Who should win the MVP Awards? And who will?

27 Comments

With the regular season ending on Sunday and almost all of the playoff spots locked up, there’s really only one big thing left to argue about: postseason awards. Today and tomorrow we will 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

Who should win the AL MVP Award

This is a two horse race between Josh Donaldson and Mike Trout. You can’t find anyone who knows a lick about baseball who seriously thinks anyone else is in the mix for actually winning the award, even if there are a handful of “[so-and-so] should be in the conversation” deadenders. Screw “the conversation.” I don’t care who should be given downballot consideration. If you’re a voter and your 1-2 isn’t Donaldson or Trout in either order your criteria is sorta wacky. Whether you’re a “the MVP should be the best player” person or whether you’re one of those people who like to parse the meaning of the world “valuable,” it’s hard to make a case for anyone but these two.

And it’s a close damn case. As of this moment Donaldson is hitting .300/.375/.577, with 41 HR, 123 RBI and an OPS+ of 158. Trout is hitting .299/.402/.589 with 41 HR, 89 RBI and an OPS+ of 176. Trout hits in a much tougher park and has almost no one worth a tinker’s damn surrounding him in the lineup, thus explaining the advantage in OPS+ and the low RBI totals. Donaldson is on the best offensive team since steroids went out of style and has had a lot of chances to knock in guys.

However, this is not one of those classic (and frankly tired) old arguments between a SABR-friendly candidate with low RBI totals in Trout and some lucky RBI-gobbler in Donaldson. Donaldson is no Juan Gonzalez here, people. Sure he’s had more opportunities do do damage, but when you dig down into other meaningful stats he closes the gap with Trout a good deal. Trout is a gold glove center fielder but Donaldson is a fantastic third baseman and some defensive metrics (i.e. UZR and Defensive Runs Saved) favor his overall contributions. He’s been a great baserunner this year too. Probably better than Trout actually in terms of efficiency, and that’s saying something.

As for softer factors? Josh Donaldson has hit a bunch of walkoffs. Trout has made some highlight reel catches, robbing homers. Donaldson is on the best player on the best team and many will claim — not altogether inaccurately — that he brought fire and drive and all of that stuff to a perpetually underperforming Jays team. Many will say — almost certainly accurately — that Trout has almost singlehandedly carried a pretty flawed Angels team to the doorstep of the playoffs. You can argue this stuff around and around.

All of which is to say that either guy is a good pick. We’ve had co-MVPs in the past before and this would be a great year to get them again. If I had to vote I’d probably say Trout — I trust the offensive metrics more than the defensive ones and he does have an edge there — but I’d feel really bad choosing one over the other. Thing is, there isn’t a bad choice or a clear choice here and if you come across people arguing on TV or radio shows or on the Internet that there is one and anyone who thinks otherwise is stupid, you’ve encountered either a homer or a hot take artist and that person should not be taken seriously. Flip a damn coin: heads you win, tails you win.

Who will win the AL MVP Award

I feel like Donaldson will win it for a few reasons. None of them fantastic reasons but, because he is deserving on the merits anyway, it won’t be a tragedy. Toronto is a better story this year than Anaheim. Trout is old news who won it last year. There are still some people who will look at the RBI totals as a conversation-ender. There are still some people who like the “best player on the best team” stuff and they’ll be especially emboldened if the Angels fall short of the Wild Card. And I still think there are people angry about past Trout-Cabrera MVP arguments that were really referenda on sabermetrics and they’ll take some satisfaction in picking a candidate other than Trout.

Who should win the NL MVP Award

Bryce Harper.

Who will win the NL MVP Award

Bryce Harper.

Sorry if that’s rather curt, but really, no one is even in the conversation. Harper is hitting .331/.463/.649 with 41 HR 96 RBI and an OPS+ of 196. He’s tied for the lead league in batting. He’s tied for the league lead in OBP. He has nearly 100 points of slugging on everyone else.

Those are stupid numbers to which no one else compares be they on a good team or a bad team. And the two who come closest to him in sheer offensive numbers — Joey Votto and Paul Goldschmidt, and they aren’t terribly close in some categories — play on bad teams, nullifying any of that “what does ‘valuable’ really mean?” claptrap. The best position players on contenders — Anthony Rizzo and Andrew McCutchen — are really far off Harper’s pace. Like, 200 points of OPS off his pace. That’s an awful lot.

We give the MVP to Bryce Harper for the same reason that we used to give to Barry Bonds even if the Giants missed the playoffs: he’s just way better than anyone else and, even if you think the guy is a jerk for some reason, it’s not worth spraining your brain to make the argument to the contrary.

Manoah, Merrifield lead Blue Jays to 3-1 win over Rays

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Alek Manoah pitched seven shutout innings, Whit Merrifield hit a three-run homer and the Toronto Blue Jays regained the top AL wild-card spot with a 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night.

The Blue Jays lead Tampa Bay by one game. The top wild card finisher will host all games in their best-of-three opening-round series, while the other two wild cards play strictly on the road.

Manoah (15-7) scattered four hits, walked two and struck out eight while throwing a season-high 113 pitches. The righty worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the sixth by striking out Randy Arozarena and getting a flyout from David Peralta.

Jordan Romano replaced Tim Mayza with two on and two outs in the eighth and allowed pinch-hitter Harold Ramirez‘s RBI infield single but avoided further damage by striking out Manuel Margot. Romano finished the game to get his 35th save in 41 chances.

Tampa Bay starter Drew Rasmussen (10-7) gave up one run, three hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out five.

The teams combined for 31 runs, with the Rays accounting for 20, in the first two games of the series that were both won by Tampa Bay.

Arozarena got the Rays’ first hit off Manoah with a two-out double in the fourth. He became the first Tampa Bay player and 20th big leaguer to have 40 doubles, 20 homers and 30 stolen bases in a season.

Teoscar Hernandez ended Rasmussen’s night with a double in the seventh. Brooks Raley entered and, after a walk to pinch-hitter Danny Jansen, Merrifield made it 3-0 on his 10th homer of the season.

Merrifield homered twice in Thursday night’s 10-5 loss to the Rays.

Alejandro Kirk opened the second with a single before Rasmussen retired 12 in a row until Merrifield’s leadoff double in the sixth.

Plate umpire Corey Blaser took a hard foul ball by Margot on the mask in the eighth but remained in the game.

HONORING KK

The Rays posted a thank you on the message board for CF Kevin Kiermaier, who is out for the season following left hip surgery. Kiermaier is in the final season of a $53.5 million, six-year contract that includes a club option for 2023 that is expected to be declined.

TEAM AWARDS

Rays ace Shane McClanahan was voted the Don Zimmer MVP award winner by members of the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. CF Jose Siri was selected as the outstanding rookie. 3B Yandy Diaz received the Paul C. Smith Champions award as the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: RHP Nate Pearson (lat strain) allowed three runs and three hits over two-thirds of an inning for Triple-A Buffalo.

Rays: 2B Brandon Lowe (lower back) is done for the season.

UP NEXT

McClanahan (12-6), pulled from his start Tuesday in the fifth inning due to neck tightness, will face Blue Jays RHP Ross Stripling (8-4) on Sunday.