Baseball gives out awards in November: Most Valuable Player, Cy Young Award, Rookie of the Year. This article will be a discussion of the players most likely to contend for these awards.
MVP, American League. There are at least 6 players who had seasons fine enough to deserve discussion in this category. JOSE ABREU played for the Chicago White Sox, the 27th best of the 30 teams in MLB. He gave fans something to cheer about. He hit .304, with 82 EBH, including 33 home runs. He had 102 RBIs, his 4th consecutive year with 100 or more. And he led the AL in total bases (343). JOSE RAMIREZ improved on his fine 2016 season with an exceptional year of hitting. He batted .318, scored 107 runs, and led the AL in doubles (56) and EBH (91). FRANCISCO LINDOR continued to be the Indians’ energetic, talented heart. His fielding continued to amaze and his offensive skill improved its power. His EBHs rose from 48 to 81, including more than twice as many home runs as the year before (from 15 to 33). He’s 23 and still improving. MIKE TROUT’s year was shortened by 45 games because of a thumb injury. Even so, he still hit .306, with 33 home runs and stole 22 bases. He had the highest OBP (.442) and SLG (.629) in the AL. He left fans imaging how well he could have been if he had not missed a quarter of the year.
But the MVP race came down to choosing between rookie AARON JUDGE and the leader of the Astros, JOSE ALTUVE. Judge, at 6’7” and 282 pounds, attracted attention immediately. And playing for the Yankees added to the publicity he received. He led the AL in homers (52 –breaking Mark McGwire’s record for a rookie), Runs Scored, walks, and strikeouts (well, at least he has something to improve upon). Except for a 6 week slump after the all-star game, he was worth the price of admission. Altuve, depending upon what you read, stands somewhere between 5’5” and 5’8” –and it’s a package full of talent, energy, and leadership. He won the batting title (.346) for the 3rd time in 4 years, and has had 200(+) hits in all 4 years. Plus he hit 24 homers in 2016/7. He was in Houston before their rebuild started, and now he leads them to their success. Either player is a fine choice for this award, but I’ll choose ALTUVE (see above) because he played and hit at a high standard all year long.
MVP, National League. As in the AL, the NL has players whose performance demands MVP consideration. When it comes to consistent excellence in hitting, you could not do better than to start with JOEY VOTTO. In 2017, he gave you homers (36), EBH (71), 100(+) RS and RBIs, and a fine BA (.320). He’s hit .300 in 9 of his 11 years. But he adds the ability to draw walks to his repertoire: a league-leading 134 this year –the fifth time he’s done that. That skill enabled him to lead the NL in OBP in 2017 –the 6th time he’s done so. When you talk offense, you often end up in Colorado. This year was no exception. NOLAN ARENADO has hit and hit with power for 3 seasons. In 2017, he had over 80 EBH (87) for the third time, led the NL in doubles (43), had 130 RBIS for the 3rd year in a row, but this year he had highs in BA (.309), OBP, and SLG, as well. Plus, he’s had 4 consecutive Gold Gloves (at third base), too. One dimensional? You’re thinking of someone else. His team mate, CHARLIE BLACKMON hit well in 2016, and even better in 2017. Name the category, and he improved in it (eg, RS, RBI, EBH, BA, OBP, and SLG). Plus, he led the NL in 5 things: BA (.331), hits (213), triples (14), runs scored (137), total bases (387). What will he do for an encore next year? PAUL GOLDSCHMIDT of the Arizona Diamondbacks plays first base with Gold Glove ability (twice) and has finished 2nd in MVP voting twice. In 2017, he repeated himself for a third time: 30+ homers (36), over 100 RBIs (120) and over 100 RS (117), 70+ EBH (75) –and he steals bases, too (15 – 32 a year; 2017 = 18). He’s very good –every year. Who can be more valuable than such players? My answer to that question is: GIANCARLO STANTON. (see above) In 2014, he was 2nd in MVP voting partly because he led the NL in homers with 37 and SLG with .555. But, this year, he led the NL in home runs (59 –that’s not a misprint), 132 RBIs, SLG (.631), and EBH (91). Plus, he was 2nd in RS (123) and total bases (377). This year, he gets my MVP vote.
