It’s hard to believe the MLB season is already over. Just a few months ago, it seems, Ian Happ was hitting the first pitch of the season out for a home run. Now, we sit, waiting for games 163 later today. And during this excruciating 18-hour wait, one that feels like 18 years for fans with a horse in the race (like myself), I’ve had time to look over numbers and reflect on who should win their respective awards.
And thus, here are my picks for each of the 2018 MLB Awards.
AL MVP: Mike Trout
Don’t get me wrong, I’d be fine if Mookie Betts wins this award. He’s had a fantastic year for the Red Sox. But I still believe Mike Trout is the MVP this season.
Trout only has five fewer plate appearances than Betts, in which he has a fWAR of 0.4 less. It’s highly unlikely, if even possible, for him to make up that WAR in so few plate appearances, but WAR isn’t everything. Trout has had the best offensive season while still helping on defense.
Trout doesn’t slug quite as well as Betts, but his OBP is so much higher that Trout has a better OPS. Trout also has a higher wRC+ than Betts, as well as more homers. Betts’s slugging is so much higher due to many more doubles and triples.
It’s also worth emphasizing that, in the vast majority of cases this year, Betts has had better protection than Trout. Betts has seen better pitches to hit than Trout all year because teams would much rather pitch to a 38-year old Albert Pujols than Andrew Benintendi. There were certain games this year this was flipped, but over the vast majority of the year, Trout wasn’t able to get good pitches to hit. And still put up a 191 wRC+.
Betts is good, but Trout is better. He’s the MVP.
(Full Ballot: 1st – Mike Trout, 2nd – Mookie Betts, 3rd – Jose Ramirez, 4th – J.D. Martinez, 5th – Alex Bregman, 6th – Matt Chapman, 7th – Francisco Lindor, 8th – Mitch Haniger, 9th – Gerrit Cole, 10th – Khris Davis)
NL MVP: Jacob deGrom
I’m not going to go too into depth on this one here, because I already did last week. In a nutshell, deGrom is having the best season for a pitcher this millennium in a season which has seen the worst MVP candidates in a while.
Christian Yelich has an outside shot at the triple crown (trailing Javier Baez by two RBIs headed into the tiebreaker game), but even that wouldn’t be enough in my opinion. None of those numbers are particularly MVP-level in a normal season. He’d be getting whispers, but I would have expected a couple players to be at his level in the NL this year. He’s been fantastic, but Jacob deGrom is the MVP.
The NL MVP ballot is going to have quite a few pitchers, as the pitchers have been the best players in the NL this year, for the most part. It’s that simple.
(Full Ballot: 1st – Jacob deGrom, 2nd – Christian Yelich, 3rd – Javier Baez, 4th – Patrick Corbin, 5th – Max Scherzer, 6th – Anthony Rendon, 7th – Freddie Freeman, 8th – Paul Goldschmidt, 9th – Matt Carpenter, 10th – Lorenzo Cain)
AL Cy Young: Gerrit Cole
This is the closest award this year, bar none. Cases can be made for more guys than are on the ballot (five). At the end of the day, I believe analytics point vaguely to Gerrit Cole as the Cy Young of the American League.
Cole doesn’t have the best of any one stat in the league, but as a whole, I think he’s produced the best body of work. His 3.04 xFIP is tied for the second-best in the American League behind Carlos Carrasco. While he has walked a few more than I’d like, his 12.40 K/9 leads the American League.
Cole has been unluckier than most, with a .301 BABIP against, despite allowing the 6th lowest percentage of hard-hit balls this year. Again, nothing stands out off the page, but it doesn’t for anyone else either. Cole’s been the best all-around pitcher in the American League this year.
Had he pitched more innings, this would have gone to Chris Sale. However, as I said about Trout and MVP last year, you have to have enough innings to qualify to be eligible for these awards, at least in my opinion. Sale didn’t do that.
(Full Ballot: 1st – Gerrit Cole, 2nd – Justin Verlander, 3rd – Trevor Bauer, 4th – Carlos Carrasco, 5th – Blake Snell)
NL Cy Young: Jacob deGrom
I guess this one is kind of obvious, at least the first three spots. Instead of regurgitating the same numbers on deGrom for the third time, can we talk about the season Patrick Corbin is having?
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Corbin has SILENTLY put up a marvelous season. Corbin’s peripherals aren’t just better than Max Scherzer’s, they are a lot better. Corbin’s xFIP is the same as deGrom’s. He allows HRs at a rate only topped by deGrom. He’s also been quite a bit unluckier than both those guys, with a .302 BABIP, thus his high ERA.
