MLB Awards Predictions
October is finally upon us. It feels like only a few days ago that Manny Machado and Bryce Harper each sent seismic waves across the baseball landscape with their $300 million offseason free agent deals. Ironically, neither will be playing postseason baseball in 2019 and neither will be mentioned further in any of the following sections of this story.
With that being said, along with postseason baseball, October is also awards prediction season. Drumroll, please.
American League MVP: Alex Bregman, Astros
Let’s start by mentioning how difficult it is once again to anoint someone over Mike Trout. Trout should finish in the top-two of this race for the seventh time, which would be the second most all-time behind Barry Bonds’ nine top-two finishes. Trout has been the best player in baseball for the last eight years, and it takes a superman level season to beat him out for the MVP. That’s how Mookie Betts edged him out last year, and that’s how Alex Bregman will narrowly get the edge this year.
Despite Trout missing the last 19 games of the regular season and totaling only 134 games played for the season, he still led the MLB with an 8.6 FanGraphs wins above replacement (WAR). By the way, if Trout were to take home the AL MVP he would be the first player ever to do so after missing at least seven of his team’s final games.
However, those 19 games have opened the door for Alex Bregman to make this race an incredibly close call. Consider the following: the Astros are only the ninth team in MLB history to win at least 107 games and that came with a bevy of injuries to key players like Jose Altuve, George Springer and Carlos Correa, among others. Bregman played 58 games at shortstop in place of Correa during his absence. Bregman also is the first player since Jason Giambi in 2001 to record 30 more walks than strikeouts.
Trout leads Bregman in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS, but Bregman leads Trout in runs, RBIs, extra base hits and has a defensive rating of 4.4 compared to Trout’s -0.4.
Finally, check out the post-All Star break stat lines for each of them:
Trout: .274/.411/.643, 17 HR, 37 RBI
Bregman: .338/.463/.671, 18 HR, 56 RBI
Again, it takes an incredible season to choose someone to win the MVP over Trout, but what Bregman has done this season has been nothing short of that.
My Ballot: 1. Alex Bregman, 2. Mike Trout, 3. Marcus Semien, 4. Xander Bogaerts, 5. George Springer, 6. Mookie Betts, 7. Matt Chapman, 8. DJ LeMahieu, 9. Rafael Devers, 10. Francisco Lindor
National League MVP: Christian Yelich, Brewers
This will be another close call between Yelich, Cody Bellinger and even Anthony Rendon maybe. Yelich faces the same obstacle as Trout does, but statistically Yelich has played enough to warrant as much consideration as anybody. Before fouling a ball of his knee cap, he had totaled 580 plate appearacnes, which is more than 19 position-player MVPs in MLB history and more than five MVPs in the 162-game era.
Yelich has not only played enough, but he leads the league in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, on-base plus slugging, OPS-Plus and weighted runs created-plus. The only player in the last 60 years to lead the league in all of those categories and not win the MVP was Fred Lynn in 1979.
Go ahead and make the argument that Yelich isn’t “valuable” because the Brewers still snuck into the postseason without him. Yelich’s 7.1 win probability added (WPA) should silence that notion. To add some context here, Bellinger’s 4.9 WPA is the next highest in the NL. That’s the largest margin in the NL since Barry Bonds’ league leading WPA was 6.58 points higher than Lance Berkman’s second highest WPA in 2004.
Bellinger does lead the NL in home runs, runs socred, RBIs, walks, extra-base hits and total bases and his elite defense makes his case tough to beat. However, Bellinger’s OPS has declined in every month of the season while Yelich’s OPS has hovered over 1.000 in seven of the nine months in the regular season.
To top it off, Yelich just completed arguably the greatest regular season ever by a defending MVP. He received 29 of the 30 first-place votes last year and he’s been even better this year. in In the last 80 years, only Albert Pujols in 2006 and Jason Giambi in 2001 have had an OPS over 1.100 while being on teams that made the playoffs and did not win the MVP.
