Part 2: The National League:
Why "Space Oddity" over "Rocket Launcher"? Why not? I just couldn't bring myself to run Bruce Cockburn back out there again, much as I like him. A little repetitive methinks. Besides, Major Tom would've needed a rocket and a launch pad to get into space, so it's close enough for me. And seriously, it's Bowie. Enough preamble, let's get to the goods.
If you want a refresher on some of the advanced stats I will look at/need a cure for insomnia, please see the first ten or so paragraphs of my previous article here. Otherwise, here are my 10 choices for MVP, 5 choices for Cy Young Award, and 3 choices for Rookie of the Year (along with five honourable mentions for each) for the 2016 season in the National League.
1. Kris Bryant, 3B, CHC
2. Freddie Freeman, 1B, ATL
3. Corey Seager, SS, LAD
4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, CHC
5. Clayton Kershaw, SP, LAD
6. Daniel Murphy, 2B, WSN
7. Nolan Arenado, 3B, COL
8. Joey Votto, 1B, CIN
9. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, ARI
10. Max Scherzer, SP, WSN
Honourable Mentions: Noah Syndergaard, SP, NYM; Justin Turner, 3B, LAD; Jose Fernandez, SP, MIA; Christian Yelich, LF, MIA; Jon Lester, SP, CHC
Kris Bryant had a fantastic 2016 season. He was an excellent batter (149 wRC+, 149 OPS+), an excellent baserunner (3rd in Fangraphs in BsR [baserunning component of fWAR] behind Billy Hamilton and Wil Myers [who knew about Myers?]), and a very, very good defender at multiple positions. I did put him down as a 3B because he started 100 games there, so it was his primary position, and he was the Cubs' primary 3B. The only stat he came up a bit short in was WPA (2.65). That could be an indication of not getting enough high leverage chances, or not coming through when he got them, or a bit of both. Still, he did come 18th out of the 569 players who came to the plate in the NL, which is not exactly chopped liver. I think he's gonna win the ROY too, which would mean I stand a chance of "getting this one right".
Freddie Freeman will probably suffer the same lack of respect as Mike Trout in the AL due to not being on a very good team. Ask the Detroit Tigers if they'd like a do over against Freeman's Braves on the last weekend of the season. Freeman was an absolute boss in the second half of the season with a 177 wRC+ which is absolutely ridiculous. He paced the league in REW (5.45), and was fifth in WPA (4.06), despite being on a team that was very bad for an extended period of time. He narrowly edges the Dodgers' phenom Corey Seager for me, but it's close. Seager's just 22, and I think before it's over that he and his brother Kyle are gonna win some MVPs.
Clayton Kershaw is probably another controversial pick because he missed two months with a back injury, and while he was rehabbing, the Dodgers raced up the standings. If relievers can fight their way into consideration, why not a guy who threw 149.0 innings? Are we really gonna pin the Dodgers' struggles prior to his injury on a guy who wound up tied with Noah Syndergaard for the lead in fWAR (6.5), and tied for second with Johnny Cueto in bWAR (5.6)? He was second in WPA (4.19), and REW (3.92) among pitchers, and he allowed 97 hits in 149.0 IP with 11 BB (one of them intentional) and 172 K. That's a 15.64 K/BB ratio! He also had a 1.69 ERA, a 230 ERA+, a 0.725 WHIP, and a 1.80 FIP. I don't care if it was only 149.0 IP, and I don't care if the Dodgers seemed to get it together when he was hurt. Those numbers are absolutely insane, video-game like in fact, and it's highly likely that we wouldn't even be discussing Kris Bryant for MVP had Kershaw been able to stay healthy all year.
Cy Young Award
1. Clayton Kershaw, SP, LAD
2. Max Scherzer, SP, WSN
3. Jon Lester, SP, CHC
4. Kyle Hendricks, SP, CHC
5. Johnny Cueto, SP, SFG
Honourable Mentions: Noah Syndergaard, SP, NYM; Jose Fernandez, SP, MIA; Tanner Roark, SP, WSN; Madison Bumgarner, SP, SFG; Carlos Martinez, SP, STL
First of all, Clayton Kershaw isn't going to win the real-life Cy Young Award. He has a less than zero chance because of all the time he missed. I suspect it'll be Max Scherzer or a posthumous Cy Young Award for Jose Fernandez. Given the direction the narrative was headed around the time the vote was held, I'll guess Fernandez, but Scherzer will definitely do as well. My vote would go to Kershaw for the reasons mentioned in the MVP segment. He was cuckoo bananas great. Like stupid great. Like "Don't be dumb." great. He's not getting it though, so one of the other two will have to do, and they'd represent very good choices.
