It looks like the BBWAA is taking a page out of the Gold Glove book, announcing “finalists” for their awards Wednesday night with a special on MLB Network.
Three finalists were named in each league for Rookie of the Year (winner announced November 12), Manager of the Year (November 13) and Cy Young (November 14). Five finalists were named for Most Valuable Player (November 15).
Ryan Braun was one of the five NL players selected as “finalists,” meaning he finished somewhere in the Top 5 in voting at the end of the regular season. The other finalists for the NL MVP are Buster Posey, Yadier Molina, Andrew McCutchen and Chase Headley. Based on numbers, the forever-vague definition of “value,” and — quite frankly — rational thought, it makes sense that Braun was a finalist. It shouldn’t be a surprise. He’s a qualified — and perhaps the leading — candidate.
But after last winter, and after a year of getting booed out of every ballpark in the league, and after hearing all the he-said-that-she-said-that-he-said-he’s-leaving-Braun-off-the-ballot talk from BBWAA members, perhaps it is a surprise Braun is a finalist. There are certainly some people that were a little shocked. He’s still probably considered the least likely to win the award, but at least Brewers fans know he wasn’t left off enough ballots to send him plummeting down the list (of course, it’s entirely possible Braun was left off a significant amount of ballots, but also racked up a ton of second-place votes as an alternative form of “punishment”).
The Brewers didn’t place a “nominee” in any other category, which isn’t all that surprising. There wasn’t a Brewers pitcher worthy of Cy Young hype. Ron Roenicke wasn’t going to be a top contender for the manager award with the team barely above .500. And as good as Norichika Aoki was, he wasn’t going to crack the top three with the years Todd Frazier, Bryce Harper and Wade Miley had.
Harper came into the year with the hype, and ended the year leading all NL rookies with 4.9 fWAR (and he did it coming into the league at age 19). Frazier was just behind Aoki in fWAR (2.8 to 2.9), but gained notoriety for being on a playoff team and helping carry the Reds offense while Joey Votto was on the DL. Miley was the NL’s best rookie starter from start-to-finish, and was the Diamondbacks’ most successful pitcher this season. That’s a tough three to crack, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Aoki 4th when the full results are released next week.