The 2017 MLB Awards

Bob Levey/Getty Images

The baseball season is over, but the intrigue is not.

Every year, the Baseball Writers Association of America votes on Major League Baseball’s Most Valuable Player, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, and Manager of the Year awards. Every voter has a different methods for choosing his or her winners; some voters are more sabermetrically inclined, others are very old-school, and others vote in a more random fashion; if you don’t believe me, the same people vote on Hall of Fame enshrinement and three of them don’t think Ken Griffey, Jr. deserves to be in Cooperstown. Yeah, I don’t know, either.

Anyway, about those methods: I’m trying a new one this year. I’ve gone back and forth over the past few years on the value of sabermetrics, but I’ve recently decided that they are essential to understanding why certain players and teams are successful and why others aren’t. That relates to this discussion because I’ll mainly be using a sabermetric, analytically-inclined system to determine who I would give baseball’s major awards to this year (except for Manager of the Year) instead of picking the winners randomly, which is what I had always done in the past.

I actually rolled out some of the winners near the end of September to great Twitter fanfare; things went so well that the proceedings ended with me commencing quite possibly the largest Easter Egg hunt in my young Twitter existence. Anyway, I’ve even tinkered with my system since then, and I have finally come to what I feel like is a fair and understandable structure for handicapping the awards. And these adjustments have changed some of the victors since that time, even though many players’ statistics did not.

Here’s how this will work: there will be nine metrics used to measure player performance. If the player ranks first in his league in batting average, for example, he gets one point. The player’s rank in each of the categories is added up and divided by the number of statistics used (nine). The player who comes out with the lowest number after that process wins the award. These are the statistics I used for position players and pitchers:

Position Players


For pitchers in the MVP discussion, I only used WAR and WPA for their final results and divided that number by two. And if a position player did not play enough innings at one position (e.g. the Indians’ Jose Ramirez), then DRS was removed from his final total and that individual’s DRS would not be considered. The same was true for the Mariners’ Nelson Cruz, the only full-time designated hitter considered for the American League MVP. Finally, if a closer was included in Cy Young consideration, his rank in all categories except for RA9-WAR and WPA would be among closers. In the two aforementioned figures, he would be ranked along with all other qualified pitchers in his league. The point in doing this was to tilt the playing field ever so slightly toward starting pitchers, as they throw at least 100 innings more than their ninth-inning counterparts, while still leaving the opportunity for a dominant closer to take home the hardware. Basically, this provision would leave the door open for a Zach Britton-esque season to still receive the recognition it deserves.

If this explanation is insufficient, the charts I used to calculate the MVP and Cy Young for both leagues can be found here and here (WARNING: Both links contain spoilers). While I’ve tried to explain this as best I can, I am, like many of you, a visual learner, and seeing the calculations that went into this process may help you better understand what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.

One last thing: I’m going to list several honorable mentions with the award winners. They are listed in the order they finished in my calculations.

So, hopefully, that explanation suffices. Here now are my 2017 MLB Award Winners. If you’re on the internet, please don’t judge me.

National League MVP

Winner: Joey Votto, 1B/Cincinnati Reds


.320  .454  .578  1.032  69.12  165  11  6.6  4.96 

Put simply, Joey Votto is the best hitter in baseball.

He has been for some time, actually, but this year he solidified that label even further.  In 2017, Votto’s statistics were at or near career highs in home runs, runs scored, on-base percentage (.454 is the highest mark in the league in two years), batting average, wins above replacement, slugging percentage, and OPS. There is no other hitter in the game that compares to Votto. The Reds star first baseman finished first in the league in on-base percentage, OPS, RE24, wRC+, and Defensive Runs Saved. And in every other category, Votto finished no lower than sixth, which is where he finished in slugging percentage, behind  Giancarlo Stanton, Charlie Blackmon, Cody Bellinger, Freddie Freeman, and Nolan Arenado.

But there is no hitter as consistently good and diversely talented as Votto. And before you come in with the argument that the MVP has to come from a winning team, remember that the Cincinnati Reds won 68 games with Votto in the lineup every day. No, seriously. Every. Day. Don’t blame the best player on the team for his organization’s incompetence.

And we should really appreciate Votto’s greatness while we still can. The superstar turned 34 last month and history has shown us that most hitters rapidly decline around their 35th birthday. If this was Joey Votto’s last season among baseball’s elite, he’ll go down as one of the greatest hitters of all-time. If you don’t believe me, the proof is in the pudding.

