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MLB to bestow 2018 season awards

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Major League Baseball has announced the finalists for its major season awards. Starting on Nov. 12, MLB will be sharing the winners of the Rookie of the Year, Cy Young and MVP awards in both leagues.

For much of the game’s history, the results of the voting for these awards were a complete mystery until the winners were officially announced. In recent years, in an effort to build anticipation, MLB has announced three finalists for each award.

Let’s see what we think about what’s going to happen.

Rookie of the Year – Nov. 12

In the American League, the three finalists are Angels pitcher/DH Shohei Ohtani and a pair of young New York Yankees in third baseman Miguel Andujar and second baseman Gleybar Torres. Torres is probably third on that list – and a distant third at that. He had a solid year, slashing .271/.340/.480 with 24 homers. In a lot of years, Andujar’s season would have won this award in a walk – he hit .297/.328/.527 with 27 homers and 47 doubles, driving in 92 and scoring 83. However, it’s tough to argue Ohtani’s spot here. We’re talking .285/.361/.564 with 22 homers, 61 RBI and 10 steals in 367 plate appearances AND a 3.31 ERA with 63 strikeouts and a 1.16 WHIP in 51-plus innings pitched. Respect to the young Yanks, but this has got to be Ohtani.

In the NL, it’s pretty much a two-man race. It all comes down to the faceoff between Atlanta’s Ronald Acuna and Washington’s Juan Soto. There’s a third guy – Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler – but despite his solid season, he’s an afterthought. Acuna (.293/.366/.552) and Soto (.292/.406/.517) both put up killer slash lines. They played approximately the same amount. Acuna was the better power bat, hitting 26 homers to Soto’s 22, but Soto drastically outperformed Acuna in terms of plate discipline, walking 35 more times in just seven more plate appearances. Plus, they were both among the most exciting players of the second half. I think Acuna’s red-hot finish puts him over the top, but either guy would be a worthy winner.

(Winners: AL – Ohtani; NL – Acuna)

Cy Young Award – Nov. 14

On the AL side, there were some solid contenders – I’m betting it was close. Cleveland’s Corey Kluber is a finalist for the third straight year, with a chance for his third Cy overall and second in a row. He won 20, led the league in innings pitched, put up a 2.89 ERA and managed a sub-one WHIP. Houston’s Justin Verlander continues to defy Father Time; his season was one of the best age-35-plus years we’ve seen in a decade or more. He led the AL in strikeouts (290) and the majors in WHIP (0.90) while going 16-9 with a 2.52 ERA. And Tampa Bay’s Blake Snell had a fantastic year; while he didn’t match the innings volume of the other two (he was just over 180 innings), the ones he had were good ones – a league-leading 1.89 ERA and 21 wins. I like Snell here, but it could be anyone.

The NL race might hold some surprises, depending on what direction the voters feel like going. New York Met Jacob deGrom’s season was in some ways historic. His 1.70 ERA was two-thirds of a run better than anyone else in the league. He dominated across the board. But his team was awful and he only won 10 games, so … who knows? Aaron Nola of the Phillies had a great year – 2.37 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 17 wins, 224 Ks – but he was somewhat lost in the shuffle of an up-and-down year in Philly. Washington’s Max Scherzer is looking for his fourth Cy Young (and third in a row); he’s got a real shot thanks to his MLB-leading strikeout (300) and innings (220) totals, as well as his 2.53 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and NL-best 18 wins. I’m going with Scherzer, but there’s no wrong pick.

(Winners: AL – Kluber; NL – Scherzer)

MVP – Nov. 15

I don’t envy the folks who had to vote for the American League MVP this year. The list of finalists is awfully impressive. Angels outfielder Mike Trout is here, of course. Just another ho-hum historically good season out of Trout; he slashed .312/.460/.628 with 39 homers, 24 steals, 79 RBI and 101 runs scored. This will mark the seventh year in a row he has finished fourth or better in MVP voting. Cleveland third baseman Jose Ramirez had a hell of a year as well, going 30-30 (39 homers, 34 steals) while driving and scoring over 100 runs and playing a solid third. And then there’s Boston’s Mookie Betts, who won the batting title (.346), becoming the first batting champ to go 30-30 (32 homers, 30 steals). He also led the league in slugging percentage (.640) and runs scored (129) while playing some of the best outfield defense in MLB. Mookie wins, but it’s REAL close.

Finally, the NL race has some interesting notes. Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado is once again among the league’s best; he led the league in homers for the third time in four years with 38. He drove in a ton of runs and played all-world defense at the hot corner. But he’s in Colorado, so … no. Javier Baez has become one of the most exciting players in all of baseball to watch. He led the NL in RBI and hit 34 homers and stole 21 bases. Plus, he put in serious time at second, third AND short. And then there’s Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich, who escaped baseball purgatory in Miami and became one of the NL’s best hitters. He led the league in batting (.326) and slugging (.598). He missed the Triple Crown by two homers and a single RBI, finishing with 36 and 110, respectively. I think Yelich has it, but again – all fine choices.

(Winners: AL – Betts; NL – Yelich)

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