MLB awards week has come and gone, with baseball handing out hardware for 2019’s MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year winners.
Here’s a look at all the award winners, why they won and what their victories mean.
MVP: Mike Trout and Cody Bellinger
Why Trout won AL MVP: It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this one out: Trout won because he’s the best player in baseball. So even though he missed the final three weeks of the season after foot surgery and played 22 fewer games than runner-up Alex Bregman, he hit .291/.438/.636 with 45 home runs, 104 RBIs and 110 runs. He led the AL in OBP, slugging, OPS and OPS+, and finished second in home runs. Oh, he hit .297/.489/.670 with runners in scoring position, .241/.468/.630 in late and close situations and led AL hitters in Win Probability Added. He was in a virtual dead heat with Bregman in WAR (Trout led 8.6 to 8.5 at FanGraphs, Bregman led 8.4 to 8.3 at Baseball-Reference). The voters decided Trout’s statistical dominance was valuable enough — even if his teammates were lousy.
Bregman certainly had an MVP-worthy season. In the past, making the playoffs would have pushed him over the top — missing the playoffs has hurt Trout in previous votes — but voters are starting to lean more and more to a “best player” vote, regardless of how the player’s team finished. Bregman hit .296/.423/.596 with 41 home runs, 112 RBIs, 122 runs, a league-leading 119 walks and even started 59 games at shortstop when Carlos Correa was injured — and showed he could play there on a full-time basis if needed. Via Baseball-Reference WAR, it was the second-best season by a position player in Astros franchise history, behind only Craig Biggio’s 1997 campaign. Bregman’s best two months also came in August and September — long after the Astros had already pulled away in the AL West. — David Schoenfield
NL: Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers
Why Bellinger won NL MVP: Bellinger had one of the best Aprils on record, hitting .431 with 14 home runs and 37 RBIs before the calendar turned to May. While he slowed down a bit after that, his final line of .305/.406/.629 is what an MVP winner’s slash line should look like. Of course, all three of those numbers are slightly worse than Yelich’s 2019 totals. So why is the MVP trophy headed to L.A. instead of Milwaukee? Bellinger played in 26 more games and was clearly the better defender — and that was just enough to sway voters in a very tight race. — Dan Mullen
Who is your overall MLB player of the year?
One way to look at this is, “In 25 years, who will we remember from the 2019 season?” Since none of the MVP candidates were far and away above the others, it’s a muddled answer and maybe we have to turn to the postseason for help (although postseason results aren’t considered in MVP voting). If the Astros had won the World Series, maybe the answer is Gerrit Cole given what he did in October (although he also didn’t win the Cy Young Award).
Maybe we turn then to Anthony Rendon, who finished third in the NL MVP voting and then was Mr. Clutch in the playoffs, hitting .328/.413/.590 with 15 RBIs in 17 games. He also had two big home runs do-or-die games: His home run off Clayton Kershaw in Game 5 of the NL Division Series and then his home run off Zack Greinke in Game 7 of the World Series. Both came in the late innings and closed two-run deficits to one run. He also homered and had five RBIs in Game 6 against the Astros. Rendon is my player of the year. — Schoenfield
I like Dave’s point of how will we remember this season so I’ll start there. For much of the season, the story offensively was Yeli and Belli — Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger — as the two NL stars became the talk of baseball from the start and had us buzzing about their video game numbers and home run pace all season long — and, let’s face it, home run pace is definitely one of the things we’ll remember about 2019 in 25 years.
So which of the NL stars is the Player of the Year? Well, that’s a really good question as you could make a strong case for either. Yelich had a slightly better year at the plate. Yelich had a slightly better year on the base paths. But Bellinger had a much better year in the field. And I think his ability to do that at two positions while playing 30 more games is enough to give him a slight edge as the regular-season answer to this question.
Now, if we’re going to include the postseason as Dave has above … well, October unquestionably belonged to Rendon. — Mullen
Cy Young: Justin Verlander and Jacob deGrom
Why Verlander won the AL Cy Young Award: Verlander won his first Cy Young Award in 2011 and then had second-place finishes in 2012 (to David Price, losing by four points), 2016 (to Rick Porcello, losing by five points even though he had six more first-place votes) and 2018 (losing by 15 points to Blake Snell). In 2012 and 2016, he had the edge over the winner in Baseball-Reference WAR and in 2018 he led the AL in FanGraphs WAR. So this could easily be his fifth Cy Young instead of his second.
