We have reached another interesting year on MLB Monday because this is the year the Boston Red Sox cheated (again) to win the World Series. Sometimes we wonder how professional baseball even maintains its fan base, but the cities that have cheated to win have enough fans to carry the financial weight of the fans that have left the sport. Follow the money, always.
We remain pure here, of course, just seeking objective facts and resulting truths …
2018 AL MVP: Mookie Betts (original), Matt Chapman (revised)
Boston right fielder Mookie Betts had a historic season (10.7 WAR), but even though he won the vote at the time, he’s out for cheating. That’s too bad, as this also affects his teammate, outfielder J.D. Martinez (6.7). Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (9.7) played for a losing team, but he just missed the historic-season threshold, too. Bummer.
Houston Astros infielder Alex Bregman (7.9) is also out, due to cheating. Meanwhile, Cleveland Indians won the AL Central, but teammates cancel each other out: INF José Ramírez (7.5) and shortstop Francisco Lindor (7.2). That leaves us with Oakland Athletics third baseman Matt Chapman (7.6) and Seattle Mariners RF Mitch Haniger (6.5): the A’s topped the Mariners by 8 games in the standings.
Oakland also claimed the final AL playoff berth, so there’s that. Chapman is our surprise winner here for the following statistical output: 24 HRs, 68 RBI, .864 OPS, and 2.9 dWAR. This was his first full season in the majors, and he gets an MVP Award for his efforts. Impressive, really, when you consider all the circumstances above that led us to this decision.
2018 NL MVP: Christian Yelich (original), Javier Báez (revised)
The only 2 NL players in the MLB Top 10 for WAR both played for the Milwaukee Brewers: OF Christian Yelich (7.3 WAR) and CF Lorenzo Cain (6.9). Yelich won the vote, but we have to dig deeper here. Other candidates? Chicago Cubs INF Javier Báez (6.4), Colorado Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado (6.4), and Rox SS Trevor Story (6.2). The Cubs took the top wild-card spot, while the Rox snagged the other.
That means Báez is surprisingly our MVP, since the Colorado teammates cancel each other out—costing Arenado a second straight NL MVP, too. The Báez numbers—34 HRs, 111 RBI, 21 SBs, .889 OPS, and 1.6 dWAR—provided an all-around boost to the Cubs, of course. The RBI mark topped the senior circuit as well. Chicago had a 7-game cushion for its playoff berth, and Báez did finish second in the balloting.
2018 AL Cy Young: Blake Snell (original), Chris Sale (revised)
The top three candidates here are Tampa Bay Rays southpaw Blake Snell (7.1 WAR), Red Sox lefty Chris Sale (6.5), and Houston veteran Justin Verlander (6.3). Snell won the vote at the time, although the Rays missed the postseason by 7 games. Sale won our AL Cy nod last year; can he repeat? We say yes, because we do not believe Verlander was clean.
From 2013-2017 in Detroit, Verlander’s collective ERA was 3.65 over 957 1/3 IP. He was traded to Houston mid-2017, and in 248 IP in both 2017-2018 combined with the Astros, he suddenly put up a 2.32 ERA at ages 34-35. We’re not buying that at all. Verlander would go on to post a 2.58 ERA in 2019 before breaking down physically and missing just about all of 2020 and 2021. Fits a profile, for sure.
So, we give this award to Sale, who has had to fight through his own injuries, without a strange, old-age drop in his ERA, etc. The Boston lefty posted just a 12-4 record in 158 IP, but he struck out a whopping 237 batters while putting up a 2.11 ERA. The Red Sox probably make the postseason as a wild-card team without Sale, but with him, they win 108 games—thanks to the cheating offense?—and the AL East.
2018 NL Cy Young: Jacob deGrom (original), Kyle Freeland (revised)
The top four pitchers in MLB were all from the National League: Philadelphia Phillies ace Aaron Nola (9.7 WAR), New York Mets phenom Jacob deGrom (9.5), Washington Nationals star Max Scherzer (7.9), and Rockies youngster Kyle Freeland (7.7). deGrom won the vote, but the Mets won just 77 games. Meanwhile, Philly won just 80 times itself, so this is down to Scherzer and Freeland.
Colorado posted 91 victories to make the postseason, while the Nats won just 82 times to miss the postseason. In a shocker, Freeland wins our NL Cy nod. Never thought we’d see the day that a Rockies pitcher would win this award, but here it is. With just a 3-game edge over the next team, the Rox would not have been in the playoffs without Freeland.
His numbers—17-7, 2.85 ERA, 173 Ks, and a 1.245 WHIP—are very solid for pitching so much in Coors Field, but the key to Freeland’s success was his low 0.8 HR/9 IP rate. When you pitch half your games in a launching pad, giving up just 17 HRs over 202-plus innings is very impressive.
2018 AL ROTY: Shohei Ohtani (original), Joey Wendle (revised)
Angels two-way talent Shohei Ohtani won the AL ROTY vote, as he compiled 4.1 WAR via both hitting and pitching—but his defense was terrible (-0.6 dWAR). He can’t win our vote, especially when Los Angeles finished under .500 for the year. Our winner is actually going to be UTL Joey Wendle (4.9 WAR), who played 5 different positions to the tune of 1.5 dWAR for a 90-win Tampa Bay club.
Two New York Yankees came in next—INF Gleyber Torres (3.6) and 3B Miguel Andújar (2.9)—but teammates and all. The Yankees won 100 games to claim the first wild-card slot, but in the end, circumstances say this award belongs to Wendle. His stats? 7 HRs, 61 RBI, 16 SBs, and a .300 batting average. That’s an impressive rookie season for a utility player.
2018 NL ROTY: Ronald Acuña Jr. (original), Walker Buehler (revised)
Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. (3.9 WAR) won the NL ROTY vote, but his mediocre defense (-0.2 dWAR) is going to cost him here. That leaves us with just one choice, in truth: Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Walker Buehler (3.7), who helped his team win the NL West by 1 game over Colorado. With the St. Louis Cardinals lingering 3 games behind the Rox, Buehler brought value.
His pitching line—8-5, 2.62 ERA, 151 Ks, and an .0961 WHIP—was stellar, spread out over 23 starts for the 92-win Dodgers. Without him, L.A. does not make its run to the World Series, period. And this also means we once again revised all six awards, for the fourth time this century. That matches the four times total we had to do it from 1947-2004.