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  1. 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. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  2. Once again, it's that time of year and December 1 saw my inbox being hit with the yearly IBWAA Hall of Fame ballot. Although this isn't part of the official BBWAA vote to enshrine players in Cooperstown, there's plenty of crossover between voting parties and many of the same principles are the same. At this time the IBWAA allows voters to select up to 12 candidates. You can find my 2018 ballot here, and my 2019 selections here. As was the case last year, I wound up with a ballot less than the maximum amount. The IBWAA has cleared a backlog of candidates already enshrining Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Although I could've included more players I had previously left off, I chose to stay the course. When sending my ballot back to the IBWAA I wound up with four holdovers and the expected unanimous selection who makes his first appearance. Here we go: Curt Schilling: 79.7 fWAR Bloody sock nonsense aside, Schilling is a three time Cy Young runner-up, and six-time All Star. He struck out 3,116 batters in his career and owns a 3.46 ERA while totaling more than 200 wins. Three World Series rings, an MVP, and a 2.23 postseason ERA do him favors as well. Since voting for him last year, Schilling has made plenty of splashes in the media. He's not well liked off the field, but the character clause is among the most dated pieces of inclusion into the Hall of Fame. On baseball merit alone, he's worthy of the nod. Derek Jeter 73.0 fWAR The Yankees Captain enters the ballot as a near-lock for unanimous selection. He had an incredible career with significant accolades in both the regular season and playoffs. Over-glorified in part because of the market in which he played, Jeter will go down as one of the best to ever play the shortstop position. What he lacked on defense he contributed with his bat. The 14-time All-Star and five-time World Series winner will forever be one of the most celebrated Yankees of All-Time. Scott Rolen 70.1 fWAR Vastly under appreciated, Rolen started as a Rookie of the Year winner, and went on to tally eight Gold Glove awards. He was a seven time All Star and among the best to ever field the Hot Corner. With an .855 career OPS, his bat more than does enough to supplement what was an exceptional defensive career. Larry Walker: 68.7 fWAR Although he played the field plenty, Walker also turned in a nice run spending time in both the infield and outfield. He was the 1997 NL MVP and made five All Star games. His glove netted him seven Gold Gloves and his bat produced three Silver Slugger awards. Walker finished his 17 seasons with 383 homers and drove in over 1,300 runs. Andruw Jones 67.1 fWAR Jones's 17 year career is often going to be questioned as he held on for five uninspiring seasons to closer out his time as a big leaguer. That aside, the 10 year stretch from 199-2007 was one for the ages. With 10 Gold Glove's and five All Star appearances, he was easily among the greatest in the game for a decade. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  3. As a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, or IBWAA, each year the group is tasked with voting on end of season awards. Having now been a part of the voting process for the past few years, it's always fun to see where we stand in comparison to the BBWAA. In 2018, there's been so many strong seasons from veterans and rookies alike, this one of the most exciting ballots to fill out in recent memory. Ballots are due back to the IBWAA by September 30, but I have already filed my vote. Despite their being a couple of weeks left in the 2018 Major League Baseball season, I'm comfortable with my suggestions for who should take home each award. I'll revisit my selections upon the announcement of final totals later this fall, but here's who I have in each of the ten categories. AL MVP Mike Trout- Angels Others receiving votes- Mookie Betts, Jose Ramirez, Alex Bregman, Francisco Lindor, Matt Chapman, J.D. Ramiez, Chris Sale, Justin Verlander, Trevor Bauer While Mookie Betts has had an incredible season of his own, there's no player in baseball whose team suffers more when they aren't on the field than Mike Trout. He's a revolutionary talent, and with a relative tie in statistical categories compared to Betts, the "Most Valuable" definition came into play for me here. AL Cy Young Chris Sale- Red Sox Others receiving votes- Justin Verlander, Trevor Bauer, Gerrit Cole, Corey Kluber In his third season with the Red Sox, Sale should finally nab his first Cy Young Award. Having came up short many seasons previously, this campaign is one for the ages. He's got a career high strikeout rate, and has paired that with a career low ERA. One of the greatest we'll ever see pitch, Sale takes home the hardware. AL ROY Shohei Ohtani- Angels Others receiving votes- Miguel Andujar, Joey Wendle There was a time that it appeared Miguel Andujar had this award wrapped up, then Ohtani returned from injury. The two-way phenom has put up nearly identical numbers to the Yankees third basemen, despite 40+ less games. Oh, and he was also an ace level pitcher over the course of 10 starts this season. Shohei will need surgery after 2018, but the award should help to legitimize how special this season was. AL Manager Alex Cora- Red Sox Others receiving votes- A.J. Hinch, Aaron Boone Sure the Red Sox have a ridiculous amount of talent on their major league roster, but Cora is still tasked with having it all come together. In his first season, Cora has Boston over 100 wins and looking like the team to beat in all of baseball. AL Reliever Edwin Diaz- Mariners Others receiving votes- Blake Treinen, Craig Kimbrel Diaz is breathing down the neck of Francisco Rodriguez's single-season saves record (62), and hasn't gotten there by any cheap measure. The strikeout rate, walk rate, and ERA are all elite. Although the playoffs are out of the picture for the Mariners, this is going to be a year to remember for the closer. NL MVP Javier Baez- Cubs Others receiving votes- Christian Yelich, Nolan Arenado, Lorenzo Cain, Paul Goldschmidt, Matt Carpenter, Trevor Story, Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, Scooter Gennett This season, the National League has quite a group at the top of the leaderboards. Although they all fall short of the American League race, this collection is tightly contested among themselves. Baez jumps off the page as a difference maker for the Cubs, and is a large part as to why they own the best record in the NL. NL Cy Young Jacob deGrom- Mets Others receiving votes- Max Scherzer, Aaron Nola, Patrick Corbin, Mike Foltynewicz Wins be damned, there's really no argument to make against the Mets ace taking home the NY Cy Young. deGrom hasn't been gifted run support in virtually any of his outings, but his level of dominance transcends the final tally in the box score. NL ROY Ronald Acuna- Braves Others receiving votes- Juan Soto, Walker Buehler Given the meteoric rise Atlanta has seen in 2018, it's almost fair to wonder whether Acuna belongs in the MVP discussion. Despite missing some time during the middle of the year, Acuna has been nothing short of exceptional while on the field. At just 20 years old, this should be the first of many awards coming to him over the course of a long career. NL Manager Joe Maddon- Cubs Others receiving votes- Brian Snitker, Bud Black The Cubs haven't been the dominant team they were back in 2016, but the best record in the National League is going to send them to the postseason nonetheless. This collection has a shot to bring another championship to Chicago, and Joe Maddon continues to be best suited in helping them achieve that goal. NL Reliever Josh Hader- Brewers Others receiving votes- Adam Ottavino, Jeremy Jeffress Following up a strong rookie debut season, Hader hasn't slowed down at all in 2018. The dominant lefty fans batters at an incredible rate, and has helped to give Milwaukee one of the fiercest relief duos in all of baseball. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
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