Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

My 2018 End-of-Season Awards Predictions

11 comments

Another season, another MVP runner-up for Trout at the behest of another player? PHoto via redsox life

Another season, another MVP runner-up for Trout at the behest of another player? PHoto via redsox life

Hi there.  Its time to write about the “silly season” of baseball.   Its my annual awards predictor piece.

Here’s my predictions for how the awards will go.  Important note: This is not necessarily how I believe the awards should go, it is how I think the current electorate will vote …  though I do tend to believe that the MVP award in particular is not just about naming the WAR leader in the league.  And I also tend to favor giving a pitcher the Cy Young and a non-pitcher the MVP.  But feel free to discuss in the comments if you think i’m wrong.  I can be argumentative either way :-)

How do I think the voting will go?

  • AL MVP: Betts
  • NL MVP: Yelich
  • AL Cy Young: Snell
  • NL Cy Young: Scherzer
  • AL Rookie: Ohtani
  • NL Rookie: Acuna
  • AL Manager: Melvin (Oakland)
  • NL Manager: Snitker (Atlanta)

Prediction Results?  2 for 2.


 

Discussion/Reasoning

  • AL MVP: Mookie Betts is the best player on the best team, always a good place to start with MVP thoughts.  Yes, once again Mike Trout is having a phenomenal year, and once again he toils on the West Coast and for a team out of the playoff race.  I’m eternally sympathetic to those who think MVP should not include team performance … and i’m perennially finding myself agreeing with “old school” sentiments that ask a simple question; how can you be the most valuable player when your team isn’t a factor for most of the year.   Also in the mix would be Betts’ teammate J.D. Ramirez, the Oakland phenomenon Matt Chapman, Houston WAR leader Alex Bregman, and Cleveland stars Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor.  My personal hedge statement here: I’d be rather surprised if Betts did not win.
  • NL MVP: Christian Yelich has really exploded late in the season to put his name into this discussion.  But the question may end up being this: is this one of those weird years where no dominant, obvious position player candidate steps up and thus the award goes to a pitcher?  I’d suggest this might be possible … except that the top 3-4 pitching candidates all play for non-playoff teams.  And that doesn’t match the narrative.  I’m going to go with Yelich, then the top NL pitchers right behind him, with perhaps Javier Baez,  Nolan Arenado and Freddie Freeman getting some votes as their respective “best player on a playoff team” status.  Coincidentally … did you know that Anthony Rendon is 2nd in the NL in fWAR behind Yelich?  I certainly didn’t.  Personal Hedge statement: I’d still be shocked if a pitcher for a non-playoff team won here, and would find it hard to vote for one of these other position players mentioned.
  • AL Cy Young: Blake Snell.   This might be an interesting case of whether you’re wow’d by conventional stats or not.  Snell has a sub 2.00 ERA, but he’s doing it thanks to a ridiculously low BABIP, which drags down is fWAR and puts him well down the league leader list.  Meanwhile in bWAR … he’s the top AL pitcher, ahead of his competition for this award.  I think the fact that he’s put up the numbers that he has playing in the AL East and having fully 25% of his starts this year come against Boston and the Yankees is pretty amazing.  I’d vote Snell.  Also in the mix here: Verlander, Cole, Sale, Kluber, Bauer.  Personal Hedge: wouldn’t be surprised if this went to Verlander or Sale instead.
  • NL Cy Young.  Max Scherzer  Yes i’m convinced that his broaching the 300k mark put him over the top, despite the unbelievable season that Jacob deGrom had.  I could be wrong; maybe the electorate has now advanced to the point where they recognize that a guy who finished 10-9 was indeed the best pitcher of the year.  We’ll see.  Either way, I sense these guys go 1-2.  After them, look for Aaron Nola Kyle Freeland, and Patrick Corbin.  Personal Hedge: deGrom is getting enough “holy cow look at this season” buzz that it wouldn’t really surprise me if he won.  And he’d be completely deserving.  Btw, as the off-season narratives grew, I became less and less convinced I had this one right.  Writing this ahead of the awards, I think deGrom wins.
  • AL Rookie: Shohei Ohtani: it shouldn’t be close honestly.  He had a 4.0 WAR season, clubbing more than 20 homers and looking pretty darn solid on the mound before the inevitable elbow injury derailed his season and cost him 60 games or so.   Only Gleybar Torres is close; this should be a unanimous vote and I hope Ohtani comes back from injury sooner than later.  Personal Hedge: a vote against Ohtani is really a bad one honestly.
  • NL Rookie: Ronald Acuna; its Acuna or Juan Soto, both of whom had historic seasons at a young age.   Acuna’s monster September pushes him over the top, and his stat line for the season is just slightly better than Soto’s, despite the missed time.  By narrative, Soto would have this hands-down though; he advanced from Low-A to putting up a 4-win season as a 19yr old, has had perhaps the 2nd or 3rd best teen-aged season in the long history of our game, and might have been in the MVP race had the Nats won the division.  Hedge: I begrudgingly have to admit that Acuna is slightly better, and rookie status isn’t given context (ie, its not part of the equation that Soto started the year in Low-A and Acuna was in AAA and a known #1 overall prospect).
  • AL Manager: hard not to say that Bob Melvin‘s performance taking an expected also-ran to nearly 100 wins isn’t the Mgr of the year.  He’s on his like 18th starter of the year, he’s winning with a bunch of non-prospects, he’s turned trash into treasure (Blake Treinen).
  • NL Manager: Brian Snitker, who took the NL east by 8 games in a complete surprise based on nearly every pundit’s pre-season predictions.  No other NL playoff team was really this big of a “surprise” so he gets it.

