Welcome to 2020 on MLB Monday as we find ourselves catching up to some real-time award analyses 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 2020 … that short season, abbreviated weirdly due to Covid.
2020 AL MVP: José Abreu (original, confirmed); Abreu (contemporary)
We have limited candidates for this award, and Chicago White Sox first baseman José Abreu (3.0 WAR) won both the vote at the time and our contemporary nod. The other possibility is New York Yankees infielder DJ LeMahieu (3.0). Remember, there was only a 60-game schedule, so these WAR marks project to about 8.1 WAR in a full season, so both these guys were good.
Cleveland Indians third baseman José Ramírez (2.5) was next, except for his negative glove (-0.5 dWAR). So, who was more valuable, Abreu or LeMahieu? In truth, Chicago had the better record, finishing with 2 more victories than the Yankees, so New York (6 wins) was closer to missing the postseason than the White Sox were. That’s not saying much, though.
Technically, we should go with LeMahieu. But we wonder why we did not do so 18 months ago when it was fresh; we’re not sure, really. Both players had great seasons, and technically, the Yankee’s season was “better” as he only needed 50 games to get his 3.0 WAR. If he’d played in 60 games, he’d have come up with 3.6 WAR, maybe, and then this would be clear cut. But he did miss 10 contests.
For continuity’s sake, we will stick with Abreu, even if this whole analysis feels off.
2020 NL MVP: Freddie Freeman (original); Mookie Betts (contemporary); Manny Machado (revised)
The three best bets here are Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts (3.6 WAR), Atlanta Braves 1B Freddie Freeman (3.3), and San Diego Padres 3B Manny Machado (3.2). While Freeman won the vote, we gave our nod then to Betts. Looking now, Freeman was a negative defender (-0.2 dWAR), and the Dodgers finished 6 games ahead of the Padres in the NL West. Do we dare go Machado?
It makes sense, in truth, with the way we’ve evolved our analysis for modern times when postseason berths have been more contested. Betts may have been better, but Machado had more value to his second-place club. We’re good with this. His numbers: .304 average, 16 HRs, 47 RBI, 26 BBs, and a .950 OPS. At age 27, this is the start of Machado’s prime, so we expect him to compete for more hardware.
2020 AL Cy Young: Shane Bieber (original, confirmed); Bieber (contemporary)
Only two legitimate options here: Cleveland ace Shane Bieber (3.2 WAR) and Toronto Blue Jays veteran Hyun-Jin Ryu (2.9). Bieber won the vote and our contemporary nod. Will he keep it all? Maybe, but the Tribe finished with 3 more victories than the Blue Jays did, and since both teams made the postseason, it means Ryu had more value to his team’s success.
Bieber certainly was dominant (8 wins, 1.63 ERA 122 Ks in 77 1/3 IP), but Ryu was very good, too (5 wins, 2.69 ERA, 1.149 WHIP, and 72 Ks in 67 IP). Remember, this is not just about who was better; that was Bieber, clearly. He was the difference between Cleveland’s success and Toronto’s success; also, Bieber did win the Triple Crown—and that trumps everything else here.
2020 NL Cy Young: Trevor Bauer (original, confirmed); Bauer (contemporary)
We have four good candidates for this award, starting with vote winner and our contemporary choice, Cincinnati Reds star Trevor Bauer (3.0 WAR). He’s followed Atlanta youngster Max Fried (2.9) and Padres ace Yu Darvish (2.8). The Reds finished with 31 victories, while the Braves posted 35—and San Diego came in with 37 wins. Bauer was the best and the most valuable, so we confirm it all.
His numbers: 1.73 ERA, 0.795 WHIP, 2 SOs, and 100 Ks in 73 IP. At age 29, he finally harnessed his tremendous talent, and due to other circumstances, this is pretty much going to be his career peak, too.
2020 AL ROTY: Kyle Lewis (original); Cristian Javier (contemporary); Javier (revised)
Five rookies finished with at least 1.0 WAR in the junior circuit, but only three of them played for postseason squads: Chicago center fielder Luis Robert (1.8 WAR), Houston Astros pitcher Cristian Javier (1.3), and Oakland Athletics catcher Sean Murphy (1.1). Seattle Mariners CF Kyle Lewis (1.6) won the vote, somehow, despite his team finishing 2 games out of the postseason.
We picked Javier, as the Astros claimed the final postseason spot in the AL playoffs with a 29-31 record. The A’s finished 7 games ahead of Houston in the AL West, while the White Sox won 35 games themselves. So, we confirm our prior nod for Javier at this point, for the these numbers: 5-2, 3.48 ERA, 54 Ks in 54 1/3 IP, and a 0.994 WHIP.
2020 NL ROTY: Devin Williams (original, confirmed); Williams (contemporary)
Using the same criteria, these are our finalists for this trophy: San Diego INF Jake Cronenworth (1.6 WAR), Miami Marlins starter Sixto Sánchez (1.5), Milwaukee Brewers reliever Devin Williams (1.3), and Braves starter Ian Anderson (1.2). Williams won both the vote and our assent then, but can we hang on it to now? Well, the Brewers got the last spot in the NL playoffs in a tiebreak, so, yes, it looks like it.
All the other teams finished with higher NL playoff seeds, so William it is. He posted a 4-1 record with a 0.33 ERA and 53 Ks in just 27 IP. Seriously. His WHIP was a mere 0.630, too. Yikes! Easy to assume without that guy in the ‘pen that Milwaukee would have been home in October a lot earlier.