Cabrera, Scherzer, Iglesias up for BBWAA awards
Trio among candidates for AL's MVP, Cy Young and ROY honors
DETROIT -- Get ready for another busy week in the Tigers' offseason. This time, however, they won't be looking for a manager. They'll be looking for hardware, and a historic sweep of it.
As expected, the Tigers will have finalists in all three player categories for the major end-of-season awards, as revealed Tuesday on MLB Network. Miguel Cabrera is up again for American League Most Valuable Player, pitted against Angels Mike Trout for a second consecutive year along with Orioles slugger Chris Davis.
Max Scherzer, by contrast, will have to beat out Texas' Yu Darvish and Seattle's Hisashi Iwakuma if he's going to become the second Tigers pitcher in three years to win AL Cy Young Award and cap a dream season.
Shortstop Jose Iglesias, meanwhile, joins two Rays, Chris Archer and Wil Myers, in the running for the AL Rookie of the Year Award.
No team has won all three awards in the same season. The Tigers might be in the best position of any team in recent memory to do so. Cabrera and Scherzer are the favorites in their categories, while Iglesias' defensive wizardry between Boston and Detroit puts him in a position to contend should teammates Archer and Myers split the vote among writers struggling to identify which player had a bigger impact.
Voting for all three awards took place near the end of the regular season among members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, with one voter assigned for each chapter in each AL city. Votes were due before the playoffs began, so the Tigers' postseason play has no factor in the voting.
Neither Cabrera nor Scherzer was a major surprise. Statistically, Cabrera topped the production of his Triple Crown season from 2012, batting .348 to become the first right-handed hitter since Rogers Hornsby in 1920 to win three consecutive batting crowns.
Cabrera matched last season's total of 44 home runs while playing in 13 fewer games. Considering he hit only one home run in September while dealing with a groin injury that required season-ending surgery, he put up the bulk of his production in far less time.
It wasn't enough for another home run title, finishing a distant second to Davis. Likewise, Cabrera's 137 RBIs left him one shy of Davis for the league lead. Still, it was more than enough production to power his MVP campaign. Cabrera's 1.078 OPS, meanwhile, was 73 points higher than Davis, his closest competition, and 90 points higher than Trout.
Again, advanced metrics will make the case for Trout, whose 10.4 Wins Above Replacement led baseball for a second consecutive year. Though Trout had a way lower advantage defensively, where his 0.1 Ultimate Zone Rating in center barely cracked baseball's top 10 center fielders and left him out of the finalists for a Gold Glove Award. His 110 walks, however, had an impact.
Cabrera beat out Davis and Trout for AL Outstanding Player honors as part of the Players Choice Awards announced Monday night. Major League players voted on that honor.
Cabrera is vying to become the first back-to-back AL MVP winner since Chicago's Frank Thomas took consecutive awards in 1993 and '94. A Cabrera win would make the Tigers the first team to have the AL MVP winner for three straight years (Justin Verlander won the award in 2011) since the 1960-63 Yankees (Roger Maris in '60, '61; Mickey Mantle in '62; Elston Howard in '63).
Likewise, Scherzer topped Darvish in player balloting for the AL's Outstanding Pitcher, a Players Choice Award that has closely tracked Cy Young results in recent years. Six of the past seven years, the same pitcher has won both.
Scherzer's 21-3 record was the best by a Major League pitcher since Cliff Lee went 22-3 in 2008. It came after Scherzer got off to a 13-0 start, one of the best records to begin a season in Major League history, and a 19-1 mark that was the best since Roger Clemens won 20 of his first 21 decisions in 2001.
"It was a great ride," Scherzer told MLB Network. "Everybody played well together. The days I didn't pitch well, my teammates scored a bunch of runs to help me win."
Scherzer kept insisting all season that the wins and losses were fluky statistics. His other stats, however, carried undeniable weight. Only Darvish, another finalist for the award, finished with more strikeouts among Major League pitchers than Scherzer, who fanned 240 batters over 214 1/3 innings.
Scherzer's .198 batting-average-against ranked second in the AL to Darvish, while his .254 on-base percentage allowed led all big league starting pitchers.
While Cabrera's MVP candidacy is built on offense, Iglesias' Rookie of the Year chances rest almost completely on his defensive impact, especially at shortstop once he joined the Tigers at the end of July.
Iglesias put up a 3.4 Ultimate Zone Rating over 571 1/3 innings at short. Project that out to 150 games, and only Alcides Escobar and Yunel Escobar ranked higher among regular AL shortstops.