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Athletics Nation presents 2018 Player Awards

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Naming the A’s MVP, Cy Young, and more!

Chaptain America
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland A’s did pretty well in the awards season this fall, picking up more hardware in 2018 than they have in years. Here’s a list of some major stuff they won:

There was some other stuff too, like Gold Glove finalist nods for Marcus Semien and Jed Lowrie, Cy Young votes for Blake Treinen, and a thing called MLB Network’s Best Play of 2018 for Ramon Laureano and his ridiculous catch-and-throw double play.

However, the fact that Oakland finally did well in the real-life awards doesn’t mean we can’t have our own usual fun here at Athletics Nation. Every year somebody has to be the best on the A’s, and the AN staff has voted to find out who that was. Spoiler: We really like Matt Chapman.

Voters were asked to rank their Top 3 for each award, scored on a 3-2-1 point system. There were 10 ballots submitted, by: Baseball Jen, bernie_till_i_die, Billy Frijoles, Duncan Morrow, Frederic_Henry, JosephTDeClercq, Matt Doan, Nico, Tim Eckert-Fong, and myself.

Here are the five awards we gave out. At the end of the post, you can see the history of each award, going back to 2012.

MVP: Matt Chapman

There’s a new MVP in town, after Khris Davis earned this award each of the last two years. Khrush still nabbed a few first-place votes and deservedly finished runner-up, but third baseman Matt Chapman was clearly on another level this summer. According to bWAR, he was more valuable than all of Khrush’s last three 40-homer seasons combined, and fWAR almost agrees.

In his first full MLB campaign, the 25-year-old Chapman stood out as the best hitter and the best fielder on the A’s. Even with Khrush’s league-leading 48 dingers, Chapman still created more value at the plate, between his own above-average power and also a big advantage in on-base percentage. On the other side of the ball, awards season showed us that he was the undisputed best defender in all of baseball at any position.

Chapman, 2018: .278/.356/.508, 137 wRC+, 24 HR, 9.4% BB, 23.7% Ks

That wRC+ mark ranked 13th in the majors, and he’s a glove-first player. His 6.5 fWAR was 7th among all position players, and his 8.2 bWAR was third. All of that was enough to put him 7th in the league MVP voting, which makes him an easy call for team honors. (Khrush finished 8th for AL MVP, but the gap in votes between he and Chapman was bigger than the gap between Chapman and 3rd place.)

A’s fans already knew about Chapman entering the season, but he still turned out like a best-case scenario of what we were all hoping for. His defense alone is worth the price of admission, as his gaudy metrics are accrued via a steady stream of jaw-dropping highlights. There are a lot of good reasons to watch this current A’s squad, but he’s clearly the top one.

Honorable mention to Jed Lowrie, who put up a 5 WAR season and earned the hell out of his first career All-Star berth but settled for third place here. Between that, and finishing runner-up last year despite leading the team in WAR, and also missing out on the 50th anniversary roster, the poor guy gets no respect. But many (most?) of us hope he’s back in green and gold next summer.

Player 1st 2nd 3rd Points
Chapman 7 3 0 27
Khrush 3 5 2 21
Lowrie 0 2 7 11
Piscotty 0 0 1 1

Cy Young: Blake Treinen

AN has never given its Cy Young to a reliever before, but what can you do when the team essentially has no starting rotation? Sean Manaea was the only starter to throw more than 120 innings, and even he topped out at 160 en route to finishing runner-up for this award. Meanwhile, closer Blake Treinen put up one of the best seasons ever by a reliever.

The right-hander became the first pitcher ever to record 30+ saves, 100+ strikeouts, and a sub-1.00 ERA, all in the same season. His ERA ranked fifth all-time, and even the few saves he blew were usually because his teammates botched a routine out on defense. And he did it all with terrifying 100 mph heat on his sinker, with three secondary offerings to keep hitters guessing.

Treinen, 2018: 0.78 ERA, 80⅓ ip, 100 Ks, 21 BB, 2 HR, 38 saves, 1.82 FIP

Even as a reliever, he led the pitching staff in both versions of WAR by more than a full win. My voting instructions specifically limited the MVP to position players only, or else I’d imagine he would have placed high on that list as well. After all, he got votes for the real-life MVP award, finishing 15th, and he was also 6th for the real AL Cy Young. He seemed to carry the team at times, going more than three outs 19 times and two-plus innings 10 times, and he was the key reason why the bullpen was able to pick up the slack for the injured rotation.

Perhaps if Manaea had stayed healthy and strong for 200 innings, he could have had a chance at defending his 2017 selection for this award. He did throw a no-hitter, after all. But then he got hurt, and there was no one left to challenge the All-Star closer. It’s Treinen Time.

Player 1st 2nd 3rd Points
Treinen 10 0 0 30
Manaea 0 4 3 11
Trivino 0 4 0 8
Fiers 0 1 3 5
Cahill 0 1 1 3
Jackson 0 0 1 1
Familia 0 0 1 1
Kiekhefer* 0 0 1 1

* Dammit Nico

Rookie Of The Year: Lou Trivino

This was the closest race of them all, with setup man Lou Trivino edging out center fielder Ramon Laureano by just one point in the voting. That’s fair enough, though, as Trivino played a key role for the full season while Laureano did so for just the final two months.

It’s almost hard to remember that Trivino was a rookie at all. After converting from a starter to a high-octane reliever in the lower minors, he came out of nowhere to jump on the prospect radar in 2017 and then needed only until mid-April this year to force his way into an MLB debut. Along with Treinen, he was the other main reason why the pitching staff was able to survive the first half of the summer, breezing through high-leverage situations and going more than three outs 18 times. He faded toward the end of the season, which is normal for rookies, but then he bounced back to throw three scoreless, nearly perfect innings in the Wild Card Game.

Trivino, 2018: 2.92 ERA, 74 ip, 82 Ks, 31 BB, 8 HR, 3.69 FIP

This is the third time that AN has chosen a 26-year-old ROTY, as Yoenis Cespedes and Billy Burns each played their rookie seasons at the same relatively advanced age. For Trivino, the delay was caused by the need to reinvent himself into an entirely new player halfway through his minor league journey, but it was worth the wait. Now, like with any successful rook, he’ll need to come out next summer and prove that he wasn’t a fluke.

As for Laureano, he was amazing enough in several weeks of everyday duty that he would also have been a defensible pick here. Had he played even half the season, he likely could have been the runaway winner. But 48 games weren’t enough to outshine a breakout relief star, and Trivino takes home the figurative hardware. “Better luck on next year’s ROTY, Ramon!” - Brandon Moss, probably

Player 1st 2nd 3rd Points
Trivino 6 3 1 25
Laureano 4 6 0 24
Martini 0 1 7 9
Barreto 0 0 2 2

Gold Glove: Matt Chapman

I’m not sure what else to say about Chapman’s defense. At the top of this story there are four links to the various real-life awards he won this year, and you should click those to read all about him. His highlights are the best, his stats are the best, and he’s so next-level that his mere presence helped turn literally Marcus Semien into a Gold Glove finalist (by limiting the range that Semien needed to cover at shortstop).

Instead, here is one video for each of the top three finishers. In third place is Laureano, but he authored the single best play of the year. This clip doesn’t even do it justice, because It was so unreal that the TV camera wasn’t sure what to do with it, but it shows off his top-notch speed/range, his cannon arm, and his utter recklessness (but in a good way, usually). Click here to see more angles:

Next up is Matt Olson, who finished a unanimous second place. From his pickin’ skills to his outfielder’s arm to his reflexes and his overall high IQ, he’s the kind of first baseman who makes the entire infield better around him. Like with Chapman, his mere presence is one thing that helped Semien and Lowrie bump their way up from average-ish to Gold Glove finalists, and Olson got his own recognition by winning the GG in real life. Here’s my favorite play, even though it shows off virtually none of his key skills:

And finally, Chapman, covering an entire half of the infield on his own, with a big assist from Olson on the other end.

Holy Toledo.

Player 1st 2nd 3rd Points
Chapman 10 0 0 30
Olson 0 10 0 20
Laureano 0 0 8 8
Semien 0 0 1 1
Lowrie 0 0 1 1

Team Captain: Matt Chapman

This award is a bit more abstract. I give absolutely no instructions on what it means, and let the voters decide for themselves. Scroll down to the bottom to see what kinds of names have won in the past.

Many of the previous captains have been highly visible veteran leader types, from the animated Coco and Reddick dancing around, to the jokers with a heart of gold like Vogt and Doo. The closest thing this 2018 group had to that kind of extroverted personality might have been Mark Canha, with his bat-flippin’ antics.

Instead, this clubhouse featured a quieter professionalism. Sometimes that meant experienced vets like Lowrie and Jonathan Lucroy and Edwin Jackson leading by example and imparting their various wisdoms, and indeed all of those guys got some attention in the balloting. However, once again Chapman stands out above the rest.

This isn’t merely a matter of defaulting to the best player on the team. Chapman was named captain last year too, as a half-time rookie, in part thanks to his no-nonsense standoff against Angels catcher Juan Graterol. He followed that up this summer with his public plea for more fan support, after barely 10,000 spectators watched the A’s increase their record to 71-48 on a chilly Monday night. He exudes an air of leadership that not every star performer does. Between that and the physical marvel of his on-field greatness, it’s not just for the sake of wordplay that we call him Chaptain America.

Player 1st 2nd 3rd Points
Chapman 4 3 1 19
Lucroy 2 2 2 12
Khrush 2 1 1 9
Lowrie 0 3 3 9
Jackson 2 0 0 6
Canha 0 0 3 3
Manaea 0 1 0 2

All-time winners

We started voting on these awards in 2012, so here’s a look back at AN Awards history. Full disclosure: We didn’t get around to it in 2014-15, so last year I went back and retroactively filled those in to make this table. Also, in 2016 I picked the winners myself instead of a staff vote, because making everyone relive that season would have been cruel.

Award 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
MVP Cespedes Donaldson Donaldson Reddick Khrush Khrush Chapman
Cy Young Parker Colon Sonny Sonny Graveman Manaea Treinen
ROTY Cespedes Sonny N/A* Burns Manaea Chapman Trivino
Gold Glove Reddick Reddick Donaldson Fuld Alonso Chapman Chapman
Captain Gomes Coco Doolittle Reddick Vogt Chapman Chapman

* Note: There were actually no rookies in 2014 except a couple brief cameos. Billy Burns and catcher Bryan Anderson combined for seven plate appearances, and that was it. And Burns won the next year.

Past Links: 2012, 2013, 2016, 2017