Who were the best players on the Detroit Tigers in 2015?

Clockwise from top left: JD Martinez, James McCann, David Price, and Jose Iglesias.

Clockwise from top left: JD Martinez, James McCann, David Price, and Jose Iglesias.

Now that we’re done with Awards Week in Major League Baseball, it’s time to look at who would win the various awards if the voting was confined just to our Detroit Tigers.

Most Valuable Player
At first glance, the team’s Most Valuable Player seems obvious. Miguel Cabrera’s name automatically comes to your lips, right? And look at how Tigers fared in the league-wide MVP voting. David Price finished ninth. But since Price split his season with Detroit and Toronto—and his dominating pitching with the Blue Jays was the main reason he got MVP and Cy Young votes—we can ignore him. Cabrera, however, also got one third-place vote and was named on eleven ballots; he finished eleventh overall.

The only other Tigers garnering any MVP votes were J.D. Martinez, who was named on eight ballots and finished fifteenth overall, and Ian Kinsler, whom one writer picked eighth.

Interesting to note that Anthony French of the Detroit Free Press picked Price fourth and Martinez seventh; the Detroit News beat writer picked Martinez tenth.

The race for team MVP is closer than you might initially think. Though Miggy had his usual monster batting line (.338/.440/.534), JD had a potent.282/.344/.535. Martinez played in thirty-nine more games, out-homered Miggy 38 -18, and had 102 RBIs to Cabrera’s 76.

In terms of WAR, according to how Baseball Encyclopedia calculates it, Cabrera finished only slightly ahead of Martinez, 5.2 to 5.0. But Kinsler had 6.0—mostly because he got a couple wins for his defense. Like even fancier stats? In “win probability added,” which purports to add up all the contributions that made it more likely the club would win games, it was very close: JD 12.6, Kinsler 12.1, Miggy 11.5.

Given that Miggy missed so many games, I’d say that the team MVP should come down to JD and Kinsler. But Kinsler had only a .770 OPS and an OPS+ of 113 (league average is 100). Martinez had so much better offensive production that I would name him as the surprise team MVP.

Rookie of the Year
This one’s no contest: James McCann should win hands down as the Tiger’s best rookie. In fact, it’s surprising McCann was shut out entirely in league voting, especially when the likes of Billy Burns, Delino DeShields, Roberto Osuna, and Eddie Rosario got votes. I think McCann should have finished fourth in the AL ROY voting—and maybe even third above Miguel Sano, because he had a solid season at catcher all year. Tyler Collins would be a distant second as the Tigers’ best rookie. Alex Wilson wouldn’t qualify because he’d previously pitched more than 50 innings in two seasons with the Red Sox.

Cy Young
Price and Verlander are the only plausible candidates here. Price pitched a few more innings (146 to 133) for Detroit but had a way better ERA (2.53 to JV’s 3.38). And if you care about the old won-loss, he was 9-4 while JV was 5-8. In WAR Price was worth 3.5 wins, Verlander 2.1. Wilson was tops in the pen with a 1.7 WAR and should be ranked a solid third in this category of best Tigers moundsman in 2015.

Comeback Player of the Year
This is pretty obvious, too: Jose Iglesias hit .300 after sitting out all of 2014 with an injury, and he played spectacular defense at a key position. Verlander would be second after his awful 2014 season and off-season surgery. He lowered his ERA more than a run from 4.54 to 3.38.