Who Should Win Each 2020 MLB Award?

We are in the midst of an unprecedented MLB season, but that doesn’t mean that the top players/staff members shouldn’t be recognized with awards! Today, I will be using a model I constructed to take a look at each of the major awards and assigning a deserved winner!

This model will lead to different results than standard award races. For starters, it goes based off of my value statistic, Value Over Average (VOA), which was originated to overcome some of Wins Above Replacement’s (WAR) shortcomings. Additionally, for pitchers, I have researched the principles of xFIP and SIERA (skill interactive ERA), the two most stable overall pitching production metrics, to come up with an adjusted pitcher WAR metric to convert to VOA. Additionally, since a win was worth about 10.208 runs this season, I was able to easily convert a player’s run value to look at how many wins they contributed to their respective teams on both sides of the ball.

Now that we’ve gone over the basis for the award voting, let’s get to the awards. We’ll start with the major individual rewards, and then will quickly go over awards that don’t require modeling: comeback player of the year, manager of the year, and executive of the year.

AL MVP

Although there are several worthy candidates for the AL MVP award, there are two that separate themselves from the rest: DJ LeMahieu and Jose Ramirez. Based on Wins Above Replacement (WAR), Ramirez takes the cake. However, per VOA, which uses offensive positional adjustments and weights offense more, it’s actually LeMahieu that slightly beats him out. The merits of his production this season should be in question, considering his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is well over .400. Yet, that shouldn’t factor into deciding who the most valuable player was in a given sample size, and since he plays a premium position and offers more positional versatility, the Yankees’ unsung hero that deserves to win this award.

NL MVP

The narrative around this award is that it will come down to Freddie Freeman or Fernando Tatis Jr. However, Tatis Jr.’ WAR is being boosted by his defensive value, which is why he falls to fifth in this ballot. Ultimately, it comes back to a tandem of NL East duos for the top four spots on this list, but just like with the division, the Braves come out on top. Freddie Freeman’s status for this season was in doubt after he had a massive battle with COVID-19, so perhaps it’s only fitting he wins the award. Atlanta’s first baseman is currently walking more than he is striking out, has an absurd .462 on-base percentage, and leads the league in most offensive categories. In other words, he should win the NFL MVP award unanimously.

AL Cy Young

Do we really need to debate this? Shane Bieber, albeit in a 60-game stretch, had one of the most dominant pitching seasons I’ve ever seen. The real question is who finishes in second place, and my model believes it should come down to AL Central hurlers Lucas Giolito and Kenta Maeda. That comes down to how much you value walks versus strikeouts, but for me, Giolito’s 12.07 K/9 is the tiebreaker. Really, though, I should use this section to brag about picking Bieber be the AL Cy Young; a broken clock is right twice a day!

NL Cy Young

If Yu Darvish and Jose Ramirez are voted as the NL Cy Young and AL MVP, respectively, then I could get three of my major four award predictions correct! Alas, Darvish is likely to fall just short, but will do so in poetic fashion. At this point, how can you predict anyone but Jacob deGrom to win this award. He essentially was as dominant this season as he has been in the previous two seasons, which is why he’s looking at a third straight NL Cy Young award finish. The real question at this point is: will it be enough for him to make the Hall of Fame?

AL Rookie of the Year

Heading into the season, this award was framed as “Luis Robert versus the field”. Well, I don’t think he should finish in the top six; his offensive production was simply not there. Regardless, this is Kyle Lewis’ award to win. With a 126 weighted-runs-created-plus and .364 on-base percentage, he has been fantastic for the Mariners this season. Even better, with a 14% walk rate and strong plate discipline numbers, there are a lot of stable aspects to his game; it took longer for him to develop, but he’s a piece the Mariners can build around in the future.

NL Rookie of the Year

Had it not been for Ke’Bryan Hayes, the debate between Jake Cronenworth and Devin Williams would have been excruciating here. Luckily, Hayes was remarkable in his 24-game stretch with the Pirates, posting a 195 wrc+, .306 isolated power, and also providing above-average defense at third base. Sure, his production was inflated by a lot of batted-ball luck, but sustainability shouldn’t matter what determine who WAS the most valuable during the regular season.

AL Reliever of the Year

NOTE: Liam Hendriks*

Now this isn’t how anyone expected the reliever list to go. Before we talk about the winners, let’s give a round of applause to Mike Mayers, Jose Cisnero, Evan Marshall, and Tyler Clippard, who we certainly didn’t anticipate being elite relief weapons. As for the winner, however, the reincarnation of Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn was the best reliever in the American League this season. As a rookie, 25-year-old James Karinchak posted an absurd 17.67 K/9 and 2.33 xFIP, and even was the victim of some poor batted-ball luck. The Indians, as a small-market organization, desperately need cheap reinforcements in their bullpen, so this is a remarkable development for them.

NL Reliever of the Year

It’s a rookie emergence! Not only was Devin Williams easily the best reliever in baseball this season, but there isn’t anything to suggest he isn’t the best reliever period. Strangely, he had the exact same K/9 as Karinchak. However, he also did so with a much better walk rate (3.00 BB/9), and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pitcher post as dominant of an xFIP as Williams’ 1.09 xFIP from this season. The best part? He’s done so by throwing a pitch that nobody can classify:

Quick Hitters

With the main awards being taken care of, let me quickly pick deserved winners for the other notable awards:

AL Manager of the Year: Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay Rays

NL Manager of the Year: Don Mattingly, Miami Marlins

AL Comeback Player of the Year: Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals

NL Comeback Player of the Year: Daniel Bard, Colorado Rockies and Tyler Matzek, Atlanta Braves (Co-Winners)

AL Executive of the Year: Erik Neander, Tampa Bay Rays

NL Executive of the Year: AJ Preller, San Diego Padres

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