Why Verlander over Cole? In a coin flip of a debate, Verlander held two minor edges over Cole: He threw 10⅔ more innings and he held batters to a .171 average versus Cole’s almost-as-ridiculous .185. Verlander also had a slightly lower walk rate, giving him another small edge in OBP allowed. While Cole was dominant over the final four months, winning his last 16 decisions, he wasn’t great the first two months, and Verlander was more consistent with an ERA of 2.51 or lower in five of six months. Throw in a no-hitter, 21 wins and his first 300-strikeout season, and Verlander finally won a close vote. — David Schoenfield
Why deGrom won the Cy Young Award (again):
For much of the season, it seemed like this was Hyun-Jin Ryu’s award to lose … and then the Dodgers ace lost it thanks to a 7.48 August ERA, opening the door for deGrom to win his second straight Cy Young. The Mets ace wasn’t quite as good overall as he was during his incredible 2018 season, but he was pretty close during the second half of the season when he went 7-1 with a 1.44 ERA and help opposing hitters to a .179 batting average after the All-Star break. — Dan Mullen
Whose second Cy Young is more impressive, deGrom’s or Verlander’s?
I’ve got to go with Verlander here. He’s 36 and already a lock Hall of Famer, but this is a big notch for his legacy. Just eight different pitchers (11 total times) have won the award at his age or older, and even though I’m not totally convinced he was the best pitcher on the Astros this season (Cole was really good), that’s the kind of fact that will look very nice on his plaque in Cooperstown one day. Oh, and perhaps most importantly, he saved us from another year of angry Kate Upton awards analysis tweets. — Mullen
Dan stole my punchline. I’ll also go with Verlander, considering he had much tougher competition with teammate Cole than deGrom did in the NL. Cole won 16 decisions in a row, fanned 326 batters, set a record with nine consecutive double-digit strikeout games and bested Pedro Martinez’s single-season record for strikeout. That’s how good Verlander was: He was better than THAT. As for deGrom, Ryu and Scherzer both had bad Septembers and Scherzer also missed time with an injury, opening the door for him to win again. — Schoenfield
Rookie of the Year: Yordan Alvarez and Pete Alonso
Why Alvarez won AL Rookie of the Year:
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was the overwhelming choice as top rookie heading into the season, but this was an easy call for voters, even though Alvarez didn’t make his debut until June 9 — yes, he homered — and spent most of his time at DH. He hit .313/.412/.655 with 27 home runs in 87 games. Prorate his numbers over 150 games, and you get 47 home runs and 134 RBIs. Among players with at least 300 PAs, he ranked behind only Christian Yelich and Mike Trout in wOBA and behind only Trout in wRC+.
It was one of the great rookie offensive performances in the game’s history. Alvarez’s .655 slugging percentage was the highest by a rookie with at least 300 PAs, and only Shoeless Joe Jackson in 1911 had a higher adjusted OPS. Alvarez’s fellow finalists, Brandon Lowe and John Means, both made the All-Star team. Maybe Guerrero or Bo Bichette is the player you would most want for the next decade, but no AL rookie impressed this season like the young Astros slugger did. — David Schoenfield
Why Alonso won NL Rookie of the Year:
Year of the Home Run or not, hitting 53 homers as a rookie is a pretty good way to state your Rookie of the Year case. Alonso wasn’t just the best rookie in the league this year; he was the best offensive first baseman in baseball.
Fellow finalists Mike Soroka and Fernando Tatis Jr. both showed that they’re well on their way to stardom as well, and it would have been interesting to see how ballots would have looked if Tatis stayed healthy all season, but it’s no surprise that Alonso ran away with the voting here. — Dan Mullen
Which Rookie of the Year would you rather have for the next five years?
Sign me up for Pete Alonso. Yordan Alvarez’s numbers in just over half a season project very close to what Alonso did for a full season, and I think the Astros slugger might have even more potential at the plate, but this isn’t just about the numbers. There was an “it” factor to everything Alonso did this season that I’m buying for the face of my franchise. He handled everything that comes with being a Mets phenom in New York while showing a magnetic personality at every chance.
