2016 Fantasy Baseball Awards

In November, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) announced its 2016 award winners for MLB. Traditionally, we’ve been told that great individual statistics alone are not enough to capture the MVP or Cy Young Award. Sportswriters have often cited a team’s futility as justification for shortchanging deserving players of postseason honors.

Ever since childhood, I’ve researched baseball history in-depth and have marveled at the accomplishments of Ted Williams. Though I wasn’t alive at the time, I’ve never understood how he wasn’t named the American League’s Most Valuable Player in any season where he batted .400+ or won the triple crown.

Even more disturbing is the fact that between 1939-1955, Williams only won the MVP award twice despite recording a higher WAR than the recipient in 6 seasons.

Although WAR wasn’t used by the statisticians of yesteryear, I still find myself wondering if the media was just punishing The Splendid Splinter for not embracing them enough to their liking during his career?

Were sportswriters attempting to send the message that batting .400 is inferior to a 56-game hitting streak?

Is the triple crown supposed to be an afterthought when you’re not playing on a first-place team?

And if fans are gonna use Mike Trout’s 10.6 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) this season to legitimize his new hardware, then how can we justify the snubbing of Ted Williams despite posting league-leading WAR numbers in 1941 and 1947?

These questions are why I believe that baseball’s postseason awards should be based solely on statistical production. Fantasy baseball provides us with a microscope to examine which individual players have truly had strong seasons that are independent of their team’s overall success or shortcomings.

The following are my award-winners for the MLB 2016 season based on their fantasy stats and production. I’ve primarily evaluated each player according to the 7×7 categories that have been utilized for many years in the friends and family fantasy baseball league where I’m commissioner — hitting categories include HR, R, RBI, SB, TB, AVG, and OPS while pitching categories encompass W, SV, K, ERA, K/9, WHIP, and QS.

AL Fantasy MVP: David Ortiz

Big Papi just culminated his Hall of Fame career by delivering the greatest age-40 season by any hitter in baseball history. This year, he led MLB in slugging (.620), OPS (1.021), doubles (48), extra-base hits (87) and his 137 RBI were tops in the AL. Moreover, his numbers eclipse those of Mike Trout in a 7×7 H2H fantasy stats comparison.

NL Fantasy MVP: Nolan Arenado

Since its inception, Coors Field has established a long-standing tradition of delivering statistical beasts to fantasy GMs. Nolan Arenado is simply the latest successor to studs like Larry Walker, Dante Bichette, Andres “The Big Cat” Galarraga, Vinny Castilla, Todd Helton, Matt Holliday, and Carlos Gonzalez — all of which capitalized on Denver’s thin air environment.

2016 marked the second consecutive year that Arenado led the NL in home runs (41), RBI (133), and total bases (352). Furthermore, his durability ensured that he was a fixture in fantasy lineups for an NL leading 160 games this season.

AL Fantasy Cy Young: Zach Britton

I’ve heard of being dick drunk, but Kate Upton took this affliction to an extreme recently with her outrage at the BBWAA. Apparently, she feels that Justin Verlander (her fiancé) was snubbed because two voters just weren’t sipping his Kool-Aid. Kate said alot in those 140 characters:

kate-upton

Well, just being honest — I owned Justin Verlander in fantasy this year, but I wouldn’t have had him on my ballot either. Granted, he experienced a resurgence, looked like the vintage pitcher of 2011-2012, and recorded one of his best seasons. But, if anyone got screwed by the voting this year, then I’d say it’s Zach Britton.

I’m a lifelong Oakland Athletics fan who still vividly remembers how Dennis Eckersley dominated during the 1992 season. The thought of a closer eclipsing Eck’s performance in my lifetime was unfathomable — but, Zach Britton did it in 2016.

Statistically, Britton was superior to every other pitcher in baseball this year en route to amassing an AL-leading 47 saves. His peripherals were ridiculous, highlighted by a microscopic 0.54 ERA, 0.836 WHIP, and limiting opposing hitters to a .162/.209/.221 slash line with only one home run allowed in 69 relief appearances.

So, with all due respect, Zach Britton would’ve gotten my first-place vote if I’d been asked to cast a ballot this year.

NL Fantasy Cy Young: Jose Fernandez

No, this isn’t a sympathy vote whatsoever. There were plenty deserving NL hurlers, but Jose kicked ass like no other. Despite being on a sub-.500 team that gave minimal run support, Fernandez somehow managed to compile a 16-8 record while finishing 7th among MLB pitchers in ERA (2.86) and leading MLB with a K/9 figure (12.488) that exceeded those posted by Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, or Sandy Koufax in any season during their careers. We are truly gonna miss him.

AL Fantasy Rookie of the Year: Gary Sanchez

At some point during the 2016 campaign, I asked a friend (who is a Yankees fan, by the way) to describe Gary Sanchez and he responded with “it’s like owning Babe Ruth in fantasy baseball”.

Initially, the claim sounds ridiculous. However, upon examining the stats, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that Gary Sanchez indeed delivered Ruthian production of one home run every 10.05 at-bats through 53 games as a rookie this year. Unfortunately, in 1990, Yankees fans said the exact same thing about Kevin Maas and we see how that worked out.

Nevertheless, based on 162-game projections, Gary Sanchez would have led MLB in home runs (59), total bases (389), slugging (.657), and OPS (1.032) — though this is highly unlikely since he plays the catcher position, which requires rest.

NL Fantasy Rookie of the Year: Corey Seager

It’s been about 20 years since fans have seen a rookie shortstop deliver a season on par with Corey Seager’s 2016 statline. The kid slashed .308/.365/.512 and finished among the NL leaders in ten offensive categories. He also was selected to the All-Star Game. Very often, rookies fail to live up to lofty expectations, but Seager exceeded them by playing like a veteran.

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