We’re getting closer to the present day on MLB Monday as we take on the 2015 season today, and by the end of the next calendar week, the 2022 season will have kicked off in full swing. Hope springs eternal, and that’s why we love baseball—even if it breaks our hearts more often than not. American culture is rather strange, isn’t it?
Let’s hope none of the analyses below break your heart today …
2015 AL MVP: Josh Donaldson (original, confirmed)
Our top-5 group for this award has some former winners in it: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim center fielder Mike Trout (9.6 WAR), Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado (7.5), Toronto Blue Jays 3B Josh Donaldson (7.1), Tampa Bay Rays CF Kevin Kiermaier (7.1), and Kansas City Royals CF Lorenzo Cain (7.0). We gave this nod to Donaldson in 2013 and 2014, while Trout earned it from us in 2012.
Will either of them get another? Let’s see, as Donaldson won the vote. The Angels missed the postseason by just a single game, so Trout is on hold here. The Os missed a playoff spot by 5 games, so Machado is out. The Blue Jays won the AL East by 6 games, while the Rays won just 80 times. The Royals ran away with the AL Central by 12 games, so Cain’s value takes a backseat.
All things being normal, Trout falls short here of historic achievement—and the postseason, while Donaldson’s presence on the Toronto roster was basically the difference between no postseason for the Blue Jays. Donaldson will win his third straight MVP from us, shockingly: league bests in runs (122), RBI (123), TB (352), and SFs (10)—in addition to 41 2Bs, 41 HRs, 73 BBs, and a .939 OPS—tell his MVP story.
2015 NL MVP: Bryce Harper (original), Jason Heyward (revised)
We have a crazy-good top 3 for this award: Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper (9.7 WAR), Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt (8.3), and Cincinnati Reds 1B Joey Votto (7.8). Harper won the vote for a near-historic season, but his team missed the postseason by 14 games. Both the D’backs and the Reds were under .500 for the year, so … do we dig deeper? We must.
St. Louis Cardinals OF Jason Heyward, our 2010 NL ROTY winner, posted 6.9 WAR, which was the fifth-best mark in the NL and the tenth-best mark overall in MLB. His team won the NL Central by 2 games, and the last wild-card team finished only 3 games behind the Cards. Thus, it looks like this is his award, which is too bad for Harper, the vote winner. Heyward finished only 15th in the MVP balloting, somehow.
Heyward’s numbers include 2.3 dWAR—the best number of his career and eighth best in MLB—along with a .293 average, 13 HRs, 60 RBI, 23 SBs, and 56 BBs. He did it all for the team with the best record in the senior circuit, and without him, the St. Louis ball club might have been in a much tougher position near the end of the regular season.
2015 AL Cy Young: Dallas Keuchel (original, confirmed)
There are only three pitchers to consider here: Houston Astros vote-winner Dallas Keuchel (6.5 WAR), Toronto Blue Jays trade acquisition David Price (6.3), and Oakland Athletics youngster Sonny Gray (5.4). Price won the vote in 2012, but we did not confirm it. Meanwhile, the A’s won just 68 times in a rebuilding year, so this comes down to Keuchel or Price—who spent most of the season in Detroit.
The Tigers, like Oakland, finished under .500, so most of Price’s value (3.7 WAR) came in a vacuum. With the Astros gaining a postseason slot by just 1 game over the Angels, we are confirming Keuchel’s vote win here for the following stats: 20 wins, 2 SOs, 232 IP, and a 1.017 WHIP. All those numbers led the league, while his 2.48 ERA and 216 Ks weren’t too shabby, either. Houston misses the playoffs without.
2015 NL Cy Young: Jake Arrieta (original, confirmed)
Our top candidates here were Los Angeles Dodgers acquisition Zack Greinke (8.9 WAR), Chicago Cubs journeyman Jake Arrieta (8.3), Dodgers star Clayton Kershaw (7.3), and Nats acquisition Max Scherzer (6.9), who won our AL Cy nod last year. Meanwhile, Greinke won the vote and our nod for AL Cy in 2009, so we have a loaded field here with Kershaw’s three wins from us already (2011, 2012, 2013).
Our rule is no teammates, so Greinke and Kershaw are out, despite L.A. winning the NL West by 8 games. The Cubs nabbed the last playoff spot, but they still had a 13-game cushion for it. Washington finished 14 games behind Chicago in the postseason chase. It’s a bad break for Greinke, as maybe he was the difference for L.A., but our rules say that Arrieta gets this award, so we confirm his vote.
There were a lot of whispers about Arrieta and PEDs at the time: He had posted a 5.46 ERA in 358 IP with the Orioles, before joining the Cubs and becoming a whole new pitcher at age 27. In this season, he posted a 1.77 ERA in 229 IP, while pitching half his games in Wrigley Field, not exactly a pitcher’s paradise. Overall, in 803 IP with the Cubs, Arrieta posted a 2.65 ERA from age 27 to 31—his firm prime.
That is still a drastic change almost overnight, and we’ve seen multiple explanations for it: nutrition, coaching, etc.—the usual BS players spew to hide probable PED use. But other than our suspicions, there is no pattern here to follow, either with the Cubs or with Arrieta. We will just have to accept this as coaching and his prime years of blossoming brilliance, but it doesn’t mean we like it, either.
2015 AL ROTY: Carlos Correa (original, confirmed)
Speaking of cheaters, we know Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa is one—but we also know it didn’t start until the 2017 season. So, as he won the vote for this AL ROTY, we have to take it on face value. The two best rookies were Correa (4.8 WAR) and Cleveland Indians SS Francisco Lindor (4.0). We know the ‘Stros squeaked into the postseason, while the Tribe went 81-80 to miss the playoffs.
With 1.1 dWAR, too, Correa clinches our confirmation for this award, as he added 22 HRs, 68 RBI, 14 SBs, and an .835 OPS to the stat line. We will remember the Astros cheating scandal when it comes to 2017 and beyond, however. We never forget shit like that: never.
2015 NL ROTY: Kris Bryant (original), Noah Syndergaard (revised)
Chicago 3B Kris Bryant (5.3 WAR) won the NL ROTY vote, but he posted -0.2 dWAR, so he can’t win the award in our universe. The next-best options are San Francisco Giants utility infielder Matt Duffy (3.9) and Pittsburgh Pirates UTL Jung Ho Kang (3.9). However, Kang played 9 seasons in the Korean professional leagues before coming to MLB, and the Giants missed the postseason by 8 games.
(Sidebar: Remember, too, what Baseball Prospectus said about Duffy … and the reality there.)
Can we go deeper? Sure, to New York Mets starter Noah Syndergaard (2.8): Thor posted a 9-7 record with a 3.24 ERA and 166 Ks in 150 IP with a 1.047 WHIP as the Mets won the NL East by 7 games over the Nationals. That’s good enough for us, and he did finish fourth in the voting at the time. We’ll take it, as the above options were all impossible for us to settle upon in the end.
Check in every Monday for our MLB awards historical analysis on The Daily McPlay!