Let's took a quick look at the award finalists, who were announced Monday night:
This promises to be the most interesting vote because nobody knew what to expect. As many as seven or eight players could get first-place votes, and it's a bit of a surprise that Votto finished ahead of Rockies Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon. I think that says three things: (1) The two Rockies probably split some votes high up on ballots; (2) There are still "Sure, but it’s Coors Field" thoughts about their numbers; (3) Voters continue to emphasize WAR, in which Votto ranked higher than those two, thanks to his .320/.454/.578 batting line.
The biggest question: Do Stanton and Votto have a chance, despite playing for losing teams? Voters hate voting for guys on non-playoff teams, let alone losing teams, but Mike Trout did win last year. He was the first MVP from a sub.-500 team since Alex Rodriguez in 2003.
Goldschmidt was probably the favorite heading into September, but he hit just .171 with three home runs the final month as he played through a sore elbow. In the end, Stanton's 59 home runs, 132 RBIs and league-leading WAR should net him honors. He might not get the most first-place votes, but he'll probably be in the top three on just about every ballot.
This is obviously a two-man race. Judge was the favorite at the All-Star break, then he slumped through August, and Altuve became the favorite. Then Judge hit 15 home runs and knocked in 32 runs during the final month as the Yankees locked down a wild card.
Neither player wins on narrative, given that both stories and seasons were amazing. Judge was the bigger surprise, and sometimes that helps. Judge led in FanGraphs WAR, 8.2 to 7.5, while Altuve led in Baseball-Reference WAR, 8.3 to 8.1. If voters dig deeper, Altuve performed better in high-leverage situations, hitting .318 compared to Judge's .250 mark. Altuve also had the edge in Win Probability Added, 3.74 to 2.38.
Prediction: Altuve's season-long consistency and better clutch numbers help him top Judge.
Kershaw goes for his fourth Cy Young Award and Scherzer his third -- and second in a row. Scherzer seemed like the favorite after a monster first half (128 innings, 2.10 ERA, 173 K's) but had a 3.24 ERA in the second half, including a 4.05 ERA the final month. Kershaw ended up with the edge in ERA, 2.31 to 2.51, but Scherzer threw 25⅔ more innings and had 66 more strikeouts. Strasburg came on strong with a 0.86 ERA in the second half (he missed some time with an injury) and had a better FIP than Kershaw or Scherzer.
Prediction: Scherzer first, Kershaw second, Strasburg third. If Kershaw doesn't win, that will be three years in a row he didn't win -- even though he has a 2.07 ERA in that span. Amazing.
Sale had an amazing season, going 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA and 308 strikeouts in 214⅓ innings. But that is going to net him only second place in the voting. At one point, Sale was the clear favorite, with big leads in innings and strikeouts after Kluber had missed a month on the DL. Kluber, however, had a monster stretch run and finished with just 11 fewer innings, while Sale faded with a 4.38 ERA in August and 3.72 in September. Kluber's final decisive edge in ERA -- 2.25 to 2.90 -- trumps Sale's other advantages. Kluber becomes a two-time Cy Young winner.
Bellinger set an NL rookie record with 39 home runs and should cruise to a unanimous victory. Bell, long a top prospect, lived up to his billing by hitting 26 home runs. DeJong was the big surprise. He got called up on May 28, hit .285/.325/.532 with 25 home runs and played solid shortstop -- impressive after he spent almost all of 2016 in the minors at third base.
Obviously, Judge will be the unanimous winner here. Benintendi had a solid season, hitting .271/.352/.424 with 20 home runs and 70 walks, and should improve on his 2.6 WAR next season. Mancini benefited from the lively ball, going from 13 home runs in Triple-A to 24 with the Orioles.
NL Manager of the Year: Bud Black, Torey Lovullo, Dave Roberts
The problem with the manager award is that it usually goes to the team that most exceeded expectations. Given that all six division winners were the six consensus favorites, it's possible that neither manager will come from a division title winner. Roberts won 104 games, but the Rockies and Diamondbacks were the bigger surprises, so it's probably Black versus Lovullo. Plus, Roberts won last year, and nobody has won back-to-back since Bobby Cox in 2004 and 2005.
AL Manager of the Year: Terry Francona, A.J. Hinch, Paul Molitor
Francona and Hinch won 100 games, but the Twins were the big surprise, going from an MLB-worst 59 wins to 84 wins and a wild card. Francona also won last year (and in 2013). It's somewhat interesting that Joe Girardi wasn't a finalist. His only Manager of the Year award came in 2006 with the Marlins -- when he had a losing record. Yes, he's the only losing manager to win.