2019 is the first year I’ve been a member of the Internet Baseball Writer’s Association of America. Long story short, every year the IBWAA members vote on Major League Baseball awards that mirror those of the Baseball Writer’s Association of America. In reality, the IBWAA awards are for our own gratification, the winners may not even know they won after all. While the IBWAA awards may not carry the import or cache of the BBWAA awards, it’s still a cool exercise to find out what a sizeable collection of baseball writers think of the most recent regular MLB season.
There are some caveats with these awards. They are MLB only awards for the regular season only. Personally I wish the awards were for the entirety of the MLB season (as in regular season and playoffs) but I am well aware that my feelings on the playoff results being integrated into regular season results are in the minority. The awards are for Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, Manager of the Year, and Reliever of the Year. There are American League and National League winners for every award, and going down the list voters are allowed to nominate, per league, 10 players for MVP, 5 for Cy Young, and 3 players each Rooke and Reliever, plus 3 managers for MotY.
I waited until the last possible minute to turn my ballot in, mainly because I believe that every at-bat and pitch should count towards who wins. I also made my selections using the statistics that I tend to rely on heavily: bWAR, DRC+, DRA, and DRS. I don’t think stats are the end all and be all though, and sometimes there is more to a selection that just the stats. I’m not one to mince words about valuable and best though, because the best player is the most valuable, simple as that. With all that being said, here are the folks I voted for,
As far as MVP Goes, there’s Trout, and then there’s everyone else. His late-season foot injury made it a smidge closer, but not all that much. Semien places as high as he does because not only is his production close to Bregman, Betts, etc. but in totality, I think he’s far more important to the success of the Oakland Athletics than Bregman is to the success of the Houston Astros, for example. Moncada and Devers are both examples of how I don’t put a lot of stock in a team’s results, they were among the 10 best players in the AL, period.
My Cy Young vote came down to an issue of dominance. Verlander and Cole were neck and neck in just about every category, but in terms of game-by-game down the stretch performance, Cole had a slight edge. Barely, but enough to earn the award. The Chicago White Sox may have been terrible and the Texas Rangers were never true contenders, but Giolito and Lynn were great pitchers all year long.
The AL RotY was supposed to be Vladimir Guerrero Jr’s to lose, and well, that turned out to be half right. Guerrero struggled, while Álvarez and Arraez both came out of the gate on fire. Neither really let up either, and that’s why they completely lapped Guerrero in performance this year. Means may not have lapped Guerrero, but he was far more consistent and thus more deserving of a vote.
If Nick Anderson had been with the Tampa Bay Rays all year Reliever of the Year would have been his in a landslide. He’s simply on another level as far as relievers in 2019 are concerned. This is an AL specific award though, and that’s why Hendricks takes home the trophy despite being slightly less dominant than Anderson. Tommy Kahnle is the least heralded member of the New York Yankees super bullpen. He’s also been the most durable and the most trusted, and it’s that lack of low lows that gets him into the third spot.
Boone won the division, that’s why he gets the award over Cash. Baldelli was fantastic as the first-year manager of the Minnesota Twins. He didn’t have to deal with the injuries that Boone and Cash did though, and that makes a big difference. Cash actually dealt with more impactful injuries than Boone did, but he didn’t win the division, Boone did and that’s why he gets AL Manager of the Year.
|4||Ronald Acuña Jr.|
I’m sure Milwaukee Brewers fans are upset to see Yellich in the two-hole. I get it, he had more bWAR than Rendon. Only by a scant amount though, and Rendon deserves the lion’s share of the credit for the Washington Nationals offensive turnaround. When he needed to he took his game to another level and made everyone else around him better in the process. The rest of the list is pretty status quo, with the possible exception of Flaherty being listed and Arenado being so low. Flaherty may not have been the best pitcher in the NL, but he was the most valuable to his team. Arenado had more bWAR than everyone on the list, but so much of that is tied up into defense and I’m not yet ready to trust the defensive metrics on a year-to-year basis wholeheartedly.
All year long Stephen Strasburg was the best pitcher in the NL. He was overshadowed by his own teammate at times, but he was better. The early-season dominance of Hyun-Jin Ryu coupled with the same in the second half of the season by Flaherty made Strasburg easy to lose in the shuffle. Yet, from first pitch to last pitch no one put up better overall numbers than Strasburg. Darvish may shock some, but DRA was high on him all year long and fell in love with him as he found his form after the All-Star break.
|3||Fernando Tatís Jr.|
I thought NL RotY was a two-player race for the majority of the year. Then Tatís went and got hurt again. That ensured Alonso was the runaway candidate. Tatís may end up being the better overall player throughout their careers, but his injuries can’t be overlooked. Soroka was great, but he can’t match the raw offense put up by Alonso.
Brewers fans are ready to gripe yet again, but I couldn’t justify putting Josh Hader on this list when he’s been very fallible all year long. At times he was his usual dominant self and he racked up impressive numbers. He also blew a number of saves and looked anything but dominant most of the season. Contrast that with Yates, who shone like hell on a San Diego Padres team stocked full of talent ready to shine. Yates took one pitch, his splitter, and became the rock that the Padres could count on night in and night out. Gallegos was the best set-up man in baseball, the only true mainstay in a St. Louis Cardinals bullpen racked by injuries and inconsistency. I have a soft spot for a throwback pitcher, thus I have a soft spot for Seth Lugo. He’s more akin to a 1980s closer who is going to pitch multiple innings every time out. That he was able to slowly earn the trust of his team despite an all-world closer in Edwin Díaz (struggles aside, it’s hard to push aside that much talent) being present speaks volumes to the year Lugo had.
The Arizona Diamondbacks didn’t make the playoffs, but they weren’t supposed to do that anyway. Torey Lovullo saw his all-star first baseman be traded away in the offseason and the ace of his staff was sent packing at the trade deadline. Yet, the entire time Lovullo used the players at his disposal and navigated the Diamondbacks to a hair’s breadth from a playoff spot. Shildt and Martinez both took fringe contenders and made them into legit contenders. The only knock against either manager is that their respective teams should probably have been legit contenders in the first place.
There you have it, feel free to gripe away. The players who do win the awards, usually released via Twitter sometime after the World Series, may never know they won. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have fun filling out my ballot, no matter how much you may disagree. Now, to one day get an actual complete season award system in play…
Lead photo courtesy of Internet Baseball Writer’s Association of America