Award Watch Update

It appears that I need to pay closer attention to the details of the posts I’m working on.  A post with the same title as this one posted last week – except I had barely started it, and had actually planned on scrapping it in favor of writing a post this week when I had more time!  Oh well, I hope those of you that read it weren’t too disappointed when you realized it was an incomplete post.

So, let’s start by recapping the regular season awards, as I saw it, back on July 27th when I first started writing about them for this season:

Rookie of the Year:  AL – Mike Trout; NL – Todd Frazier

Cy Young:  AL – Justin Verlander; NL – R.A. Dickey

MVP:  AL – Mike Trout; NL – Andrew McCutcheon

So, what’s new on the award watch?  Absolutely nothing for AL ROY.  If Trout wasn’t in the league, then it’d be a very close competition between Yu Darvish, Wei-Yin Chin, Yoenis Cespedes, and Will Middlebrooks.  But, Trout’s 7.5 WAR (more than double anyone else’s), .986 OPS, 41 stolen bases, and 24 home runs are impossible to argue against.  In the NL, it comes down to either Frazier or Wade Miley.  I find it nearly impossible to compare pitchers and position players (one of the reasons I refuse to consider a pitcher for the MVP).  Frazier leads all NL rookies in OPS (.902), and RBI (60), while ranking second in home runs (18) and 3rd in batting average (.293).  He also leads all position players in WAR (2.9).  Miley, however, is having an outstanding season – 14-8, 2.80 ERA, and 1.11 WHIP.  His 3.9 WAR is best in the NL.  Considering how well both of these are playing, I’d say it’s a coin flip right now – so, heads it goes to Frazier, tails it goes to Miley.  Ready? . . . and, Miley it is.  (And yes, I literally just flipped a coin)  It’s gonna be interesting to see how these two do the last month of the season.

The Cy Young award is one that should be starting to come into focus as we approach the final month.  Most starters only have 6-7 starts left to make an impression on voters.  And, even if a reliever were to be in the conversation, he likely only has around 12-15 more appearances remaining this year.  In the AL, the race continues to be a debate over which stats you want to use.  Traditional stats point to Jered Weaver and David Price as the clear frontrunners.  They are tied for the league lead in wins (16), both possess an ERA below 3.00 (2.74 and 2.53 respectively), and Price is 5th in the league with 170 K’s (Weaver only has 113).  But, when it comes to FIP (fielding-independent pitching), WHIP and WAR, the frontrunners become Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez.  They only have 12 & 13 wins, respectively, but they are well ahead of Price and Weaver in everything else.  They rank 1 & 2 in the league in FIP (Hernandez has the edge), ERA (Hernandez), WAR (tied), and strikeouts (Verlander).  Weaver has a slightly better WHIP than them (0.98 compared to 1.00 for Verlander & 1.03 for Hernandez).  Verlander leads the league in opponent’s batting average (.204).  So, how do you decide the winner?  I took 8 categories (wins, K’s, ERA, WHIP, K/BB ratio, FIP, opp. avg., and WAR), plugged in their rankings in each, and added it up.  Whoever has the lowest score wins.  And, by one point, Verlander edged out Hernandez.  Price was the better of the other two, and Weaver wasn’t anywhere close.  So, for now, I still give it to Verlander.

In the NL, it is an even tighter race, with more contestants.  Within a point and a half of the top WAR score, and with no glaring weaknesses in other rankings, you would have to say that Clayton Kershaw, Johnny Cueto, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, R.A. Dickey, Wade Miley, Madison Bumgarner, Aroldis Chapman, Matt Cain and Cole Hamels all have a reasonable shot at winning.  Incidentally, these are listed in order by WAR.  Using the same formula I did for the AL, it comes down to Dickey, Strasburg and Kershaw (in that order) among the starters, and Chapman.  It’s incredibly difficult to compare starters and relievers.  But, consider this: in stats that are comparable (K/BB, K/9, FIP, etc.), Chapman holds the edge over all.  And, the fact that he actually ranks in the top 10 in WAR as a closer tells you just how big of a season he’s having.  Right now, I think I would give Chapman the slightest edge over Dickey.

Lastly, the MVP race is getting very interesting.  In the AL, the frontrunners are Trout, Robinson Cano and Miguel Cabrera (the top 3, in that order, in WAR), while Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre are in that “close-but-no-cigar” tier just behind the leaders.  Cabrera has a slight edge in home runs (32, compared to 27 & 24 for Cano & Trout), and a big lead in RBI (111, compared to 70 & 72).  But, what impresses me is that Trout has a significant lead in WAR (1.5 point edge over Cano & 2.2 points ahead of Cabrera), OPS (.986, compared to .977 for Cabrera & .929 for Cano), batting average (.337 compared to .324 & .310), wRC+ (179, compared to 160 & 147), and has stolen 41 bases on top of all that!  I just don’t see any reason to vote for anyone ahead of Trout right now.  It’s a closer race than it was a month ago, but he still has a healthy lead.

In the NL, the intriguing part is whether or not you would consider giving the MVP to a candidate on a non-playoff-contender.  Ryan Braun, David Wright and Chase Headley are all having excellent seasons for teams that are below .500.  But, let’s say that the conventional wisdom of the past eliminates these three.  We’re left with 5 contenders that could make a late-season push to earn the award:  Andrew McCutcheon, Jason Heyward, Michael Bourn, Yadier Molina and Buster Posey (in order by WAR).  Because of a significant edge over the rest in OPS, wRC+, and batting average (though, Molina is right there with them in batting), I think it has to come down to either McCutcheon or Posey.  And, in the end, McCutcheon is ahead of Posey in almost every significant category.  However, this is certainly a much tighter race than it was a month ago.  I don’t believe I even mentioned the names of Posey, Molina or Heyward back then.  It’s definitely an award up for grabs.  But, right now, McCutcheon has the edge.

So, after a month of play, only two awards have changed in my opinion (NL ROY and NL Cy Young).  But, the previous leaders are a close 2nd still, and there’s a lot of baseball left to be played.  Here’s to an exciting September!!

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