There are only about 30 hours left in 2016, thank goodness. That means it’s time for a look back, even after such a bummer of a year as this one. We never handed out any team awards for the season, like an Oakland A’s MVP, etc., so let’s take a crack at it now. Happy thoughts!
MVP: Khris Davis
Just missed: Marcus Semien
This was a two-man race, but a close one. Looking at the big picture, they were virtually identical in WAR — equal in bWAR, with Semien ahead by a fraction in fWAR. They also have similar profiles, as bat-first players with big HR power but low OBP marks, and Semien holds the advantage of playing a more important defensive position.
However, I went with Davis because of the pure impact of his bat. Semien’s value came from simply being adequate on both sides of the ball, whereas Davis was able to make a serious difference in at least one department with his 123 wRC+ and 42 dingers. Both styles of player are important to have, and can complement each other well! But in this case, with all other things equal, I’m giving the tiebreaker to the one with the single flashiest tool. The 2016 A’s probably could have plugged up SS better than they could have replaced all of Khrush’s long balls.
Cy Young: Kendall Graveman
Just missed: Rich Hill, Sean Manaea
You might prefer Hill, who was elite in only 14 starts. But Graveman gets the nod from me for one simple reason: In a season when the A’s couldn’t hold together a five-man rotation, he was the only starter who made it wire-to-wire without missing time to injury or demotion. He was the only starting pitcher who actually pitched all year.
Graveman led the team in starts (31) and innings (186), and it wasn’t close. Only Manaea (24, 144⅔) and Sonny Gray (22, 117) even broke 20 starts or 100 frames. The staff’s unofficial slogan was “We Need Innings!” and Graveman was the biggest hero who stepped up. And he wasn’t bad, either! His ERA finished up at 4.11, which is within the realm of average (96 ERA+).
In the MVP section, I chose the flashy everyday guy over the quietly dependable everyday guy. But this case is different, because the flashy option (Hill) simply didn’t play half the time, even though the few innings he did throw were so amazing that they were theoretically worth as much as Graveman’s much larger body of pedestrian work. In a season in which the rotation mostly just didn’t show up on the mound at all, I’m rewarding the one guy who did.
Rookie of the Year: Sean Manaea
Just missed: Ryon Healy, Ryan Dull
There are three clear choices, each difficult to compare straight-up, and you can’t really go wrong with any of them. Dull was borderline All-Star quality out of the bullpen, a consistent force yearlong, but he was just a reliever. Manaea was a starter, but his season contained ups and downs. Healy was the best hitter on the team for over two months, but he was there for less than half a season.
I’m going with Manaea in a close race. He led the trio in both forms of WAR. I think he had a bigger impact on the pitching staff than Dull, because a good starter will always be more valuable than a good reliever. And he was the team’s best starter for about as long as Healy was the team’s best position player — Healy debuted July 15 (134 wRC+, 1-2 WAR), and Manaea’s breakout began July 10 (14 games, 2.44 ERA, 4.41 K/BB). I think Manaea’s peak was slightly better.
Gold Glove: Cancelled
The A’s had the worst defense in baseball this year by a wide margin and so —
Just pick someone!
Gold Glove: Yonder Alonso
Just missed: Josh Reddick, I guess?
Second base sucked. Third base sucked. Shortstop was improved, but nothing to write home about. The outfield was awful, especially when Reddick wasn’t out there. The catchers didn’t earn high praise. This was a bad, bad team defense.
But Alonso looked pretty slick! The numbers don’t support that eyeball evaluation, but lots of other eyeballs do. The A’s also re-signed him despite being a negative at the plate, so they must agree with those eyeballs at least a little bit. Alonso’s defense was of a level of quality that earned him a guaranteed $4 million despite posting an 88 wRC+ as a first baseman. That speaks volumes to me.
Team Captain: Stephen Vogt
Just missed: Sean Doolittle
From the outside looking in, Vogt sure seems like the leader of the team. He also earned the lone All-Star bid, so he’s got some respect around the league as well.