MLB Awards

AL MVP: Aaron Judge, RF, Yankees

Despite not even being ensured a starting spot in right field at the start of spring training, Judge put up a mammoth season. He led all of MLB with 8.2 fWAR, raked to the tune of 52 dingers, a .430 wOBA, and a 173 wRC+. That, along with his plus defense in the outfield edges out the MVP over Jose Altuve, who was dominant in his own right.

NL MVP: Joey Votto, 1B, Reds

The NL MVP race this year was a dead heat. Charlie Blackmon, Giancarlo Stanton, Nolan Arenado, and my choice for the award, Votto, are all fine picks. But yet again, Votto backed up his status as the best hitter in baseball. He slashed an absurd .320/.454/.578, racked up a .428 Weighted On Base Average (no park adjustment), a 165 wRC+ and 168 OPS+ (both park adjusted).

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My MLB Relievers of The Year

AL Reliever of the Year: Craig Kimbrel, RHP, Red Sox

Craig Kimbrel recovered remarkably from his relatively down year in 2016, with a return to his electric, dominant self. He sported a 1.43 ERA and a 1.42 FIP in 69 innings with peripherals to match.

NL Reliever of the Year: Kenley Jansen, RHP, Dodgers

Jansen personified dominance all throughout the season, notching an absurd 1.32 ERA and 1.31 FIP. When he or KImbrel entered the game for their respective teams, the game was all but over.

My MLB Rookies of the Year

AL Rookie of the Year: Aaron Judge, RF, Yankees

Despite not even being ensured a starting spot in right field at the start of spring training, Judge put up a mammoth rookie season. He led all of MLB with 8.2 WAR, raked to the tune of 52 dingers, a .430 wOBA, and a 173 wRC+. That, along with his plus defense makes this an easy choice. Despite Red Sox fans’ delusions of grandeur, it is not close. Judge is the AL MVP, and it should unanimous.

NL Rookie of the Year: Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, Dodgers

Bellinger’s powerful bat, plus baserunning, and defensive versatility proved immensely valuable for, arguably, the best club in baseball this past season. He put up a 138 wRC+, and 4.0 WAR, exceptional numbers, especially for a rookie. Bellinger is sure to be a force in Chavez Ravine for years to come.

Celtics’ Offseason

The Boston Celtics continue to make massive mistakes this summer. Save for their (admittedly big) signing of Gordon Hayward from the Utah Jazz, they’ve made wrong move after wrong move. Trading Avery Bradley to the Detroit Pistons for Marcus Morris to clear the cap room for Hayward, trading away the first pick (Markelle Fultz) for the Lakers’ 2-5 protected 1st round pick in 2018 and the third pick, and now giving up a small fortune to pry wantaway Kyrie Irving from the Cavs. Basketball is about getting superstar talent, and they’ve almost surely slashed their chances of landing anyone with that potential with the Tatum and Kyrie moves. Especially with the direction that the NBA is moving, Tatum is a massively inferior piece to Fultz if your end is to win a title. Teams simply can not afford to carry wings without consistent three point range or defensive ability. The decision to trade Avery Bradley as a cap dump, rather than Marcus Smart, when he’s widely regarded as one of the best defensive guards on the planet and is a near elite three point shooter is a head scratcher. Even more shocking is the move for Kyrie Irving. They gave up Isaiah Thomas, who is nearly equal to Irving on the court, Jae Crowder, the only man on the roster who could have held his own defensively against LeBron James, the Nets’ unprotected first round pick in 2018 (which, again, could have turned into an #1 on a title team level talent), and Ante Zizic for Irving, a clear step back both in the short term and the long term. Thomas was, admittedly, an expiring contract and was going to leave if Boston didn’t cough up a max deal, but he’s an elite scorer of the ball and is much more valuable that this return for him implies. These moves all are remarkably confusing, given that even now Boston is no closer to beating the Golden State Warriors than they were at the start of the summer. They mortgaged the future for an incredibly bleak present, and it is sure to bite Danny Ainge.

Kershaw or Scherzer? Who’s top dog?