Scherzer was a 20-game winner, which will attract the voters that lean more towards traditional stats. He's a great choice according to his peripherals as well. He led MLB in K with 284 against only 56 BB. He was first in bWAR (6.2) in the NL, 4th in fWAR (5.6), 5th in WPA (3.60), 4th in REW (3.37), had a fantastic 141 ERA+, but he also gave up 31 HR in 228.1 IP which led the NL. As they like to say: "He went to the post every start" and that definitely has a lot of value as the Nationals didn't have to find fill-ins for him, unlike the Dodgers with Kershaw. Fernandez may have gotten the "We should vote for him this year because we'll never be able to vote for him again, and he was definitely in the discussion for the award." vote, and that would be just fine as well. Remember too that the tox screen from the night of the boating accident was not back yet, so that would not have had a chance to colour the whole event and impact the vote. He led MLB in K/9 among ERA qualifiers with 12.5, which is phenomenal, but then again everything about Fernandez was pretty damn phenomenal. He also had a tidy 2.30 FIP, and was third in fWAR (6.2). His bWAR (4.2) is quite a bit lower, but is still very good and comes in at 12th in the NL. He was 6th in WPA (3.18), and 7th in REW (2.47). He was a joy to watch, and will definitely be missed.
You may have noticed a different order of the pitchers in the MVP and Cy Young listings. That's because for the MVP I considered pitching, offense, and defense i.e. the whole package, because I feel the award should go to the player who had the most overall value to his team, whereas for the Cy Young I just looked at pitching because the award is for the best pitcher. This allowed Syndergaard and Fernandez to get past the trio of Lester, Hendricks, and Cueto in the MVP listing. Speaking of great hitting pitchers, Bumgarner wasn't quite able to muscle his way into the MVP discussion for me, but he was very close.
Rookie Of The Year
1. Corey Seager, SS, LAD
2. Aledmys Diaz, SS, STL
3. Trea Turner, CF/2B, WSN
Honourable Mentions: Junior Guerra, SP, MIL; Seung-hwan Oh, RP, STL; Ryan Schimpf, 2B/3B/LF, SDP; Trevor Story, SS, COL; Tyler Anderson, SP, COL
IMHO, outside of Mike Trout's AL MVP case, Corey Seager's case for NL ROY is the biggest landslide of all the awards I've looked at in this two part series. It's not really close. In fact, Seager's incredibly close to pulling off the rare double of MVP and ROY in the same season, but he just fell short of that for me. What an incredible 22 year old player. He's great at hitting, fielding, and above average at running the bases according to those components of fWAR. He also ranked 1st in fWAR (7.5), bWAR (6.1), WPA (3.25), and REW (4.10) among his fellow rookies. He should be the unanimous choice really, but I'm sure someone will throw a monkey wrench in the works. Aledmys Diaz, and Trea Turner are basically po-tay-to, po-tah-to for me. Rank 'em however you want. Just rank 'em behind Seager.
Junior Guerra had an amazing under the radar season for the Brewers. 9-3 with a 2.81 ERA (152 ERA+) in 20 GS and 121.2 IP. BB-Reference estimates that the average pitcher would've given up 4.86 runs per nine innings given the opponents Guerra faced, the defense behind him and the ballparks that he made his 20 starts in. Guerra allowed just 2.96, which is phenomenal. Seung-hwan Oh of the Cardinals wins the award for best nicknames. "Final Boss" or "Stone Buddha" are two of the best I've ever heard. He grabbed the closer role from Trevor Rosenthal and never let go in 2016. What a season he ended up having: 6-3, 1.92 ERA (214 ERA+), 2.13 FIP, a 0.916 WHIP, and 11.6 K/9. Absolutely rock solid. Yeah, he was in his age 33 season, but many, many an older professional has stumbled coming over here to the best league in the world. He definitely did not. Ryan Schimpf hit just .217, but put up a .336 OBP, and a .533 SLG with 20 HR in a little over half a season. He's going to have to cut down on his K (105 K in just 330 PA) if he wants to stick around long term, but that is legit power. Then again everybody seems to go for broke with their plate approaches these days, so maybe he'll fit right in.
Trevor Story had an unenviable task heading into the season. "Oh hey kid. You're gonna replace local legend and fan favourite Troy Tulowitzki. Go get 'em, and good luck!" He absolutely shone until getting hurt, in fact early on he was very much in the running for this award. He wound up with a 122 OPS+ and a 120 wRC+ in 415 PA. He was solid defensively and with his baserunning. It would've been great to see how well he could've done injury free, but alas it wasn't to be. Tyler Anderson met the challenge of pitching in Coors Field head on and did very well for himself. He posted a very solid 138 ERA+ over 114.1 IP, along with a solid 3.59 FIP. Hopefully he can be part of the start of something good for the Rockies and their long suffering fans in the pitching department. That altitude though.
That's all I've got for now. How about your picks? To sum up, in the AL, my MVP is Mike Trout, my CYA goes to Justin Verlander, and my ROY goes to Michael Fulmer. In the NL, my MVP is Kris Bryant, my CYA goes to Clayton Kershaw, and my ROY goes to Corey Seager. What say you?