BBRT Weighs in on MLB’s Major Awards Finalists

The 2017 MLB major awards finalist have been announced and here’s a look at who Baseball Roundtable thinks will come away with the hardware – as well as who BBRT would select (if I had a vote).

Coming Soon:  Baseball Roundtable’s look at the Modern Era Baseball Hall of Fame ballot – who I think will get in and who BBRT would vote for.  Spoiler Alert: My first vote would go to Ted Simmons.

Now to 2917’s MLB Awards.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

American League …

Finalists: Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros; Aaron Judge, RF, Yankees; Jose Ramirez, 3B, Indians

Prediction: Jose Altuve.  BBRT Pick: Jose Altuve

Jose Altuve photo

Photo by Keith Allison

“You’re killin’ me, Smalls.”  Okay, this one is “Bigs” (6’7”, 282-pound Aaron Judge) versus “Smalls” ( 5’6” 165-pound) Jose Altuve.   Caught in the middle is Indians’ third baseman Jose Ramirez, who had a heck of a season (.318-29-83), but simply fell into the small and large shadows of Altuve and Judge.

Judge finished up at .284, with (an AL-best and new MLB rookie record) 52 home runs and 114 RBI.  Added to his MVP resume are his league-leading numbers in both runs (128) and walks (127). Subtracting from his chances are a league-leading and rookie record 208 strikeouts and a .228 second-half average.

Altuve was the Astros’ spark plug, winning his third batting title in the last five years with a .346 average. He also topped the league in hits with 204 (his fourth straight 200-hit campaign), scored 112 runs, showed solid power for a middle infielder (24 home runs and 81 RBI), stole 32 bases in 38 tries and continued to provide “plus” defense.  From a consistency standpoint, Altuve hit .347 before the break and .344 after the break – and never had a month under .290.  Voters have been waiting to give “Smalls” his MVP due – and this is the year.

National League …

Finalists: Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks; Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Marlins; Joey Votto, 1B, Reds

Prediction: Paul Goldschmidt: BBRT Pick: Paul Goldschmidt.

Paul Goldschmidt baseball photo

Photo by Keith Allison

Despite the fact that Joey Votto may have been more valuable to the Reds (.320-36-100) – witness his MLB-leadership in both walks (134) walks and intentional passes (20) – Paul Goldschmidt’s combination of leather (he won his third Gold glove in 2017), lumber (.297-36-120) and unusual speed for a first-sacker (18 stolen bases) gives him the edge over both Votto and Giancarlo Stanton (.281-59-132).

Still, Stanton’s MLB-topping 59 home runs and 132 RBI will sway some voters and this race could be closeer than you might expect.  The fact that both Votto’s Reds and Stanton’s Marlins finished below .500 will work in Goldschmidt’s favor.

 

 

 

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CY YOUNG AWARD

American League …

Finalists: Corey Kluber, Indians; Chris Sale, Red Sox; Luis Severino, Yankees

Prediction: Corey Kluber; BBRT Pick: Corey Kluber, Indians

Corey Kluber photo

Photo by apardavila

The Yankees’ 23-year-old righty Luis Severino picked an unfortunate year to find deliver on his potential – going from 3-8, 5.83 in 2016 to 14-6, 2.98 in 2017.  A solid season, but this is really a two-horse competition – and both were true “horses” for their successful squads.

BBRT’s leans toward the Indians’ Corey Kluber (the 2014 AL Cy Young Award winner), whose 18 wins tied for the MLB lead – and whose 2.25 ERA was the lowest among qualifiers. Kluber’s .818 winning percentage (four losses) led the AL (only the Dodgers Alex Wood at 16-3, .842 was better).  He was also second in the AL (third in MLB) in strikeouts (265 in 203 2/3 innings) and tied for the MB lead in complete games (five) and shutouts (three).  All in all, a CYA-worthy season.

Chris Sale’s MLB-leading 308 strikeouts (in just 214 1/3 innings pitched) and gaudy 12.9 strikeouts per nine innings will make this a tight race.  (On the season, Sale had 43 more whiffs than Kluber in just 10 2/3 more innings). Sale finished 17-8, with a 2.90 ERA (behind only Kluber in the AL and sixth in MLB). Working against Sale will be the fact that he tossed only one complete game (after leading the AL with six complete games in 2016) and Kluber’s MLB-low ERA.  (And, remember, back ssues kept Kluber out most of May.)  Clearly, this will be one of the closest votes in the awards season, but Kluber has the edge.

National League …

Finalists: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers; Max Scherzer, Nationals; Steven Strasburg, Nationals.

Prediction: Clayton Kershaw.  BBRT Pick: Clayton Kershaw.

Photo by SD Dirk

Photo by SD Dirk

Clayton Kershaw – 18-4-2.31; Max Scherzer – 16-6, 2.51; Stephen Strasburg – 15-4, 2.52.  Okay, we need to narrow the field. Strasburg has the fewest wins and the (barely) highest ERA of the three finalists.   One down.

Kershaw tied for the MLB lead in wins (18) in four less starts then Scherzer, who had 16 victories. Then again, Scherzer led the NL in strikeouts at 268 (200 2/3 innings) to Kershaw’s 202 (in 175 innings).  Back at you … Kershaw’s 2.31 ERA led the NL and was second in MLB only to the Indians’ Corey Kluber (2.25). Return serve … Scherzer’s 12.0 strikeouts per nine innings tops Kershaw’s 10.4,

Okay, we’re getting deep into the stat lines now: Kershaw tops Scherzer in winning percentage .818 to .727. Scherzer edges Kershaw in WHIP 0.90 to 0.94. Kershaw had the better strikeouts to walks ratio at 6.7 to 4.9; while Scherzer pitched 200 2/3 innings to Kershaw’s 175.  And we could go on and on. Side note: Both players lost time to injury (late July to early August) – Kershaw to back issues and Scherzer to a neck problem.  So, that too is a “wash.” 

Ultimately, Kershaw put up two more victories in four fewer starts.  That and the fact that two Nationals are among the final three, should give Kershaw s slight edge, but a Scherzer win wouldn’t surprise me.

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ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

American League …

Finalists: Andrew Benintendi, LF, Red Sox; Arron Judge, RF, Yankees; Trey Mancini, LF, Orioles

Prediction: Aaron Judge  BBRT Pick:  Aaron Judge

Photo by Keith Allison

Photo by Keith Allison

Pre-season, BBRT really liked Andrew Benintendi for this award.  Like so many others, I did not see the Aaron Judge-ernaut coming.   No contest here: Aaron Judge hit  .284, with an AL-leading 128 runs scored, a new rookie record  (and league-leading) 52 home runs and 114 RBI. That peformance puts the AL ROY trophy in Judge’s back pocket.  Just to show how dominant (among rookies) Judge was, he led all MLB rookies in home runs, runs scored, RBI, walks, total bases, on base percentage and slugging percentage.

By the way, the other finalists had fine rookie campaigns, Trey Mancini went .293-24-78 for the Orioles and Benintendi put up a .271-20-90 line with twenty steals for the Red Sox.  But 2017 was easily “The Year of the Judge.”  But how would you like an all-rookie outfield of Mancini, Benintendi and Judge?

 

 

National League …

Finalists: Josh Bell, 1B, Pirates; Cody Bellinger, 1B, Dodgers; Paul DeJong, SS, Cardinals

Prediction: Cody Bellinger  BBRT: Pick: Cody Bellinger

The one should be closer than the AL ROY race, but Bellinger set an NL rookie-season home run record (39) – and his .267-39-97 line should bring him NL Rookie of the Year recognition. (Those 39 long balls would have gotten a lot more attention without Aaron Judge’s 52 rookie blasts in the AL). Bellinger led all NL rookies (and finished second to Judge among MLB rookies) in home runs, RBI and runs scored (87).  I did like Paul DeJong’s .285-25-65 in 108 games) from a middle-infield spot and Josh Bell also reached 26 home runs and 90 RBI, but you can’t ignore the new NL rookie home run record holder.

