Nationals Arm Race

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

My 2019 MLB Awards Predictions

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Is Trout going to get shut out again? Photo Gary Vasquez/US Presswire via espn.com

Is Trout going to get shut out again? Photo Gary Vasquez/US Presswire via espn.com

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

(Important note: despite publishing this after the post-season … like the voters, I write the entirety of this at the end of September.  This is not skewed or influenced by anything that happened in the post-season.  Which is pretty important, because likely NL MVP Cody Bellinger was embarrassed in the NLDS while his competitor Anthony Rendon really out-classed him, both in that series and throughout the post-season.  Same thing with Cole versus Verlander for the NL Cy Young; after the post-season, i’m sure many would want to reconsider their votes).

Side Note: I was listening to a Ringer podcast and Bill Simmons had a very simple, elegant solution the long running debate about what the “Most Valuable Player” means.   His point about the MVP is the same as my point: how can you be the “most valuable”player on a team that only wins 75 games?  You were so valuable that you prevented that team from only winning 65 games?   Instead he thinks we should add an “Most Outstanding Performance” award in each league to identify exactly what it says; the best individual performance irrespective of the player’s impact on the playoff race.  Many times it may very well be the same player.  But a lot of the time it won’t be.  The “MOP” can be heavily driven by WAR totals, perhaps looking at all three iterations of it.

So, would MVP and MOP differ over the past few years?  Lets look.  Here’s a list of MVP winners historically, and then links to b-r’s WAR, fangraphs WAR and BP’s WAR.

  • 2018: MVPs were Christian Yelich and Mookie Betts.  MOP candidates:  Still Betts in the AL, Jacob deGrom in the NL (who won the Cy Young fwiw)
  • 2017: MVPs were Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Altuve.  MOP candidates: Aaron Judge or Corey Kluber in the AL, Max Scherzer in the NL (both pitchers mentioned won the Cy Young)
  • 2016: MVPs were Kris Bryant and Mike Trout.  MOP candidates?  Probably Trout and Bryant still, though Scherzer has a case (and he won the Cy Young here too)
  • 2015: MVPs were Bryce Harper and Josh Donaldson.  MOP candidates: Harper and Trout.  Harper was head and shoulders above anyone this season, as was Trout (who lost b/c his team was bad).
  • 2014: MVPs were Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout: MOP candidates?  Kluber and Kershaw (both were cy Young winners).

So, of the last 10 MVPs, i’d say that half of them were not also the “MOP” that year.  That’s half the MVPs, even given more modern thinking in voting for the award.


anyway, to the predictions:

  • AL MVP:  Alex Bregman
  • NL MVP: Cody Bellinger
  • AL Cy Young: Gerrit Cole
  • NL Cy Young: Jacob deGrom
  • AL Rookie: Yordan Alvarez
  • NL Rookie: Pete Alonso
  • AL Manager: Rocco Baldelli, Minnesota
  • NL Manager: Mike Shildt, St. Louis

Discussion/Reasoning

  • AL MVP: Even though Trout plays for a crummy team, and even though he missed most of Sept with injury, I think he may win.  But Houston’s clean-up hitter Alex Bregman provides a pretty compelling case from a value perspective.  If two players have the same WAR but one plays for a 107 win team and the other’s team didn’t win 70 … i think we know who should win.  I like Betts and Matt Chapman to get votes here too.  Not sure which Yankee gets the “best player on the playoff team” votes for them.  It wouldn’t completely shock me if Trout won in a close vote, but I’ll go Bregman for now.
  • NL MVP: It was probably a neck-and-neck battle between Bellinger and Christian Yelich, who had exploded in the 2nd half to “catch” Bellinger’s monstrous first  half.  But a season-ending knee injury costs Yelich the bulk of September, likely ending his chances.  I think it goes Bellinger 1, Yelich 2, and then maybe the Nats Anthony Rendon getting some down-ballot love.  Also look for Ronald Acuna to get votes, as the “best player on the playoff team” for Atlanta.
  • AL Cy Young: Cole going away, with his teammate Justin Verlander 2nd.  What a late-career arc for Verlander.  I initially thought Verlander might get this with some sympathy votes, but Cole’s narrative was so dominant (as were his stats) and his 2nd  half so incredible that I find it hard to believe he won’t take the prize.
  • NL Cy Young.  This was absolutely Hyung Jin Ryu‘s award to lose for most of the season.  Then it looked like Scherzer’s to lose until he got hurt … which has opened the door for DeGrom to repeat.  I think Strasburg‘s ERA will look too high as compared to deGrom’s despite his career year.
  • AL Rookie: Dating back to perhaps mid last season, when it became clear that Toronto was manipulating his service time, this was Vladimir Guerrero Jr’s award to lose.  And, despite all the hype, he probably has lost it thanks to a pretty medicore first half.  it took him months to get going, eventually heating up in August to post nearly a 1,000 OPS for month.  Might be too little too late to catch Houston’s slugger Alvarez, who has top-of-the-leaderboard wRC figures.
  • NL Rookie: Alonso hit 53 homers; how can you not give him the ROY?  Understood there’s other qualified names, but Alonso’s accomplishments make him pretty famous, and makes him a shoe-in for this award.  No point in mentioning 2nd place here; this should be unanimous.
  • AL Manager: Baldelli wins the award for “most surprising AL team” to get the Mgr.  Everyone knew the Yankees and Astros would be good.  Maybe Oakland’s manager (Bob Melvin) or Tampa’s manager (Kevin Cash) gets votes or wins outright.  Maybe Yankees manager (Aaron Boone) gets some credit for navigating the myriad of injuries he has to face.
  • NL Manager: Shildt wins here out of apathy.  The NL race was mostly decided in the West before the season started, so hard to give it to Dave Roberts.  We knew Atlanta could repeat, so hard to make an argument for Brian Snitker.  the NL race was more about teams flailing that should have been better (Chicago Cubs, Washington Nationals, maybe even Philadelphia too).  Maybe i’m wrong and the press sees the recovery job the Nats did this year and gives it to Martinez.

