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MLB award races in 2020’s home stretch

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Hard to believe that the 2020 MLB season has reached its end. As of press time, there are just a scant handful of games left in the strangest season we’ve ever seen. But before we reach the 60(ish) game mark and the season’s conclusion – and before we venture into the also-unprecedented 16-game playoff field – I thought it might be fun to check in with our season awards predictor.

Those who follow our baseball coverage here at The Maine Edge are aware of our usual Clubhouse Leaders feature, where we do quarterly predictions regarding the various MLB season awards – Rookie of the Year, Cy Young and MVP. However, given this year’s circumstances, we mixed it up a little (a quarterly breakdown would have meant a story every 15 games or so – a bit much, right?).

We made our predictions at the start of the season and now, as we approach its end, we’re going to revisit and revise those picks. Let’s see how close I got, shall we? And how close I will get?

(Note: All statistics current as of Sept. 20)

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AL Rookie of the Year

Luis Robert, Chicago White Sox (Preseason pick: Robert)

Nice to hit the ground running with one I feel like I got right. Robert has been a big part of Chicago’s 2020 success, hitting with considerable power (11 home runs), flashing speed on the basepaths (eight steals) and playing elite defense. Granted, his batting average and OBP leave something to be desired and he’s struck out in almost a third of his plate appearances, but his pros outweigh his cons and give him just enough to surpass Seattle’s Kyle Lewis, who is also having a strong rookie campaign – he’s a better hitter than Robert, but Robert’s defensive superiority more than makes up for it. A two-man race.

(Noteworthy: Lewis; Sean Murphy, Oakland Athletics)

NL Rookie of the Year

Jake Cronenworth, San Diego Padres (Preseason pick: Carter Kieboom, Washington Nationals)

This pick was … less successful. Cronenworth is a pretty obvious pick. Despite only just getting his first shot at the bigs this year at age 26, he proved to be a valuable part of a surprising Padres team. As of press time, he was batting over .300 and slugging over .500 and performing admirably at various infield spots. Meanwhile, Kieboom went ka-boom, struggling to hit .200 and generally falling short. I still think he’ll be good, but he’s not the ROY. Consideration should probably also be given to Marlins starter Sixto Sanchez, who has been great, but even in this limited season, he probably hasn’t pitched enough.

(Noteworthy: Sanchez; Tony Gonsolin, Los Angeles Dodgers; Ian Anderson, Atlanta Braves)

AL Cy Young

Shane Bieber, Cleveland Indians (Preseason pick: Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees)

This is probably the biggest no-brainer of them all. It’s tough to conceive of a world in which the utterly dominant Bieber doesn’t win the Cy Young. He leads the league in, well … everything. Everything that matters, anyway. He’s probably going to win the pitching Triple Crown, barring something drastically unforeseen – I honestly don’t know if he can have a bad enough game where he doesn’t at this point. It’s at this point that I will note that I had Bieber in my preseason top five. Cole has been fine, but probably won’t even manage a single vote. Angels pitcher Dylan Bundy and Rangers pitcher Lance Lynn could potentially have cases in other years, but Bieber’s dominance is such that everyone else is simply playing for second. Honestly, I’ll be shocked if it isn’t unanimous.

(Noteworthy: Bundy; Lynn; Hyun-Jin Ryu, Toronto Blue Jays; Kenta Maeda, Minnesota Twins)

NL Cy Young

Jacob deGrom, New York Mets (Preseason pick: deGrom)

Well, well – what do you know? Another solid preseason pick potentially coming through. Now, deGrom has obviously had an incredible season, but this race is nothing like the AL – there are a ton of viable contenders. Yu Darvish has been great for the Cubs, for instance. Trevor Bauer has thrown a couple of shutouts for the Reds and looked great all year. There are a handful of other guys who are basically running neck-and-neck with this crew as well. Still, with all things being equal, I like the voters to err on the side of history – he’d be just the third pitcher in history to win three straight Cys – and so I’m sticking with deGrom here. Besides, it sure is nice to be right about this stuff.

(Noteworthy: Darvish; Bauer; Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers; Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies)

AL MVP

Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox (Preseason pick: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels)

I’m pretty iffy on this one, but it’s hard to deny the impact that Jose Abreu has had on this White Sox team. Not only has he been one of the best hitters in the league this season – he sits in the top five in batting average, slugging percentage and homers while leading the league in hits, RBI and total bases – but he’s also become a plus defender at first base. Add to that his team’s surge into contention and he’s got a great case. That said, one could make a REALLY good case for Bieber, and while voters tend not to vote for pitchers for MVP, this weird season and Bieber’s dominance could open the door. Trout could still make a play, but his case isn’t quite strong enough to transcend his team’s mediocrity. Both Abreu and Trout have teammates with cases as well, but in the end, I believe that Jose Abreu takes the award home.

(Noteworthy: Bieber; Trout; Tim Anderson, Chicago White Sox; Anthony Rendon, Los Angeles Angels)

NL MVP

Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres (Preseason pick: Ronald Acuna, Atlanta Braves)

Who else are you going to pick? Even if you wanted to drill down and try and find a statistical argument for some of the other contenders – and those cases could be made – why would you want to pick anyone other than the consensus most exciting player in baseball? Tatis has been dominant in every aspect of the game, putting his exceptional five tools on display every night. He’s a divine blend of power and speed and has turned himself into a borderline great defender. And he’s FUN. I debated being contrarian here and going with Mookie Betts (who has been capital-G Great in his own right in his first year with the Dodgers) or my beloved Freddie Freeman (who seems destined for a decade of top-10 MVP finishes without a win) or even Acuna (who probably hasn’t played quite enough but whose rate stats are next-level), but it would be wrongheaded. Much like everyone who criticizes Tatis for going all-out all the time. Gotta love a dude who erases some stupid unwritten rules.

(Noteworthy: Betts; Freeman; Acuna; Trea Turner, Washington Nationals)

Last modified on Wednesday, 23 September 2020 08:20

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