 

 

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MANAGER OF THE YEAR

American League …

Finalists: Terry Francona, Indians; A.J. Hinch, Astros; Paul Molitor, Twins

Prediction: Terry Francona, Indians.  BBRT Pick: Paul Molitor, Twins

Terry Francona photo

Photo by Keith Allison

Francona’s Indians won an AL-best 102 games and set a new AL- record with a 22-game winning streak. That streak, the 100-plus wins, an MLB-leading +251 run differential and a Central Division title will likely bring the Manager of the Year Award to Terry Francona.  Still, you have to consider that  A.J. Hinch’s Astros had only one less victory – scored an MLB-best 896 runs and combined MLB’s second-best home run total (238) with major league’s fewest batter strikeouts (1,087). (By contrast, the Yankees led MLB with just three more home runs than the Astros, but racked up 299 more whiffs.) A close race, but BBRT thinks Francona will edge Hinch, with voters acknowledging that winning streak.

From BBRT’s perspective (remember, I am from Minnesota), the fact that Paul Molitor brought the Twins’ home in a Wild Card spot  (one of only five AL teams over .500), with a 26-game improvement in the W-L column is worthy of consideration.  When you further consider he brought the team to the post season even after the front office went from “buyers” to “sellers” at the trade deadline – and despite a suspect pitching staff (the Twins’ staff  ERA was the highest of any team that made the post season) and the loss of key offensive force Miguel Sano)  – my vote would go to the Twin’s skipper.

National League …

Finalists:  Bud Black, Rockies; Torey Lovullo, Diamondbacks; Dave Roberts, Dodgers

Prediction: Torey Lovullo, Diamondbacks  BBRT Pick: Torey Luvullo, Diamondbacks

Torey Lovullo photo

Photo by Keith Allison

This race features a trio of deserving candidates.  Roberts led the Dodgers to the best record in baseball this past season (104-58), finished 11 games up on the second-place Diamondbacks, logged the NL’s best run differential (+219) and MLB’s best team ERA  – despite missing ace Clayton Kershaw for a chunk of the season. Not only that, he did it in arguably MLB’s toughest division  (both NL Wild Cards came from the West).  Even all that may not be enough to gain him Manager of the Year.

Torey Lovullo, led the Diamondbacks to a 24-game improvement (69-93 to 93-60), thanks in a significant part to Paul Goldschmidt’s MVP-caliber season and the addition of J.D.Martinez’ hot bat. Lovullo and his staff also helped bring the Diamondbacks forward from 2016’s NL-worst 5.09 ERA to 2017’s NL second-best 3.66.

Bud Black is also a strong candidate, bringing the Rockies home in a Wild Card sport (87-65 – a 12-win improvement over 2016).  Black did it despite relying n on a startying rotation that featured a quartet of rookies (Kyle Freeland, German Marquez, Jeff Holman and Antonio Senzatela). Ultimately, however, this looks like a contest between Roberts and his West Division crown and Lovullo and his 24-game improvement.  I think voters will consider that the Dodgers were coming off a 2016 division title (with MLB’s largest Opening Day 2017 payroll), and give Manager of the Year to Lovullo’s in a very close contest.

Roy Halladay – Fierce Competitor, Tireless Worker, True Gentleman

Two-time Cy Young Award winner (2003 & 2010) Roy Halladay – known as a hard worker, gritty competitor and great teamate – died tragically in a small plane crash on November 7. Halladay was just 40-years-old. Halladay was an eight time All Star and three-time 20-game winner (in 16 MLB seasons). He twice led his league in wins (2003 for the Blue Jays and 2010 for the Phillies); topped his circuit in complete games seven times; and led his league in innings pitched and shutouts four times each.  Halladay pitched a perfect game on May 29, 2010 and a no-hitter in Game One of the 2010 National League Division Series. His final MLB line was 203-105, 3.38; with 2,117 strikeours (versus just 592 walks) in 2,749 1/3 innings.  Former Phillies’ GM Ruben Amaro Jr. may have best summed up the character of Roy Halladay when told ESPN: “He was the single most accountable, conscientious, hard-working, dedicated player, I’ve ever been around. He was the most competitive on the mound and yet the kindest, gentlest person off the mound that you could imagine.”  Halladay was a credit to the national pastime and will be greatly missed.

 

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Member: Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Reliquary; The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

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