There’s still a few days left to play in the season and with the National League playoff teams decided weeks ago and the American League wild card race still up in the air, we have to wait and see which AL teams want it the most – don’t not want it the least.
Wow, a triple-negative. I must be pretty rusty at this writing thing. Don’t worry. It’ll come back to me – like riding a bike, except without hurting my butt as much.
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Just as I’ve done the last couple years, I’m not going to wait until the end of the season to decide who should win this league’s major awards because, with this little time left, there’s not really anything that can happen that would change how I feel. And if something does happen, like some player going crazy and hitting a dozen home runs or a pitcher throwing back to back perfect games, then you can contact me directly for a full refund.
As unpredictable as baseball can be, you are going to have to change your adult diapers when you see how accurate I was at the beginning of the season – eight out of 10 playoff teams, four out of six division winners (including the Red Sox and Dodgers) and three of four my picks are in contention for the AL and NL MVP and Cy Young Awards.
These awards are what bring you and I together today. It is almost certain that you’ll disagree with my choices for these awards because the very nature of the awards themselves is rather subjective.
As a great philosopher once said, “What might be right for you may not be right for some. It takes Diff’rent Strokes to move the world.”
And just what am I talkin’ ‘bout, Willis? The Cy Young and MVP Awards are voted on by human people who have their own opinions about exactly how to determine the top players of the year.
Some voters have embraced the new statistical measurements that almost every team uses to accurately judge and predict player performance and some voters have chosen to stick with their tried and true statistics that they’ve been using since they began following the game and they won’t let anything like “mathematics” take away from their absolute certainty in their own righteousness.
It’s a really healthy mental attitude to have. I get it. It’s simpler. And it’s nice to have something old-fashioned you can cling to in a world that seems to be advancing technologically every day.
The “counting stats” in baseball – statistics that are “counted” (accumulated) over a season like runs, hits, home runs and would not include statistics like batting average – have been used for decades by writers and fans to determine the awards process because they can be a quick look guide to compare players’ production and part of earning an award is being out there for enough games that you created more value than the guy you’re being compared to.
The counting stats do have some value, but there are other more advanced statistics that tell us better how well a player has performed in all aspects of the game. If he scores 100 runs, that’s great. But in most cases someone else was responsible for making him score, so we can’t really give players all the credit for scoring a run. However, we can give him all the credit for getting on base in the first place.
When it comes to the season awards, there’s only two that anyone cares about: the AL and the NL Most Valuable Player Award and the AL and the NL Cy Young Award for the best pitcher. The other awards, like for Rookie, Manager, Comeback Player and the always controversial Mustache of the Year, are interesting but we’ll leave those for another column.
Every year, as with any arbitrarily assigned award system, who should win and who will win hardly ever match up. Many talented actors and actresses have never won awards for their performances and yet, Drew Barrymore won a Golden Globe Award. Yes, for acting!
How does something like this happen? Sometimes people have other agendas or they are voting based on sympathy or popularity. And sometimes people just have poop for brains. There are no rules about voting for these arbitrary awards other than who qualifies for them. And there’s no penalty for stupid voting.
Anyway, let’s bang these out. As I’ve done the last couple years, in addition to explaining how my choices are right and how your choices are wrong, I will also be making up new nicknames for all of this year’s choices. Because this is important.
For the record, I’m using www.FanGraphs.com for all the conventional and advanced statistical data – and also my eyeballs and ear-holes which I have used to perceive things.
American League Cy Young
Last season this award was a bit of a toss up and could have gone to either David Price, Justin Verlander or Chris Sale. Price wound up getting the award because, again, it’s arbitrary. This year it should be a slam-dunk win for Detroit’s Max Scherzer.
My pre-season pick of Felix Hernandez is right there, but Max has all the old-school numbers and new-school numbers on his side in addition to his team making the playoffs. The award has been his to lose since July and even with a slight dip the last few weeks, he’s still well ahead of the field.
And the award goes to … Max “For Sure” Scherzer.
American League MVP
Here we go again. Just like last season this award will come down to Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera. Trout is the best overall player in baseball while Cabrera is the best hitter in baseball. Last year Cabrera was given the award despite the fact that he costs his team countless runs with his terrible defense and sub-par base-running.
The award is for the most valuable “player,” not just the best hitter. Cabrera’s batting numbers are better than Trout’s – not by much, but certainly better. He has more home runs than Trout, but Trout has more doubles and triples. We could go back an forth all day.
But, Jed, what about Miggy’s RBIs? What about getting a CAT scan? You’re saying that because when he got hits there were more people on base in front of him to drive in, Miggy is more valuable. He is not a wizard. Trout has had less players on base in front of him and so has less RBIs and that makes him less valuable, right? Brilliant.
The Orioles’ Chris Davis gets mentioned here because he’s had a heck of a season. But this award is really about Trout and Cabrera. If the voters remain narrow-minded and gloss over Cabrera’s atrocious defense, then the voting won’t even be close and the wrong guy will get the award again.
And the award goes to … Mike “Can’t Catch Me” Trout.
National League Cy Young
Oh, this is a good one this year. The overall advanced numbers separating the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright are too close to call. The traditional numbers lean in Kershaw’s favor with his ERA under 2.00 and his strikeouts, though he has a couple less wins than Wainwright. Let’s be clear about pitcher wins: even more so than RBIs, they are complete garbage. Team wins are important – the most important.
If a pitcher allows one run and his team doesn’t score, he “loses” the game. And if he gives up 10 runs but his team scores 11, then he “wins.” See? Garbage. Kershaw has been a bit luckier than Wainwright this season, but not nearly enough for anyone to really care. There’s always going to be luck in baseball.
And the award goes to … Clayton “Pshaw!” Kershaw.
National League MVP
Last year the winner of this award could have been any number of guys who had very good years for their teams and this year we have the same scenario playing out. Andrew McCutchen, Paul Goldschmidt, Carlos Gomez and Joey Votto are the most productive player on their respective teams. Gomez gets in here because his defense is out of this world and that counts for something when looking for the league’s best player. Sorry, old people.
Goldschmidt has great numbers but don’t you dare bring up his RBIs or I will turn this car around. Votto has almost identical offensive numbers to Goldschmidt, but with 50 less RBIs and if you guess that it’s because Votto had less people on base in front of him, then you are smarter than almost every award voter.
The best of this bunch of players is McCutchen. He produced at the plate, on the base paths and in the outfield. He’s not quite at the level of Mike Trout, but this year McCutchen was the best player in the National League. So, it’s unclear whether he’ll win the award. Maybe if he was better at having players get on base in front of him, it would be an easier choice. Right, voters?
And the award goes to … Andrew “McAll-Around-Best-Player” McCutchen.
If these choices I’ve made here make you angry and you are flabbergasted that I would pick Player A over Player B for the Cy Young or that I had the audacity to not even mention Player X in the MVP race, then please comment below and explain to me why I’m wrong.
But please keep in mind that 1) these awards are arbitrary, though you are probably wrong, and 2) please don’t use 2,000 words like me, Jed “The Pig-headed, Self-righteous, Know-it-all Sports Writer” Rigney.