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Finalists for 2019 BBWAA awards announced

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The Baseball Writers Association of America has announced the finalists for four awards for the 2019 season: the Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year, Cy Young, and MVP. The results of the voting, which concluded before the start of the postseason, will be announced on November 11-14.

AL Rookie of the Year

Despite logging only 369 plate appearances, Álvarez is the clear frontrunner for the award. He was one of baseball’s absolute toughest outs since the moment he debuted on June 9, finishing the year with a .313/.412/.655 line along with 27 home runs and 78 RBI. Prorated over 650 PA, that comes out to 48 homers and 137 RBI — MVP-esque.

NL Rookie of the Year

Alonso grabbed the headlines, leading the majors with 53 homers and knocking in 120 runs with a .941 OPS. He also won the 2019 Home Run Derby. Not bad for a rookie. Soroka’s season is not to be forgotten, however. He quietly plugged away, finishing with a 13-4 record, a 2.68 ERA, and a 142/41 K/BB ratio in 174 2/3 innings. He was unmistakably the best pitcher in the rotation and the 21-year-old will easily be the ace of the rotation going into next season.

AL Manager of the Year

  • Rocco Baldelli, Twins
  • Aaron Boone, Yankees
  • Kevin Cash, Rays

No A.J. Hinch, even though his Astros led all of baseball with 107 wins. It was, however, the Astros’ third consecutive 100-win season, so expectations were high. Hinch still exceeded those expectations, but not by nearly as much as other managers did. The Manager of the Year Award is usually an “exceeded expectations” award. Knowing that, Baldelli seems like a strong candidate. Paul Molitor, the 2017 Manager of the Year, was fired after the Twins went 78-84 last year. Baldelli, plus a handful of shrewd acquisitions, helped turn the Twins around to win the AL Central with 101 wins. Boone, in his second year, led the Yankees to another 100-win season.

NL Manager of the Year

  • Craig Counsell, Brewers
  • Mike Shildt, Cardinals
  • Brian Snitker, Braves

If we’re continuing with the “exceeded expectations” theme, Shildt should be the favorite here. Both Counsell and Snitker’s teams made the playoffs last year, while Snitker — who took over for Mike Matheny after 93 games in 2018 — took his team from third place to first place with a three-win improvement. The Braves won the NL East again while the Brewers settled for a Wild Card after winning the division in 2018. The Nationals’ Dave Martinez and the Dodgers’ Dave Roberts are notable omission, but remember that voting is concluded before the start of the postseason.

AL Cy Young

This feels like Cole’s award to lose. Cole led the trio in ERA, FIP, xFIP, strikeouts, and K-rate. Verlander led in strikeout-to-walk ratio. Morton allowed the fewest home runs of the bunch, particularly impressive in the year of the juiced baseball. Still, probably not enough to catapult him over Cole or Verlander.

NL Cy Young

This debate will be interesting. Ryu led in ERA, 2.32 to deGrom’s 2.43 and Scherzer’s 2.92. Ryu also issued the fewest walks of the trio. deGrom logged the most innings at 204 to Ryu’s 182 2/3 and Scherzer’s 172 1/3 innings. deGrom also led in strikeouts, 255 to Scherzer’s 243, though Scherzer of course had the highest K-rate. Scherzer had the best FIP and xFIP. Who you think is most deserving of this award comes down to which stats you weight most.

AL MVP

Trout missed the final three-plus weeks of the regular season, but still finished as the ever-so-slight leader in FanGraphs WAR, 8.6 to Bregman’s 8.5, followed by Semien’s 7.6. Trout also led the group in homers and stolen bases, as well as on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Missing the 90 or so plate appearances may prevent Trout from winning, though, as might Bregman’s versatility. Bregman played third base, but also filled in at shortstop when Carlos Correa was injured. Some voters, however erroneously, factor in whether or not a candidate’s team makes the playoffs and that will of course hurt Trout’s campaign. Semien feels like a lock for No. 3.

Trout, one of the greatest baseball players of all-time, may still be only a two-time MVP Award winner when the results are announced in 10 days.

NL MVP

Yelich is looking to make it two in a row, but it will be a hard road. He missed the last three weeks of the season due to a fractured kneecap. As a result, he ended up deadlocked with Bellinger in WAR, according to FanGraphs. Rendon was a not-so-distant third at an even 7.0. Bellinger led in homers and runs, Yelich led in all three rate stats and stolen bases, while Rendon led in RBI. As with the NL Cy Young, this one will come down to which stats you happen to like.

