Clayton Kershaw

Pouliot’s postseason award picks: National League


There’s still one more American League game on Monday, so we’ll have to wait on those selections, which will probably be a bit more controversial than these. Here are my NL award picks for 2013:


1. Andrew McCutchen
2. Paul Goldschmidt
3. Clayton Kershaw
4. Yadier Molina
5. Carlos Gomez
6. Andrelton Simmons
7. Matt Carpenter
8. Shin-Soo Choo
9. Hunter Pence
10. Ian Desmond

The injuries make a real mess of this list. I think Hanley Ramirez, Troy Tulowitzki and Molina were the NL’s three best players when they were on the field this year. Alas, only Molina played enough to be included in the top 10. David Wright and Carlos Gonzalez also would have cracked the list had they put in full seasons.

I picked Molina over Buster Posey last year, and I had him on top again this year until his 15-day DL stint in August. That was enough to drop him behind McCutchen, who ranked first in Fangraphs WAR and was in a dead heat with Gomez atop the Baseball-reference WAR list. I have fairly limited faith in WAR, but it follows my own reasoning in this case. It’s not even as though McCutchen is getting a lot of credit for his defense in either system; he’s rated as a bit above average in both, but not as anything special. Which is pretty much how I view him. While McCutchen should and will get the MVP award, it’s Gomez who deserves the Gold Glove.

Goldschmidt was the league’s best hitter, but not by enough of a margin to make up for McCutchen’s defensive value. Kershaw had a wonderful season, posting the lowest ERA of any pitcher since 2000, but the Dodgers were a mere 19-14 in his starts. It puts quite a dent in his MVP argument that the Dodgers were just as good when he wasn’t on the mound.

I don’t think I’ve ever put anyone on an MVP ballot strictly for defense before, but Simmons deserves it. He’s the Braves’ MVP, though Freddie Freeman and Craig Kimbrel will get more support in the actual vote. And if he takes the same sort of step forward offensively that he did this season, he may well be the NL’s best player next year.

Choo over Joey Votto further down the ballot may seem an odd choice for a stathead to make — Votto does have the better numbers — but Votto was surprisingly crummy on defense both according to my eyes and the stats. Choo may have been, too, but the Reds knew that going in; he’s a corner outfielder miscast in center. Choo improved considerably out there after a rocky start and wasn’t nearly as much of a liability as expected. I’m not sure what Votto’s excuse was.

NL Cy Young

1. Clayton Kershaw
2. Adam Wainwright
3. Cliff Lee
4. Matt Harvey
5. Jose Fernandez

There isn’t much explanation needed for first place here; Kershaw led the league in everything except wins. Lee’s late charge made it close for second place; B-ref WAR says he was the clear No. 2, while Fangraphs much prefers Wainwright. Wainwright threw 20 more innings with essentially the same ERA and allowed seven fewer homers. That’s good enough for the No. 2 spot in my book.

After the top three, the three best pitchers were clearly Harvey, Fernandez and Zack Greinke, with the caveat that those guys all finished in the 170-180 IP range. None of the 200-inning starters really compare, though Mat Latos was closest.

NL Rookie of the Year

1. Jose Fernandez
2. Yasiel Puig
3. Hyun-Jin Ryu
4. Julio Teheran
5. Shelby Miller

The Marlins’ original plan was for Fernandez to throw 150-170 innings. That they let him hit and slightly exceed the high end there just barely gets him the nod over Puig here. He ended up second in the NL with a 2.19 ERA and third with a 0.979 WHIP. Puig never stopped making an impact in his 104 games, but his recklessness on the basepaths and with his big arm did cost the Dodgers and take away some of his value.

The Cubs’ NLCS finish was one for the history books

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  Chicago Cubs fans hold a sign after the Chicago Cubs defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 in game six of the National League Championship Series to advance to the World Series against the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The Cubs obliterated the Dodgers in Game 6 of the NLCS, riding nine shutout innings to their first pennant win since 1945. Here’s what you should know about their historic finish:

