The Baseball Writers Association of America, or BBWAA for short, was founded in 1908 the purpose of fighting for better working conditions for sport writers, promoting uniformity of scoring methods, and to professionalize the press box, such that access was limited only to working reporters, telegraphers, and others who had a reason to be there.
What they’re most publicly known for is voting for the season awards and Hall of Fame inductions.
They’re an interesting bunch.
In the past few years, the BBWAA has come under fire for not quite coming to a consensus on something they were founded on; uniformity of scoring methods. What do I mean by that? Players from the Steroid Era are held out of the hall of fame, while Bud Selig, the man who let it happen, was inducted last year. To read more about this, click here.
One other thing they have been fighting with is how to use advanced statistics in awards voting. Why do I say that? The MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year award voting. And speaking of that, let’s dive right into our snubs.
Most Valuable Player
Mike Trout – OF, Los Angeles Angels
Last year at this time I wrote about the close race between Mookie Betts and Mike Trout. The following is a sample, but you can read more here.
When I started this post by talking about WAR, it was because of this reason. You cannot base your MVP vote on WAR alone, because it is a speculative statistic. Now look, I LOVE SABERMETRIC Stats. I do. I do. I do. HOWEVER, this is a stat that defines worth, something that isn’t an easy number to find in baseball. Value is another one. MOST VALUABLE PLAYER. We’re looking at intangibles in a tangible manner, but WAR isn’t a hard and fast rule.
While I was researching for this post I stumbled across a couple of articles stating the opposite of what we’re talking about here. That Mookie Betts’ value is based on his other teammates, and he’s being rewarded for being surrounded by guys who put him in a position to produce. FanGraphs, SB Nation. Writers love Trout. He’s our Mickey Mantle. A guy who has incredible ability and we can track that with new stats. But Mickey Mantle played for THE Yankees, and Mike Trout plays for an Angels team that is not very good. Mike Trout doesn’t have a Roger Maris or a Yogi Berra, but still puts up numbers like he’s out of his mind. And who knows.. Maybe Trout will end up playing for the Yankees too…. (NO GOD PLEASE NO). But, that’s what WAR has done to this award. Just for kicks let me throw this idea out there.
In 1975 Fred Lynn won the MVP and the Rookie of the Year, the only other player to do that was Ichiro. His 1975 Red Sox would famously go on to lose the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds in seven games after the dramatic Carlton Fisk Walk off in Game Six. Lynn was very good for the sox that year hitting .331, driving in 105 RBIs and scoring 103 runs. Lynn ended the season with a WAR of 7.4. Great! Except for one thing… Rod Carew. Carew scored 89 runs, drove in 80 RBIs and had an average of .359, a number he would continue to exceed in his career. Carew had a WAR of 7.8. So by the stats, Carew is a more valuable player. Except without Lynn, the Red Sox don’t make the playoffs. The Minnesota Twins, Carew’s team at the time, were 20.5 games back. They never had a chance. This award has been award to the player with the most value to his team that year, regardless of their WAR.”
I firmly believe that MVP should not be based solely on a player’s WAR, but on their value to their team or how outstanding there play is. I stand by that. I am not saying that a player on a non-contending team shouldn’t be nominated, I’m just saying that Mookie Betts had more of a value in 2016 than Mike Trout, who took home the hardware.
However, Mike Trout had an insane year, and not for a normal Mike Trout reason. Jose Ramirez played 152 games this season, Jose Altuve played 153 and Aaron Judge played 155. Aaron Judge had a WAR of 8.75, Altuve with 7.94 and Ramirez with 6.33.
Mike Trout played 114 games and put up a WAR of 6.34. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
Let’s go even further than that.
Aaron Judge – 155 Games – .284/.422/.627/1.049 – 24 doubles, 52 home runs, 114 RBIs.
Jose Altuve – 153 Games – .346/.410/.547/.957 – 39 doubles, 24 home runs, 81 RBIs.
Jose Ramirez – 152 Games – .318/.374/.583/.957 – 56 doubles, 29 home runs, 83 RBIs.
Mike Trout – 114 Games – .306/.442/.639/1.079 – 25 doubles, 33 home runs, 72 RBIs.
Mike Trout put up MVP quality numbers while only playing 70% of the season. You have to give the guy a tip of the hat. AT THE VERY LEAST.
Charlie Blackmon – OF & Nolan Arenado – 3B, Colorado Rockies
Where to begin? Blackmon. Let’s lead off with Charlie Blackmon, the best leadoff hitter in baseball. Blackmon led the entire league in hits, runs scored, triples plate appearances and total bases.
There’s no doubt that Charlie Blackmon was a force to be reckoned with during the 2017 season, especially with that resume he amassed throughout the season. Not to mention, he looks like the kind of guy would play balls to the wall every game. And while his mullet may say business up front, party in the back, Charlie Blackmon suits up every game and takes care of business is a big way.
Let’s take a look at the finalists:
Stanton – 168 Hits, 123 Runs, 132 RBIs, 32 2Bs, 0 3Bs, 59 HRs, .281/.399/.631/1.007 with a 7.6 WAR
Votto – 179 Hits, 106 Runs, 100 RBIs, 34 2Bs, 1 3Bs, 36 HRs, .320/.454/.578/1.032 with a 7.5 WAR
Goldschmidt – 166 Hits, 117 Runs, 120 RBIs, 34 2Bs, 3 3Bs, 36 HRs, .297/.404/.563/.966 with a 5.8 WAR
How do Arenado and Blackmon stack up? Take a look.