If 2020 season is cancelled, which teams would be hurt the most?

Mookie Betts
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MLB commissioner Rob Manfred recently expressed his optimistic outlook, saying that he hoped the league would begin “gearing back up” in May. That would put a regular season return potentially at the end of June or at some point in July. He expressed that the league may have to get creative, likely referring to ideas like playing doubleheaders, extending the season deep into fall, and playing some games at neutral parks in warm-weather areas.

Manfred isn’t the only one champing at the bit for a return to normalcy. President Trump recently said he wanted to “open” the economy back up by Easter, meaning that our social isolation plan could be done in two weeks. And, frankly, I’m sure many of us are starting to become a little stir-crazy as we attempt to flatten the curve.

It’s hard to imagine life returning to normal when Coronavirus (COVID-19) is really starting to spread in the United States. It would be ill-advised for us to go back to business as usual. This is a time when we need to put other interests ahead of business interests. Frankly, there’s a very real possibility that there is no MLB season in 2020. Or, at the very least, there may be a point when Manfred has to choose between starting a season or protecting the health of the players and coaches, journalists, fans, and all of the many people that would interact with them and potentially become vectors for the virus.

In the event the 2020 season is cancelled, which teams stand to lose the most? Let’s take a look at some contenders.

Los Angeles Dodgers

The most obvious of the bunch. The club swung a deal with the Red Sox a month and a half ago to acquire the 2018 AL MVP along with David Price in exchange for Alex Verdugo, Connor Wong, and Jeter Downs. Betts was a huge upgrade to an already potent Dodger roster, one which won 106 games during the regular season last year.

Betts, however, is a free agent after the 2020 season. MLB owners and the MLBPA reached an agreement last week stating that, if there is no season, players would still get credit for a full year of service time. If the season is canceled, the Dodgers very well may have given up three good young players and taken on a lot of salary for basically nothing. They’ll get to keep Price, who is under contract for two more years after this, but that’s no consolation.

The Dodgers also have some other important players potentially hitting free agency after the 2020 season: Justin Turner, Kiké Hernández, Joc Pederson, and Pedro Báez.

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds had a better 2019 campaign than their 75-87 record indicated. They finished in fifth place from 2015-18 before last year’s fourth place finish. The club acquired Sonny Gray from the Yankees before the season and picked up Trevor Bauer from the Indians at the trade deadline. Eugenio Suárez, Aristides Aquino, and Michael Lorenzen were among a handful of players who shone brightly as well.

As a result of a roster on the come-up, the Reds bolstered the roster even more, picking up free agents Nick Castellanos and Mike Moustakas. The Reds signed both players to four-year deals, so they will still be around when baseball eventually resumes, even if it’s next year, but Moustakas will be 32 and Castellanos will be 29. It’s a pretty big deal to miss 25 percent of their contracts in what are, on average, the seasons likeliest to be their best.

Bauer, by the way, can become a free agent after the season. That’s a pretty big deal, too.

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies were supposed to be competitive last year, but they fell a bit flat, finishing exactly at .500 with an 81-81 record. GM Matt Klentak continued to bolster the roster a year after inking Bryce Harper to what was then the richest contract in baseball history (13 years, $330 million). This past offseason, he signed Zack Wheeler to a five-year, $118 million deal. They also added Didi Gregorius on a one-year deal.

This is a team meant to be an NL East contender in 2020, to finally reach the postseason which it hasn’t done since 2011. If the season is cancelled, that’s one very valuable year out of its window completely gone. That is even more the case upon realizing that catcher J.T. Realmuto, arguably the best player at his position in baseball right now, is a free agent going into 2021. The two sides have discussed a contract extension, but that was tabled as of two weeks ago.

The Phillies haven’t had stability at the catcher position since Carlos Ruiz in the early- to mid-2010’s. They do have some catchers among their top-30 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline, in Deivy Grullon, Rafael Marchan, and Rodolfo Duran, but none of them are J.T. Realmuto. Realmuto is a guy you want to keep around if possible, especially considering the scarcity of his caliber of talent at that position.

. . .

This is a partial list, so this is not to say that teams omitted would not suffer at all from a lost season. You can see the factors that determine whether or not a team has a lot at stake this year: splashy trades, free agent signings, stars potentially becoming free agents after the season, etc.

In general, every team would be devastated by a lost season not just due to the lost development time or the loss of an attempt to win a championship, but because of lost revenues. This is going to have a ripple effect through the baseball economy. Teams will likely become less active in the free agent market, to name one of many potential effects.