  • By virtue of the Cubs’ 71-year World Series drought, Jon Lester and Javier Baez became the club’s first and only postseason MVPs in franchise history. The World Series MVP award was first distributed in 1955, while the NLCS MVP awards have been issued since 1977.
  • Lester and Baez are also the first co-MVPs of the Championship Series since the 1990 Reds celebrated left-hander Randy Myers and right-hander Rob “Nasty Boy” Dibble following the team’s ninth pennant win (per’s Jenifer Langosch).
  • Anthony Rizzo’s fifth inning solo shot in Game 6 tied him with Miguel Cabrera, Alex Gonzalez, and Kyle Schwarber for the most postseason homers hit at Wrigley Field, with three (per Comcast SportsNet’s Christopher Kamka).
  • Rizzo and Willson Contreras’ home runs were the first Clayton Kershaw had given up in the playoffs since Game 4 of the 2015 NLDS. The twin blasts also accounted for a fifth of the total home runs Kershaw had given up in 2016.
  • Clayton Kershaw’s Game Score of 33 was not only the lowest the left-hander had put up since the start of the 2015 season, but the lowest the Cubs had seen from an opposing pitcher in the postseason since 1989. During Game 4 of the 1989 NLCS, Giants’ right-hander Scott Garrelts pitched 4 2/3 innings with eight hits, four runs, and two homers en route to a 6-4 loss and a 33 Game Score.
  • By contrast, Kyle Hendricks’ Game Score of 86 was the third-highest among Cubs’ postseason starters, ranking just below Jake Arrieta’s 11-strikeout complete game during the 2015 wild card tiebreaker and Orval Overall’s three-hitter in Game 5 of the 1908 World Series.
  • The last major league season to feature an ERA leader on the Cubs’ roster was 1945, also the last season in which the Cubs rode to the World Series. In 2016, the MLB ERA leader is Game 6 winner Kyle Hendricks (2.13 ERA); in ‘45, it was left-hander Ray Prim (2.40 ERA), who capped a dominant year with a loss against the Tigers in Game 4 of the World Series and blown save in Game 6.
  • Not to be overlooked in the lefty’s gem on Saturday night: Hendricks and Aroldis Chapman combined to face the minimum number of batters, at 27. According to MLB Stat of the Day, only the 1956 Yankees had also faced the minimum batters in a postseason game, though they did it with just a bit more panache.
  • With Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Albert Almora Jr., Javier Baez, and Addison Russell penciled into the lineup, the Cubs became the first MLB team to utilize five starters under 25 years old to clinch the NLCS (also via MLB Stat of the Day).
  • If you want to talk postseason drought, the Cubs-Indians World Series will set a precedent for combined championship-less streaks, at 174 years between the two clubs (per ESPN Stats & Info).
  • Speaking of unpleasant streaks, there’s this: with the Dodgers’ loss in the NLCS, they’ve now gone to the postseason four consecutive times without participating in a World Series showdown. According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, that’s a first in major league history.


The Cubs clinch World Series berth with NLCS Game 6 win

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  The Chicago Cubs celebrate defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 in game six of the National League Championship Series to advance to the World Series against the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
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After 71 years, the Cubs are headed back to the Fall Classic.

The dominance with which Clayton Kershaw attacked the Cubs in Game 2 of the NLCS was nonexistent in Game 6 as the Dodgers’ ace loaded the bases to start the first inning and scattered five extra bases and five runs over five frames. By the time Dave Roberts pulled his starter in the sixth inning, Kershaw was sitting on a Game Score of 33, the lowest he’s mustered since the start of the 2015 season. Only one of his strikes came via curveball, and whether he was having difficulty locating his off-speed stuff or felt more confident with the fastball-slider combo, it was the fewest curves he’d seen land for strikes all year (per David Adler).

Where the Dodgers were able to give Kershaw the edge in Game 2, they found themselves powerless against opposing hurler Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks turned out 7 1/3 scoreless frames with two hits and six strikeouts, preserving the Cubs’ second shutout of the postseason and the first since they bested the Giants in Game 1 of the NLDS. After his 1-0 loss to the Dodgers early in the NLCS, seeing the MLB ERA leader turn out a gem was a relief for the Cubs, especially one as spectacular as an 88-pitch two-hitter.

With Hendricks effectively stymieing the Dodgers’ best attempts to get on base, the Cubs played to their strengths at the plate. Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist cleared the bases in the first inning for a two-run lead, followed by a Dexter Fowler RBI single in the second. Willson Contreras came through in the fourth inning for the Cubs, lifting an 87 m.p.h. slider to left field for his first home run of October, while Anthony Rizzo hit his second homer of the postseason on a 1-1 fastball in the fifth.

Neither bullpen allowed a single run from the sixth inning onward. Dodgers’ right-hander Kenley Jansen took the ball from Kershaw in the sixth, scattering four strikeouts over three innings and denying the Cubs so much as a single baserunner through the end of the game. Aroldis Chapman, meanwhile, issued just one walk in 1 1/3 scoreless frames, inducing a Yasiel Puig double play to clinch the Cubs’ 17th franchise pennant.

With the win, the Cubs will face off against the Indians in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday at 8 PM EDT. And, in case you needed a reminder: