MLB Awards Race – Week of August 31

Who are the front-runners for the most significant individual awards?

As the season draws another week closer to its end, let’s take an updated look at the races for MLB’s most prestigious individual awards!

 

Leaders for the 2020 American League Most Valuable Player Award

 

1. Shane Bieber, CLE

(Last week: 1)

 

IP W L % K ERA WHIP
46.2 6 0 1.000 75 1.35 0.81

 

Shane Bieber took down the Twins with six innings of two-earned run, ten-strikeout pitching. His 25:3 K:BB ratio is outstanding and a 2-0 record vs the reigning division champion Twins is quite a boost to Bieber’s MVP case. He is penciled in to face the Royals twice this week, which should really only end well for him considering how paltry the Royals offense has been this season (.727 team OPS ranks 21st in MLB). It is not easy for pitchers to win MVP awards, but Bieber improves his chances with every start. He’s thrown three straight double-digit strikeout performances and has the Indians tied for first place in the AL Central. With so much individual and team success, he is on track to be the first AL pitcher to win the MVP since Justin Verlander in 2011.

 

2. José Abreu, CWS

(Last week: 2)

 

R HR RBI SB AVG OPS wOBA
24 12 30 0 .312 0.996 .406

 

Cooling off after his ridiculous week prior to this one, José Abreu hit just one homer and had two RBI this week. Regardless, his hot hitting before that and overall substantial numbers still have him in the race for AL MVP. It doesn’t hurt that his White Sox are tied for first in the division with the Indians, either. We all know how much the voters seem to care about team success as it relates to MVP, whether you agree with it or not.

There isn’t much reason to believe that Abreu gets better from here, as many of his statistics this season (20.9% K rate, 6.1% BB rate, 47.7% GB rate, 20.6% FB rate, 27.1% LD rate) are in line with where they have been for his entire career (19.7% K rate, 5.9% BB rate, 45.9% GB rate, 19.8% FB rate, 27.7% LD rate). The real difference is that he is hitting the ball hard more often. His hard-hit percentage is up from an already great 48.2% in 2019 to 56.1% this season. If he continues to do that, he has a solid chance to remain in the MVP race for this final month.

 

3. Teoscar Hernández, TOR

(Last week: NR)

 

R HR RBI SB AVG OPS wOBA
22 12 22 5 .306 1.001 .433

 

WHAT?! Yes! Teoscar Hernandez is in the running for AL MVP with just a month left in the season. Indeed, he still strikes out a lot. But, his 28% K% is actually substantially down from his 33% mark in 2019. This dip in Ks has coincided with a massive boost in HH% from 42.3% in 2019 to 58.8% this season. He is hitting the ball harder, more often, and striking out less. Combine that with his elite speed and the fact that the Blue Jays are coming on strong lately in the standings (7-3 in their last 10 games, one game behind the Yankees!) and you have the recipe for a strong MVP candidate.

 

Leaders for the 2020 American League Cy Young Award

 

1. Shane Bieber, CLE

(Last week: 1)

 

IP W L % K ERA WHIP
46.2 6 0 1.000 75 1.35 0.81

 

If Bieber wins MVP, he is a lock for Cy Young. While that has not always historically been the case, there is little doubt that Bieber would capture the Cy Young if he does indeed win the MVP.

 

2. Lance Lynn, TEX

(Last week: 2)

 

IP W L % K ERA WHIP
51.1 4 1 0.800 56 1.93 0.92

 

Lance Lynn had two outings since last week, both against division leaders. He beat the Athletics on Monday and suffered his first loss to the Dodgers on Saturday. Despite the loss, both outings were quality starts. If there was any doubt in Lynn’s production this season, these two outings should put those to rest. There is a strong risk that Lynn is dealt before the deadline and if it is to a National League team, he will of course fall out of contention for the Cy Young. Until that happens, though, Lynn is entrenched in the Cy Young race. Opponents have just a .238 wOBA vs Lynn this season, by far a career-best figure for the 33-year-old ace.

 

3. Kenta Maeda, MIN

(Last week: NR)

 

IP W L % K ERA WHIP
42.2 4 1 0.800 48 2.75 0.89

 

While it was Lucas Giolito that threw the no-hitter, it is Kenta Maeda who enters the top three in the race for Cy Young. Maeda has been masterful this season, but he really enters the top three because of Gerrit Cole‘s poor outing and not anything special that he did this week. Maeda only threw 11 innings through two starts this week, going 1-1 and giving up three homers in those 11 innings. Nevertheless, his numbers are outstanding on the season (48:7 K:BB ratio) and, as many predicted he would when he was traded to Minnesota, he is pitching like an ace.