Finalists announced on  11/5/19;  i didn’t miss any of my top candidates, but was kind of surprised by some of the finalists.


Actual Award Results added as they were awarded (updated post-publishing).  Voting results on baseball-reference.com for 2019 BBWAA awards.

  • AL MVP: Mike Trout in a close one over Bregman, 17-13 in 1st place votes
  • NL MVP: Bellinger in a tight one as well.
  • AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander 17-13 in 1st place votes over Gerrit Cole.
  • NL Cy Young: deGrom nearly unanimously, with 29/30 1st place votes.  Scherzer 3rd, Strasburg 5th, Corbin 11th.
  • AL Rookie: Alvarez unanimously.  John Means 2nd, Brandon Lowe third, Eloy Jimenez fourth, Cavan Biggio fifth.   Guerrero finished 7th, getting a handful of 3rd place votes.
  • NL Rookie: Alonso with 29/30 votes.    Mike Soroka 2nd,  Fernando Tatis Jr. 3rd.  Victor Robles finished 6th with one 3rd place vote.
  • AL Manager: Baldelli, edging out Boone.
  • NL Manager: Schildt barely over Counsell.

My prediction results: 6 for 8.    I switched out original guesses that would have had me 8 for 8 by over-thinking things.  I do like that Trout was not penalized for his performance, and kind of remained surprised Bregman didn’t win in the end.


 

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


24 Responses to 'My 2019 MLB Awards Predictions'

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  1. OK, rant time. We’ve become indoctrinated that “wins don’t matter,” but at some point, they do. Todd noted the supposed need for an MVP to play for a winning team. But what about pitchers? More specifically, what about deGrom, who won the CYA last year with only 10 wins and may do it again this season with only 11. But how did the Mets do when he pitched? Well, despite finishing 10 games over .500 for the season, when ol’ Jake pitched, they went 14-18. Hmm, seems they also went 14-18 when he pitched in 2018. So over two seasons — in which he may win CYA in both — his team went 28-36 when he was on the mound. How, exactly, is he contributing to his team’s success?

    Well, maybe he’s a big-game pitcher . . . or maybe not. deGrom had only TWO (2) wins in 2019 against teams .500 or above. Two. And one of those was against the Nats on Opening Day. So over the last 161 games, he only beat ONE winning team. He recorded 5 of his 11 wins against the Marlins.

    Do we have a fella in this fight? Well, yes we do. The Nats went 21-12 when Stras pitched this season, and he got wins in nine games against teams .500 (Phils) or above, including three against the Braves. I hear he was pretty decent in the playoffs, too, but we’re not allowed to consider that.

    As for Ryu, the Dodgers went 20-9 when he pitched, and he beat .500+ teams for 5 of his 14 wins.

    KW

    11 Nov 19 at 2:23 pm

  2. I agree, team wins should play some role. Individual wins shouldn’t, because too much is out of the individual pitcher’s control. But I’m persuaded, let’s give it to Stras!

    Looks like the Nats didn’t go over the lux tax, according to MLBTR.

    Wally

    11 Nov 19 at 5:52 pm

  3. If the Nats did indeed stay under the tax lines, that’s one of the biggest “wins” possible for the offseason. I was ready to accept that they went over with the salve that our flag will fly forever.

    If they did stay under, they get to “reset” everything, so if they go over the line for the next couple of seasons to maximize the Max Window — and to keep Stras and (hopefully) Rendon — the penalties are significantly reduced. Plus if they do happen to lose Rendon, their compensation pick will be significantly higher.

    Without the tax burden, I’d also be tempted to spend on someone like Will Smith, to really solidify the back end and to overlap beyond Doo’s contract. In the same manner, I’d at least think about Ryu, Bumgarner, or Wheeler as a 5th starter, to overlap beyond the one year left for Sanchez.

    (And how stupid were the Giants not to trade Smith and Bumgarner and get more than comp picks for them?)

    KW

    12 Nov 19 at 7:19 am

  4. By Bill Simmons’s logic, Bryce shouldn’t have won the MVP in 2015 cause the Nats missed the playoffs. Because he hit 42 home runs he must’ve prevented the Nats from winning the NL East, huh?

    Legendary stuff.

    MG

    12 Nov 19 at 8:31 am

  5. Simmons logic: for what its worth, I simplified a 20 minute conversation for the purposes of this discussion. His theory is less about “missing the playoffs” and more about “playing for a team that doesn’t play a meaningful games for huge chunks of the season.” in 2015 the Nats were “in” the playoff race most of the way. The angels in 2019 … were not for the most part thanks to playing in a division with Houston and Oakland.

    In 2015 on Aug 1st, the Nats were 54-48 and led the division. https://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/WSN/2015-schedule-scores.shtml .

    by way of comparison, in 2019 the Angels on Aug 1st (I use this date as the trade deadline where teams generally decide if they’re in or out); they were 56-54 … but were 15 games out of the AL West and 7 games back in the WC.

    Todd Boss

    12 Nov 19 at 10:20 am

  6. Luxury tax: https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2019/11/three-teams-exceeded-2019-luxury-tax-threshold.html

    Yes huge win for the nats. Cots had them right at the cusp if not over … 75k over by their calculations. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1-t4BlpC_npBSj6KFivtDkuqtmEu5Vlk2yPvMZD_UkuQ/edit#gid=1393584019

    I was deathly worried that the Nats blew the luxury line.

    Todd Boss

    12 Nov 19 at 10:23 am

  7. I think there’s a middle ground on the team success qualification. If it’s a close race for MVP, and one guy’s team won and the other’s didn’t, then the guy on the winning team likely gets the nod, as with Bregman over Trout. (After the WS, I wondered how much Bregman had benefited from playing in that bandbox, but amazingly, his road OPS is almost 200 points higher than home.)

    But 2015 wasn’t a close race, at all. The artist formerly known as #34 was miles ahead of anyone else in the NL. We all thought it was going to be the beginning of a new level of greatness. Silly us.

    KW

    12 Nov 19 at 10:41 am

  8. Todd — I had sort of resigned myself to us being over the tax line. You almost never see rumors that a team is over but then ends up under. So the Nats are coming off a title AND get to reset. That’s one of the best chips they could have as they consider how to allocate resources to try to stay near the top.

    Here’s what I wonder: does the good news on the tax line embolden the Nats to go on and make some deals early — Rizzo’s MO — and not worry as much about whether they can afford Stras and TTB? There aren’t a lot of truly good relievers on the market, so I’d like to see them be aggressive on that front. Plus they’ve got considerable selling points, coming off a title and seeming to be one of the happiest/most-fun clubhouses in the game.

    KW

    12 Nov 19 at 10:58 am

  9. My low-key start to the offseason would be to re-sign Cabrera and Hudson. Neither projects to make that much, around $6M, which would actually be a raise for both. Cabrera can be an option to start at 2B (with Kieboom at 3B) if Rendon walks, or he can be an all-INF reserve and switch-hitting bench bat if TTB is back and Kieboom starts at 2B. (I sure hope they don’t play games with Kieboom’s service time. With the Braves in the same division, they have no leeway to “get by” at the start of the season.)

    If they have Doo and Huddy back, that gives them some latitude on the back end. Obviously they hope Rainey will continue to develop. Suero still has room to take another step forward. But it would be good to get someone else who is solid in the 7th-8th. Maybe Harris really liked what he saw of the fun in the opposing dugout. He wouldn’t cost a “closer” price, either. Our old buddy Stammen could be another option.