 


Actual Award Results added as they were awarded (updated post-publishing).  Finalists announced 11/4/18.

My prediction results: tbd

Links to other awards that I didn’t predict this year (again, updated post-publishing as they’re announced)

Other links to awards worth noting


 

11 Responses to 'My 2018 End-of-Season Awards Predictions'

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  1. I agree Acuna likely wins NL ROY, but I was interested to see that Soto was named rookie of the month for September. As you mentikned, Acuna has a monster month, so maybe Soto still has a shot…

    MG

    1 Oct 18 at 8:15 pm

  2. I think de Grom over Max for CYA, and i’d Be surprised if it’s even that close. I think Soto will be closer for RoY, but he’s the underdog. If he kept >.300 it might have swung the tide.

    Wally

    2 Oct 18 at 7:08 am

  3. Random thoughts:

    — The Acuna HR barrage ended in August. He only had two after Sept. 4. The HR total was the big gap over Soto for a while, but it ended up being only four. Soto walked more, struck out less, had more RBIs, benefited less from BABIP, and ended up with slightly higher wRC+ and offensive fWAR. They actually ended up tied in overall fWAR, so Soto’s offense apparently offset Acuna’s defense. All of that said, I think Acuna gets the nod in the voting because he contributed to a division title.

    Time will tell which one ends up the better player. Soto’s plate approach is already almost Bondsian, and he should still be able to get stronger. Acuna’s 25% K rate is at least a yellow flag for him going forward. Higher K rates have led to some real slump years for guys like Stanton.

    — Hate to say it, but I think deGrom gets the CYA. Max faded a bit down the stretch, although the 300 Ks is certainly a big feather in his cap, and on his HOF resume’. It would have been interesting in the “wins don’t matter” argument, though, if the Nats had won a bunch of Max’s close games and given him a gaudy 26-3 record, with the rest of his stats the same. I think Max wins going away in that case.

    — AL CYA I’d give a slight nod to Verlander over Snell.

    — I really wanted the Nats to trade Robles + stuff for Yelich. (And Robles would have a been a lot better return for the Marlins than Brinson, who is looking like a stiff.) Yelich wins the NL MVP going away. Betts slightly over Trout in the AL.

    — The Nats passed on Matt Chapman to draft the awesome Erick Fedde. Just sayin’. Fedde didn’t look rotation-ready on Sunday, probably sealing the deal for the Nats to look to add a starter in the offseason.

    — I think plenty of the awards voters are going to be shocked when they start sorting stats and see Rendon second in the NL in fWAR. He’s still third if you sort by offensive WAR, behind only Yelich and Goldschmidt.