Cy Young Award, American League. A number of AL pitchers gathered the fans’ attention this Summer. LUIS SEVERINO, at 23, became the NYY best starter. His record was 14 – 6; he had an ERA of 2.98, pitched almost 200 innings, with 230 strikeouts. Watch for him in 2018. JUSTIN VERLANDER won 15 games –that makes 9 years he’s won that many games or more. He pitched 206 innings and struck out 219. Traded to Houston late in the year, his record was 5 – 0, with a 1.06 ERA. I don’t think he will be in contention for the Cy Young, but he’s got some mileage left. Two pitchers stood apart from the crowd all year long: COREY KLUBER and CHRIS SALE. How did they do, in comparison? Wins: Kluber 18; Sale 17. ERA: Kluber 2.25; Sale 2.90. Strikeouts: Sale 308; Kluber 265. Strikeouts/Walks: Kluber 7.361; Sale 7.163. WHIP: Kluber 0.869; Sale 0.970. Plus, Kluber missed some time for an injury and did pitch 3 shutouts. Heck, I rooted for the Phillies this year. I’ll take either of them. But in a forced choice, I want KLUBER. (see above)
Cy Young Award, National League. Four names keep repeating themselves as I review NL pitchers’ stats. ZACK GREINKE did not equal his 3 years with the Dodgers, but improved on his Diamondbacks’ 2016 season. He was 17 – 7, with a 3.20 ERA. And he struck out 215 in 202.1. STEPHEN STRASBURG had another 15 – 4 year and improved in other numbers. His ERA was 2.52, he struck out 204 batters and had a great WHIP = 1.015. But once again, I thought an award came down to choosing between 2 players. CLAYTON KERSHAW and MAX SCHERZER. Kershaw missed time for a bad back again. It probably cost him a half dozen starts. (Is he going to leave baseball early because of his back? Remember Koufax and his elbow? Another great Dodger left-hander.) Here are some comparisons: Wins: Kershaw 18; Scherzer 16. ERA: Kershaw 2.31; Scherzer 2.51. Strikeouts: Scherzer 268; Kershaw 202. Strikeouts/Walks: Kershaw 6.733; Scherzer 4.873. WHIP: Scherzer 0.902; Kershaw 0.949. Once again, blindfold me and I’ll pick either one. But, if forced to choose: KERSHAW. (see above)
Rookie of the Year, American League. Is there anyone who does not see this coming? In the year that MLB hit more home runs than ever before, the 2 Rookies of the Year did their part to add to the home run total. But, first, a word about Andrew Benintendi. If you reviewed all previous winners of the ROY award, would they all be able to put up these stats: Games 151. BA .271. RS 84. RBI 90. HR 20. Stolen Bases 20 of 25. Remember Joe Charboneau? Anyone, anyone? So before I state the obvious, lift your glass of root beer and join me in a toast to Andrew. May he play long and prosper!
Now we can make it official: Aaron Judge (see above) is the unanimous choice of everybody. 52 home runs, 114 RBIs, 128 RS, 127 walks, a slash line of: .284/.422/.627 and he plays in NYC. So, moving on….
Rookie of the Year, National League. Quick! Who broke the rookie home run record of Wally Berger , 1930 Boston Braves and Frank Robinson, 1956 Cincinnati Reds? That’s right Cody Bellinger, (see above) when he hit number 39 this year. Does it matter that he hit .267 and had 97 RBIs? He will become the 18th Rookie of the Year who played for the Dodgers, Brooklyn or Los Angeles version. Jackie Robinson was the first in 1947 and Mr. Bellinger will be the latest. And if you wanted to field an all-Dodger rookie team, you could do so (You might have to play Junior Gilliam at third base but he was there at some point in his career.)
Who were your choices for the above awards?