innings | 202 strikeouts | 30 walks | 4.6 wins above replacement

Kershaw will get votes because, well, he’s Clayton Kershaw. While he did capture his fifth ERA title, the left-hander may be docked some votes for the chunk of starts he missed with a back injury.

Honourable mentions: Zack Greinke, Stephen Strasburg

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Cody Bellinger
.267/.352/.581| 39 HR | 97 RBI | 4.0 wins above replacement

Like Judge, Bellinger is the unanimous pick. The 22-year-old mashed 39 dingers despite making his major-league debut on April 25. He’ll bring rookie honours to the Dodgers for the second straight season after teammate Corey Seager reeled in the 2016 trophy.

Josh Bell
.255/.334/.466 | 26 HR | 90 RBI | 0.8 wins above replacement
The second-round pick from the 2011 draft was given a full-time role this season and rewarded the Pirates by becoming one of their main offensive contributors.

Honourable mentions: Paul DeJong, Rhys Hoskins

MANAGER OF THE YEAR

Torey Lovullo
Team record: 93-69 | Tenure with current club: One season

The first-year manager helped change the outlook of the organization, helping it reach the playoffs for the first time since 2011. He got the most out of a talented roster and silenced any questions about whether the D-backs should trade their star players.

Craig Counsell
Team record: 86-76 | Tenure with current club: Two-and-a-half seasons

The Brewers surprised everybody by accelerating their rebuild in 2017 and coming just shy of a wild-card berth. They made life hell for the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals for most of the season and will only get better.

Honourable mention: Dave Roberts