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VEB Staff Picks MLB Awards

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From MVP to Cy Young to Rookie of the Year and for some reason we also pick the Manager of the Year.

Milwaukee Brewers v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Forget the regular season, where we get to watch baseball nearly every day. Forget the playoffs, with its sometimes thrilling games and exciting finishes. Forget spring training, a secretly terrible part of the baseball year that we all tolerate because we haven’t seen any baseball in months. Forget even the height of the offseason, when trades and free agency rumors are rampant and sometimes actual moves happen. Forget all that. We are in awards season, where we all know 90 percent of the winners before they even reveal who won.

I could try to write some stirring defense of how exciting awards season is, that we get to celebrate the best of the sport, and that we wait on the edge of our seats as they announce the winner on... probably MLB Network. I don’t know I’ve never actually watched the live results. But awards season is exciting only when someone on your team might win one. The Cardinals do not have any serious candidates.

Viva El Birdos staff will decide the winners of the awards. These are not predictions, but who we think should win. It might end up being who wins too though. For the categories where a top 5 was requested, the first place picked received 6 points, 2nd place 4 points, 3rd place 3 points, and so on. For the Manager of the Year, where top 3 was counted, 4 points went to the winner, 2 to 2nd place, and 1 to first place.

MVP

  1. Christian Yelich - 49 points (5 first place votes)
  2. Jacob deGrom - 38 points (4 first place votes)
  3. Nolan Arenado - 19 points
  4. Anthony Rendon - 15 points
  5. Lorenzo Cain - 13 points (1 first place vote)
  6. Javier Baez - 11 points
  7. Max Scherzer - 9 points
  8. Matt Carpenter - 4 points
  9. Freddie Freeman - 2 points

“I wanted this race to feel closer. Jacob deGrom is historic. Nolan Arenado is fun to watch. As I thought about it, though, I couldn’t escape the fact that Yelich is a slam dunk. He was the best hitter in the league, by whatever stat you want to use. He led all baseball in Win Probability Added. He carried the Brewers to the playoffs, and I mean carried. He had a 200 wRC+ from August 1 on. He has the traditional numbers, he has the sabermetric numbers, and he has the narrative. This is a no brainer.” - Ben Clemens

Yelich led the NL in wRC+ at 166, WAR at 7.6, and a .422 wOBA. By far the best hitter in the NL and powered the Brewers to the NLCS.” - Greg Ratliff

“deGrom’s season was the pitching version of what Betts achieved. It was historic, just a tick below Pedro’s 1999, Doc Gooden’s 1985, peak Koufax or Kershaw, and frankly better than a lot of other great seasons from those same pitchers and other similar luminaries. In 23 of his 32 starts, deGrom yielded 2 runs or less, earned or otherwise. In 18 of those starts, it was 1 run or less. He was amazing. Combined with a weak position player season beyond Yelich, it’s deGrom’s year as the most valuable.” - John LaRue

“Yelich seems to be the popular pick here but I can’t get over what DeGrom did this year. Sub-2.00 ERA over 32 starts - this is the kind of dominant season that rarely comes around.” - Andrew St. John

“I picked Cain over everyone because that is my dog’s name. That is the only reason. Really it should be degrom, though.” - lil_scooter93

AL MVP

  1. Mookie Betts - 60 (10 first place votes)
  2. Mike Trout - 38
  3. Jose Ramirez - 25
  4. Alex Bregman - 15
  5. Fransisco Lindor - 10
  6. JD Martinez - 6
  7. Matt Chapman - 2
  8. Justin Verlander - 2

*In the interest of full disclosure, one person wrote Max Scherzer as their third place vote. I made their 4th and 5th place votes one place higher and they did not have a 5th place.

“Since 1970, here’s the list of players who have had better single seasons by fWAR than Mookie Betts this season: Barry Bonds, Cal Ripken, Jr., and Joe Morgan. That’s the whole list.” - John LaRue

“Betts was the anchor of a historic, World Series-winning team. He was the best example of a five-tool player the league saw in 2018. A ten-win season deserves the MVP.” - Tanner Puckett

“Betts and Trout is neck-and-neck. Trout narrowly edges him out in wRC+, but Betts defensive value is significantly higher, so I guess that’s enough to give him an edge in my book.” - Ben Godar

“This one doesn’t need much explanation. Mookie Betts was the best player in baseball and he was on the best team. He’s great at bowling too, in case you want to know meaningless factoids.” - Ben Clemens

NL Cy Young

Nine people responded to the Cy Young vote, as opposed to 10 for MVP. One person’s ballot was literally just Jacob deGrom. Another person only had a top 3.

