Here are my predictions on who will win the awards that are voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Keep in mind that these are predictions only, not a revelation of my actual vote in any categories.
Rookie of the Year
National League: Jose Fernandez, RHP, Marlins. All he has done is to be the best thing going on an atrocious Marlins team, going 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA and 187 strikeouts in 172 ⅔ innings. Opponents hit just .182 against him.
American League: Wil Myers, OF, Rays. No eye-popping numbers like Fernandez here, but Myers stood out enough among this group, batting .293 with 13 homers and 52 RBI in 86 games. He was second in home runs among rookies and led them in RBI.
Manager of the Year
National League: Clint Hurdle, Pirates. Can it be anyone else? The Pirates have ended 20 consecutive losing seasons. They are back in the playoffs for the first time since 1992 and can finally shake off the Game 7 loss in the NLCS to Atlanta when Sid Bream outran Barry Bonds’ arm to score the winning run.
American League: John Farrell, Red Sox. Terry Francona (Indians) and Joe Girardi (Yankees) have done well with their clubs. But the Red Sox got better the day Farrell was named manager — especially the pitching staff. He has turned a roster of new faces into winners.
National League: Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Dodgers. A decade ago, we would look at Kershaw’s 16 victories with some distain. Now we look at his league-leading 1.83 ERA, league-leading 232 strikeouts and .195 batting average against (second to Fernandez). Kershaw looks like a winner.
American League: Max Scherzer, RHP, Tigers. Yu Darvish is an interesting candidate. Scherzer, however, finished fifth in ERA, second in strikeouts (to Darvish) and second in opponents’ batting average against (again to Darvish). Scherzer, however, leads all pitchers in WAR, that sexy stat of the moment.
Most Valuable Player
National League: Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates. My pick here is partly because of the fan crush I’ve had on McCutchen since the first time I saw him in spring training against the Twins. He is batting .317 with 21 homers and 85 RBI — but has posted a 1.000 OPS since the All-Star break, leading the Pirates to the postseason.
American League: Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Tigers. I get to see Cabrera play up to 19 times a year and only six or seven for the Angels’ Mike Trout. And Trout entered the weekend leading baseball with a WAR of 10.2. Cabrera will win the batting title (.345 entering Saturday) and finish second in home runs (44) and possibly second in RBI (137). His impact in the heart of the Detroit lineup can’t be ignored.
The Royals entered Saturday with 85 victories, their most since 1993. So it’s a sign of progress.
But Kansas City needs to figure out how to take the next step.
The Royals have not made the postseason since 1985, currently the longest postseason drought among the big four major professional sports leagues. They haven’t even finished second in the standings since 1995.
They had a very good pitching staff and some of the young core took steps forward in 2013. But where do the Royals go from there?
“We think we’ll have a natural upward progression offensively,” manager Ned Yost said, “but, yeah, I think we need another bat. It’s hard to say [where] because we really haven’t discussed anything specifically yet.”
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Paul Konerko hit career home run No. 434 on Thursday in a 3-2 loss to Kansas City. You can’t help but wonder if that was one of his last.
Konerko’s contract expires at the end of the season, and there’s plenty of speculation that the longtime White Sox first baseman will retire at the end of the season. Konerko, 37, was batting .247 with 12 home runs and 54 RBI entering Saturday. His bat speed is not what it used to be.
Chicago manager Robin Ventura was asked if Konerko’s home run on Thursday was his last.
“You don’t know,’’ Ventura said. “But I think any time players kind of go through this situation, I’m sure there are some weird thoughts of the last time for anything.’’
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Interesting note on the Tigers. They have lost five times this season when their starting pitcher didn’t give up a run in an outing in which he went at least six innings. Boston has no such losses and Oakland has one.
Three observations …
• Carlos Gomez has been known to get a little crazy at times. But his behavior on Wednesday, when the Brewers outfielder screamed at the Braves after hitting a home run, was extreme even for him.
• I still want to know why Atlanta’s Brian McCann wasn’t ejected and suspended for blocking Gomez on the way to home plate and basically igniting a benches-clearing incident just because he wanted to call out Gomez.
• Michael Cuddyer, batting champion.
He enters the final day of the season with the NL lead, and I never viewed him as someone who would hit for a high average.
... and two predictions
• The Yankees will let Robinson Cano walk as a free agent, and he will walk across the country to the National League and sign with the Dodgers.
• Florida’s Jose Fernandez will win the 2014 Cy Young.