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Analysis: Hurdle, McCutchen favorites for MLB awards

| Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, 9:41 p.m.
Christopher Horner
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle watches his team at spring training Monday, Feb. 18, 2013, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.

Baseball's awards season is under way. The Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers already have been handed out. Pirates pitcher Francisco Liriano was named comeback player of the year by and The Sporting News.

This week, the game's top prizes — MLB's four official, major awards honoring the top rookie, manager, pitcher and most valuable player in the American and National Leagues — will be announced. These four awards are voted upon by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Three Tribune-Review writers — Rob Biertempfel (NL MVP), Travis Sawchik (NL Cy Young) and Dejan Kovacevic (NL manager) — cast ballots this year.

The winners will be announced during four hour-long shows at 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday on MLB Network.

The MVP award has been around since 1931. Five Pirates have won it: Barry Bonds (1990 and ‘92), Willie Stargell (1979, co-winner with Keith Hernandez of the St. Louis Cardinals), Dave Parker (1978), Roberto Clemente (1966) and Dick Groat (1960).

From 1956-66, there was only one Cy Young Award winner. Pirates right-hander Vern Law won it in 1960. From 1967 on, the award has been given to one pitcher in each league. The only Pirate to claim it in that span was Doug Drabek in 1990.

There was only one Rookie of the Year awarded in 1947 and ‘48. After that, the award was split up by league. In 2004, Jason Bay became the first, and still only, Pirate to win it.

The Manager of the Year award was created in 1983. Jim Leyland is the only Pirates skipper to win, taking the honor in 1990 and ‘92.

National League Rookie of the Year

Winner announced: Monday

Predicted winner: Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins

Just two years after the Marlins drafted him with the 14th overall pick, Fernandez did more than merely earn a rotation spot in spring training. He was their lone All-Star rep and arguably their most exciting player. The righty went 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA and a 0.979 WHIP. He averaged 9.7 strikeouts and a league-best 5.8 hits per nine innings pitched. Those numbers are strikingly similar to guy who dazzled as a rookie back in 1984 — Dwight Gooden.

Other finalists:

If he had debuted in April instead of June, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig would have a stronger case for the award. Some voters will hesitate to support a non-pitcher who played in fewer than 120 games. But Puig's low games-played total is party due to his hard-nosed — some might say reckless — playing style that leads to bumps, bruises and bench time. He batted .319 with a .925 OPS, hit 19 homers, and collected 42 RBI and 11 stolen bases.

Shelby Miller won 14 game, the most by a St. Louis Cardinals rookie since Dick Hughes won 16 in 1967. Miller ranks third among Cards rookies with 169 strikeouts, trailing only Rick Ankiel (194 in 2000) and Dizzy Dean (191 in 1932).

Player Position Age G WAR

Jose Fernandez SP 21 28 4.2

Yasiel Puig OF 22 104 4.0

Shelby Miller SP 23 31 2.1

Note: Wins above replacement computed by

American League Rookie of the Year

Winner announced: Monday

Predicted winner: Wil Myers, Tampa Bay Rays

The crop of rookies in the AL wasn't as deep as the NL group, but that does not diminish Myers' performance. After a late callup — Myers played in only 88 games — he put up a .293 average with 13 homers, 53 RBI and an .831 OPS. Not coincidentally, the Rays were from three games over .500 before Myers' arrival and 18 games over .500 after he joined the team.

Other finalists:

It's rare that a ROY candidate is traded during the season. The Detroit Tigers got shortstop Jose Iglesias from the Boston Red Sox at the trade deadline after Jhonny Peralta was suspended. Iglesias had more success at the plate with the Red Sox than he did with the Tigers, but still wound up batting a combined .303 with a .735 OPS. He's a plus defender and also can play third base.

Right-hander Chris Archer was traded twice before making his big league debut. He pitched in only six games last year, maintaining his rookie eligibility in 2013. In 23 starts, Archer went 9-7 with a 3-22 ERA and a 1.127 WHIP.

