As we move through the postseason, it’s easy to be caught in the moment, and forgot about what happened in the regular season. That would be a shame, however; the competition for the main awards will be the center of discussion post World Series, and it’s paramount that we don’t forget who excelled during the regular season. So, without further adieu, let’s take a closer look at each award, picking the deserving player bases SOLEY off of the regular season.
AL Reliever of the Year
#3: Ryan Pressly, Houston Astros (2.66 FIP, 2.31 xFIP, 11.93 K/9, 1.99 BB/9, 2.55 SIERA)
#2: Liam Hendricks, Oakland Athletics (1.87 FIP, 3.21 xFIP, 13.13 K/9, 2.22 BB/9, 2.58 SIERA)
#1: Nick Anderson, Tampa Bay Rays (2.35 FIP, 2.44 xFIP, 15.23, 2.49 BB/9, 2.21 SIERA)
When the Marlins picked up reliever Nick Anderson from the Twins this past season, practically no MLB fan even heard of the news. Surely, however, we’re all aware of who the 29-year-old is now; he’s the anchor of the Rays bullpen after being traded there midseason. With an incredible 15.23 K/9, he didn’t need any help from his defense, and it’s important to note that he even had a .349 BABIP allowed, meaning he was unlucky. The fact that he switched leagues midseason could cost him this award, but considering he was far more dominant in the American League (1.62 FIP), that shouldn’t sway the voters at all; Anderson needs to be recognized for his terrific breakout season.
NL Reliever of the Year
#3: Seth Lugo, New York Mets (2.70 FIP, 3.24 xFIP, 11.7 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, 2.78 SIERA)
#2: Kirby Yates, San Diego Padres (1.30 FIP, 2.25 xFIP, 14.98 K/9, 1.93 BB/9, 2.05 SIERA)
#1: Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers (3.10 FIP, 2.36 xFIP, 16.41 K/9, 2.38 BB/9, 1.78 SIERA)
He may have blown the NL Wildcard game for the Brewers, but for the second straight season, Josh Hader was the best reliever in the National League. With a higher FIP, xFIP, and much lower BABIP than Kirby Yates, it was very tempting to not give it to Hader in favor of the Padres’ standout closer, but with a 1.78 SIERA and 16.41 K/9, how can you not give this award to the filthy lefty? Furthermore, the 25-year-old’s ability to pitch multiple innings has to be taken into consideration; he threw over 15 more innings than Yates. It’s a coin flip, each are extremely deserving, but as far as who was the more valuable reliever to his team, Hader slightly edges out Yates.
AL Manager of the Year
#3: Bob Melvin, Oakland Athletics (97-65, +107 Run Differential)
#2: Rocco Baldelli, Minnesota Twins (101-61, +169 Run Differential)
#1: Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay Rays (96-66, +116 Run Differential)
To be honest, all three of these managers have a terrific case to be the AL Manager of the Year. For the second straight season, Bob Melvin led a team with a patched-up rotation and multiple injuries to 97 wins, which is extremely impressive. So is the job Rocco Baldelli did with the Twins; they were seen as an average team, yet exploded for 101 wins and broke the MLB home run record. Still, the magic Kevin Cash pulled off this season in Tampa Bay deserves recognition. Starting pitchers Tyler Glasnow and Blake Snell both missed a significant amount of time with injuries, which forced Cash to mix and match pitchers all season extremely effectively to remain in the hunt, especially with a depleted lineup (injuries). Keep in mind, this team already had the lowest payroll, and relied on waiver wire pickups as several of their top players were on the injured list this season. Yet, they made the playoffs; Cash has established himself as arguably the best manager in the sport.
NL Manager of the Year
#3: Dave Martinez, Washington Nationals (93-69, +153 Run Differential)
#2: Torey Lovullo, Arizona Diamondbacks (85-77, +70 Run Differential)
#1: Craig Counsell, Milwaukee Brewers (89-73, +2 Run Differential)
After rallying his team from a 19-31 start to being two games away from the World Series, the public cry will be for Dave Martinez to win this award. The same goes for Torey Lovullo, who helped will the Diamondbacks to an 85-77 record and a +70 Run Differential despite trading away franchise icon Paul Goldschmidt this past offseason. Yet, Martinez’s team was supposed to be where they are, and Lovullo didn’t make the playoffs; Craig Counsell is the perfect choice. Making the playoffs despite having just a +2 run differential is impressive, but doing so with a thin pitching staff and without reigning MVP Christian Yelich during the stretch run? That’s incredible. The Brewers may have only been the fourth most talented team in the division, but they’re a very smart organization with an outstanding manager, and that has allowed them to consistently exceed expectations.
AL Rookie of the Year
#3: Brandon Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays (2.6 WAR, 125 wrc+)
#2: Cavan Biggio, Toronto Blue Jays (2.4 WAR, 116 wrc+)
#1: Yordan Alvarez, Houston Astros (3.8 WAR, 178 wrc+)
Coming into the season, the AL Rookie of the Year race appeared to be destined to be a showdown between Eloy Jimenez and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. After all, however, neither cracks the top three. Though a large part of his success came from a lucky BABIP, Brandon Lowe was a very useful contributor for the Rays, and Cavan Biggio was tremendous with an incredible 16.5% walk rate. Yet, this award should have a unanimous decision: Yordan Alvarez took the league by storm. The designated hitter/outfielder was the icing on the cake for the Astros’ historic offense, posting an absurd 178 wrc+ (78% better than league average) and a .410 expected weighted On-Base average (xwOBA). In just half a season, he became of the best players on arguably one of the best teams in history, and already looks destined to be a future superstar; the competition is great, but regardless, he’s more than earned this award.
