We are back with another edition of our first MLB Monday miniseries as our picks for the most recent season are overdue. We’re ignoring the MLB procedure of identifying the top three vote getters early and then announcing the winners, etc. That was such a crap way of doing things. We prefer our way better, and we apologize again for waiting so long to get to this, but hey … it’s our column, so we do it when we can. Happy holidays! This is the final MLB Monday of 2022, so here’s to a Happy New Year, too.
2022 AL MVP: Aaron Judge, RF, New York (original, confirmed)
New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge met the historical-season threshold here in terms of WAR with a 10.6 effort that enables us to confirm his vote win without any analysis. For the record, however, he outdid the next-best American League position player—Cleveland Guardians second baseman Andrés Giménez—by 3.2 WAR, so it’s a pretty convincing reality Judge would have won our hardware even if he ended up in single-digit WAR territory.
His stats: 133 Rs, 62 HRs, 131 RBI, 111 BBs, .425 OBP, .686 SLG, 1.111 OPS, and 391 TBs—all tops in the league. He also hit .311, stole 16 bases in 19 attempts, and posted a 211 OPS+ mark. One thing, though, was his exactly average defense (0.0 dWAR). That would have changed this discussion, a little bit, although the Yankees won 99 games and the AL East Division to make the playoffs by a 9-game margin. Check another box off on our list of prerequisites, as this is was a no-brainer decision.
2022 NL MVP: Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, St. Louis (original); J.T. Realmuto, C, Philadelphia (revised)
The senior circuit had 7 of the Top 10 position players during the regular season, and the top two played for the same team: St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado (7.9 WAR) and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt (7.8). The latter won the vote despite finishing with -0.6 dWAR—eliminating him from our analysis and elevating Arenado to the top of the heap as the Cards won the NL Central Division by 7 games and had a six-game margin of error for the postseason.
But who else can we consider? San Diego Padres 3B Manny Machado (6.8), Atlanta Braves 3B Austin Riley (6.5), Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto (6.5), Los Angeles Dodgers RF Mookie Betts (6.4), and Cards utility man Tommy Edman (6.4). Riley won our nod last year, and Edman’s presence here now officially eliminates Arenado from consideration. How do the remaining four guys stack up? Well, the Phillies were the last team to make the playoffs, by just 1 game over Milwaukee.
That pretty much makes Realmuto our choice, as without him, Philadelphia doesn’t make its unlikely run to the World Series at all. All four finalists are bunched up in terms of WAR, so he is as good a choice as any after finishing just seventh in the vote. His statistical line includes 2.1 dWAR, 22 HRs, 84 RBI, 21 SBs, and an .820 OPS. The RBI and SB marks were career bests for the age-31, three-time All-Star player.
2022 AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander, SP, Houston (original); Alek Manoah, SP, Toronto (revised)
The top three pitchers in the American League were Chicago White Sox youngster Dylan Cease (6.4 WAR), Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani (6.2), and Toronto Blue Jays phenom Alek Manoah (5.9). However, the vote went to cheating Justin Verlander of the Houston Astros, who finished a mere fourth in WAR. We wouldn’t consider him, anyway, and even if he were clean, he wouldn’t win this award, because his Trashstros had such a big margin for error with the postseason (20 games).
Chicago and L.A. missed the postseason, but Toronto made the playoffs with just a 9-game margin for error, so Manoah wins our trophy completely independent of any Verlander bullshit. At just age 24, he posted a 16-7 record with a 2.24 ERA and 180 Ks in 196 1/3 IP. His 0.992 WHIP helped him finish third in the Cy Young vote, so we’re not totally off here by any stretch of imagination. We can expect big things going forward from this kid.
2022 NL Cy Young: Sandy Alcantara, SP, Miami (original); Aaron Nola, SP, Philadelphia (revised)
Despite leading all MLB with 8.0 WAR and winning the NL Cy Young vote, Miami Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara can’t win our award, since the Marlins posted just 69 victories on the year. Our vetted list of candidates, therefore, includes only Phillies star Aaron Nola (6.0), Braves veteran Max Fried (5.9), and New York Mets legend Max Scherzer (5.2)—who won our 2014 AL trophy. With the Braves and the Mets both finishing 14 games above the Phillies, this piece of hardware goes to Nola, easily.
His stat line: 11-13, 3.25 ERA, 0.961 WHIP, and 235 Ks in just 205 IP. Yes, his losing record is a surprise, but he did finish fourth in the voting based on the other peripherals. He also topped the NL in fewest walks (1.3) per 9 IP, while tying for the league lead in shutouts as well. It was a dominant season in every way except for wins, which are circumstantial some of the time. This is a deserved award.
2022 AL ROTY: Julio Rodríguez, CF, Seattle (original, confirmed)
Four rookies has outstanding seasons in the junior circuit: Seattle Mariners center fielder Julio Rodríguez (6.2 WAR), Cleveland left fielder Steven Kwan (5.5), Baltimore Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman (5.2), and Houston shortstop Jeremy Peña (4.8). Only the Orioles missed the postseason, and we know the Trashstros had a 20-game playoff margin for error. But Cleveland (9) and Seattle (7) smaller margins: Rodríguez won the vote, and we will confirm that, based on both WAR and circumstance.
Overall, he hit .284 with 28 HRs, 75 RBI, 25 SBs, and an .853 OPS as the Ms made the postseason for the first time since 2001—the longest postseason drought of any team in all four major professional sports leagues in North America. As a result, he also finished seventh in the AL MVP vote, so all things considered, it was quite a year for the Seattle first-year player.
2022 NL ROTY: Michael Harris, CF, Atlanta (original); Brendan Donovan, UTL, St. Louis (revised)
Two of the top rookies in the National League played for the same team (Atlanta): CF Michael Harris (5.3 WAR) and SP Spencer Strider (3.7). They also finished 1-2 in the vote, so they’re both out of our analysis, as a result. This leaves us with just one candidate, strangely: St. Louis UTL Brendan Donovan (4.1). He somehow won a Gold Glove with just 0.9 dWAR spread out over six positions he played in 2022. We appreciate that versatility for the ROTY hardware—but not for a Gold Glove.
Yet, we digress: He hit .281 with 5 HRs, 45 RBI, and 60 BBs, while posting a 126 OPS+ in the process to go along with his very solid defense wherever his manager asked him to play. That is a lot of value for a team that made the postseason by just six games in a very competitive NL playoff landscape. We can take on the GG analysis some other day, of course.