As the season dwindles down, I have decided to take my aim at providing the cases for the potential award winners in the respective leagues. I’ll quickly touch on the ROY, while diving deeper into both CY races, as they remain the most intriguing of all, and of course round it out with my picks for AL and NL MVP (Yoenis for both).
2015 has been deemed ‘the year of the rookie’ by many of those in the press, and rightfully so. Cubs super rookies trio – Bryant, Schwarber and Russell – to go along with Joc in L.A. and unexciting Matt Duffy in San Francisco have set the NL on fire, while the AL has provided us with their fair share of exciting young stars as well. Devon Travis of the Blue Jays jumped out to a terrific start, but multiple stints on the DL has hindered his otherwise promising season and has eliminated him from what could have been a ROY campaign in the American League. In lieu of Travis, two players immediately jump out to many. A pair of shortstops: Houston’s Carlos Correa and Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor. If we revisit this after game 162 we might have to change our minds and go with GREG BIRD YANKEE LEGEND, but for now, we will focus on these two studs (sorry Miguel Sano, you’ve been outstanding, but it’s a two man race).
AMERICAN LEAGUE ROY
Who should win: Francisco Lindor
Francisco Lindor has been elite this season. In 87 games, the switch hitting shortstop has amassed 3.7 WAR (leading all AL rookies) while providing great offense at the position with wRC+ of 127, including 10 jacks (the three best offensive shortstops this season are rookies). The Indians 2011 first rounder hasn’t only performed with the bat, but also with the glove. He has been among the top shortstops in defensive runs saved and UZR/150 (leading all rookies).
Who will win: Carlos Correa
The Houston Astros took Carlos Correa 1st overall in the 2012 draft, and he has been so, so good ever since. Despite missing significant time with after breaking his leg in a freak sliding accident in A+ in 2014, Correa wasted no time getting to the big leagues. He started 2015 in AA, and was Barry Bonds in his 29 games, and produced at a well above average level in AAA. Houston has been a surprise to many all season long, and when they called Correa in June he joined in on it. Correa wasted no time, and has been terrific since. Offensively, he’s out performed Lindor to date, but only slightly, with a wRC+ of 133. Correa is second to Lindor in WAR among AL rookies at 3.1, and has provided average defense for the *potentially* playoff-bound Astros. And that is the biggest distinction for Correa. He is playing playoff like baseball in September, whereas Lindor and the Indians will be on the outside looking in. Both have tremendously bright futures (although not as bright as GREG BIRD YANKEE LEGEND), but Correa will be crowned 2015 AL Rookie of the Year, becoming the 4th first overall pick to win the award (trivia fans: Bob Horner, Darryl Strawberry, and Bryce Harper).
NATIONAL LEAGUE ROY
On the NL side, a race that was as hot as could be at the All Star break, has cooled down dramatically. If you tuned in to the 2015 Home Run Derby, you were treated to two of the most promising young sluggers in the game; Kris Bryant and Joc Pederson. Bryant has been incredible and he should and will win this award, no rookie has come close (EXCEPT GREG BIRD YANKEE LEGEND). The rest of the NL rookie class includes unexciting Matt Duffy, one armed Randal Grichuk, the (once) heavy hitting Joc Pederson and the (now) one-legged Jung-ho Kang (Thanks, Chris Coghlan).
Kris Bryant has lived up to the massive expectations he had earned since being drafted out of the University of San Diego. The former 2nd overall pick has hit 26 home runs, sports a wRC+ of 139 and has been a 6 win player this season. Bryant and the Cubs have been so exciting this season, and will continue to be for many seasons to come as they seek their first World Series title since ‘Nam. Actually they haven’t won since before World War 1, which is ridiculous. I don’t think people talk enough about how ridiculous that is. I’m unsure if anyone on the planet is 107 years old. I digress. Go Cubs.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CY YOUNG
The AL CY race has been fairly flat-lined for most of the season. Dallas Keuchel has emerged as a top of the rotation guy for a *potentially* playoff-bound Astros team, while David Price has been David Price and Chris Sale has been Chris Sale.
The main criteria I’ve chosen to compare the pitchers are as follows: FIP, K/9, BB/9, HR/9 and RA9-WAR. I cannot stress how important it is to use measures that show how well a pitcher has pitched, independent of the defense playing behind them. If you want a better explanation of which each of the meaning of these, please explore fangraphs.com glossary on pitching (http://www.fangraphs.com/library/pitching/fdp/).
Anyone who routinely watches Toronto Blue Jays’ broadcast (anyone…?) will painfully listen to Buck and Pat talk about how much energy Price has brought to the Jays since being acquired at the deadline. They like to credit him with the success of the four other starters, it seems (I’m kidding, but it certainly feels like it). Unfortunately for David, I will not be evaluating his teammate’s success in any way; in fact I’m going to avoid measuring any stat that has anything to do with Price’s teammates at all.
