While it did seem like we would struggle to have baseball in 2020 for a period of time, Sunday marked the culmination of the regular season. Major League Baseball overcame outbreaks and adverse conditions to reach its destined conclusion. Now, as a member of the IBWAA, I needed to look back and hand out some votes.
Just like the BBWAA, the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America votes on all major award categories on a yearly basis. The results will be tabulated and revealed at a later date, but here is what my ballot looked like.
American League MVP: Jose Ramirez (runners up: Jose Abreu, Mike Trout, Brandon Lowe, Nelson Cruz)
Ramirez posted 3.4 fWAR in 2020 to lead all players in the game. Cleveland made a strong comeback into the AL Central Division race at the end of the season, and it was on the bat of Ramirez that the White Sox met their match. Cleveland’s lineup struggled to produce for much of the season, but it was Ramirez that provided the spark and will be their leader come Postseason play.
National League MVP: Freddie Freeman (runners up: Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr., Mookie Betts, Trea Turner)
What a story in the National League. The Atlanta Braves were expected to be good, but Freeman was dealt a tough hand when contracting COVID-19 and dealing with substantial symptoms. He mentioned being extremely fearful in the midst of his illness and got a late start to Summer Camp. He then posted a 3.3 fWAR on the season and trailed only Cleveland’s Ramirez in that category across the entire landscape of the game.
American League Cy Young: Shane Bieber (runners up: Kenta Maeda, Hyun-Jin Ryu)
Little debate needed to take place here. While there were other strong pitching performances this season, it was Bieber that was the cream of the crop. Not Justin posted double-digit strikeout performances in eight of his 12 starts this season, and he gave up more than two runs in an outing just three times. It was mastery each time he stepped on the mound.
National League Cy Young: Trevor Bauer (runners up: Yu Darvish, Jacob deGrom)
Cincinnati looked to be a darling team this year, and if they make noise in the Postseason it’ll be in large part due to their pitching staff. Trevor Bauer takes down the ERA title and racked up a career best 12.3 K/9. He led the league in ERA+, WHIP, and H/9. In his final year with the Reds, there’s little denying a nice payday is coming.
American League Rookie of the Year: Kyle Lewis (runners up: James Karinchak, Luis Robert)
Chicago’s rising star was expected to run away with this, but it was the Seattle Mariners rookie that jumped out to a quick lead and hid. Kyle Lewis has plenty of swing and miss in his profile, but he played a great centerfield while shower tremendous power with his bat as well. Adjustments will be necessary down the line, but there’s little denying he was the cream of the crop in 2020.
National League Rookie of the Year: Devin Williams (runners up: Ke’Bryan Hayes, Alec Bohm)
Taken in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft, Williams took his time getting to the big leagues. In 27.0 IP this year he racked up a ridiculous 17.7 K/9 and allowed just a single earned run on eight total hits. Dominance is what the Brewers got out of their stud reliever, and it’s that effort that took him from unknown to award winner.
American League Manager of the Year: Kevin Cash (runners up: Bob Melvin, Rocco Baldelli)
With the Yankees expected to run away in the AL East, the Tampa Bay Rays capitalizing on opportunity was impressive. Reaching 40 wins and posting the best record in the American League, Tampa consistently beat not only New York, but Toronto and the rest of the division as well. Cash got great seasons from more than a handful of players and the Rays have him to thank for their position as the one seed.
National League Manager of the Year: Don Mattingly (runners up: Dave Roberts, David Ross)
This season was always going to be one of unprecedented proportions, but when you need to replace over half a team due to a virus outbreak, you’ve got another thing coming. Don Mattingly not only overcame that massive hurdle, but he guided an afterthought Marlins team back to the Postseason. Miami could pose a threat in a three-game series, and their skipper is to thank for positioning them there.
American League Reliever of the Year: Liam Hendriks (runners up: Brad Hand, James Karinchak)
Operating as the closer for one of the best teams in baseball, Hendriks got plenty of opportunity to perform in key situations. He racked up 14 saves while posting a 13.1 K/9. He also owned a 1.78 ERA and had an even better 1.14 FIP. All of the strikeouts, none of the free passes, the Aussie continues to be one of the best in baseball.
National League Reliever of the Year: Devin Williams (runners up: Edwin Diaz, Raisel Iglesias)
It was nice to see the Mets Edwin Diaz rebound from 2019 and be in the running here, but the Brewers rookie was among the most dominant pitchers the sport has ever seen with his work in 2020. He didn’t pitch the 9th with Milwaukee having the services of Josh Hader, but Williams was often the guy in key spots. His efficiency only fueled his dominance and taking home another award here is only fitting.