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Baseball writers hand out NL and AL awards

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With the World Series over, MLB’s 2016 award season is in full swing. This past week, the Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, Most Valuable Player and Manager of the Year awards were handed out for both the National and American Leagues.

It was mostly the usual suspects taking home the awards, although there were a few surprises among them. Corey Seager of the Dodgers and the Tigers’ Michael Fulmer took home the Rookie of the Year for the NL and AL, respectively; the Nationals’ Max Scherzer and Boston’s Rick Porcello won their league’s Cy Young Award; Kris Bryant of the Cubs and Mike Trout of the Angels garnered MVP honors; and the Dodgers’ Dave Roberts and Cleveland’s Terry Francona were named their league’s respective Manager of the Year.

Seager winning the NL Rookie of the Year was perhaps the most predictable of all of the awards. A unanimous choice by voters, the 22-year-old shortstop had a monster rookie season in Los Angeles, hitting .308 while swatting 26 home runs and driving in 72. Nationals outfielder Trea Turner was the runner-up in the voting while Seager’s teammate, starting pitcher Kenta Maeda, came in third.

It appeared for most of the season that Fulmer would be the easy choice for the AL Rookie of the Year. The Tigers acquired Fulmer — who was in Double-A at the time — in a trade deadline deal for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes in 2015, and the 23-year-old right-hander delivered much sooner than expected. Fulmer went 11-7 with a 3.06 ERA while striking out 132 batters over 159 innings. His season was defined by a 33-inning scoreless streak from late May into June; he also gave up one run or fewer in eight consecutive starts. However, despite all that, the runner-up, Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, still gave Fulmer a run for his money when Sanchez hit 20 homers in just 53 games after his call-up in August. Indians outfielder Tyler Naquin placed third in the voting.

Scherzer taking home the NL Cy Young Award was a bit of a surprise, probably because his great season went under the radar for the most part. He went 20-7 with a 2.96 ERA over 228 1/3 innings; he was the only 20-game winner in the NL, and also led the league in strikeouts (284), WHIP (0.968), and strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.07). However, he also surrendered 31 home runs — the highest total in the NL — which is an unusual stat among Cy Young Award winners. The NL Cy Young Award race was expected to be a contest between Jon Lester (19-5, 2.44 ERA) and Kyle Hendricks (16-8, 2.13 ERA), who both had spectacular seasons for the Cubs, although they ended up finishing second and third, respectively. Scherzer is also just the sixth pitcher in Major League history to win a Cy Young Award in both leagues winning the AL Cy Young Award for the Tigers in 2013.

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The AL Cy Young Award was essentially a toss-up, as several pitchers atop the AL had similar statistics with few defining factors among them. Porcello didn’t garner the most first-place votes among the candidates, but he still reaped the reward, and rightfully so. He went 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA; those 22 wins led the Majors, while he also led the league in strikeout-to-walk ratio at 5.91. Many thought that Porcello’s former teammate with the Tigers, Justin Verlander (16-9, 3.04 ERA), was more deserving of the award, as he received 14 first-place votes to Porcello’s eight while also leading the AL in strikeouts (254) and WHIP (1.001). Verlander instead came in second while the Indians’ Corey Kluber placed third in the voting.

Bryant nearly won the NL MVP unanimously, as he was given 29 out of 30 possible first-place votes. The 24-year-old tore up NL pitching in his sophomore campaign, slugging 39 homers while racking up 102 RBIs, a total which likely would have been higher had he not batted in the two-spot of the Cubs’ lineup for a majority of the season. Bryant also became just the fourth player in history to win an MVP award just a season after winning the Rookie of the Year award, joining Dustin Pedroia (2007-08), Ryan Howard (2005-06) and Cal Ripken Jr. (1982-83) in completing the feat. Daniel Murphy of the Nationals, who received the only other first-place vote, was the NL MVP runner-up while Seager came in third.

Although he has arguably been the best player in baseball since his call-up in 2011, Trout winning the 2016 AL MVP was certainly a surprise. His statistics prove that he was deserving: he hit 29 home runs and drove in 100 runs while also leading the AL in runs scored (123), walks (116), on-base percentage (.441) and on-base plus slugging percentage plus (174). However, at least based on recent history, the MVP award typically goes to a player whose team contended for a playoff spot during the regular season. Trout’s Angels did no such thing: they finished fourth in the AL West with a disappointing 74-88 record. Trout is the first player to win the AL MVP while playing for a team that missed the postseason since Alex Rodriguez did so for the last-place Rangers in 2003. He also became the first player in history to finish in the top two in MVP voting in each of his first five full seasons in the Majors. Mookie Betts of the Red Sox was the AL MVP runner-up and the Astros’ Jose Altuve finished third.

There were a slew of deserving candidates for the NL Manager of the Year, but the way Roberts led his team down the stretch during a time of doubt ended up netting him the award. As their rival Giants collapsed and nearly missed the postseason, Roberts and the Dodgers managed to improvise, battling through injuries — including nearly three months without ace left-hander Clayton Kershaw — and overcoming an eight-game deficit to win the NL West. Roberts, in his first season managing the Dodgers, led the club with his grit and upbeat nature. Joe Maddon of the Cubs was the NL Manager of the Year runner-up while the Nationals’ Dusty Baker came in third.

After winning the AL Manager of the Year in his first season with Cleveland in 2013, Francona did so again in 2016. His Indians cruised through a majority of the season, but Francona faced some adversity towards the end up the season when he saw more than half of his starting rotation succumb to injuries. However, he still led Cleveland on an unprecedented postseason run, as they came within a win of their first World Series title since 1948. The Rangers’ Jeff Banister came in second while Buck Showalter of the Orioles placed third.

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