  1. Jacob deGrom - 54 points (9 first place votes)
  2. Max Scherzer - 32 points
  3. Aaron Nola - 17 points
  4. Patrick Corbin - 15 points
  5. German Marquez - 4 points
  6. Kyle Freeland - 4 points
  7. Josh Hader - 3 points
  8. Miles Mikolas - 2 points

“I don’t know what really needs to be said other than the fact that deGrom was absolutely dominant and pitcher wins are a terrible stat for measuring individual performance. FIP and ERA both under 2.00, 217 IP, a near nine-win season. He deserves the Cy Young and much more.” - Tanner Puckett

“So miles ahead of everyone else… about as obvious as it gets.” - Ben Godar

“deGrom sported a 1.70. Throw in the 18 starts that he went at least six innings and allowed one or less earned runs plus 29 straight starts giving up three runs or fewer. This is why deGrom should be up for the MVP but isn’t.” - Greg Ratliff

AL Cy Young

Nobody responded with just one selection, but one person responded with a top 3 and one person responded with a top 4.

  1. Justin Verlander - 42 points (4 first place votes)
  2. Trevor Bauer - 28 points (2 first place votes)
  3. Chris Sale - 27 points (3 first place votes)
  4. Blake Snell - 18 points
  5. Gerrit Cole - 15 points
  6. Blake Treinen - 3 points
  7. Luis Severino - 1 point

“This race seems like it’s a referendum on ERA against peripherals, but it’s really not. Verlander had better peripherals but also pitched more innings than Snell by a significant amount. Even if you don’t discount Snell’s ERA at all, they’re extremely close, but it’s worth giving credit to Verlander for striking out the world. Blake Snell had a great year but he wasn’t the best pitcher in the AL.“ - Ben Clemens

Bauer was worth 6.1 fWAR, trailing leader Verlander by seven-tenths of a win, even having missed more than a month and starting five fewer games. He posted a 2.44 FIP and 2.21 ERA. Bauer was more dominant at his craft when removing factors out of his control.” - Tanner Puckett

“Sale would be the easy choice here if he had simply remained healthy through August and early September. The same is true of Bauer. Verlander and Snell both had great seasons, durable seasons, but weren’t as dominant as the first two. And Treinen was phenomenal, leading all of baseball in pitcher WPA, even better than deGrom. I have no strong feelings about which of these five win the award because they all deserve it, with warts, to varying degrees.” - John LaRue

NL Rookie of the Year

  1. Ronald Acuna Jr. - 52 points (8 first place votes)
  2. Juan Soto - 37 points (1 first place votes)
  3. Harrison Bader - 23 points
  4. Walker Beuhler - 19 points
  5. Jack Flaherty - 6 points
  6. Brian Anderson - 5 points

I suspect Brian Anderson would be above Flaherty on a non-Cardinals blog, but we never pretended to not be biased here. I went with Acuna Jr. because both Soto and Acuna had very similar batting lines, but I just believe Acuna Jr. is probably a better defender. It’s incredibly close though.

“Really strong year for NL Rookies. My heart is obviously with Bader and Flaherty, but I can’t rank them ahead of these other guys… though Flaherty/Buehler is pretty close. Acuna and Soto both look like they will be perennial All-Stars and they are both 19.” - Ben Godar

“Leader in wRC+, stolen bases, WAR, home runs, slugging and second in wOBA and third in RBIs. Easy pick.” - Greg Ratliff

“You can flip a coin between Soto and Acuna. Ultimately, I chose Soto because he was a year younger. What Soto did at 19 years old just isn’t done beyond guys like Mantle, Harper, and Junior Griffey.” - John LaRue

AL Rookie of the Year

On this vote, one person responded with just Ohtani and one person with responded with just a top 2.

  1. Shohei Ohtani - 52 points (8 first place votes)
  2. Joey Wendle - 26 points (1 first place vote)
  3. Miguel Andujar - 19 points
  4. Shane Bieber - 10 points
  5. Gleyber Torres - 8 points
  6. Ryan O’Hearn - 4 points
  7. Brad Keller - 3 points
  8. Jose Alvarado - 2 points
  9. Ramón Laureano - 1 point

I don’t mean to be rude to Joey Wendle, who had a great season, but I’m glad Ohtani came along. Otherwise, Wendle would feel like one of those Rookie of the Year winners we forget ever played baseball in 10 years, and it’s not really fun when they win. Ohtani meanwhile made it relatively easy not to pick Wendle.