    KW

    12 Nov 19 at 1:59 pm

  10. I don’t think Cabrera should be a priority. I’d put it at .001% likely he replicates 2019. I’m fine with him coming back. He seems like a good guy to have around, and has some game left. But to make him a priority suggests he is more than a journeyman, and I don’t think he is. I’d like him as a super utility guy getting 300 PAs, nothing more.

    What’s wrong with Didi for 2B? Every reason to think his 2nd year back will see a return to previous performance, since he’s only 29. Then it’s Rendon for 3b, or Kieboom as a fallback.

    Switching topics, how ‘bout these Astros? It’s one thing after another with these guys. Now it’s technology to steal signs. Just seems like a hooligan organization. I hope the commish suspends Luhnow for 1/2 a season.

    Wally

    12 Nov 19 at 7:27 pm

  11. Can you imagine how pissed we would be about the Astro stories if we had lost the WS?

    For the record about Cabrera, my hope is that he doesn’t have to be a starter. I don’t know that he’ll be able to replicate his late-season surge, either. But he’s a solid, confident hitter, and still a decent defender who is SS-capable.

    Difo and Ad. Sanchez are out of options so won’t be available for shuttle duty. Difo every day? Heck no. His wRC+ last season was 60, 72 for his career, after more than a thousand plate appearances. Those aren’t the numbers of a competent major leaguer.

    KW

    13 Nov 19 at 5:08 am

  12. Mike Shildt as NL Manager of the Year? Bahahahahahaha. Just shows how ridiculous it is to vote on these things before the postseason. Davey and the Nats absolutely embarrassed him. In fact Davey, who finished 5th in the voting, beat three of the four guys ahead him in the playoffs, pretty clearly out-managing all of them.

    Why didn’t Davey get more love? Who else on the list took a team from 12 games under .500 to the playoffs, particularly after losing the team’s alleged marquee player? Oh well, let the losers have the individual trophies!

    KW

    13 Nov 19 at 5:13 am

  13. I didn’t see Cole and Verlander during the regular season, but there’s little doubt during the WS who the “better” pitcher was, and it wasn’t Kate’s hubby. Curiously, fWAR ranks Cole a full win ahead of Verlander (7.4 to 6.4), while bWAR has Verlander a full win ahead of Cole (7.8 to 6.8).

    By the measurements I put out there about the NL guys, the team went 24-10 in Verlander starts, and he 7 teams with .500+ records. The Astros went 26-7 behind Cole, but he beat only 5 teams with .500+ records. (The ‘stros stole signs against a lot of really crappy teams in the AL West, besides OAK.)

    KW

    14 Nov 19 at 8:05 am

  14. I need to update one point on my NL CYA rant above. I counted AZ as below .500. Ryu beat the Snakes three times, and deGrom beat them once, which gets ol’ Jake’s wins over .500+ teams to, um, a grand total of three.

    Also, how in the flip did Flaherty place ahead of Stras, and why was Buehler way down at 9th place?

    deGrom — team record when he started: 14-18; wins against .500+ teams: 3; games lost: 8

    Ryu — team record when he started: 20-9; wins against .500+ teams: 8; games lost: 5

    Max — team record when he started: 14-13; wins against .500+ teams: 5; games lost: 7

    Stras — team record when he started: 21-12; wins against .500+ teams: 9; games lost: 6

    Buehler — team record when he started: 20-10; wins against .500+ teams: 2; games lost: 4
    (received only one CYA vote, for 4th place)

    Corbin — team record when he started: 21-12; wins against .500+ teams: 7; games lost: 7
    (received only one CYA vote, for 5th place)

    Flaherty — team record when he started: 17-16; wins against .500+ teams: 5; games lost: 8

    If you want advanced stats, here ya go:

    By xFIP: 1) Max, 2.88; 2) deGrom, 3.11; 3) Stras, 3.17; 4) Ryu, 3.32; 6) Buehler, 3.37; 11) Corbin, 3.59; 12) Flaherty, 3.64

    If I was voting, I probably would have voted for Ryu to win, despite the injury and slight fade. I would not have voted for deGrom to win. And Flaherty wouldn’t have been on my ballot (top five places). I know he finished strongly, but for the season, he just doesn’t stack up against the top contenders.

    KW

    14 Nov 19 at 8:19 am

  15. Very curious to see how hard the hammer falls on the Astros. My understanding is that the max a team can be fined is only $2M, which is silly in this day and age. I heard that they could be barred from signing any free agents, although I’m not sure how that’s possible. Certainly they could be stripped of draft picks, perhaps losing their 1st rounder for multiple years.

    Also, Hinch and Luhnow deserve long suspensions. The NFL suspended Sean Payton for an entire season. Just sayin’.

    KW

    14 Nov 19 at 8:33 am

  16. Agree KW, Manfred has looked like a coward on this so far. Draft picks looks to be the worst he can do to them.
    At least 3 or 4 more people need to be fired.

    Mark L

    14 Nov 19 at 4:30 pm

  17. The wheels of justice are going to grind slowly here, but they will grind… I think a lot of people with the Astros are facing long suspensions or more.

    Think of it this way: Pete Rose is banned from baseball for life for betting on baseball, which is against the rules because betting on baseball may indirectly impact the outcome of games.

    This was (it appears, though the early evidence looks powerful) a flagrant and long-running violation of rules that directly impacted the outcome of games. I think this is worse than anything Pete Rose did.

    NG

    14 Nov 19 at 4:49 pm

  18. . . . had a direct impact on games that led to a world championship. I really doubt MLB will strip the title, but goodness, this is developing in a mess that will never be forgotten, a la Black Sox.

    KW

    14 Nov 19 at 7:42 pm

  19. Wow, Braves strike quickly in the NL East arms race, getting by far the best closer on the board, albeit one attached to a QO. Nats need to lock up Hudson soon.

    KW

    14 Nov 19 at 7:44 pm

  20. And Trout wins over Bregman. Maybe the writers are feeling guilty about the two or three MVP trophies they kept from him earlier in his career. Offensively, the advanced stats do have Trout somewhat better: 180 vs. 168 wRC+; 185 vs. 162 OPS+.

    The NL race went about as expected, including Rendon receiving a landslide of 3d-place votes.

    KW

    14 Nov 19 at 7:52 pm

  21. I’ll be surprised if the Astros get a meaningful penalty. It’s BS, but they’ll skate by and the excuse will be that ‘everyone does it to a degree’. They just seem like an arrogant organization. But for what it’s worth, I don’t see this on par with Rose. When a player or manager gambles on the game, it brings into question whether the game is a true competition, or more like a sideshow like pro wrestling, and baseball just can’t have that. This is more like PED use, one side cheating but everyone is still trying to win.

    I don’t love the Smith contract. He’s good, but aging and that’s a lot of money for a reliever. So many of those contracts haven’t worked out. But he’ll be pretty good this year, most likely.

    The Braves are good, but …..all season long, we’ll be the defending champs :-)

    Wally

    14 Nov 19 at 10:21 pm

  22. The Astro mess is a real integrity-of-the-game issue as well. They set up a whole system to cheat, which means that nearly everyone in the organization knew about it and participated. The tremendous success of the team over that three-year period compounds the issue. Manfred will totally lose credibility if he doesn’t come down hard. I think everything short of stripping the title has to be on the table.

    I probably would have been pleased if the Nats had made that Will Smith deal, but as Wally notes, big contracts for relievers are among the most volatile in baseball. Plus the Braves still owe Melancon $14M in 2020 at the end of his awful contract that the Nats got lucky not to own.

    Yes, “Defending Champs” carries a lot more weight than “Defending Division Champs,” doesn’t it?

    KW

    15 Nov 19 at 7:51 am

  23. I had forgotten, Manfred also banned Braves GM John Coppolella for life for infractions relating to signing international free agents. Again, way less of an “integrity of the game” issue than directly cheating in actual major league games (and, as KW noted, in a year you won the World Series).

    Unless there’s a failure of proof about what happened or the extent of it, I think there are going to be major repurcussions for many people in the Astros organization.

    It’s funny, the Astros have alienated so many people in the last couple weeks who would have first-hand knowledge of this. Could you imagine if the chief witness in the Astros sign-stealing investigation turns out to be Brandon Taubman? Or, better yet, Nolan Ryan?

    NG

    15 Nov 19 at 10:05 am

  24. I never bought into the 2017 narrative about the Astros as a scrappy bunch of youngsters, for two reason: 1) their leadership had such an air of “we’re smarter than you” about it; and 2) the bad taste from them so openly tanking. (Some folks claim that the Nats tanked in the same way, but I’ve never bought that story. I think Bowden legitimately was “trying” but was grossly incompetent, plus the Lerners weren’t spending much during that period.)

    Anyway, remember the original name of the Astro bandbox? Enron Field. “The Smartest Guys in the Room.” We know how that story ended. We’re now on the new version.

    KW

    15 Nov 19 at 12:28 pm

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