Every year, just when you think baseball is over and it’s officially time to dive headfirst into basketball, the MLB awards make sure you pay attention just a little longer. The league spends an entire week slowly dragging out the process, starting with Manager of the Year on Monday and finishing with MVP on Thursday. The whole thing feels drawn out and unnecessary, but I still can’t resist making sure to pay attention every night to see who wins. If you’re going to commit to a 162-game season, you gotta make sure you squeeze out all the entertainment value you can.
Two awards have already been announced at this point. Manager of the Year is always the least interesting and, as it probably should, almost always goes to the manager that overachieved the most. This year the Manager of the Year awards went to Paul Molitor and Torey Lovullo for leading Twins and D-Backs, respectively, to much better seasons than were expected. Rookie of the Year is typically much more exciting, but that was not the case this year. Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger had them wrapped up by July, if not earlier, and were both unanimous picks. The final two, and obviously the most important, Cy Young and MVP, will be announced tonight and tomorrow. Let’s take a look at the finalists and who will walk away with the hardware.
AL Cy Young
Finalists: Corey Kluber, Chris Sale, Luis Severino
Corey Kluber enters tonight as the favorite to take home this one. He led American League starters in wins, ERA, WHIP, and was second in strikeouts behind Sale. The Indians were also the best team in the AL. Chris Sale is guaranteed second, at least, but I doubt he can catch Kluber. Sale did have 308 K’s to Kluber’s 265 and he pitched a few more innings than Kluber, but Kluber missed several starts early due to injury which skews those numbers. After Kluber’s return, there was no question who the best pitcher in the AL was this season. The real kicker here is Kluber’s ERA which is .65 lower than Sale’s. Luis Severino, meanwhile, is here because they had to list a third name, although he did have a great year for being only 23 years old. It’s a clear two horse race and Kluber is almost assuredly going to walk away with his second Cy Young.
Prediction: Corey Kluber
NL Cy Young
Finalists: Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Stephen Strasburg
While Corey Kluber will be able to overcome missing some starts, Clayton Kershaw will not. Max Scherzer started four more games than Kershaw and that will be the difference maker. Kershaw won 2 more games (18 vs 16) than Scherzer and had a .20 better ERA (2.31 vs 2.51), but the voters have historically shown they care about innings pitched (more than I really think they should) and Scherzer went 25 innings more than Kershaw this year. Scherzer also had 268 K’s to Kershaw’s 202. If Kershaw hadn’t missed those starts he probably wins or at least makes it much more interesting, but I just don’t see him making up that gap. Stephen Strasburg also had a fantastic season and will certainly be in this conversation many more times going forward, but he needs to show he can stay healthy for a whole season. Maybe next year. This year it’s Scherzer’s to lose.
Prediction: Max Scherzer
Finalists: Jose Altuve, Aaron Judge, Jose Ramirez
The Tribe fan in me is just happy to see Jose Ramirez on this list. This is obviously another two horse race, and a very tough one to pick. Altuve and Judge are entirely different players and that makes them difficult to compare. Altuve hit an impressive .346 on his way to winning the AL batting title. He also bashed a respectable 24 homers and stole 32 bases while playing excellent defense. Judge, meanwhile, hit .284 (admittedly solid for a power hitter) and struck out 208 times. However, Judge roped 52 homers and had an OPS .092 higher than Altuve. Judge also plays in New York which just makes it a sexier pick. This is a true toss-up, but my gut is telling me Altuve edges out Judge. Don’t quote me on this one.
Prediction: Jose Altuve
Finalists: Paul Goldschmidt, Giancarlo Stanton, Joey Votto
I want to believe we finally have three people on a list that can win, but the voters typically aren’t thrilled about voting for players on losing teams. Since 2003, the only MVP not on a winning team was Mike Trout. This season, Votto and Stanton both played for losers. Does that mean Goldschmidt has it wrapped up? Absolutely not. Stanton led the NL in both home runs (59) and RBIs (132). Joey Votto led the league in WAR and OPS and was fourth in average at a solid .320. Goldschmidt, meanwhile, didn’t even crack the top three in any major offensive stats except runs scored. This could definitely be the year that another losing team’s player takes home the MVP. If you want a winner, it’s Goldschmidt. If you want overall offensive performance, it’s Votto. If you want flashy power stats, it’s Stanton. I’m taking Stanton by a hair.
Prediction: Giancarlo Stanton
Check out the winners tonight and tomorrow and come back and criticize me when I’m wrong. After that, we can settle in for a long basketball season.