Player Position Age G WAR

Chris Archer SP 25 23 1.2

Jose Iglesias SS 23 109 1.8

Wil Myers OF 22 88 2.4

Note: Wins above replacement computed by

National League Manager of the Year

Winner announced: Tuesday

Predicted winner: Clint Hurdle, Pirates

The NL Central arguably was MLB's toughest division and the Pirates spent every day after June 21 in either first or second place. Voters likely also were swayed by the team's backstory — 20 consecutive losing seasons, one of the lowest payrolls in the game, and the development of young standouts such as Andrew McCutchen (more about him a minute), league home run leader Pedro Alvarez and rookie phenom Gerrit Cole. Hurdle helped shape the roster, maintained morale and focus to avoid slumps, and got players to buy into the defensive shifts and the trust-the-fielders pitching approach.

Other finalists:

Don Mattingly engineered a dramatic turnaround with the Dodgers, who were at the bottom of the NL West in June. Mattingly had a $220 million roster to work with, but had to overcome a rash of injuries. There was never one, entire game when stars Shawn Kemp, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig all were available.

For the second time in his three seasons with the Atlanta Braves, Fredi Gonzalez took his team into the playoffs. Considered underdogs in the NL East going into the season, the Braves racked up 96 wins (their most since 2004) and ran away with the division title.

Manager, team W-L Pct.

Fredi Gonzalez, Braves 96-66 .593

Clint Hurdle, Pirates 94-68 .580

Don Mattingly, Dodgers 92-70 .568

American League Manager of the Year

Winner announced: Tuesday

Predicted winner: John Farrell, Boston Red Sox

Winning the World Series won't help Farrell win this award, as all the ballots were cast before the playoffs began. No matter. Farrell did enough during the regular season to capture the honor. He guided the Red Sox to 97 victories, 28 more than they had last season under Bobby Valentine. Farrell was very familiar with his personnel the minute he took the job — he was Boston's pitching coach for four years before managing the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011-12.

Other finalists:

In his first season with Cleveland, Terry Francona led the Indians to their first playoff berth since 2007. The team showed a 24-win improvement over 2012, which matched the biggest jump in franchise history. Although he won two World Series and made five playoff appearances with the Boston Red Sox, Francona has never been voted manager of the year.

Bob Melvin of the Oakland A's was the AL manager of the year in 2012. He also won the NL portion of the award in 2007, when he was with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Athletics were two wins better this season compared to 2012 and won the AL West by 5 12 games. For the second year in a row, they lost the ALDS in five games to the Tigers.

Manager, team W-L Pct.

John Farrell, Red Sox 97-65 .599

Terry Francona, Indians 92-70 .568

Bob Melvin, Athletics 96-66 .593

National League Cy Young Award

Winner announced: Wednesday

Predicted winner: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

This one is a no-brainer. Kershaw logged the majors' lowest ERA since 2005, when Roger Clemens put up a 1.87. This is the third straight year Kershaw owned the best ERA in the majors. The lefty also led all starters and relievers in the big leagues with a 6.5 WAR. Only 25 years old, Kershaw won the Cy Young in 2011 and was the runner-up last year. So, here's a scary thought: Kershaw probably is still another couple of years away from reaching his peak.

Other finalists:

In the NL Division Series against the Cardinals, the Pirates got a good look at what makes Adam Wainwright such a special pitcher. The righty has a mid-90s mph fastball, a plus changeup and a fantastic curveball. Wainwright made a career-high 34 starts, led the NL with 241 23 innings pitched, was tied for the league lead in wins and placed third with 219 strikeouts.

The future is bright for rookie Jose Fernandez. Just 21 years old, the righty began the year as the Marlins' top-ranked prospect, then made the rotation out of spring training and earned a spot on the All-Star team. He was shut down in early September to limit his innings count.


Jose Fernandez 28 12-6 0 2.19 0.98 9.75 .240 4.2

Clayton Kershaw 33 16-9 0 1.83 8.85 0.92 .251 6.5

Adam Wainwright 34 19-9 0 2.94 1.07 8.16 .305 6.2

Notes: BABIP is batting average on balls in play. Wins above replacement computed by

American League Cy Young Award

Winner announced: Wednesday

Predicted winner: Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers

The right-hander was the only pitcher this season to reach 20 victories and he led the majors with an .875 winning percentage. Scherzer could become just the fourth Tigers pitcher to win the award, joining Justin Verlander (2011), Willie Hernandez (1984) and Denny McClain (1968 and ‘69).