My Ballot: 1. Christian Yelich, 2. Cody Bellinger, 3. Anthony Rendon, 4. Ronald Acuña Jr., 5. Ketel Marte, 6. Nolan Arenado, 7. Trevor Story, 8. JT Realmuto, 9. Pete Alonso, 10. Yasmani Grandal
American League Cy Young: Justin Verlander, Astros
This may be the toughest call of all the awards. Cole was the fastest pitcher ever to reach 300 strikeouts in a season and his 2.50 ERA is a tick better than Verlander’s 2.58 ERA. Both of them also became the fifth and sixth pitchers ever to record more than double the number of strikeouts than hits. The other four pitchers in that group: Pedro Martinez (2000), Randy Johnson (2001), Max Scherzer (2017) and Chris Sale (2018).
There are a couple of areas though where Verlander gets the slight edge. First off, Verlander’s MLB leading .172 opponent batting average was the fourth lowest in the last 100 seasons. The three lower totals were .167 against Martinez (2000), .168 versus Luis Tiant (1968) and .171 against Nolan Ryan (1972).
Second, Verlander’s 0.80 walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP) was the second lowest in the live ball era. Only Martinez’s 0.74 WHIP in 2000 was lower.
Both Verlander and Cole have been so historically dominant this season that this race is just splitting hairs.
My Ballot: 1. Justin Verlander, 2. Gerrit Cole, 3. Charlie Morton, 4. Shane Bieber, 5. Lucas Giolito, 6. Lance Lynn, 7. Jose Berrios, 8. Mike Minor, 9. Eduardo Rodriguez, 10. Wade Miley
National League Cy Young: Jacob deGrom, Mets
No pitcher has ever won back-to-back Cy Youngs for a New York team. Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer are the only active pitchers who have ever won back-to-back Cy Youngs, and only five other right-handed pitchers in MLB history have done the same.
Scherzer looked to be on his way to another one until the back injury late in the season that has put him 31.2 innings behind deGrom. Once Scherzer went down it appeared the NL Cy Young would be Hyun-Jin Ryu’s to lose, but he allowed 24 earned runs over his final eight starts in the regular season.
Insert deGrom. He is the only qualifying starter in the league who has had two straight seasons with a sub-1.00 WHIP. He’s also the only starter in the league who ranks in the top five in ERA (second), strikeouts (first), WHIP (first), opponent average (fourth), opponent OPS (first) and innings (second).
DeGrom should set a new record for fewest wins by a back-to-back Cy Young winner over a two-year period, breaking Tim Lincecum’s previous record of 33 in 2008-2009.
My Ballot: 1. Jacob deGrom, 2. Max Scherzer, 3. Jack Flaherty, 4. Sonny Gray, 5. Stephen Strasburg, 6. Hyun-Jin Ryu, 7. Mike Soroka, 8. Walker Buehler, 9. Patrick Corbin, 10. Clayton Kershaw
American League Rookie of the Year: Yordan Álvarez, Astros
Despite a relatively small sample size of 97 games, Álvarez’s rookie season was so otherworldly, that he is the clear choice for this award. He is the only rookie in MLB history with 300 plate appearances and an OPS of 1.067. The next best was Shoeless Joe Jackson’s rookie year OPS of 1.057.
Aaron Judge’s 10.42 HR/AB rate in 2017 was the only time a rookie in MLB history posted a better home run per at-bat rate than Álvarez’s 11.2 HR/AB. Álvarez also joined Albert Pujols and Ted Williams as the only rookies ever to post a .300/.400/.600 slash line.
My Ballot: 1. Yourdan Álvarez, 2. John Means, 3. Brandon Lowe, 4. Eloy Jimenez, 5. Luis Arraez
National League Rookie of the Year: Pete Alonso, Mets
It looked like Fernando Tatis Jr. might upend Alonso in the middle of the season, but once he went down for the year this race was history. His 53 homers broke Aaron Judge’s rookie homer record of 52 set in 2017. He and Judge are the only 50 homer rookies ever.
Alonso is also the first 50-homer, 30-double rookie ever and he joined Judge, Albert Pujols, Mark McGwire, Fred Lynn, Bobby Abreu and Mike Trout as the only rookies ever with 500-plus plate appearances and a better OPS than Alonso’s .940 over the last 50 years.
My Ballot: 1. Pete Alonso, 2. Mike Soroka, 3. Fernando Tatis Jr., 4. Bryan Reynolds, 5. Keston Hiura
Will Desautelle is a senior majoring in journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
About the Contributors
Senior / Broadcast Journalism and Spanish