The 2017 MLB season has come to a close and it was honestly one of the best seasons to watch from a fans standpoint as we saw so many milestones and records broken. We saw a huge influx of young talent yet again break into the league and take it by storm. For starters, we saw Yankees rookie right fielder Aaron Judge hit 52 home runs and break the old MLB home run record for the most homers hit by a rookie in a single season, the old record was 49 by Mark McGwire, who did it for Oakland in 1987. Dodgers rookie first baseman Cody Bellinger didn’t come up to the big leagues until the end of April, yet he broke the old NL record (38) by Frank Robinson (1956) and Wally Berger (1930) for most home runs in a single season by a rookie, finishing with 39. Judge is also a very strong favorite in the AL MVP race as well, as the Yankees are also headed back to the playoffs.
We saw quite a few pitchers, who aren’t considered aces put on ACE performances all season long, like Arizona’s Robbie Ray & Zack Godley, LAD’s Alex Wood, Milwaukee’s Zach Davies, NYY’s Luis Severino, Cleveland’s Carlos Carrasco, and Houston’s Lance McCullers (although he had a hard time staying healthy). A couple of those guys are in CY Young conversations, others are just falling short. We’ve seen usual pitching mastery from the likes of Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, and Clayton Kershaw, to name a few. The NL CY Young race is a lot more competitive and open than the AL race is, which is a two man race in my eyes.
The NL MVP race has quite a crowded field and should be one of the more hard to decide races this year. Off the top of my head, there are at least FIVE (5) strong candidates for the award and it’s hard to choose even one. You have the likes of Arizona 1B Paul Goldschmidt, Miami RF Giancarlo Stanton AND LF Marcell Ozuna, Cincinnati 1B Joey Votto, Washington 1B Ryan Zimmerman AND 3B Anthony Rendon, Colorado 3B Nolan Arenado and CF Charlie Blackmon to name some of them. The AL MVP race appears to be a three headed monster to me, with New York RF Aaron Judge, Houston 2B Josè Altuve, and Cleveland IF Josè Ramirez leading the charge. The one thing that hurts Altuve’s case is that a few of his teammates (George Springer, Carlos Correa, Marwin Gonzalez, & Yuli Gurriel) are also having great seasons. You could say the same for Judge and Ramirez too I guess, but they don’t have the type of teammates who’re having the exact type of seasons that Altuve’s teammates are having. It really will be fascinating to see how it shakes out because if Altuve doesn’t have the teammates that he does have, he’s the run away favorite for AL MVP. Alas, we got ourselves a race…
Let’s get to the picks…
1.Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks:
“Goldy” dominated all season and led his team to the first NL wild card spot in a year where a lot of people thought it’d be a down year for the D-Backs. Goldschmidt finished the year with .297 AVG, 36 homers, 120 RBI’s, .404 OBP, .966 OPS, 117 R’s, 18 SB’s, and played in 155 games. He also displayed his usual gold glove caliber defense at a key position where strong defense is preferred. The man has finished as the runner up twice for NL MVP and I believe the third time will be the charm and he finally wins it. I thought heavily about picking Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado for MVP but although Arenado had an incredible season even without the Coors Field effect, I couldn’t help but notice that Goldschmidt didn’t have last years NL batting champion (D.J. LeMahieu) and this years batting champion (Charlie Blackmon) both hitting in front of him. Arenado topped Goldschmidt in RBI’s by a tally of 130-120, that’s only a +10 margin with way better hitters in front of Nolan and his OBP was .31 lower than Goldschmidt’s. That’s why I give Goldschmidt the edge over Arenado for NL MVP.
