Major League Baseball: 2017 Award Predictions
The 2017 Major League Baseball regular season is in the books and the playoffs are well underway. While teams are making that push for a World Series title, it’s always fun to take a step back and look at how the regular season unfolded. 2017 was an exciting season, to say the least. The usual suspects kept doing what they’ve been doing for years. New guys came out of nowhere to make names for themselves. Records were broken, there were upsets and surprises. All-in-all it was a great season, so let’s jump right in and take a look at what players helped make it great.
AL Rookie of the Year: Aaron Judge
155 games, .284/.422/.627, 52 HR, 114 RBI, 128 R, 127 BB, 8.1 WAR
Might as well start with the no-brainer, right? This one’s easy, it’s Aaron Judge. Judge had the best rookie season ever by some standards. He broke Mark McGwire’s 30-year-old single-season home run record of 49 by mashing 52 before season’s end. He also set the record for most walks by a rookie with 127. Judge pretty much locked up this award by the All-Star break. Even with his abysmal slump in July and August, his first half was enough to hand him the award. His incredible September may not have done much for his Rookie of the Year chances but it put him back in contention for an even more prestigious award, but we’ll get to that.
Honorable mentions: Andrew Benintendi, Trey Mancini
NL Rookie of the Year: Cody Bellinger
132 games, .267/.352/.581, 39 HR, 97 RBI, 87 R, 64 BB, 4.2 WAR
Had it not been for Judge’s historic season, Bellinger’s rookie campaign likely would’ve been looked at as the best in baseball. Regardless, Cody Bellinger’s rookie season will easily earn him the NL Rookie of the Year award. He hit his first career homer on April 29 and followed up with his second in the very same game. He went on to hit 37 more and finished the season with 97 RBI for a Dodgers team that won 104 games. Bellinger wasn’t brought up until the end of April and missed more than a week in August, which only adds to the impressiveness of his final numbers.
Honorable mentions: Josh Bell, Rhys Hoskins
AL Manager of the Year: Paul Molitor
Twins: 85-77, Lost Wild Card Game
No other team lost more games (103) than the Twins did last year. One year later, they became the first team in MLB history to go from losing 100 games to making the playoffs in consecutive seasons. Paul Molitor helped lead virtually the same team that lost 100 games a year ago to the second Wild Card spot. He was helped out by breakout campaigns from Byron Buxton and Eddie Rosario, among others, but no manager did more with less than Molitor did. The Twins even rewarded their skipper with a new contract following the conclusion of their season.
Honorable mentions: A.J. Hinch, Terry Francona
NL Manager of the Year: Torey Lovullo
Diamondbacks: 93-69, Lost NLDS
In his first season as a manager, Torey Lovullo helped completely turn the Diamondbacks around from a year ago. After finishing 69-93 last year, the D-Backs flipped their record to 93-69 in 2017. They had the unfortunate task of playing in the stacked NL West, but nonetheless secured a Wild Card spot and defeated the Rockies en route to the NLDS. The Dodgers made quick work of them in the Division Series but the Diamondbacks’ season can still be considered a great success after last year.
Honorable mentions: Bud Black, Craig Counsell
AL Cy Young: Corey Kluber
18-4, 203.2 IP, 2.25 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 265 SO, 8.1 WAR
The perennial Cy Young candidate had an even better season than when he won the award in 2014. Corey Kluber was absolutely dominant for the equally as dominant Indians all year. His 18 wins, 2.25 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 6.2 H/9, 1.6 BB/9 and 7.36 K/BB were all best in the league and all the best marks of his career. Kluber gave solid outings nearly every time out, failing to finish six innings just four times, one of which was due to injury. Not to mention he also led the league with five complete games as well as three shut-outs. Had it not been for a weak final string of starts from Chris Sale, this race would have been closer. Regardless, Kluber will easily take home his second Cy Young award when all is said and done.
Honorable mentions: Chris Sale, Luis Severino
NL Cy Young: Max Scherzer
16-6, 200.2 IP, 2.51 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 268 K, 7.6 WAR
Another perennial Cy Young candidate, Max Scherzer, will take home his second straight, third total, Cy Young award after another dominant season. For the second straight season, the Nationals got the best out of their ace. He posted career bests in ERA (2.51), WHIP (0.90), H/9 (5.7) and K/9 (12). He also led the league in WHIP and H/9, as well as strikeouts, and finished second to Clayton Kershaw in ERA. Kershaw had yet another great season but will miss out on the award after failing to log 180 innings for the second straight season. Scherzer’s 200.2 innings marks the fifth straight season in which he surpassed 200. Scherzer’s dominant season comes as no surprise and should earn him his third career Cy Young award.
Honorable mentions: Clayton Kershaw, Stephen Strasburg
AL MVP: Aaron Judge
155 games, .284/.422/.627, 52 HR, 114 RBI, 128 R, 127 BB, 8.1 WAR
This one is by far the closest race of them all. The 6-foot-7 Judge and 5-foot-6 Jose Altuve are equally deserving of the award, and there really is no correct answer as to which one deserves it more. What it comes down to is what the voters value more; getting on base and giving your team the opportunity to hit you in, or being the one hitting those guys in. Altuve’s consistency throughout the season was absurd. He slashed .346/.410/.547 with 32 stolen bases and a league-leading 204 hits. According to BBRef, he edged out Judge in WAR 8.3 to 8.1.
But like I said, it really depends on what aspect of the game voters care about more. I’m not a voter, but personally, I believe Aaron Judge is the AL MVP. Judge led the league in homers (52), runs scored (128), walks (127) and finished second in RBI (114). While his average was average was more than .60 points lower than Altuve’s, Judge gave his team just as much, if not more, of an opportunity to win than Altuve did. His 127 walks helped him edge out Altuve in OBP .422 to .410 and he scored 16 more runs than Altuve did.
An important thing to remember is that the MVP award is not just performance-based, but performance + narrative. After an abysmal July and August, Judge put the Yankees on his back and put together the best month of his career, when it mattered the most. Had it not been for Judge’s incredible September, the Yankees likely would not have run away with the first Wild Card spot the way they did. Altuve was the league’s best hitter in 2017, but no team single-handedly helped his team more than Aaron Judge did, and that’s why he’s my pick for MVP.
Honorable mentions: Jose Altuve, Jose Ramirez
NL MVP: Paul Goldschmidt
155 games, .297/.404/.563, 36 HR, 120 RBI, 117 R, 94 BB, 18 SB, 5.8 WAR
This one was just as tough as the last, as there are five really good candidates that all make great cases that they’re the most deserving. After narrowing it down to the ever-underrated Goldschmidt and MLB Home Run leader, Giancarlo Stanton, the decision was a little bit easier. While Stanton came just shy of reaching the coveted 60-homer mark, it was Paul Goldschmidt that meant more to his team than anyone else. The Diamondbacks won 93 games and made the postseason and a big part of that was having Goldschmidt in the middle of the lineup day in and day out.
Goldschmidt is the definition of a “complete” player. He does everything. He batted around .300 all year, hit 36 homers, knocked in 120 runs, scored 117 times and even stole 18 bases while playing a Gold Glove-caliber first base. He’s the kind of player that a team rallies around, and the Diamondbacks’ success portrays that perfectly. Goldschmidt didn’t just come through in big situations but he helped create those situations as well. He made the Diamondbacks’ order a pain to get through and meant more to his team than anyone else. After finishing second in the MVP voting twice already, 2017 will be the year he finally brings home the award.