This may seem like a far-fetched analogy, but think of Joey Votto like Slash. You already know that he’s great at his craft, but then you hear that song, and that solo, and come to think of it, you realize that he’s one of the all-time greats. Joey Votto transcends any particular award or single season, and he’s undoubtedly the best player in the National League right now.

Honorable Mentions: Charlie Blackmon, Giancarlo Stanton, Max Scherzer, Nolan Arenado, Justin Turner, Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rendon, Kris Bryant

American League MVP

Winner: Mike Trout, CF/Los Angeles Angels


.306  .442  .629  1.071  55.95  181  -6  6.9  5.58 

Let me ask you a question: if you knew someone was clearly the best player in the game for several years running and he just had possibly the best year of his career, why would you deny him his just due?

Mike Trout just posted career highs in OPS, OBP, slugging percentage, and OPS, to say nothing of the fact that he set a career low for strikeout percentage over a full season. And did I mention that he played just 114 games this year after suffering a UCL tear in his thumb at the end of May and cleared the threshold for stat qualification by just four plate appearances?

This was no bother for the best player in the league. While many were distracted by the exploits of Aaron Judge and Jose Altuve this year (don’t get me wrong, they were fantastic), Trout led the American League in RE24 and he led the entire league in Win Probability Added. The best part about this is both of those measures are cumulative statistics that are very dependent on how many plate appearances a hitter gets in a season. Trout, with over 150 fewer plate appearances less than Judge and Altuve, matched or, in many ways, exceeded their value.

A counterargument for Trout’s MVP case would be that the Angels went 19-20 during his midseason absence and, despite his post-All-Star break return, finished the season at 80-82. That may seem fair, but other players actually stepped up when Trout was sidelined, and those pieces did not perform quite as well after the All-Star break. Also, Trout’s only support in the Angels’ lineup, aside from August acquisition Justin Upton, was Andrelton Simmons and the living, breathing, worst player in baseball. Denying Trout the award this year would be like refusing to give the country’s best nurse Doctor of the Year because she didn’t get the chance to save someone’s life.

You have no idea where the Halos would be without him. Just thinking about it frightens me.

Honorable Mentions: Corey Kluber, Jose Altuve, Chris Sale, Aaron Judge, Nelson Cruz, Justin Upton, Jose Ramirez, George Springer

National League Cy Young

Winner: Max Scherzer, SP/Washington Nationals


2.51  0.91  12.02  2.90  2.98  41.82  4.87  7.1  4.14 

Unlike the American League (more on them shortly), the National League’s Cy Young race was fairly clear-cut for most of the season.

The award came down to the Nationals’ Max Scherzer and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, with Los Angeles closer Kenley Jansen trying to kick down the door to no avail in the latter stages of the year. Scherzer has the modest advantage here, though, after finishing no lower than third in any of the nine statistics used to measure a pitcher’s effectiveness in this exercise. That consistency catapulted him over Kershaw for the award, as the Dodgers’ lefty was a full point behind Scherzer on average.

In my Utopian baseball universe, this would be Scherzer’s third career Cy Young Award, which would make him just the tenth pitcher to achieve that milestone. The other nine pitchers to accomplish this feat either are, should be, or will be in the Hall of Fame. It’s hard to deny Scherzer the hardware this time around considering that he just had the best year of a remarkable and legendary career.

We are blessed with great pitching in baseball nowadays. We should make sure Max Scherzer doesn’t slip through the cracks, and that starts with giving him the 2017 National League Cy Young Award.

Honorable Mentions: Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, Stephen Strasburg, Zack Grienke

American League Cy Young

Winner: Corey Kluber, SP/Cleveland Indians


2.25  0.87  11.71  2.50  2.68  48.32  7.36  8.5  4.26 

Corey Kluber trailed Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale in this race for most of the season. He began to pull ahead of the Sox ace, however, with a second half in which he gave up three or more earned runs in just three of his fifteen starts.

Kluber and Sale ranked first or second in the American League in every statistical measure used here except WPA, where Sale finished fourth. Kluber gained the slight edge, though, by finishing first in ERA, WHIP, and strikeout-to-walk ratio, as well as RA9-WAR, where he held a 1.2-win advantage over Sale. It is crazy to consider that the first pitcher to finish a season with 300 strikeouts since 2002 would finish a clear second in the Cy Young race, but here we are.

