2023 MLB Awards: Results, analysis on MVP, Cy Young and more - ESPN

2023 MLB Awards: Results, analysis on MVP, Cy Young and more

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Shohei Ohtani and Ronald Acuna Jr. unanimous AL, NL MVPs (1:00)

Shohei Ohtani and Ronald Acuna Jr. are the recipients of the 2023 AL and NL MVP awards. (1:00)

MLB Awards Week is a wrap.

As we look ahead to 2024 and await some of the offseason's biggest free agent signings (where will you go, Shohei Ohtani?), baseball celebrated the best players (and managers) in the game during the 2023 regular season.

The week started off with Baltimore's Gunnar Henderson unanimously winning American League Rookie of the Year honors and Arizona's Corbin Carroll becoming a unanimous selection in the National League. Next up, Henderson's skipper, Brandon Hyde, won AL Manager of the Year, with Miami's Skip Schumaker taking home the NL silverware.

On Wednesday, San Diego's Blake Snell took home his second Cy Young Award -- this time in the NL, after having previously won in the AL in 2018 -- while the Yankees' Gerrit Cole unanimously won the AL's Cy Young, the first in his career.

Finally, on Thursday, MLB history was made as Ohtani earned his second AL MVP Award in three seasons and Atlanta's Ronald Acuna Jr. rode an unprecedented 40/70 campaign to land his first MVP trophy -- both players winning unanimously.

Here's everything you need to know about this week's awards, from the final voting tallies to analysis on each winner from ESPN's Bradford Doolittle.

Jump to ... :
Rookie of the Year: AL | NL
Manager of the Year: AL | NL
Cy Young: AL | NL
MVP: AL | NL

American League MVP

Winner: Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels

Final tally: Ohtani, Angels 420 (30 first-place votes); Corey Seager, Rangers 264; Marcus Semien, Rangers 216; Julio Rodriguez, Mariners 197; Kyle Tucker, Astros 178; Yandy Diaz, Rays 137; Bobby Witt Jr., Royals 83; Gunnar Henderson, Orioles 77; Adley Rutschman, Orioles 50; Jose Ramirez, Guardians 40; Gerrit Cole, Yankees 30; Luis Robert Jr., White Sox 21; Yordan Alvarez, Astros 16; Adolis Garcia, Rangers 14; Aaron Judge, Yankees 7; Bo Bichette, Blue Jays 5; J.P. Crawford, Mariners 5; Cal Raleigh, Mariners 2; Rafael Devers, Red Sox 2; Isaac Paredes, Rays 2; Sonny Gray, Twins 2; Alex Bregman, Astros 1; Josh Naylor, Guardians 1

Experts' pick: Ohtani (13 votes) (unanimous choice)

Doolittle's take: This race was ostensibly over by the middle of August, with Ohtani building up such a big lead in his dual role that no one else came close, even though Ohtani's season ended nearly a month early.

On Aug. 9, when Ohtani made his last full-fledged start on the mound (he made a brief four-out start on Aug. 23), he had already piled up 9.0 bWAR, 3.1 more than any other player in the majors. Ronald Acuna Jr., who had an MVP campaign of his own in the NL, was at 5.9.

At that point, Ohtani's 5.5 bWAR for his hitting alone would have given him the AL lead, before we even started tacking on his performance on the mound. Which, incidentally, was terrific -- he was third in the AL behind Cy Young winner Cole and Texas' Nathan Eovaldi with 3.5 pitching bWAR, the same figure posted by the NL leader, Cy Young winner Blake Snell.

Ohtani finished with 10.0 bWAR, 1.7 more than anyone else even though he made his last appearance on Sept. 3. He still managed to lead the AL in homers (44), on-base percentage (.412), slugging (.654), OPS (1.066) and total bases (325). He even batted over .300 -- one of just seven MLB qualifiers to do so -- for the first time in his career. On the mound, he went 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA over 23 starts with 167 strikeouts, whiffing 11.4 batters per nine innings.