 

Leaders for the 2020 American League Rookie of the Year Award

 

1. Kyle Lewis, SEA

(Last week: 1)

 

R HR RBI SB AVG OPS wOBA
29 8 21 2 .339 0.973 .373

 

No offense to Luis Robert, but Kyle Lewis is running away with this thing. Yesterday’s game against the Angels, I think, was a great example of what Lewis has brought to the Mariners this season. Rookie Justin Dunn was on the mound, and after a turbulent first inning that included a few walks but a masterful, scoreless escape by Dunn, he settled down to have a terrific outing. After walking the leadoff man in what was predictably his final inning, he struck out Shohei Ohtani, intentionally walked Mike Trout, struck out Anthony Rendon, and got Brian Goodwin to pop out. It was an exclamation point to the young righty’s standout performance. Unfortunately, though, the Mariners couldn’t touch Griffin Canning, and Dunn was not in line for a win. Going into the top of the 7th, Canning had only given up two-hits in what was a 0-0 ballgame. Up came Lewis. He smacked a towering blast to right field to put the Mariners up 1-0 and Dunn in line for a win. Granted, Dunn did not get the W (the Mariners won in extra innings). But Lewis lifted up a team that has been an offensive wasteland for years in a game where they really needed it. He’s been a stud this year and is on his way to locking up the Rookie of the Year Award in the AL.

 

2. Luis Robert, CWS

(Last week: 2)

 

R HR RBI SB AVG OPS wOBA
15 7 17 4 .291 .920 .377

 

When I said Lewis was running away with this award, I may have been discounting just how hot Robert has been at the plate recently. Robert went 8 for 19 (.421) this week with two homers. He is 12 for his last 39 with six homers. We all know he has limitless potential, but perhaps some are surprised to see just how quickly he has taken to becoming a star, particularly with a 32% K rate. At some point, though, it just isn’t even worth talking about the strikeouts. It seems that strikeouts are the only way to get him out! Baseball Savant has Robert in the 96th percentile for barrel rate, so you better hope you strike him out, because if you don’t, chances are, it isn’t going to end well. Robert has some ground to make up in order to catch Lewis, but with his ability, it is certainly not out of reach.

 

3. James Karinchak, CLE

(Last week: NR)

 

IP W L % K ERA WHIP
17.2 0 1 0.000 34 1.02 0.79

 

Randy Dobnak got destroyed by the Tigers this week and Ryan Mountcastle is on his way to this conversation but still has too small of a sample size to seriously be considered. So, I went with someone who is arguably baseball’s best reliever here. Karinchak leads MLB pitchers in xBA (.098), xSLG (.134), xwOBA (.167), and xERA (1.13). I am not sure if more needs to be said. Yes, it is a small sample size, but there is little question that Karinchak is the real deal. He’s been unbelievable.

 

Leaders for the 2020 National League Most Valuable Player Award

 

1. Fernando Tatís Jr, SD

(Last week: 1)

 

R HR RBI SB AVG OPS wOBA
36 13 31 7 .315 1.052 .448

 

Fernando Tatís Jr. continued his historic season this week, going 8 for 25 (.320) with a homer, a stolen base, and seven runs. The Padres have loaded up at the deadline and appear poised for postseason play. Tatís Jr. is the face of this organizational turnaround for San Diego, and with how hot the lineup is this season (.350 team wOBA, best in baseball), I don’t expect him to have some season-altering slump that knocks him off the top of the MVP race. You can’t pitch around him with arguably the hottest hitter in baseball, Manny Machado, due up. And if you pitch to him, he is going to make you pay, as he leads baseball in HH% (62.1%). Mookie Betts, Juan Soto, and a select few others are definitely talented enough to have a monster August and steal the MVP. However, if Tatís Jr. does indeed not win, I don’t think it will be for anything he did poorly here in this last month. It will just be because a great player had an unreal month.

 

2. Mookie Betts, LAD

(Last week: 2)

 

R HR RBI SB AVG OPS wOBA
27 11 26 6 .298 0.991 .406

 

Betts had an unspectacular but fine week, going 6 for 21 with 6 walks. His 17.3% K rate would be the worst of his career and his 11.3% BB rate would be his worst since 2017. With all of that said, Betts is still very much in the conversation for MVP, as his Dodgers just clubbed 57 homers in August, the most by a team in any month in MLB history. They’ve made a mockery of the NL West and are 8-2 in their last 10 games. While these are team statistics and not necessarily Betts’ statistics, Betts has been at the forefront of all of it. He’s tied with Tatís Jr. for the MLB lead in WAR with 2.5 wins above replacement and is two shy of the MLB lead in HR, a margin he could easily make up in one week’s time, let alone the month we have left in the season. To no one’s surprise, Betts is in the MVP conversation.