Charlie Blackmon – 213 Hits, 137 Runs, 104 RBIs, 35 2Bs, 14 3Bs, 37 HRs, .331/.399/.601/1.000 with a 6.0 WAR
Nolan Arenado – 187 Hits, 100 Runs, 130 RBIs, 43 2Bs, 7 3Bs, 37 HRs, .309/.373/.586/.959 with a 7.2 WAR
Blackmon also set the single-season record for most RBIs from a leadoff hitter. Having a guy like Blackmon at the top of your lineup to set the table for the other studs behind him is invaluable. If the game is about scroing more runs than anyone else, that means a guy like Blackmon, who creates runs and punches them in, becomes a necessity. It’s the most valuable asset for a team. How can he not be in the conversation with a season like that? HOW? Charlie Blackmon was as MVP-level a player by all accounts. What a mistake.
On to Arenado.
We all know Nolan Arenado has an insane glove at the hot corner, but his bat was truly on dispaly in 2017. 43 doubles, 37 homers a .309 average were better than his 2016 campaign that found him in 5th for the MVP honors. What does this kid have to do to get a finalist nod? What?
Consider for a second just how good Nolan Arenado was with guys on base. With men on, Arenado was batting .345, and with Runners in Scoring Position he was even better hitting .385. Who do you want at the plate when Charlie Blackmon is on the basepaths? Arenado. That combo propelled the Rockies to the successful season they had in 2017.
If you’re going to spout off the notion that playing in Coors Field should be factored into these numbers, to you I say this: FIIIIINE. But if we’re gonna do that, let’s look at the pitching in Stanton’s division and the ballparks that Votto and Goldschmidt play in. If we’re gonna make this argument, then we need a statistical equation to figure it out. We have Fielding Independent Pitching, a stat that literally determines a pitchers ERA if a pitcher “were to have experienced league average results on balls in play and league average timing.” Until we have that, we can’t keep disqualifying stats from Coors Field. Plan and simple.
Arenado should be up there, Blackmon should be up there. These two guys were invaluable to the Rockies and where standouts in the league. What happened?
Gio Gonzalez – SP, Washington Nationals
Is Gio Gonzalez the #3 on this Nationals squad? Yes. Does he pitch like a #3? Absolutely not. Gio Gonzalez is coming off a great season in 2017, one that looked a lot like his early 2016. While it wasn’t as good as his 2012 campaign with the Nats, it was pretty damn good. You can’t have 3 Nationals pitchers as finalists for the Cy Young, that’s nuts and whether or not Kershaw will win due to a split vote is yet to be determined, Gonzalez had a great year and deserves some recognition.
But also, #LGM Gio sucks.
Kenley Jansen – RP, Los Angeles Dodgers
The last closer to win a Cy Young was a Dodger. If you remember Eric Gagne, you know how dominant he was in 2003. Looking back, it’s easy to see his numbers were inflated by his use of performance-enhancing drugs. However, there was no doubt that he wasn’t a force to be reckoned with. Here’s a fun game to play: name all 3 Cy Young finalists in 2003. Ready? I’m gonna put money that you can’t name 2 and we already know Gagne won. Jason Schmidt of the San Francisco Giants and Mark Prior of the Chicago Cubs. Actually, before we get into Jansen, let’s look at the 2003 Cy Young Race.
The 2003 Cy Young Race
Eric Gagne was lights out for the Dodgers in a very real way. 137 Ks in 82.1 innings in a staggering amount especially considering that his two competitors racked up 200+ in almost 3 times as many innings. Gagne was averaging 1.6 Ks an inning, while his competitors managed to just hit 1. I can hear you yelling from here, I know. There’s a big difference between starting pitchers and closers. I know. Hold that thought. Gagne’s 0.692 WHIP is also a staggering number, especially considering his. Come in, shut down, shake hands. Jason Schmidt’s 0.953 WHIP isn’t anything to shake a stick at either, but compared to Gagne? It looks like Amateur hour. It should be noted that Schmidt came in 2nd.
Mark Prior is the interesting pitcher in this race. When you think about Mark Prior in 2003 what probably comes to mind is Game 6 of the NLCS against Florida. That’s right. Mark Prior was on the mound for the now infamous Steve Bartman play. That would be the last 100% healthy game Prior would pitch. Seriously . Go look at Prior’s career post-2003, it’s eerie how little he did after that year. An interesting stat, he threw on average 106 pitchers per start. Chew on that. Regardless, he was the best starting pitcher in the National League, but missed out due to Gagne’s hot hand.
Since then no other closer has received a Cy Young award. Even before that, it was almost 10 years since another closer won it. In 25 years, we’ve had one Closer win the Cy Young, and it was a close call, to say the least.
BACK TO KENLEY JANSEN – RP, LOS ANGELES DODGERS
It’s only a matter of time until this guy gets one, making him the third Dodgers Closer to win the award. What you have with Jansen is an almost identical match to Gagne’s numbers, yet Jansen is doing it clean. The only big difference is the strikeout total and the innings pitched. However, with the 2017 Dodger’s and their successful Regular Season and World Series appearance, there’s good reason Jansen didn’t pitch too many innings. Is that a reason to keep him out of the Cy Young race? To me, no, but then again I’m not the one voting.
Rookie of the Year
Manuel Margot – OF, San Diego Padres
This one right here is 100% wishful thinking and maybe I just want to give the guy some recognition. To come into an organization in such disarray and be the beacon of hope for the future is a tough task, yet Margot was able to do that with the grace of a seasoned veteran. If you have not checked him out, do it. The guy is going to be the next big thing out West. On a team that was being overlooked before pitchers and catcher reported, it’s a shame they skipped over this electric talent in Center.