While autumn brings the simple joys of cozy sweaters, decorative pumpkins and apple-picking, it also means the end of the baseball season is unfortunately upon us. Though it has long been lauded as one of the quintessential team sports, the end of baseball season also means that the time has come to pick out the individual standout performances of the year. Here are this year’s top candidates for the Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player:
American League Cy Young
A year after winning both MVP and Cy Young, Justin Verlander was back at it again, posting a 2.64 ERA with a 17-8 record. He leads all pitchers in the league with a 7.4 WAR, a sabermetric statistic that essentially calculates the value of a player over his replacement and thus his team. Verlander has 239 strikeouts, 238.1 innings pitched and six complete games, further cementing his ace reputation. Although David Price has consistently been a top-tier pitcher, finishing second in Cy Young voting in 2010, it seems he will be outmatched once again by Verlander. The Tampa Bay southpaw finished second in WAR for pitchers (6.4) despite leading the league with a 2.56 ERA and finishing with a 20-5 record.
National League Cy Young
In the National League, the situation is a bit murkier, given that a reliever has pitched at an historical level. Craig Kimbrel struck out just under half of the batters he faced and only allowed 27 hits, registering a .123 batting average against. He also recorded a 0.65 WHIP — the lowest of any NL reliever ever. On the other starting hand, R.A. Dickey, Clayton Kershaw, Gio Gonzalez and Johnny Cueto can all be considered. Gonzalez leads the pack with 21 wins, Dickey has the most IP and the best K/BB ratio, Cueto has the fewest walks and his stats are up there with the best despite pitching in a hitter’s park, and Kershaw has the best WHIP among starters and WAR. A solid argument could be made for any of these pitchers.
This race is pretty much a dead heat between Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout. Cabrera became the first player in 45 years to capture the Triple Crown title, leading the league in batting average (.331), home runs (44) and RBIs (139). Trout, on the other hand, became the first baseball player to ever hit 30 home runs, steal 45 bases and score 125 runs in his rookie season. Trout also has a WAR of 10.7, far exceeding Cabrera’s 6.9.
Buster Posey became the first catcher to win the NL batting title since 1942, posting a .336 average, and catches the San Francisco pitching staff, which is a feat in itself. However, Yadier Molina, another catcher, has been as effective as a catcher can be on defense, throwing out 47 percent of runners who tried stealing against him. It was also a career best year offensively, batting .317 — his career average is .279 with 22 home runs. Andrew McCutchen has been in the mix all season long, but both he and his team have faded since August. He finished the season with a line of .327/.400/.553, hitting 31 home runs and driving in 96 runs. Ryan Braun, last year’s MVP, has had a similar if not better season than last year, hitting eight more home runs and leading the league with a .990 OPS.
The AL MVP argument could be summed up as old-school stats vs. sabermetrics, while the NL Cy Young decision is a back-and-forth of relievers versus starters. No one said these decisions would be easy. Perhaps that is why these awards are not based on fan-voting.
Brittany Yu is a contributing writer. Email her at [email protected]