Athletics Nation 2013 Year-End Player Awards

Josh Donaldson: Most likely to chase after a car while barking like a dog. - Duane Burleson

The ballots are in! Here are the team's year-end awards, as voted by the AN front-page crew.

The 2013 season brought with it something that the Oakland Athletics hadn't had in nearly a decade: expectations. They had been an upstart team in 2012, shocking the league on their way to a division title, and they had been an afterthought for the five years before that. Even in 2006, when Oakland ultimately reached the ALCS, it required a firm belief in the resurgence of a 38-year-old Frank Thomas to predict that a post-Big-Three squad could make any noise. This year, though, they were supposed to be good. They were supposed to build on last year's success, with the development of their youngsters and the additions of some key veterans. An A's team with expectations isn't as rare as, say, a Golden State Warriors team with expectations (also a thing that is currently happening), but the feeling is not taken for granted by sports fans in the East Bay.

Things went about as planned, for the most part. The lineup was good, the pitching was solid, and the team finished in first place for the second straight year. Bartolo Colon pitched like an ace all season long, just as everybody expected. Yep, no surprises here. They even lost Game 5 of the ALDS, which is now as predictable as that douchebag Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown. They may not have won the World Series, but there is still a certain satisfaction in knowing that your team will be good, and then watching them be good for the exact reasons they were supposed to be. It's very fulfilling as a sports fan. Makes you feel like you might know a thing or two about how the world works, or at least how baseball works.

But alas, it's all in the past now. The season is over, and we'll never see this exact team again. Most of them will be back -- Grant Balfour and Chris Young seem like the only regular players who are more-or-less guaranteed to depart, though Colon could go as well -- but 2014 will bring its own stars and story-lines. Therefore, it's time to take one last moment to think back and reminisce on the wonderful season of Oakland A's baseball that we all just witnessed. MLB's Gold Gloves have already been announced, and the rest of the major awards will come out next week. The A's aren't going to win any of them, though, so we'll have to make due with our own awards.

Last year, the AN front-page crew brought you the Athletics Nation Year-End Awards, and there was much rejoicing. Yoenis Cespedes was the big winner in 2012, taking home three of the six awards trophies distinctions, but (spoiler alert) he'll leave empty-handed this year. Well, technically, everyone will leave empty-handed. There aren't actually any physical awards, because this is the A's we're talking about and we're not allowed to have nice things. Perhaps Alan will tweet some congratulations to the winners on the AN account?

The voting panel was made up of nine members this year: Blez, Nico, Alan, BBG, Lev, Zonis, A's Farm, Torrey, and myself. We voted on the same six awards as last year, ranking our top three choices and tallying the votes on a 5-3-1 point scale (5 points for 1st, 3 for 2nd, 1 for 3rd). Here's what we came up with:

Team MVP: Josh Donaldson

Well, duh. If you'd suggested last March that Josh Donaldson would have an MVP-caliber season, I would have chuckled with delight at your refreshing optimism. If you'd told me in March 2012 that Josh Donaldson would have an MVP-caliber season, I would have rooted through my closet for that old straight jacket that I used to wear...err, used to wear as a Halloween costume. Yeah, just a costume. Nice save, Alex.

What I'm saying is, Josh Donaldson used to suck. At Major League Baseball. And then suddenly, he didn't. His OPS+ was once a frowny face with mutton chops, but it's now a portrait of the Mona Lisa with a sweet mohawk. He also switched positions and became an elite defender overnight by reading a copy of Third Base For Dummies. He's going to finish in the top five for the American League MVP, so it comes as no surprise that he was the unanimous choice for Team MVP.

You probably already know what Donaldson did this year, but I'm going to remind you anyway. He became the first Athletic to hit .300 for a full season since 2004 (Mark Kotsay and Erubiel Durazo were the last). He finished second in the AL in WAR by both measures (Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference), and beat out Miguel Cabrera on both scales. He racked up 64 extra-base hits, an OPS+ (and wRC+) of 148, and a raw OPS of 883. According to Defensive Runs Saved, he was worth an extra 11 runs with his glove. Fangraphs says that he was the second-best baserunner on the team, and 28th best in the league. He was the total package.

Can Donaldson keep it up next year, or will he come back to Earth a bit? If this is the question you are currently asking yourself, then you are missing the point of this article. He was awesome in 2013, and that's all that matters right now. Enjoy it. And then find that friend of yours who panned the Rich Harden trade in 2008 and laugh in his or her face for awhile. Go ahead, it'll feel great. Then remember that he's under team control through the 2018 season. I just checked the weather reports, and the forecast calls for rain for the next few years.

