2017 IBWAA Awards: AL/NL Manager of the Year

In my first season as a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, I was excited about the prospect of voting for end of the season awards.  I did not realize how stressful some of these picks would be.  I had seen the ballots of other writers and read the responses on twitter from fans so I know and expect some lively debate.  Today, I will cover my votes for AL/NL Manager of the Year.

My criteria for Manager of the Year is simple.  Who did more with less?  Who overcame adversity?  Who made the leap?

First, lets cover my votes for the AL Manager of the Year.

  1. Paul Molitor, MIN
  2. A.J.Hinch, HOU
  3. Joe Girardi, NYY

For me, anytime you can take a team from a 59 win season to a 84 win season and a trip to the postseason, Manager of the Year should be a slam dunk.  Molitor managed the 25 win turn around with only 113 games from young superstar Miguel Sano while Byron Buxton was a black hole in the line-up from April to July.  Those losses were offset by the continued steady production of Brian Dozier, the emergence of OF Eddie Rosario, and a strong bench.

Furthermore, this is a team that traded their closer at the deadline.  Yes, they traded their closer, Brandon Kintzler, who had notched 28 saves, to the Nationals on July 31.  Molitor’s Twins did not miss a beat, as journeyman Matt Belisle stepped in the closer’s role and posted 9 saves and a 1.71 ERA after the All Star Break.  To make matters even crazier, the Twins starting rotation has been, for lack of a better term, terrible.  Outside of Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios,  no SP has an ERA under 4.50 and 16 different pitchers have made a start.  However, guys like Kyle Gibson have pitched much better in the 2nd half.  The Twins have offset inconsistent SP with a dynamic defense led by CF Byron Buxton and a steady bullpen.

Despite winning 100 games and running away with the Western Division, Hinch is 2nd overall in my voting.  The Astros are loaded with young talent and while the offense has been spectacular, Hinch has managed injuries and inconsistency in the rotation as the young Astros finally turned the corner and became the dominant team that I thought they could be.

Girardi is my third choice for AL Manager of the Year.  He has overseen a young core led by Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Luis Severino make the leap from prospect to superstars.  A renaissance season by C.C. Sabathia and a dynamic bullpen have been the keys to Yanks’ success.

NL Manager of the Year

  1. Bud Black, COL
  2. Torey Lovullo, AZ
  3. Craig Counsell, MIL

Bud Black is my choice for NL Manager of the Year, doing what very few seem to think was possible.  Under his tutelage, the Rockies starting pitching has been not only respectable but consistent.  The young arms have responded to Black and posted solid ERA’s across the staff.  Led by rookies German Marquez, 4.39 ERA and Kyle Freeland, 4.06 the Rockies boast one of the youngest rotations in baseball and were able to win 87 games and clinch a wild card spot despite staff ace, Jon Gray only making 20 starts.

Greg Holland solidified the closer’s role while Jake McGee, Pat Neshek, and Chris Rusin provide quality depth and have held leads all season.

The Rockies offense, always near the top of the NL, was led by MVP candidates Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon, but I can’t say enough about the steadying hand of Bud Black on such a young rotation.

Arizona’s Torey Lovullo is my runner-up.  He took Arizona from 69 wins in 2016 to 92 wins and a wild card spot.  You may ask, how can Black get the nod over Lovullo when he improved 23 wins to Blacks 12 wins?  I think the main difference for me is that Arizona was supposed to be good last year and severely under performed and were crushed by injuries.  This is a team that spent money to bring in Zack Greinke and boasts two of the better offensive players in baseball in Paul Goldschmidt and AJ Pollock.  A  healthy Pollock (12 games in 2016 to 111 in 2017) and David Peralta (48 games in 2016 to 140 in 2017) with the continued development of young hitters Brandon Drury, Jake Lamb, and Chris Owings is a nice recipe for success.  Add JD Martinez who turned into Babe Ruth with 29 HR in 61 games and it is no surprise the D-Backs improved from 69 to 92 wins.

Craig Counsell takes the 3rd spot for me.  The Brewers improved from 73 wins to 85 and were in contention for the final WC spot all the way to the end.  The Brewers’ line up has three 30 HR hitters in Travis Shaw, Eric Thames, and Domingo Santana.

What about Farrell, Francona, Maddon, Baker, and Roberts?  All 5 teams are loaded with enormous amounts of talent and these 5 managers have done what they were supposed to do.  Their exclusion from my list does not mean the 6 guys that I voted for are “better” managers but they did do more with less and in almost every case, exceeded expectations.

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