With the 2014 postseason well underway, it is once again time to unveil my picks for baseball’s best. The Baseball Bloggers Alliance has asked members to submit a ballot for the annual BBA Awards, which are a little bit different from the traditional ones. There are five awards up for grabs – one each for top rookie, manager, reliever, pitcher, and player (notice the award is for TOP player, not most VALUABLE player). While some of the awards are brutally obvious (Mr. Kershaw for best pitcher?), the others are very, very tight.
So without further ado, I present to you the 2014 500 Level Fan BBA Award Ballot!
Connie Mack Award – Top Manager
1. Mike Scioscia – LA Angels
After badly disappointing in 2013, Scioscia guided the Angels to the best record in the American League in 2014. Having baseball’s best player certainly helps, but Scioscia had to navigate through a terrible bullpen early on, a major injury to Josh Hamilton, and the loss of 2/5 of the starting rotation (Skaggs and Richards). He gets my vote.
2. Buck Showalter – Baltimore Orioles
Played most of the season without Machado, Davis, and Wieters, and re-jigged the bullpen on the fly to coast to an AL East title.
3. Ned Yost – Kansas City Royals
Seemed to make questionable moves quite often, and often infuriated fans with his love of bunting. But there’s something to be said about a manager who leads the worst power hitting team in baseball to its first playoff birth in 29 years.
1. Don Mattingly – Los Angeles Dodgers
Yes the Dodgers had the biggest payroll in the game, but it’s tough to actually deliver when much is expected of you. Add the fact that Kershaw missed a month, Puig being Puig, and having to fit four premium outfielders into three spots, and Mattingly did a great job.
2. Clint Hurdle – Pittsburgh Pirates
For a good part of the year the Pirates made last year’s playoff run look like a fluke. But Hurdle kept fighting and led the Bucs to a second straight Wild Card spot.
3. Matt Williams – Washington Nationals
Rookie manager took over a talented team that badly disappointed last year. Result? A runaway NL East crown.
Willie Mays Award – Top Rookie
1. Jose Abreu – Chicago White Sox
The numbers were staggering for any player, let alone a rookie: 36 HR, 107 RBI, 35 2B, .964 OPS. And he missed 17 games too! No brainer.
2. Masahiro Tanaka – New York Yankees
It was his award to lose early on, but an elbow injury limited him to only 20 starts. Those starts were memorable however: 13-5, 2.77 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 141 Ks while playing in pressure packed Yankee Stadium.
3. Matt Shoemaker – Los Angeles Angels
Came out of nowhere to put up a 16-4 record with a 3.26 ERA for the AL West champions – massive after the injuries to Tyler Skaggs and Garrett Richards.
1. Jacob deGrom – New York Mets
Made just 22 starts, but had a dynamite year for the surprising Mets with a 2.69 ERA and 144 strikeouts. Will be part of a terrific young rotation in 2015.
2. Billy Hamilton – Cincinnati Reds
The Reds badly disappointed in 2014, but Hamilton certainly didn’t. A .250 average was much better than anticipated, and he added 56 stolen bases. He might have to do something about the 23 times caught stealing, however.
3. Ken Giles – Philadelphia Phillies
The 23-year old looks like a closer-of-the-future for Philadelphia. Posted a 1.18 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, and 64 Ks in 45.2 IP.
Goose Gossage Award – Top Reliever
1. Greg Holland – Kansas City Royals
The bullpen was one of the key reasons why KC ended its long playoff drought, and the anchor of that ‘pen was Holland. He saved 46 games and put up a 1.44 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and 90 K in 62.1 IP.
2. Wade Davis – Kansas City Royals
Acting as Holland’s setup man, Davis was unbelievable. In 72 IP he struck out 109 batters and posted a 1.00 ERA and 0.85 WHIP. Perhaps the Royals didn’t lose the Wil Myers trade after all….
3. Dellin Betances – New York Yankees
That’s right – two non-closers make my top-3. Betances was unreal for the Yankees in 2014 with a 5-0 record, 1.40 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, and a staggering 135 K in 90 IP.
1. Craig Kimbrel – Atlanta Braves
Kimbrel takes this award for the fourth straight year on my ballot after leading the NL in saves yet again with 47. He actually put up his worst numbers since 2011, but when your worst numbers are a 1.61 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and 95 K in 61.2 IP, you’re pretty solid.
2. Aroldis Chapman – Cincinnati Reds
He just keeps dominating: 36 saves, a 2.00 ERA, and an absolutely ridiculous 17.7 K/9 (106 K in 54 IP).
3. Kenley Jansen – Los Angeles Dodgers
Jansen anchored a sometimes shaky Dodgers bullpen with 44 saves, 101 Ks, and a 2.76 ERA.
Walter Johnson Award – Top Pitcher
1. Felix Hernandez – Seattle Mariners
Unquestionably the best pitcher in the American League. King Felix was absolutely dominant and nearly led the Mariners to the postseason. He topped the league in ERA (2.14), Starts (34), WHIP (0.92), and Hits/9 (6.5), finishing with a 15-6 record, 248 strikeouts, and his seventh straight 200+ IP season.
2. Corey Kluber – Cleveland Indians
In just his second full big league season, Kluber came from seemingly out of nowhere to destroy opposing hitters. With an 18-9 record, 2.44 ERA, and 269 strikeouts, Kluber kept the Indians in contention long after they should have been eliminated, especially in September. In his final five starts he went 5-0, with a 1.12 ERA and 54 Ks.
