Athletics Nation presents 2017 Player Awards
Baseball has completed its 2017 award season, and the Oakland A’s were deservedly shut out. The last-place squad was almost completely absent from the proceedings, scoring only a couple down-ballot votes for Matt Olson as Rookie of the Year — he finished a distant fourth place overall.
The closest thing to a snub was Matt Chapman being left off the Gold Glove ballot entirely, due to eligibility rules that are just stupid enough for me to angrily tweet about but not important enough to warrant an entire article. Fortunately the far superior Fielding Bible award exists, and in that voting Chapman finished runner-up at 3B behind Nolan Arenado. That’s a fair result for this year, and since Arenado plays in the NL it also means Chapman effectively “won” in the American League. And anyway, we all know this is the last time we’ll need to have a debate about Chapman’s hardware.
At a time like this, we’ll need to create our own fun. Nobody on the A’s was the best in the league, but somebody had to be the best on the A’s, or in some cases the least bad. The Athletics Nation staff has submitted their votes, and here is what we came up with.
Voters were asked to rank their Top 3 for each award, scored on a 3-2-1 point system. There were 11 ballots submitted, by: 510SportsTake, bernie_till_i_die, Billy Frijoles, Duncan Morrow, Frederic_Henry, JosephTDeClercq, Matt Doan, praunlinde, Tim Eckert-Fong, Torrey Hart, and myself. Well, Nico turned in a ballot as well, but … we’ll get to that later.
Here are the five awards we gave out.
MVP: Khris Davis
This was a close race between Davis and Jed Lowrie, but Khrush came out ahead to win his second straight A’s MVP award. Lowrie enjoyed a significant lead in WAR, by more than a full win on each scale — 1.5 in bWAR, and 1.2 in fWAR — but we chose to go our own way in this vote.
First and foremost, there are the dingers. Even in an era of allegedly juiced balls, and a season in which the league set a new record for jacks, Khrush’s performance was impressive. His 43 homers tied for fifth-most in Oakland history, and in terms of 2017 he was fourth in MLB and second in the AL. He also showed improved discipline by chasing less and lowering his whiff rate, helping him to a career-high walk rate (11.2%) that added hints of a new dimension to his offensive game.
Khrush, 2017: .247/.336/.528, 128 wRC+, 43 HR, 110 RBI, 11.2% BB, 29.9% Ks
Also: 2.5 bWAR, 2.3 fWAR
His production wasn’t just empty stats, either. He led the team in Win Probability Added by a wide margin (10th in MLB), and edged out Lowrie in all the various derivative versions thereof. He gave back a lot of value on defense, but the highs he offered at the plate were worth it on a team that needed all the bright spots it could find.
Shout out to Lowrie, though. Last winter, did anybody have him leading the team in both versions of WAR? Much less putting up the highest marks for an Oakland position player since Josh Donaldson in 2014? Jed was the epitome of a solid, consistent, reliable veteran, delivering quality offense and competent defense at an up-the-middle position. He even stayed healthy, something he’s only ever been able to do when he’s on the A’s. Congrats on a career year at age 33!
When it came to this year’s MVP, though, the voters chose the allure of Khrush’s shiny strengths over the quiet stability of Lowrie’s all-around contributions. Salute!
Nico’s ballot: Trevor Plouffe, Rajai Davis, John Axford, “all for leaving.”
Note: A couple voters didn’t go beyond a first choice for each award, which is why the 2nd/3rd columns don’t add up fully.
Cy Young: Sean Manaea
The Cy race was nowhere near as close as MVP. Manaea was the only A’s starter to reach 150 innings, or even 130, so he gets this nod as the top pitcher mostly on the fact that he actually, like, pitched. He was only around league-average and managed Quality Starts in only half his outings, but at least he took the mound 29 times. That’s honestly what passed for good news on Oakland’s beleaguered staff in 2017.
Manaea, 2017: 4.37 ERA, 158⅔ ip, 140 Ks, 55 BB, 18 HR, 4.10 FIP
Also: 1.7 bWAR, 2.3 fWAR
Of course, Sonny Gray would likely have been an easy pick here if he’d stayed the full season. But he didn’t, and none of the top relievers spent the whole year here either — Blake Treinen, Sean Doolittle, and Ryan Madson all got votes but couldn’t sniff Cy contention on partial campaigns.
Manaea was our Rookie of the Year in 2016, so he’s already racking up the Athletics Nation hardware. Hopefully next year his teammates can give him more competition to defend his Cy Young title against.
Nico’s ballot: Jharel Cotton, Daniel Gossett, Chris Smith, “HRs are good, right?”
Rookie Of The Year: Matt Chapman
Olson got the recognition in real-life ROTY voting thanks to his headline-grabbing power display, but our electorate went with the other Matt in the tightest race of them all.
Chapman didn’t go off at the plate like Olson did, but he still contributed double-digit dingers and an above-average batting line. Meanwhile, his defense was otherworldly. He utterly broke the Defensive Runs Saved metric, leading the American League and nearly doubling the runner-up (Gold Glover Evan Longoria) despite playing only half the season after a mid-June MLB debut. As previously mentioned, that performance nearly earned him a Fielding Bible award — again, in half a season. Unreal.
Chapman, 2017: .234/.313/.472, 108 wRC+, 14 HR, 9.8% BB, 28.2% Ks
Also: 3.6 bWAR, 2.7 fWAR … Defense: +19 DRS, +9.2 UZR
Of course, Olson also flashed his share of leather at first base, but just on a normal human level of good. His ROTY case was based on his 24 homers in 59 games, which helped him to an elite 162 wRC+ mark. It wasn’t enough for this award, but there’s every chance that these two Matts will be competing again next year … for A’s MVP.
Nico’s ballot: Sam Moll (“I think he got an out once”), Franklin Barreto (“the dude practically hit .200”), Jaycob Brugman (“the dude practically slugged .200”)
Gold Glove: Matt Chapman
I mean, duh. Did you read the ROTY section? There were 11 ballots for Gold Glove, and they all placed Chapman first. There are no words left to add here, so instead I’m embedding a few of my favorite highlights to show off his wide range of incredible skills. Enjoy!
U CAN’T TOUCH THIS
Nico’s ballot: Josh Phegley (“I swear his glove is made of gold or some other very hard substance”), Matt Joyce (“he never bobbled the balls he couldn’t get near”), Ryon Healy (“tremendous defense at DH”)
Team Captain: Matt Chapman
It’s a hat trick for Chap! This one took me by surprise for a moment, until I remembered the following video. The Angels were chattering at the A’s with accusations of sign-stealing, and Chapman kept talking back until he got ejected (and publicly humiliated by an umpire who left his professional pants at home that day). This was his interview after the fact.
“[Umpire Mike Everitt] said that it had already been handled, and I guess if I thought it had been handled already I wouldn’t have said anything. If it had been handled [Graterol] wouldn’t have been continually staring at us still while we’re getting into the box.”
Yup, those are the words of a team captain. The A’s are in a state of transition, having shed most of the long-time fan favorites and recent clubhouse leaders, and from the fan perspective it looks like Chapman is a prime candidate to take the reins on the budding young squad. According to runner-up Khris Davis, regarding Chapman’s leadership: “He may be a rookie but he’s a natural at it.”
Nico’s ballot: Stubing, Tennille, Korach
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 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.
* 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.