And after one of the best seasons by two different pitchers in the same league, Corey Kluber comes out on top, playoff performance notwithstanding. His staggering second half is enough to get him my vote for AL Cy Young.

Honorable Mentions: Chris Sale, Craig Kimbrel, Carlos Carrasco, Luis Severino, Justin Verlander

National League Rookie of the Year

Winner: Cody Bellinger, OF/Los Angeles Dodgers

Cody Bellinger


.267 .352 .581 .933 35.97 138 2 4.0 4.30

I’m not here to reinvent the wheel.

Bellinger broke the National League rookie record for home runs in a season (39) and was clearly the best rookie on the National League side. There was no one else even approaching Bellinger’s value this season, and he clearly had the National League’s best freshman effort, even if some of his broken records are less auspicious than others.

Honorable Mentions: Paul DeJong, Austin Barnes, Rhys Hoskins

American League Rookie of the Year

Winner: Aaron Judge, RF/New York Yankees


.284  .422  .627  1.049  54.83  172  8.2  2.38 

Again, I’m not here to insult your intelligence.

Aaron Judge is a contender for the American League MVP, let alone Rookie of the Year. He broke the league’s rookie home run and walk records, and despite his league-leading 208 strikeouts, there isn’t another rookie in the American League who approaches Judge’s value. This is proven, too: Judge led the league in Wins Above Replacement (8.2) this season.

All rise.

Honorable Mentions: Matt Chapman, Andrew Benintendi, Mitch Haniger

National League Manager of the Year

Winner: Torey Lovullo, Arizona Diamondbacks

In his first season as manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Torey Lovullo quite literally engineered a 180° turnaround in the desert.

Last season, the D-Backs were 69-93 and finished just one game ahead of the San Diego Padres, the worst team in the National League. Arizona’s fan base had one of the best players in the game and absolutely nothing else to cheer for. Worst of all, the team traded future All-Star Ender Inciarte and top prospect Dansby Swanson the season before for Shelby Miller; you don’t need me to tell you how that went.

Fast forward a year later, though, and the Diamondbacks were one of the best teams in the league. Despite an abrupt playoff exit at the hands of the Dodgers, Arizona won 93 games and Lovullo’s arrival is no small reason why. While most of the Diamondbacks’ resurgence centered around improved performances from pitchers Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray, in addition to the presence of A.J. Pollock in center field and the midseason acquisition of Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez, Lovullo deserves credit for his leadership in guiding the Diamondbacks to their first playoff appearance since 2011.

Honorable Mentions: Craig Counsell, Dave Roberts, Bud Black

American League Manager of the Year

Winner: Paul Molitor, Minnesota Twins

Last year, the Minnesota Twins were baseball’s worst team at 59-103 and did not appear to have any hope of being a contender this season. Enter Paul Molitor.

Molitor has managed the Twins since 2015 and has had the team in contention in two of his three seasons at the helm; this year, though, marked his first playoff appearance. How the Twins got there, however, is what makes the job Molitor did all the more impressive.

At the trade deadline, the Twins found themselves at 50-53 and five games back of the second wild card spot. Thinking that the team’s chances of reaching the playoffs were fading with two months to play, GM Thad Levine shipped closer Brandon Kintzler to the Nationals and sent Jaime Garcia, after one start and three days with the Twins organization, to the Yankees. Many, including myself, counted Minnesota out of the race.

Instead, the team finished the year 35-24 and reached the playoffs for the first time since 2010. To add to that, they gave the Yankees, a team that was later one win away from the World Series, an honest-to-goodness fight in the AL Wild Card game. The emergence of young stars such as Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, and Byron Buxton is a great sign for Minnesota, and hopefully they can keep Molitor on the top step of the dugout for the foreseeable future. It’s worked out well so far.

Honorable Mentions: Joe Girardi, A.J. Hinch, Kevin Cash

How did I do? Let me know in the comments section or debate me on Twitter, but please be ready to back up your arguments.

The Angels Are Wasting the Prime of Mike Trout’s Career

Photo Credit: Rick Scuteri/USA Today Sports

At just 25 years old, Mike Trout is arguably the best player in baseball, a once-in-a-generation talent, and a five-tool superstar. The Los Angeles Angels are lucky enough to have him on their team, and you would think that the organization would find a way to use his absurd skill set to their advantage.

