There are 39 days to go until the NL Wild Card Game begins, which signals the conclusion of the regular season and the beginning of the grueling peregrination to the Fall Classic.
This is the home stretch of the season for sure, and now the debate over which players deserve which awards only intensifies. So too does the playoff race, as some teams will cruise into the postseason, others will have far more obscure paths to earn the right to a World Series title, and other teams will simply be looking for consolation prizes.
One such team is the New York Mets. Following an 11-1 start, the Mets spiraled out of control, with the highlights of their season not being limited to batting out of order and an outfield collision. But for all of their shambolic mishaps this year, the Mets do have one thing going for them, and that is Jacob deGrom.
deGrom leads all starters in ERA and WAR, ranks first in the NL in FIP, and second in the NL in strikeouts per nine innings and strikeout-to-walk ratio, as well as strikeout rate. And no, his 8-8 record should not put a damper on his pursuit of the NL Cy Young, a piece of hardware he deserves.
Honestly, deGrom even deserves MVP consideration. Will the voters grant him some leniency given Max Scherzer’s three Cy Young trophies? Only one way to find out.
Speaking of MVP in the NL, it is quite a highly contested race to this point. Will Matt Adams’s second-half surge be enough to usurp Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, and the finally-healthy Freddie Freeman?
There is an infinitesimal discrepancy among those aforementioned players in terms of WAR (Paul Goldschmidt leads the NL with 5.0), and WAR is certainly not the end-all-be-all. But it is a good way to reduce player values to one number.
While these NL All-Stars are close in that regard, Goldschmidt is the alpha male in run creation (wRC+ of 155, which leads the NL). He also leads the NL in wOBA (.405). Nolan Arenado is one of the best defensive players in baseball right now and leads the NL with a .960 OPS. But will his detractors point out his home/road splits? The Rockies’ juggernaut has a home OPS of 1.085 at Coors Field this year, 238 points higher than his .847 road OPS.
That has been the primary point of contention against Arenado taking home an MVP. Ultimately, I believe Goldschmidt takes home the grand prize. After three top-three finishes in NL MVP voting over the past six seasons (and the fact that his second half 1.069 OPS has catapulted the D-backs into the fifth-best record in baseball in the same span of time), it’s time for America’s First Baseman to get his due.
Obviously, youngsters have catapulted their teams into prime position this year, perhaps more so than in recent years. In the NL, the clear choice for Rookie of the Year is Braves left fielder Ronald Acuna. The Venezuelan native leads all rookies in OPS (.924), WAR (3.1), and his performance could very well put the Braves into the playoffs for the first time 2013.
In the AL, the picture is just as murky. Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez laps the field in WAR (8.2) and ISO (.321), but also trails J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts and Mike Trout (who just returned from injury). Betts and Martinez have identical numbers at the plate, but what separates Boston’s right fielder form the pack is his defensive prowess. Trout’s injury costed him three weeks, and that allowed Betts to take a sizable “lead”, if you will, over Trout. Betts should win AL MVP.
Unlike the aforementioned award races, the AL Cy Young Award debate is far less contentious. That’s because Boston southpaw Chris Sale leads baseball in strikeouts per nine innings, leads all AL starters in WAR, and also leads the AL in ERA (1.97) and FIP (1.95).
Luis Severino and Trevor Bauer were giving Sale ample competition for a while, but Severino’s second half has been woeful, and Bauer will likely miss significant playing time, if not the remainder of the season.
Similar to the Cy Young debate in the AL as well is the AL Rookie of the Year debate. Although Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres was easily the leading candidate for much of the season, he sustained an injury, and that allowed Yankees third baseman Miguel Andujar to take over. Andujar is the first homegrown third baseman for the Yankees since Pat Kelly.
Since 1992, the Yankees have had Wade Boggs, Charlie Hayes, Scott Brosius, Robin Ventura, manager Aaron Boone, Alex Rodriguez, Chase Headley, Yangervis Solarte, and Todd Frazier as their hot corner mainstays, all of whom were acquired via either a free agent signing or a trade.
Andujar leads all AL Rookies in WAR, OPS (.859), home runs (20), and ranks fifth in baseball in doubles (36).
There you have it. If the playoff race remains as tight as the awards race, then we could be in for a special month of September and October.