MLB Mid-Season Awards
It’s about that time. The MLB season has reached its halfway point, the All-Star festivities are on the way, and I’m seeing Halloween stuff in every store for some reason. You know what that means… Time for the MLB Mid-Season Awards.
AL MVP: Yordan Alvarez (HOU)
Before Yankees fans eviscerate me, hear me out. No one is denying that Aaron Judge is good. Scratch that, great. He’s trying to reach 60 homers, and it’s very feasible that he does. He’s in the top-5 in almost every relevant statistical category (but so is Alvarez). A lot of Judge’s media and MVP favoritism is largely driven by the fact that he is the best player on the league’s best offense (and possibly the best team). And I know what you’re going to say. Yordan Alvarez plays for the only other team vying for the “league’s best team” title. But if you don’t know by now that a New York Yankee will gain traction much more quickly than a player from any other team, say the Houston Astros, then you still have a lot to learn about baseball.
In my opinion, no matter which way you slice it, Yordan Alvarez is the AL MVP. I say this because some believe MVP should be the outright best player, while others believe it should be the most valuable player. Alvarez’s game satisfies both of these requirements. He trails Judge by only five home runs, with 26 so far this year, which is supposed to be Judge’s biggest claim to fame. And there’s time for Alvarez to make up ground.
For the big-hit type of player that Judge is, his batting average is respectable. However, it’s almost impossible to ignore that Alvarez’s batting average is pretty significantly higher (.306 vs .278). Batting average is arguably the best statistic in baseball as an indicator of offensive greatness, so regardless of the player you are, a considerable batting average discrepancy in an MVP race gives the upper-hand to whoever has the better average. I say that it is arguably the best statistic to use as an indicator because I think that OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) is what should be used. Judge has a rather impressive OPS at .964 and fifth place in the MLB. But, you guessed it, Yordan Alvarez is in first place at 1.058.
If we break down both categories that make up OPS, we’ll see that Alvarez dominates there too. In on-base percentage, Alvarez is fourth at .405, while Aaron Judge sits down in 34th place in the MLB at .358. In slugging percentage, Yordan Alvarez leads the MLB with .653, with Judge right behind him with .606.
I know that Judge fans are going to have something to say about the stat comparison. Maybe about how these stats don’t reflect his game because he’s a big hitter, but he’s valuable nonetheless. Well of course he’s valuable, he’s a close runner-up in the AL MVP race. But, if we’re looking at an MVP, I’d like a more well-rounded player.
I’d never count Judge out. By the end of the season, I wouldn’t at all be shocked to see him win the AL MVP. But as of right now, I wouldn’t put him above Alvarez as the best all-around player.
NL MVP: Paul Goldschmidt (STL)
Okay, I realize that my AL pick might have caused some controversy, but I hope we can all agree that Paul Goldschmidt is the best choice for NL MVP at this point in the season.
Currently, Goldschmidt ranks second in total runs with an impressive 62, only trailing Aaron Judge. He is also second in total hits, only one behind Freddie Freeman with 110. Batting average? He ranks second in terms of batting average, hitting .331. If you haven’t figured it out by now, he also ranks second in on base percentage (.413), on base + slugging percentage (1.001), and WAR (4.6). By the way, these are MLB rankings, not NL rankings. There is no player who is ahead of him in every category. In fact, they’re quite varied, but the one who remains is Paul Goldschmidt.
The only categories where Goldschmidt doesn’t rank second are home runs (16th), RBI (4th), and slugging percentage (5th). So, aside from home runs, he ranks in the top-5 in every relevant category, and in most, he’s in the top two. I’d say that’s pretty MVP worthy. Shoutout to Paul Goldschmidt for making at least one of these easy for me.
AL Cy Young: Shane McClanahan (TB)
I’ll admit, I really wanted Justin Verlander to win this one. I love a good comeback story, and between his age and his recent Tommy-John surgery, this was the perfect one. However, McClanahan outperformed in nearly every category. His average fastball boasts a whopping 96.8 mph, but that’s not where the magic stops. Among his pitches, his fastball ranks fourth behind his curveball, slider, and changeup. So far, McClanahan’s fastball has allowed 30 hits, which is far more than what his other pitches have allowed. His curveball has allowed only 13 hits and 43 strikeouts. His curveball is also striking because it features a 53.5 inch vertical drop, 2.7 more inches than the average MLB curveball. His slider allowed only 12 hits this season while his changeup allowed 14.