This past Monday, MLB Now held a segment in which Brian Kenny argued that, at least, the gap is closer than you’d think between Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer in regards to who’s the best pitcher in baseball. Looking at the numbers, one could argue that Scherzer could be taken over Kershaw, or that Pitcher 3, whose name you’ll learn later, could be taken over Scherzer .

Kershaw has both beat in ERA and FIP since the 2015 season, rocking a 2.01 and a 2.17 respectively. Scherzer holds a 2.79 ERA and a 2.97 FIP, and Pitcher 3 holds a 3.30 ERA and a 2.89 FIP. This is quite a sizable gap, but one could argue that Kershaw calling the cavernous Dodger Stadium home gives him a bit of an advantage here.

In ERA+, which adjusts for park effects, it’s not particularly close either. Kershaw is sporting an obscene 192, as opposed to Scherzer’s 147, and Pitcher 3’s 123. FIP- tells a similar story, with Kershaw putting up a 55, Scherzer a 74, but Pitcher 3 jumping Scherzer with a 67.

Kershaw owns a 17.5 fWAR in this timeframe, a full 2.1 wins ahead of Pitcher 3 at 15.4 and 2.6 ahead of Scherzer at 14.9, despite innings gaps of 47.2 and 70, respectively. bWAR, however, counts 10.7 for Pitcher 3, 16.4 for Scherzer,  and 16.0 for Kershaw.

The conclusion you reach in this conversation is largely dependent on how you view the question. If you see it as, “which pitcher has been the most valuable to their club in recent years,” you will be more willing to consider Scherzer’s volume over the vastly superior output of Clayton Kershaw and the arguably superior output of Pitcher 3, Chris Sale. But if you see it as “which pitcher is the best at pitching?”, there really is no conversation. It’s Clayton Kershaw by a country mile.

 

Why Sporting Drafts Can Not Continue

Last week, the NFL held its annual first-year player draft. While this was exciting for fans of the league, for players, it’s an example of a disgusting lack of freedom in sports.

In basically every other field, young people are able to choose from their suitors, but the draft takes this choice away from them. Rather than choosing based on money offered, the state of the teams after them, et cetera, they’re thrown into whatever situation they happen to fall to.  This often sets up the best prospects up for failure, because the teams that are often near the bottom tend to be poorly run, such as the Sacramento Kings of the NBA, or the New York Jets of the NFL. If, say, Myles Garrett, the first overall pick of the NFL Draft for the Cleveland Browns, decides that he’d like to come out of Texas A&M and immediately play for the New England Patriots, that should be his right.

Rewarding failure in team-building is also a horrible practice. It is egregious to say to a team that is chronically terrible, “Here’s the future of the sport! Do as you please!”

Opponents of abolishing the draft argue that, without the draft, a few select teams will dominate the league. The San Antonio Spurs have won 50 games a season since the dinosaurs died out. The New England Patriots have been great every year since the ratification of the Declaration of Independence. The Yankees and Red Sox have won 252% of all of the AL East titles in history.  Even with the draft, that is meant to allow create parity, the rich stay rich, and the poor stay poor.

Whether there’s a draft or not, the teams that are at the forefront when it comes to having new, effective ideas will succeed. Teams like the Spurs and Cardinals, who are not in massive markets that allow exorbitant spending in free agency, still find themselves with good squads every year, because they’re organizations that are run by creative, intelligent people. If you are good at your job, you will continue to be able to build perennial winners, and if you are bad at your job, you will continue to build perennial losers. The draft’s existence is not relevant to that fact.

The idea that many have in opposition to this proposition, that all of the talented 18-22 year olds leaving college will simply take their talents to the best teams in the league, is patently untrue. In leagues with salary caps, it would be completely and utterly impossible for teams like the Cavaliers and Cubs to hoover up all of the talent. The players would be allowed to negotiate completely freely for their contracts, which would price teams out of being able to sign every elite prospect. The idea that guys will take cuts of tens of millions of dollars at 18-22 to play with a better team is untrue, as is proven by the decisions of guys like Anthony Davis to sign on long term in bad situations in exchange for huge differences in salary.

The young men who leave school and have dreams of playing in the NBA, NFL, MLB, et cetera, should have the same ability to choose their place of employment as anyone else, and the longer this system continues, the bigger a travesty it is.