With the end of the baseball season near, many of the playoff races have already been wrapped up, and it’s now time to turn to the major awards and evaluate who the front runners are for the MVP and Cy Young, and if the season were to end today, who should be going home with the hardware.
AL Cy Young Award: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
Runner Up: Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The extent of Verlander’s dominance this season is exemplified by his inclusion in the AL MVP debate. He leads the league in strikeouts, WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched), innings pitched, wins, and is second in ERA. With 21 wins already, Verlander is enjoying his best season in the majors. His no-hitter against the Blue Jays in May was the cherry on top of what will likely be a unanimous vote for the AL Cy Young.
NL Cy Young Award: Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies
Runner Up: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
After crossing over from the American League last season, Halladay dominated hitters to the tune of his second career Cy Young Award. This season has been no different for “Doc,” as he has been the most complete pitcher in the NL. He currently sits third in wins, ERA, innings pitched, and strikeouts. Clayton Kershaw challenges the leader of the Phillies pitching staff for this award, as his stats are nearly identical in many areas. Halladay, however, plays home games in a hitter friendly park while Kershaw plays in the pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium. A telling statistic that puts Halladay’s bid for back-to-back Cy Young Awards over the top is WAR, or Wins Above Replacement. Halladay’s 7.2 score means that his presence in the lineup contributed 7.2 more wins to his team than a AAA or bench player would have. Kershaw’s WAR is an excellent, but lower, 5.8.
AL MVP Award: Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
Runner Up: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
As much as this vote will come down to performance on the field, it will also hinge on voting philosophy. The two candidates, Bautista and Verlander, each have a major knock on their resume. Bautista’s Blue Jays are a .500 ball club and are not in the playoff hunt, while Verlander, a starting pitcher, plays only once every five days. The last pitcher to win an MVP award was Dennis Eckersley, a closer, in 1992. Bautista’s stats speak for themselves, however, as he leads the league in home runs, slugging percentage and on base percentage. The most feared hitter in baseball this season, Bautista has carried the Blue Jays offence and boasts an MLB-best WAR of 8.0, compared to Verlander’s 6.4. Bautista would be the Jays’ first MVP since George Bell took home the award in 1987, proof of the masterful job done by GM Alex Anthoplous in Toronto.
NL MVP: Justin Upton, Arizona Diamondbacks
Runner Up: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers
The NL MVP race is even more complicated than the AL race. Roy Halladay leads the NL in WAR, but as in Verlander’s case he is a starting pitcher. Matt Kemp leads NL position players in WAR, but the Dodgers have been out of the playoff hunt since May. Justin Upton has led his team to a five game lead in the NL West but his stats are slightly worse than those of other MVP candidates. There is great value, however, in playing for a contender and leading your team to the playoffs. On the Brewers, one could argue for either Ryan Braun or Prince Fielder as the team MVP, the Phillies boast a historically talented and deep rotation, and Kemp simply plays for a losing team. Arizona relies on Upton, and he has delivered, already, with over 25 home runs, and over 20 stolen bases. He is a five-tool player, and his ability to hurt you at the plate, on the base paths and to make plays in the field puts him over the top.