Welcome to 2019 on MLB Monday as we find ourselves catching up to some real-time award ideas we had before this miniseries started in March 2020. This provides us with an extra level of analysis and sifting, in truth, so we will see how it affects our “normal” process. Maybe it will not, at all; but you know you want to read on to find out!
Here we go with layered analysis for MLB 2019 …
2019 AL MVP: Mike Trout (original); Alex Bregman (contemporary); Marcus Semien (revised)
What a mess! The top players we see, initially, are Houston Astros infielder Alex Bregman (8.9 WAR), Oakland Athletics shortstop Marcus Semien (8.5), Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (7.9), Oakland third baseman Matt Chapman (7.8), and Boston Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts (7.3). We have two cheaters here, and the Angels were a 72-win team. So … Trout’s vote victory is out.
Back in November 2019, we went with Bregman, as we didn’t know about the cheating yet. Either way, the A’s won 97 games to finish 10 games behind the Trashtros, claiming the top wild-card spot. Normally, we don’t do the teammates thing, but circumstances here mandate it. Chapman won our award last year, strangely, but this time we’re giving it to Semien, as both players were positive defenders.
Semien hit .285 with 33 HRs, 92 RBI, 87 BBs, an .892 OPS, and 1.8 dWAR. Chapman hit .249 with 36 HRs, 91 RBI, 73 BBs, an .848 OPS, and 3.3 dWAR (second best in MLB). Overall, we see how the two players balance up and helped Oakland to a postseason spot. Semien’s offense was better; Chapman’s defense was better. Either way, Semien gets this nod from us, surprisingly.
2019 NL MVP: Cody Bellinger (original); Bellinger (contemporary); Anthony Rendon (revised)
The top echelon here is comprised of Los Angeles Dodgers utility player Cody Bellinger (8.6 WAR), Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado (7.3), Washington Nationals 3B Anthony Rendon (7.1), Colorado SS Trevor Story (7.0), and Milwaukee Brewers RF Christian Yelich (7.0). Belllinger won the vote—and our nod at the time, too. The Rox won just 71 times, so this reduces the field to the other three.
Bellinger was clearly the best player, but on a 106-win Dodgers team, his value takes a hit. The Nats made the postseason as the top wild card with a 7-game cushion, while the Brew Crew took the second wild card with only a 3-game margin for error. With the WAR marks being mostly equal, we look to Yelich first for this MVP nod after we stripped him of a vote win last season.
Except he posted -0.9 dWAR … and Rendon managed 0.8 dWAR. So that means the Nats corner man wins our award, surprisingly. He topped the NL in doubles (44) and RBI (126), while hitting 34 HRs and adding 80 BBs. Overall, Rendon hit .319 with a 1.010 OPS. Without him, it’s arguable as to whether Washington makes the postseason—and ends up winning its first World Series, over the Trashstros.
2019 AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander (original); Gerrit Cole (contemporary); Cole (revised)
There are only 4.5 good choices here, topically: Texas Rangers journeyman Mike Minor (8.0 WAR), his rotation mate Lance Lynn (7.7), aforementioned PED suspect Justin Verlander (7.4) of the cheatin’ Astros, Houston ace Gerrit Cole (6.6), and … way distantly, Boston veteran Eduardo Rodriguez (5.5). Verlander won the vote, but he’s not eligible here as explained last year.
You will notice that when we did our picks in November 2019, we asked this question: What is in the water that Houston pitchers are drinking these days?! Well, we know what the hitters were doing, so maybe that’s a start. Regardless, we hesitantly picked Cole then, but that won’t hold water now, will it? We have no reason to suspect him of cheating, but the whole team is tainted by many factors.
Nonetheless, we will settle for Cole here, with a little concern. He was in his age-28 season, and overall his numbers are in line with standard improvement and expectations of a career arc: 20-5, 2.50 ERA, 326 Ks, and an 0.895 WHIP in 212-plus innings. The Ks and the WHIP are a little weird, and again, in conjunction with other weird stuff in Houston, we’re not really comfortable with this. But oh well.
2019 NL Cy Young: Jacob deGrom (original); deGrom (contemporary); Jack Flaherty (revised)
The best guys in the senior circuit on the mound were New York Mets phenom Jacob deGrom (7.2 WAR), Cincinnati Reds veteran Sonny Gray (6.2), Atlanta Braves rookie Mike Soroka (6.1), St. Louis Cardinals youngster Jack Flaherty (5.8), and Nationals legend Stephen Strasburg (5.6). deGrom won the vote; we picked him, too. Let’s see how this shakes out.
The Mets missed the postseason by just 3 games, so deGrom has some real value. The Reds finished under .500, so Gray is out. The Braves won the NL East by 4 games over the Nats, and overall, Atlanta had an 11-game postseason cushion over the Mets. The Cards won the NL Central by 2 games and had a 5-game cushion over New York. Basically, this award looks like it’s Flaherty’s to lose.
He wasn’t a “finalist” in the new voting process, but he finished fourth in the voting at the time. That’s good enough for us: Without him, maybe St. Louis misses the postseason. His numbers—11-8, 2.75 ERA, 231 Ks, and a 0.968 WHIP, in 196-plus innings are very good. He led the NL in WHIP and fewest hits allowed per 9 IP (6.2). Not bad for an age-23 pitcher, in truth.
2019 AL ROTY: Yordan Álvarez (original); Álvarez (contemporary); Brandon Lowe (revised)
Vote winner Yordan Álvarez, the designated hitter for Trashstros, won the vote, and he also earned our nod, too, in November 2019. Alas, what we have learned since! The real candidates, therefore, are Baltimore Orioles starter John Means (4.5 WAR), Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Cavan Biggio (3.0), and Tampa Bay Rays 2B Brandon Lowe (2.9).
Tampa Bay made the postseason; the other teams did not, so Lowe wins this award from us. He hit 17 HRs, drove in 51 runs, and posted an .850 OPS while posted 0.3 dWAR playing four different positions for the last playoff team in the league. He wasn’t extraordinary, but Lowe also earned this fairly.
2019 NL ROTY: Pete Alonso (original); Soroka (contemporary); Soroka (revised)
There were 5 impressive candidates for this award, strangely: Soroka (6.1 WAR), Mets first baseman Pete Alonso (5.5), Nats outfielder Víctor Robles (4.4), San Diego Padres SS Fernando Tatis, Jr. (4.2), and Pittsburgh Pirates OF Bryan Reynolds (4.2). Alonso won the vote for hitting 53 HRs, but we picked Soroka in November 2019. How will this shake out here?
The Mets missed the postseason, and Alonso had a negative glove (-0.9 dWAR), something we didn’t look at then. We know the Braves had an 11-game playoff cushion over the Mets, so that’s huge. Meanwhile, the Nats had a 7-game edge over the Mets for a playoff spot. That hurts Soroka’s bid here now. Pittsburgh and San Diego both finished in last place among their respective division foes.
Since both Atlanta and Washington could have made the postseason without their big rooks, we will go with Soroka here, for having the superior WAR. His line—13-4, 2.68 ERA, 142 Ks, and 1.111 WHIP in almost 175 IP—is very solid for a division-winning team. Soroka finished second in the vote at the time, so we’re good with this, of course.
Sidebar: This is another year now, where we have picked all six winners differently than the voters at the time … a seriously sign of the times, for it to happen twice in a row. Are voters getting worse? Or are we getting smarter? You decide.