A rookie slugger becoming the Polar Bear, outlasting Vlad Jr. for the Home Run Derby crown, ripping off his shirt during pennant-race celebrations and tearing up on the field after his record-setting 53rd home run — those are some of the best memories of the entire MLB season, and the guy who produced them in his first year in the Big Apple is the guy I want going forward. — Mullen
Dan is spot-on about Alonso having the “it” factor. The way he won over New Yorkers with his enthusiasm, genuineness, prodigious power and bare-chested interviews was impressive and immediately made him one of the faces of the sport. But I’ll take Alvarez over the next five years, even if he is mostly limited to DH (though I think he has enough athleticism to be not awful if he had to play left field on a regular bases). Of course, Alonso isn’t exactly a Gold Glover at first base.
Anyway, the big difference between the two: Alvarez is more than two years younger, so there is still some growth potential with his bat. Alvarez also has an elite hit tool, as evidenced by his .313 average. He hit more line drives and fewer grounders and popups than Alonso, and he had a slightly lower strikeout rate and higher walk rate. Both are going to mash a lot of home runs, but Alvarez is more likely to post the higher batting averages and higher OBPs. — Schoenfield
Manager of the Year: Rocco Baldelli and Mike Shildt
AL: Rocco Baldelli, Minnesota Twins
Runners-up: Aaron Boone, New York Yankees; Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay Rays
Why Baldelli won AL Manager of the Year:
In his first season as Twins skipper, the 38-year-old Baldelli guided the Twins to 101 wins, the second-most since the franchise moved to Minnesota in 1961 (the 1965 team won 102 games). It was a 23-win improvement from 2018, and it gave the Twins their first division title since 2010. The Twins bashed an all-time-record 307 home runs as five players hit 30-plus home runs, and Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano had excellent comeback seasons after disappointing years in 2018.
Baldelli’s best work probably came in coaxing excellent work out of a no-name bullpen. He deployed Taylor Rogers first as a high-leverage setup guy, then as the closer. Trevor May and Tyler Duffey joined Rogers with sub-3.00 ERAs. The Twins held the division lead since April 10 and built their lead to 10 games, but the Indians rallied and caught them on Aug. 9. Baldelli kept the team together, and the Twins finished strong, going 31-15 down the stretch and pulling away by eight games. — Schoenfield
NL: Mike Shildt, St. Louis Cardinals
Runners-up: Craig Counsell, Milwaukee Brewers; Brian Snitker, Atlanta Braves
Why Shildt won NL Manager of the Year:
Shildt’s Cardinals were 44-44 at the All-Star break before they rode a strong second half to St. Louis’ first NL Central crown and playoff berth since 2015. If one series can win you this award, the Cardinals’ four-game sweep of the Cubs in September at Wrigley — with all four victories coming by one run — might have done just that for the second-year skipper.
Shildt’s Cardinals committed the fewest errors in the National League, led the NL in stolen bases and got strong starting pitching — especially from ace Jack Flaherty — as they edged the Cubs and Brewers in a tight NL Central race. — Mullen
Which active manager would you most want in charge of your team?
You know what’s funny? No manager who won 100 games has won a manager of the year award since Lou Piniella in 2001, when the Mariners won 116 games. My point is that sometimes we overlook the managers who have the most talent — AJ Hinch, Dave Roberts, Aaron Boone, Alex Cora, Dave Martinez, Terry Francona (Boston days) — and give extra credit to the guys who seemingly do a lot with less — Kevin Cash, Bob Melvin, Craig Counsell, Terry Francona (Cleveland days). All those guys are good managers. Any of them can run my fictional team.
The manager role today is much different than that of the managers of 30 or 40 years ago. Earl Weaver rarely spoke to his players. Communication with players now is arguably the most important part of the job, along with communicating the organization’s goals and vision to the media. All those guys are good at that. Forced to pick, I’ll go with AJ Hinch. He has experienced failure (he was fired in Arizona), which I think is important. He has developed young players, which is important as today’s game gets younger and younger. He is polished and smart with the media, and when the Astros were suffering an organizational meltdown at the start of the World Series after the clubhouse incident in the ALCS, Hinch was the one guy who immediately said, “This is wrong.” He commands respect, with a physical presence that reminds me of Joe Torre. Oh, he has also won 100 games three years in a row. — Schoenfield
Let’s see. If I’m managing a team, these are the characteristics I value most: ability to communicate the team’s message internally and to the media/public, ability to manage a pitching staff, ability to combine analytics and traditional scouting, ability to handle adversity.
A lot of managers check some of the boxes. But Craig Counsell is the one guy I know who can do everything here because he has been asked to and has succeeded, with back-to-back playoff appearances in Milwaukee. — Mullen