It’s awards season — with a twist.
Baseball, more than any other sport, lends itself to length: the small sample size isn’t necessarily indicative of how good a manager, team or player is. In 2020, though, fans are going to have to deal with the fact that the small sample size is all we got (thanks a lot, coronavirus).
Still, baseball got some semblance of normalcy in this year, eventually crossing home plate with a few hiccups along the way. There’s just enough there to hand out awards, as is custom.
Here’s what you need to know about MLB’s major awards, as voted on by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America:
Winner: Freddie Freeman, Braves
Mookie Betts, Dodgers: Imagine trading a perennial MVP candidate. Betts hit .292 with 16 home runs in just 55 games this year, his first with Dodgers. Along with playing traditionally stellar defense, Betts amassed 3.4 bWAR/3.0 fWAR this year,
Freddie Freeman, Braves: Could this be the year Freeman finally breaks through and wins that elusive first MVP? (UPDATE: Yes, it was.) Slashing .341/.462/.640 in 60 games, Freeman was the life of the Braves’ offense all season.
Manny Machado, Padres: After a tough first year with the Padres, Machado bounced back in a big way in a shortened season, hitting .304 with 16 home runs across 60 games. He also played above-average defense at third base, and was already awarded the Silver Slugger for his efforts.
Winner: José Abreu, White Sox
José Abreu, White Sox: Abreu made good on accepting the qualifying offer in 2019: He paced the majors in RBIs (60) and total bases (148) and led the AL in hits (76) and slugging (.617). He was second to only Luke Voit in home runs (19).
DJ LeMahieu, Yankees: A year after just missing out on being an AL MVP finalist, LeMahieu was a dominant presence once again in a star-studded Yankee lineup: LeMahieu slashed .364/.421/.590, leading the majors in average and the AL in OPS.
José Ramírez, Cleveland: Cleveland really needed Ramírez to produce, and produce he did: winning the AL Silver Slugger for third base, Ramírez hit 17 home runs in 58 games and was a key cog to the Tribe offense.
NL Cy Young
Winner: Trevor Bauer, Reds
Trevor Bauer, Reds: Bauer’s 1.73 ERA was best in the NL, as was his 0.795 WHIP. Bauer set himself up for a nice offseason, in which he’ll be a free agent coming off the best season of his career.
Yu Darvish, Cubs: After 1 1/2 lackluster seasons with the Cubs, Darvish’s turnaround really started in the second half of 2019 and continued into 2020: with a 2.01 ERA over 76 innings, Darvish’s 6.64 strikeout-to-walk rate is the best mark of his career.
Jacob deGrom, Mets: DeGrom was angling for his third straight Cy Young award, but three starts to end his season took him out of the running. Through his first nine starts, deGrom allowed 10 earned runs in 54 innings. Over his last three: eight in just 14 innings.
AL Cy Young
Winner: Shane Bieber, Cleveland
Shane Bieber, Cleveland: Bieber has a lot of bold and italics on his Baseball Reference page for 2020. It was an utterly, comically dominant year for Bieber. Over 12 starts, he led the majors in ERA (1.63), strikeouts (122), ERA+ (281), FIP (2.07) and K/9 (14.2).
Kenta Maeda, Twins: Maeda was just what the doctor ordered for Minnesota, pitching to a 2.70 ERA over 11 starts in his debut season with the Twins. His 0.750 WHIP was also best in the majors.
Hyun-jin Ryu, Blue Jays: Another former Dodger to make a major impact for his new club, Ryu allowed 20 runs through 67 innings pitched for the Blue Jays, in a tough AL East.
NL Rookie of the Year
Winner: Devin Williams, Brewers
Devin Williams, Brewers: Williams was absolutely filthy out of the Brewers bullpen, allowing a single earned run over 27 innings pitched out of the ‘pen. That single run came on a home run on July 27 — his second appearance of the 2020 season. He didn’t allow an earned run the rest of the season.
Alec Bohm, Phillies: Bohm was long heralded for two things: his big-time offense and his showtime hair. Both were on display in 2020: while Bohm hit just four home runs over 44 games this year, he hit .338 with 11 doubles, too.
Jake Cronenworth, Padres: Cronenworth, 26, played all over the Padres infield in 2020, becoming a versatile piece of the Dads’ lineup. He also earned his keep offensively, hitting .285 with four home runs over a 54-game debut season.
AL Rookie of the Year
Winner: Kyle Lewis, Mariners
Kyle Lewis, Mariners: While Lewis made his major-league debut in 2019, his rookie season in 2020 showed seemingly limitless potential: Lewis hit .262 with 11 home runs in 58 games this season, tying the lead among league rookies.
Luis Robert, White Sox: The man known as LuBob also mashed 11 home runs in a much-anticipated debut for the ChiSox in 2020. The Chicago center fielder flashed the leather in the outfield, and gave just a tease of his potentially dominant skill at the dish.
Cristian Javier, Astros: Javier, 23, filled in nicely in Houston’s pitching staff, filling the void left by Justin Verlander. He posted a respectable 3.48 ERA and 0.994 WHIP over 12 appearances (10 starts).
NL Manager of the Year
Winner: Don Mattingly, Marlins
Don Mattingly, Marlins: Mattingly guided the Marlins to their first winning season since 2009, and helped navigate a potentially disastrous situation with the Marlins suffering MLB’s first major coronavirus breakout. The Marlins finished second in the NL East, behind the Braves.
David Ross, Cubs: “Grandpa Rossy” led the Cubs to their first NL Central title since 2017 and helped restore a little bit of hope for a Cubs squad that looked like it was on the downswing since their 2016 World Series victory.
Jayce Tingler, Padres: Eyebrows were raised when the Padres hired Tingler, but the neophyte manager made good on the hire, helping the Padres along to their first postseason appearance since 2006 and a 37-23 record (second in the NL West).
AL Manager of the Year
Winner: Kevin Cash, Rays
Kevin Cash, Rays: The Rays showcased spunk, grit and attitude en route to a 40-20 record, an AL East division championship and, eventually, a World Series appearance. The team’s 40-20 record was best in the American League.
Rick Renteria, White Sox: The White Sox finished 35-25 in the AL Central and started to show signs of more than just the potential of the young core in 2020. “Ricky’s boys” were bounced in the AL Wild Card series, and so was Ricky himself — Renteria was fired and replaced with Tony La Russa in October.
Charlie Montoyo, Blue Jays: Montoyo and the Blue Jays ate 95 losses in 2019, but bounced back in 2020 with a 32-28 record, their first over-.500 record since 2016. It’s even more impressive when you put into context that the Jays played at their Triple-A affiliate’s stadium in 2020 because of Canada’s coronavirus policies.