Welcome to 2021 on MLB Monday: We have caught up to the present day, and this will be the last original analysis for an individual season in this miniseries. We again have some real-time award analyses to throw into the mix, too. This provides us with an extra level of analysis and sifting, in truth, so we will see how it affects our “normal” process. This entry should be affected less, of course.
Here we go with layered analysis for MLB 2021 … a season that seems to have just killed our soul.
2021 AL MVP: Shohei Ohtani (original); Marcus Semien (contemporary); Semien (revised)
Los Angeles Angels utility plater Shohei Ohtani won the vote, and we picked Toronto Blue Jays infielder Marcus Semien as our MVP last November. Semien won our AL MVP nod in 2019 also; he’s been a very underrated player. The issue with Ohtani is that despite his amazing feats, he did them all for a team that won just 77 games. That’s not valuable. This was a terrible vote by the media, and it should know better.
We picked Semien based on the MLB process of announcing “finalists” as well, so now we go back to review the real top candidates. They are, in order, Semien (7.3 WAR), Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa (7.2), Toronto first baseman Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. (6.8), and Cleveland Indians third baseman José Ramírez (6.7). Semien was the top position player in MLB, in terms of WAR, by the way.
Correa is out as a Trashstro; Cleveland finished under .500 on the season. Normally, the teammates bit would cancel out Semien and Vlad, Jr., but this is a unique case, so they both stand. Semien has the edge in overall WAR for a team that missed the playoffs by just 1 game, and Vlad also had a negative glove (-0.7 dWAR). So Semien wins again, surprisingly.
His statistical line: 45 HRs, 102 RBI, 15 SBs, 66 BBs, .873 OPS, and 1.8 dWAR. Just like he did in 2019, Semien topped the AL in plate appearances, too. He was out there every day playing excellent defense and doing a lot with his bat as well. By the way, playing both left and right field? Ohtani posted -1.1 dWAR as a position player in 2021, so it’s an even bigger joke the media slobbered all over his overrated play.
2021 NL MVP: Bryce Harper (original); Juan Soto (contemporary); Austin Riley (revised)
We have NO idea why the media selected Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper (5.9 WAR) as the NL MVP, as he posted a -1.3 dWAR while his team finished 82-80 … and 8 games out of a postseason spot. We chose Washington Nationals RF Juan Soto (7.1) in November, as the NL leader in value. However, we see now his finalized -0.2 dWAR glove, so he’s going to be out, too.
Who are the real candidates now? San Diego Padres utility man Fernando Tatis, Jr. (6.6), Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Trea Turner (6.5), St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Tyler O’Neill (6.3), Cardinals 1B Paul Goldschmidt (6.1), and Atlanta Braves UTL Austin Riley (6.1). The Pads finished under .500 while the Dodgers secured the top wild-card spot comfortably. The Cards cancel each other out, as well.
That leaves this as Turner against Riley, and they both have positive gloves. L.A. had a 23-game cushion for the postseason, though, while Atlanta merely had a 5.5-game cushion—which tells us all we need to know here about value. His stat line (33 HRs, 107 RBI, .303 BA, .898 OPS, and 1.5 dWAR) demonstrate the same kind of game that Semien brought to his team, and it means Riley truly earned this nod.
2021 AL Cy Young: Robbie Ray (original, contemporary); Gerrit Cole (revised)
This is a simpler analysis than the two above, as we have just 3 real prospects here: Toronto journeyman Robbie Ray (6.6 WAR), New York Yankees veteran Gerrit Cole (5.7), and Chicago White Sox innings-eater Lance Lynn (5.3). The voters chose Ray, and we did, too, back in November. With the ChiSox winning the AL Central by 13 games, this comes down to Ray and Cole—and it gets interesting.
The Yankees edged the Blue Jays by 1 game for the final postseason slot. This generally means that we’d give our nod to Cole. When we did this assessment before, Ray had a bigger edge in WAR, and we pointed to his extra innings. Toronto didn’t lose the postseason chase because of Ray, but with the revision in WAR months later, we have to be consistent: The Yankees only make it because of Cole.
This is the second time we’ve given Cole our AL Cy nod, as we also did in 2019. His pitching prowess this time around—16-8, 3.23 ERA, 243 Ks, and a 1.059 WHIP in only 181 1/3 IP—isn’t as stunning as it was when he was with Houston, but again, it’s about value, and he gets this award from us by a slim margin over Ray, who probably had the “better” season.
2021 NL Cy Young: Corbin Burnes (original); Zack Wheeler (contemporary); Walker Buehler (revised)
This is another nuts analysis: We have 7 topical contenders, and we have to narrow down the list with our usual postseason-contender screening. That leaves us with these finalists: Dodgers star Walker Buehler (6.6 WAR), L.A. trade acquisition Max Scherzer (5.9), Milwaukee Brewers grinder Brandon Woodruff (5.6), and Brewers phenom Corbin Burnes (5.6). Two sets of teammates!
Burnes won the vote, although we gave our nod to Philadelphia ace Zack Wheeler (7.5) in November based on the finalist choices. He’s out here, though. Milwaukee won the NL Central by 5 games over St. Louis, although it had a 12-game postseason cushion. And the Dodgers cruised into the postseason’s top-wild card slot with 106 victories. To us now, it seems simple to give our nod to Buehler, in all truth.
He posted the top WAR mark, and he was significantly better than either Brewers hurler. The cushions are not a factor, really, either. Buehler’s numbers—16-4, 2.47 ERA, 212 Ks, and a 0.968 WHIP in a league-high 33 starts—demonstrate his effectiveness. Remember, Walker won our 2018 NL ROTY nod, too.
2021 AL ROTY: Randy Arozarena (original); Wander Franco (contemporary, revised)
The Tampa Bay Rays won the AL East with 100 victories, the best mark in the junior circuit. Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena (4.1 WAR) won the vote here, but his negative glove (-0.3 dWAR) knocked him out of contention, and we chose his teammate, SS Wander Franco (3.5 WAR) in November. Are there other contenders? Always!
But just one: Houston SP Luis Garcia (2.6). The Astros won the AL West by 5 games over the Seattle Mariners, while Tampa Bay had an 8-game edge over both the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees in the AL East. This would seem to make Garcia more valuable, really, although neither player was a difference maker. In that regard, we’re going to stick with Franco here as our pick.
An .810 OPS and a 0.9 dWAR mark in just 70 games brought a big impact for the former No. 1 prospect in the sport. To step in at shortstop midseason and play that well as an age-20 player in the middle of a pennant race against Boston and New York? It’s pretty stunning, actually. That’s pressure in our book, unlike anything that Garcia was truly experiencing in the relatively weak AL West.
2021 NL ROTY: Jonathan India (original, contemporary); Ian Anderson (revised)
Even though the Cincinnati Reds missed the postseason with 83 wins, their 2B rookie—Jonathan India (3.9 WAR)—won both the vote here and our nod in November. But is there anyone else to consider that we could not before? Yes: Cardinals OF Dylan Carlson (3.3) and Braves SP Ian Anderson (2.7). But Carlson’s glove (-0.2 dWAR) eliminates him here, and Atlanta made the postseason, as noted above.
That makes this award Anderson’s in our book: 9-5, 3.58 ERA, 124 Ks, 1.231 WHIP in 128 1/3 IP made a difference for the Braves—perhaps not in securing a postseason berth, but definitely in solidifying it.