More interestingly, however, he’s been doing this while giving up the most hard contact in the NL among qualified pitchers. Quite honestly, prior to researching for this, I hadn’t considered him even as a candidate for a VOTE for Cy Young. Now, he’s fourth in the MVP voting. And he did this without a peep. Incredible.
(Full Ballot: 1st – Jacob deGrom, 2nd – Patrick Corbin, 3rd – Max Scherzer, 4th – Aaron Nola, 5th – Clayton Kershaw)
AL Rookie Of The Year: Shohei Ohtani
Yankee fans want to make to like a vote against Miguel Andujar is punishable by death or something. In all reality, Ohtani is pretty easily the rookie of the year.
He’s had enough plate appearances to qualify as a hitter. His 153 wRC+ is 25 points higher than Andujar. He gets on base at a .362 clip, 33 points better than Andujar. He is slugging .568, 41 points better than Andujar. He’s walking at 10.2% clip, which is 2.5x the rate of Miguel Andujar.
Oh, and Ohtani has also been one of the best pitching rookies this year. His arm wouldn’t have won him this award on his own, multiple rookie pitchers have him beat this year, but the dual-threat is massive to take into consideration. He was hurt for a lot of the year, but when you combine both his hitting PAs and his pitching PAs, he has had 574 battles this year.
Miguel Andujar only has 28 more. You shouldn’t win the rookie of the year almost exclusively because you had 28 more plate appearances.
(Full Ballot: 1st – Shohei Ohtani, 2nd – Miguel Andujar, 3rd – Joey Wendle, 4th – Gleyber Torres, 5th – Ramon Laureano)
NL Rookie Of The Year: Juan Soto
This is as close to a coin flip as you are going to get. Again, if any voters choose to vote for Ronald Acuna Jr., who is having a sensational rookie year, I won’t blame you. I just think Soto should win.
Soto’s 147 wRC+ is marginally better than Acuna’s 143, and Soto’s .928 OPS is better than Acuna’s .917. Soto also walks a lot more and doesn’t strike out nearly as much as his counterpart in Atlanta. Neither of these two is a particularly good defender, but Acuna is less of a negative than Soto, per Fangraphs.
It’s that defense that puts Acuna at a slightly higher fWAR than Soto. However, in my opinion, Fangraphs is putting way too much value into the small difference of defense in this case. Soto has been a little bit better of a bat this year, so I’m not knocking him more for being slightly worse of a bad defender. It’s close, but I’ve got to hand this to Juan Soto.
(Full Ballot: 1st – Juan Soto, 2nd – Ronald Acuna Jr., 3rd – Walker Buehler, 4th – Jeff McNeil, 5th – Jack Flaherty)
AL Manager Of The Year: Bob Melvin
Manager of the year is so hard to quantify, so I’m not even going to try. The reason Melvin gets this award, quite frankly, is because no one expected the A’s to be a 97-win playoff team in the strongest division in the American League.
What the A’s have done this year is nothing short of incredible. Coming into the season with the MLB’s lowest payroll, no one expected them to be even in the playoff conversation, nevertheless having 97 wins.
Kevin Cash also has a great resume for this award, all but changing the game of baseball himself over the past few months, but he didn’t make the playoffs. He also came into the season with what was considered a superior roster and plays in a division with the Baltimore Orioles.
(Full Ballot: 1st – Bob Melvin, 2nd – Kevin Cash, 3rd – Alex Cora, 4th – Scott Servais, 5th – Aaron Boone)
NL Manager Of The Year: Joe Maddon
Is this a bit of a homerish pick? Probably. There’s a lot of managers that should be considered for this award, all for varying reasons. However, considering all the Cubs have had to deal with this year, I think Maddon gets the nod.
Their big-money free agency acquisition, Yu Darvish, got hurt. Their best hitter, Kris Bryant, missed a majority of the season. Their closer, Brandon Morrow, barely pitched after the all-star break, and his replacement, Pedro Strop, missed the toughest part of their entire schedule.
The Cubs played a stretch this year with 40 games in 41 days, with a patchwork bullpen, and kept their division hopes alive by playing at a 97-win pace. Don’t underestimate just how tough that is to do.
That being said, no one expected the Braves to be runaway NL East champions. Not many expected the Brewers to be forcing the Cubs into a Game 163. Not many expected the Rockies to be close to the Dodgers in the division after the offseason they had. Not many expected the Cardinals to be close after they fired Mike Matheny. The Reds and Pirates both overperformed. There’s a lot of fantastic options.
(Full Ballot: 1st – Joe Maddon, 2nd – Brian Snitker, 3rd – Craig Counsell, 4th – Mike Shildt, 5th – Bud Black)