The FanSided end-of-season MLB awards series completed today with the announcements of the Most Valuable Players. Jacoby Ellsbury beat out Jose Bautista, Miguel Cabrera, and Justin Verlander in the AL, while Matt Kemp ran away with the NL vote. For full breakdowns of the voting, I highly recommend checking out Blaine Blontz’s posts at Call to the Pen (AL, NL).
As for each of the other awards, I’m making my ballot and reasonings public. Here’s who I chose for FanSided’s highest honors, and why:
1. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays. Bautista was the best hitter in baseball this year, mashing 43 homers with a .302/.447/.608 triple-slash and a ridiculous 181 wRC+. He led the league in WPA (7.86) and tied for first in rWAR (8.5); he finished more than a full win behind Ellsbury in fWAR, but that’s entirely due to inconsistent fielding metrics—no other statistic puts Ellsbury’s glove at more than 20 runs better than Bautista’s. Joey Bats’ insane hitting ability, by contrast, is not up for debate.
2. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox. The no-questions-asked No. 2. Ellsbury had a phenomenal year, hitting .321/.376/.552 with 32 homers and 39 stolen bases. His 9.4 fWAR were by far the best in the AL, and there’s no doubt he’s got a great glove. Even though I disagree with the choice, I’m glad he won because it shows we voters understood that the Red Sox’ collapse wasn’t his fault, unlike in David Wright’s case in 2007.
3. Justin Verlander, Tigers. I have no problem with a pitcher being the MVP, I just didn’t think Verlander’s season was as good as Bautista’s and Ellsbury’s. That said, he still had an outstanding year, posting 7.0 fWAR and a league-best 8.5 rWAR. He posted a 2.40 ERA and 0.92 WHIP with 250 strikeouts and a 2.99 SIERA; each of those numbers led AL pitchers.
4. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers. Cabrera somehow sort of flew under the radar in what was probably the best season of his career. He hit .344/.448/.586 with 30 homers and a 177 wRC+. He finished fifth in the league in fWAR (7.3), fourth in rWAR (7.1), and second in WPA (7.3).
5. Ian Kinsler, Rangers. One of the most underappreciated players in baseball, Kinsler is far better than his .255 average would suggest. He made up for his low average (the product of a .243 BABIP—imagine how amazing his season would have been if not for that) with great plate discipline and power while playing outstanding defense at a weak offensive position. Despite his bad luck, he ranked fourth in the league with his 7.7 fWAR.
6. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox. Ellsbury wasn’t the only Boston player to have a great season. He hit .307/.387/.474 with 21 homers, 26 RBI, and a 134 wRC+ while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense at second base. His 6.8 rWAR ranked sixth, while his 8.0 fWAR trailed only Bautista’s and Ellsbury’s.
7. Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox. Whatever the Red Sox were expecting from A-Gone, it’s fair to say they got it. He hit .338/.410/.548 with 27 homers and a 153 wRC+. His 6.9 rWAR ranked fifth in the league, and his 6.6 fWAR came in ninth.
8. Evan Longoria, Rays. Longoria had a great season—.355 OBP, .495 SLG, 31 homers, a 134 wRC+, 6.1 fWAR—but at first I wasn’t planning to include him on my ballot. That changed when he hit the walk-off home run that put the Rays in the playoffs. In the crowd of deserving candidates vying for spots at the bottom of my ballot, that was enough to put him over the top.
9. Curtis Granderson, Yankees. Granderson’s .262 average and .364 OBP aren’t quite MVP-caliber on their own, but he made up for his shortcomings with his prodigious power. He clubbed 41 homers and posted a .552 SLG, powering him to a 146 wRC+ and a sixth-place 7.0 fWAR.
10. Ben Zobrist, Rays. The perennially underrated Zobrist had another quietly great season, hitting .269/.353/.469 and coming just one steal shy of the 20/20 club. In addition to playing great defense and being one of the best-hitting second basemen in baseball, he was a key piece of a team that barely made the postseason—without Zorilla, the Rays don’t win the wild card.