It hasn’t happened that way. In fact, the Angels have done quite the opposite; they’ve somehow, some way wasted his other-worldly talent.

In Mike Trout’s five years in Major League’s baseball, he’s averaged 34 home runs, 99 RBI and 28 steals per 162 games. Additionally, he’s hit over .300 and made some amazing outfield catches over his first five seasons. Trout’s versatility and multitude of talents make him one of the best, if not the best player in all of baseball. He’s also stayed extraordinarily healthy throughout his career; in four full seasons in the majors, Trout has missed a grand total of 14 games, almost all of which can be chalked up to routine off days. Trout made his debut on July 8, 2011 but didn’t reach the show for good until April 28, 2012. If you don’t follow baseball, try to take a guess what the Angels’ record has been since that date. I’ll give you some time.

Okay, you have your guesses ready? Awesome. Prepare to be amazed. The Angels’ record since April 28, 2012 is:


Yes, since the best player on the planet has joined their team, the Los Angeles Angels have won 52.5% of their games. Many teams would kill to have a generational talent such as Trout, and most of those teams would find some way to have sustained success with Trout on the roster and playing every day. But no, these Angels are not one of those teams.

Instead, the Angels’ organization has completely botched the composition of almost the entirety of the rest of the roster. Through trades, flawed free agent acquisitions, and front office shakeups, the Los Angeles Angels have somehow become the most inefficiently-run organization in all of baseball, which isn’t exactly something to be proud of. To understand why they’re blowing it with Trout, we need to understand the scope of some of those moves and how they have hamstrung the organization for years to come.

The team’s first ill-fated free agency maneuver was signing Albert Pujols, then the best hitter in baseball, in the winter of 2011. The Angels inked Pujols to a ten-year, $300 million deal; at the time, Pujols was going into his age-32 season, which is around the time hitters’ skills begin to decline. Sure enough, that’s what has happened with the first baseman. While he has still averaged nearly 30 home runs per season in Los Angeles, his batting average in five years with the Angels his dipped to .263 (as opposed to a .328 figure with the Cardinals in the first 11 years of his career). That’s hardly worth a $300 million price tag. What’s worse is that Pujols no longer plays first base, which means that the Angels are paying someone $30 million per year to be a designated hitter. That’s not a worthwhile investment, to say the least.

But Pujols is hardly the only bad decision the Angels’ front office has made over the past five years. In that same offseason, newly-minted General Manager Jerry Dipoto signed pitcher C.J. Wilson to a five-year, $77.5 million deal. The problem is that Wilson was never that great a pitcher to begin with, as he only really had two great seasons before heading to L.A. That didn’t warrant the team giving him that much money at that point in time, but that’s the decision Dipoto and the front office made. Worst of all, the deal was heavily backloaded; Wilson is making a cool $20 million this year. Want to know how many starts he’s made this season? Zero. He underwent season-ending, reconstructive shoulder surgery in July. The Angels are paying him $20 million this season to rehab from injury, try to make a comeback in baseball, but most significantly of all, not pitch.

And then we come to Josh Hamilton.

Hamilton was one of the best players in all of baseball when the Angles plucked him from the Texas Rangers before the 2013 season. However, he had been known for a history of drug problems and alcohol abuse that caused several teams to stay away from him. Those problems were somewhat taken care of with the Rangers, where his support system of advisors and mentors helped him stay (mostly) clean. Unfortunately, that support system didn’t quite follow Hamilton to the West Coast. And the Angels organization didn’t exactly support him, either.

As you probably remember, Hamilton self-reported a third relapse, consisting of cocaine and alcohol abuse, to Major League Baseball in February of last year. While it’s terrible that Hamilton suffered yet another relapse, it was honorable that Hamilton was honest about his infraction. But that apparently wasn’t good enough for the Angels and owner Arte Moreno. After an arbitrator ruled that Hamilton would not be suspended by MLB for his conduct, Moreno took to the press to publicly denounce his star player and say that the team was looking to take action against him because of his lack of “accountability”. Okay, Arte, here’s some advice: if you don’t want to deal with his potential issues, which are a sensitive subject, don’t sign Josh Hamilton in the first place. Avoidance would have been a very easy way to deal with Hamilton’s problems, and instead of avoiding him, Moreno and Dipoto thought it would be a good idea to sign him. They know this could become a problem and pretended to be shocked when it did. That’s their fault. Hopefully, Hamilton can keep his problems in check and live happily, sober, and clean for the rest of his life. But the Angels messed up badly with Josh Hamilton, and there’s no escaping that fact.