Voting:

Player 1st place votes Total points
Josh Donaldson 9 45
Coco Crisp 0 17
Bartolo Colon 0 13
Brandon Moss 0 4
Jed Lowrie 0 2


Team Cy Young: Bartolo Colon

Entering the season, Oakland's rotation was supposed to be led by Brett Anderson and Jarrod Parker, with A.J. Griffin, Tommy Milone, and Dan Straily rounding things out. Then, Billy Beane decided to make things even more round by bringing Big Bart back into the mix. Most people derided the move, citing Colon's age, general shape (oval), and the disgrace and future implications of his PED suspension. He was even tabbed as a possibility for the bullpen by some, and rightfully so; could he even handle the rigors of a full season of starting?

But then, baseball happened. The medical-grade Krazy glue holding Anderson's body together melted in the April sun, and he fell apart like Michael Jackson's character in South Park. Parker posted a 7.34 ERA through his first seven starts. Things were looking dire. But there was Colon, sauntering out to the mound every fifth day, throwing nothing but strikes, tossing six or seven solid innings without even a hint of emotion on his face. He was a robot, and he'd keep his gears loose in between pitches by tossing the ball into the air and catching it in his glove, over and over and over. He looked like he was on a beer-league softball team, but he was dominating major league hitters.

None of us thought it would last. His whale of a first half was nothing but a fluke, and his performance would eventually drown in a sea of regression. It never did. He kept on plugging away, earning himself an All-Star bid, 18 wins, and a season ERA of 2.65. The whale had become a shark.

Can he do it again next year? Will he even be on the A's? It matters not. Colon was the shit in 2013, and he's the Team Cy Young.

Voting:

Player 1st place votes Total points
Bartolo Colon 7 41
Jarrod Parker 1 16
Sonny Gray 1 12
A.J. Griffin 0 6
Grant Balfour 0 1
Sean Doolittle 0 1


Team Rookie Of The Year: Sonny Gray

Dan Straily will finish in the money for the AL Rookie of the Year, but he isn't even the top pick on his own team. Perhaps it's because he doesn't feel like a rookie this year, having played a noteworthy role in the 2012 pennant race. Or perhaps it's because Sonny Gray was arguably better in 64 innings than Straily was in 152⅓.

I'll be honest: I was the only person who didn't put Gray first on my ballot (I picked Straily). I prefer the heavier workload in my ROTY candidate. However, the case for Gray is compelling. According to fWAR, he was nearly as good as Straily despite throwing about 42% as many innings (1.9 to 1.5). According to bWAR, Gray was actually better (1.4 to 1.2). Remember, WAR is a counting stat, so playing more should be a distinct advantage. Straily pitched all season like a back-end starter. Gray pitched for a third of a season like a top-of-the-rotation starter. Take your pick between the two.

Of course, this voting doesn't even take into account Gray's masterpiece in Game 2 of the ALDS. It's exciting to think what he can do for the next six years in Oakland's rotation, but for now, we just have to enjoy what he gave us in 2013: a strikeout per inning, more than three strikeouts per walk, miniscule hit and home run totals, and a 2.67 ERA. When he's on the mound, things look Sonny for the A's and Gray for their opponents.

Player 1st place votes Total points
Sonny Gray 8 43
Dan Straily 1 23
Dan Otero 0 13
Nate Freiman 0 1


Team Gold Glove (best overall defender): Josh Reddick

It would be easy to call Josh Reddick's 2013 a lost season. He came in with big expectations after swatting 32 homers in 2012, but he never really got going this year. It's likely that the wrist injury he suffered in the seventh game of the season was a huge factor in his struggles, as it clearly lingered throughout the campaign and sapped him of his power. However, whichever way you slice it, a .226 average and 12 homers in 114 games is just not going to get it done.

Fortunately, offense is only one half of the game. And on the defensive side of the ball, Reddick is still one of the best in the world. His throwing arm is legendary, to the point that you almost cringe in sympathy when an opposing coach sends a runner to challenge him (unless that runner is Victor Martinez in the playoffs, in which case you start laughing before Reddick has even released the ball). His speed and instincts give him incredible range, and his king-sized cojones allow him to dive for low liners and scale the fence for deep flies on a regular basis.

Don't get me wrong. Shane Victorino absolutely deserved the AL Gold Glove this year, and I would have voted for him myself. However, despite missing a third of the season, Reddick still racked up nine outfield assists (tied for first in the AL) and 13 Defensive Runs Saved (second only to Victorino). His wizardry with the glove allowed him to accrue 2.7 fWAR despite negative value at the plate. Some people think that Reddick should be sent to the bench next season, but his defense behind Oakland's fly-ball pitching staff is game-changing.