“Wendle was the perfect player for the Rays, racking up value with his versatility and soft skills, sort of a Ben Zobrist 2.0. But Ohtani’s skills were loud, fun, and even a smidge more valuable by the advanced metrics. Dammit, do we really have to wait so long to see him healthy again?” - John LaRue

Shohei Ohtani was the best rookie position player in the AL. Shohei Ohtani was the best rookie pitcher in the AL (on a rate basis). This is going to sound crazy to you, but he hit significantly better than Matt Carpenter. His WAR is marginally impacted by the fact that he’s a DH, but again, he pitches. He struck out 30% of the batters he faced this year. As a starter. In fifteen years, we’ll remember 2018 because we all realized how good Shohei Ohtani was.” - Ben Clemens

NL Manager of the Year

Fair warning, not everyone likes voting on Manager of the Year. One response said and I quote “?????? No idea.” Another person abstained from voting in either. I got the first place vote only of a third person. So we have six people who gave a legitimate top 3 here.

  1. Craig Counsell - 24 points (6 first place votes)
  2. Mike Shildt - 9 points (1 first place vote)
  3. Brian Snitker - 8 points
  4. Bud Black - 3 points
  5. Dave Roberts - 2 points

“Counsell took a team with a pre-season projection of 79-81 wins and bullpenned them all the way to within a game of the World Series. Sure, those projections were pessimistic, but Counsell’s stewardship was a significant part of beating them.” - John LaRue

“Craig Counsell was one of the National League’s more sabermetrically friendly managers in 2018, something Cardinals fans witnessed firsthand with his bullpen management to neutralize Matt Carpenter’s bat. Some of this was likely a byproduct of the talented bullpen and less-inspiring rotation at his disposal–almost as if Manager of the Year is predicated on narrative rather than a set of more objective criteria–but Counsell led the NL when it came to avoiding third time through the order plate appearances.” - Tyler Kinzy

“Of all the awards, I feel like this is the one I really just have no idea about. But Shildt took a moribund team that had been run by a fool and nearly got them to the playoffs.” - Ben Godar

AL Manager of the Year

  1. Kevin Cash - 16 points (3 first place votes)
  2. Alex Cora - 16 points (3 first place votes)
  3. Bob Melvin - 13 points (1 first place votes)
  4. Aaron Boone - 1 point

Well, this was pretty much my nightmare scenario. Okay, so Alex Cora was listed as the only pick on one person’s list. No top 3 given. I considered removing the vote entirely, but that would put Cora at 3rd, which would have also affected things too much. So I assumed Cash was in this person’s top 3, given he is in everyone’s top 3 except one other person. Melvin meanwhile would still be 3rd no matter where he placed on this person’s top 3. So that was my solution. And for what it’s worth, my pick was Cora so this wasn’t me moving things around so my pick would win.

“Were the BBWAA to name me a voter for the actual Manager of the Year awards, I would promptly abstain by locating the nearest active volcano and tossing my ballot (I assume that process is still done by paper?) into its fiery wrath. But since I’m such a nice guy, I will oblige and help our site in the name of sweet ad revenue. Anyways, the difference between the Rays and the second place Angels in terms of limiting third time through the order plate appearances was greater than the gap between second and twenty-third place. Under Kevin Cash’s watch the Rays also implemented such progressive tactical maneuvers as the “opener” as a way of maximizing matchup efficiency.” - Tyler Kinzy

“All three had great seasons, though I think Cash achieved more with less than Melvin and certainly Cora. Nobody gave the Rays a chance before the season. Hell, most folks didn’t even expect .500.” - John LaRue

“The Rays are not an easy team to manage. Every year they’re fighting to lower payroll while still maintaining some semblance of competitiveness. Sure, Cash got Pham at the deadline, but they traded away Evan Longoria, Jake Odorizzi, Steven Souza Jr., Corey Dickerson, Alex Colomé, Chris Archer. They played in a division featuring two 100-win teams. They still went 90-72. Cash worked wonders with that group.” - Tanner Puckett

“He inherited a great team, but even so… first year manager, and the Red Sox were dominant wire-to-wire.” - Ben Godar

“(Bob Melvin) took the team with the lowest payroll in baseball into the playoffs, the first time it’s ever happened.” - Greg Ratliff

That’s all folks. Next year if I do this again, I’ll make sure to start this process MUCH earlier. Maybe I can get the whole of the VEB Staff. Nonetheless, I think this is a decent representation of how VEB would have voted anyway. Rookie of the Year is announced on Monday. Tuesday is the Managers of the Year. Cy Young goes Wednesday and MVP on Thursday. Tune into whatever channel will provide live updates if you want or just check the internet at some point that night. Either works.