As has been written so many times, we've just never seen anything like this. This was peak Ohtani, a unicorn of a superstar at the absolute height of his powers. In a way, that's kind of bittersweet. With Ohtani undergoing Tommy John surgery for a second time, we don't know what his future on the mound will look like. And his magical 2023 season, had it lasted a little longer, could have firmly established itself in the minds of many as the best single season a player has ever had.

Ohtani is far from done, and some team will soon be opening up the vault for him in a major way. But there is no guarantee that Ohtani will be able to replicate or surpass what he has done the past couple of years. If he does, we have a lot to look forward to, no matter what uniform he ends up wearing.

Seager's season is a bit of what-if as well. His eye-popping slash line (.327/.390/.623) included an AL-high 42 doubles and 33 homers even though he got into just 119 games because of injury. With Ohtani's season ending when it did, if Seager had repeated his 151 games played from 2022, who knows how this race might have shaken out. If you prorate his bWAR to 151 games, it's still "only" 8.7, so perhaps nothing would have changed. It would have been nice to find out. Seager will console himself with another World Series MVP trophy.

Here's how my AXE leaderboard had it:

1. Ohtani, Angels (159 AXE)

2. Seager, Rangers (141)

3. Semien, Rangers (137)

4. Tucker, Astros (133)

5. Rodriguez, Mariners (132)

Note: AXE is an index that creates a consensus rating from the leading value metrics (WAR, from Fangraphs and Baseball Reference) and contextual metrics (win probability added and championship probability added, both from Baseball Reference).

MVP must-reads:

Shohei Ohtani Tracker: Where will MLB's top free agent land?

Is Corey Seager the new Mr. October?


National League MVP

Winner: Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta Braves

Final tally: Acuna Jr., Braves 420 (30 first-place votes); Mookie Betts, Dodgers 270; Freddie Freeman, Dodgers 227; Matt Olson, Braves 223; Corbin Carroll, Diamondbacks 165; Juan Soto, Padres 106; Austin Riley, Braves 68; Luis Arraez, Marlins 67; Francisco Lindor, Mets 52; Cody Bellinger, Cubs 49; William Contreras, Brewers 39; Bryce Harper, Nationals 36; Blake Snell, Padres 16; Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres 5; Ha-Seong Kim, Padres 5; Ozzie Albies, Braves 4; Logan Webb, Giants 3; Pete Alonso, Mets 3; Marcell Ozuna, Braves 2; Devin Williams, Brewers 2; Dansby Swanson, Cubs 2; Kyle Schwarber, Phillies 2; Zac Gallen, Diamondbacks 1; Christian Walker, Diamondbacks 1; TJ Friedl, Reds 1; Nick Castellanos, Phillies 1

Experts' picks: Acuna (12 votes), Betts (1)

Doolittle's take: In some ways, the quality of this year's NL MVP race is illustrated not by what the three finalists did but what the fourth-place finisher did. Poor Matt Olson banged 54 homers, drove in 139 runs, led the NL in slugging, played in all 162 games for Atlanta and rolled up 7.4 bWAR. And he didn't even get to be on MLB Network's MVP announcement show, which features the finalists.

Betts was more or less even steven with Acuna in the value metrics, and some have pointed out that he should get even more credit because his ability to flex from right field -- where he is a generational defender -- to both middle infield positions was of immeasurable value to a Dodgers team that needed help in that area. It's a valid point.

Still, sometimes we can overthink these things, and Acuna's season is what an MVP season should look like. Slash line: .337/.416/.596, and who knows where he pulled that batting average from after hitting .277 over his first five MLB seasons. He led the NL in hits (217, the most by any player in nine years) and runs (149, the most by any player in 23 years). He hammered 41 homers and drove in 106 -- from the leadoff spot -- rolling up 383 total bases. And, oh yeah, he stole 73 bases in baseball's new thievery environment, becoming the first 40/50, 40/60 and 40/70 player.

This was Acuna's age-25 season, and while it'll be awfully hard to top what he did in 2023, this is just the start of what should be the prime of his career. If Acuna stays healthy, he will be putting up mind-boggling numbers over the next few years, and this isn't the last time we'll be talking about him in the MVP race.