Player 1st place votes Total points
Josh Reddick 7 41
Josh Donaldson 2 31
Coco Crisp 0 4
Eric Sogard 0 3
Yoenis Cespedes 0 1
Sonny Gray 0 1


Team Hank Aaron (best overall hitter): Josh Donaldson

There were two unanimous picks in these six awards, and they were Donaldson for MVP and Donaldson for Hank Aaron. We've already gone through his stats; what else is there to say about the Bringer Of Rain? How about his team-leading three walk-off hits?

For me, this was the moment when it became apparent that Donaldson might be something special this year:

Walk-off #2:

Walk-off #3, as the team celebrates around Sad Angels Pitcher:

Voting:

Player 1st place votes Total points
Josh Donaldson 9 45
Brandon Moss 0 18
Jed Lowrie 0 14
Coco Crisp 0 4


Team Captain: Coco Crisp

Just 18 months ago, I advocated trading Coco Crisp. Not just trading him, but straight-up salary-dumping him. I would have accepted anything from a Single-A prospect to a pallet of sodas for the clubhouse vending machine. I thought he was done.

Now, I can't imagine watching a baseball game without Coco in it. He is the most exciting, enjoyable thing an A's fan can witness on a baseball field, even with guys like Donaldson and Cespedes leaping around and doing amazing things. He's the kind of guy who makes you understand why Dusty Baker might want a low-OBP speedster atop a lineup. He's the kind of guy who makes you eschew defensive metrics and go with the eyeball test. Basically, he turns a statistically-minded, 21st century fan like myself into Murray Chass.

Sure, Coco had a career year at the plate, setting career highs in walks (61), home runs (22), OPS+ (119), and bWAR (5.2). His value seemed even higher than that, though, in a you-have-to-watch-him-every-day kind of way. He was the veteran presence and clubhouse leader on a young team. He was the spark that seemed to make the offense go. He was the guy who seemed to always make contact when the team needed it the most. His OPS went up slightly with runners in scoring position. He could lay down a bunt, beat out a double play, steal a base, make the productive out, and drive home runners at a rate similar to the middle-of-the-order boppers. He was the master of fundamentals.

But this award is about more than just numbers. It's subjective. It's about feel. Coco wasn't the best player on the A's, but he was the face of the team. He was the guy who would lead the celebrations, administer the dugout handshakes, and keep things light by cracking a smile in tense situations. He may have been the old man in the lineup, but he seemed to be the one playing the game with the pure joy of a Little Leaguer. He's the hands-down fan favorite; when Kara asks young fans to identify their favorite player in the between-innings promotions, they almost always pick Coco. His stadium giveaways have included a Chia pet and a cereal bowl, because why not? He's a guy who can sign for $7 million per year, and turn it from an overpay into a bargain over two short seasons.

There were plenty of personalities on this team. Reddick was in charge of the walk-off pies. Grant Balfour brought his Aussie Rage into each ninth inning he pitched. Sean Doolittle and Jerry Blevins provided the comic relief. But Coco Crisp is the Team Captain, and I'm glad as hell that he's coming back next year. I hope he never leaves.

Voting:

Player 1st place votes Total points
Coco Crisp 8 43
Josh Donaldson 1 6
Josh Reddick 0 6
Jerry Blevins 0 6
Sean Doolittle 0 1
Bartolo Colon 0 1
Jed Lowrie 0 1

The 2013 season did not end like we'd hoped it would. There was no AL pennant, no World Series appearance, and no championship parade through downtown Oakland. Futhermore, nothing can compare to the magic that was the 2012 season. However, it's tough to be disappointed in how this year went. The team with the tiny payroll and the nondescript roster took on the two AL West behemoths and emerged on top for the second straight season. Not only did they win the division again, but they did it with a five-game cushion and the second-most wins in the majors.

Maybe that's not enough for you. Perhaps you're tired of the underdog story, and you won't settle for anything less than real, tangible, World Series glory. I can't fault you. I want the same thing. But Billy Beane took a promising roster, added just the right pieces over the offseason, retained the perfect field manager to guide them in Bob Melvin, and did what nobody outside of Oakland thought he could do: get back to the postseason. He raised the team's expectations, and then met them and exceeded them. It's fair to want more, but it would be foolish not to sit back and marvel at what we just watched the Green & Gold accomplish over the past season.

It wasn't magical like 2012. But it was beautiful. Let's Go Oakland.

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