NL Rookie of the Year
#3: Mike Soroka, Atlanta Braves (3.45 FIP, 3.85 xFIP, 7.32 K/9, 2.11 BB/9, 4.28 SIERA)
#2: Victor Robles, Washington Nationals (2.5 WAR, 91 wrc+)
#1 Pete Alonso, New York Mets (4.8 WAR, 143 wrc+)
Make the opening day roster? Check. Win the Homerun Derby? Check. Lead the league in home runs? Check. It’s been quite the rookie season for Pete Alonso, and as a result, he’ll also be a unanimous choice for Rookie of the Year. With a 143 wrc+ as a result of his elite power, he’s already asserted himself as one of the best first basemen in the MLB, and though he’ll need to cut down on his strikeout rate, his amazing .323 isolated power (ISO) makes up for it. Long story short? He’ll be a star for the Mets for years to come; he’s the easy choice for this ward.
AL Cy Young
#3: Charlie Morton, Tampa Bay Rays (2.81 FIP, 3.28 xFIP, 11.1 K/9, 2.64 BB/9, 3.54 SIERA)
#2: Justin Verlander, Houston Astros (3.27 FIP, 3.18 xFIP, 12.11 K/9, 1.70 BB/9, 2.95 SIERA)
#1: Gerrit Cole, Houston Astros (2.64 FIP, 2.48 xFIP, 13.82 K/9, 2.03 BB/9, 2.62 SIERA)
Ironically, the top three choices for AL Cy Young were all in the same rotation last year, which also included Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr. Charlie Morton may have been the ace for the Rays this season, and Justin Verlander has the no-hitter, but without a doubt, it’s a different Astro who deserves this award. Gerrit Cole was on another level compared to these two last season, striking out batters at 13.82 K/9 rate, which is simply unheard of for a starting pitcher, while also having a terrific walk rate as well. With a .232 xwOBA allowed, in addition to an AL-leading 2.62 skill interactive ERA (SIERA), there’s no way that Cole shouldn’t win the AL Cy Young. The better question is, where will he be striking hitters out at next season; he’s destined to earn over $200 million as a free agent this offseason.
NL Cy Young
#3: Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals (3.25 FIP, 3.17 xFIP, 10.81 K/9, 2.52 BB/9, 3.49 SIERA)
#2: Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals (2.45 FIP, 2.88 xFIP, 12.69 K/9, 1.72 BB/9, 2.93 SIERA)
#1: Jacob deGrom, New York Mets (2.67 FIP, 3.11 xFIP, 11.25 K/9, 1.94 BB/9, 3.29 SIERA)
Speaking of pending free agents, Stephen Strasburg set himself up for a massive payday (assuming he opts out) with a terrific, ace-level season. Ditto for teammates Max Scherzer, who would’ve definitely been the #1 choice had he been healthy and pitched more than 172.1 innings. In the end, though, it’s a different pitcher in the NL East who’ll almost certainly be the NL Cy Young. After winning the award with ease last year, Jacob deGrom was bound to regress this season. Obviously, he did, but still, his numbers are amongst the league’s best. His 3.29 SIERA and 3.11 xFIP only trails Scherzer in the National League, but since he pitched more innings, his WAR (7.0) was significantly better. Availability is an important trait when choosing these awards; the 36 extra innings he pitched earn him his second straight NL Cy Young award, and this certainly won’t be the last one that’s he’ll contend for.
AL Most Valuable Player
#3: Marcus Semien, Oakland Athletics (7.5 WAR, 137 wrc+)
#2: Alex Bregman, Houston Astros (8.4 WAR, 168 wrc+)
#1: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels (8.6 WAR, 180 wrc+)
Every year, it feels as though the baseball world tries to find an excuse for Mike Trout to not win the AL MVP, which usually starts with the Angels’ problems to win games. However, baseball is the ultimate team sport; can Trout control that the team has ZERO pitchers throw 100+ innings? Then, there’s Trout’s injury that he sustained in mid-September, which limited him to just 134 games played. Still, when you lead the MLB in WAR, should it matter how many games you play? Trout’s .438 on-base percentage and 180 wrc+ is unworldly, and he leads the league in practically every important hitting statistic. Alex Bregman had a fantastic year, but there’s no way he was the better players this season, considering on a game-to-game basis, he was a significantly worse player; Trout should win unanimously, and if he doesn’t, it’ll be a shame for a player on track to be the greatest to ever do it.
NL Most Valuable Player
#3: Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals (7 WAR, 154 wrc+)
#2: Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers (7.8 WAR, 174 wrc+)
#1: Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers (7.8 WAR, 162 wrc+)
Unlike the AL MVP race, there are four quality candidates to win the NL MVP. Though they don’t stand a legitimate chance to win this award, both Anthony Rendon and Ketel Marte were excellent this season, and could’ve won in any other year. Meanwhile, Christian Yelich had a 7.8 WAR despite playing just 130 games, and led the NL with a 174 wrc+. Still, by a hair, Cody Bellinger has the inside track for this award. Although the 24-year-old didn’t have the best wrc+, his .302 BABIP was much lower than Yelich’s .355 BABIP, so an argument can be made that he was actually the better offensive producer. If that’s the case, Yelich doesn’t stand a chance, considering that in Bellinger’s first full season in the outfield, he’ll likely win the Platinum Glove with 22 defensive runs saved (drs). Honestly, the reasoning for this choice is quite simply; Bellinger was the best offensive and defensive player in the NL, and should win the NL MVP as a result.