Still, this was not a no-brainer. Betts has every claim to the title of baseball's best position player and perhaps best overall player now that the pitching half of Ohtani is on the shelf. Freeman, the metronomic superstar, continues to bolster his Hall of Fame résumé with each passing year. The NL is so loaded, players like Olson might find out in the years to come that 50-plus homers and 130-plus RBIs just aren't enough in today's senior circuit.

Here's how my AXE leaderboard had it:

1. Acuna Jr., Braves (152)

2. Betts, Dodgers (151)

3. Freeman, Dodgers (144)

4. Olson, Braves (141)

5. Carroll, Diamondbacks (137)

MVP must-reads:

Inside Ronald Acuna Jr.'s return to MVP form

How Mookie Betts became a Dodgers ... infielder

American League Cy Young

Winner: Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees

Final tally: Cole, 210 (30 first-place votes); Sonny Gray, Twins 104; Kevin Gausman, Blue Jays 82; Kyle Bradish, Orioles 39; Luis Castillo, Mariners 23; Zach Eflin, Rays 19; Pablo Lopez, Twins 11; George Kirby, Mariners 8; Framber Valdez, Astros 6; Chris Bassitt, Blue Jays 4; Felix Bautista, Orioles 3; Chris Martin, Red Sox 1

Experts' picks: Cole (13 votes) (unanimous choice)

Doolittle's take: Gerrit Cole ranked seventh among active big league pitchers with 40.7 career bWAR following his 2023 campaign. The six pitchers ahead of him won a combined 12 Cy Young Awards. The only pitcher ahead of Cole without a trophy was Boston's Chris Sale, whose career has been more or less derailed by injury for the past half-decade. That made the argument that Cole was the best active pitcher without a Cy Young an easy call. Suffice to say, Cole is happy to no longer be a part of that conversation.

Timing is everything when it comes to awards because whether you win doesn't depend just on what you do, but what everyone else does. Whether or not you see 2023 as Cole's best season depends on what statistics and metrics you value. To me, he has had better seasons, if only because he's posted much higher strikeout rates in the past. His 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings was his lowest figure in six years. Yet Cole managed to lead the AL in ERA+ (165), ERA (2.63) and innings pitched (209). Despite allowing more balls in play than normal, he still led the league in fewest hits allowed per nine innings (6.8) while slashing 13 homers off his AL-high figure of 33 in 2022.

Now, at age 32 and four years into the nine-year contract he signed with the Yankees in 2020, Cole has not only been worth the $36 million-per-season investment so far, but his evolution this past season showed that there is plenty of reason to believe he will continue to justify his massive salary. Cole remains a fixture in any team's dream rotation, and while the 2023 Yankees had a lot of problems, he certainly wasn't one of them. In fact, he is the sixth Yankee to win a Cy Young but the first to do so in a year in which the Yankees didn't make the World Series. (The others: Bob Turley, 1958; Whitey Ford, 1961; Sparky Lyle, 1977; Ron Guidry, 1978; Roger Clemens, 2001).

At this point, Cole has 145 career wins, 40.7 bWAR, 2,152 career strikeouts and a league-adjusted ERA+ that's 30 points better than average. He owns two ERA titles and has been an All-Star six times. And, now, he has a Cy Young trophy to put on his mantel. Of course, it's too soon to start talking Cooperstown for Cole, but it's not hard to see a path for him getting there. As the role of the starting pitcher has morphed over time, especially during Cole's time in the majors, we'll eventually have to take a stern look at what it means to be a Hall of Fame pitcher in a 21st century context. Cole is on his way to establishing the paradigm for what that looks like.

Here's how my AXE leaderboard had it:

1. Cole, Yankees (153 AXE)
2. Gray, Twins (143)
3. (tie) Gausman, Blue Jays (134)
Bradish, Orioles (134)
5. Kirby, Mariners (133)


National League Cy Young

Winner: Blake Snell, San Diego Padres

Final tally: Snell, 204 (28 first-place votes); Logan Webb, Giants 86 (1); Zac Gallen, D-backs 68 (1); Spencer Strider, Braves 64; Justin Steele, Cubs 32; Zack Wheeler, Phillies 28; Kodai Senga, Mets 15; Corbin Burnes, Brewers 13

Experts' picks: Snell (12 votes), Webb (1)

Doolittle's take: There just wasn't much that separated the top candidates in the NL this season. If anything, Snell's win is an interesting snapshot of what voters value in modern-day Cy Young voting. That's not to take anything away from his campaign, but you could have made a cogent argument for any of the top six on the AXE leaderboard and I might have been swayed.

