In addition to having four teams in the MLB playoffs, personnel from the West Divisions are among the leading candidates for post-season awards, including Most Valuable Player, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, and Manager of the Year.
Let’s start with the most prestigious award of them all, the MVP.
Is there any doubt the third time will be the charm for the Angels’ Mike Trout, who finished second the balloting the past two seasons. He might even be the first unanimous selection in the AL since 1997, when the Mariners’ Ken Griffey Jr. received every first-place vote after batting .306 with 56 home runs and 147 RBIs. Junior was the American League’s eighth unanimous selection.
Trout’s numbers — .288 batting average, 36 home runs and 111 RBIs — don’t come close to Griffey’s remarkable ’97 season, but many believe Trout is the best player in the big-leagues right now.
His MVP credentials are boosted by the fact his team won the tough AL West, which just missed having three teams reach the postseason.
Two stellar second basemen are other worthy MVP candidates. Robinson Cano led the Mariners back to relevancy and Houston’s Jose Altuve captured the AL batting championship with a .341 average.
Seattle right-hander Felix Hernandez is expected to receive his second Cy Young Award. Despite receiving some horrible offensive support, King Felix won 15 games, led the AL in ERA and was fourth in strikeouts. He also set a Major League record with 16 consecutive starts of at least seven innings allowing two or fewer runs. His only competition, really, is Indians starter Corey Kluber.
Angels’ right-hander Matt Shoemaker established a franchise record with 16 victories, but White Sox slugger Jose Abreu surely will walk away with the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year award.
The job Lloyd McClendon did with the Mariners this season makes him a strong candidate for Manager of the Year honors. Baltimore’s Buck Showalter figures to have some support for the award.
For only the eighth times since 1958, one player could win both the MVP and Cy Young Awards. That would be the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, who led the majors with 21 wins (just three losses) and had a ridiculously-low 1.71 ERA.
The last time it happened in the NL was in 1968 when Cardinals right-hander Bob Gibson with a record 1.19 ERA – a season that prompted MLB to lower the pitching mound.
Kershaw has no competition for the Cy Young Award and although Dodgers teammate Adrian Gonzalez led the league with 116 RBIs, it still looks like a slam dunk for Kershaw to walk away with the MVP award.
D-backs second baseman David Peralta had a solid rookie season and figures to get some votes for the NL’s Rookie of the Year award.
Rookie skipper Matt Williams of the Nationals is the odds-on favorite to win the league’s Manager of the Year Award, but the Dodgers’ Don Mattingly should finish in the top three.
Here is the final Power Ranking for the 2014 season:
1. Angels (1): Started and ended the season the same way, getting swept in a three-game series against the Mariners, but the rest of the season went swimmingly well for the AL West champs.
2. Dodgers (2): Look for the dynamic duo of Kershaw and Greinke to pitch the NL West champs into the organization’s first World Series since 1988.
3. Giants (3): Not sure how they pulled it off, but landing a Wild Card playoff spot despite lacking a dominant pitching staff or lineup is another feather in skipper Bruce Bochy’s cap.
4. Athletics (4): That brisk wind felt in Seattle on Sunday afternoon came from Arlington, Texas and was caused by a collective sigh-of-relief from the Athletics after the final out was recorded against the Rangers.
5. Mariners (5): So close and yet no playoff cigar for one of the most improved teams in all of MLB.
6. Padres: (6): If the final month of the season is a harboring of things to come, infielder Cory Spangenberg might be in the middle of a Padres renaissance in 2015.
7. Astros (7): A 70-win season was terrific, compared to three consecutive 100-plus loss seasons, but was it good enough for interim manager Tom Lawless to return next season? Stay tuned.
8. Rockies (8): As a consolation prize for their next-to-last finish in the NL West, first baseman Justin Morneau walked away with the NL batting title, becoming the seventh Rockies player to do so. It’s in the air.
9. Rangers (9): Not even a torrid finishing kick, 13 wins in 16 games, could remove the stench from a long, injury-plagued season that resulted in the most losses (95) since 1985 (99).
10. Diamondbacks (10): The house-cleaning extended to the manager’s office during the final weekend of the season as skipper Kirk Gibson, as expected, received a pink slip.
(Last week’s ranking in parenthesis)