2.Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies
3.Giancarlo Stanton, RF, Miami Marlins
4.Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds
5.Bryce Harper, RF, Washington Nationals
1.José Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros:
Altuve just continues to get better and better every year. Not only did Altuvé prove to be the one constant all season in that daunting Astros offense but he also did many things he hasn’t done before. On top of his usual gold glove defense, Altuve posted career highs in home runs (24, tied with 2016), runs (112), average (.346), OBP (.410), slugging % (.547), OPS (.957), OPS+ (165), WAR (8.4), while playing in 153 games. Altuve also knocked in 81 RBI’s, 39 doubles, 4 triples, 204 hits, and stole 32 bases. Altuve also struck out only 84 times all season, almost 0.5 strikeouts per game. Incredible numbers by the shortest player in baseball at 5’6. Aaron Judge was a heavy favorite as well up until a very weak month of August and second half of July hurt him badly. His strong September vaults him back up into the very top of the race but Altuve has been doing everything all season and hasn’t slowed down. In fact, Altuve’s first half OPS is almost identical to his second half OPS (.968 to .967) so you can see the consistency at the plate with this guy, especially after teammates Carlos Correa and George Springer missed time this season with injuries. Judge became the first player in history to lead his league in the “three true outcomes” category as he led the AL in homers (52), walks (127), and strikeouts (208). As awesome as Judge’s season was, especially for a rookie, I just believe his dip in late July and all of August hurts his chances and plus his defense isn’t nearly as good as Altuve’s, although that’s not a knock on Judge because he proved to be more than average defensively in right field, Altuve is just a wizard at second. Now while the big debate is all around Altuve vs Judge, I believe it should be centered more around Altuve vs José Ramirez of the Indians. Like Altuve, Ramirez was consistent all season and put up extremely good numbers for someone who I don’t think anyone expected to be this good and someone who isn’t all that well known on the Indians compared to some of his teammates. Ramirez finished with a .318/.374/.583/.957 slash line, 29 HR’s, 83 RBI’s, 107 Runs, 56 doubles (led the league), 6 triples, 145 OPS+, 18 stolen bases, 6.8 WAR, and more than adequate defense at both second base and third base. Ramirez also struck out only 69 times, good for only 0.43 K’s per game. The reason why I’m not going with Ramirez is because he batted a lot out of the #3 spot in the lineup with two good hitters in front of him and some big time thumpers behind him and because of the insane numbers and career highs that Altuve posted on a team that saw their fare share of injuries this season around him.
2.Jose Ramirez, 2B/3B, Cleveland Indians
3.Aaron Judge, RF, New York Yankees
4.Mike Trout, CF, Los Angeles Angels
5.Chris Sale, SP, Boston Red Sox
NL Cy Young:
1.Max Scherzer, SP, Washington Nationals:
Scherzer gets the edge over Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers and teammate Stephen Strasburg thanks to better consistency/health, and of course because of the great numbers he put up. Scherzer finished the 2017 season 16-6, 2.51 ERA (career best), 268 K’s (led the NL), 2 complete games (led the NL), 175 ERA+ (career high), 0.90 WHIP (career best), and 12 K’s/9 (career best). Scherzer is the reigning NL Cy Young winner and a two time winner at that, also doing so in the American League in 2013 as a member of the Detroit Tigers. Kershaw led the leagues in wins (18) and ERA (2.31), but was short of Scherzer by 25 innings pitched and 66 strikeouts. Missing a month+ of the season cost Kershaw a possible runaway win. It also doesn’t help that the Dodgers were just so unbelievably good this season that even without Kershaw, the Dodgers would’ve been fine and still won the NL West. I believe the gap would be tighter in the Nationals’ case because if Scherzer missed an extended period of time, the margin for error was a bit closer for Washington than it was Los Angeles even though both teams won their divisions in runaway fashion. And here’s another stat that definitely favors Scherzer, he allowed only a .168 BAA to batters during the third and fourth time through the order, whereas Kershaw had a .237 BAA, even higher than Strasburg’s .194. Very big difference there and that’s where I draw the line for Kershaw’s chances. Strasburg missed time this season too sporadically even though he put up almost similar numbers to his teammate, but Scherzer was just that much better. Scherzer wins his third Cy Young award and gets even closer to punching that Hall of Fame ticket.
