Sources: Mike Zarrilli; AP Photo John Minchillo:Milwaukee Brewers Facebook; Getty Images
Well, here we are. We are finally in October; which means that it’s time for the MLB Postseason. This also means that it’s time to hand out the awards from the regular season. There were a lot of spectacular performances this year; which made choosing winners for these awards quite difficult.
* Numbers in parentheses indicate the player’s ranking in their respective league
1st: Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels
39 HR (T-4th), 79 RBI (T-24th), 24 SB (9th), .312/.460/.628 (4th/1st/3rd)
2nd: Mookie Betts, OF, Boston Red Sox
32 HR (T-9th), 80 RBI (T-22nd), 30 SB (T-5th), .346/.438/.640 (1st/2nd/1st)
3rd: Khris Davis, OF, Oakland Athletics
48 HR (1st), 123 RBI (2nd), 0 SB (NA), .247/.326/.549 (T-46th/36th/5th)
We’re starting off with a tough one. There are many players who should be in consideration for this award: Jose Ramirez, J.D. Martinez, Francisco Lindor, Alex Bregman, along with the three players that I have as finalists. There are several different interpretations when it comes to what the “Valuable” in Most Valuable Player means. Some people think it means the best player from the best team; others think “If you took this player off of their team, how much worse would they be?”; or somebody might just vote for who they think had the best overall season. I, for one, typically go by a mixture of the last two ideologies that I listed. However, that’s not to say that the other line of thinking is wrong. If you think Mookie Betts should win because he was the best player on the league’s best team, be my guest. I just don’t think that being on the best team in the league is as important as many others do when it comes to handing out the MVP.
Another year, another MVP for Mike Trout. Since becoming a full-time major leaguer in 2012, Trout has won two MVPs, been a runner-up three times, and finished fourth once; although, he probably would’ve won a third MVP that year if he didn’t miss a significant amount of time due to injury. Trout is the perfect example of why a team’s record isn’t the end all be all when it comes to the MVP. Trout’s Angels went 80-82 this season, finishing fourth in the AL West; but Trout deserves zero percent of the blame. Trout is putting up historic numbers on an annual basis, and the lack of talent around him shouldn’t be seen as a negative towards him. I’d be surprised if Trout is named MVP since most voters are probably getting bored of voting for him; but I’ll be damned if he doesn’t deserve to win it.
Mookie Betts is the best player on the best team. He put up a video game-like slash line and was exceptional in right field. I won’t lie, I don’t have a concrete argument against why Betts shouldn’t win; I just think Trout deserves it more.
This is where it gets interesting. If you look at the real Krush Davis’ stat line in comparison to Trout and Betts’, it doesn’t look that great, aside from the power numbers. The reason I have Davis here is because of when and where he put those numbers up. In 64 games after the All-Star break, Davis smashed an incredible 27 home runs and 59 RBI. Oakland went 42-22 in those games, on their way to locking up the second wild card spot. What makes it even more impressive is that he put those numbers up while playing all of his home games in the ballpark that baseballs go to die, the Oakland Coliseum. The Coliseum is the furthest thing from a hitter-friendly park, and that type of production is insane. In fact, if you ask David Ortiz, that level of production in that ballpark is “impossible”. Put him in Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium for 81 games, and the possibilities are endless.
1st: Blake Snell, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
21-5 (1st), 180 2/3 IP (14th), 221 K (T-6th), 1.89 ERA (1st), 0.97 WHIP (3rd)
2nd: Chris Sale, LHP, Boston Red Sox
12-4 (T-15th), 158 IP (30th), 237 K (3rd), 2.11 ERA (2nd), 0.86 WHIP (1st)
3rd: Justin Verlander, RHP, Houston Astros
16-9 (T-7th), 214 IP (2nd), 290 K (1st), 2.52 ERA (4th), 0.90 WHIP (2nd)
Blake Snell may be the biggest surprise of the season. He was always seen as a player with incredible potential, but this is the first year where he really put it all together. He led the majors in wins and was second in ERA, next to only Jacob deGrom. When comparing the three of these pitchers, I’m trying to be as nit-picky as possible, but when it comes to the season that Snell produced, there aren’t many negatives.
I had Sale winning the Cy Young at the halfway point; and he would’ve ran away with it if he didn’t miss so much time in final few months. Sale pitched a total of 17 innings in August and September combined. That’s really my only gripe with him. It all came down to the fact that his first five months of the season weren’t as good as Snell’s full year.
Verlander’s first full season as an Astro couldn’t have gone better. The fact that Verlander exceeded 200 innings pitched will get him some votes from some of the old school (read: old) voters, but for me, he comes up just short of winning his second Cy Young.
Rookie of the Year
* Numbers in parentheses indicate the player’s ranking among qualified rookies in their respective league
1st: Miguel Andujar, 3B, New York Yankees
27 HR (T-1st), 92 RBI (1st), 2 SB (T-9th), .297/.328/.527 (2nd/5th/1st/)
2nd: Gleyber Torres, 2B/SS, New York Yankees
24 HR (3rd), 77 RBI (2nd), 6 SB (T-5th), .271/.340/.480 (5th/3rd/3rd)
3rd: Shohei Ohtani, RHP/DH, Los Angeles Angels
22 HR (4th), 61 RBI (T-4th), 10 SB (4th), .285/.361/.564 (3rd/1st/1st) 4-2 (T-7th), 51.2 IP (15th), 63 K (13th), 3.31 ERA (5th)
Andujar and Torres were basically tied for this award at the mid-season point, although I did give Torres the slight edge due to his defence. Since then, Andujar’s defence has still been his biggest flaw, but his exceptional bat is what has won him this award. Since the All-Star break, here are Andujar’s hitting stats compared to Torres’:
Andujar: 65 G, 35 XBH, 15 HR, 53 RBI, .319/.345/.575
Torres: 60 G, 15 XBH, 9 HR, 35 RBI, .249/.329/.404
As you can see, Andujar’s second half blows Torres’ out of the water. Andujar has as many home runs as Torres does extra base hits since the break, which is crazy to think about. At this point, it seems safe to say that the Rookie of the Year will be going to a Yankee.
Shohei Ohtani is the enigma that we all thought he would be. He can touch triple digits with his fastball, while also being able to hit the ball over 400 feet. However, his season was slightly derailed due to a pre-existing elbow injury, that is now causing him to undergo Tommy John surgery. Despite not being able to throw, he has still been hitting quite well. Ohtani will receive plenty of votes due to the fact that he pitched and hit this season, but that is a lousy vote. You can’t say that Ohtani is a double threat, without acknowledging that Andujar and Torres are also double threats in their own right. Here’s what I'm saying: Sure, Ohtani pitched, but he didn’t play defence at all this season. If he wasn’t pitching or hitting, he wasn’t on the field. To put this in perspective, Ohtani pitched 51 2/3 innings; meanwhile, Andujar played 1169 1/3 innings at third base, while Torres played 1067 2/3 innings at second base and shortstop. If you ask me, over a thousand defensive innings are more valuable than Ohtani’s 51 innings pitched. If we want to get even fancier with this argument, Ohtani pitched 51 2/3 innings, which equals 155 outs. Andujar had 93 putouts and 178 assists; while Torres had 185 putouts and 272 assists. Both Andujar and Torres technically contributed to more outs than Ohtani did on the defensive side of the ball. The argument against that will be that Andujar has 15 fielding errors while Torres had 17. Well, if we want to get technical, every hit and walk that Ohtani lets up is the equivalent of an error. With all of that said, Ohtani will probably end up winning the award just because he’s the shiny new toy.
1st: Christian Yelich, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
36 HR (T-3rd), 110 RBI (T-2nd), 22 SB (11th), .326/.402/.598 (1st/3rd/1st)
2nd: Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies
38 HR (1st), 110 RBI (T-2nd), 2 SB (T-129th), .297/.374/.561 (T-9th/T-10th/3rd)
3rd: Javier Baez, 2B/3B/SS, Chicago Cubs
34 HR (T-7th), 111 RBI (1st), 21 SB (12th), .290/.326/.554 (T-14th/T-46th/4th)
Christian Yelich is like that horse that is 10 body lengths behind going into the last turn and then ends up winning the race. The first half of Yelich’s season was nothing special. He had 11 home runs, 43 RBI and was slashing .292/.364/.459 in 82 games. The second half of the year was a completely different story. In 65 games following the All-Star Break, Yelich hit 25 home runs, 67 RBI and slashed .367/.449/.770, while also hitting for the cycle twice. When it was all said and done, Yelich was two home runs and one RBI away from the Triple Crown; all while leading the Milwaukee Brewers to their first division title since 2011. Just think about this, if Yelich ends up winning the MVP, it will mean that the Miami Marlins traded back-to-back NL MVPs in the same offseason. Tremendous.
I feel bad for Nolan Arenado at this point. He’s the best third baseman in the majors, and one of the best hitters; but he just can’t seem to get over this MVP hump. He’s finished top five in voting the past two seasons and seems guaranteed to finish top five once again. Since 2015, he has averaged 40 home runs, 126 RBI and a .297/.358/.573 slash line. Add his elite defence at third base, and the Rockies getting a Wild Card spot, which could’ve been a division title if they beat the Dodgers in their tie-breaker game, and you have a player who should have an MVP by now. I won’t lie, I’m perplexed at this point.
Javier Baez may be the most fun player to watch in baseball right now. He hits bombs, steals bases, and has somehow made highlight tags at second base a common thing. Baez has the numbers to be MVP, but Yelich’s second half was flat out unbeatable.
1st: Jacob deGrom, RHP, New York Mets
10-9 (T-22nd), 217 IP (2nd), 269 K (2nd), 1.70 ERA (1st), 0.91 WHIP (T-1st)
2nd: Max Scherzer, RHP, Washington Nationals
18-7 (T-1st), 220 2/3 IP (1st), 300 K (1st), 2.53 ERA (3rd), 0.91 WHIP (T-1st)
3rd: Aaron Nola, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
17-6 (T-4th), 212 1/3 IP (3rd), 224 K (5th), 2.37 ERA (2nd), 0.97WHIP (3rd)
Was this the best Cy Young race of all time? I think this was the best Cy Young race of all time.
We’ll start off with the decision that will have the most ‘controversy’ surrounding it: a pitcher winning the Cy Young with only 10 wins. If you ask an old fart (read: Michael Wilbon), anybody who gives the Cy Young to Jacob deGrom should lose their vote and be castrated. Okay, he didn’t say the second part, but he did say that people should lose their vote if they give the Cy Young to deGrom. Why you may ask? Because he doesn’t have enough wins. For some reason, people are still under the impression that pitchers have complete control over whether they win a game or not. A pitcher can throw a no-hitter and still lose the game if his team doesn’t score any runs. It’s such a stupid argument, and frankly, it’s sad. DeGrom just put together arguably the greatest season in modern baseball history, and we’re debating if he should win the award because he ‘doesn’t have enough wins’? What a joke. To give you an idea of how great deGrom’s season was, here are some stats, courtesy of Buster Olney:
Max Scherzer is the best pitcher of this generation. There I said it. He’s won Cy Young's in both leagues, three in total. Since coming to the NL, he has two Cy Young's while Clayton Kershaw has none. Scherzer also has five straight seasons of 250+ strikeouts; which is tied for the MLB record. A record that he will surely break next season. Due to deGrom’s low win total, there is a lane for Scherzer to win his fourth Cy Young; which would make him the fourth pitcher in MLB history to do so. I wouldn’t give him the award, although he is very deserving, but I have a strange feeling that he’ll win it.
I feel bad for Aaron Nola. He produces an incredible season, yet he’s getting absolutely no consideration for this award and there’s nothing he can do about it. At this point, his chances of winning the Cy Young are about as good as mine.
Rookie of the Year
1st: Ronald Acuna, OF, Atlanta Braves
26 HR (1st), 64 RBI (3rd), 16 SB (1st), .293/.366/.552 (2nd/3rd/1st)
2nd: Juan Soto, OF, Washington Nationals
22 HR (2nd), 70 RBI (1st), 5 SB (T-4th), .292/.406/.517 (3rd/1st/2nd)
3rd: Walker Buehler, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
8-5 (T-1st), 137 1/3 IP (3rd), 151 K (2nd), 2.62 ERA (4th)**
** - Among qualified rookie starting pitchers
This is as close as it gets. Acuna and Soto both took the league by storm this year. Acuna was setting home run records from the leadoff spot, while being a key part in the Braves winning their division. All while Soto was out here getting on base at an incredible rate, making Nationals fans a little less nervous about possibly losing Bryce Harper this off-season and technically hitting an MLB home run before his actual debut. I’d vote for Acuna due to him being a five tool player, but this can really go either way.
Buehler is in a similar boat to Aaron Nola; although, on a much smaller scale. Like Nola, Buehler had an amazing season, but the two players ahead of him were just on another level. Coming into the season, nobody thought that a rookie would be the second best pitcher in the Dodgers’ rotation, yet, here we are. ‘Twas a nice effort, but Buehler isn’t going home with the Rookie of the Year.