In 1996, the Phillies' top pitcher was Curt Schilling, who went 9-10 with a 3.19 ERA, good for a 134 ERA+ and 4.7 fWAR The team's top hitter was Jim Eisenreich. In 373 plate appearances, Eisenreich accumulated a 2.7 fWAR, .889 OPS, and 136 OPS+. Benito Santiago and his career-fluke 30 HR season was right behind Eisenreich at 2.6 fWAR.
If these names and that year conjure up the nightmare sweats for you, there's good reason. The team was awful, finishing at 67-95. They had the worst record in the NL and were second-worst in all of baseball only to the 53-109 Detroit Tigers.
The post-season award voting reflected the all-around putridness of the team -- the Phillies were shutout of the voting entirely. Not a single player received a vote for Most Valuable Player, Cy Young, or Rookie of the Year. And, needless to say, Jim Fregosi did not receive any votes for Manager of the Year that year either.
1996 is the only year going back to 1970 that this has happened to the Phillies (thanks to schmenkman for doing the dirty work on going back that long). In every other year since 1970, a Phillie has received at least one vote in one of the major awards.
Which leads to the question for today - will we see a reprise of 1996 this year? In other words, will the Phillies be shutout of the voting this year for the second time since 1970?
Let's take the awards in order of when they'll be announced.
Rookie of the Year - announced Monday, November 11:
The leading candidates for NL Rookie of the Year are Jose Fernandez and Yasiel Puig. Fernandez had a 2.19 ERA, 0.979 WHIP, and 4.2 fWAR. Puig had a .925 OPS and 4.0 fWAR . . . in only two-thirds of a season.
The best Phillies candidate for consideration for this award is Darin Ruf. Ruf hit 14 home runs in less than 300 plate appearances. His .806 OPS was 4th among NL rookies with over 200 plate appearances. But, thanks to his horrendous defense, his fWAR was only 0.1.
MLB voters only get to vote for three candidates here, so it would be hard to imagine Ruf getting a vote. There were some very good pitchers besides Fernandez, including Hyun-Jin Ryu (3.00 ERA, 3.1 fWAR), Shelby Miller (3.06 ERA, 2.1 fWAR), and Julio Teheran (3.20 ERA, 2.4 fWAR). Add in hitters Matt Adams (17 HR, .839 OPS, 1.7 fWAR), Evan Gattis (21 HR, .771 OPS, 0.9 fWAR), and Jed Gyorko (23 HR, .745 OPS, 2.5 fWAR), and it's really hard to see anyone voting for Ruf. If the ballot had 5 votes, maybe I could see him getting a last place vote, but with only three, I really don't.
Manager of the Year - announced Tuesday, November 12:
The leading candidate has got to be the Pirates' Clint Hurdle, though I bet Don Mattingly gets some consideration because of the Dodgers' phenomenal second-half run (45-23). But the voters will probably (and rightly) reward Hurdle for leading the Pirates to their first above .500 season since 1992, and doing so in style, finishing at 94-68.
This one is easy. If Charlie Manuel or Ryne Sandberg get a single vote for Manager of the Year, I will walk to Pittsburgh. With my two kids. While carrying my car. In the middle of winter. With Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck playing non-stop in my earbuds. (OK, maybe not the last one on the list, that's just too much. But the others -- I promise.)
Cy Young - announced Wednesday, November 13:
The winner here is probably going to be Clayton Kershaw. He lapped everyone else with a gaudy 1.83 ERA. Voters like wins, and his 16 were 3 shy of Adam Wainwright's 19, but I think the voters will like the flashy sub-2.00 ERA. Both had excellent fWARs, with Kershaw at 6.5 and Wainwright at 6.2. If Matt Harvey had finished out the season healthy, he might also be in the mix with his 2.27 ERA and 6.1 fWAR, though his 9-5 record probably really hurts him.
The next guy on the fWAR list is the Phillies best hope this year - Cliff Lee and his 5.1 fWAR. Lee's 2.87 ERA was lower than Wainwright's. His 14 wins were 9th best in the league. He also had 222 strikeouts, only 10 behind Kershaw for the league lead, and only 32 walks, just 1 more than the league leaders Harvey and Dan Haren.
Ballots for Cy Young have 5 names on them, so it's very likely Cliff Lee appears on at least one, possibly more. I have no doubt that others on the "win" leaderboard get votes - Jordan Zimmerman with 19 wins, Jorge de la Rosa with 16, and the pack of 4 at 15 (Lance Lynn, Zack Greinke, Kris Medlen, and Shelby Miller). Voters like wins. I also think that Fernandez and Ryu will get some votes for their superb rookie years, as might Craig Kimbrel with his 50 saves and 1.21 ERA.
But it's hard to imagine all voters ignoring Lee's excellent season. At least one voter out there knows about fWAR or cares about strikeout-to-walk ratio or saw Lee pitch in September. Lee should get a handful of down-ballot votes.
Most Valuable Player - announced Thursday, November 14:
This is probably Andrew McCutchen's award to lose, but other players will also get serious consideration, including Joey Votto, Paul Goldschmidt, and Matt Carpenter. After all, voters love their home runs and RBIs. Clayton Kershaw will probably also get some serious consideration, as will Craig Kimbrel.
Voters get to list 10 players on their ballots. Will any Phillie make it? Cliff Lee's 5.1 fWAR is 13th in the NL this year, but given that most voters don't put pitchers on their MVP ballots, it's hard to imagine a pitcher who is not the obvious best getting any votes.
That leaves Phillies hitters. The best hitter this year was Chase Utley. He finished with an .823 OPS and 3.9 fWAR. But he missed a month of the season, and frankly, I'd be surprised if any of the voters really noticed that Utley had a strong year. I feel like the general perception about Utley was that he's aging and not the player he used to be. It of course didn't help that his team was horrible.
Beyond Utley, there's Dom Brown and his 27 home runs, which was tied for 4th in the NL. However, unless a voter watched baseball only in May, I don't see anyone voting for Brown.
In order of least likely votes to most likely, here's how it shakes out:
- Manager of the Year - the Phillies will get no votes.
- Rookie of the Year - the Phillies will almost certainly get no votes.
- Most Valuable Player - the Phillies will probably get no votes, thought Utley may sneak onto some ballot in the 9th or 10th spot.
- Cy Young - the Phillies will almost certainly get at least one vote, maybe a few more, for Cliff Lee, who had an excellent season that some smart writer(s) will notice and reward with a 4th or 5th place vote.