June 15, 2024

MLB awards races: Checking in on contenders, including Shohei Ohtani, Gerrit Cole and a wide-open NL Cy Young

The trade deadline has passed and we’re into the dog days of August. We’re a long way from “it’s early” territory and we’re inching toward the best month of the year, which is playoff time for baseball. It’s as good a time as any to check in with the races for individual awards. 

Yes, we’ll run through the MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year races in each league right here. It’s very important to know that these are not going to be predictions or even how I, personally, would necessarily vote. I’ve been studying the voting habits of the voting body for a long time and I’ll be using what I’ve learned to lay out how each vote would go down if ballots were handed out right now. I could be wrong, but it won’t be by much. 

Let’s dive in. 

National League MVP: Ronald Acuña Jr., Braves

The best team in the league has the best player in the league, so this vote would be elementary right now. Acuña is hitting .335/.420/.582 (162 OPS+) with 27 doubles, a triple, 25 homers, 64 RBI, 97 runs, 51 stolen bases and 5.5 WAR. What more could you want from a leadoff man than leading the majors in stolen bases and runs while getting on base at an absurd clip? Also, in this high-strikeout age, he’s only struck out 59 times while leading the NL in plate appearances. 

For a while, this wasn’t even a race. It’s shaping up to be one, interestingly with two players linked both to each other and to Acuña, though I still believe Mr. Acuña should have a sizable lead in the minds of the voting body. 

Runner up: Freddie Freeman, Dodgers – He’s actually starting to make a push toward his former teammate. He’s hitting .341/.418/.598 while leading the NL in doubles, OPS, OPS+ and total bases. 

Also in the mix: Matt Olson, Braves; Luis Arraez, Marlins; Mookie Betts, Dodgers; Juan Soto, Padres

We don’t need to run through all the stats. Every baseball fan should know by now how absurd Ohtani is. Here’s one that illustrates his prowess: He leads American League position players in WAR. That is, by WAR, he’s been the most valuable player in the league if we don’t even consider his pitching. On the mound, he’s top 10 in WAR and top five in strikeouts. 

This race is over.

Runner up: Gerrit Cole, Yankees – If not for Ohtani, this ride would be wide open. Cole is keeping the Yankees in the race once every five days. 

Also in the mix for runner-up: Corey Seager, Rangers; Adolis García, Rangers; Wander Franco, Rays; Bo Bichette, Blue Jays; Yandy Díaz, Rays; Kyle Tucker, Astros; Luis Robert, White Sox; Marcus Semien, Rangers; José Ramírez, Guardians

This thing is outrageously wide open. Steele looks like he has the best mix of new- and old-school on his resume. He’s tied for the league lead in wins with 12, is third in baseball-reference.com’s version of WAR, fourth in Fangraphs’ version, second in ERA, seventh in WHIP and leads in ERA+. 

The workload certainly leaves something to be desired, though, and this is far from a season-ending conclusion. I could also be wrong in that there’s a chance he wouldn’t even finish in the top five. As I said, it’s really crowded here. 

Runner up: I had a hard enough time trying to figure out a winner, now I’ve got to come up with a specific name for second? I’ll try Blake Snell of the Padres. He leads in ERA and baseball-reference.com’s WAR. He’s ninth in Fangraphs’ WAR. He’s second in strikeouts, but he also leads the majors in walks.

Also in the mix: Spencer Strider, Braves; Logan Webb, Giants; Zac Gallen, Diamondbacks; Bryce Elder, Braves; Alex Cobb, Giants; Jesus Luzardo, Marlins; Corbin Burnes, Brewers; Kodai Senga, Mets; Zack Wheeler, Phillies

American League Cy Young: Gerrit Cole, Yankees

Cole is 10-2 on a team that is 57-52. He leads the league in ERA and innings pitched and that alone should be enough to sway anyone. The main job of a pitcher is to give his team the chance to win by allowing the fewest runs possible in the most innings possible.

If you need more, he’s also toward of the top of the leaderboards in hit WHIP, strikeouts, hit rate and a litany of other stats. 

Runner up: Kevin Gausman, Blue Jays – Fangraphs’ version of WAR (FIP-based) loves Gausman, as he leads the league in FIP. When looking at awards, I tend to look at ERA much more than FIP (and he’s fifth in ERA anyway), but the Fangraphs ranking would drive a lot of traffic to Gausman.

Also in the mix: Nathan Eovaldi, Rangers; Framber Valdez, Astros; Luis Castillo, Mariners; Shohei Ohtani, Angels; Félix Bautista, Orioles

NL Rookie of the Year: Corbin Carroll, Diamondbacks

He’s slowed down from his early-season pace, but that was a pace that had him in the MVP conversation. He’s still hitting .276/.354/.525 with 104 hits, 21 doubles, five triples, 21 homers, 59 RBI, 77 runs and 34 stolen bases in 37 attempts. That’s an incredible rookie season and if things continue at this pace, he’ll win the first Rookie of the Year in club history (remember that, Immaculate Grid players!).

Runner up: Kodai Senga, Mets – In 20 starts, he’s 7-6 with a 3.25 ERA (126 ERA+) and 136 strikeouts in 110 2/3 innings. We’ll see if he can hold off seemingly half the Reds team, several of whom have great cases but not close to a full season of work. 

Also in the mix: Matt McLain, Reds; Andrew Abbott, Reds; Spencer Steer, Reds; Elly De La Cruz, Reds; Francisco Alvarez, Mets

AL Rookie of the Year: Josh Jung, Rangers

A scorching hot finish to the season could win the award for the preseason favorite, but for now I’ll guess Jung takes it. He’s a quality defensive third baseman slashing .274/.324/.487 with 24 doubles, 21 homers, 64 RBI and 68 runs. 

Runner up: Gunnar Henderson, Orioles – An incredibly slow start to the season might’ve buried Henderson’s chances, but he’s been excellent since late May. The door isn’t closed here. 

Also in the mix: Hunter Brown, Astros; Tanner Bibee, Guardians; J.P. France, Astros

NL Manager of the Year

I actually have a vote for this award this season and in the spirit of playing it close to the vest, I’m not supposed to weigh in publicly on these matters. 

AL Manager of the Year: Brandon Hyde, Orioles

This appears to be a two-man race. As things stand, both the Orioles and Rangers would be surprising — almost to the point of being shocking — division winners. The Orioles were certainly expected to be better and possibly contend all season, but to sit atop the best division in baseball, especially after the Rays started the season 13-0, probably gets Hyde on top. 

Runner up: Bruce Bochy, Rangers – You can’t say enough about the job Bochy has done. This one is such a coin flip, but I wouldn’t allow myself to go with a copout and do co-winners. 

Also in the mix: Dusty Baker, Astros; Kevin Cash, Rays; John Schneider, Blue Jays

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *