With essentially just 2 months left of this season, I thought it might be a good time to go ahead and start talking about year-end awards. Obviously, a lot can change between now and the end of the year (teams going in and out of contention, players get hurt, etc.), but it’s always fun to think about what we could be seeing at season’s end.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR:
AL – Ummm, if you don’t know who Mike Trout is, then you shouldn’t be reading this blog. If ever there was an award that was decided before the end of July – this is it. Trout leads all AL Rookies in avg., OBP, SLG, OPS, HR, RBI, SB, hits, 2B, 3B, and WAR (and leads the entire AL in several categories!). In fact, if he were injured today, and couldn’t play the rest of the season, he would still end the season leading nearly every category (except maybe HR, RBI, 2B & 3B). Trout could reasonably finish with a 30/30 season as a rookie! That’s never been done in the history of the game. Sorry, Yoenis Cespedes & Yu Darvish (the only reasonable contenders at this point), but this was not the year to contend for ROY in the AL.
NL – There are many who are ready to hand this crown to Bryce Harper just as quickly as Mike Trout. But, I say, hold on just a minute. I do think Harper is one of two or three leading candidates, but a lot could happen between now and the end of the season in the NL race. Right now, my NL ROY ballot would be: 1. Todd Frazier – CIN (.285, 10 HR, 33 RBI, .890 OPS, 1.8 WAR), 2. Bryce Harper – WAS (.272, 9 HR, 29 RBI, .791 OPS, 1.8 WAR), 3. Wade Miley – ARI (11-5, 3.02 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 2.6 WAR), 4. Wilin Rosario – COL (.254, 15 HR, 39 RBI, .822 OPS, 0.9 WAR). Frazier has done more at the plate in significantly fewer at-bats than Harper (80 fewer, to be precise). Yes, Harper looks like he will be the more talented player eventually, but that’s not what this award is based on. Like I said, a lot can happen between now and the end of the season. This will be a fun race to watch.
AL – this is going to be an interesting race to watch. And, perhaps like never before, the debate could rage between the two sides of stat-watchers – do you put any stock in sabermetrics, or not? Going by the old standard stats, the clear leaders for AL Cy Young are Jered Weaver – LAA (12-1, 2.20 ERA, 0.95 WHIP) and David Price – TB (13-4, 2.64 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 120 K’s). But, when you start looking at sabermetric statistics like FIP (fielding-independent-pitching – which is an ERA-type stat that takes into consideration the defense behind a pitcher), and WAR, and when you start looking at K/BB ratios and guys with tough losses on their record, there are some other names that stand out ahead of Weaver and Price – Justin Verlander – DET (11-5, 2.42 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 142 K’s, 2.93 FIP, 4.18 K/BB, 4.3 WAR), Chris Sale – CHW (11-3, 2.37 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 108 K’s, 2.69 FIP, 3.72 K/BB, 3.8 WAR) and Felix Hernandez – SEA (8-5, 2.82 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 143 K’s, 2.78 FIP, 3.97 K/BB, 4.0 WAR). Right now, my vote would go to Verlander. He has 16 quality starts (2 more than the next highest), 2 tough losses (losses in a quality start – Price & Hernandez have one, the others have none), and he has the best combination of all stats, in my opinion.
NL – This is easily the race with the most competitors. No less than 9 pitchers currently have a very good shot at winning this award, along with 3-5 others who could turn it on for the last half of the season and put themselves right in the middle of the mix. For the sake of time, I’ll just list the guys with a good shot right now, and then give you my top 3 candidates: Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto, R.A. Dickey, Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, Wade Miley, Matt Cain, Cole Hamels, Lance Lynn. You’ll notice that there are guys that have already won double-digit games that aren’t even on this list. I had to draw the line somewhere, and that line was a WAR above 2.0. The best in the league are closer to a 4.0 WAR, so I thought that was fair for now. Like I said, those guys just a little further down the list still could make a run at it over their remaining 10-12 starts. But, at the moment, my NL Cy Young ballot would be: 1. R.A. Dickey – NYM (13-2, 2.97 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 139 K’s, 4.63 K/BB, 2.94 FIP, 3.4 WAR); 2. Matt Cain – SF (10-3, 2.74 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 128 K’s, 4.74 K/BB, 3.34 FIP, 2.6 WAR); 3. Stephen Strasburg – WAS (10-4, 2.85 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 140 K’s, 4.38 K/BB, 2.56 FIP, 3.3 WAR). But, let me put a couple more names out there for you to watch: Jordan Zimmerman & Ryan Vogelsong. They’re currently #1 & #2, respectively, in quality starts. Their ERA’s are a ridiculous 2.31 & 2.26, and WHIP’s are 1.07 & 1.11. The problem right now is that they’ve taken a lot of tough losses (4 each), which would put them both in the 11-12 win range had those been wins instead of losses. Plus, Vogelsong has received the 10th worst run support in the NL this season. If these guys keep pitching the way they are, they could make a big push by season’s end.
AL – could we have the first legit ROY & MVP combo since Fred Lynn in 1975? (I emphasize legitimate, because Ichiro had been playing “professionally” in Japan for several years before coming over to the States at the age of 27 in 2001) Mike Trout has a good case for the MVP, leading the league in runs, stolen bases, batting average, wRC+, and WAR. His OPS is also 2nd only to David Ortiz. Throw in the fact that the Angels’ record before he was called up was a losing record, and they’ve made a significant turnaround since. Right now, I believe I would have to give him the vote. Trout’s best competitor, right now, is Miguel Cabrera (DET), who leads the league in hits, RBI (tied), and total bases, and is 3rd in OPS & WAR, 4th in wRC+, and 5th in avg. & SLG. Once you get past these two, it’s a mixed bag of guys that are having excellent years, but aren’t really standing out with anything especially impressive. Robinson Cano, Josh Hamilton, Mark Trumbo, David Ortiz, and a couple others could very well make a push for this award by season’s end.
NL – is there really anyone ready to vote for someone besides Andrew McCutchen (PIT) at this point? Yes, he could waiver by season’s end, but the guy is clearly the best player in the NL right now. He leads the league in batting average, SLG, wRC+ and total bases. He’s second in WAR, HR, and OPS, third in OBP, fourth in ISO, and sixth in RBI. Across the board, there’s no one in the NL right now with consistent numbers like his. Ryan Braun (MIL) leads the league in HR & ISO, and is 3rd in RBI, wRC+ and WAR – and is clearly the best contender. Others to keep an eye on include David Wright, Melky Cabrera, Carlos Ruiz, and Joey Votto. A long-shot pick might be Michael Bourn, who could get some attention if he plays a significant role in the Braves’ playoff push in the end.
That’s my list for now. It likely will change by season’s end (if not by week’s end!), but I’ll be sure to keep it updated as much as possible.