It’s November, and in the baseball universe that means it’s awards season. You’ve probably read countless prediction pieces, but it’s time for the M-SABR staff to throw its hat in the ring!
Jose Altuve, Houston Astros, .346/.410/.547, 7.5 fWAR
by Max Smith
In what is probably the closest and most debated race of the 2017 awards season, I firmly believe that Jose Altuve should win his first AL MVP.
Though Aaron Judge put together a rookie season for the ages, a historically hot start followed by an equally as historic extended slump, made his 2017 a tale of two very distinct halves. Yet his final raw numbers, 8.2 fWAR, 173 wRC+ and 52 predominantly monstrous home runs simply make his excellence impossible to deny; until you consider that the Yankees season was a tale of two halves as well, except inverted. Entering the All Star Break, and coming off of a first half in which Judge put together a simply ludicrous .329/.448/.691 with a 197 wRC+, the Yankees’ record sat at a good but not great 45-41. They were tied for the first Wild Card spot in a race in which 8 teams were separated by 4 or fewer games. So how did the Yankees end up making an unlikely run that left them a win shy of a World Series appearance? Because Aaron Judge’s performance had little direct effect on their team results. When Judge plummeted to a .228 second half batting average, struck out in 37 consecutive games, and had another 37 game stretch in which he was worth -0.1 WAR, the Yankees took off. With a 46-30 post All Star Break Record, the Yankees comfortably locked up the top Wild Card spot and went on a playoff run that only the Astros could end.
Those Astros meanwhile finished the season with the AL’s best record at 101-61, and despite a loaded line-up featuring 8 players with over 100 games played and an OPS+ north of 120, one consistent catalyst stuck out as the driving force behind the team’s success. Of those 8 previously mentioned regulars, nobody possessed an OPS+ higher than Altuve’s 164, or an fWAR even close to his 7.5. Usually only a few players in the league can match the multi-faceted production of Houston’s 5’6” super-second-baseman, and in 2017 nobody could. He hit for power (24 HR, 39 doubles), he showed off his speed–his 34 steals made him the only player in the MLB with 30+ steals in each of the past 6 seasons–and won his third batting title in 4 years with his best batting average yet. His .370 BABIP even secured a place on MSABR’s illustrious BABIP All Star team. On their way to their first World Series, the Astros never stopped winning, and the unsuspecting, tiny superstar at the heart of it all was Jose Altuve–your 2017 AL MVP.
Aaron Judge, New York Yankees, .284/.422/.627, 8.2 fWAR
by Hunter Satterthwaite
There is no one in the MLB who consistently clobbers baseballs like Aaron Judge. His average exit velocity is 94.9 mph, which leads the majors. Jose Altuve on the other hand is 349th in the MLB in exit velocity. Not only does Aaron Judge hit the ball the hardest, but he is able to control how he hits the ball off the bat. He leads the majors in barrels/batted ball event. Turning to Statcast truly shows off the skill that he has on the offensive side of the game.
His numbers are truly off the board. He hit the most home runs ever by a rookie in a single season with 52 home runs. Oh, and by the way, that is tied for 28th most in a single season all time. That is more single season home runs than what Babe Ruth hit in 12 of his 16 offensive seasons. He had a 173 wRC+, which is 13 more than what Jose Altuve had. The biggest knock on Judge is his K%, but he also was 2ndin the MLB in BB%. Pitchers were afraid to face him, and the fact that he drew a walk in 18.7% of his plate appearances proves this. His defense was well above average looking at Statcast’s Outs Above Average. He was 20th out of all outfielders with 6 OAA. This man could do it all, including hitting the longest home run ever measured in the Statcast era (495 feet). Aaron Judge is already a lock for one award, and he should be getting another one this year as well. I mean, how can you not vote for this guy?