That being said, there is no disputing Price’s dominance since coming over to Toronto.
- 2015 Tigers: 3.07 FIP, 8.51 K/9, 1.79 BB/9, 0.80 HR/9
- 2015 Jays: 2.10 FIP, 10.51 K/9, 2.21 BB/9, 0.39 HR/9
- Total: 2.76 FIP, 9.15 K/9, 1.92 BB/9, 0.67 HR/9, 7.4 RA9-WAR
Price has been more dominant in his new uniform, while logging the second most innings in the AL this season. The Jays, with the help of acquiring Price and Tulowitzki, and MVP caliber performances in the second from Donaldson and Edwing, have leapfrogged the New York Yankees in the AL East and have a 2.5 game lead with 11 to play. It looks like they will be making their first appearance in the playoffs since 1993 (longest drought in professional sports).
Chris Sale is having another dominant season. This guy is emerging as possibly the best threat to take Kershaw’s title of best pitcher in baseball as far as consistently dominating year to year. Unfortunately, much like former Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez went through, he’s playing on a dreadful team every season.
Sale’s 2015 numbers are nasty: 2.67 FIP, 11.97 K/9, 1.85 BB/9, 0.97 HR/9, 3.7 RA9-WAR
He leads the AL in K/9 by more than a whole strikeout, as well as leading in FIP and xFIP. Sale’s conventional numbers (W-L and ERA) don’t look so great. He’s 12-10 with a 3.47 ERA. He plays on a terrible White Sox (literally one of the worst group of position players in MLB history – their first half position player total WAR was -3.2), and in a ballpark that plays like Williamsport; thus his FIP- is 3rd in baseball. His stuff might be the nastiest, his true talent might be the highest, but Sale again seems to be just about the 2nd or 3rd best pitcher in the AL this season, not quite the best.
Dallas Keuchel has been the breakout story of the season: 2.89 FIP, 8.43 K/9, 1.93 BB/9, 0.66 HR/9, 7.6 RA9-WAR. He’s emerged as the ace of a young Astro’s team that performing above expectations and looking like they’ll *potentially* be at least in the Wild Card game, sooner than many thought. He has been a workhorse for Houston, leading the AL in innings pitched. His groundball rate remains one of the highest in the game (only Brett Anderson is higher). Hitters have only managed hard contact off Keuchel 20.5% of the balls put in play, which is the lowest among qualified starting pitchers in all of baseball. Averaging over 7 innings per start, and generating ground balls like a coach hitting fungo during BP, Keuchel is as close to Crash Davis’ dream as anyone.
Who should win: Dallas Keuchel
He has been rather consistent throughout the entire season and has the gaudy conventional numbers that voters love (18-8 with a 2.51 ERA). He leads the AL in RA9-WAR, and should be the sure bet to start a potential Wild Card game for Houston.
Who will win: David Price
The narrative is so strong right now. As mentioned above, his absolutely outstanding performance since coming over to the Jays as given him a lot of momentum in the Cy race. Good luck to AA in his quest to re-sign David.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CY YOUNG
Now the fun begins. Clayton Kershaw has won 3 of the last 4 CY’s, as well as last year’s NL MVP and is making another strong case for his fourth. Among him are teammate Zack Greinke and Cubs ace Jake Arrieta. There are others (Scherzer, MadBum, DeGrom, Cole) but these three are the only guys with legitimate chances of winning.
- Pitcher A: 2.09 FIP, 11.39 K/9, 1.67 BB/9, 0.59 HR/9 and 7.1 RA9-WAR
- Pitcher B: 2.44 FIP, 9.17 K/9, 2.00 BB/9, 0.42 HR/9 and 8.5 RA9-WAR
- Pitcher C: 2.77 FIP, 8.02 K/9, 1.56 BB/9, 0.56 HR/9 and 9.3 RA9-WAR
- 1999 Pedro: 1.39 FIP, 13.2 K/9, 1.56 BB/9, 0.38 HR/9, and 10 RA9-WAR
I added Pedro for absolutely no reason other than to remind you of his dominance.
Anyways, I often like to evaluate players objectively by doing this. We have the three top pitchers in NL above. Can you guess whom is whom? Kershaw, Arrieta, Greinke. I’m not sure you can really argue against any one of them. They’ve all been excellent this season. One could obnoxiously argue that Kershaw was better last season, and they would be obviously right. But that shouldn’t discredit him. He has been absolutely outstanding again, striking out more hitters than he ever has (flirting with 300 k’s). Greinke has been ridiculous all season long. Every time he pitches it seems to be 7 innings of scoreless baseball. It’s magical to watch. However, he doesn’t have the independent stats that Arrieta and Kershaw do. Arrieta threw a no-hitter against the Dodgers – which really brings this thing full circle, hey? – and has been nearly unhittable in all his other second half starts as well (hitters hitting .157 in second half).