2.Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
3.Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington Nationals
4.Robbie Ray, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks
5.Kenley Jansen, RP, Los Angeles Dodgers
AL Cy Young:
1.Corey Kluber, SP, Cleveland Indians: Kluber had an incredible season and pitched even better down the stretch during Cleveland’s huge winning streak and as they chased down Houston for the best record in the AL. Kluber finished the season with a 18-4 record, 2.25 ERA (led league), 265 K’s, 0.86 WHIP (led league), 5 complete games (led league), 3 shutouts (led league), 202 ERA+ (led league), 11.7 K/9, 7.36 K/BB (led league), 8.1 WAR. He also led with 18 wins as well. The flavor of the season and heavy favorite for this award was Boston’s Chris Sale until Kluber shot himself to the top of the conversation with his great pitching down the stretch and Sale’s slight decline as the year ended. Sale became the first pitcher since Pedro Martinez in 1999 to strike out over 300 batters in a season, so that was remarkable. Unfortunately I feel like Sale’s drop off in August and September (five games he allowed 4+ earned runs in 10 starts & four times he couldn’t make it past the 5th inning). His ERA “ballooned” to 2.90 to end the season, a .65 higher mark than Kluber. He also had a .1 higher WHIP and only 1 complete game and 0 shutouts compared to Kluber’s four more complete games and three more shutouts. Kluber also had better and even more respectable home/road splits than Sale also. As tremendous as Sale was this season, I think Kluber was just more durable and consistent with his great numbers.
2.Chris Sale, SP, Boston Red Sox
3.Luis Severino, SP, New York Yankees
4.Justin Verlander, SP, Houston Astros/Detroit Tigers
5.Craig Kimbrel, RP, Boston Red Sox
NL Rookie Of The Year:
1.Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers:
Bellinger took the league by storm after his promotion in late April, setting the new NL record for homers by a rookie in a season. This years R.O.Y awards (both NL AND AL) are runaways and really don’t even need much explaining for the picks because in reality the two winners will be unanimous. Let’s just see how the other rookies are positioned behind these no doubt winners…
2.Paul DeJong, SS, St.Louis Cardinals
3.Ian Happ, OF, Chicago Cubs
AL Rookie Of The Year:
1.Aaron Judge, OF, New York Yankees:
Judge is also the unanimous choice here. The guy hit 52 homers (most ever by a rookie, AL or NL) and led his league in walks, AS A ROOKIE. That’s enough in its own right. Let’s see how the others fared behind him…
2.Andrew Benintendi, OF, Boston Red Sox
3.Yuli Gurriel, 3B/1B, Houston Astros
NL Manager Of The Year:
1.Craig Counsell, Milwaukee Brewers:
Counsell took a Brewers team that had zero expectations to do anything this season and possibly be one of the worse teams in the league to nearly the second NL wild card spot. The Brewers came into the last game of the season needing a victory in St.Louis and a Colorado loss at home to the Dodgers to nab the last wild card spot but both opposite outcomes happened and Milwaukee was eliminated. The Brewers took a makeshift team that saw one frontline starter emerge in Chase Anderson and an offense that was way better than expected led by guys like Eric Sogard, Eric Thames, and Travis Shaw, to name a few. The fact that Milwaukee nearly made the wild card game in what was supposed to be a rebuilding season is a testament to the leadership of the team, led my by manager Craig Counsell.
2.Torey LuVollo, Arizona Diamondbacks
3.Bud Black, Colorado Rockies
AL Manager Of The Year:
1.Paul Molitor, Minnesota Twins:
Molitor took the Twins from 103 losses in 2016 to the AL Wild Card game against the Yankees this year. The Twins became the first team in history to go from 100+ losses one season and to the playoffs in the next. The Twins were led by veteran pitcher Ervin Santana and young guns Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, and Eddie Rosario. The Twins even sold off pieces at the trade deadline and wound up doing even better and claiming the second wild card spot. The turnaround during a rebuilding season was remarkable and Molitor has got to be a unanimous choice for this award. Job well done with this Twins team.
2.Joe Girardi, New York Yankees
3.A.J. Hinch, Houston Astros
Comeback Player Of The Year: Zack Greinke, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks