September is finally here. The dog days of summer are over and we’re in the home stretch of the 2017 MLB season. With that comes the postseason, and with the postseason comes the year-end awards for the American and National leagues: Manager of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, and Most Valuable Player. Here, I will take a look at each award and it’s presumed contenders and see who I believe will win each award.
American League Manager of the Year: Generally, this award goes to a manager whose team exceeded pre-season expectations. For example, Terry Francona of the Cleveland Indians won the award last season, taking the Indians to the World Series following an 81-80 season in 2015. In 2015, Jeff Banister of the Texas Rangers won, as he led the Rangers to the AL West title a year after they were the worst team in the American League. In 2014, Buck Showalter won the award, bringing the Orioles to their first AL East title since 1997. This year, I think the award goes to Paul Molitor of the Minnesota Twins. The Twins currently sit in the second Wild Card spot in the American League despite selling at the trade deadline. This, of course, comes a season after finishing 59-103, the worst record in baseball in 2016.
Honorable Mentions: A.J. Hinch – Houston Astros, John Farrell – Boston Red Sox, Mike Scioscia – Los Angeles Angels
National League Manager of the Year: This one doesn’t really take much thought. To me, Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers seems like a shoo-in to repeat as NL Manager of the Year, as the Dodgers have the best record in baseball at 92-45 and are on pace to win 109 games. Roberts does have some competition in the form of two NL West rivals, though: Bud Black of the Colorado Rockies and Torey Lovullo of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Rockies, at 73-64, are in the midst of one of their best regular seasons in franchise history (on pace for 86 wins, which would be the third most in franchise history). The Diamondbacks are 80-58 and have won 11 games in a row, including a three game sweep of the Dodgers. Both teams have had a stranglehold on the two NL Wild Card spots for pretty much the entire season.
Honorable Mentions: Joe Maddon – Chicago Cubs, Craig Counsell – Milwaukee Brewers, Don Mattingly – Miami Marlins
American League Rookie of the Year: I don’t see either Rookie of the Year award winner being a shock. In the AL, I think it’s Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees. Arriving on the scene as one of the biggest and brightest new stars in the sport, Judge has hit 38 HRs, which leads the AL, and driven in 85 runs this year. It has been the tale of two seasons for Judge this year. Prior to the All-Star break, Judge was a bonafide MVP candidate, slashing .329/.448/.691, with 30 HRs and 66 RBI in 84 games. Since the All-Star break, Judge has slashed .182/.349/.358 with just 8 HRs and 19 RBI in 48 games, including a stretch in which he struck out in 37 consecutive games, a Major League record. He’s less disciplined at the plate following the All-Star break, swinging on breaking pitches out of the zone that he was laying off of in the first half of the season. Despite this dreadful slump, he still sits with a slash-line of .277/.412/.573 for the season, and has walked 103 times (five away of breaking the MLB rookie record held by Ted Williams). Among qualified AL rookies (min. 200 ABs), Judge is first in HRs (38), RBI (85), walks (103), runs (101), OBP (.412), SLG (.573), and OPS (.985).
Honorable Mentions: Trey Mancini – Baltimore Orioles (.290/.337/.504, 23 HRs, 72 RBI), Andrew Benintendi – Boston Red Sox (.276/.360/.438, 19 HRs, 74 RBI), Yuli Gurriel – Houston Astros (.295/.325/.483, 16 HRs, 63 RBI)
National League Rookie of the Year: Again, I don’t think this one is very much competition. I believe the Los Angeles Dodgers will have their second consecutive unanimous winner of this award, this time in the form of Cody Bellinger. Bellinger has been ridiculous in every sense of the word this year, slashing .270/.349/.608. He leads all qualified NL rookies in HRs (36), RBI (82), runs (74), OBP (.349), SLG (.608), OPS (.957). Along with this, he’s third in hits (106), third in walks (48), sixth in AVG (.270), and sixth in doubles (19).
Honorable Mentions: Josh Bell – Pittsburgh Pirates (.264/.343/.495, 24 HRs, 82 RBI), Paul DeJong – St. Louis Cardinals (.287/.323/.543, 21 HRs, 55 RBI), Ian Happ – Chicago Cubs (.256/.330/.529, 21 HRs, 53 RBI)
American League Cy Young Award: The winner of the AL Cy Young Award isn’t as clear-cut as it was maybe a month ago. Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox is one of the front-runners, for sure, though. Sale has pitched out of his mind this year, compiling a 15-7 record with a 2.85 ERA, and striking out an absurd 270 batters in just 189.2 innings of work. In his first year in Boston, the lanky lefty leads all AL pitchers in wins (15), innings pitched (189.2), and strikeouts (270). He is second in the league in ERA (2.85), opponent’s AVG (.201), and WHIP (0.94). Sale certainly makes a good case to bring home his first career Cy Young Award.
The other front-runner would be Corey Kluber of the reigning AL Champion Cleveland Indians. Kluber, gunning for his second career Cy Young Award, has been excellent all year long, pitching to a 14-4 record and an AL-best 2.56 ERA. Since June 1, Kluber is 12-6 with a 1.85 ERA. As mentioned, he leads the AL in ERA, not to mention opponent’s AVG (.194), and WHIP (0.90). Lastly, he is second in the AL in wins (14) and third in strikeouts (222). With his dominant run dating back to before the All-Star break, I think Kluber makes an equally compelling argument to win his second Cy Young Award.