So far this season, he has allowed only 69 hits and struck out 147 batters. His ERA sits at 1.71 and his WHIP at 0.80. Right now, he has more than twice as many strikeouts as hits allowed. If he stays on this pace and finishes the season with two or more times as many strikeouts than hits, he will join very elite company, including Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, Chris Sale, Max Scherzer, Randy Johnson, and Pedro Martinez. However, even on this list, Pedro Martinez was the only one to do it with an ERA below 2.00. If McClanahan maintains his sub 2.00 ERA, it will only make his season all the more special.
Verlander and Ohtani are formidable opponents, but McClanahan is outperforming both of them by a considerable amount at this point in the season. I’m personally convinced that the Rays just produce Cy Young candidates at an insane rate. I mean, they’ve had five top-5 Cy Young candidates since 2010, and they’re on their way to another one.
NL Cy Young: Corbin Burnes (MIL)
Unlike the AL, the NL Cy Young race is a little tighter. There are three contenders who could easily win the Cy Young. Sandy Alcantara, Corbin Burnes, and Tony Gonsolin are challenging each other each start.
I know there’s going to be some controversy picking Burnes over Alcantara, but when we look at the stats, there are few discrepancies. Burnes has allowed only 69 hits, compared to Alcantara’s 88. Additionally, Burnes has struck out 134 batters compared to Alcantara’s 111, even while pitching 24 innings less than Alcantara. Their WHIP is nearly the same, but Burnes has the edge with 0.89 versus Alcantara’s 0.91.
What gives Alcantara the edge in the eyes of many is his ERA. His ERA is 1.73 compared to Burnes’s 2.20, almost an entire half point lower. The answer to this major divide lies in their home runs allowed. Burnes has allowed double the home runs that Alcantara has (12 vs. 6). Alcantara has also pitched more innings, accounting for some of his extra runs. However, even with this factored in, Burnes has allowed less runs.
Like I said, this race is by no means over, nor is it definitive. The NL Cy Young winner is very up in the air and the course of who is favored changes with each game. It is too early to count out Tony Gonsolin. Though he has only pitched 93.7 innings, compared to Alcantara’s 130.3, his trajectory is promising. If he continues on his pace, he will undoubtedly be a contender. Gonsolin has allowed only 55 hits and has struck out 86 batters. He has a 2.02 ERA and a 0.84 WHIP.
Right now, I give Corbin Burnes the edge, but by next week, my opinion could be completely different.
AL Rookie of the Year: Julio Rodriguez (SEA)
Julio Rodriguez is showing us everything we need to know about his trajectory as a player in his rookie season. He’s got power and he’s got speed. The rest will come in almost any rookies who’s got that, not that Rodriguez needs “the rest”. He’s doing just fine. So far in his rookie season, he’s hit 15 home runs, tying him for 16th in the American League and 34th in the MLB. Not too shabby for a rookie. He also has 91 hits, tied for the eighth most in the AL. That’s tied with Aaron Judge and one behind Jose Ramirez and who are MVP candidates pretty regularly. To put it simply, they’re two of the greats of this decade in baseball. Like I said, he’s shown he’s got the power. Now for the speed. Rodriguez boasts 21 stolen bases, 2nd in the AL and 3rd in the MLB.
Clearly, others can see Julio Rodriguez’s prowess, too, because he’s been named a reserve for the All-Star game as a rookie. However, Bobby Witt Jr., Jeremy Pena, and Steven Kwan will continue to challenge him for AL Rookie of the Year.
NL Rookie of the Year: Spencer Strider (ATL)
The NL Rookie of the Year race is not as clean-cut as that of the AL. There is no one who, at this point in the season, is completely and utterly standout, in my eyes at least. If I had to pick someone, I’d give it to Spencer Strider. Strider holds a 4-2 record for the Braves with a 2.56 ERA in his 6 outings. He’s pitched just over 70 innings, and as 110 strikeouts, averaging over 1.5 strikeouts per inning: pretty good numbers for a rookie.
Unfortunately for Strider, pitchers seldom win Rookie of the Year due to decreased starts or performance nearing the end of the season. However, in the NL’s current situation, Strider has been the most standout of the rookies and is deserving of the award. He’ll have to compete with his teammate Michael Harris II and Padres pitcher MacKenzie Gore. Unless someone comes out of the woodwork in the second half of the season, I’d bet on Strider for this one.
That’s a wrap on our MLB Mid-Season Awards show. All-Star week kicks off tomorrow with the Home Run Derby before Tuesday’s All-Star Game. Enjoy, baseball fans!
Photo: Justin Edmonds / Getty Images