    KW

    2 Oct 18 at 8:00 am

  4. Two thoughts on the awards in general.
    1. more and more i’m seeing deGrom as a narrative … enough so that I now believe he’ll win the award over Max.
    2. Soto’s 3rd Rookie of the Month award may also be a decision maker for voters … acuna only had one and as noted by KW their stats are awfully close.

    I’m also ambivalent about Snell vs Verlander … Snell is such a better “story” that i’d still guess he gets it, but he’s well below other competitors on counting numbers. But if the voters are now smart enough to look past W/L record … then they should also look past other downsides to Snell’s amazing season.

    Todd Boss

    2 Oct 18 at 12:13 pm

  5. I was just looking at Soto’s entire 2018 output. The minor-league part wouldn’t be counted for ROY, of course, but the totals are pretty remarkable. Soto played in 155 games across four levels, producing 36 homers, 35 doubles, 122 RBIs, 110 runs scored, and 176 hits. His overall batting average was .322. He walked 108 times against 127 strikeouts.

    KW

    2 Oct 18 at 3:52 pm

  6. Goodbye Cubbies, haha. Never been on that bandwagon. (Although I think a single-game wild card is still absurd.) The NL playoffs are wide open, and I don’t think any of the teams are that great. All the more reason it’s sad/bad the Nats aren’t in it.

    KW

    3 Oct 18 at 8:55 am

  7. And Blake Treinen picks an unfortunate time to revert to being the pitcher we knew all too well in D.C.

    KW

    4 Oct 18 at 9:09 am

  8. Pressure and Blake Treinen has never been a good mix.

    I’m reminded of the Seattle Mariners when they were good to great and their closer was Eddie ‘Everyday Guards to. It was said he only had the 4th or 5th best arm in that bullpen but he had the stones.

    Same with ‘Chief’ Cordero.

    Mark L

    4 Oct 18 at 11:04 am

  9. As I’ve said, Ryu is pretty darn good . . . when healthy . . . which is rare. The RH equivalent on FA list is probably Buchholz, who was dominant this season when he pitched. If either of these guys had a history of health, they’d be in line for salaries of $15M-plus, but considering the question marks, they may go for less money and fewer years.

    Here’s a question that’s worth debating: does the starter the Nats add HAVE to be a lefty? Most rotations generally have at least one, but not all do, most prominently the Indians. I have a hard time seeing the Nats coughing up the Lester-like contract that Corbin will want, and I’m not sure how much I would want to pay for Keuchel’s slow decline. He’s sort of in the same place Arrieta was last offseason with the age/decline thing.

    KW

    5 Oct 18 at 9:16 am

  10. I don’t think the LHP is more important than talent.

    What about jon gray as an under the radar acquisition target? Seems to have fallen out of favor in COL, and his stuff ispretty good, you just never know what you are getting there. fits the payroll profile too. Luis Garcia + DJ?

    Wally

    5 Oct 18 at 11:12 am

  11. I haven’t followed the Rox enough to know what the deal is with Gray. I know the Nats clobbered him in Sept., and apparently a few other teams did as well. Seems surprising that he got left off the NLDS roster, even as a reliever/long man. He’s always had good FIP and K/9, even this season. His ERA was 5.12 but xFIP of only 3.47. Velo still over 95.

    On the flip side, since he was a 1/3 overall pick and is still cheap and controlled, they’d want a lot for him. Not sure Garcia + DJ would be enough, and I like Garcia a lot. I’m not sure how much “prospect” value DJ has right now after losing a lot of the season to injury. He could rebuild some of that in the AFL, though.

    A larger question here is just how big the team sees its starter need. Are they willing to give up key prospects to fill it, or pay more than around $12M? We’re talking a #3 or #4 here (depending on how they see Roark), although yes, it does seem like they need someone who is good enough to keep the rotation balanced if/when Stras takes his summer vacation. That was one of the root problems this year — Gio and Roark were falling apart at the same time Stras was hurt.

    KW

    5 Oct 18 at 11:34 am

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