M-SABR Prediction: Jose Altuve, Astros
Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins, .281/.376/.631, 6.9 fWAR
by Max Smith
After two injury shortened seasons, Giancarlo Stanton finally put it all together in 2017. With a .988 fielding percentage, a 2 stolen base uptick from 2016, a whopping 132 RBIs and 7 Hit by Pitches, Stanton thrust his name into the midst of the NL MVP conversation.
Who am I kidding? Stanton’s MVP campaign was all about homers; monstrous, majestic, up-to-119.6-mph home runs.
The Marlins might not have made the playoffs, but in a year without another clear cut frontrunner for the award being on a dominant team, Giancarlo simply stood out in every imaginable way. Physically: his 6’6, 245 lb frame is pretty hard to miss. In everyday conversation: If you flipped on ESPN during the month of August, odds were you’d see yet another Stanton bomb atop the SC Top 10. And most importantly statistically: his 6.9 fWAR tied Anthony Rendon for the NL lead, his 156 wRC+ trailed only Joey Votto, and his .350 ISO beat out even Aaron Judge. And for all my Statcast fans, he was also third in the Majors in in Percentage of Barrels per Plate Appearance (Brrls/Pa).
Homers might not be everything, but in 2017 Giancarlo Stanton was the best, and certainly the scariest player in the National League, and should be its deserving MVP.
Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds, .320/.454/.578, 6.6 fWAR
Take a second and look past Giancarlo Stanton’s 59 home runs. If you do, you’ll see that Votto had a historical season of his own, and was better than Stanton in nearly every way. His wRC+, a statistic that measures total hitting performance, is the highest in the NL. His BB/K% was an absurd 1.61, over 50 points higher than second place Justin Turner. Additionally, his OBP is 38 points higher than any other NL player, and his OPS led the league as well. On defense, he grades as the best fielding first baseman in the NL. Votto was already robbed of the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger. Don’t rob him of the MVP.
Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks, .297/.404/.563, 5.3 fWAR
by Hunter Satterthwaite
Paul Goldschmidt was a major catalyst for the Diamondbacks in their surprise run to the playoffs. He has been quietly putting up major numbers for years, and he is just now starting to get national attention for it.
He lead the MLB in AB/RBI, as he always produced when men were on base. Baseball America ranked Goldschmidt the best defensive first baseman in the NL. So he obviously can produce offensively and defensively, but he also swiped 18 bags and had a SB% of 78%. Obviously, it can be said that he is one of the best all around players in National League, and maybe even all of the MLB. He is only the eighth player since 2008 to have 35+ HR, 110+ RBI, and .400+ OBP in a single season. Adding in the fact that he stole 75%+ of bases this year, that makes him the eighth player since 1997 to do all four of those things in a single season.
Goldschmidt is a blossoming star in the desert, and is sitting in his prime at 30 years old. It is time to start paying more attention to him, and an MVP award would be a great way to do just that.
M-SABR Prediction: Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins
AL Cy Young
Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox, 214.1 IP, 2.90 ERA, 12.93 K/9, 7.7 fWAR
by Hunter Satterthwaite
Chris Sale was finally put on a good team, with a good defense behind him and all he did was become the best pitcher in the AL. He lead the whole MLB in pitcher WAR, with a 7.7 fWAR. He carved through lineups, leading the MLB in K/9. He was the most dominant pitcher in the majors throughout all 162 games. Yes, some people will point to his 2.90 ERA, yet he did play in the third friendliest hitters park in the MLB .
Of Sale’s 32 starts, 21 of those he went seven innings or more. He also had seven starts in which he went eight innings or more. So, that means one in every five starts Chris Sale was bound to go eight or more innings. There is no other starter in Major League Baseball who can consistently go deep into games as he can. Sale also tied Pedro Martinez with the major league record, 8, of consecutive starts with 10+ strikeouts. He came close many times with the White Sox to winning this award, but the first year with his new club will finally be the year Chris Sale gets to put a Cy Young award in his trophy case.
Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians, 203.2 IP, 2.25 ERA, 11.71 K/9, 7.3 fWAR
by Zane Harding
I remember in 2013, my Dad and I joked around about Corey Kluber as the Tigers continued to top the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central. “This Kluber guy looks like Murr from Impractical Jokers,” my Dad mentioned. So, for a little while, Corey Kluber was best known to us as the guy who looks like Murr from Impractical Jokers. Well, we’re now four spectacular seasons past that, and it’s very clear: Corey Kluber is one of the five best pitchers in baseball for sure. Kershaw, Sale, Verlander, Kluber, and Scherzer, in no particular order, consistently dominate the bigs (man, imagine if the Tigers had held onto the two). Even if Kluber does not take home his second Cy Young award this year, he has proven he is clearly a top 5 pitcher.
Let’s talk about that Cy Young award for a second, though. Kluber is the runaway winner in the American League. His biggest competition is Chris Sale and Luis Severino (Justin Verlander should also finish top 5 once again, but had too poor a first half to be considered here), but Chris Sale was extremely beatable after July (4.38 ERA in August, 3.72 ERA in September), and Severino was very beatable in the first half of the season (a 3.54 first half ERA). Kluber, however? He started the year rough, with a 4.19 ERA in April and one awful start in an injury-laden May. From there, a 1.26 ERA in June, a 2.62 ERA in July, a 1.96 ERA in August, and a 0.84 ERA in September. I hate to make an argument solely based off of ERA, however, so let’s just make this easy. Kluber led baseball with an 8.0 rWAR, whereas Sale posted a 6.0 rWAR and Severino a 5.3 rWAR. Even Verlander had a rWAR higher than both of those two at 6.4. Though while my dear JV finally did get his ring, it is Kluber that is running away with the AL Cy Young in 2017.
Luis Severino, New York Yankees, 193.1 IP, 2.98 ERA, 10.71 K/9, 5.7 fWAR
Luis Severino had a breakout year in 2017. In 31 starts, Severino posted a 2.98 ERA and 1.04 WHIP. His 5.7 WAR and 3.07 xFIP were both 3rd in the AL. His opponent’s batting average was an absurdly low .207. His peripherals look strong as well. Severino struck out 29.4% of batters faced while only walking 6.5%. Those numbers are 3rd and 5th in the AL respectively. Unfortunately for Severino, he is behind both Kluber and Sale in every single one of these categories. Still, Severino is only 23 years old, and his future with the Yankees is limitless. Though there is not much of an argument for Severino as the best pitcher in the AL, we should still acknowledge how great his season was, and how he was undeniably one of the league’s top arms in 2017.
M-SABR Prediction: Corey Kluber, Indians
NL Cy Young
Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals, 200.2 IP, 2.51 ERA, 12.02 K/9, 6.0 fWAR
by Eric McKeen
For the third time in five years, Max Scherzer will win a Cy Young award, main reason being he had a higher rWAR (7.3) than both Kershaw (4.6) and Strasburg (6.5). He even had a higher rWAR this season than he did during his previous Cy Young seasons (6.7 in 2013 and 6.2 in 2016). Scherzer, Kershaw, and Strasburg won 16, 18, and 15 games, respectively, so we don’t have to worry about a potential Porcello situation from last season. The three finalists had almost exactly the same ERA+ with Scherzer’s 177, Kershaw’s 180, and Strasburg’s 176; however, Scherzer once again showed his strikeout dominance with a whopping 268. In doing so, he led the league for the second straight year, substantially besting Kershaw’s 202 and Strasburg’s 204. Interestingly enough, he also passed Kershaw in career strikeouts (2149 to 2120), who some claim to be the greatest regular season pitcher ever. Kershaw has the better career to date, but Scherzer had the best 2017 season among NL pitchers.
Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals, 175.1 IP, 2.52 ERA, 10.47 K/9, 5.6 fWAR
by Max Smith
To many this race seems to be all but a foregone conclusion. After another dominant season in Washington, Max Scherzer should seemingly cruise to his second straight NL Cy Young award. Don’t be surprised though if his very own teammate gives him a run for his money.
Few pitchers entering the majors have ever received as much hype as a 22-year old Stephen Strasburg did when first entering the league in 2010 to the tune of a breathtaking 14 K gem against the Pirates. Seven often tumultuous seasons later, Strasburg finally put it all together in 2017. Though he narrowly trails Mad Max for the NL pitcher’s lead in fWAR, 5.6 to 6.0, and his 2.52 ERA exceeds Scherzer’s by 0.01, the underlying fielding-independent numbers tilt the race in Strasburg’s favor ever so slightly. His 2.72 FIP led the NL, and looking at xFIP, this time it is Strasburg who has the 0.01 lead on Scherzer, besting his fellow National 3.27 to 3.28. Moreover, if there is one consistent knock on Scherzer among Washington fans, it is his ability to give up almost no hits other than home runs. Strasburg meanwhile led the NL in HR/9 at a measly 0.67.
Overall, 2017 finally delivered the consistent dominance baseball fans and experts have expected out of Strasburg since the day he was drafted. Being a finalist for the NL Cy Young for the first time already highlights this, and winning the award would be a well-deserved cherry on top.
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers, 175.0 IP, 2.31 ERA, 10.39 K/9, 4.6 fWAR
by Duncan Wallis
Even in a season riddled with injury, Clayton Kershaw is still Clayton Kershaw: the best pitcher of this generation. Year in and year out, Kershaw stands a head and shoulders above most of the pitchers in the MLB. This year, he finished with an 18-4 record, an NL leading 2.31 ERA, and a 3.07 FIP over 175.0 innings pitched.
When looking deeper into Kershaw’s excellence, he owns a 180 ERA+ and a 6.73 SO/W ratio which both led the National League. Additionally, his 6.73 SO/W ratio is much better than Scherzer’s 4.87 and Strasburg’s 4.34. Although both Strasburg and Scherzer have more total strikeouts than Kershaw, his 0.95 WHIP is superior to Strasburg and he has 25 less walks than Scherzer on the season despite only 25 less innings. Some may point to Kershaw’s pure 4.6 WAR as the biggest reason that Scherzer (7.3 WAR) is more deserving. However, Scherzer had 4 more starts than Kershaw and we see that Kershaw’s trending ERA, ERA+, and SO/W are better than both Scherzer and Strasburg. Clayton Kershaw has won three of these awards already and this year he deserves a fourth.
M-SABR Prediction: Max Scherzer, Nationals
AL Rookie of the Year
Aaron Judge, New York Yankees, .284/.422/.627, 8.2 fWAR
by Zane Harding
Judge is the second-best rookie of the past fifty-five years behind only Mike Trout. In his inaugural season, he posted an 8.1 rWAR. Sure, it isn’t Mike Trout’s 10.8 rWAR rookie season, but it’s close enough, isn’t it? Judge very well may win AL MVP, and he is absolutely, positively winning the AL Rookie of the Year. He set the rookie HR record and had the wildest home run derby performance ever (that doesn’t factor into the voting, but it should). Judge wins unanimously.
Andrew Benintendi, Boston Red Sox, .271/.352/.424, 2.2 fWAR
by Clayton Myers
Ok, we all know that Aaron Judge is going to be the rookie of the year. But let us acknowledge the solid rookie campaign of the other finalist Andrew Benintendi. Benintendi managed to be the first rookie to have 20 home runs and stolen bases since Mike Trout. Combining his seven runs saved with his .776 OPS Benintendi managed to produce a 2.6 WAR.