And finally, there was the ultimate front office shakeup last season. A clash of wills between Dipoto and manager Mike Scioscia led to Dipoto’s resignation as the team’s GM in early July. While we’ve established that Dipoto was (and still is) a pretty terrible General Manager, Scioscia is not blameless in this situation, either. Under his tutelage, the Halos haven’t won a postseason series, much less a playoff game, since 2009. Since that year, the team has made the playoffs just once and has had four seasons between 80 and 89 wins. With the exception of this season, one that has Los Angeles on pace for just 67 wins, the Angels have been one of the most perennially mediocre teams in the game.

And it shows in the team’s farm system, too. Actually, calling the Angels’ conglomerate of minor league affiliates and players a farm system is disrespectful to the other 29 legitimate farm systems in baseball. I kid you not, these are real words from Keith Law, ESPN’s resident prospect expert, on the Angels’ minor league system. From January:

I’ve been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen. They traded their top two prospects in the Andrelton Simmons deal and had no one remotely close to top-100 status. They need a big draft this year to start to restock the system or we’re going to start talking about whether it’s time to trade Mike Trout.

And Law isn’t just saying that: the Angels legitimately have no good prospects in their system. One would’ve thought that the team would have tried to seriously restock their farm system at the deadline, a la the New York Yankees, but, as Law smartly points out, that would have entailed trading Trout. So the Angels have no good prospects and no trade chips they could use to go out and get solid prospects. The team and new GM Billy Eppler stayed quiet at the deadline, making no trades. I would criticize Eppler for this, but there was legitimately nothing he could’ve done besides dealing Trout, who is a once-in-a-generation talent. There’s really no use in getting rid of him. I actually feel bad for Eppler; it’s like he took over for someone in the middle of a Monopoly game and was given no properties and no money to work with. He’s bankrupt.

This is what Mike Trout has to look forward to. The team he plays for has no future and no present. He’s the best player in the game, and no one is caring to watch him or his team play. That’s sad, especially when you consider that the Angels have him under contract until 2020.

And if Trout isn’t traded before then, he’ll be languishing in the wallows of Anaheim, as the team that employs him wastes the best years of his career.

MLB All-Star Game Ballot, Part 2

About a month ago, I published what my MLB All-Star Game ballot would look like; you can read about it here.  Well, here is part 2:


1B: Prince Fielder, Rangers

2B: Jose Altuve, Astros

SS: Jose Iglesias, Tigers

3B: Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays

C: Stephen Vogt, A’s

DH: Nelson Cruz, Mariners

Outfielders: Mike Trout, Angels; Adam Jones, Orioles; Hanley Ramirez, Red Sox


1B: Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks

2B: Dee Gordon, Marlins

SS: Jhonny Peralta, Cardinals

3B: Matt Carpenter, Cardinals

C: Buster Posey, Giants

Outfielders: Bryce Harper, Nationals; Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins; Justin Upton, Padres

As you can see, not a whole lot has changed here.  I still have not voted for any Royals in either ballot, even though it looks like they will be sending quite a few players to the game:

Let me know what you think!

My MLB All-Star Game Ballot

The 2015 MLB All-Star Game is being held at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati on July 14th of this year.  The game is an exhibition of the game’s best talent (and worst rules), while much of the controversy gets pointed toward who does and doesn’t get chosen to play.  I know this is a little early, as the voting closes on July 2nd, but I filled out a ballot for the game based on the first four months of this year.  There will probably be more than one of these, so expect the ballot to change.  Here goes:


1B: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

2B: Jose Altuve, Astros

SS: Jed Lowrie, Astros

3B: Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays

C: Salvador Perez, Royals

DH: Nelson Cruz, Mariners

Outfielders: Mike Trout, Angels; Adam Jones, Orioles; Hanley Ramirez, Red Sox


1B: Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers

2B: Dee Gordon, Marlins

SS: Zack Cozart, Reds

3B: Matt Carpenter, Cardinals

C: Buster Posey, Giants

Outfielders: Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins; Matt Kemp, Padres; Justin Upton, Padres

Fire away in the comments section!