Who should win: Clayton Kershaw
He has been the best pitcher in baseball for five seasons, and was the best pitcher in baseball again in this season alone. Numbers don’t lie.
Who will win: Jake Arrieta
Kershaw’s better independent numbers will get overshadowed by Arrieta’s 20-6 and 1.88 ERA. Voting will probably finish Arrieta, Greinke, Kershaw and will be the closest since 2009. Arrieta will win a Wild Card game against the Pirates and the Cubs will face the Blue Jays in the World Series.
AMERICAN LEAGUE MVP
It’s a two horse race and it’s neck and neck. The reigning MVP and greatest player on the planet, Mike Trout against Canada’s superhero, Josh Donaldson. Gregg Zaun has been lobbying against Donaldson for months and Gregg Zaun is usually right about everything, always. But, Gregg with two g’s has no grounds for arguing against the Jays third baseman and master of the man bun. He leads the AL in WAR, albeit 8.1 to Trout’s 8.0. Trout has 40 dingers, Donaldson has 39. Where Trout trumps Donaldson on offense, Josh provides value by playing excellent defense. Trout strikes out more, but also walks much more and is more powerful (.291 ISO vs .274 ISO). Trout’s wOBA is higher, his wRC+ is higher. As good as Donaldson has been offensively this season, Trout has been a little (sometimes significantly) better. I’m torn. These are two of my favourite players to watch. They are incredible.
Who should win: Josh Donaldson
Josh Donaldson has been slightly more valuable than Trout this season, and has all the things that shouldn’t matter but for some reason do matter to BBWAA going for him. Donaldson has driven in 120 runs, and has been the best player on a team on their way to winning the division and making their first appearance in the postseason in 22 years. Mike Trout has Clayton Kershaw syndrome, in that he may be disadvantaged by his prior years of absolute awesomeness; although he didn’t suffer from this last season, winning the MVP in his worst statistical year of his career. He’s been better than last year, but Donaldson has been slightly, just slightly, more valuable this season.
Who will win: Josh Donaldson
Much like Price, the narrative is so strong. Donaldson had been scorching Earth in the second half before his recent mini-slump and has led the Jays to the top of the AL East standings. Jays playoff bound while the Angels will have to fight until the last day of the season to possibly get into a playoff spot hurts Trout’s case. Donaldson wins in an extremely close vote. Or maybe they tie.
NATIONAL LEAGUE MVP
Lol. To really appreciate Bryce Harper please go here.
This is a list of the best offensive seasons since 1908 (the last year the Cubs won the World Series) by wRC+. Bryce Harper is sitting in 23rd place…ALL TIME. Four of those seasons belong to Barry Bonds – who was the most ridiculous player of the last two and next fifty generations. Seven…SEVEN of those seasons belong to The Babe. That puts us at eleven, half of the 22 ahead of Harper. Ted Williams owns six of these seasons. Basically what I am getting at is there aren’t many players – seven to be exact – that have had a better season than Bryce Harper in 2015. Here’s the craziest part: only one of those seasons were from a player as young as Bryce Harper is. In 1941, Ted Williams finished with a wRC+ of 221. He turned 23 on August 30th that year. Harper turns 23 on October 16th this year. Baffling. To emphasis one final time, wRC+ is a measure of how well a player has performed offensively, with 100 being MLB average, and every one point higher is one percent better than average. Bryce Harper, at age 22, has put up a wRC+ of 206. He has been 106% better than league average. He has been 98% better than Carlos Gonzalez. He has been 69% better than Mets cult leader Yoenis Cespedes. 64% better than GREG BIRD YANKEE LEGEND. Harper is absolutely sensational. HOWEVER…the Washington Nationals are not making the postseason, and thus; by rule of BBWAA (as Mike Trout knows all too well) he cannot be named NL MVP! So, as a result we must discover our NL MVP from one of the remaining teams in playoff contention.
The candidates include: Votto? No. Goldschmidt? No. Pollock? No. Posey? No. The five best players in the NL this season aren’t going to be in the playoffs. That’s insane. BBWAA might need to make an exception on this ridiculous rule of thumb, otherwise rookie Kris Bryant may be named NL MVP. I’m kidding of course. Bryce Harper might receive first place votes in the AL this season, he’s been that good. It’s a no-brainer. Who should, would, will, is going to win: Harper.
Bryan is a former draft pick of the New York Yankees. You can follow him on Twitter @bryanarthur.
You can follow Hit the Cut on Twitter @hitthecutblog.
All stats were taken from Fan Graphs