Honorable Mentions: Luis Severino – New York Yankees (12-6, 3.03 ERA), Marcus Stroman – Toronto Blue Jays (11-6, 3.08 ERA), Ervin Santana – Minnesota Twins (14-7, 3.35 ERA)
National League Cy Young Award: This one is tricky. Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw is an obvious answer, though he missed all of August with a back injury. Despite that, the three-time Cy Young Winner and one-time NL MVP has a record of 16-2 and an unbelievable 1.95 ERA. With just those two stats, he would seem to be the clear winner. However, missing a month of action will certainly hurt his chances of winning his fourth career Cy Young Award.
Another option would be reigning NL Cy Young Winner Max Scherzer. The Washington Nationals ace also missed two starts in August due to a neck injury, but has replicated his Cy Young winning season from last year, pitching to a 13-5 record and a blistering 2.19 ERA. He leads the NL in WAR (7.3), strikeouts (232), opponent’s AVG (.172), and WHIP (0.85). These could be good enough to allow Scherzer to bring home Cy Young Award number three.
Honorable Mentions: Gio Gonzalez – Washington Nationals (13-6, 2.58 ERA), Stephen Strasburg – Washington Nationals (11-4, 2.90 ERA), Kenley Jansen (5-0, 1.21 ERA, 36 Saves)
American League Most Valuable Player: My pick for AL MVP is the pint-sized second baseman deep in the heart of Texas, Jose Altuve. Altuve has helped lead the Houston Astros to the best record in the American League, slashing .354/.415/.561 with 21 HRs and 73 RBI. He has the possibility of amassing 30 doubles, 30 home runs, and 30 steals for the season. He is on pace for his third career batting title and his fourth consecutive 200 hit season. Also, he leads the AL in WAR (7.3). There’s not much else to say about Altuve. He’s one of the very best young players in the league, still only 27 years old and with his best years still ahead of him. Altuve finished third in the AL MVP voting last year. I’m predicting that the voters go this way, and Altuve takes that leap forward and brings home the award.
Honorable Mentions: Mike Trout – Los Angeles Angels (.329/.464/.662, 27 HRs, 61 RBI), Jose Ramirez – Cleveland Indians (.310/.363/.558, 23 HRs, 67 RBI), Eric Hosmer – Kansas City Royals (.318/.385/.504, 23 HRs, 80 RBI)
National League Most Valuable Player: To me, there are three main candidates for this award. The first is the power-hitting first baseman for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Paul Goldschmidt. Goldschmidt would be a household name if he played anywhere other than Arizona. He is a top-five position player in baseball and it is time he gets his due. His fantastic season is partly responsible for the DBacks success thus far. Slashing .314/.424/.597 with 33 HRs and 109 RBI, he finds himself in the top five in many major offensive categories: second in OBP (.424), third in runs (102), RBI (109), walks (87), fourth in HRs (33), fifth in SLG (.597), in OPS (1.022), and in WAR (6.2, third among position players).
Another candidate would be Joey Votto, who continues to be one of the only bright spots on the Cincinnati Reds (as well as one of the most under-appreciated players in the league, in my opinion). Votto has slashed .312/.448/.588. That .448 is an absurd on-base percentage. To put it into perspective, Votto has 44 more walks than he does strikeouts this season. He is far and wide the most disciplined hitter in all of baseball. Along with those lofty numbers, he has 28 doubles, 34 HRs, and 93 RBI. Votto, as well, is third in the NL in WAR (6.4, second among position players). Could Votto take home his second career MVP award?
The last candidate has been the hottest player in the majors over the last two months. Giancarlo Stanton has hit 29 HRs with 56 RBI over the last 50 games. In that time frame, he is slashing .311/.430/.842. Your math is correct. He has an awe-inspiring 1.272 OPS over the last 50 games. Now, for the season he has a slash line of .286/.381/.657 with 53 HRs and 112 RBI, and he has a WAR of 6.7, good for second in the NL and first among position players. This one is simple in my opinion. If Stanton hits 60 home runs for the season, then it is undoubtedly his award. The Marlins slugger would become just the sixth player in MLB history to hit 60 home runs in a season. So, if Stanton puts his name in the history books, then he deserves the award. But until then, I think it’s a fight between these three men.
Honorable Mentions: Charlie Blackmon – Colorado Rockies (.342/.406/.625, 33 HRs, 86 RBI), Nolan Arenado – Colorado Rockies (.303/.362/.577, 30 HRs, 111 RBI), Max Scherzer – Washington Nationals (13-5, 2.19 ERA)
These are, of course, my predictions based on stats and general history of how the voters tend to make these decisions. For instance, while the two Colorado Rockies stars (Arenado and Blackmon) are having monster years, the awards voters don’t tend to vote for Rockies players due to the “Coors Field effect,” which is the belief that the dimensions and elevation of Coors Field lend to more offense from it’s players. For instance, a look at the home and away splits for these two players:
Home – .331/.385/.639/.1.024, 16 HRs, 70 RBI
Away – .280/.342/.519/.861, 14 HRs, 42 RBI
Home – .390/.466/.781/1.247, 21 HRs, 47 RBI
Away – .292/.340/.469/.808, 12 HRs, 39 RBI
Look at those splits! That’s a drop of over 300 points in slugging percentage from Blackmon! Those are drastic drops in all categories from both players. I’m a fan of both players, but those drop-offs in productivity within the confines of Coors Field and elsewhere are too big to justify a vote over the other candidates. Of course, this is just an example of how I’m basing this from just one of the awards. As I said, I’m basing these predictions off of voter habits in recent years. We’ll certainly see after the postseason how these predictions turned out.
(All stats as of 9/5/17, before game time)
By: Chris Perkowski