Other finalists:

In his second season in the majors after coming over from Japan, right-hander Yu Darvish settled in nicely. Darvish led the league in strikeouts (277) and battingaverage against (.194) and was fourth in ERA and WHIP. Darvish and Ferguson Jenkins (second in 1974) are the only Rangers to finish among the top three in Cy Young voting.

In his first full season as a starter in the majors, Hisashi Iwakuma set a Seattle Mariners record with a 1.006 WHIP. The 32-year-old righty would've flirted with the 20-win mark, but took no-decisions in six starts in which he worked at least six innings without allowing an earned run.


Yu Darvish 32 13-9 2.83 1.073 11.89 .264 5.0

Hisashi Iwakuma 33 14-6 2.66 1.006 7.58 .252 4.2

Max Scherzer 32 21-3 2.90 0.970 10.08 .259 6.4

Notes: BABIP is batting average on balls in play. Wins above replacement computed by

National League Most Valuable Player

Winner announced: Thursday

Predicted winner: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates

Last year, McCutchen finished third behind Buster Posey and Ryan Braun in the MVP voting. Now, McCutchen is the frontrunner, even though his stats were down slightly compared to the previous season. The difference is the performance of the Pirates, who faded in the second half of the 2012 season. This year, McCutchen led them into the playoffs for the first time in a generation. He set career highs in doubles (38), OBP (.404) and outfield assists (11). McCutchen also ranked among the NL leaders in practically every offensive category, including batting average (seventh, .317), hits (third, 185), multi-hit games (second, 59), runs (sixth, 97), total bases (fifth, 296), walks (fourth, 78) and slugging percentage (sixth, .508).

Other finalists:

Paul Goldschmidt led the NL in homers (36), on-base plus slugging percentage (.952), extra-base hits (75), RBI (125), runs created (134) and total bases (332). Although the Arizona Diamondbacks did not win the NL West, the MVP has come from a second-place team 19 times. Of the past 20 NL MVPs, 11 have come from division winners and seven from second-place teams.

Yadier Molina was a sparkplug in the Cardinals' lineup and also was a big reason for the success of the team's rotation and bullpen. Molina hit 44 doubles, which is a franchise record for by catcher and ranked him second overall in the NL. He also ranked among the league leaders in batting average with runners in scoring position (sixth, .373), multi–hit games (seventh, 50), three–

hit games (fifth, 14) and four–hit games (third, four).

Player, position G Avg HR RBI OPS WAR

Goldschmidt, 1B 160 .302 36 125 .952 6.4

McCutchen, CF 157 .317 21 84 .911 8.2

Molina, C 136 .319 12 80 .836 5.6

Note: Wins above replacement computed by

American League Most Valuable Player

Winner announced: Thursday

Predicted winner: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

He did not repeat as a Triple Crown winner, but Cabrera still proved himself the most dangerous hitter in the game. He won the batting title and finished second in homers and RBI. Cabrera also put up career-best figures in WAR and slugging percentage (.636). His final totals might have been even better, if injuries hadn't checked him to 21 games and a .278 average over the final month of the season

Other finalists:

That is not a misprint. Mike Trout's WAR this season was a whopping 10.4, more than two points higher than any other player in the majors. But the Los Angeles Angels were one of this season's biggest flops and managed only 78 wins despite Trout's brilliance.

The Texas Rangers are sorry they gave up on Chris Davis, who's blossomed into a big-time slugger with the Baltimore Orioles. Since being traded midway through the 2011 season, Davis has whacked 88 homers. This year, he led the majors in home runs and RBI.

Player, position G Avg HR RBI OPS WAR

Mike Trout, OF 157 .323 27 97 0.998 10.4

Miguel Cabrera, 1B/3B 148 .348 44 137 1.078 7.6

Chris Davis, 1B 160 .286 53 138 1.004 6.8

Note: Wins above replacement computed by

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