In some ways, Snell has become the consummate ace, circa 2023. He prevented runs better than any other pitcher in the NL, which is why he won the award. He led the league with a 2.25 ERA, and his ERA+ was a robust 182. He can be maddening to watch because he just doesn't give in to a hitter. That keeps his whiff rate elite (11.7 per nine innings) but also means a lot of walks (5.0) -- though hitters needed those walks to get on base because Snell yielded an absurdly low 5.8 hits per nine innings.

The cost of the way Snell works, however, is that he doesn't often pitch deep into games. He led the NL with 99 pitches thrown per game but ranked just 18th in innings pitched per start. Despite making 32 starts on the season, he ranked just 10th in innings pitched (180). He labors to keep runs off the board and while he requires more bullpen support than your typical ace, at his best, he is really hard to score against.

Snell is the 22nd pitcher to win multiple Cy Young Awards. In some ways, he's perhaps the most unlikely hurler to do so.

Now eight years into his career, this is just the second time Snell compiled enough innings to qualify for the ERA title. But when he did, he won those ERA titles both times ... and won a Cy Young Award. Other than a lower win total, his 2023 season for the Padres is a virtual copy of his Cy Young season for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2018. Other than those two standout seasons, Snell has never reached even 130 innings pitched despite a career ERA+ of 127. He's a quality-over-quantity guy, a true avatar for the current description of a rotation ace.

As I mentioned earlier, good arguments could have been made for the others -- especially the other finalists, Webb and Gallen, who both threw at least 30 more innings than Snell did. These days, innings might be the single most telltale detail of a starter's season because a high total doesn't just suggest durability and pitch efficiency but also excellence in those innings -- or else many of them would have been allotted to the bullpen. Still, when you keep runs off the board at a top-of-the-charts rate and take all your turns in the rotation as Snell did, it's a hard combination to beat.

Here's how my AXE leaderboard had it:

1. (tie) Snell, Padres (142 AXE)
Webb, Giants (142)
3. Wheeler, Phillies (139)
4. Gallen, Diamondbacks (138)
5. (tie) Steele, Cubs (134)
Strider, Braves (134)

American League Manager of the Year

Winner: Brandon Hyde, Baltimore Orioles

Final tally: Hyde 144 (27 first-place votes); Bruce Bochy, Rangers 61 (3); Kevin Cash, Rays 52; Rocco Baldelli, Twins 8; Dusty Baker, Astros 4; John Schneider, Blue Jays 1

Experts' picks: Hyde (9 votes), Bochy (4)

Doolittle's take: Anyone paying attention knew the Orioles were a franchise poised to bust out -- but few thought they'd do so in a 100-plus-win fashion, let alone this year, just two seasons removed from a 110-loss season. With the laid-back Hyde setting the tone, the Baby Birds won more games than any Baltimore team since the days of Earl Weaver, Jim Palmer and Eddie Murray. The O's added 18 wins to their 2022 win total (83) -- which was in itself a major surprise.

While the manager awards are the hardest to contextualize with metrics at the individual level, Hyde stood out in all the areas that tend to attract observers to managerial excellence. Baltimore outperformed its run profile by 7.2 wins, second-largest positive gap in the majors. The Orioles beat their preseason over-under consensus by 23.5 wins, making them easily the most surprising team in baseball. And they went 30-16 in one-run games.

Beyond that, the Orioles were just fun, as Hyde and his staff continue to transition some of the game's most promising young players into the big league level. Who will forget the "Homer Hose," which was totally not at all exactly like a fraternity party beer bong?

Some managers are hired ostensibly to be a rebuild skipper, to hold down the fort as the losses pile up and the team builds its roster to contention worthiness. Often, those beleaguered managers are fired in favor of a big-name skipper as soon as the team starts contending. Anything can happen, of course, but it sure looks like Hyde and the Orioles are a fit poised for a long run together.

