As another COVID-tinged regular season draws to a close, we look forward to the MLB playoffs with a mixture of excitement and terror.
The first emotion is obvious. October is baseball’s first month, and we should have a big tournament, with the World Series potentially stretching through November 3 (if Game 7 is needed).
Heading into the final weekend of the season, the National League was almost ready, with the searing Cardinals taking on the Dodgers or Giants in the wildcard game. San Francisco entered Saturday night with 106 wins against 104 in Los Angeles and a magic number of one.
As for the other medium, the Brewers’ euphoria was tempered by Devin Williams, bending his hand into a brick wall, knocking out the playoff reliever ace before they even started. The Brewers will face Atlanta, a team that reminded us that trade deadline retooling works.
In the American League, we have two ageless managers competing against each other in the Division series: Dusty Baker of the Astros and Tony La Russa of the White Sox. On the wild side, that will be settled on the last day of the regular season Sunday, with plenty of tiebreaker possibilities – and the relentlessly successful Rays awaiting the survivor.
Beyond the playoffs, however, MLB faces an uncertain winter as the current ABC is set to expire on December 1. With so much workplace hostility creeping in since the pandemic shut down the sport, some fear a work stoppage is a very real possibility as the two sides compete for their fair share of an 11 billion industry of dollars.
But we are not there yet. And in the meantime, with the playoffs on the horizon, here’s how we’d choose this year’s MLB awards. For the sake of accountability, I have also included my pre-season and mid-season selections. The only exception: NL Manager of the Year, because I vote for this award (it’s a system of rotation every season between BBWAA members).
The choices (all statistics entering Saturday):
Shohei Ohtani, Angels. It really cannot be any other way. Kudos to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Blue Jays for an epic regular season – 46 homers, 120 RBIs and a crazy 0.313 / 0.402 / 0.596 slash line for a contending team. In most seasons he would have sailed to the trophy, but not when competing with a modern day Babe Ruth. Ohtani finally put together the truly historic campaign everyone imagined, hitting 45 home runs and a 9-2 record with a 3.18 ERA in 23 starts for the Angels. Is there anything more valuable than being the best hitter and pitcher on a team? The answer is no, and in this case, it doesn’t matter whether the 75-game Angels finished in fourth place. Imagine where they would be without Ohtani. This is the very definition of price.
Mid-season pick: Shohei Ohtani.
Preseason pick: Jose Ramirez, Cleveland.
YOUNG CY PRIZE
Robbie Ray, Blue Jays. Undecided voters had something to chew on when the Yankees crushed Ray on Thursday night at Rogers Center in a game in which the Blue Jays desperately needed their ace to keep them in the wildcard race. Ray mostly did it, until the sixth inning, when he essentially gutted the game by scoring three homers in the space of four batters. It was especially noteworthy after the implosion of one of his Cy Young contestants, Gerrit Cole, the night before. But Ray still gets the nod, leading the AL with a 2.84 ERA, 193 1/3 innings and a WHIP of 1.05. In a relatively weak field, Ray ticks too many boxes and Cole wasted his luck over the past month with an ERA of 5.13, WHIP of 1.38, and OBA of 0.278.
Mid-season picks: Lance Lynn, White Sox.
Preseason pick: Gerrit Cole, Yankees.
ROKIE OF THE YEAR
Randy Arozarena, Rays. How unfair that Tampa Bay not only has Rookie of the Year at Arozarena – already the star of last year’s playoffs – but also a 20-year shortstop at Wander Franco whose only demerit to consider is the fact that he played in just 67 games. Arozarena picked up where it left off last October, reaching .273 with 20 homers, 91 runs scored and an .813 OPS in 138 games. As for Franco, he reached base in 43 straight games, tying the Hall of Famer record 20 and under set by Hall of Famer Frank Robinson in 1956 with the Reds. Franco reached .286 with seven home runs, 51 runs scored and an .818 OPS. Just behind him is Rangers’ Adolis Garcia (31 homers, 146 games).
Mid-season picks: Adolis Garcia, Rangers
Preseason picks: Randy Arozarena, Rays
MANAGER OF THE YEAR
Dusty baker, Astros. Baker really wasn’t on my radar mid-season, with Alex Cora’s triumphant return to the surprising Red Sox hogging all consideration for this trophy. But Boston’s end-of-season slide, which turned into a free fall at the end of September, highlighted certain flaws in this operation and brought the discussion back to the unknown Baker, three-time winner of this award in the National League. . The Astros’ hiring of the universally beloved Baker was the perfect fit for a franchise universally hated for its cheating scandal, and he kept the Astros together for two straight playoff appearances amid that dark cloud. It was an unprecedented challenge that the 72-year-old Baker took on.
Mid-season pick: Alex Cora, Red Sox.
Preseason picks: Charlie Montoyo, Blue Jays.
Juan Soto, Nationals. Soto was the last man standing in DC as general manager Mike Rizzo staged a trade deadline fire sale, distributing eight players just 21 months after winning the World Series. But with the Nationals surrendered, Soto was quite the opposite. He reached 0.318 with 29 homers, 110 runs scored, 94 RBIs and 1.010 OPS, just behind Bryce Harper of the Phillies, who is expected to be the finalist in this debate. Unsurprisingly, based on his team’s ragged remnants, Soto led the majors with a walk rate of 21.9% – next closest was Joey Gallo at 18.2 – forcing him to capitalize on the very limited locations he saw.
Mid-season pick: Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres.
Preseason picks: Francisco Lindor, Mets
YOUNG CY PRIZE
Corbin Burnes, brewers. It’s a shame that Jacob deGrom had to give up on this one due to a string of injuries that ultimately ended his season after leaving on July 7 against – as fate has it – Corbin Burnes. In that Citi Field showdown, deGrom edged out Burnes, although his ERA actually fell from 0.95 to 1.08 (still well below Burnes’ 2.36 at the time). After their paths diverged, however, Burnes got busy working on his first Cy Young Award (he finished sixth last season) and passed just about every category. He leads the majors in ERA (2.29), K / 9 ratio (12.55), WHIP (0.93) and HR / 9 (0.33). Sure, his 27 starts and 165 innings are a bit light, but they’re enough to get him through when paired with such dominance.
Mid-season choice: Jacob deGrom, Mets.
Preseason picks: Yu Darvish, Padres.
ROKIE OF THE YEAR
Jonathan India, Reds. As close as the AL race is, India’s performance makes it a runaway for the Reds second baseman. India, 24, handily leads all MLB rookies with a WAR of 4.0 – closest rookie is Rangers’ Adolis Garcia at 2.9 – and is one of nine rookies during the course. of the past 30 years to achieve 20 home runs, 30 doubles and 90 points. , according to USA Today (Pete Alonso did so when he won the award in 2019). As of Thursday, India had also appeared in 148 games for the Reds, the most rookie count this year. His main competitor is my midseason pick, Marlins pitcher Trevor Rogers, whose 2.64-in-25-start ERA is the best among all MLB rookies. Its ratio of 10.62 K / 9 is second.
Mid-season picks: Trevor Rogers, Marlins.
Preseason picks: Ke’Bryan Hayes, Pirates.