This is why our MLB Monday series exists: Because the voters always seem to mess up some awards (or all of them). We think of last year when it was hit or miss with the MLB 2020 awards. We are going to do a quick run through of the finalists for each major award and who we think should win from that group—and perhaps who was shafted overall.
On with the show!
AL Rookie of the Year: Wander Franco
Tampa Bay Rays OF Randy Arozarena (4.1 WAR), Tampa Bay Rays SS Wander Franco (3.5), and Houston Astros SP Luis Garcia (2.6): This is a sucky selection, as we have two players from the same team, which normally means they’d cancel each other out, and one pitcher from a cheating team. But Arozarena has two big strikes against him, as he led the majors in caught stealing (10) and posted -0.3 dWAR. Plus, he had 176 ABs in 2019, 2020, and the postseason before this year. That’s no rookie.
Franco checks off all the boxes here for us: positive glove, true rookie, and the higher WAR over Garcia. So, we think Franco should take home this award, readily. Plus, he hit .314 in the second half of the season, overall, showing us he really adjusted quickly after hitting just .197 in the first half of the season. Since both Houston and Tampa Bay cruised into the postseason, it’s definitely Franco’s trophy to lose.
NL Rookie of the Year: Jonathan India
St. Cardinals OF Dylan Carlson (3.2 WAR), Cincinnati Reds 2B Jonathan India (3.9), and Miami Marlins SP Trevor Rogers (3.4): Carlson was a negative with the glove (-0.2 dWAR), while India posted a positive mark (0.3 dWAR). The Cardinals had a large postseason cushion, so Carlson also wasn’t a difference maker. The Reds finished 7 games behind the Cards in the NL Central, while the Marlins won just 67 times after making the postseason in 2020.
All those situations being equal in value, we would give the award to India for the highest WAR value. His .835 OPS is pretty good for a middle infielder, and he also topped MLB by getting hit by a pitch 23 times. The kid gets on base any way he can, and his glove is good enough.
AL Manager of the Year: Scott Servais
Dusty Baker (HOU), Kevin Cash (TB), and Scott Servais (SEA): Why anyone would vote for Baker here is beyond comprehension. He is a known enabler of cheating players. Cash is a perennial nominee for this award, winning large with a small payroll, just like Oakland’s Bob Melvin, who somehow was not nominated here. Servais? Well, he took a team that got outscored by 51 runs to a 90-win season and playoff contention. How does that happen? By going 15-4 against the Athletics, that’s how.
Normally, we’d go with Cash for taking a team with the fifth-lowest payroll in baseball overall to the best record in the American League. But Servais, whether by luck or something else, got his Mariners to outperform their Pythagorean projection by a whopping 14 games (!). That was more than twice as high as the next-best club in that category (New York Yankees, +6). Even if it was a one-time miracle, we have to respect it.
NL Manager of the Year: Mike Shildt
Craig Counsell (MIL), Gabe Kapler (SF), and Mike Shildt (STL): We are positive that Kapler will win this award, but we obviously do not think he should win it. Something was clearly amiss in San Francisco this year, and we cannot reward that kind of organizational behavior. Milwaukee had the better season, but we think Shildt did more with less, all things considered, and the Pythagorean projections prove us correct, by 3 wins. It’s too bad he won’t win the actual hardware.
AL Cy Young: Robbie Ray
New York Yankees SP Gerrit Cole (5.7 WAR), Chicago White Sox SP Lance Lynn (5.4), and Toronto Blue Jays SP Robbie Ray (6.7): All three of these aces finished in the Top 10 MLB for WAR, which is a good sign. Is there anyone else who got snubbed? Nope, as these were the three best pitchers in the AL. That’s a good start. So who will win the Cy? The White Sox ran away with their division like it was 1983, so Lynn was both merely good and not super valuable.
The Yankees won 92 games to edge out the Blue Jays by one game for a wild-card spot, and ironically, Ray was 1.0 WAR better than Cole was. Normally, Cole’s mark would have been good enough to claim this award, but Ray was a better pitcher by a significant enough amount. We would give this award to Ray for keeping his team in it until the end; he also pitched 12 more innings than Cole did over the course of the season (two starts’ worth?). That has to mean something.
NL Cy Young: Zack Wheeler
Milwaukee SP Corbin Burnes (5.6 WAR), Washington Nationals/Los Angeles Dodgers SP Max Scherzer (6.0), and Philadelphia Phillies SP Zack Wheeler (7.6): All three of these aces finished in the Top 10 MLB for WAR, which is a good sign. Is there anyone else who got snubbed? Definitely Dodgers star Walker Buehler (6.7) and Brewers stud Brandon Woodruff (5.7). In fact, Buehler had the second-best MLB WAR mark overall for pitchers, so how did he get snubbed here? Ridiculous.
It’s hard to give the award to Scherzer, as the Dodgers would have made the postseason without him. And the Phillies finished 6.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL East, despite Wheeler’s MLB-best value. Burnes? He wasn’t even the best starter on his own team! So, with all that said, we’re giving the nod to Wheeler for leading the majors overall in value by 0.9 WAR. Without him, Philadelphia would have been under .500 for the year.
AL MVP: Marcus Semien
Toronto 3B Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (6.8 WAR), Los Angeles Angels P/OF Shohei Ohtani (4.1 pitching WAR, 4.9 hitting WAR), and Blue Jays 2B Marcus Semien (7.3): Only two of these players finished in the MLB Top 10 for position-player WAR, so who got snubbed? Just Houston SS Carlos Correa (7.2) and Cleveland 3B José Ramírez (6.7). Forget Correa, because he’s a cheater, and Cleveland finished under .500 for the year.
Now, normally, the two Blue Jays would cancel each other out, but many things are problematic with Ohtani: First, he led the majors in caught stealing (10), and his outfield glove was a joke (-1.1 dWAR). He also struck out 189 times as the Angels finished under .500 yet again. There’s no way he’s the MVP, even if he could be the Most Outstanding Player. There’s no true value there. That being said, Semien (1.8 dWAR) was much better than Guerrero (-0.7 dWAR), in addition to leading all MLB hitters in WAR.
NL MVP: Juan Soto
Philadelphia OF Bryce Harper (5.9 WAR), Nationals OF Juan Soto (7.1), and San Diego Padres SS Fernando Tatis Jr. (6.6): Only two of these players finished in the MLB Top 10 for WAR, so who got snubbed? Washington/L.A. IF Trea Turner (6.5), St. Louis OF Tyler O’Neill (6.3), Cards 1B Paul Goldschmidt (6.1), and Atlanta IF Austin Riley (6.1). So why was Harper even nominated when the Phillies didn’t make the postseason, while the snubbed players’ teams did make the playoffs? No idea.
So, Harper is out for this award in our book, and strangely, the Nats and the Padres also finished under .500, so these NL nominees are really poor this season. Who should have won the award? Maybe Riley. But if we had to give the award to one of the three nominees, then … we’re annoyed since both Soto and Tatis have negative dWAR marks (each at -0.2). Unreal, right? So, we just go with Soto for having the “best” season in terms of value, which in this case is very muted.
That’s a wrap; we will check in next Sunday to see how accurate we were. Until then … cheers!