Hyde becomes the fourth Oriole to win AL Manager of the Year honors, joining Frank Robinson (1989), Davey Johnson (1997) and Buck Showalter (2014). Bochy finished a distant second, so he'll have to be content with his fourth World Series trophy. Chances are he's happy to do just that.

Here's how my EARL leaderboard had it:
1. Hyde, Orioles (17.3)
2. A.J. Hinch, Tigers (8.9)
3. Cash, Rays (4.8)
4. Bochy, Rangers (0.4)
5. Scott Servais, Mariners (minus-0.3)

Note: EARL is a metric that looks at how a team's winning percentage varies from expectations generated by projections, run differential and one-run record. While attributing these measures to managerial performance is presumptive, the metric does tend to track well with the annual balloting.

Manager of the Year must-reads:

How the Baltimore Orioles went from raw talent to really good

Why Bruce Bochy might be the greatest manager ever


National League Manager of the Year

Winner: Skip Schumaker, Miami Marlins

Final tally: Schumaker, 72 (8 first-place votes); Craig Counsell, Brewers 51 (5); Brian Snitker, Braves 48 (8); Torey Lovullo, Diamondbacks 42 (4); Dave Roberts, Dodgers 41 (4); David Bell, Reds 13 (1); David Ross, Cubs 3

Experts' picks: Counsell (7 votes), Schumaker (6)

Doolittle's take: First off, I have to point out that the voters overlooked a prime candidate in David Bell, who led a rookie-laden Reds team to a 20-win improvement. Whether he did a superior job to Schumacher, Counsell or Snitker is an open debate -- but the latter two piloted teams that most observers felt would contend, and Snitker led a loaded Braves team that you could all but pencil into the playoffs. None of this is to knock the finalists, but more to give some props to the overlooked Bell.

The Marlins hired Schumaker, a former Cardinals coach, last winter to succeed Don Mattingly. The first-year skipper was up for the challenge, leading Miami to a 15-win improvement, a winning record and a surprise wild-card slot. And so he outpaced Counsell in the voting and prevents the Cubs' new manager from being honored for his work in leading his old team past his new team in the NL Central race. (Baseball gets confusing at times.)

The Marlins outperformed their run profile by an MLB-high 9.1 wins this season on the strength of a surreal 33-14 record in one-run games. Leading a team that lacked offensive firepower -- Miami ranked 14th in park-adjusted run scoring -- Schumaker guided his club through a surfeit of tight, low-scoring games, belying his lack of experience as the top guy in the dugout. It's hard to argue against his place atop the balloting.

At 43, the future looks bright for Schumaker at a time when his team is again feeling around for the stability that has always eluded the Marlins franchise. He's the fourth Marlins pilot to win Manager of the Year honors. The previous three -- Jack McKeon (2003), Joe Girardi (2006) and Mattingly (2020) -- led the Marlins for a combined total of four seasons after being honored.

Counsell, perhaps the game's best manager, has still never won the award -- he now has finished second in the balloting four times. Snitker fell short in his bid to win his second; he, too, has finished fourth or better in the voting in each of the past six years.

Here's how my EARL leaderboard had it:

1. Bell, Reds (8.5)
2. Snitker, Braves (6.6)
3. Schumacher, Marlins (6.2)
4. Dave Martinez, Nationals (5.7)
5. Lovullo, Diamondbacks (5.5)

Manager of the Year must-reads:

Why Cubs stole Craig Counsell from Brewers

How Craig Counsell reset the managerial salary landscape -- maybe forever

American League Rookie of the Year

Winner: Gunnar Henderson, Baltimore Orioles

Final tally: Henderson, 150 (30 first-place votes); Tanner Bibee, Guardians 67; Triston Casas, Red Sox 25; Josh Jung, Rangers 16; Yainer Diaz, Astros 6; Masataka Yoshida, Red Sox 3; Edouard Julien, Twins 2; Anthony Volpe, Yankees 1

Experts' picks: Henderson (13 votes) (unanimous choice)

Doolittle's take: In many years, you are tempted to throw out the observation that the Rookie of the Year isn't necessarily the best prospect in a season. This time around, the argument is more about whose long-term outlook is more sparkling -- the AL's Henderson or the NL's Carroll. In terms of preseason consensus, both entered the season as the top prospect in their respective league, and, all these months later, they are no-brainer picks for the Rookie of the Year awards. It's nice when things line up like that.