 

3. Manny Machado

(Last week: NR)

 

R HR RBI SB AVG OPS wOBA
30 11 29 3 .309 1.005 .404

 

After a relatively unspectacular first season with San Diego in 2019, Manny Machado has broken out again in 2020, reminding everyone of the potential and ability he has. Only Charlie Blackmon and Trea Turner had more hits in August than Machado, but those two combined did not match Machado’s nine homers for the month. He’s been on a torrid pace and has inserted himself in the MVP conversation with teammate Fernando Tatís Jr. Machado is tied with Luis Robert for the fifth best WAR in baseball (1.7) and has been a steady anchor in one of baseball’s best lineups. Machado has the ability to not only remain in the MVP conversation but to actually win it, though it will be hard with a fellow contender for the award also benefiting from Machado’s terrific play. 

 

Leaders for the 2020 National League Cy Young Award

 

1. Yu Darvish, CHC

(Last week: 1)

 

IP W L % K ERA WHIP
43.0 6 1 0.857 52 1.47 1.00

 

Yu Darvish continued his dominance this season with six innings of shutout and eight strikeouts, winning against the Reds this week. He has won six consecutive starts, tossing a quality start in each one and giving up a total of four earned runs in 39 IP with 47 Ks and just 8 BBs. That is as good of a stretch of pitching as you will find. Darvish is beginning to separate himself from the pack and has two starts coming up against division rivals in the Cardinals and Reds. He isn’t quite Shane Bieber this season, but he doesn’t have to be since he is in the National League. Darvish has clearly been the NL’s best pitcher and if the award was voted on today, he’d win.

 

2. Sonny Gray, CIN

(Last week: 2)

 

IP W L % K ERA WHIP
41.2 5 1 0.833 55 1.94 1.01

 

Sonny Gray earned a win against the Brewers this week and gave up no earned runs in the process. However, he only went five innings and had four strikeouts. While Gray and the Reds will gladly take the W without thinking twice about it, his Cy Young chances are not going to keep up with Darvish and the rest of the field if he doesn’t go deeper into outings. The K% is still very good (32.9%), so I am not worried about the subpar K performance. But, Gray has yet to pitch seven full innings this year, whereas Darvish has done that in almost half of his starts (3 of 7). Gray faces the Cardinals this week and may get a start against the pathetic-hitting Pirates if the schedule falls his way. This could be a huge week for Gray’s Cy Young chances.

 

3. Max Fried, ATL

(Last week: NR)

 

IP W L % K ERA WHIP
40.0 5 0 1.000 38 1.35 0.95

 

It was a brutal week for Trevor Bauer (0-2, 11.2 IP, 4 HR, 7 ER), so Max Fried returns to the top 3 in the race for NL Cy Young. His K numbers are hardly impressive, but he has been a steady and dominant force for the Braves this season as they navigate countless injuries and disappointments to their pitching staff. His five wins have all come against good teams, as he has beaten the Yankees, Rays, Blue Jays, and Phillies twice. Fried has been a godsend for Atlanta, and I think he will continue to remain in this conversation going forward. He takes on Boston tonight.

 

Leaders for the 2020 National League Rookie of the Year Award

 

1. Jake Cronenworth, SD

(Last week: 1)

 

R HR RBI SB AVG OPS wOBA
19 4 17 1 .361 1.035 .427

 

Jake Cronenworth continues to pace the NL Rookie of the Year race and he is only getting better. We’ll see how all of these Padres moves shake up the lineup, but I would be completely shocked if any of the moves resulted in less playing time for Cronenworth. His .403 xBA and .493 xwOBA not only lead all rookies in those categories, they lead all of MLB. His .737 xSLG is third only behind Corey Seager and Juan Soto. The sample is pretty small (108 PA), but Cronenworth has been unbelievable.

 

2. Dustin May, LAD

(Last week: 2)

 

IP W L % K ERA WHIP
35.0 1 1 0.500 23 2.83 1.17

 

Dustin May earned a no-decision after pitching a quality start against the Rangers this week. His peripherals look great, but his strikeout numbers, as has been the case throughout his career, are unimpressive. That does not mean that May is not a good pitcher or can’t win the Rookie of the Year, but a better K% would certainly increase his chances of taking home the award. At this point, it does not look like he is at any risk of losing his job, so he should be able to continue to pad his stats and remain in this race. At this point, though, I’d still prefer Cronenworth, and all he has brought to the Padres, to May.

 

3. Tony Gonsolin, LAD

(Last week: NR)

 

IP W L % K ERA WHIP
17.2 0 0 0.000 17 0.51 0.79

 

This is not as much praise for Tony Gonsolin as it is a commentary on the NL Rookie of the Year situation after Cronenworth and May. Gonsolin, to be fair, has been solid when called upon by the Dodgers for his four starts. At the same time, he has only accumulated 17.2 IP in four games started. The strikeouts have been fine and the ratios have been terrific, but unless he locks down a permanent job (and that does not look like it will be the case), he is a long shot to take home the NL Rookie of the Year.

Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)

Pete Ball

Pete Ball is a graduate of Emmanuel College and a die-hard Red Sox fan. In addition to his work at Pitcher List, he co-hosts the Fantasy Baseball "Pitch Count Podcast." Follow him at @PeteBBaseball

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