3. Chris Sale – Chicago White Sox
Sale took his incredible 2013 numbers and nearly bettered them across the board, finishing with a 2.17 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and a league leading 178 ERA+ and 10.8 K/9.
4. Jon Lester – Boston Red Sox / Oakland A’s
Lester started the season in Boston where he was one of the few bright lights on a dismal Red Sox team. After being swapped to Oakland at the deadline, and faced with the immense pressure of trying to lead a collapsing team to the playoffs, Lester delivered big time: 2.35 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, with a complete game shutout in 76.2 IP.
5. David Price – Tampa Bay Rays / Detroit Tigers
Dealt just hours after Lester, Price wasn’t the difference maker that many expected him to be in Detroit. But he finished the season as the AL leader in IP (248.1), and strikeouts (271).
1. Clayton Kershaw – Los Angeles Dodgers
While there is debate about who is the best player in the game, Kershaw is hands down baseball’s best pitcher. His 2014 season was one for the ages. Despite missing all of April, he still topped the league in wins (21), ERA (1.77), Complete Games (6), ERA+ (197), FIP (1.81), WHIP (0.86), K/9 (10.8), and K/BB (7.71). A masterpiece.
2. Johnny Cueto – Cincinnati Reds
Cueto had been knocking on the door of stardom for a while, but he finally broke through in 2014. After injuries limited him to only 11 starts last season, the righty went 20-9, with a 2.25 ERA, and a league leading 242 strikeouts.
3. Adam Wainwright – St. Louis Cardinals
He is emerging as one of baseball’s most dependable starters, after finishing the year with a 20-9 record, 2.38 ERA, and 1.03 WHIP for the division winning Cardinals.
4. Madison Bumgarner – San Francisco Giants
Arguably the least recognizable name on the Giants staff after Cain, Lincecum, Hudson and mid-season acquisition Jake Peavy. But Bumgarner has supplanted them all after his breakout 2014.
5. Cole Hamels – Philadelphia Phillies
Nice bounce back year for the lefty, in an otherwise dismal year for the Phillies. Despite earning only 9 wins, Hamels put up a 2.46 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, and fell just short of 200 Ks.
Stan Musial Award – Top Player
1. Mike Trout – Los Angeles Angels
There should be no debate this year about who wins this award, whether it be Top Player, Most Outstanding Player, or Most Valuable Player. Trout is simply on another planet right now compared to the rest of the league. In a season where he struck out more than ever before (league leading 184), and stole significantly fewer bases (16), Trout still managed to light up the league. He topped the AL in WAR (7.9), Runs (115), RBI (111), and Total Bases (338), and finished in the top-10 in OBP, SLG, OPS, 2B, 3B, and HR. His success also finally turned into team success as he led the Angels to the AL West crown. Oh – and he’s still only 23.
2. Josh Donaldson – Oakland A’s
Second to Trout in WAR at 7.4, Donaldson might have topped him if not for a September swoon. Still, the Oakland 3B maintained his status as one of the best overall players in the game, with a rock solid 2.7 dWAR to go along with 29 HR and a .798 OPS.
3. Victor Martinez – Detroit Tigers
In a relatively down year for Miguel Cabrera, it was Martinez who became the offensive catalyst for Detroit. He led the league in OBP and OPS, and set a career high with 32 HR. He also hit an insane .337 with two strikes.
4. Jose Bautista – Toronto Blue Jays
Kept the Jays on the fringes of the playoffs all year long, as he put up his best season in years. Bautista finished in the top-10 in WAR, OBP, SLG, OPS, Runs, HR, RBI, and Walks.
5. Jose Altuve – Houston Astros
Houston’s sparkplug had a career year, leading the league with 56 stolen bases, 225 hits, and a .341 average.
6. Jose Abreu – Chicago White Sox
7. Nelson Cruz – Baltimore Orioles
8. Michael Brantley – Cleveland Indians
9. Robinson Cano – Seattle Mariners
10. Adrian Beltre – Texas Rangers
1. Clayton Kershaw – Los Angeles Dodgers
I’m not normally a fan of pitchers winning MVP, or in this case Top Player, awards but I think this year qualifies as a special circumstance. Kershaw was just utterly and thoroughly dominant in a season when no position players were utterly and thoroughly dominant. Kershaw topped the entire NL with a 8.0 WAR – miles ahead of second place. He deserves it.
2. Giancarlo Stanton – Miami Marlins
MIght have been his award had a beanball not ended his season in early September. As it is, Stanton led the league in HR with 37, SLG at .555, and total bases with 299. He also finished in the top-3 in WAR, OPS, RBI, and BB.
3. Andrew McCutchen – Pittsburgh Pirates
Another outstanding year for the Pirates CF, and another postseason appearance for the Pirates. McCutchen’s .952 OPS, 7.8 oWAR, and .410 OBP all topped the NL.
4. Jonathan Lucroy – Milwaukee Brewers
The unheralded Brewers catcher quietly put up a terrific year for Milwaukee. He actually led all position players with a 6.7 WAR and 53 doubles, and put up an .837 OPS, all while playing 136 games at baseball’s toughest position.
5. Buster Posey – San Francisco Giants
The former NL MVP, Posey had an excellent year in 2014 (22 HR, .854 OPS, 5.2 WAR). But he really came into his own by hitting .393 with a 1.043 OPS during the heat of the pennant race in September, helping the Giants clinch a Wild Card spot.
6. Russell Martin – Pittsburgh Pirates
7. Anthony Rendon – Washington Nationals
8. Adrian Gonzalez – Los Angeles Dodgers
9. Carlos Gomez – Milwaukee Brewers
10. Justin Morneau – Colorado Rockies