Henderson struggled at the plate early in the season. By the end of the season, he was a catalyst in the Orioles' lineup, finishing with 28 homers. And he took over as Baltimore's everyday shortstop, moving over from the hot corner in June. From there, he played at short more often but could flip back depending on the needs of the lineup. His defensive metrics were strong at both spots.

Moving forward, there is room for Henderson to get even better. He hit just .199 with a .595 OPS against lefties, carrying over the platoon split he displayed in the minors. That's probably more of a concern for future Orioles opponents than it is for Henderson.

Henderson becomes the first Oriole to win AL Rookie of the Year honors since Cal Ripken Jr. in 1982. Last season, Adley Rutschman finished second in the voting behind Julio Rodriguez. With Jackson Holliday a popular pick as the current top prospect in the game, this foundation for the Orioles just keeps getting stronger and deeper.

Here's how my AXE leaderboard had it:

1. Henderson, Diamondbacks (130 AXE)
2. Bibee, Guardians (118)
3. Zack Gelof, Athletics (113)
4. (tie) Royce Lewis, Twins (112)
Edouard Julien, Twins (112)
Yennier Cano, Orioles (112)

Rookie the Year must-reads:

How young Orioles rode their talent to the AL's best record


National League Rookie of the Year

Winner: Corbin Carroll, Arizona Diamondbacks

Final tally: Carroll, 150 (30 first-place votes); Kodai Senga, Mets 71; James Outman, Dodgers 20; Nolan Jones, Rockies 17; Matt McLain, Reds 5; Spencer Steer, Reds 4; Eury Perez, Marlins 1; Elly De La Cruz, Reds 1; Patrick Bailey, Giants 1

Experts' picks: Carroll (13 votes) (unanimous choice)

Doolittle's take: The NL's 2023 rookie class was a strong one, but after April, there was little drama in the race for this award. Carroll rolled to a .910 OPS during the first month, though he was a bit overshadowed by James Outman's powerful first month for the Dodgers. After that, it was all Carroll, who displayed both the consistent and the spectacular on his way to a historic rookie campaign.

Carroll is the complete package at the plate. At 22, he manifested speed (54 steals, NL-high 10 triples), power (25 homers, .506 slugging), contact (.285 average) and discipline (57 walks and 13 HBPs). He hit at home (.902 OPS) and on the road (.843). He hit righties (.286) and lefties (.283), though he showed a lot more slug against righties. He became the first rookie to reach 25 homers and 50 steals in the same season.

Carroll was a beast in the early rounds of the postseason during Arizona's unlikely run to the World Series, but he trailed off in the National League Championship Series and the Fall Classic. He's not a finished product at 22, but who is? As with Henderson, that he still has weaknesses to iron out is a scary prospect for Arizona opponents. Carroll is the first Diamondbacks player to be named Rookie of the Year.

As mentioned, this was an awfully good rookie class in the NL. The Reds were a one-team ROY ballot on their own, with McLain, Elly de la Cruz, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Spencer Steer and Andrew Abbott all among the first-year standouts.

The Mets and Giants found their catchers of the future in 2023 (Francisco Alvarez and Patrick Bailey). The Brewers graduated a plethora of exciting outfielders (Sal Frelick, Joey Weimer, Garrett Mitchell). The Rockies' dismal season was partially redeemed by the play and promise flashed by shortstop Ezequiel Tovar. Senga was the best thing that happened in the Mets' disappointing year.

Ahead of this impressive group was Carroll, who, along with Henderson, showed us that sometimes even the most hyped prospects turn out to live up to their advanced billing.

Here's how my AXE leaderboard had it:

1. Carroll, Diamondbacks (137)
2. (tie) Senga, Mets (122)
Jones, Rockies (122)
4. Outman, Dodgers (120)
5. McLain, Reds (117)

Rookie of the Year must-reads:

Why Corbin Carroll is a star