With the MLB regular season wrapped up, it’s time to dish out some hardware and start talking playoffs. It was an exciting year where home runs seemed to fly out of parks (nine 40 HR hitters compared to one in 2014) yet pitchers dominated (see 7 no hitters including two by Scherzer), and starting this week we will see a playoffs with 6 teams competing who were at home last October. So without further ado, here are my picks for the awards and Wild Card games:
AL MVP: Mike Trout
We start with probably the second toughest award to call, with two clear cut candidates in Trout and Josh Donaldson. Both put up video game type numbers: Trout hit .299/.402/.590 with 41 HRs, 32 doubles, 6 tripes, 90 RBI and 104 runs scored, while Donaldson slashed .297/.371/.568 with 41 HRs, 41 doubles, 2 triples, and ridiculous totals of 123 RBI and 122 runs scored. To me, it came down to a tie-breaker to give Trout the edge. Trout nearly dragged the Angels to the playoffs by himself, falling just short in game 162 while Donaldson had plenty of support as the Jays ran away with the AL East. In baseball I do not believe the MVP has to go to a candidate in the playoffs, and the difference in teammates for these players led to the big difference in run and RBI numbers. Because of this, I look at the better slash line of Trout as indicating the slight edge between the two players. But Donaldson is certainly worthy and I would not complain if writers vote his way to get a new candidate some hardware. Incredible to think that Mike Trout could have one MVP award after three full years, and it would be in what was arguably his worst season.
NL MVP: Bryce Harper
Yes, I just said that the playoffs push was a factor in voting for Trout. But come on, no one in the NL was as dominant as Bryce Harper. Yes Cespedes played a huge part in the Mets late season run. Goldschmidt was an absolute monster for Arizona and should receive lots of second place votes. Votto put up one of the best second halfs in MLB history. But this award is Harper’s. Slashing .330/.460/.649 (a 1.109 OPS?!?!) with a WAR that was double digits until the final day of the season (finished at 9.9) makes you the most valuable player in baseball, end of discussion. It certainly was not his fault the Nationals couldn’t stay healthy or drive in enough runs to win ball games.
AL CY Young: David Price
Dallas Keuchel had an incredible season winning 20 games and posting an ERA of 2.48. But outside of Houston, he was an average pitcher: 5-8 with a 3.77 ERA. Yes, I’m aware that means he was incredible in Houston (15-0 with a 1.46 ERA), but David Price (18-5, 2.45 ERA) got it done no matter what city he pitched in (7-3, 2.85 at home, 11-2, 2.05 away) or team he pitched for (9-4, 2.53 with Detroit, 9-1, 2.30 with Toronto). Expect a record breaking contract for the big lefty this off-season.
NL CY Young: Jake Arrieta
This has to be one of the all-time great Cy Young races. I would legitimately have no problem with 3 men winning this award. Greinke’s 1.66 ERA is unfathomable. So is 300 strikeouts from the great Clayton Kershaw. But I have to give the ever so slight nod to Arrieta. The utter dominance of his performances night in and night out is otherworldly. For me this award came down to if I need one win from one of these three guys, with no bullpen help, who do I want on the hill? I quickly came up with Arrieta, and he’ll get a chance to prove me right or wrong on Wednesday.
AL ROY: Carlos Correa
More than most awards, the Rookie of the Year award goes to story more than stats. Fortunately for Carlos Correa, he has both. He hit a fantastic .279/.345/.512 with 22 HR in just 99 games, good enough for a WAR of 4.1 But the value he added in turning the Astros into a playoff team goes well beyond numbers, which is why I give him the award over Francisco Lindor from Cleveland, who had arguably a better season. Despite no attention from the media, Lindor hit .313/.353/.382 with a 4.6 WAR. But less pop in his bat (12 HR) and Cleveland’s middle-of-the-pack finish meant no attention for Lindor, who will certainly become a house hold name over the coming seasons. The future looks bright for both players, but I see the award landing on Correa’s shelf.
NL ROY: Kris Bryant
Similar to 2012 when we got to watch Harper and Mike Trout take the world by storm, this season has been packed with great rookies. We already discussed two phenomenal SS’s over in the AL, and the NL had a great slew of candidates for this award in Bryant, Matt Duffy and Jung Ho Kang. But just like in the AL, the Bryant narrative batting in the heart of the order for the transcendent Cubs will trump the consistency of Matt Duffy and the injury shortened season of Jung Ho Kang. All three are deserving of the award, but Bryant’s line of .275./369/.488 with 26 HRs and 6.0 WAR are extraordinary for any player let alone a rookie.
AL Manager of the Year: Jeff Banister
This one was an easy pick for me. Ned Yost and the Royals proved last year weren’t a fluke in running away with the AL Central and best record in the AL. John Gibbons and Toronto had a great season propelled by mid-season acquisitions and a deep lineup. But the other division winner? The Texas Rangers, who almost everyone in the media (including G&G) labeled as done once Yu Darvish went down. But this team has a great chemistry and a “too dumb to know we’re not good” mentality, and a lot of that credit belongs with the manager.
NL Manager of the Year: Joe Maddon
With apologies to Mike Matheney of the 100 win St Louis Cardinals, Clint Hurdle of the Pirates who could win it every year, and Terry Collins of the surprise New York Mets, what Joe Maddon did was sensational. Leading a group of young players who weren’t supposed to win yet to 97 wins and the 3rd best record in baseball speaks volumes about what Maddon can do to a franchise, and why Tampa Bay probably should have spent some money to help him win a World Series. If there is one manager out there right now who could help the Cubs break the curse, it’s this guy.
Astros @ Yankees: Tuesday October 4th at 8:00 pm
This is an interesting matchup, as both teams really struggled to the finish line. But it should be a great pitchers duel, at least on paper with Dallas Keuchel and Masahiro Tanaka facing off. After reading my pick for the AL Cy Young you may be thinking that I don’t trust Keuchel away from Houston, and that may be the case. But I trust him in New York against a lefty heavy Yankee lineup. It also helps that Keuchel shut down the Yankees at Yankee Stadium on August 25th, shutting them out on 3 hits over 7 innings in a 15-1 rout. Tanaka meanwhile struggled in his only outing against Houston this year, earning the win in a 9-6 game where he allowed 6 earned runs over 5 innings. He had an up and down September while Keuchel finished strong, but these Astros are not playoff tested and if this game is close late the Yankees bullpen has the clear advantage. I think Keuchel goes 7 strong and the Astros edge this one out 4-2.
Cubs @ Pirates: Wednesday October 5th at 8:00 pm
After reading my pick for the NL Cy Young, you won’t be surprised to read I’m picking the Cubs. Gerrit Cole is a fantastic pitcher, and definitely has the potential to shut down the Cubs lineup. In fact, last time out against the Cubs, he held them to just one run over 7 innings. But the last time the Pirates faced Arrieta? One hit in 7 innings. I’ll take Jake and the Cubs in a nail biter, 2-1.