It’s the most tantalizing time of the MLB season: Sports writers across the country get to cast their votes for yearly awards without trepidation. Wild guesses turn into more concrete opinions, based on a season of evidence. With that in mind, I will submit my picks for the American and National League MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year.
Even statisticians can’t figure it out; Josh Donaldson and Mike Trout are neck-and-neck in just about every statistical category in the book. So we’re going to have to go with our gut a little bit on this one.
Standings give Donaldson a bit of an edge; his Blue Jays have blossomed into one of the best teams in baseball, and his 38 home runs, 119 RBIs and Gold-Glove caliber defense certainly isn’t hurting.
Now, Trout’s numbers have hardly been shabby, and he’s always been heralded as a great defender. But his Angels are fighting for a Wild Card spot, while the Blue Jays enter the postseason with confidence and momentum, knowing they are the team to beat. That certainly isn’t a guarantee for success, but it’s surely not a bad place to be. Edge: Donaldson.
This will probably be the simplest category of this article. Bryce Harper has been a monster. Call me a hypocrite all you’d like for picking a player whose team is unlikely to net a Wild Card spot, but without Harper, this team would be lost.
If his last 12 games all resulted in 0-for-4 lines, he’d still finish the season hitting around .300, with an OBP over .400 and with over 40 home runs. If you take his OPS+ (an adjusted version of OPS) into account, his season OPS+, which will surely be over 200, Harper joins some good company.
The only other players to have had over 200 OPS+ are (are you ready?) Mel Ott, Joe DiMaggio, Eddie Mathews, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Norm Cash, Willie McCovey, George Brett, Barry Bonds (six times), Frank Thomas, Jeff Bagwell, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Johnny Bench. Whatever list they’re on, put me on, too.
AL Cy Young
A week ago, this would have been a much more difficult decision. But Dallas Keuchel just had a nine-run, 11-hit outing. He didn’t make it five innings. He had a nice bounceback against the Angels, but David Price has shown no such weakness. Rather, he’s drawn comparisons to Madison Bumgarner’s stellar postseason performance of last postseason, and with good reason.
Since his trade from Detroit to Toronto, he’s cut his ERA from 2.53 to 1.95, his BAA from .241 to .200, increased his strikeout rate by six percent and has allowed just three home runs over his last 70 innings. I swear I’m not a Blue Jays fan, but give Price the hardware.
NL Cy Young
Were there an award for second-half player of the year, undoubtedly the victor would be Jake Arrieta. His monthly ERA has nearly doubled from August to September, that is true; but it has gone up from 0.43 to 0.75. He has thrown a complete game each of the last three months, one of which was a no-hitter. And most importantly, the Cubs have won 15 of the last 16 games he has pitched.
If you’re more about run prevention, I can understand why Zack Greinke has your vote. Were he to continue on his stellar trend, he’d finish slightly better, a hundredth of a point lower than the lowest ERA in a full year since Greg Maddux finished at 1.63 in 1995. Be that as it may, Arrieta gets my vote. He has taken control of a team that expected Lester to be the ace, and moreover was expected to flop. He is 10-3 when he takes the mound after a Cubs loss; he is the pitcher who has done the most for his team.
NL Rookie of the Year
Kris Bryant. The prophet himself. The man who couldn’t fail, the next can’t-miss prospect. And fortunately for the Cubs, he really hasn’t missed the mark.
It was a much more muddled competition before Bryant decided to take matters into his own hands, shattering rookie records for the Cubs in both home runs and RBIs.
Over the last ten games he’s raised his batting average by ten points, and has shown a much better eye and plate approach than anyone has the right to expect from a 23-year-old.
AL Rookie of the Year
The toughest category for me, really. I wanted to go against the favorite. I like Carlos Correa a lot; his stat line doesn’t showcase the tremendous glove work he puts on every day. Especially in light of the remarkable year the Astros have had, I want to vote for Correa. I really do.
Correa has arguably had the best second half of any player in the American League. There has been a tremendous crop of shortstops coming up this year, but Correa has shown a bat like Alex Rodriguez, and has been described as a once-in-a-generation talent. He projects well into the future and will undeniably be a huge piece for the Astros for a very long time.
All this section of writing has done for me is shaken away any doubt I had previously; Correa gets my vote. Sorry, but 19 home runs and counting over half a season is too good to pass up.
Part of the beauty of baseball is that it is both predictable and surprising. Were you to look at Jake Arrieta in 2012, nobody would have predicted he would turn into a potential Cy Young candidate.
At the same time, Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant were heralded as once in a lifetime phenoms, and indeed they have lived up to those expectations. Anything can happen, and with the playoffs right around the corner, the stakes for most of these players are especially high.