It is 2016 on MLB Monday as we go back a mere handful of years to re-assess the major awards doled out. Every year is quite interesting, of course, and we love doing this. In fact, when we’re done with this miniseries in a few weeks, we will have to figure out what to do next. Gold Gloves? Playoff MVPs? So many options, so little time!
In the meantime, enjoy this entry in this miniseries …
2016 AL MVP: Mike Trout (original, confirmed)
Well, this is an open-and-shut case, as Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (10.5 WAR) won the vote at the time, and his season is both historic and defensively appropriate (1.0 dWAR). Never mind that the Angels won just 74 games: Trout gets to keep his trophy, much to the chagrin of Boston Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts (9.5), who could have been the beneficiary of a different situation.
This is the second MVP nod from us for Trout, and here are the numbers: AL-high 123 runs, 116 walks, and a .441 OBP, plus 29 HRs, 100 RBI, 30 SBs, a .315 average, and a .991 OPS. Trout was only 24 years old at this point in time, so we’re thinking there may be more of these ahead, but you never know.
2016 NL MVP: Kris Bryant (original, confirmed)
Only one player from the senior circuit finished in the MLB Top 10 for WAR: Chicago Cubs utility man Kris Bryant (7.3 WAR). Coincidentally, last year, we took Bryant’s NL ROTY vote win away. Will be do the same with Bryant’s NL MVP vote win this season? Well, Bryant did have a positive glove (0.8 dWAR), so there’s that. Yet the Cubs won the NL Central by 17.5 games, so maybe there is room for someone else here.
But who? No other player from a playoff team finished within 1.5 WAR of Bryant in the National League, so that’s good enough for us here. His stat line: 121 runs (best in the league), 39 HRs, 102 RBI, .939 OPS, and 334 TBs. He split time at third base, left field, and right field for the NL champs—who went on to win their first World Series since 1908.
2016 AL Cy Young: Rick Porcello (original), Corey Kluber (revised)
Boston veteran Rick Porcello (4.7 WAR) somehow won the AL Cy vote, as too many ballots just listed him at the top thanks to a 22-4 record. But we won’t be that shallow, as you know. The real contenders here are Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander (7.4), Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber (5.6), and Tigers rookie Michael Fulmer (5.4). Detroit missed the postseason, while Cleveland did not—making this easy.
Kluber won the AL Cy vote in 2014, but we took that one away: We give him this one for helping the Tribe to an AL Central Division title. His numbers—18-9, 3.14 ERA, a 1.056 WHIP, and an AL-high 2 shutouts—are good enough in a down year for pitchers. The 227 Ks in just 215 IP don’t hurt, either. Porcello did win our 2009 AL ROTY nod, though, so he’s fine.
2016 NL Cy Young: Max Scherzer (original), Clayton Kershaw (revised)
We have a mess here, as Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer (6.2 WAR)—who won the AL Cy nod from us in 2014 at Kluber’s expense—won the NL Cy vote this time out. However, his rotation mate Tanner Roark (5.5) was also a contender, so they’re both out as the Nats won the NL East by 8 games over the New York Mets.
Teammates from the Cubs—Jon Lester (5.6) and Kyle Hendricks (5.4)—are also out, despite the Cubs’ NL Central title. That leaves us with Los Angeles Dodgers legend Clayton Kershaw (5.8), St. Louis Cardinals youngster Carlos Martínez (5.6), and San Francisco Giants veteran Johnny Cueto (5.5). The Cards missed the postseason by 1 game, finishing just behind the Mets and the Giants for the wild card.
The Dodgers won the NL West by 4 games over San Francisco, so this means Kershaw was the better difference maker than Cueto, in terms of both teams could have missed the postseason without their best starters—and Kershaw’s WAR mark is higher (albeit it not by much). That’s just the way it goes here. This is the fourth time we’ve given Kershaw a Cy nod here (2011, 2012, 2013).
His numbers: In only 21 starts, Kershaw posted a 12-4 record with a 1.69 ERA and a 0.725 WHIP, which is pretty insane. He still topped the NL with 3 shutouts, though, and Kershaw allowed just 0.5 HR and 0.7 BB per 9 IP over those 21 starts while striking out 10.4 batters per 9 IP. That’s a lot of WAR, too, so you only can imagine if he had been healthy the whole year.
2016 AL ROTY: Michael Fulmer (original, confirmed)
Fulmer won the AL ROTY vote, and the next-best rookie was New York Yankees catcher Gary Sánchez (3.0 WAR), as the Bronx Bombers didn’t make the postseason, either. The Tigers finished 2 games better than the Yankees did, in fact, so Fulmer keeps his hardware for the following line: 11-7, 3.06 ERA, 1.119 WHIP, and 132 Ks in 26 starts.
2016 NL ROTY: Corey Seager (original, confirmed)
With 5.2 WAR, Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager won the NL ROTY vote, and we confirm it, based on comparable logic to the Kershaw analysis above. The next rookie playing for a playoff team managed just 3.3 WAR (Washington UTL Trea Turner). Seager’s defense was barely enough (0.1 dWAR) to keep the hardware, too. His bat—an .877 OPS with 26 HRs, 72 RBI, and 54 walks for a .308 average—was better.