M-SABR Prediction: Aaron Judge, Yankees
NL Rookie of the Year
Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers, .267/.352/.581, 4.0 fWAR
by Duncan Wallis
The only award easier to give than this one, is the AL ROY to Judge. Bellinger hit 39 home runs in 132 games and 548 plate appearances. Over 10% of those plate appearances resulted in a walk and he had 97 RBIs to boot. He had a .267 batting average, .352 OBP, .581 SLG, .933 OPS, for a 142 OPS+. These stats are unheard of in this day and age for a rookie. For reference, Willie Mays rookie year had a line of .274/.356/.472 for an OPS of .828 and an OPS+ of 120. It’s much too early to make Willie Mays comparisons, but this kid has had one memorable rookie season contributing to the Dodgers World Series run. They wouldn’t have won the most games in the MLB without him. Get ready to watch Bellinger lead the Dodgers race to the postseason for years to come. This doesn’t happen every day.
M-SABR Prediction: Cody Bellinger, Dodgers
AL Manager of the Year
by Hunter Satterthwaite
Paul Molitor, Minnesota Twins, 85-77
Paul Molitor took the 59 win Twins in 2016, and improved their record by 26 wins. This is a drastic jump and no one in the baseball world was expecting it. He combined the young talent with some seasoned veterans to make Twins baseball relevant again. This team ended up losing in the AL Wild Card game to the Yankees, but the future is bright in Minnesota and with Paul Molitor at the helm.
A.J. Hinch, Houston Astros, 101-61
A.J. Hinch will be remembered forever along with the rest of this 2017 Astros team as they delivered the first World Series trophy to Houston months after a traumatic hurricane hit the city. Led by all of the young stars this team was the most entertaining team in Major League Baseball to watch, and it only got more exciting once they added Justin Verlander for the postseason. Hinch was able to get consistency out of his young players, and finish with the best record in the AL. The winning did not stop then, as they kept winning throughout the playoffs and ended up winning game 7 of the World Series. Houston baseball is on an all time high, and A.J. Hinch will be one of the more famous Houston managers before his career is over.
M-SABR Prediction: Paul Molitor, Twins
NL Manager of the Year
by Hunter Satterthwaite
Torey Lovullo, Arizona Diamondbacks, 93-69
Torey Lovullo took over a Diamondbacks team who had won only 69 games in 2016. He turned this team with talent, but not much momentum, into a team that ended up winning 93 games, 24 more games than the previous season and were labeled one of the surprise teams of the season. He found a way to turn Robbie Ray into a legit #2 starter, and got the most out of his offense. Goldschmidt is a MVP candidate, and a mid season trade to acquire J.D. Martinez from the Tigers helped spark this offense even more. This team ended up beating the division rival Rockies in arguably the most exciting wild card game since its existence, as relief pitcher Archie Bradley hit a triple in the 7th inning. Things are hot in the desert, and Torey Lovullo is looking to keep the Diamondbacks trending up in years to come.
Bud Black, Colorado Rockies, 87-75
Bud Black finally got back into managing for the 2017 season, and it was a very positive one for him and his team as they ended up making the first postseason appearance of Bud Black’s career. This was the first year the Rockies made the postseason since 2009. This roster was always on the cusp of the postseason, as they had talent but could never get past the Giants or the Dodgers. This year, their red hot start allowed them to clinch the second wild card spot, only to lose to the Diamondbacks. Black is looking to get them back in the postseason for years to come, and build on the success from last year.
Dave Roberts, Los Angeles Dodgers, 104-58
Dave Roberts finally did it, he finally got the Dodgers to the World Series. They haven’t been there since Kirk Gibson’s home run in 1988. Dodgers fans were always frustrated with the high payroll and no postseason results. Although they did not end up winning a ring, they did come within a game of winning a ring. Roberts led the Dodgers to 104 wins and the best record in the MLB in 2017. The lights are always bright in LA, but it looks as if the Dodgers have a manager who is not afraid of those lights.
M-SABR Prediction: Torey Lovullo, Diamondbacks