Who should win the MVP Awards? Who will?


With the regular season ending on Sunday and most of the playoff spots locked up, there’s really only one big thing left to argue about: postseason awards. So let’s spend some time looking at who should win each of the four major awards and who will win them. Which are often totally different things. First up: The MVP Awards. 

Who should win the AL MVP Award? 

We at HBT have tended to lean toward the idea that the best player should win the MVP Award, regardless of whether his team wins or not. It’s not an iron-clad thing, of course. In the past I’ve supported some more narrative-driven MVP candidates and, more importantly, deciding who is “the best player” in an objective sense is not always a cut-and-dried endeavor. Defense is an inexact science. Players often have competing apples and oranges arguments for their candidacies.

If you look at “best overall player” this year, however, it’s hard to say that Mike Trout and his line of .318/.441/.556 with 29 homers and his usual solid-to-outstanding center field defense is not that guy. Yes, his team stinks, and no, his 2016 season isn’t head and shoulders above any number of his other excellent seasons, making him a less-than-sexy choice in a lot of ways. But it’s hard to stand head and shoulders above uniform excellence and no matter what you think of stuff like WAR and all that goes into it, Trout has a 1.5 WAR lead over Mookie Betts according to FanGraphs and 1.3 according to Baseball Reference. It’s a pretty significant separation, especially when you realize that, dang, Betts is having a whale of a season himself (.320/.365/.538).

Still, Trout isn’t a unanimous pick even with the HBT team, which has it this way:

Craig: Trout
Bill: Trout
Ashley: Betts

Who will win the AL MVP Award?

There has been a lot of talk about Betts and his teammate, David Ortiz, splitting the vote, as it were. Maybe that was a thing that happened more often back in the day when narrative-driven awards were more common, but I think today’s BBWAA voters are way more savvy than that. I think that Ortiz will get some votes thrown his way by virtue of his outstanding offensive season (.316/.401/.622, 37 HR, 124 RBI) and the storybook ending to his career, but I think Betts will ultimately carry the day with the better overall and all-around performance. MVP PREDICTION: MOOKIE BETTS.

Who should win the NL MVP Award?

There are a lot of guys putting up years that, under different circumstances, would be MVP worthy. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Freddie Freeman, Nolan Arenado, Daniel Murphy, Joey Votto and Corey Seager are all having outstanding campaigns. Most of them are bunched up as far as WAR goes, more so with Baseball-Reference.com’s version, a little less so with FanGraphs. Bryant leads both versions and is putting up outstanding offensive numbers. Murphy, Freeman and Votto are hitting a tad better than him depending on how you measure it, but have less defensive value. Seager’s mix of defense and offense may be closer to what Bryant is doing, although Arenado might have something to say about that. There are a lot of good choices.

Bryant is the best choice, however. His hitting — .293/.387/.560, 39 HR, 101 RBI — is better than the other all-around candidates and his defensive versatility — he’s played all three outfield positions as well as his usual third base — sets him apart. He’s been the best player in the NL this year.

Craig: Bryant
Bill: Bryant

Who will win the NL MVP Award?

This is one of those years where I suspect our views will match that of the voters. MVP PREDICTION: Bryant, possibly unanimously.

Bryce Harper, Jonny Gomes, Kevin Kiermaier and post-Awards silliness

Kevin Kiermaier

The aftermath of the MVP voting was really weird, you guys. Among the stuff that happened:

Bryce Harper, on Scott Van Pelt’s late night SportsCenter, was reluctant to answer a playful hypothetical question because he was worried that his answer would become a “may may.” By which he meant “meme.” I offer no criticism of him on this because it’s not like anyone but degenerate Internet addicts like me think all that much about memes let alone says the word out loud. Unfortunately and ironically, however, Harper’s pronunciation of the word will now likely turn him into the very thing he most feared: a may may.

Second, AL MVP Josh Donaldson credited Jonny Gomes for helping him change his approach at the plate when they both played in Oakland. This is not weird, actually, it’s quite understandable. I’ll just observe that this is just the latest example of creeping Jonny Gomesism in Major League Baseball. It used to just be that we’d get an unreasonable number of stories about how critically important he was to a team that (a) he was not really a key part of; and (b) wasn’t very good in the first place. Now he’s the MVP whisperer. And, in some places, a gosh darn prophet:

If we manage to defeat ISIS and usher in peace in the Middle East, I have no doubt that our top generals and diplomats will give Jonny Gomes a shoutout. HE’S THE GLUE, MAN.

Finally, on a personal note, I made some Twitter observations last night about how Rays Gold Glove center fielder Kevin Kiermaier — who received a handful of MVP votes himself — was not particularly well known among casual baseball fans or sports fans in general. This was not a judgment of any kind. I’m a sucker for center field defense and I think he’s a slick player with a bright future. It was just a statement of fact with which I feel it is difficult to disagree. If I was poking fun at anyone with respect to Kiermaier’s relative obscurity it was talk radio hosts general sports media figures like Skip Bayless who don’t follow baseball all that closely, not Kiermaier himself.

Kiermaier, who must have found those tweets by searching for his own name, then decided to search MY Twitter feed, found a silly pic I posted of me with my cats and mocked me, saying that no one listens to a person who looks like me. While this may be undeniably true — I am quite a ridiculous and non-influential person — the funny aspect was that part of the mocking related to the number of Twitter followers I have. Which is weird because I have more followers than he does, I’m not even some allegedly super famous well-known baseball player, and do these facts not make my original point for me?

Anyway, when I and others told him that he misinterpreted me and that I meant him no ill-will, he blocked me. Note: I wasn’t following him anyway.

I have no idea what Major League Baseball teams look at when they determine a player’s “makeup,” but I have the sense that “vanity-searching one’s self on Twitter, getting hyper defensive about being mentioned, misinterpreting observation as offense and then cowering from some silly, old, harmless, bald and crazy cat lady on the Internet” is a bad marker for such things. Anyway: still love your game, Kiermaier. Sorry about your cat hangup. Cats are amazing.

And now, with Awards Season over, we head into the darkness of the offseason in earnest. If you do not expect or appreciate silliness in these lean times, I have no idea how you make it through the winter.

Cy Young Awards tonight: Are there any wrong choices?

Jake Arrieta

The Cy Young Award winners will be announced tonight. Like most of the other awards this year it’s really hard for the voters to make a bad choice.

Of the six finalists — Jake ArrietaZack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw in the NL, Sonny GrayDallas Keuchel and David Price in the AL — only Gray feels like a guy who would be a surprise winner if his name were announced. Otherwise it’s all crazy-even, to the point where it’s hard to even muster some phony outrage, let along legit outrage. Kind of takes all of the fun out of an awards announcement to be honest.

Price went 18-5 and led the AL with a 2.45 ERA. Keuchel led the league in wins with 20 and posted a 2.48 ERA. Gray went 14-7 and posted the league’s third-best ERA at 2.73. Keuchel pitched a few more innings, had slight edges in some rate statrs and, as part of the great story that was the Houston Astros this year, probably has an edge.

You can’t go wrong in the NL either. Arrieta paired wins with a crazy-low ERA. Greinke had an even lower one, led the league in WHIP and had the league’s best winning percentage with a 19-3 record. Kershaw, after a mildly rocky start, turned it on in a major way after that, striking out over 300 batters. In any given year a guy with any of those basic resumes would be a Cy Young favorite. This year we have three top choices. If I had to guess I’d say that Arrieta’s dominant second half gives him the slight edge, but again, it’s a tossup.

Maybe next year we’ll have the chance of a truly bad choice. That would be far more interesting.