MLB Awards Update

With less than 15 games to go in the regular season, it’s time to look at the major contenders for each of the major awards, and speculate who’s in the lead heading down the stretch.  Many of the races are still up in the air; in fact, only two awards seem wrapped up right now, so we’ll start with those two.

 

NL Cy Young Award: Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies

 

It’s Halladay’s award to lose.  He leads the league in pitcher WAR by either calculation (Fangraphs and BB-Ref), he’s posting the highest K% of his career, the third-lowest BB% of his career*, and the lowest HR/9 rate of his career. He’s improved his game in nearly every aspect imaginable, and correspondingly his 2.12 FIP is the lowest of his career.  According to Fangraphs, no other pitcher in the National League is within a full win of his 8.0 WAR, which is a laughably huge margin.  Halladay should start clearing out space on the mantle for his 3rd Cy Young Award.

 

*K% and BB% measure what percentage of batters faced a pitcher strikes out and walks, respectively.

 

Contenders: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers; Cliff Lee, Phillies; Cole Hamels, Phillies; Madison Bumgarner, Giants.*

 

*Fun Fact: According to Fangraphs, 6 of the top 8 pitchers in WAR play for either the Giants or the Phillies.

 

AL Cy Young Award: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

 

This is a pretty close race between Verlander and CC Sabathia, but I think Verlander has done enough to be considered the strong favorite to win.  He leads the American League in innings pitched and K/9, and is second to Sabathia in fWAR, 7.1 to 6.7.  Verlander leads Sabathia in rWAR by a gap the size of the Gulf of Mexico, 8.0 to 6.6.  His traditional numbers look better than Sabathia’s as well, with more wins, more strikeouts, and less walks.  Add in the fact that he could reach 25 wins before the end of the season, and he’s the lead horse in this race.

 

Contenders: Sabathia; Jered Weaver, Angels; Dan Haren, Angels.

 

NL MVP Award: Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers

His team is atrocious, but Kemp has been a monster this year.  He’s been contending for the Triple Crown, and while it would take a minor miracle for that to happen, it does illustrate just how good he’s been.  This race is very close, and Kemp is by no means a lock.  I would say it’s a three horse race between Kemp, Justin Upton of the Diamondbacks, and Ryan Braun of the Brewers.  One thing that is working against Kemp is the fact that both Braun and Upton play for teams that are likely headed for the postseason, while his is not.  But Kemp leads the league in both fWAR and rWAR, although it is certainly a close race.

For now, I’m giving Kemp the nod, but there’s enough baseball left to play to make this a race that is far from over.

 

Contenders: Upton; Braun; Troy Tulowitski, Rockies; Prince Fielder, Brewers; Shane Victorino, Phillies.

 

AL MVP: Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays

 

Joey Bats is the best player in the AL this season, and although Jacoby Ellsbury is making a late-season run at the award, Bautista is still the best.   He leads the league in so many important categories: home runs, walks, OBP, SLG, OPS, OPS+, wOBA, wRC+.  He’s been far and away the best offensive player in the league, and he’s been average in the field (-2.1 runs below average per Fangraphs, +6 runs above average per BB-Ref).  The three headed monster from Boston (Pedroia, Ellsbury, Gonzalez) are all contenders, but no one has put up the kind of dominant numbers Bautista has this season.  Curtis Granderson could get some love from the traditionalist crowd, but I think the sabermetric stats have made enough headway to discourage a serious run from Granderson.

 

Contenders: Pedroia; Ellsbury; Gonzalez; Granderson.

 

NL Rookie of the Year: Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves

 

            I hate giving these awards to relievers, but there really hasn’t been a standout position player rookie in the NL this season a la Heyward and Posey last season, and Kimbrel has just been so dominant that he can’t be denied.  The numbers don’t lie: 1.71 ERA, 1.08 FIP, 0.12 HR/9 and a ridiculous 15.03 K/9 rate.  He strikes out 43% of the batters he faces.  He might be the best reliever, period, in the National League.

 

Contenders: Danny Espinosa, Nationals; Freddie Freeman, Braves; Vance Worley, Phillies.

 

AL Rookie of the Year: Michael Pineda, Seattle Mariners.

 

            Man, another difficult choice.   Dustin Ackley’s been the best hitter on the Mariners since the day he stepped foot in Safeco (not saying much, I know).  Mark Trumbo of the Angels has hit 27 home runs.  But I’m taking Pineda, who unexpectedly made the Mariners’ rotation out of spring training.  Since then he’s been lights out.  He strikes out more than a batter an inning, and he keeps his walks down in a range that is acceptable.  He’s been one of the better pitchers in the majors this season, and considering he’s doing it in his age-20 season, he should probably win the award.

 

Contenders: Ackley; Trumbo; Jeremy Hellickson, Tampa Bay Rays.

 

-N.M.

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