Image credit: Bob Melvin (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland A's via Getty Images)
Bob Melvin is the 2018 American League Manager of the Year after guiding the A’s to a 97-win season and improbable spot in the AL Wild Card.
Melvin received 18 of 30 possible first-place votes, as voted on at the end of the regular season by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Red Sox manager Alex Cora (second place) and Rays manager Kevin Cash (third) trailed Melvin.
It’s Melvin’s third career Manager of the Year award. He also won in 2012 with Oakland, and in 2007 with the Diamondbacks. He is now the eighth manager to win the award three separate times.
“To accomplish what we did takes a lot of buy-in, our coaches and our players had a really cool bond this year and a trust,” Melvin said on MLB Network after winning the award. “It allows us to accomplish what we did kind of against all odds. I’m the recipient of this thing, but there’s a lot of people involved in this thing … I can’t thank them enough.”
The A’s roared into the AL’s playoff race under the 57-year-old Melvin despite a middling start and an Opening Day rotation wrecked by injuries. Oakland was 34-36 on June 15th and 11 games out of a playoff spot. Just over two months later, after winning 34 of their next 47 games, the A’s were tied with the Houston Astros for first place in the AL West.
Oakland’s unlikely bid for a divisional crown fell short, but it still managed to fend off a late Rays surge and easily secure a Wild Card spot against the Yankees.
Much of their success came as Melvin and the A’s were forced to cobble a rotation together.
Opening Day starter Kendall Graveman posted an 8.89 ERA in six starts, was then demoted and ultimately shut down in July to have Tommy John surgery. Staff ace Sean Manaea was shut down in September and underwent shoulder surgery — he’ll miss 2019 too. By mid-September, the A’s had used 14 different starting pitchers. Even their top pitching prospect, A.J. Puk, underwent Tommy John.
Melvin deftly worked around a lack of starters by employing a dominant, deep bullpen and saw his young offense thrive.
A’s relievers threw 824.1 innings — 183 more than any other American League team — and were second among all AL teams in ERA (3.37). Closer Blake Treinen emerged as one of the game’s most dominant relievers in 2018 and Oakland made mid-season acquisitions of both Jeurys Familia and Fernando Rodney to further bolster the ‘pen.
They even employed an opener (Liam Hendriks) in the AL Wild Card game, which they lost 7-2.
Oakland’s offense, meanwhile, was second in the AL in homers (227), isolated power (.187) and tied for second in OPS+ (109).
The A’s improved by 22 wins over their 2017 record.
Cora, 43, finished second after leading the Red Sox to a MLB-best and franchise record 108 wins, an AL East title and, ultimately, a World Series in his first season as a manager. He drew rave reviews for his ability to connect with Boston’s clubhouse and willingness to stand behind his convictions. Under Cora, Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez posted MVP-caliber seasons.
Cash, 40, oversaw a similarly surprising success story in Tampa Bay, where the Rays nearly dug out of a 4-13 start to the season to challenge for a postseason spot in a loaded AL East. They finished with 90 wins, won 17 of 20 at one point in September to close strong, and won 28 one-run games. Blake Snell blossomed as a Cy Young candidate and Cash used 30 other pitchers around him, implementing Tampa’s opener strategy effectively in May.